Tag Archives: cooking

Stuffed Red Capsicum with Soy and Ginger Sauce

5 Feb


So you know those Sunday afternoons when you have no idea what’s for dinner and you’re really more in the mood for some light comic relief than cooking a meal? I promise if you watch any of the ‘Cooking with Dog’ video series on YouTube, you will find inspiration and probably have a giggle. You may be thinking “Cook with dog? What the…?” Well, relax, it’s not what you think (although at our house the jokes about this concept came on pretty thick and fast). Nobody does eccentricity quite like the Japanese! I got my idea for dinner tonight from this video. I wasn’t planning to blog this meal (that’s why the photo’s not crash hot), but it turned out so good I figured why not!? And really, you could stuff other vegetables like zucchini or eggplant too. There are lots of other yummy, easy Japanese recipes on ‘Cooking with Dog’.

I changed the ingredients a little but followed the method shown in the video. I’ll list the ingredients I used for my stuffing below because it turned out really yum. Also, I added lots of fresh, grated ginger to the sauce, because we love it and because we have colds.

To stuff 3 large peppers, cut into quarters, you’ll need…

3 chicken thigh fillets, minced

3 green onions, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups mixed dried Chinese mushrooms (you need to soak these in hot water first), finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

lots of cracked black pepper

generous pinch of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

You could put all of the ingredients (except the chicken) in the food processor to save time and fuss.

We ate ours with some soba noodles and we’re looking forward to the cold leftovers tomorrow for lunch.

WOOF! Or more likely, YAP! You like button!


Thai Style Salad Deluxe

7 Sep


I’m not going to bother with any long intro to this dish, all I will say is that I made it tonight, probably enough to serve 4 people and we polished off the lot. We seriously COULD NOT STOP.

You will have heard a million times, Thai food is all about the balance – sour, sweet, salty. You’ve got to get that right in this dressing but honestly, it’s not brain surgery.

This dish is a kind of hybrid salad! Paul always makes this beautiful glass noodle salad with shredded cos lettuce, herbs and prawns and I love to make Thai green mango salad when the fruit is in season. I yelped with excitement the other day at our Asian green grocers when I saw them there for the first time since last summer! Beautiful, slender, sour green mangoes. And thirdly, everyone’s favourite Thai salad – Larb – the one with the roasted rice powder and ground meat.The result is a bit of all these and boy was it amazing!

Like any salad you have full artistic license with this one – you just have to remember the sweet, sour, salty balance thing.  The star ingredient of ‘larb’ – the roasted rice powder, is not in this salad, I made little fried garlic slivers instead.

Here’s what you’ll need…


2 Thai green mangoes (you want them very firm and green so they are tart and crunchy, not soft and floppy) See picture below!

3 spring onions

2 red chillies (optional)

about 2 cups bean thread noodles (cooked)

One baby cos lettuce (or 1/3 – 1/2 a big one)



roasted peanuts

5-6 cloves garlic

fried shallots (from the Asian grocer)

12 cooked prawns

50-100 grams chicken mince

50-100 grams pork mince

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar


juice one large lime (or 2-3 tbsps)

2-3 tbsps fish sauce

2 tbsps sugar (palm, white, raw, brown – doesn’t really matter)

1 tbsp thai chilli and soy bean paste (from Asian grocer)

A rule of thumb for this dressing is to use equal quantities of sour, salty, sweet – but you can make it to suit your taste. Just start with less and adjust gradually as you know fish sauce is mega salty!

Now that you’ve scrapped the idea of making this salad because the list of ingredients is soooo long, WAIT! You can make this without the three different meats and just pick one – or use none and serve it alongside grilled fish or meat. We bought prawns and then realised we had a leftover pork chop and some chicken breast so we used it all up. If you don’t have the chilli bean paste the dressing is beautiful without it.

Here’s what you do…

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well to allow sugar to fully dissolve. Set aside.

Soak your noodles in hot water according to packet directions, drain, cut into manageable lengths and set aside.

Slice the garlic and shallow fry it in a little oil until they just start to change colour – these will burn easily and remember they will continue to cook and darken in colour even once they have been removed from the hot oil. Drain on paper towel.

Slice the spring onions and chillies on the diagonal into thin slices.

Shred the cos lettuce (not too fine).

Peel the mangoes. Cut into thin strips** see below for notes on this**.

Place all the above ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Slice the prawns in half – add to the salad.

In a very hot pan with a little oil, fry minced pork and chicken with the 1 tbsp fish and the sugar until it is lightly coloured. Allow to cool slightly. Add to salad.

