Monday, May 2, 2022

Puff Pastry Spanakopita

Today I was once again lucky enough to have Mita make lunch for us. To no one's surprise, lunch was out of this world amazing. Mita spent years onboard the Na'ia as their cook, her food is some of the best in Fiji. Now semi-retired to Rakiraki, she works as a private chef in homes on Volivoli and around Ra. Mita is fully vaccinated and boosted and is available for in home catering, call her at 276-5602. 

Puff Pastry Spanakopita

  • 1 kg spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 200 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup yogurt (double if no sour cream or use ricotta)
  • ¼ cup sour cream (double if no yogurt or use ricotta)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 sheets puff pastry

Used in this recipe: Colander, Baking trays, Parchment paper, pastry brush

  1. Thaw the frozen spinach, leave to drain while you cook the onions. Squeeze thoroughly and set aside
  2. In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter and cook the onions until soft and translucent, add to the thawed and squeezed dry spinach
  3. While the onions, cook mix the feta, yogurt, sour cream, flour and egg yolks in a mixing bowl
  4. Mix the egg whites together to make an egg wash and set aside
  5. Then mix the spinach and onions into the feta/dairy and eggs, add salt and pepper to taste
  6. Roll out one Puff Pastry sheet to roughly 12 inches square, score the sheet into 16 squares approximately 3x3 inches
  7. Divide the filling in half in the bowl and then split one of those halves between the 16 squares
  8. Fold each square over to form a triangle and then use a folk to crimp the edge
  9. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F/175C
  11. Transfer the hand pies to a baking sheet, brush lightly with the egg wash and bake in a 350˚F/175C oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through
  12. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and filling

If freezing for later, stop after step 8, do not wash with egg. Freeze on a flat tray lined with parchment paper and transfer to a Ziploc bag within 24 hours. To cook let thaw in refrigerator and continue from step 10

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Pad Thai

Prep: 40 mins Cook: 20 mins Total: 60 mins Servings: 6 Yield:6 servings


  • 1 (12 ounce) package rice noodles

For the Sauce (Savory, Sweet, Salty, Tangy, Spicy)

  • 2/3 cup tamarind pulp (~200 g) (see note)
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp white sugar
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil

For the rest

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • 500g/1 pound boneless, skinless protein like pork, chicken, or prawns, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup sesame oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced finely
  • 1 red bell pepper/capsicum (125 g)
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 chili pepper, minced
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup crushed peanuts
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Step 1

Soak your rice noodles in room temperature water for around 30 minutes before cooking. Hot water will turn your noodles into a solid mass, so be sure the water is cool. Drain noodles. 

Step 2

Stir the tamarind paste, sugar, and fish sauce in a small pot over medium heat until the sugars dissolve. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Taste for savory, sweet, sour, and salty notes in the sauce. Fish sauce will add umami, sugar is sweet, and the tamarind is sour. Adjust to taste. 

Step 3

Toss protein first in 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, then in the flour, coating pieces evenly. Heat some sesame oil in wok over medium high heat. Place protein in the skillet, cook and stir protein until browned but not cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove and keep warm. 

Step 4

Add some more sesame oil and heat, then add onions and capsicum, after a few minutes add the garlic, stir until fragrant.

Step 5

Add noodles slowly. Keep the noodles spread out in the pan as much as possible and slowly add sauce a little at a time until the noodles are soft and have soaked it up. If the noodles still don’t seem cooked, add a little water until they are softened. 

Step 6

When the noodles are softer, add the rest of the spices and vegetables (not the bean sprouts) and cooked protein along with sesame oil to keep everything moving. When the vegetables begin to soften, make a well in the center of the noodles. Add the last of the sesame oil to the bottom of the well, let heat, pour in the beaten eggs and scramble. Mix in with the noodles.

Step 7

Turn off heat, add bean sprouts and mix. Serve topped with crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro and wedges of lime

Have crushed peanuts, lime, dried Thai red pepper flakes, and fish sauce on the table. 

NOTE: You can get a ball of tamarind pulp at most markets in Fiji. In a small bowl add boiling water to the pulp and let sit until the water cools. Using your hand, mix the now cooled water with the softened pulp and remove the seeds, seed cases, and pod strings. A nice thick paste is desirable, so use the least amount of water necessary. If you can’t get tamarind paste then a commercial tamarind sauce will work, but decrease or eliminate the sugar in the recipe.  

Adapted from multiple recipes including:

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Mita's Rourou soup

I’m a bit embarrassed to be asking Mita for such basic recipes, but her basics are always so delicious, I keep thinking there must be a secret ingredient or a special method. I think the combination of love and experience shows through in her food. Mita spent years onboard the Na'ia as their cook, her food is some of the best in Fiji. Now semi-retired to Rakiraki, she works as a private chef in homes on Volivoli and around Ra. Mita is awaiting her second Covid jab and is available for in home catering, call her at 276-5602. 

Mita’s Rourou Soup


  • 1 pot boiling water for blanching 
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 bundle fresh Rourou (if purchasing frozen, about 500g cleaned and trimmed taro leaves)
  • 2 coconuts, grated and milked (or 1 can coconut cream)
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp ginger, grated
  • Salt to taste

  1. Blanch cleaned and trimmed rourou leaves, about 10 minutes in boiling water and baking soda, drain well in a colander, roughly chop before returning to pot.
  2. In heated cooking oil, cook onions until translucent, add ginger, garlic, fry for two more minutes.
  3. Add drained rourou and coconut cream. Let cook until soft. Salt to taste and blend. 
  4. Serve hot, add additional coconut cream as a garnish if desired.

