Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Gifts and Goodies

So, this post was originally going to be about my annual gingerbread mission, but it was just so darn hot in Perth on the day I chose to make them that they near-melted every time I got the dough out of the fridge. And, as a result, all plans for photos went right out the window. I have two photos of creaming butter and sugar and one of the dough resting in the fridge - not conducive to an interesting blog post.

I was about to give up on the Christmas themed post, until FMIL requested my rocky road, which reminded me of my other Christmas gift staple, which couldn't be further from gingerbread on a difficulty scale...

I found this recipe in SFI 3 years ago, and it's been getting a good run in our house every year since - I've even made it for Easter... I have made a few minor changes to the recipe, and always make a dark chocolate version too - for FH Alphie and his dad, who loooove dark chocolate.

The key is to use the best chocolate you can get. I usually use the Nestle Plaistowe white cooking chocolate blocks, but in an attempt to make this palm oil free, I went with Cadbury Dream this year, and it didn't work so well. Cadbury Dream doesn't melt so smoothly or so thinly, making it hard to mix in, and it it super-sweet and overtakes the rest of the rocky road. For the dark chocolate, I would most definitely recommend the Lindt Dessert 70% cooking chocolate (available at my local Bi-Lo, of all places!), although, the Nestle Plaistowe cooking chocolate blocks are good too.

Gourmet rocky road
  • 400g white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup pistachio kernels
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 100g bag mini marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
an example of 'just a little bit longer' leading to slightly over-toasted coconut...

Toast the pistachios and coconut in a 150 degree oven for 5 minutes - keep an eye on them though, it will turn from 'just a little bit longer' to charred, in seconds.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring frequently. Once melted, add marshmallows and stir to combine, then stir in the remaining ingredients; pistachios, coconut and craisins.

Spoon into a foil lined slice tin (27cm x 17cm), and leave to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove foil, and cut into reasonable-sized pieces - the original recipe suggests 24, but just go with a size that works.

For the dark chocolate version, I chop 3x 55g turkish delights in place of the craisins, 1/2 cup of almonds for the pistachios, and use dark chocolate (obviously...)


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Middle Eastern Rice & Lentils

After pledging my love for Lebanese food, I realised I haven't posted about it once! So, following from Wednesdays felafel, I bring you another middle eastern speciality; rice and lentils, also known as mujadara (or some variation of). This recipe cam from the Good Living, although it has been ok-ed by FMIL as an authentic take on the traditional version.

Middle Eastern Rice & Lentils with Blackened Onions
from SMH Good Living, June 2 2009
serves 4
  • 5 tbs olive oil
  • 6 onions, halved and finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2x 400g cans lentils, drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup long grain rice, rinsed
  • Yoghurt, to serve

Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, and add one of the onions, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and all spice. Sauté for four-ish minutes until onion is soft and starting to colour.

Add rice, and stir to coat. Stir in stock and lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

the onions - yes I used a red one, but we only had 5 brown onions...

all cooked down, and nicely black

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pan and add the remaining 5 onions. Cook until soft and blackened, about 20-30 minutes.

Serve rice scattered with onions, with yoghurt on the side.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Broad Bean Felafel

One of the things I miss most about Sydney, is a decent daily broadsheet. The Sydney Morning Herald is a great newspaper, and my favourite section is Tuesday's Good Living. FH Alphie has been religiously collecting them since I moved to Perth, and each time I return home, a pile of Good Livings awaits me.

I found this recipe in the last pile FH Alphie handed over - 28 September, to be exact. And the timing couldn't have been more perfect, as FSIL had just received a shiny new KitchenAid food processor as a gift (from a long-term bludging house guest...)

Mine looked nothing like those in the recipe, but they were still really tasty, very filling, and iridescent green. I think this had to do with the order I put things in the food processor, so I've modified the recipe below, and I hope it works better for you than it did for me!

Broad bean felafel fritters
from SMH Good Living, September 28 2010
(makes 10-12)
  • 1kg fresh broad beans
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup coriander leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • 1/2 lemon, zest & juice
  • plain flour for dusting
  • vegetable oil for dusting

Remove broad beans from their pods. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add broad beans and simmer for a few minutes.

