Tag Archives: recipe

Whole Orange Cake (no butter, no oil)

19 Nov

IMG_9531

This cake is all over the internet and I’m sure you have seen it before. If you haven’t, let me sell it to you.

Plump, juicy summer oranges are simmered in hot water until burstingly soft and tender, then blended, skins and all. The aroma of the orange oil from the skins and the sweet flesh will really liven you up.

Almond meal is in there for sweet nuttiness. Wholesome brown sugar is whipped with whole eggs until silky and a little flour ties it all together.

It is SO easy, moist, keeps well and is oh so, well… Orangey. Because the skins are blended into the mix, you need to find thin skinned oranges without much pith, to minimise the bitterness.  It is delicious served with natural/Greek yoghurt and some orange wedges. And although this is not ever a criteria for me, this recipe has no oil or butter, just the fat from the eggs. So all those looking to eat lean, this is one for you.

I have experimented with this cake several times and I think this is just right. You can use any mould. My friend makes little orange love hearts. I make a bundt, usually.

You’ll need…

3 whole eggs

2 small oranges (thin skins)

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1/2 cup SR flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

Here’s what you do…

Simmer oranges, in water for around 1 hour.

Once cooled, puree in the blender or food processor until smooth. Combine eggs and sugar and mix until thick and ribbon-like.

Fold through orange mix and dry ingredients.

Pour into tin and cook in a 180 degree oven for about 25-30 mins, or until light golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly. Allow to cool in the turn before turning out.

That’s it! As my favourite tv celebrity meerkat would say, “simples”.

IMG_9518

two4six8!

Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Chillies) with Cheese

1 Sep

(I did not use a filter on this)

Ok, I know what you’re thinking… That’s not REAL Mexican, look at all that cheese. C’mon – in Mexico they’d dip these babies in batter and deep fry ’em. This is the healthy(ish), cheese lovers version. It is also super quick to make.

The long, banana chillies (as we call them Australia) are in season at the moment. They’re crunchy, sweet and vary in colour from bright red, to yellow or green. I got a bag full for $4 recently and had lots of cheese at home and some leftover Enchilada Sauce. We just had simple cheese stuffed chillies, but there are lots of tips at the bottom of this post for how you could change it up a bit. They are another great way to use up leftovers.

This dish is all in one pot, in the oven. In addition, all you need is a packet of tortillas, or some Mexican Rice, a little guacamole or sour cream and some extra hot sauce for the chilli desperados among us. Oh, and salad, I guess. If you must.

Here’s what you’ll need…

4-6 long, large ‘banana’ chillies

Approx two cups Enchilada Sauce

Approx 2-2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (nothing fancy or strong flavoured, just regular mild cheddar)*

That’s it!!

Here’s what you do…

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees celsius.

1. Prepare the chillies: With a pairing knife, make an incision width-ways in the pepper just under the stalk. Then Make a long incision down one-side (the same side as the cut at the top) of the chilli, making sure not to cut all the way through to the other side. Try to wedge your fingers in the chilli to scrape out most of the seeds. There will be a clump of them at the top near the stalk. Do your best to get these out. Rinse under the tap to get rid of loose seeds, pat dry and set in your flat oven-proof baking dish.

2. Stuff the chillies with the cheese. Don’t worry if they look messy. Save a little cheese for sprinkling on top at the end.

3.  Pour over the Enchilada Sauce and place dish in the oven. Bake for around 20 minutes or until peppers are soft, the sauce is hot and your cheese has melted and started browning a little.

4. Serve with plenty of hot tortillas to wrap pieces of yummy peppers, and mop up the sauce. Alternatively, serve with Mexican Rice, beans, salad and accompaniments such as sour cream, guacamole, fresh lemon and coriander for a more ‘complete’ meal at a dinner party or family gathering.

Muy rico!

* You can use other cheeses if you like: a combination of queso fresco, fetta, ricotta, cottage cheese, anything really!