Roughly chop herbs (if you wanted to add thai basil or vietnamese mint you can) and add to the salad.

Toss all salad ingredients with the dressing until well mixed. Sprinkle with a handful of smashed roasted peanuts and some of the little fried shallots to serve.


** You can cut the mangoes any way you like really but I do rough julienne strips the way a Thai friend of mine taught me to and it’s quite nifty and looks nice- you hold the mango so that it’s lengthways down the palm of your hand (i.e. where the stem would be is at the top of your middle finger), with a sharp pairing knife or short bladed knife cut incisions in the mango from top to bottom (they don’t have to o all the way through to the seed), then turn your knife so that the blade is perpendicular to the incisions you’ve just made and scrape off the strips. Confusing? Just slice off thin slices from each cheek and then slice into thin strips.

Firm, bright green mangoes are what you want. Most Asian green grocers should have them through Spring and Summer. You can skip the chillies if you don't like spicy.

Tuna Ceviche Salad

16 Aug

Ceviche is a dish originating in South America which is made by ‘cooking’ fish or other seafood in citrus juice and garnishing it. It is usually eaten as an appetizer. There are so many variations and I encourage you to give them a go. There are versions with coconut milk and coriander, Asian versions with fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass etc and a myriad of other combinations. Google Ceviche and you’ll find hundreds of recipes. I made this version with fresh tuna, but you can substitute any fresh fish, prawns/shrimp, scallops, squid or a combination. This one is very simple – inspired by guacamole and fresh salsa. The ingredients go together really well so you can’t really mess this up. It looks pretty served in a glass (you need something low and wide – a low ball or a dessert glass) with toast or crispbread on the side. Or, lay it out flat on a plate for people to share. You really must have something crunchy to scoop it up with. It takes very little time to prepare and is very healthy. Of course you can add other ingredients to this dish like finely chopped chilli, a little garlic or some mustard. Diced cucumber would be a good addition.

Here’s what you’ll need…








2 ripe tomatoes, diced

1 piece of tuna, about 250 grams (it needs to be very fresh and good quality)

juice of half a lemon

juice of half a lime

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp capers

1 avocado

1/4 red onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil and parsley (or you can substitute chives, dill, coriander – up to you)

1 tablespoon sour cream

freshly ground black pepper


black caviar to garnish (optional)


Blend the avocado, sour cream, about a teaspoon of the juice and some salt and pepper in a food processor or with a fork, until smooth.


Dice the fish into small cubes about 1.5 – 2 centimeters. Place the fish along with the chopped onion, tomato, capers and herbs in mixing bowl and toss. Taste the juice – if it is very sour you can add a pinch of caster sugar. Pour the juice over the salad mix. The juice will start to cook the fish immediately. Leave aside for about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and toss again.

To serve…

Spoon the avocado mixture into the glass (or glasses if you want to do multiple individual serves) and top with the salad mixture. Garnish with a spoonful of black caviar if you want to. Serve with pieces of toast, toasted pita bread, bagel crisps or whatever crunchy cracker you have.













a different way to serve









a generous spoonful on a little toast

Miso Marinated Mackerel

29 Jul

Food for those days when you want to feel light and happy!

I remember one afternoon in Paris when I was walking past a ‘Quick’ burger restaurant and there was a young 20 something year old guy standing out the front scoffing his burger in the street and a 50 something year old woman, glamorously dressed à la Parisienne,  unreservedly and angrily berating him, asking why he couldn’t at least eat his ‘merde Americaine dans le restaurant’. I think in France if you don’t have time to sit down and eat properly you might as well skip the meal altogether. I’m pretty sure this would be the consensus of most self respecting gourmands and I guess it could be an alternative explanation for the skinny French woman phenomenon. I’ve heard that the days of that miraculous ability to stay glamourously thin on a diet consisting of all things indulgent may be running out for the French (much to the relief of ‘full figured’ women like me everywhere). Even the culinary nonpareil (at least the time poor ones), have begun to surrender to the mystery meat/butane burger and ‘french’ fries (ironically not French at all) from oily cardboard boxes drenched in long life mayonnaise from a sachet, tout à emporter – ‘to go’. Not surprisingly, the obesity epidemic is gaining significant momentum in France as it is elsewhere. And the French aren’t the only ones who are losing their grip on traditional, uncompromisingly high culinary standards, apparently. I’ve read that the Japanese 22 year record for the longest life span is threatened by the ‘would you like fries with that’ generation. A junk food tsunami seems to be emanating from some of the world’s epicenters of crap, flooding streets where once stood vendors of short-order nourishing fare with burger joints and pizza chains in all their greasy glory. But can the fast food empire really dilute gastronomical greatness?