The ever shrinking broad beans...!

Drain, rinse to cool slightly, and peel off the outer skins - I find that the easiest way to do this is to pierce the skin along one edge, and gently squeeze it out.

My unfortunately green, smooth as silk mix.

This is where I deviate from the recipe. I would suggest you put the herbs in the food processor first, and lightly chop them up. Then add the remaining ingredients; broad beans, chickpeas, garlic, coriander, cumin, chilli and lemon, and pulse until roughly chopped and combined.

Then shape into patties, and lightly coat in flour. Heat oil in a large frypan, and cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly brown.

Serve with yoghurt, flat bread and salad.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blackwater, Sans Souci

This one is a bit late, but better late than never, right?

About three weeks ago, when I was last in Sydney, FH Alphie took me out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. My flight in landed at 8.20 so we were aiming for a late dinner somewhere between Sydney airport and home. Blackwater in Sans Souci fit the bill perfectly. They were more than happy to take a late (9pm) booking, although warned us that they take last orders at 9.30.

We arrived right on the dot of 9, and the place was bustling. After being shown to our table, the menus arrived, and a waitress turned up the dimmer on the egg shaped lamp on the table. Knowing that we had to order early, we got straight into reading the menus and made quick decisions. Unfortunately the waiter was not in such a rush, and after asking us if we were ready to order, promptly wandered off once we said we were ready to go!

After that little bit of confusion, he returned to take our orders, a waitress dropped by to turn down the dimmer on the egg, and quickly after some warm bread and olive oil was brought to the table (apologies for the super-blurry photo, I'm blaming it on the egg).

Neonata (grilled white bait fritters with celeriac aioli)

We decided to share the starters, as neither of us could decide on just one thing! White bait is always FH Alphie's favourite, so that was a definite, and the house cured Atlantic salmon sounded too good to pass up.

Carpaccio (lemon cured atlantic salmon with lilliput capers, chives)

As to be expected FH Alphie's favourite was the white bait, which I found a bit bland and needing just a touch of salt, while I preferred the salmon, and could have easily eaten the whole plate myself. The lemon curing resulted in velvety smooth salmon, and the saltiness of the capers balanced well with the lemon.

Conchiglioni (baked shell pasta filled with veal bolognese and buffalo mozzarella)

We went in very separate directions for the main. Being an Italian restaurant, and me living with a veggo and being deprived of red meat, I opted for the veal ragu stuffed shells. The ragu was fabulously rich, and the veal soft and fall apart-y (is that a word? I don't think so...), but the real star was the soft and creamy buffalo mozzarella.

Scampi (grilled NZ scampi with leek and pine nuts)

FH Alphie stuck to the seafood theme, and tried the scampi. Essentially large salt water yabbies, these lived up to the scampi hype. FH Alphie found them a bit fiddly, but then again, what shellfish isn't?, these were well cooked, fully opaque, but not dry, and very tasty.

Sauteed brussels sprouts with speck, onion & chestnuts

Just to make sure we got our greens for the day, we also ordered a side of brussels sprouts. I usually love the combination of brussels sprouts with some form of cured pork product, and I looove chestnuts, so I thought this would be a winner. Unfortunately, these were a bit of a miss. I'm not sure how, but somehow these just didn't match up to the rest of the meal - maybe brussels sprouts weren't a good match?

Apart from the sprouts, this was really a great meal, and given that Blackwater is on our side of the city, I imagine we'll be back soon.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

A slight deviation...

Firstly, apologies for the interruption to scheduled programming. But I'm just so excited and I had to share!

Ms Red left me her car while she's in Melbourne for a few weeks, so I decided to make use of my freedom and do some exploring of some of the parts of Perth I haven't seen much of. A quick google search for 'perth markets sunday' brought up two markets in Subiaco, about 3-4 blocks from each other, so I hopped in the car, and made my way over. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a red herring, the first, Subiaco Pavillion Markets, looked like it had been closed for a couple of years, and the other, Station St Markets, was mostly a fruit & veg market (with some great food stalls!).