Other suggestions for this dish…

  • Leftover chilli con carne
  • Some shredded meat (like this pulled pork I make for tacos),
  • Chopped and fried chorizo sausage
  • Some beans or re-fried beans

Let me know if you have other ideas or a great chilles rellenos recipe! Love sharing!

Spanakopita (Spanaki = Spinach & Pita = Pie)

31 Aug

Ok, straight-up apologies to any Greek people reading this. This is probably not an authentic recipe and you will no doubt roll your eyes in dismay at yet another bastardisation of one of your most delicious dishes. Sorry, but sometimes I get a hankering and there is no good Greek food that I can afford around my neighbourhood.

Here’s what you’ll need…

1 packet of Phyllo pastry

About 150 grams butter, melted

1 large bunch silver beet or spinach

2 eggs, lightly beaten

200 gram block fetta (Greek), crumbled

2 tablespoons grated parmesan, or similar hard cheese

One brown onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon dill, chopped

A little olive oil

Salt and pepper

Here’s what you do…

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

1. Rinse the spinach/silver beet thoroughly and drain. Squeeze out excess moisture with your hands. Roughly chop. Set aside in a large bowl.

2. Sautee the diced onion and the garlic in a little olive oil until soft and translucent. Add to the spinach.

3. Add the cheeses, egg and dill to the spinach and onion, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

3. Grease a large, rectangular baking dish with a little melted butter.

4. Set your phyllo pastry on the bench, opened out flat and cover with a tea towel to prevent from drying out (it is very tricky to handle if it dries – will tear and shred so easily it will drive you mad). It is also important to check the packet instructions – usually I have to leave mine out of the fridge, in the packet for an hour or so until it is room temperature before using.

5. Layer the base of the pan with 2-3 sheets of buttered phyllo. I find it easiest to lay the sheets in the dish one at a time and brush with butter in between each layer. It is very important that the layers are brushed with butter.

6. Tip the spinach mixture on top of the pastry base and spread out evenly, patting down gently with your hands.

7. Add the remaining sheets of pastry, one at a time, brushing with a little butter in between each layer. You will have lots and lots of layers, but this pastry is extremely thin and you want a nice top on your Spanakopita – flaky and buttery. Yum.

8. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the top of the pie into squares or triangles. Do not cut down into the filling. You want to cut through all the layers of pastry, as neatly as you can, but without reaching the filling.

9. Put the tray into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

10. Allow to cool slightly, cut and serve.

Serve on its own as a snack or with a salad and some fresh Greek yoghurt. Also, good cold/room temperature.

PERFECT PIES!

16 Aug

Just a friendly reminder to MAKE AND EAT PIES! In my book, there is no more satisfying a food experience when you are cold, hungover, starved, sad or celebrating.

Here are a couple I’ve made lately to inspire you and get those salivary glands going…

Apple and Cranberry Pie

Christmas Turkey Pot Pie.

After dinner I asked my niece (3 at the time) what type of pie she loves best, “Love Heart Pie”, she answered. Don’t we all!

Or check out the Lamb, Onion and Stout Pie recipe I submitted for a competition ages ago. It didn’t win, but it won me a husband!!

Aussie Icon

Aussie Icon

Personally, I love all sorts of pies. Lattice top pies, bottomless pies, pot pies, party pies. But my favourite is a real, proper pie – pastry on the bottom, pastry on the top, hot, steamy salty or sweet filling.

PIES! Make one today. Your friends, family and belly will thank-you.

In my book, the perfect pie is actually not perfect at all, at least not aesthetically! I like homemade pies that have gravy goo oozing out the edges or sticky fruit leaking through slits in the top. Wonky edges and extra crispy bits are perfect. As long as the pastry is cooked through and the filling is made from good stuff, you can’t go wrong! No Martha Stewart style perfection pies for me please. I guess in a pie I’m looking for unpretentious perfection… If that makes sense?

