Open Table, Ellerslie, Auckland

Open Table is a community café occupying the site of where Paris Berlin Organic Bakery (now known as Bread & Butter Bakery) previously sat. Open Table is probably Auckland’s only crowdfunded café, evolved as an idea of a community hub by Hannah Feenstra and developed as a Kickstarter project. With her Masters in Entrepreneurship nearly in hand, Hannah first began her journey to opening her café. After 18 months of patient negotiations, the site was leased and the space could be cleared. The Kickstarter support allowed the renovations to take place, and Open Table to take shape.

Open Table has leapt into the Metro’s Top 50 cafés in Auckland mere weeks after opening, – it opened in Sept, and the Top 50 is published in the November issue. This little-cafe-that-could has serious credentials.

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Blueberry breakfast – smoothie and blueberry ricotta pikelets

I was a rebel at university. Seriously. I majored in biology, and toyed with the idea of doing postgraduate study. My father was dismayed. Every other Malaysian Chinese student in the early/mid 90’s took engineering, law or accountancy. That is, if you didn’t have the grades for medicine. Dad wanted me to do business studies, one of those general degrees where you can work in a variety of industries, and was more ‘appropriate’ for a woman. I should mentioned that I come from a family with very traditional values.

What kind of a degree is biology? Where is the job security?

In retaliation, I did a Masters in plant biotechnology. And took 5 months to land an entry-level research job. While my friends quickly scaled the career ladder and tax brackets, I floundered in a dead-end position for 4 years, which paid little more than minimum wage. It was a hugely interesting job, and I learnt a great deal. To their unfailingly supportive credit, my parents never once said ‘I told you so’. Long story short, I have changed careers several times, and am in a stimulating and challenging job, which I love, and I’m even on a respectable wage. Both Dad and I got our ways, – I am in a role which combines biology & business.

And guess what? I work at a research institute which among other roles, also breeds blueberries and studies their functional benefits. I would have enjoyed blueberries regardless, but I certainly have a huge appreciation of them now. The rabbiteye varieties grown in NZ have very high levels of antioxidants, higher than varieties bred and grown in the Northern Hemisphere countries.

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A Melbourne interlude

A sample of murals around Melbourne CBD

It has been a very long time since Bren and I went away on holiday together. 15 years in fact. Before Christian, her oldest child (my godson) was born. Christian is now 14-and-a-half and towers over us. Time has not only flown, it installed supersonic jet engines. Since then, we have not lived in the same town, and in the last few years, or even the same country. We’ve talked about having a proper catch up for a while. The opportunity finally came up when Iwan, Bren’s husband gallantly volunteered to take care of the kids for a long weekend in exchange for his boys’ week. The date was set (Labour weekend), the place picked and a girls’ weekend was on!

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Bubble-top brioche

Brioche is a decadent bread. It’s a far cry from my usual healthy rye and pumpkin seed breakfast bread (from Paris Berlin bakery at Ellerslie). Brioche is light and buttery, and yes, I spread butter on it. It’s more of a dessert than a bread, and absolutely perfect to serve up for a luxurious morning tea.

I first learnt to make brioche from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. It’s my kind of recipe, – bang everything in a mixer and get it to do all the work. It does, however, take time, as the dough needs to rise three times, the second time overnight in the fridge. The bubble-top recipe comes from Ms Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Having individual portions is such bonne idée (a good idea).

Don’t the brioche buns simply invite you to tear them apart and devour them?

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Banana pikelets

I was surprised how easy it was to make pikelets; there really is no reason is buy those limp, bland-tasting supermarket versions. These freeze amazingly well, and you can reheat them in the toaster or microwave whenever the craving hits you.

The recipe came from Cath, my manager, who got it from the Rally Cookbook (Every Boys and Every Girls Rallies). This is the perfect way to use up that last banana that has gotten just a bit too soft for the lunchbox. Luckily, I always have a stash of bananas in the freezer; I never manage to get to the last of the bunch before they over ripen. Continue reading

Scrambled eggs

I can’t understand why it’s so hard to find good scrambled eggs, – it’s a doddle to make. The crumbly stuff in the bowl is actually cheese I stuck in the food processor because I was too lazy to grate…. 

Add a tablespoon of cream to 3 eggs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Whisk lightly to mix. 

Heat some butter in a non-stick pan. Make sure the heat is on medium, not high.

Once the base has started to cook, turn off the heat. 

The residual heat will continue to cook the eggs Add in cheese to taste, – I like a combination of gruyere and parmesan, but cheddar works just as well. The stronger the cheese, the less you should use. 

It should still be a bit runny. It’s done when the cheese has melted. 

Scrambled eggs on buttered muffin with some cheesy kransky.