Water Cooler: Billy Elliot, the battle over cheese and “the best biscuits ever

This week in the water cooler we dance up a storm, battle over cheese and bake the “best biscuits ever”


Congratulations to the no-longer-homeless Auckland Theatre Company for the best house-warming show imaginable. Celebrating their first at-home season in more than two decades with a production of Billy Elliot, the Musical, the ATC is justly earning rave reviews for both the choice of show and its execution. Sir Elton John’s music fills the sparkling new ASB Waterfront Theatre, a talented trio of youngsters is revolving through the huge role of Billy with aplomb and much-loved actors (Rima Te Wiata and Stephen Lovatt to name just two) are delighting the capacity audiences. Also receiving rave reviews is the new 660-seat theatre, designed by chairman of the ATC Gordon Moller.


It’s glamorous and practical (thank you Gordon for being so-kind as to provide that extraordinary number of ladies loos). If anyone is deserving of an early Christmas present, a night out at Billy Elliot is recommended. And, if they’ve been awfully, awfully good, perhaps they could also have a pre-show supper at the onsite Cafe and enjoy the Peter Gordon inspired menu. Delicious modern dishes, Villa Maria’s finest wines and super-fast efficient service. A 10 out of 10 on every front.
Kate Coughlan
NZ Life & Leisure

daughters of the dragon


History has seldom provided a stronger plot line for a work of fiction than the forcing of women to serve as sex slaves for conquering soldiers. It is a dark stain on Japanese history that 200,000 Korean women were forced into such servitude during World War Two. Daughters of the Dragon* by William Andrews is a tragic, heart-wrenching story told very pragmatically. The author has an adopted daughter who he describes as ‘arriving from the Land of the Morning Calm [Korea] as a cheerful, smart, four-month-old.”
The former copywriter and marketing/brand executive gave up his career, which included work with several Fortune 500 companies, to research and write historical fiction. This, his third book, has sold more than 50,000 copies and has a 4.8 (from 5) star rating on Amazon. And that “smart, cheerful” baby, who ignited his fascination with Korean history, is now a doctor.
I didn’t know much about Korean history nor comfort women before reading this story of a woman’s amazing strength and courage. I found it compelling and can recommend it for your summer reading list..
*Apparently Daughters of the Dragon are also Marvel cartoon characters but this book should not be confused with them.
Lynley Belton
Commercial Manager
Lifestyle Magazine Group

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There are too many gardeners in my household. I love growing herbs and am amazed how a small amount, even half a teaspoon, can make a dish sing. My green thumb does best with rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, parsley and coriander.
Last weekend I prepared my small veggie garden for spring planting and I was pretty excited about finally sowing daikon (a form of radish). I’m looking forward to making a sweet pickle something like this (http://www.otakufood.com/easy-pickled-daikon-takuan/) which I’ve come to love when eating Korean cuisine.
NZ Lifestyle Block gardening columnist Jenny Somervell recommends lettuce varieties royal oak leaf and tom thumb. So they’ve gone into my newly prepared garden. As I’m impatient by nature I only briefly thought about sowing for transplant and everything I planted is a happy with being direct sown. I did manage to control my strong urge to plant tomatoes especially my favourite cherry varieties. No. Too early. Wait.
That’s my idea of gardening. But Jazz, my dog, takes quite a different approach. Hers is the quite indiscriminate approach, more enthusiastic than accurate. It involves digging holes or proinking* about through freshly sown soil.
This weekend, I will be re-sowing daikon, lettuce and again resisting buying a tomato transplant until next week and the proinking gardener will be fenced out.
*proinking describes the way happy animals leap about, goats and lambs are particularly adept proinkers
Nadene Hall
NZ Lifestyle Block


Chocolate and cranberry oat biscuits

Chocolate and cranberry oat biscuits

This was the response I got after art director Yolanta Woldendorp and photographer Sally Tagg bit through one of my birthday biscuits. My mum had sent up a fresh batch for me and they came in handy whilst out on our NZ Lifestyle Block cover shoot. They said I must share the recipe of these crunchy yet chewy and delicious biscuits. So here it is…thanks Mum.