Or if you want to try a truly weird food experience, form my hometown of Adelaide, try a pie-floater! A hot meat pie, floating in pea soup, with lots of tomato sauce. If you’re lucky you’ll get a spoonful of mash on top. Sounds ridiculous? Tastes amazing. Promise. Try it! Next time you make pea and ham soup get a pie from the shop, plop it in a shallow bowl of soup, tomato sauce on top. Promise you’ll love it, you just have to embrace it.

Here are some leftovers pies ideas…

Chop up leftover roast meat, veggies and gravy.

Use a tin of cream of mushroom soup with leftover roast chook or christmas turkey.

Homemade baked beans make yummy pies, add a bit of cheese!

Mix leftover steamed/stir-fried vegies with some satay sauce and make little satay veggie pies.

Stewed fruit of course – my favourites are apple and cherry, apple and pineapple, apricot made from rehydrated turkish dried apricots (put some booze in this one)!

Put your leftover curry in a pie!

TIPS FOR A PERFECT PIE! (Pie pros will already know these probably, but they are tips that helped me learn to make good pies)!

Whether you are using store bought pastry or home made, it is important to blind bake your base first! I find the best way is to cover the base with baking paper.

Always brush your pastry top with egg-wash or something to make it shiny.

Here are some toppings I’ve tried:

* Fig Jam – looks pretty with the little fig seeds
* Cardamom sugar – mix a pinch of cardamom into some Demerara sugar
* Coloured sugar – you can buy it from the grocery store – kids love this!
* Lavendar sugar, thyme sugar, rosemary sugar – these are all herbs that taste lovely with sweet fillings

Crust ideas:

* Cheddar crust is amazing! Just add cheese to your pastry dough for savoury or sweet pies. So delicious!
* Herb crust – load your pastry with herbs for extra flavour
* Pepper crust – instead of making a peppery stew for a filling, add lots of pepper to the pastry
* Of course cut out shapes for the top! Scour the op-shops and kitchen stores for unusual cookie cutters, some of the ones I have found are a cute rabbit for rabbit pies, christmas themed for leftover Christmas pies, flowers for a girly strawberry pie. Be creative with shapes – cut out a fish for the top of a fish pie
* Instead of one large sheet cut to fit your pie tin, cut the pastry into lots of rounds, or use a cutter to make lots of pieces and layer them in a pattern of concentric circles on top. You can see the filling through little gaps and it just looks, well… different and kind of cute. Here is an example – this blogger has done a superb job, geez that looks like a tasty pie! Herb Crusted Peach and Cardamom Pie
* Cut out little shapes to make a border around the outside edge of your pie top.
* Cut shapes out of your top sheet instead of layering extra pastry cut outs on top.

The Perfect Pie…

* An old fashioned black bird is ideal for saucy fillings – cut a whole in the centre. He is designed to let steam out to help your pastry lid cook. Cute and retro, but very purposeful! Most kitchen shops should have them
* Make sure your pie filling is plenty moist – nobody likes a dry pie! Ask your green grocer about the best fruits for pies if you are not sure. You want fruit that holds its shape somewhat, but isn’t dry or too watery when cooked. Sometimes a combination of fruits is best to get the right balance. Pectin in fruit is what makes it go nice and sticky. For example, if you have a lot of berries (low pectin), mix it with something higher pectin (like an apple, plums or quinces).
Nobody likes a soggy-bottom pie either. If your sauce is too runny, thicken with a little corn starch and water or drain off some of the runny stuff.
* I always prefer to cool the filling before adding it to the pie. So, if you make a pre-cooked stew or other filling mixture, allow it to cool first. This will prevent your pastry from going gooey before it goes into the oven.
* In my opinion, is cooked in glass or ceramic. Not sure why I think this, just have a feeling that pies in metal tins are inferior. I guess ceramic and glass heat slower than metal and so the base doesn’t cook too quickly, leaving time for the filling to cook just right as well. Or maybe it’s just childhood nostalgia? My Dad always made rabbit pie in an oval shaped, dark brown, deep ceramic dish. For me, something with a sloped edge prevents the pastry from ‘slumping’ in the dish.
* Serve it with something! Whether it’s plain old tomato sauce on a meat/veg pie (don’t be a snob, you know you want it), a side of mash and peas or crispy salad, or for sweet pies a dollop of cream, custard or ice-cream is heaven. For something different, or a bit posh, try these out – natural yoghurt sweetened with honey or not sweetened at all, for fruit pies. Raita and chutney with a curry pie. Beetroot relish or chilli tomato jam with savoury pies.