So, I decided to take a wander around Subiaco, and one of the few places open was Good Sammys (translation for the non-WA readers: an op shop). It was one of the strangest op-shops I have been to. There was a pretty poor selection of 'normal clothes', but a massive selection of wedding and formal gowns! Inspired by Ms Reds fabulous op shopping abilities, I thought I'd have a decent look around, and see what I could uncover. In amongst a lot of stock standard year 10 formal dresses, I stumbled upon...

This fabulous Laura Ashley frock; black velvet bodice, with a full, two layer skirt. Unfortunately I popped a button while bending down to put my shoes on... oops! so a little bit of mending to do, but all up, a great find for $15.

And this 'Exclusives by Antulov Raphal' red number. I can describe it in no other way than Joan Holloway-esque. It's fab (and for $12.5o no less)! and I can't wait for an opportunity to wear it.

Lastly, I picked up a pair of khaki pants, as they seem to be in every magazine lately, and try as I might, I just don't fit into any I've seen on sale anywhere. I'm debating whether to turn these into shorts of some kind, but Ms Red thinks I should leave them as is...

Apologies again, and I promise a return to normal programming soon.


Viet Hoa, Northbridge

Last Friday Ms Red and Ms Red's friend E flew back into Perth after a week of 'cadet camp' for cadet journalists in Adelaide. They were both looking a bit worse for wear when they arrived at our place, but were keen for something to eat before they had to face the 2 hour drive back to Bunbury.

Ms Red requested something light with an option for lots of vegetables, preferably Thai or Vietnamese, as they had had a week of overindulgence and very low on vegetables, as hotel food often is. I narrowed this down to a couple of Vietnamese places in Northbridge, that had been recommended by my work colleagues and would be quick, cheap and tasty.

After finding a park (no mean feat in Northbridge!), we wandered along William Street, passing a couple of the places recommended to me. We kept walking, unable to make a decision, until we made it to Viet Hoa, and as soon as we were out the front, Ms Red deemed it to be 'the one'.

E was feeling to seedy to order anything, so Ms Red and I made the selections for the table. We started with the Goi Cuon (Vietnamese rice paper rolls - pork & prawn) and the Nem Nuon Cuon (Vietnamese rice paper rolls - grilled pork balls).

Goi Cuon

Nem Nuon Cuon

Ms Red then ordered a wanton soup (unfortunately, I can't remember which one!) and I went with my satandard, Pho Tai (raw beef hofun soup). And although she didn't order anything, E helped both Ms Red & I out with our enormous bowls of soup!

Ms Reds wanton soup

Pho Tai

Ms Red & E then stocked up on Red Bull, and started the trip south...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yum Cha at Rhodes Phoenix

I was back in Sydney last weekend, and FH Alphie and I went 'adventuring'. Adventuring is FH Alphies word for any short-ish car trip where we make a number of stops at any place that takes our fancy.

On Saturday the plan was to adventure to IKEA, with a stop at DFO. We started at DFO, looking for a few new polos for FH Alphie - unfortunately not much luck there, but the Oroton outlet was having a 50% off everything sale, and I picked up a leather coin purse and full size umbrella for $55!

By the time we left DFO it was after 1pm, and we were getting hungry. I suggested Yum Cha at Rhodes Phoenix before the impending IKEA challenge. We pretty much just ordered our standard yum cha fare... pork buns, dumplings, dim sum & greens with oyster sauce (excuse my ignorance of the proper names...)

pork buns

These were a bit of a change - we usually get the steamed pork buns, but these were offered to us, so we thought we'd give them a try. FH Alphies verdict was a preference for the usual steamed buns, he didn't like the filling of these as much.

fried prawn dumplings

Again, these were a non standard order, but they were offered, and the mention of prawns was enough to convince us to try them. They were served with a little bowl of mayonnaise, and were full of prawn meat, but I don't think I'll ask for them again - I much prefer steamed dumplings.

