off we go! – Auckland edition

hi gals and pals, welcome to the new series on blooming anna, in which i document the time i travel somewhere cool (a rare occurrence, so i thought i’d better make the most of it ;)

la raison d’être of my trip to the mighty AKL was to go to the rolling stones concert with my brother. he got tickets for his birthday last year, and after exhausting about 5 different options, finally got down the list to me…first choice, i was not ;)

but in all seriousness, it was truly so kind of him to take me, and we had a marvellous time. they’re not my favourite band, but i think you would have to be a. deaf b. blind or c. both not to enjoy them – they were truly incredible, absolute showmen. and since they are quite old now it is so clear that they aren’t touring and continuing to make this amazing music for money or fame or whatever, it’s for the love of it and each other. and holy moly does mick jagger ooze charisma, i fell a little bit in love with him with each song.

i especially enjoyed ronnie’s ciggy he held between his fingers while strumming, we counted about five of them throughout the concert! as i said to will, i can’t play the guitar let alone play in front of over 30,000 people while holding a burning object between my fingers, it surely takes a LOT of skill. mad respect over here ;)
ps – did i mention we were almost the youngest people there? sea of grey, kids ;)

as for the rest of the weekend in auckland-


we breakfasted at Domain & Ayr in Parnell on saturday, and just loved it. it was the product of a cheeky iPhone google “best cafes auckland” and came up fifth on one list. it had a very cool vibe, beautiful food and coffee, and i think was quite fair trade/organic friendly. they also offered rice milk along with soy for coffee, which is quite rare in NZ.
i had granola with vanilla bean buffalo yogurt and a rhubarb lavender compote – to die for! and a yummy flat white of course:


will had huevos rancheros, which he highly recommended.

we then walked to newmarket and i had a look in a few designer shops. we also went into smith and caugheys (the big department store) and i was so unimpressed with the size- very puny compared to ballantynes in christchurch!! only later walking down queen st did i realise it wasn’t the main branch haha. smooth anna.

the weather wasn’t all that nice on saturday – cloudy and rainy but still quite warm (which i’m told is typical auckland weather). so we decided to give the art gallery a visit, and had the loveliest time! i especially enjoyed the chartwell collection which is contemporary art – i know a lot of people regard that stuff as a bit of a yarn (hey, here’s a splodge of paint on a canvas, one hundred k please) but i really enjoy a lot of it – when it’s good, it’s really really good! ugh, take me to MoMA in nyc already!!


another really cool thing was the cubic structural evolution project, by the artist olafur eliasson. it’s quite simple but such a cool concept. thousands of ivory white lego bricks are heaped on a long table, and the visitors to the gallery are invited to build towers with it. what emerges is a cityscape of all these different towers, growing from the rubble. no two projects will be alike, due to the different people who make it. it made me think of chch and all the new growth and building after the earthquake, which was probably why it resonated with me so much. we sat and built our own wee constructions for about half an hour – here’s hoping more people will come along and build on them and make them as tall as the others :)

^^my masterpiece – i felt like it has temple run vibes, no?
on sunday we had stunning sunny weather so we took the bus to mission bay. what a gorgeous beach! there was this guy just starting up a beach tennis business and he invited us to play for free since he wanted to attract paying customers! it was so fun, i just wore my bikini with a singlet top over it and we had a lot of fun jumping and diving trying to get the ball over the net!


we had a scrummy breakfast in mission bay cafe – i neglected to get a photo but it was great! and clearly a popular spot.

besides that just sat and sunbathed and had the odd swim, and read my book – cloud atlas by david mitchell. not 100% sure how i feel about it at this stage … watch this space!

upon getting back to the central city in the afternoon, we had an early dinner/late lunch of gourmet hot dogs from dogmatic. omg they were so good! i’m a total sucker for a good hot dog (or even an average one, not fussy haha), and these were supreme! i particularly enjoyed the BBB which was a beef sausage, bacon, caramelised onions and bbq sauce, but the classic american and chilli dog (not pictured) were beaut too (will had two, i’m not that greedy!!)


i got to practise my chinese with the server too, and he was very kind about it – how intelligible i was, i suspect, is another story..

the last thing we did, before hopping back on the plane, was to visit the cloud on the waterfront. this was controversially built for the 2011 rugby world cup. the name comes from the Maori name for new zealand, Aotearoa, meaning land of the long white cloud.
we thought it was pretty groovy in the flesh, and so had to take a good photo for insta ;)


hope you managed to get to the end of my rambles without dropping off! i’ll have a recipe for you next time – a gluten and dairy free dessert (i know, who even am i ;)

ps – this is zoomed in from the panorama – perfect timing right!!