Personally, I think the best list of pie recipes online that I have found belongs to the BBC.

And to my USA followers, you know I want to hear from you… You are a nation of bigger pie nuts than even us Aussies! I’ll never forget my first Cherry Pie a la mode experience when I was fifteen in a New York diner.

Hot Mango Jam

16 Aug

Last summer I was given two shopping bags full of beautiful, ripe mangoes from a friend’s tree. Lucky us! We ate mangoes for days. It isn’t an Aussie summer without at least a daily session with a ripe, sweet, slightly tangy, juicy mango. You end up with an orange smear around your mouth, fibre stuck in your teeth, sticky hands (and forearms if it’s a super juicy one) and a big smile on your face.

We had so many mangoes I decided to try making a chutney. Seeing they were so ripe and soft, it really turned out like a jam. It is sweet, a little sour, fragrant and spicy! It is not like traditional mango chutney made with under-ripe mangoes, with firm chunks and a sticky consistency. But it is fantastic with curries, grilled meats or even a firm cheddar and crackers!

Here’s what you’ll need…

4 very large mangoes, cut up roughly

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups brown vinegar

1 sliced brown onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 hot chillies, chopped

5 cardamom pods, crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 tablespoon currants (optional)

1/2 tablespoon oil

Here’s what you do…

Note! You will need to have pre-prepared some jars for storage. I used good quality, recycled canning jars with pop-seal lids. If you need help with the process of preparing jars for preserves, click here.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger until golden brown. Add the mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop. Add remaining spices and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mango and stir. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until a thick consistency is reached.

Take off the heat and carefully spoon the mixture into your sterilised jars and screw the lids on while still hot. Allow to cool on the bench and then store in a cool, dark place for at least a week before eating. I made about 3 medium sized jars from this recipe.

I opened the last jar last night, and it is August now. It had developed so nicely and was better than the first and second jars we ate. Be sure to store in the refrigerator after opening.

This is so good with curry. Try my easy Biryani recipe.

Cheats Chicken Biryani

16 Aug

This is a quick mid-week alternative to a proper biryani. Serves 4.

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 brown onions, sliced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon panch phoran (from your Indian grocer)

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 chopped tomato

2 cups chicken stock or water

salt

500 grams chicken thigh meat, cut up or whole

2 cups vegetables (your choice)

2 cups basmati rice

Slivered almonds, coriander, chutney/pickles, raita.

Here’s what you do…
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. In a large saucepan (with a tight fitting lid), heat the oil/ghee. Fry one onion, the garlic and ginger until it starts to turn golden brown. Add spices and cook for 2-3 minutes. Put the rice in the boiling water and stir, leave to boil for around 5 minutes. Just after you put the rice on, add chicken, tomato and stock/water and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stir. Strain the rice (par-cooked), and layer it on top of the curry. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Allow to cook for further 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Try not to open the lid and let the steam out too many times! This will increase the cooking time needed! Alternatively, if your saucepan is oven-proof, you can place the whole thing, covered, in the oven at about 180 degrees celsius.

I like to garnish the top with a fried onion (sweet), some toasted slivered almonds (crunchy), a sprinkling of turmeric (pretty) or saffron infused ghee (expensive) and some coriander. But you could add raisins for sweetness, more or other toasted nuts, mint, chopped cucumber and tomato. Anything you fancy!