Mita's Lentil Soup

Mita spent years onboard the Na'ia as their cook, her food is some of the best in Fiji. Now semi-retired to Rakiraki, she works as a private chef in homes on Volivoli and around Ra. We call her a conversation killer because no matter how animated the discussion at the table is, her food is so delicious that we all fall silent when her food comes out. Mita is awaiting her second Covid jab and is available for in home catering, call her at 276-5602. 

Mita generously shared her recipe for Lentil Soup after one meal that met with rave reviews, unlike some of her other dishes this one is easily within my abilities as a home cook. 

Mita’s Lentil Soup


  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 500 g Red Lentils
  • 1 liter water, hot
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
    Cilantro to garnish


  1. Heat oil in low consistency
  2. Add onion, cook until translucent, then garlic and ginger. Sauté until aroma develops.
  3. Add turmeric, cumin, chili, coriander. Stir for one minute, add lentils and carrots, stir well to combine.
  4. Add the water and boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes, reduce to a simmer until the lentils are soft and break up. You may need to add additional water.
  5. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Baked Gluten Free Yogurt Cheesecake

Finding ingredients here can be interesting, a couple of days ago a friend sent me a recipe for a yogurt cheesecake, I decided to give the concept a try today. The recipe I saw had no eggs, and I had eggs to use up, so after poking around a bit I came up with this. 

Baked Gluten-Free Yogurt Cheesecake


  • 1.5 cups quick oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup Fiji sugar
  • 76 g Rewa butter, melted
  • 1 tsp Punjas chai spice blend 

might add some powdered ginger next time


  • 6 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of one large lemon
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 200 g Rewa butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1 cup gluten free flour*
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Liter Rewa Yogurt

Add ¼ teaspoon salt if not using Rewa butter

THIS MAKES A LOT! If you're not using a 9" springform pan be prepared for the extra


(haven't yet decided on one yet) 


  1. For crust: Preheat oven to 350F/175C; pulse sunflower seeds and oatmeal in blender until roughly ground, combine all crust ingredients in large bowl, and mix well. Firmly press onto bottom and about 4 cm/1.5 inches up the sides of an ungreased 9 inch springform pan. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown; let cool.
  2. Filling: Separate eggs, whisk the egg whites with a mixer until they form stiff peaks. Set aside. (Do this first so you don't have to clean the beaters, if you do it last your beaters need to be clean and dry) 
  3. Use a large bowl (same one the crust was in if you want) and combine the granulated sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and the melted butter and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add salt here if not using Rewa butter.
  4. Add corn starch, flour, and baking soda and continue to blend on medium-high speed until the mixture is very creamy. Slowly add the yogurt to the mixture. Reduce the speed to medium low and blend well.
  5. Fold the whisked egg whites into the mixture.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared springform and put the pan into a water bath.
  7. Bake for 75 to 90 minutes until set and golden brown. The top might move a little bit but shouldn't jiggle a lot. Turn off oven and crack the door slightly for 30 minutes. Remove cake to counter and let cool until the cake is at room temperature. Remove the sides of your pan and continue to cool in the refrigerator for several hours until completely set. 
NOTE: Gluten free flours tend to be very thirsty. If you're using regular flour you may want to consider using Greek Yogurt or draining your yogurt and/or decreasing the eggs. Today my gluten free flour was 1/3 besan gram flour, 1/3 rice flour, 1/3 tavioka starch. 

Cool Down Tzatziki

One of my favorite dips on a hot day is Tzatziki. The dill and cucumbers grow well here in Fiji and yogurt is usually readily available in the stores. This comes together quickly, although the flavors are best if you let it sit for a few hours. 


  • 250 g cucumber, grated (1 large)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • *250g greek yogurt yogurt (~1 heaping cup)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste (often not needed because of the salt in the cucumber) 
  • 5 g fresh dill, finely chopped (about 1.5 Tbsp) 

* I like the flavors of the dill and cucumber to come through, for a less intense flavor you may want to add more yogurt. 

  1. Grate the cucumber and spread around a colander, salt it heavily, and let drain for 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes squeeze out the grated cucumber, chop again if smaller pieces are desired. 
  3. Stir together the yogurt, squeezed grated cucumber, minced garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl. 
  4. Add lemon zest, dill, salt, and pepper; whisk until smooth. 
  5. Pour into a serving dish, cover tightly, and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Smooth out the day

Some days are jam packed and I find myself at my computer instead of taking a meal break. Today was one of them and I was flagging by midafternoon, this guilty pleasure smoothie helped with some of the rough edges -- although it doesn't have anything in it to be guilty about, it just feels so decadent. Bonus - after I had this midafternoon I was pumped enough to hike up and visit the neigh-bors. 

Guilty Pleasure Afternoon Pick Me Up


  • 1 cup cold coffee (or 1 cup cold water + instant coffee)
  • 1 cup frozen bananas
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter


  1. Blend
  2. Serve cold. 

Here's another favorite - Spice blends are so much fun, I like the Tea Masala paired with pumpkin. 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie


  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup roasted pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dates (soaked in milk if I planned ahead) 
  • 1 Tbsp Punjas Tea Masala 


  1. Blend
  2. Serve cold. 

I like this guide from Prevention Magazine for mixing and matching, although my smoothies tend to stray from its suggestions.