Recipe: Chocolate Cranberry Oat Biscuits
Makes about 30
150g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tblsp milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugars. Add the egg, vanilla essence and milk, then beat until smooth.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Fold into the creamed ingredients and gently combine. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips & cranberries.
3. Place tablespoon-size portions of mixture on the prepared trays, allowing for spreading. Cook for 10-12 minutes until just brown. Remove from the trays after five minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Rebecca Needham
Art Director
NZ Lifestyle Block

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Jill Whalley of Mt Eliza cheese.

Jill Whalley of Mt Eliza cheese.

Recently I spent the morning at the Beehive in support of artisan cheesemakers Biddy Fraser-Davies (Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese) and Jill Whalley (Mt Eliza Cheese) presenting submissions to the the Primary Production Select Committee which is labouring over the NZ Food Safety Reform Bill. These proposed reforms are a reaction to Fonterra’s whey protein contamination scare back in 2013 and are aimed at tightening the regulatory framework.
Biddy and Jill, both artisan cheesemakers, gave compelling accounts of the costs they already face in complying with laws designed for the big dairy companies. As a former food manufacturer, now a journalist and food writer, I spoke in support of the small scale cheese makers who are already suffering from the significant costs and constraints of the current regulations. For the past 15 years I’ve reported on New Zealand’s artisan producers including many who operate in the dairy sector. And many of whom, I know, are too intimidated to speak for themselves.
I’ve watched Biddy and Jill and Chris Whalley make their cheese. They’re good operators with spotless premises. They know the science, they monitor, test and record every step of the process, and they produce very good, characterful cheese – cheese of which New Zealanders can be proud.
New Zealand may be the world’s leading dairy exporter but it is not the big companies who innovate and bring new products to market. Small companies innovate, big companies follow, or take over.
So I find it strange that on the one hand we talk about the need to add value to our dairy industry and on the other hand we pass laws that make it extremely difficult for people to do so. Bills such as this one will continue to stifle innovation – to the detriment of the industry as a whole. The artisans of an industry lead change. Look at craft beer, artisan bread, coffee, ice cream, even butter (thanks to Lewis Rd).
I speak from experience having introduced fresh pasta to New Zealand many years ago. We started small, built the business over several years (with no food safety issues) then sold it to a multi-national who saw value in further developing the category. It’s now mainstream. Could we have built that business under the current and proposed food safety regulations? Given the compliance costs, I don’t think so. Neither, I suspect, would Kapiti Cheese who started at the same time. They’re now owned by Fonterra. That’s how it works in the food industry. Small companies
Of course we need to keep our food safe but this is risk management gone mad. It’s paranoid and it’s unfair. If Fonterra had to pay more than 40% of their revenue in compliance costs – as Biddy will this year – they’d be screaming, and the regulators would be making more than the producers.
It’s high time that dairy scientists and MPI got together with the specialist cheesemakers to work out a sensible validation and testing regime that’s appropriate to the scale of their smaller non-export businesses.
Anna Tait-Jamieson
Food editor
NZ Life & Leisure
For more detailed information on Anna’s submission see her blog Pass the Salt

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It turns out my welcome swallows must have gotten a C- in nest engineering. At 9am on Sunday, the nest was looking good, a few soft feathers ruffling in the wind. At 10am, it was lying on the ground, one small lonely egg smashed into tiny, gooey smithereens.
I was always told birds won’t come back if you’ve handled their eggs or babies, but my bird rescue friends tell me this isn’t the case. Perhaps the same would hold true for a nest so I decided to do a bit of MacGyver-like tinkering. Double-sided tape didn’t work but green garden wire is now holding the returned nest firmly in place.
It is too close to the underside of the roof for me to see if there are any more eggs. I am hopeful however, as each day, mum and dad swallow are close by, sitting on the gate post keeping guard.
Fingers crossed some human engineering has a welcome ending.
Nadene Hall
NZ Lifestyle Block

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