Serve with a dollop of fresh yoghurt or raita and some pickles and chutneys. We had ours with my Spicy Mango Jam.

This is not an authentic Biryani and my Mum will likely disapprove as her Biryani is highly superior! But it is ready in 30 minutes and can be made with pretty much any curry. Only two pots and a chopping board to wash up and you’ll have yummy leftovers for lunch.

two4six8! Sorry I started eating before I took a snap. I was soooo hungry!

P.S. A fellow blogger is hosting ‘Chicken Week’ on their blog – check out all the yummy recipes. There is a One Pot Chicken Dinner with olives and tomatoes that looks scrumptious (if curry isn’t your thing)!

Actually, this blog has advertised my post – isn’t that nice of them! chefdehomebadge_featuredbadge_transparent

Chilli Chocolate Cake ❤

14 Aug

So I’m STILL really busy and this is cheeky – but I don’t have a lot of time for inventing. This cake recipe was from a great show that was screening on SBS television a few months back called Spice Trip. I tried this cake without the tequila and loved it so much I made it for our wedding day, along with a few other favourites as part of a cake banquet for our guests. I chose this because it is super duper quick and easy. No beatermix required. One bowl, a spoon and a whisk. Here is the link to the recipe
http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/really-easy-chocolate-cake-chilli-salt-and-tequila

I undercook this cake because I’m always worried about turning out a frisbee and wasting the good chocolate I use to make it. It is gooey the first day (amazingly delicious served warm out of the oven), and it kind of sets by the second day and is moist, firm and superb! I recommend covering loosely with foil for the last five or ten minutes and whatever you do don’t open the oven door to sneak a peak or you’ll get a pancake. Opening the oven door too early in the cooking process will cause your cake to collapse.

Here are some wedding snaps. I’ll have to ask my sister for the Russian Tea Cakes recipes.

1004640_10152075427593761_647335031_n

942725_10152075427748761_1130278602_n

Tortilla Soup or ‘Sopa Azteca’

22 Jan

IMG_8909

This soup isn’t bold and strong but rather mild and delicate, but I promise that after your third or fourth mouthful you’ll be absolutely loving it. There are a few ingredients in this soup that may be quite hard to find in some places – in particular, the pasilla chillies which are typically used to enhance the fragrance and texture of the soup. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have them. Nor does it matter if you don’t have any enchilada sauce to add. It is nice the way I make it but if you conduct a basic google search for tortilla soup you will soon see that there are literally hundreds of different versions of this soup. It’s just the basic idea that I love. I’ve put a note on substitutions and variations on the theme at the bottom of this recipe.

Here’s what you’ll need

Serves 6 as an entree or 4 as a main

1 cup vegetable oil

6 small corn tortillas

1 dried pasilla chilli, stem and seeds removed, sliced

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 litre chicken stock

1 small chicken breast or 6 chicken tenders

1 cup enchilada sauce

1 ripe avocado, diced

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoons or around 50 grams mild crumbly feta, crumbled

1 lime, quartered

Steps…

1. Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan to a good frying temperature – around 185 celsius, 365 fahrenheit

2. Cut tortillas into 1 inch strips and fry in the hot oil. Drain on paper towel or in a colander. Set aside.

3. Tip out most of the oil except about 2 tablespoons. Fry the pasilla chillies for about 20 seconds. Drain on paper towel and when cooled crumble the chillies slightly to break them up. Set aside.

4. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add chicken stock and enchilada sauce along with chicken. Simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked through – 10-20 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and shred or cut into pieces.

5. To serve, you can either put out all of the garnishes and let people serve themselves at the table, or divide the tortilla strips between shallow bowls and top with a small amount of each garnish. Pour two or three ladles of hot soup into the bowl and enjoy!