When I am good I am very very good and when I am bad I eat chips. Sometimes I get the extra crunchy beer battered chips from the fish n chip shop in Burleigh or fish tacos from Wahoos with a mountain of crispy shoe-strings doused in their XXX hot sauce on the side. When I am good I eat sushi.

Japanese food always makes me feel healthy. I have only recently learned a few basics of Japanese cooking and I’m desperate to go to Japan to connect the dots properly. What an incredibly complex, developed cuisine. I’ve only scratched the surface but it’s so nice learning about new ingredients. I have made this particular recipe several times now and I think it is really beautiful. I’ve heard there are hundreds of types of miso in Japan – my local Asian grocer has two: brown and white. This dish uses white miso, tastes fabulous and is quick and easy to prepare. It is not my creation. I have done what I often do which is to read a few similar recipes and go with my instincts on how to cook the dish.

This dish is quite common I think, although I had never tried it until I made it recently. I bought the freshest mackerel at the market. It was glistening so silvery and wet I couldn’t resist, so I got the fish monger to clean and fillet it for me. I have cooked it several times since and it is our #1 favourite at the moment! I much prefer mackerel fillets to steaks personally, but you could do either I guess.

It’s dead easy.

You’ll need…

1/4 cup white miso paste

1/4 cup mirin

2 tbsps rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbsps minced ginger

1 1/2 tbsps minced spring onions

2 fillets mackerel (cut into smaller pieces if you like)

Simply combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and coat mackerel. Leave for 30 minutes minimum, 2 hours max (I suspect any longer the vinegar might cook the fish a little too much and make it mushy when cooked).

Mix well until smooth









This was the best fish in the shop and the cheapest!










Fry the fish fillets skin side down in a hot pan for a few minutes and then spoon on any residual marinade and put under a hot grill for about 5-6 minutes (or more or less depending on the thickness of the fillets). To test, insert a knife into the thickest part of the fish and gently pull to the side. If the flesh is white and opaque you’re done! If it’s resistant or pink or translucent it needs to keep cooking.

Served with cold buckwheat soba noodles and dipping sauce, snow peas with sesame paste and some pickled daikon radish and red radish
























An icy cold pilsener and some pretty little dishes feel nice too!

My Thai Fish Cakes

26 Feb











WARNING! These are not a copy of the version sold in Thai restaurants because I find those ones are rubbery and they make my teeth squeak and I don’t like that! These are delectable little fish cakes made with fish and spices that are nice and moist and full of flavour and aroma. You don’t need to make them with expensive or fine fish. A firm fish, strong tasting or not (that’s up to personal taste) is ideal for this recipe. There are many fish that would be suitable – talk to your fishmonger if you’re not sure. I like N.Z. Gurnard and Mackerel for this recipe. This recipe is also lovely with half green prawn meat and half fish. You can also use chicken mince, or pork mince or both (you’ll need to add another egg if you use these).

All of the aromatics used in this recipe should be available at the supermarket or Asian Grocer.

You’ll need…

500 grams white fish (raw)

2 kaffir lime leaves

3 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

two french shallots

1/2 cup coriander leaves

1/4 cup mint leaves

2 tbsps Chu Chee paste or Red Curry Paste (Thai)

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (commercial brands are ok, but I have put a simple recipe at the bottom for amazing home made stuff)

one egg, lightly beaten

extra fresh chillies if you like it really hot!

Put it all together… (if you don’t have a food processor, this might take a while)

Place shallots, garlic, ginger, coriander, mint and lime leaves in the food processor and process until minced. Remove and place in a large mixing bowl.

Cut the fish up into pieces and put them in the food processor. Process until you get a fine mince. Add this to the mixing bowl along with all other ingredients. Mix well until everything is well combined. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavours develop.

Leave to marinate for as long as you can









Fry them up…

Roll the mixture into little balls (about a ping pong ball size) and then flatten them into a thick pattie. You could also use two spoons and make quenelles. The surface needs to be smooth (or they could start to fall apart in the oil) so put a little oil on your hands while you’re moulding the cakes.

Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a fry pan and cook the fish cakes until golden brown (about 3 mins). Remember, they will keep cooking once they’re removed from the oil, so don’t wait till they’re too dark.

Drain on paper towel and serve. You don’t need a dipping sauce with these because they’re so yummy and moist! I like to serve them with little matchsticks of young ginger (when available).

Or for something healthier…

Carefully place them fish cakes on a layer of baking paper in a steamer and steam until cooked through (about 5-6 mins).