greens with oyster sauce

Greens are a must whenever we have yum cha - I have been known to leave a yum cha session stuffed full, but disappointed because we couldn't flag down the woman with the greens trolley! Unfortunately, these were a bit cold by the time the trolley came past our table, but they still satisfied my craving.

pork dim sum

Another yum cha standard!

prawn & chive dumplings

Dumplings! These were FH Alphies favourite, and I thought they were pretty good too! The skins were firm but not too thick, and the filling was juicy and flavoursome.

prawn & snow pea dumplings

Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings! The prawn & snow pea dumplings were my favourite. The skin was a bit thicker than the prawn & chive dumplings, but the filling more than made up for that. The soft juicy prawn meat offset by the crunchy snow peas made these the winner for me.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My food biography

I read this article/blog by Jill Dupleix a while ago (sometime in July or early August I guess...), and scribbled down my first thoughts for my food biography on a scrap of paper, with the intention of turning it into a blog post. The scrap of paper was ‘safely’ filed away in my diary, and not surprisingly, I totally forgot about the idea and the blog post I had planned. Cleaning out my diary last week, I found my notes, and started turning it into a readable post. So, with a little help from my sub editor sister, Ms Red, here is my food biography.

1. Gingiboat
image from cuisine.com.au

One of my first food memories is of homemade smoked trout pâté, affectionately known as ‘gingiboat’. Ms Red has questioned our parents on the origin of the word gingiboat, and the response is always ‘I have no idea, you just started calling it gingiboat, and it stuck’. So no real insights there. To this day I have a soft spot for a well-made smoked trout pâté and have been known to make a bee-line to the relevant stall at growers markets muttering ‘gingiboat, gingiboat…’.

2. Pikelets
image from taste.com.au

My Mum went back to uni while I was in primary school, and so was home a lot more. One of my main memories of this time is of mum cooking pikelets for afternoon tea, after school. I seemed always to be able to put away a scarily large number of pikelets for a 6 (or so) year old. On one particular occasion I managed to eat more than 20 in one sitting, and I regretted it pretty soon after. And now, I’m one of those weird people who don’t really like pancakes (although I make an exception for poffertjes).

3. Chicken with mustard sauce
image from nine msn/real living

One particular semester of Mum’s degree, she had a late afternoon/evening lecture. Ms Red and I used to go to my best friend’s house after school, then Dad would pick us up and make my then favourite dinner - mustard chicken with mash and veges. Every week without fail, the three of us had chicken with mustard sauce. And, while it might have been my favourite when Dad asked for suggestions at the start of the semester, I got over it pretty quickly. I asked Dad if we could have a break and have something else next week, and the look of hurt on his face was obvious even to a 7 year old, but he relented, and sadly chicken with mustard sauce has not made an appearance since.

4. Chocolate self saucing pudding
image from nine msn recipe finder

This was one of the first things I learnt to cook solo, possibly because it doesn’t require an oven, just a microwave – you might have seen my previous post on microwave puddings. I have numerous memories of whipping this up in Mum and Dad’s old kitchen after dinner. It has now become a staple last minute dessert at our house, as well as at Ms Red’s. Although, sadly I don’t think Mum and Dad have continued the tradition...

5. Lasagne
image from nine msn/AWW

My dad is one of those cooks who finds something that works and sticks with it (see above). Lasagne is one of these dishes, and it has outlasted all others. Dad’s lasagne makes a regular appearance whenever the four of us get together, and is often requested by extended family when they visit. I’m sure it’s totally not traditional, and that any self respecting Italian would disapprove, but it is the best lasagne I have ever eaten, with perfect bolognaise to béchamel sauce ratio. He has passed his skills on to Ms Red and I, but neither of us can ever get it quite right.