Substitutions…

Use mild cheddar instead of the feta. It goes melty and delicious. If you have a local deli that sells queso fresco – this is traditional and delicious.

Cooked black beans, kidney beans, or even leftover re-fried beans are tasty and could replace the chicken.

Any vegetable can be added to the soup – chayote/choko, capsicum, potato, zucchini or squash are all nice.

A sprinkle of cayenne pepper instead of the pasilla chilli would be fine if you don’t have a Mexican importer nearby.

Any other suggestions? Add them in the comments section! 

Enchilada Sauce! WHO CAN? MEXICAN!

22 Jan

IMG_8871

I made this recently for family. We used it in both the first and second courses of a Mexican feast – a ladle full added to chicken broth to liven-up Sopa de Tortilla and smothered over pulled pork stuffed tortillas, sprinkled with cheese and cooked under a hot grill to make super tasty Enchiladas. You can also hike up the heat factor in this sauce and bottle it as a hot condiment for all manner of dishes and snacks – on eggs, added to fresh salsa/pico de gallo, on steaks

. It keeps for ages in a sterilised jar in the fridge.

Here’s what you’ll need…

… to make about 1 litre of sauce…

Around 500 grams fresh, ripe tomatoes (any variety), roughly chopped

Two small onions, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

3-4 sprigs thyme, or coriander with roots attached

1/2 cup water

salt

1/2 – 1 whole habañero chilli**

75 grams butter

** These chillies are the dark red and bright yellow ones pictured above. They are EXTREMELY HOT and have a delicious sweet, nutty flavour. Be warned – wear gloves while handling these chillies and if you are not used to spicy food, perhaps you could make the sauce with a milder variety (like the others pictured) or some mild chilli powder.

IMG_8878Here’s what you do…

It’s dead easy… Put all the ingredients except the butter in a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth (1-2 minutes).

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan until very hot and frothy.

Pour the contents of the blender into the pan – be careful as it may splutter a little. Stir butter and sauce together, reduce heat and simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes. The consistency you are after is about the same as store bought tomato passata.

IMG_8880

IMG_8881

IMG_8883

IMG_8887

two4six8! Who do we appreciate!?! 😉

WAYS TO EAT IT…

1) Use it as a base for quesadillas – smear some on a tortilla, top with cheese and another tortilla, pan-fry both sides. Serve with sour cream and guacamole. Add some fried chorizo or grilled veg. Drool.

2) Put it on toast with cheese and grill it after a night out!

3) Shred the meat of a rotisserie chicken, mix some of this sauce through it and use it as a stuffing for enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, flautas etc.

4) Serve it as a sauce with tacos.

5) My favourite… Put a ladle full in some chicken broth for Sopa de Tortillas.

6) Freeze it and dream up something yummy…

Any other suggestions? Please share in the comments section 🙂

Pineapple Cayenne Pepper Relish

9 Feb

two4six8!

A milder alternative to my fiery Sambal.

You’ll need…

1/2 large or whole small pineapple, finely chopped (around 2 1/2 – 3 cups)

1/2 brown onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup vinegar (white wine or apple cider)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2-3 cayenne chilli peppers or 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

pinch of salt

Simply…

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, uncovered, until most liquid has evaporated and the relish is syrupy and soft. Store in a glass jar. Best eaten after a couple of weeks resting in the fridge. Yummy with fresh mint or coriander stirred through.

Serve with grilled chicken or fish. Great on burgers (Paul’s suggestion for which I told him he would get no credit whatsoever, aren’t I nice?)

Fresh cayenne peppers, underrated and unfairly upstaged by the dried powdered form. These chillies grow really well in pots. This plant has fruited abundantly at least 5 times now. They're hot, but not mega hot and de-seeded have a great flavour.

Stuffed Red Capsicum with Soy and Ginger Sauce

5 Feb

two4six8!

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!

Barberry Rice Pilaf with Chicken

9 Jan

two4six8!