Suggestions for serving…

Make a simple glass noodle salad with some julienned carrots, celery, some lettuce and toasted peanuts, top with fish cakes and dress with lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.

Stir-fry some veggies in a little sesame oil and soy sauce and serve with hot white rice and fish cakes.

Slice cakes up and put in a crusty roll with some mayo, grated carrot and coriander.

The steamed version are beautiful in hot Tom Yam soup.

Pulled Pork Tacos

9 Feb


Ok, so you’re going to take the whole afternoon to make these, ok? Get a six pack of Dos Equis or some lime and soda and put some Mariachis on the turntable. Stick on a fake moustache, wear a red shawl, carry a monkey on your shoulder and pretend you’re Frida – whatever gets you in the mood!

Trust me it’ll be worth it! The pulled pork is incredible (you can have it on bread rolls, on rice with salad, in burritos, chimichangas, almost any which way your heart desires actually) and if you’ve never eaten home-made corn tortillas your life is about to change. They’re easy once you get into the rhythm.

You’ll need…

1.5 kg pork shoulder (on the bone for extra flavour)

3 brown onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsps malt vinegar

1 carrot, diced

1 small can chipotle chillies in adobo sauce (brands to look for in your deli La Costena, La Morena, Goya, Herdez, Embasa) blended until smooth

3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tsp cumin

3 litres water

Prepare the Pork…

First, cut off the fat and rind from the pork. Set aside for use another day.

Fry the onions, garlic and carrot for a few minutes, then add all other ingredients to the pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very low simmer and cook for around 3-4 hours (or around 90 minutes in a pressure cooker). You’ll know it’s done when the meat is falling off the bones very easily, or the meat shreds with a fork effortlessly.

The stock will be spicy, sweet and aromatic!








Remove the pork from the stock and set aside to cool. Once cooled, pull apart with your fingers being sure to remove and discard any gristle, cartilage or veins as these are unpleasant to eat. Your meat is now ready to use.

Melt in your mouth








If you want to refrigerate it until later on, simply reheat it in a fry pan with a little of the reduced stock. I like to add some kidney beans too.

Meanwhile, strain the stock and return it to the pan. Bring to a rapid boil and reduce by two thirds. Once cooled place this liquid in a bottle or container and refrigerate. Once cold, you can scoop the fat off the top (if you must).

By bottling the stock you can use it next time you make pulled pork – just top up with water.











A little bit of the master stock also gives ‘Chilli con Carne’ a great flavour boost! Remember to shake the bottle first.

For the Tortillas (about 8-10), you’ll need…

1 1/4 cups masa harina (cornmeal flour – not the same as cornflour  – it’s flour made from specially treated corn and you can get from some health food stores and delis)

1/4 cup SR flour

about 1 cup water and 1 tbsp vegetable oil

few pinches salt

Prepare the dough…

Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl until you have a smooth ball – the dough should not be crumbly or sticky. Break off a chunk of dough and roll between the palms to form balls about the size of a ping pong ball, with a smooth surface, no cracks.

I have broken off a few chunks so you can see the smooth surface and the texture of the dough








Place the little ball between two sheets of greaseproof paper or in a plastic freezer bag and roll with a rolling pin to about the size of a c.d. Or, if you have one, use a tortilla press!

A press like this one makes light work of fresh tortillas








You can only roll and cook one at a time because they will easily stick to any surface you put them on (especially each other – so don’t try to stack them). You’ll get a rhythm going where you can roll and cook simultaneously or better still, get an assistant!

Heat a small fry pan over medium-high heat and spray with a tiny bit of oil and gently place the tortilla in a pan. The easiest way to do this is to place your whole hand, fingers spread over the tortilla while it is still stuck to the paper or plastic. Gently peel it off and then quickly turn your hand over above the pan.

Cook the tortilla until small bubbles start to puff up or the edges look dry, then turn it. Use your fingers, be quick, slide it up the edge of the pan and flip it! When the tortilla starts to puff again (after about a minute), pull it out and keep warm in a pocket made of foil. Like this one…

They will stay warm in here for a while, or you can keep the packet in a very low oven. It will be hard not to eat them as you go – hold strong.









To Serve…

Any of these things are nice, but there are no rules – taste the meat and see for yourself – I think something fresh and crunchy is best.

Fresh radishes, sliced thinly

Red onion slices

Fresh lime wedges (I can’t enjoy one without a squeeze of lime)

Fresh coriander

Fresh salsa

Cucumber slices

cooked silver-beet or kale

sour cream



Holy Hole in a Bagel Batman that Hummus is TASTY!