indian spiced potato salad

one of the attributes i imagine is useful in a blogger is a constant desire to find new and more interesting recipes. I’ve been like this ever since I began cooking, eschewing the classic recipes we had for things like chocolate biscuits in favour of recipes i’d never tried before. to me repeating the same recipe over and over was boring, especially if it was one that could be described as -shock horror- easy or quick to whip up!

this concept is so foreign to my mum, which i guess sort of makes sense when you’re a working mama with 3 kids ;).
But even as a harried mother I can’t imagine enjoying settling for easy, tried and true recipes – it’s just not in my DNA.  of course there are my favourite recipes but i’d always sacrifice a little extra time and effort on improving or jazzing up a dish. yes, easy for me to say – leisurely student with nothing but time on my hands and few responsibilities!

to this day, when i’m home and i decide to bake something and my family requests one of the classic recipes, i sulkily mooch off to scour food blogs and recipe books for a newer, ‘better’ edition… perhaps the maxim ‘if its broke don’t fix it’ is something i’ll learn with age ;).

however, the upside to this this wilful, stubborn streak is that it occasionally culminates in very perfect recipe discoveries. along with this wonderful recipe, there is also a  perfectly stunning rhubarb tart recipe i’m dying to show you!


sorry, back to potato salad but not as you know it- no mayonnaise, spring onions or bacon here- i guarantee you won’t miss them! instead, we take waxy new potatoes, coat them in an indian spice mixture and roast until perfectly crispy. then we layer them with the fresh, zingy “chaat salad” of juicy cucumber, red pepper, mint leaves and lemon juice.
the garnishes though, in my humble opinion, are what really make it. you take a whole cup of coconut chips (the flakes, not the desiccated thread stuff) and toast it, you get amaranth and pop it like popcorn, unsweetened greek yoghurt, and make a tamarind sauce out of tamarind pulp.

my meandering introduction was really just a longwinded way of telling you it’s complicated, and will take some time, requiring dirtying several bowls, 2 saucepans and a roasting tin. fiddly, but equally what elevate it from standard everyday stuff to a salad that’s pretty special.

I served it with my favourite sticky chicken, roasted asparagus and some sautéed silverbeet (aka chard), but it would be also very yummy brought along to a summer BBQ – you decide!

this recipe is slightly adapted from one in a wonderful recipe book called Ripe Recipes, after the deli in Auckland. this and the sequel A Fresh Batch are some of our favourite cookbooks and we’ve already made so many of the recipes – each one has been absolutely perfect. They are all unabashedly fresh, using beautiful produce and flavours you may not pick to be together but all work fantastically. i don’t expect the books are terribly well known outside of NZ, but they really should be – they rank up with the big names like Jamie Oliver in my eyes.

(psst: no fear of sponsored/affiliate links, i have no idea how to do that stuff!)


anyway, here is the recipe – let me know if you make it! i promise you won’t regret it :)

indian spiced potato salad


1 kg (2 lb) new potatoes, cut up if large

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp salt (I used sea salt and it was lovely, but table is fine)

3 onions, peeled and finely slice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

toss ingredients together in roasting dish, then roast at 180 C/ 350 F for 45- 60 mins, or until potatoes are cooked and crunchy.

chaat salad:
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cucumber, finely chopped.

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

juice of a lemon

toss ingredients together, then set aside.

1 cup coconut chips, toasted in a pan

3 tbsp amaranth,** popped in a pan (optional if unavailable/undesired)

1 cup greek (unsweetened) yoghurt
tamarind* sauce:

1/4 cup tamarind pulp

1 1/2 cups water

5 tbsp brown sugar

bring ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan, then bring down to a simmer for 10 minutes. if your tamarind pulp is stringy/fibrous, or has seeds, strain sauce through a sieve.

to assemble, layer half the potatoes, then half the chaat salad, then about a third of the coconut/amaranth, some of the tamarind sauce and greek yoghurt, then the other half of the potatoes, the final half of the chaat salad, then the rest of the sauces, and the last of the coconut/ amaranth to finish.