I met an Iranian woman recently who introduced me to barberries. They are a little, very sharp tasting berry used in pilaf dishes throughout the Middle East. They remind me of tangy pomegranate. I have made this pilaf of my own for years with currants, but I found the little red berries at my local Lebanese deli and thought I’d give them a whirl. The guy there told me to keep them in the fridge as they are semi-dried, but they keep for ages. They add such a yummy sourness. With the addition of a pan fried, sliced chicken breast, this pilaf makes a very satisfying meal. It is not heavy and is very healthy – barberries are crammed with vitamin C and the dish is low in fat. I have made it several times this summer. You can serve it hot, warm, cold – doesn’t matter. I hope you like it.

For a large bowl to serve 4, You will need…

 2 cups basmati rice

large pot of waterchicken/vegetable stock powder

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 teaspoons cumin

2 fresh bay leavesblack pepper

1/2 cup barberries (or currants)

1/2 cup pistachios, flaked almonds, pine nuts (or a mix)

2 medium size red onions

1/4 cup fresh parsley (flat leaf or curly)

1/4 cup fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh coriander

2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper

juice of one lime or half a lemon

olive oil

Firstly…

Slice the onions into thin rings or half-rings and add to a hot pan with olive oil. Turn down the heat and stir occasionally until well caramelised – this will take up to 15 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the rice…

Add stock powder, cumin, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves and ground black pepper to a large pot of water, add well rinsed Basmati rice, bring to the boil and boil until the rice is just tender – strain the rice while it is still ‘al dente’ as it will continue to cook for a while after it is strained (as it cools). Overcooked rice will wreck this dish.

Place the rice in a large, flat bowl or on a serving platter and toss through the barberries. Set aside to cool.

Secondly…

While the rice is cooling, toast the nuts in a dry pan over medium heat. As my funny sister in law says “I’m going to burn the pine nuts now” – whenever she cooks them! I swear at least 75% of the pine-nuts cooked in my house turn to little black nuggets and go straight to the bin. Don’t turn your back on your nuts!

You can chop them roughly or leave them whole. I don’t bother chopping except for pistachios. Set aside. Chop your herbs and set aside.

Thirdly…

When the rice is around room-temperature, toss in onions, nuts and herbs along with some salt and pepper to taste. I like to mix it gently with my hands.

For the chicken…

Gently beat chicken breasts with a rolling pin or meat pounder on the thickest part of the breast (for even cooking), dry with paper towel, season with salt and pepper (and sumac is nice if you have some), heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the chicken breast for about 3 minutes each side (or until no longer pink in the middle). Remove to a chopping board and slice into thick slices. Toss with the lemon/lime juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil.

To serve…

Either toss the chicken breast with the lemony juices through the salad and serve from the bowl, or plate up piles of rice salad with some chicken breast on top and drizzle with lemony juices. Be sure to refrigerate promptly if you do not serve the chicken hot.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad with some lemon and oil dressing.

 

 

 

 

Thai Style Salad Deluxe

7 Sep

two4six8!

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…

SALAD

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)

coriander

mint

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

DRESSING

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.

Enjoy!

** 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

salt

black caviar to garnish (optional)

Firstly…

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.

Next…

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.

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a different way to serve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a generous spoonful on a little toast

My Thai Fish Cakes

26 Feb

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
two4six8!

two4six8!

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

avocado

tomatoes

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).

two4six8!

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.

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

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.

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* 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)

2 tbsp chilli and soy bean oil (BE SURE TO USE THE THAI BRAND (PICTURED HERE – ‘PANTAI’) AS IT IS QUITE SWEET AND NOT VERY SALTY. MOST CHINESE BRANDS WILL BE TOO SALTY.)

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.

two4six8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIPS AND INFO!

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.

Mmmm-muffins

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.

Ingredients

(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)

Method

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.


two4six8!

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).

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.

Fry!

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.