8 Feb

I like hummus, but when I buy it from the shop I always want to add lots of things for more and more flavour. This recipe makes a spicy, sweet, nutty and very flavoursome dip.

You’ll need…

Fresh Pumpkin









400 grams chopped pumpkin

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried Rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon chili powder/chili flakes (or more to taste)

You can leave out the salt - or any of these if you don't like them!










3-4 tbsps EVO oil

1 tin chickpeas (drained)

1/2 cup tahini (unhulled sesame)

juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves

First, Roast the Pumpkin…

Put the pumpkin in a baking dish and sprinkle with the spices and toss with olive oil to coat.

Roast in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or until well cooked.

Don't leave any of the spices in the pan!









Blend it all together…

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor (or get out your masher and roll up your sleeves) and process to a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice.

I like mine with a little texture, not completely smooth, but this is a matter of personal preference, if you like it very smooth you may wish to add a little water (just a couple of tablespoons).


Corn Fritters

6 Feb

I reckon it’s not that easy to make nice plump fritters that aren’t too gooey in the middle or oily on the outside. Here’s a good recipe that makes about 15 small (pikelet sized) fritters that will satisfy the needs of a hungover person on a Sunday morning perfectly (with a generous accompaniment of fried bacon) or make an easy light lunch, served with some nice fresh roquette and a dollop each of sour cream and chutney.

You can actually add lots of different things to this recipe, such as sliced spring onions, grated carrot, zucchini or potato, chopped fresh chilli, roasted peppers, leftover roast meat, tuna from a tin (well-drained) or for something a bit fancy – some chopped prawns or smoked trout. You get the idea! If you grate vegetables to add to the batter, make sure you sprinkle the grated veg with a little salt and let stand for a few minutes before squeezing out excess liquid (handfuls at a time).

You’ll need…

2 cobs of corn

1/2 small brown onion, very finely diced

155 grams (half a tin) creamed corn

2 eggs

4 heaped tbsps SR flour

cracked pepper

1-2 tsps finely chopped basil, parsley or coriander

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsps milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil, approximately (for frying)

Prepare the batter…

Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs and place them in a medium sized mixing bowl. In another bowl, reserve the whites.

Add all other ingredients to the egg yolks and mix well to combine.

Using an electric beater or a whisk, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Add the whites to the batter and fold through gently until well combined. Do not over-mix. If there are some little lumps of white, don’t worry.

It is preferable to stand the batter in the fridge for a while (ten minutes is long enough).

Heat about half of the oil in a fry pan over medium-high heat and gently drop spoonfuls (about a soup spoonful) of batter into the pan. The oil should bubble around the edges (test the first one before proceeding).








Don’t press them down, turn only once after about a one and a half minutes and cook on the other side for about the same.








Remove to a baking tray lined with paper towel and keep warm in a very low oven until all the batter has been cooked.











Promiscuous Pomegranate

2 Feb

Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944.













This fruit is very high in antioxidants and so is considered an aphrodisiac (apparently the effect of these antioxidants on the body is increased blood flow through the vessels which leads to heightened sensitivity). It was sacred to Aphrodite and the Chinese revered it as a symbol of prosperity because of the abundance of seeds in the clusters within the fruit. It looks so curious, and it is a potent pleasure to eat. Apart from its aesthetic, when you sink your teeth in and suck out the flesh coated seeds the sensation of popping the little beads between your teeth and the tart, sweet crimson juice that bursts out is just so pleasing.

Here is a recipe for a delicious salad featuring pomegranate that I made tonight. It is easy and quick to prepare.

You’ll need…

Mixed salad greens to serve 4

One pomegranate *see notes below on how to get the seeds out without squishing them or getting red stains on your apron

One small ‘Granny Smith’ apple (or other variety you prefer)

2 tbsps Walnuts (coarsely chopped and toasted)

Some shaved parmesan (about 1/4 cup) or crumbled feta

1-2 French Shallots (finely sliced)

Vinaigrette (any kind is fine – whatever you like)

Prepare the Salad…

Toast the walnuts lightly and set aside to cool.

Once nuts are cool, arrange all salad ingredients on a large platter. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.











* To remove the seeds, follow these steps…

1) Slice the pomegranate down the centre widthways with a sharp knife – some juice will run out and be warned – it stains!

2) Fill a large mixing bowl that you can fit both hands in with clean cold water.