6. Pho

I remember very clearly my first Vietnamese food experience. Near the end of my last year at school, Dad drove me to Wollongong for a scholarship interview. The night before the interview, we walked to the mall to find dinner. Not surprisingly, the mall is not really the best place to find food, so we kept walking and ended up on Keira St, in front of a Vietnamese restaurant, Monsoon (which I later discovered was a Wollongong institution), luckily, they had a table and ushered us in. Neither of us had any idea what to order, so a very energetic waiter sat with us and helped us decide. I can’t remember what we had, apart from the best fish cakes I have ever eaten, and that I had never had anything like it before. Once I moved to Wollongong, Monsoon became a regular lunch (and dinner) spot, and I almost always order the signature Vietnamese beef noodle soup, pho bo, regardless of the temperature outside. Pho has become my measure of a Vietnamese restaurant, and is my first choice when trying out a new place. I am so in love with pho, that I convinced FH Alphie to spend three weeks in Vietnam earlier this year, just because I wanted an excuse to eat the delicious noodle soup for three weeks straight.

7. Lebanese
image from taste.com.au

I had two food revelations in my first year of University, the first was my introduction to pho (above), and the second was an introduction to Lebanese. This happened around the time FH Alphie and I first got together. He was working at a Lebanese restaurant, and regularly brought things back to college to supplement the appalling food Eurest provided us. Also, FH Alphie’s Mum (FMIL), is Lebanese, and loves to cook, so she helped to open my eyes to Middle Eastern food – to think I once hated felafel! To this day, kibbi, hummus and baba ghanoush are some of my favourite foods. Oh, and flat bread! how could I forget that gloriously soft and stretchy flat bread!

8. Mum’s home grown lamb
image from cuisine.com.au

Growing up, we didn’t have lamb much at home; the occasional crumbed cutlets were about the extent of it. Then, about four years ago, Mum started raising her own sheep, and lamb became a hot commodity in our family. I now eat lamb at every opportunity (only Mum’s of course), from roasts to stir fries, slow cooked shanks to meatballs, and casseroles to those familiar cutlets.

9. FH Alphie's pizza

This has already featured here, but it deserves another mention. FH Alphie first started making pizza about 3 years ago, when we first started living together. Initially he didn’t make the bases, and it was an infrequent event. Then it became more regular, but he still wasn’t making the bases. After a couple of tries at making the bases, he finally settled on a recipe from Good Living and it became a Friday night feature. Even though I’m in Perth at the moment, the tradition is continuing with Mr & Mrs Pink, but I really miss my Friday night pizza hit.

10. Macarons

And, last, but definitely not least, macarons! Who would have guessed! As regular followers (all 9 of you...) will know, I’m suffering from a macaron addiction at the moment. And after a number of attempts, I think I’ve finally perfected them using a recipe, and am now getting excited about creating my own flavours.

So, now that I've shared, what would be in your food biography?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fish Pie

This is one of those recipes that I was strangely attracted to. If someone had told me about a pie made from tinned tuna, spinach and a white sauce I would have made a mental note to avoid it at all costs. But for some reason, when I saw this in the Good Living, I ripped it out and filed it in my mystical green folder to try later.

I tried it for the first time when FH Alphie wasn't feeling to good, and he opted not to have any, for the same reasons I did above. But, I loved it, so it made another appearance, and the second time, FH Alphie was a convert too.

Today I made if for semi-veggo (or pescetarian) FSIL and Mr FSIL, and omitted the parsley - I forgot to put it on the shopping list...

Fish and potato pie
from SMH Good Living, July 8 2008
(serves 6-8; I usually halve it)
  • 120g butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • 3tbsp seeded mustard
  • 120g plain flour
  • 750ml milk
  • 1cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 800g blue eye, diced, or 2x 425g tins tuna in springwater
  • 6-8 medium-large potatoes
  • extra butter
Put the whole, unpeeled, potatoes in a large pot of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked through. Cool, then slice into 5-10mm rounds.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic & bay leaves, and cook on medium-low heat until the onions are soft.

Add the mustard and flour, stir well, and cook for five or so minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat, and add the milk a bit at a time, stirring well between additions. Put the saucepan back on the heat, and bring to the boil.

Once volcanic-like bubbles start to come to the surface, turn off the heat again, and stir in the parsley and spinach.

Gently stir through the fish, and spoon into a baking dish. Layer with the potato slices, overlapping each one, and dot with some extra butter.

Bake for 30-40minutes, until potatoes are golden, then allow to cool for 10 minutes (or more) before serving.