*so whats the deal with tamarind, i hear you ask? well, it’s a delicious sour pulp that comes from the pods of the tamarind tree. you can either buy it as a pulp or paste (unless you live in a country where it is grown, i’m guessing – in which case, lucky you!)
From what i’ve gathered, the pulp is just that, while the paste has stuff like water, sugar and salt added. I went down to the local asian supermarket and was spoilt for choice, eventually opting for a massive vacuum packed block of pulp for just $2. I know it seems like a luxurious/exotic ingredient, but it can be used in so many asian recipes and is really deliciously sour – if you enjoyed sour worms or sour patch kids as a child, you will definitely enjoy it. i like it in my sticky chicken, in the dressings of thai salads, and i think you can even make cocktails with it! i reckon you could even sub it in for lemon juice in the right context.

**in regards to amaranth, i’m really not the best person to ask as it was just something we happened to have in the cupboard (family’s gone to the hippy dark side, remember). Sarah from My New Roots has a fantastic post on it over here. in terms of tracking it down, your local health store or possibly a well stocked supermarket should have it – don’t despair if you can’t track it down! toasted sesame seeds could also be a yummy substitution if you’re tolerant of them.

sticky chicken

the last few hours have just been a mush of laughing and jumping around and hugs- my brother has just found out he’s received a scholarship for uni next year, after previously being turned down, they received more funding or something and so now he’s got one!! we are just over the moon for him – it was a big shock when he didn’t get one as he’s a fabulous kid and has been a real leader in school and community.

it was just as well, then, that i was halfway through making this chicken: eminently worthy of a celebratory meal, if i do say so myself. i also made a scrummy salad that i’ll elaborate on in my next post- think indian spiced potato salad with toasted coconut shards.

this recipe is one that i’ve tweaked and muddled with over the years – i think the original was a judith cullen recipe. i love the way your favourites evolve out of inspiration, necessity, memory loss or sheer laziness – there’s something lovely about a recipe you’ve made your own.


the other cool thing about this recipe is that you can quite happily leave out one or two ingredients without it being too harmed – the exception would be the brown sugar (though honey could be substituted), soy or chilli. This time around we didn’t have any garlic on hand and it’s getting to the time of year where nz garlic isn’t readily available, so i left it out.
i would encourage you to try and make it with the complete ingredients however – it is very very good just the way it is! with lemon juice and tamarind providing a mouth puckering sourness, chilli giving heat, fragrant lemongrass and ginger – yum!


sticky chicken

note: I used a kilogram (two pounds) of thickly sliced chicken breasts, however whole breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks, even a butterflied whole chicken would work nicely here.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp minced lemongrass (tube is fine)
2 tbsp minced chilli
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
a 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
zest and juice of a lemon

1 kg chicken (see note above)

mix together marinade ingredients, then mix with chicken, and allow to sit for at least 1 hour. Place in 180 C/375 F oven and bake for 30 mins (longer if cooking larger pieces). The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear.

Take the chicken out of the pan with a slotted spoon, then pour the liquid into a saucepan and let simmer for ten or so mins to reduce down to a thick syrupy sauce, then drizzle over the chicken and serve!

congrats willbill, we’re all so proud of you xx


about me

Hi! my name is Anna, i’m nineteen and i study at university in the chilly city of Dunedin, New Zealand. Along with food, beauty and travel, i have a huge love for languages, and have been studying french and chinese for several years. I’m two years in to a Bachelor of Arts at Otago, which have been two of the best years of my life – I’m very blessed with beautiful friends, fun flatmates and a course I find interesting and rewarding.

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Some frequently asked questions…

Why the name “blooming anna”?

The hardest part of starting a blog is, as i’m sure many people can empathise with, finding a name. After looking through the blogs i follow, i found that all the names which really appealed to me had the blogger’s name in the title (joy the baker, love taza, hey natalie jean, my name is yeh etc). also, i wasn’t sure at that  stage what the blog would really be about – food, travel, beauty, lifestyle are all things i could imagine writing about, so i felt like a title like “baking biscuits” might not actually fit with how my blog turned out!

the blooming part is because anyone who knows me knows that i am a blossom maniac – kind of like americans adore the crimson leaves of autumn – I adore the pink and white blossoms of spring which practically carpet dunedin in springtime! i’m the loser who’s walking around campus taking pictures with my iPhone, looking like a total tourist! cherry blossoms, sweet peas, peonies, any flower soft and pink is my absolute favourite, and being only nineteen i feel like i’m still “blooming” into adulthood ;) (not gonna lie, love those puns haha).