3) Place the fruit in the bowl while working so that you don’t squirt out the juice. Carefully pull apart the halves into halves again and then into quarters. The seeds are clustered together and will come out easily if you gently roll them off with your thumb. You’ll get the feel for it – just don’t poke your fingers in and burst the little pearls. Discard the white part and the skin as you go (although an old Brazilian woman used to steep the skins in hot water and gargle to fight a throat infection – at the time I thought it was sorcery, but apparently Kingston Uni are finding out it really does have naturally occurring anti-biotic qualities). Sorry for getting side-tracked.

4) Scoop off any little bits of yellowy-white pith from the surface of the water and strain through a colander.


Tamarind and 3 Chilli Occy

31 Jan












I love Octopus. I love Octopus in Greek restaurants especially where they tenderise it, cook it over piping hot charcoal and drown it in lemon juice and olive oil. I love Pulpo a la Gallega, boiled with vinegar, salt, bay leaves and onions and served on hot potatoes with a sprinkle of paprika and some olive oil. I once had a job in Santiago de Compostela cooking this dish in a big cauldron on the street at the front of a restaurant. It was a nice job spooning it onto the plates and watching happy pilgrims slurp it down, but I only lasted three days in the job. Porqué? I had to get to the restaurant before 7 am to prep the octopus. This process consisted of strapping on a heavy duty red pvc apron that was at least two sizes too big, slicing off the tentacles (these suckers were pretty big and weighed at least 1.5 kgs each, their tentacles were about a metre long), picking them up one by one and whacking the tentacle half a dozen times on the bench. I tried doing two at once, one in each hand but I felt like an insane Don Quixote tilting at windmills, whirling tentacles in the most uncoordinated, inexperienced way. They weren’t ALL really really slippery! I would invariably have stayed up until at least 1am the night before, and as an 18 year old back packer I could think of lots of other things I would rather do at 7 am like, oh I don’t know, sleep. There were sometimes 10 or 12 of these Octopus requiring a battering, so thankfully I wasn’t the only person enlisted for the silly job. However, at that stage my Spanish was limited, and as if holding a conversation while repeatedly hurling octopus tentacles over your shoulder and down to the bench top (with a very loud) WHAP wasn’t hard enough WHAP as it is, WHAP language barrier aside WHAP. I quit.

Baby Octopus doesn’t require tenderising. Phew.

The marinade/sauce for this stir-fry is incredible – tangy, sweet and spicy and you could use it with just about anything at all. It’s kind of Thai style but of my own design, so let’s not call it real Thai.

Here’s what you’ll need…

From left: Tamarind (block), dried chilli flakes, Thai soy sauce (Healthy Boy brand), Thai chilli and soy bean paste (Pantai brand), fish sauce. Front: garlic, lime, fresh red chilli, palm sugar.











Prepare the Marinade…

Combine in a bowl…

4 tbsp soy

3 tbsp tamarind pulp (pour 1 cup boiling water over pulp and when cool enough mush with fingers, then push through a sieve, discarding seeds) *see below for notes on Tamarind*

2 tbsp palm sugar

1 tbsp fish sauce

juice of 1/2 lime (or whole if it’s not very juicy)


1 chopped red chilli

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

You’ll also need…

500 grams baby octopus (cut in half, lengthways – optional)

2-3 cups vegetables such as green beans, capsicum, eggplant, but anything you like would be fine!

Half an onion, sliced into small wedges

Vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying

A handful of Thai ‘holy’ Basil

Put it all together…

Marinade the octopus for about an hour (2 if you like but it won’t make much difference).

in the wok…

Quick Quick









First, stirfry the vegetables in a little oil and set aside.

Strain the octopus (reserving the marinade) and fry in a little oil in a very hot wok for just 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Pour the marinade into the wok and reduce by 1/3, thicken with a little cornflour and water.

Return the veg and octopus to the wok and toss through the sauce.

Garnish with chopped Thai basil and serve with steaming hot, fragrant Jasmine rice.











Tamarind is yummy. It comes in different products. I buy it in a ‘brick’ which is just Tamarind pulp and seeds (straight from the pods) compacted. You need to make a sauce by adding boiling water as I described above. You can also buy Tamarind paste, which you use straight out of the container. It’s tastes almost as good as the non-processed stuff but it often has additives I don’t like. You can buy it in good supermarkets or in any Asian grocer.

Dare I say this stir-fry would be even better with big, fresh, firm prawns. You could also use any meat or seafood (perhaps not Mussels) with this sauce.

Depending on the size of the octopus you may wish to slice them in half, a large-ish one can be quite a mouthful.

Don’t overcook them, this is how you get tough octopus. If you don’t trust yourself, boil the octopus for about 45 minutes before you marinade it (cool it down first) and you’ll have tender octopus guaranteed, but this isn’t really necessary.

If 3 chillies sounds scary just leave them out. The soy bean chilli paste is pretty mild – try some before you add it in, it’s quite sweet and about as hot as commercial sweet chilli sauce.


31 Jan

A fiercely clever friend of mine once said “… hate that cutesy cupcake bullshit”!

She’s not wrong. I’ll prove it. If you had the choice of biting into a) a cupcake that tastes like the packet it comes from along with an inch high pile of sickly pastel pink piped on clag glue and icing sugar mix that makes every part of your mouth stick together in the most unnatural way OR…

b) This Coconut, Nectarine and White Chocolate Muffin








What would you chose?

Cupcake horror aside, muffins are often not much better. When I buy muffins they rarely taste like they’re supposed to.

I know this is no ground-breaking culinary innovation, but it has taken me countless muffin making experiments to get the texture and flavour to my liking. Now that I have perfected the recipe I thought you’d like to try it.

I like coconut a LOT, so I thought I’d put some in my muffins. I realised that adding a little dessicated coconut to the batter doesn’t give you a very coconutty flavour. So, I decided to try coconut cream as the liquid in place of buttermilk. Success!

These muffins are very moist (especially when eaten fresh out of the oven, still warm) and they have a golden, crumbly outside. The spiced sugar topping really, um, well tops them off!

The addition of white chocolate is indulgent but if it is too sweet for you, leave it out. Use pecans, macadamias or some other delicious nut in its place.

Here’s the recipe… I’ve put an asterisk next to the base ingredients so you can reproduce the batter adding whatever fruit or other star ingredient you like. You could use this recipe for savoury muffins by leaving out the sugar and vanilla, obviously. Crammed with fried onions and with sweet chilli sauce on top.


(makes 6 medium sized muffins)

150 grams SR flour*

50 grams brown sugar*

50 grams dessicated or shredded coconut (or mix of both)*

pinch of salt*

1 large egg*

125 ml coconut cream*

50 grams butter (melted and cooled)*

1 tsp vanilla extract*

2 ripe nectarines, sliced into thin wedges

1 tbsp white choc buttons

For the Topping

1 tbsp demerara/raw sugar

1 tsp mixed spice (allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Measure all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, mix thoroughly. Add nectarine.

In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients, whisk just to lightly beat the egg and combine all ingredients well.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients. Mix minimally with a spatula under JUST combined. Dry patches in the batter are a good thing.

Mix sugar and spice in a small bowl and sprinkle a little on the top of each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then on a wire rack.

Don't take me out of my comfort zone before I've cooled down or I'll break apart.


Valentines Day?








Other winning combinations are pineapple and cardamom or passionfruit butter or marmalade (just put a blob in the middle after spooning the batter into the tin – poke your finger down into the centre, spoon some in, then close the hole over again gently).

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

24 Jan

Don't be hasty or it won't be tasty!

This dish involves quite a few ingredients but the preparation is all dead simple. It’s best to marinate the meat for 24 hours if possible, before the long and slow cooking process begins. I have included my barbecue sauce recipe, minus a couple of secret ingredients. You’ve got to have some secrets, right?

To serve 2 people (half a rack or about 3 ribs each)…

You’ll need…

1 rack of beef back ribs (whole) – approximately 1-2 kgs

For the Marinade:

Juice one lemon

3 teaspoons Tabasco

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 sprigs thyme

1 tbsp Dijon mustard



For the Barbecue Sauce:

1 tbsp treacle

¾ cup tomato sauce

¼ cup white vinegar

1 beef stock cube

½ cup hot water

2 tsp Tabasco sauce

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp blended chilli powder* or replacement**

pepper and salt

* I use ‘Tone’s’ brand that I get shipped especially from the US because it is so delicious and mild and has no MSG

** You don’t want to use hot chilli powder – to make your own blend 1tbsp sweet paprika with 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp onion powder and 1 tsp garlic powder – or close enough!

Start by preparing the marinade

Combine Marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over the beef.














Put the beef in the refrigerator to marinate for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.




Prepare the Barbecue Sauce

Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until well combined and reduced by about a quarter. Set aside. This will keep in a jar in the fridge for a long time.

Turn on the heat!

To cook these ribs I recommend using a kettle oven, with plenty of heat-beads all aglow and some pre-soaked smoking chips scattered over the coals. The beef will need to cook for about 3 hours using the indirect heat method (with the baskets pushed to the sides of the kettle). Remember – all vents open! If you are not used to using a kettle barbecue, or you don’t have one, use the oven – they’ll be almost as delicious! If you can, use a roasting rack to get the meat up off the base of the roasting pan. You could also add a little sprinkle of smoked paprika to the sauce if you like!

So here’s how it goes…


Place the meat bone (flat) side down on the grill plate and pour any residual marinade over the meat. Cover the meat with alfoil and tuck the edges around loosely. Shut the lid.


After about an hour of cooking, you can start to baste the meat with a generous amount of the barbecue sauce. By this stage, the heat should have reduced a fair bit and you can ditch the foil and start really browning the meat.

It should start to look like this…

Don't be hasty or it won't be tasty!









Find something to take your mind off the mouth-watering smell or your sanity might spring a leak!

Keep cooking…

Baste the meat twice more over the next two hours. Once it’s done the meat should fall off the bones!

Like all red meat, let it rest for ten minutes or so before you cut it (to keep the juices in).

To cut it…

You're now on the stairway to heaven!


Just cut between the bones, trying to ensure an even-ish sized chunk of meat is on each rib.

You can toss the ribs in extra barbecue sauce before serving, or let people add their own at the table.


A simple coleslaw in summer or some corn on the cob and creamy mash in winter. YUM.

Spicy Coconut Fried Fish!

23 Jan

Spicy Coconut Fried Fish

If you want a finger lickin’ dish that has an irresistibly crunchy and moorish coating and a hot, firm fishy fillet in the middle then look no further. These fishy forkfuls with a squeeze of fresh lime or sandwiched between white bread with some coriander and mayo will make your toes open and close, make your eyes roll back in your head and make you thank your lucky stars that I invented this dish! This is perfect hangover food, so put your Zinga burger in the bin where it belongs, have a hair of the dog to give you the will to carry on and to cook this!

Here it is – most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry…

You’ll need…

2 firm, white fish fillets (Snapper, Reef Cod are great)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup cornflour

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (‘Panko’ Korean or Japanese are best)

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

1 tsp cayenne pepper, chilli flakes or finely chopped chillies

1/2 lime or lemon rind, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

oil for shallow frying

Slice the fish!

1. With a very sharp knife (not serrated edge) slice the fish widthways into pieces around 3 cm’s wide. If the fillet is really thick, slice on a diagonal about 2 cm’s apart. Set aside.

Prepare the assembly line!

1. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.

2. Place the cornflour on a side plate.

3. Mix the breadcrumbs, coconut, lime/lemon zest, salt and chilli in a bowl and mix well.

Coat the fish!

1. One piece of fish at a time, coat it very lightly in cornflour and shake off any excess, then dip it into the egg and finally into the crumb mixture. Make sure each piece is well coated with the crumb mixture. Set it aside on a plate.


1. Pour about 3-4 cms of vegetable oil in a fry pan and heat until hot. *See tips below about shallow frying*

2. Fry 3-4 pieces of fish at a time until lightly coloured (only one-2 minutes). Lower each piece gently into the oil, don’t plop it in. It should start to bubble like crazy straight away. Turn the piece over once. Remove and set aside on paper towel and keep warm in the oven until all pieces are done.

Serving tips!

Of course it’s perfect with a salad of crispy asian greens, bean sprouts, some lychees or green apple sticks and a tangy Thai style dressing. Make a sandwich or bread roll with white bread, mayo, sweet chilli sauce, coriander, mint and crisp lettuce. OR Try dipping in…

1. A little lime juice or sweet chilli sauce mixed into some mayo.

2. A tablespoon each of dark soy sauce, lime juice, water, palm sugar, a shake of sesame oil and a little crushed ginger!

Shallow frying tips!

Q: Which oil?

A: Peanut, canola, blended vegetable or sunflower.

Be very gentle when turning or moving the fish in the hot oil and when removing it. If you pick it up with tongues, the coating may flake off – you’re better off to use a slotted spoon or egg flip. Chopsticks are good for gentle handling.

You know the oil is hot enough for cooking when a wooden chopstick or a wooden/bamboo skewer starts to sizzle in the oil. You will also notice that the oil around the edges of the pan looks really clear and light in colour once it’s hot.

Food keeps cooking after it has been removed from hot oil. So coatings will darken in colour once removed. Don’t wait for the fish in this recipe to be too golden brown. You can always return it to the oil if you think the coating’s not dark enough. Experiment with one piece of fish before cooking all – chef’s treat!

If you use a fry pan with a heavy base, it will be easier to maintain even heat. If the oil gets too hot, slide it off the heat for a minute or two before continuing cooking.

Always drain fried food on paper towel or a cake rack. I find a cake cooling rack best and keeps the food crispier than paper towel.