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what do you study at uni, and how did you decide?

i study chinese, economics and french – yes, my BA is jam-packed full! Having studied the languages at school, i knew i definitely wanted to continue with them, and was advised that either law or economics would be a good choice to accompany. I begrudgingly took an economics paper first semester (economics to me spelt money, which spelt boring) and was surprised to find I loved it. As my lecturer said, economics isn’t really about money – it’s about human behaviour and the choices we make, and how we can maximise efficiency and minimise inequality in a world of scarcity. I especially enjoy the papers that relate the concepts to real world events, especially in the areas of trade and the environment – last semester we studied the euro crisis, and reading journal articles and actually understanding them was a real lightbulb moment for me!
despite the fact that i’ve always been pretty set on what i wanted to do, hardly any of my peers did, so don’t be freaked out if you’re not too sure – the first year of uni is when most people actually realise what they want to study.

do you really flat with 4 boys and why!!

i’m basically the last person you’d expect to live with boys: i’m not at all a tomboy, love dresses, pretty surroundings and makeup, yet I somehow ended up with the boys! That being said, i absolutely love it, and wouldn’t change it for the world. i also have a younger brother which definitely helped! we have the best laughs, boys are super inclusive so i’m always invited along to whatever they’re doing and it is a stress free and bitch free zone – we didn’t have one argument all year! i have 3 very close girl friends whom i see just about every day so i get plenty of ‘girl time’, and whom we are actually flatting right next door to next year (!!!) they are great boys, and i’m looking forward to knowing them my whole life :)

blue sky bran muffins

Deb from the Smitten Kitchen was the first ever blogger I really discovered. I don’t remember how I stumbled across her, but i do remember that from the first post I read that I was hooked! The thing is, saying you love smitten kitchen is like saying your favourite type of biscuit is chocolate chip or your favourite gossip girl character is Blair – not exactly original! But there is a reason for all those things being very common – they are simply great!! I’ve lost track of how many smitten kitchen recipes I’ve made over the years: whenever I’m after a recipe for something, it’s my go-to, and then if I don’t find what i’m looking for, make my way down the ranks of my other much loved blogs (a rare happening, her site is like a cooking   encyclopaedia!!).


anyway, this gushy, fangirl rant is just a prelude to yet another amazing smitten kitchen recipe. The recipe is from the Blue Sky Bakery in New York and Deb mentioned that the muffins are very wholesome, barely sweet yet still very delicious, so I decided that a monday, home alone in my pjs (holidays I love you) was the perfect occasion to audition these treats.


We have flourishing rhubarb in the garden and I love the rhubarb and apple combination, so I after rounding up a few apples at the back of the fridge I knew had to make these. I subbed yoghurt + milk for the buttermilk because we didn’t have any buttermilk and hello, pyjamas, coconut oil for the vegetable oil because my family have turned into raging hippies (goji berries, amaranth and oat milk in the cupboard, um since when??), and added some cardamom and ginger cause I knew they’d go nicely with the fruit combo. Deb actually only calls for 3/4 – 1 cup of fruit but we love ultra fruity baked goods so I upped it and found them perfect, but you’re welcome to drop the fruit-batter ratio or just use one of the fruits if you’d like. Other fruit would also substitute nicely – I’d recommend having a read through the comments section to see what worked for other people.


They were well received by the family, and helped fuel my brother through his scholarship history exam – needless to say, if he gets scholarship, it’ll be the muffins (and ergo me) that get the credit ;)

wrong season for rhubarb and apple? for winter fruity baking, i have a delicious flourless mandarin cake over here; brilliant summery cherry clafoutis; or super indulgent portuguese custard tarts for any time of the year!

blue sky bran muffins

1 cup greek yoghurt
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup melted coconut oil (canola or vegetable would be fine too)
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup apple chunks (3 small or 2 large apples)
1 cup rhubarb, chopped in 1 inch/ 2cm slices (this was about 6 stalks)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 F) and prepare muffin tin (I used squares of baking paper, but you can also grease with a nonstick spray or just melted butter with a pastry brush). I whisked the melted coconut oil with the brown sugar and egg first and then added the other wet ingredients as I was wary of it solidifying with the cold yoghurt, but if you’re using regular oil you can add them all then mix away. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a large bowl. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined – any more and you’ll have tough muffins. Fold the fruit in. Using a large spoon, divide evenly into the muffin tin, then sprinkle the tops with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake muffins for about 18 mins, checking after fifteen. they are done when the tops spring back when tapped (the skewer test may not work as well due to the large amount of fruit in them.) Do not over bake, as they will continue to cook for a little while once out of the oven. let them cool in tin for 5-10 mins then transfer to a container. They will keep for 3 days and would also be last for ages in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap.