Friday, October 22, 2010

Panzanella Salad

Second salad for the Spring season and i've gone for one similar to my very favorite salad- caprese! The Panzanella salad is of Italian origin and is primarily composed of bread and tomatoes. The bread soaks up the olive oil and balsamic and adds a delicious crunch and carbohydrate satiety to the dish.

A note on tomatoes: as we get into the hotter months, the time for the best tomatoes (late summer) draws nearer and nearer! Gone are the the hard, tasteless round globes that we must satisfy ourselves with in Autumn and Winter, and in come the delicious, intensely flavored real deal! If you're a supermarket shopper there is a great tomato available at coles now in a package called 'Intense'. They're marketed as being low in the moist innards of your standard tomato and thus as being ideal for sandwiched. But they're also grown in DIRT (a rarity now) and are strongly flavored, ideal for this salad!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pork Fillet with Proscuitto, Kipfler Potatoes & Rocket

Spring is well and truly here (ok maybe the weather does not agree) but i'm for one of the first times truly excited about eating wonderful fresh spring food, particularly salads! This one is definitely a 'transitional salad' substantial enough to have in a bit of cold weather. I'm a lover of kipfler potatoes because of their earthy richness, but you could always replace with waxy chat potatoes instead should you wish.

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Brownies

Okay, i have to admit it. I was a Jamie-hater. The over exploitation of his name on television, along with the sudden reference of a Thai mortar and pestle as a 'Jamie Oliver' pestle left a sour pit in my stomach that was not easily movable. However, recently i went back to his original TV series The Naked Chef, back to the roots of his cooking in it's philosophy of good food, simply and quickly prepared. And i can see, the man has talent.

This talent is more than demonstrated in his recipe for Chocolate Brownies. These deliciously decadent rich morsels have the perfect cominbation of disgustingly opulent richness (enhanced by the use of Lindt Chocolate), sticky chewiness and butteriness.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caramelized Ginger Chicken

It can be so painful navigating a good cookbook when you're allergic to fish. All of my favorite cookbooks, Movida, Momofuku and Red Lantern all have these absolutely delicious seafood dishes, many of which form the centrepieces of the books. Alas i have to flick past those pages to the meat, poultry and vegetarian but i always do feel a little bit cheated.

Thankfully, every dish that i DO cook from these books fills any void i may have felt previously, and i am once content with the food that i CAN eat. This is one of those dishes.

Deliciously sweet, gingery and sticky, i have again molested one of the Red Lantern recipes to suit it to my tastes: namely, cooking down the cooking liquid into a decadently sticky sauce to pour over the chicken at the end. My dad tends to omit the fresh coriander and parsley from the garnishes on my meals, but i feel they are integral to reinvigorating all of the cooked ingredients.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homemade Banana & Coconut Icecream with Crisp Toffee Coated Strawberries

A crackle, a crunch, as crystal of sweet toffee surrender to your mouth, before the sweet, slightly tart stickiness of strawberry envelopes the senses. Another bite, rich and creamy and undeniably tropical, recalling beachside cocktails serve in hollowed out coconuts: sound good? Read on. 

So my first experience with my latest impulse purchase, an icecream machine, was a bit of a disaster. I decided to jump right in and make a hazelnut gelato, and, being my first time making icecream i curdled the custard by overheating it. I was devastated! All that work squeezing milk from crushed hazelnuts, all that money spent on eggs and cream, all gone!!

Well i had to persevere, and since my visit to Thailand my mind has been all about tropical desserts. The icecream in the recipe is loosely adapted from yet another Luke Nguyen recipe however i'd tried to make it a bit richer and a bit more decadent.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tuscan Tomato Soup

Today was such a beautiful day in Melbourne. The sun was shining but there was a light breeze. The air was fresh and the mood was peaceful on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I have similar dreams of Tuscany, though in truth i know little of the Italian region nor it's climate. But when i read the word 'Tuscan' in a dish's title i am transported to rich tomato sauces and suckling roast pig. What better a day to make a Tuscan tomato soup, rich and satisfying but simultaneously light, redolent with fresh basil and begging to be devoured with a crusty Pana Di Casa and a rich red wine.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gazelle Horns

In case it's not already apparent from the plethora of sweets i've cooked using the ingredient, i'm a devotee of almond meal. The nutty, almost creamy flavor that it imparts through a dish, with the faint hint of bitterness, makes my tastebuds rave!

The chef at the work cafeteria, Rosalee, makes the most delicious frangipane croissants, however she keeps the exact recipe a closely guarded secret! Frangipane is a sweet filling similar in flavor to marzipan. Flicking through a Moroccan cookbook i came across a couple of recipes incorporating a form of frangipane. One, a filo coil filled with the mixture, looks very easy to make, so i thought i'd take a shot at the second, slightly more involved recipe: Gazelle's Horns. These Moroccan celebratory biscuits shaped like a crescent, have a thin crisp outer shell filled with a sweet almond mixture, with faint scents of roses.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prosciutto Wrapped Lamb Fillet with Pomegranate Reduction on Potato & Asparagus

Whenever i watch Iron Chef Sukai on SBS i am fascinated by his use of caul, a fatty membrane surrounding the organs of some animals, to encase pieces of meat. The fat of the caul keeps the mean juicy and succulent as it is being fried, or more generally, roasted.

With the same concept in mind, i have seen, and on occasion tried, wrapping lean cuts of meat in thin shaved slices of fatty prosciutto. In addition to retaining the juices of the lean meat, the prosciutto adds its own seasoning, flavor and personality to the dish.

When i was making this dish i felt like it belonged in the annals of an old Women's Weekly 'entertaining' cookbook. With the asparagus and mashed potato, the dish harks back to what was considered haute cuisine when i was younger. The retro style of the plating reflects that. However in using prosciutto rather than say, bacon, and with the addition of balance through the sweet-sour pomegranate reduction, i think i've been successful in achieving a bit of 'retro-chic' with this dish.

A note on both asparagus and the pomegranate reduction. Firstly, asapargus is best in season in Spring, when the spears shoot up from the ground and are at their sweetest and most succulent. The worst thing you can do to these delicious vegetables is overcook them! Blanch in salted water for 30 seconds at most! And to the pomegranate reduction: you can buy ready reduced pomegranate juice in the form of pomegranate molasses. But why pay $20 plus for a bottle of the stuff when pomegranate juice is easily available and ready for reduction at any local supermarket. Look for Pom, it's normally located in the fresh produce aisle of your supermarket.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lamb Shank & Pearl Barley Soup

Soup soup soup! Dear god how many soups can i cook? From Wikipedia;

"Soup is a food that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavor is extracted, forming a broth."

enough said. This is my weekly soup recipe! The rich fat from the lamb shanks gives this soup it's delicious mouth feel, and yet it is also nutritious and healthy, abounding with vegetables. Light enough for the beginning of spring, but warming enough for the lagging winter chill.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hainanese Chicken

In the days when i lived in a shared house, i shared what was possibly the least inspiring kitchen ever. An old oven, electric stovetop, and a lack of my own cooking equipment led to a proliferation of burrito packets, quick pastas and frozen meals. The few dishes that i did cook were distinctly... awful. But the biggest kitchen sin i committed was palming off chicken boiled chicken thighs with rice and soy sauce as as quick 'Hainanese Chicken'. I did this dish a great disservice because what i cooked was not even a slight homage to the real deal.

Hainanese Chicken is prevalent at Hawker stands in Singapore, where people line up for miles to savor the delicately poached (never, ever boiled) chicken, served with the broth in which it was cooked and delicious rice cooked with fat from the chicken. Every Singaporean and Malaysian i meet seems to be a connoiseur of chicken and rice, so it is with a sigh of relief that i cooked this dish for unsuspecting caucasian folk. Surprisingly though, my dish came out equal to any i have had in Melbourne. Normally when i've had it in Melbourne, it has been served with soy sauce and sometimes chilli, but after making it i've become a devotee of the deliciously fresh and zingy ginger dipping sauce.

Macarons with Raspberry & White Chocolate

Macarons are de riguer right now, as several cafes have sprung up around Melbourne specializing in the delicious melt-in-your-mouth French treats. The variety available now compared to 12 months ago here is astonishing: pistacho, passionfruit, snickers, lavender, violet and licorice are all flavours that have been devised. For cooks too, the macaron is a mountain to climb.

I won't go into much depth about the difficulties surrounding the making of macarons. The consistency of the batter, the numerous ways of whipping the egg whites, fables of leaving the oven door open, using powdered colors only. So many opinions, and rightly so: the macaron is a devilish food to make, and on this, my second attempt, i only got it partially right. Again, some of the shells did not come away from the baking paper. My macarons had little peaks from the piping bag which in truth should not be there. I will keep trying, and i urge you to do the same! For when you get it right, macarons are delicious and nothing comes close.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frangelico Zuccotto with Chocolate & Vanilla Hazelnut Ricotta

I keep trying to best myself in desserts and sweets, whether it be those that i cook for family or friends. The peak of that mountain to me at the moment is Macaroons, which i am yet to get the hang of. In the meantime, i have stumbled across recipes for Zuccotto, which is a very impressive dish, though deceptively simple to make.

A distinctly Italian dessert with it's origins in Florence, rich, creamy zuccotto, much like say a cheesecake, can be twisted into countless variations for personal taste. Vanilla zuccotto, orange zuccotto, even icecream zuccotto have made their appearances. But how can a hazelnut lover like me possibly go past the irresistable notion of a hazelnut riddled filling, and a cakey outside literally basted in frangelico! I have taken the basic recipe by Emma Knowles and twisted it a bit to my tastes. Fellow hazelnut lovers, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Penne with Italian Pork & Fennel Sausage, Brocolli and Parmesan

My boss at work comes from an Italian family, and is occasionally dropping hints at how to make a good pasta. One such recipe he mentioned was spaghetti with brocolli, a pasta simply tossed with olive oil, parmesan and small brocolli florettes. I stumbled across a more extravegant recipe in the Carmine's cookbook (Carmines is a famous old-school Italian restaurant in New York for those who don't know), which added Italian Pork sausages and a few other ingredients. So i thought i'd give it a go!

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a different tasting pasta dish to add to my repertoire. A good quality Italian sausage is key to this dish, so make sure you go to a reputable butcher or delicassen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baked Eggs with Tomato & Chorizo

I'm not a big breakfast person. Every work day my breakfast consist of 1/3 cup of instant oats, 1/2 cup milk, microwaved in a mug for 120 seconds on high. Sacrilege i know, for someone who loves his food so much! The idea of eggs benedict, of Canadian short stacks and even champagne and roast chicken brunches is so alluring, but when i grumble my way out of bed in the morning my stomache just wants its cardboard porridge to start the morning.

But every now and again the mouth wins out and i'm taken on a journey to seek out an indulgent weekend breakfast. This time the catalyst was my parents' going to brunch in Warrandyte. So i rolled up me sleeves and decided to make my own! Now THIS is my kinda breakfast.

Portugese Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce & Red Onion Salsa

Through what must be a subconscious longing for the long sunny nights of summer, i've been hankering for barbecue more and more in the past few weeks. The delicious crunch of slightly charred meat, succulent on the inside, is, to me, unmimicable in the modern kitchen, even with grills, broilers and countless other gadgets.

To be honest, before this recipe i had never actually cooked a whole chicken, nor had i butterflied one for that matter. I found a great video on Youtube detailing how to butterfly one here. It was surprisingly easy! In fact this entire dish is very simple and speaks of very core flavoring.

I don't pretend that this peri peri sauce is close to authentic: a true peri peri sauce would obviously be made with the African birds eye chilli, also known as peri peri.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Raat Nar Gai - Charred Rice Noodles and Chicken with Thickened 'Gravy'

One thing that really surprised me on my trip to Thailand was that despite trying it 5 or 6 times, i never did find a Pad Thai as good as the really good ones you can find here, or indeed even as good as my own! Maybe it was my own personal tastes but i found most of them too gluggy, too sweet and too saucy. I didn't try any other noodle dishes, but i wish i tried this one over there.

The key to making this dish stand out is the charring of the noodles. I learned after making this that you really need to make sure you don't overload the wok with noodles, and really don't be afraid to leave them to the point of almost burning. The small amounts of charred noodles that i DID manage to make had a wonderfully smokey flavour that was sadly absent from most of the noodles. Next time!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Neua Pat Bai Grapao - Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chillies & Holy Basil

So finally i have cooked something from the second cookbook that i picked up in Thailand, Thai Street Food by David Thompson. Very fast and simple to cook with easily accessible ingredients (except perhaps Holy basil to some, check your Asian grocer), this dish reminds me so much of the small amount of street food that i did have in Thailand. Pungent and strong in flavour, it begs to be devoured in a rush, so that you can go back for more! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

KL Hokkien Mee

So the second Malaysian dish i decided to cook for Fathers' Day was KL Hokkien Mee. My dad loves Hokkien noodles and was accustomed to buying them with the premade, salty sauces which were pretty nice in their own right. But i wanted to cook Hokkien Mee from scratch!! And i can say i had moderate, if not complete success.

The first thing any self respecting Malaysian will tell you when it comes to making good Hokkien Mee: it's all about the lard! None of this vegetable oil business. True hokkien mee is cooked in pork lard with the leftover pork scratchings from the rendering added to the noodles.

My friend 3 Hungry Tummies gave a good recipe for KL Hokkien Mee and whilst i'm sure mine is not as good as his, i'm on my way! The only disappointment i had with the dish was that it was not as rich black as i had hoped. Was this the brand or type of sweet soy that i used? I'll have to try again!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

BBQ Assam Prawn

Yesterday in Australia it was Fathers' Day and this year, having moved back home with my parents to a much larger kitchen i was able to help cook a feast for dinner that day. I went for a Malaysian theme and with my mother providing a chicken satay and my sister providing a beef rendang (both of which were magnificent) i decided to try my hand at some Nonya cuisine, as well as the obligatory KL Hokkien Mee.

Assam prawn, from what i gather is a Nonya dish of tamarind and soy marinated shrimp, normally wok fried though sometimes there appears to be some variation in recipe. I decided to grill my prawns on the BBQ, considering the amazing size of the ones i managed to get my hands on!

The BBQing of the assam prawn had it's pro's and con's. The tamarind was much less present as the sauce was not made to cling to the prawn. On the other hand it made for a much drier dish, more perfect for the appetizer purpose i had for it. The sourness of the tamarind is tempered by the sugar and dissipates with the fiery breath of the grill.

Moroccan Chicken & Couscous Soup

My father actually made a Moroccan soup last week, a lamb and couscous one. It was delicious, with a flavour that reminded me of goulash but much lighter and i loved how the couscous filled out the soup. To change it up a bit, i've used chicken this time, with lighter spicing to accompany the meat. It works well and makes a delicious spring soup. 

Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Today is my good friend Darryl's birthday. He likes to keep his birthdate a secret, so he's disguised his birthday party as a housewarming (though, that too is overdue). Similarly to last year, i like to spoil the surprise by bringing along a birthday cake. Last year was a hazelnut mudcake with ganache, and i pondered over how i could outdo that year's effort. And here it is: Three layers of peanut butter cake sandwiching a rich chocolate and peanut butter ganached. Cover the entire thing with rich chocolate ganache and garnish with chopped Picnic bars and you have 12 slices of rich ecstacy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chorba Bissara - Moroccan Broad Bean Soup

Weekly soup time! Once again, i've gone for a simple recipe. In fact, the recipe i've based this on only has 5 ingredients! But i've jazzed it up a little to suit my tastes and create a slightly more complex flavor. As the weather begins to get warmer i'm squeezing in my hearty purees whilst i can! Coming soon, gazpacho!

Trung Chien Thit Bam - Pork Omelette with Preserved Radish

The more i delve into the cuisine, the more i love Vietnamese food. I think i've only ever been to a few Vietnamese restaurants in my life, and far to many of those were 'Chinese/Vietnamese' hybrids, or dodgy cafes on Swanston St, Melbourne where the food is as Authentic as your average butter chicken.

From my favorite cookbook-of-the-moment, Secrets Of The Red Lantern, comes this beautiful Vietnamese omelette. I think it's the Cai Po or preserved radish that gives this dish it's special, subtle but delicious flavour. You can buy this ingredient at Asian supermarkets (or sucker your Singaporean friend into buying it for you, thanks Darryl!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tom Rim (King Prawns sauteed with tomato, fish sauce and black pepper)

The other main that i decided upon for my little dinner party last night was Tom Rim, a Vietnamese dish that i found in one of my favorite cookbooks, Secrets of the Red Lantern. Tweaked a little to my tastes (though not the spice-fearing tastes of one of my guests, Darryl), these prawns are fresh, lively and have a warming linger of chilli heat.

Crisp Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar

 Last night i had a few friends over for dinner. I decided to go with an Asian-oriented theme, and i knew that one of the essential foods i must cook had to be pork belly. I've been sitting on this recipe for a little while now, which i believe is derived from a Bill Granger one i saw on the website Cuisine.

Nothing is more deliciously savory that crispy, fatty, and luscious pork belly, and the rich saltiness of the meat in this dish is well balanced by the sweet-sourness of the caramel vinegar sauce over the top. For anyone that has indulged in the crisp pork hock @ the fantastic Longrain restaurants, this dish is quite similar in taste.

Wonton Soup

On my first overseas trip, i visited Hong Kong with my dad, and was delighted to discover the world of dumplings. Xiao long bao, har gow, siu mai... the list went on, but one of my favorite dishes grew to become wonton soup: a beautiful light chicken broth, bobbing with succulent wontons.

Here in Melbourne the quality of wonton soup, and in particular the wontons themselves, varies considerably. This recipe, which i have tweaked from an original by one of my favorite foodblogs, Rasa Malaysia, uses only prawns and no pork in the wontons, for a wonderfully crunchy burst of flavour contained in the little parcels. I was particularly proud of the broth as well, which came out magically similar to the ones i had tasted in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Middle Eastern Lemon & Chickpea Soup

In the search for my weekly soup to cook and take to work, i seem to be making soups of less and less ingredients! This one is very simply flavored, with the impact of the lemon zest and juice taking it to a different level. The spinach is integral in filling out the dish and providing a textural difference.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef on Vermicelli Salad

I looooove Vietnamese food! It's such a shame that if you live in a Whitewashed suburb, procuring all of the herbs required for a Vietnamese feast can be a difficult, not to mention expensive, proposition. Thankfully, we have a nice herb garden at my parents house, rife with mint, coriander and my favorite, Vietnamese mint! Vietnamese food is fresh, healthy and light- but once you start on it, you will crave it forever. This is another recipe from the Nguyen family of Red Lantern fame, and once again, it is impeccable. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thai Pork Red Curry

So first recipe inspired by my trip to Thailand is this red curry. A lot of the food i had in Thailand, i thought we had pretty good representation of here: pad thais, curries, the Thai salads. But the red curries in Thailand were so much better than what you can get here! Unfortunately it's a lot of work to produce the fresh coconut milk that makes them taste so special, so tinned will have to suffice. Don't use paste from a jar- it lacks the depth and subtlety of character that a fresh paste has.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fettucini with Chilli Prawns

A quick and easy Sunday night dinner, fettucini with Chilli prawns. This recipes really only takes as long as it does for the pasta to cook! I think that chilli pairs wonderfully with any seafood.

Italian Country Soup with Pancetta & Cannelini

Back to my weekly soup regime! It's becoming difficult for me to find soups that will keep me interested, that are good for freezing and taking to work! But i managed to find another gem, in this Italian Country Soup. What really makes this recipe shine is the pork flavour of the pancetta which penetrates every mouthful with a delicious salty richness.

Chocolate, Raspberry & Marshmallow Wheels

So i'm back from my jaunt over to sunny, humid, Thailand! Great trip, had a blast, got to see some amazing food (and scoff it down). Except some Thai recipes coming very shortly!! (Red curry coming up on Tuesday for starters).

Coming back, i was craving some good old fashioned Aussie food. And what could be more Aussie, nostalgically so, than Wagon Wheels!

This came out a little different looking but they really do taste identical to the Wagon Wheel we'd all be so familiar with if we grew up in Australia. Cakey biscuit filled with marshmallow and jam, topped with smooth dark chocolate. Very indulgent!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beef Massaman

So this will be my last post for a fortnight or so whilst i go on a jaunt to Thailand! Pad Thai here i come! In the spirit of Thai, i thought i'd cook many people's favorite Thai curry, the Muslim derived Beef Massaman. Mild, creamy and sweet, with large chunks of ever-so-tender beef and potato, massaman is one of my favorite curries overall. The addition of a bit of extra tamarind in this recipe adds a little to the complexity of flavour, balancing heat, saltiness and sourness.

On a side note, i also planned on posting the recipe to raspberry and white chocolate macaroons. Unfortunately, my first attempt at these delicious snacks did not turn out so well. I can't get the shells off the baking paper!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Garlic & Tarragon

Roast chicken: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good- you really have to ask? It's roast chicken! Succulent, juicy flesh surrounded in crisp skin, permeated with the flavors of marinade. The bad- 40 minutes of cooking plus learning how to truss it (tie it up), risking food poisoning from underheated stuffing, figuring out how to carve it attractively, wasting half of it because you're only cooking for two. The ugly- sticking your hand in a chicken's bum, and pulling out the fat surrounding the cavity. Yuk!

Sometimes though, it has to be done. A roast chook is a roast chook and you can't replicate the experience. Or can you? Whilst maybe not so impressive as presenting the table with a beautifully golden trussed bird, this recipe for roasted chicken thighs with garlic and tarragon maintains the essence of roast chicken but is easier and faster to prepare, whilst allowing you to easily cater to just one or for 200 people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Miso Soup with Tofu, Chicken &Udon

Somehow or another i seem to be getting blamed for my family's burgeoning waistlines and creeping cholesterol levels. Could they be referring to my deep fried rolls of pork, cheese and ham?? Or is it that cake made from cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk they are so disgruntled with? Either way there's no denying that we've been putting on a little bit in the winter months. And so, i turned to the cuisine many of us turn to when looking for something low in fat but high in yum- Japanese.

This is a cheats version of Miso soup where i just use the instant sachets, though true miso soup using miso paste is hardly much more complex. Feel free to change around anything you put in the dish, it's really a free for all. Prawns, pork, beans, sprouts. It's all destined for the pot.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mandarin Sorbet with Tangelo & Blood Orange Salad

There's something poetic about the blood orange. The exotic fruit who blushes shyly on it's skin, but hides a centre of crimson jewels. Some blood oranges are crimson all the way through, but i like the ones where the red pigment is truly dappled through the otherwise orange flesh, so alluringly to the eye.

This dish comes again from one of my favorite chefs, Frank Camorra. The almost cloyingly sweet sorbet is tempered by the sharpness of the tangelo and blood orange salad. Although you might see this dish and think immediately that this dish would be best in summer: take a moment to think. Blood oranges are a winter fruit, as are tangelos. Although we might immediately associate oranges with sunny Queensland or Florida, and hence summer, Winter is in fact one of the best times to eat good oranges, with the exception of Valencia.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kangaroo, Beetroot, Bocconcini & Grilled Shallots on Carrot Noir

Whilst at a work function the other week, i was flicking through the television in my hotel room when onto the screen came a blast from my culinary past: Gabriel Gate. Alongside Geoff Jansz, Gabriel Gate is probably the first 'celebrity chef' that i can remember seeing, from the good old days of midday television when i was a child. Funnily, i'd never seen anyone actually make their dishes. Well, Gabriel Gate was taking the viewer through, in 3 minutes no less, a beautiful French salad of beetroot and fresh herbs on this intriguing black puree, all of this somehow connected to the Tour De France.

Well a bit of research showed me that the black puree was made from burnt carrots, which i've decided to fancy up a bit and call carrot noir. The sweetness of the carrots is tempered by the smokiness that the burning imparts, but it was much less overpowering than i imagined. I tried to match the flavors in the 'salad' as best as i could, to turn it into a main attraction kind of affair. I think i succeeded!

If you're not in Australia, i would recommend replacing the kangaroo with spring lamb.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Preserved Lemon & Gremolata

I love a good lamb shank, the way the succulent morsels of meat fall of the bone in juicy chunks, covered in a thin film of sticky fat. And a slow cooker is an ideal way of cooking them! This recipe which i've adapted from Three Tastes is a great example, with the lemony richness of the preserved lemon permeating the meat over it's long cooking time. There's something satisfying about throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot, waking up the next morning, and finding the most delicious, tender meal waiting for you for dinner. As a further effort, i like to remove the shanks from the slow cooker and place them in a very hot oven for a short while, to crisp them up a little on the outside. This add a little extra texture to a soft, melt in your mouth dish. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chong Qing Lazi Ji (Sichuan Chilli Chicken)

On a cool winter evening, late in 2008, and upon returning from a chilly viewing of the penguins at Phillip Island, myself and a few friends decided to venture to a quaint little chinese restaurant in the heart of Melbourne, called Dainty Sichuan. Being the only one who hadn't been to Dainty before, i let me friends order, blissfully unaware of the experience that awaited me. The plastic red chillis hanging from the walls were too-subtle clues for me in my hungry state.

So the first dish came out: semi dried slithers of beef, served cold, with a sharp chilli hit in every bite. Then some chilli eggplant, searing my nostrils with each bite. And a chilli fish stew permeated my senses as i watched my friends devour, wipe their brow, devour.

And then it came out. The signature dish: Chong Qing Lazi Ji. Crisp little morsels of heaven and hell in one bite, burrowed like nuggets of gold in a field of chillis and peppercorns. Moist and tender, the first bite bursts with flavour, before you pause, wavering, then lunge for the bottle of milk at the table only to cry out in anguish to find it's soy milk and does nothing to bathe your withering tastebuds! There is only one thing left to do- continue!! Continue until it's all gone and rush like hell to the nearest gelataria.

Please, please note: Unless you have a death with, eat the chicken but NOT the chillis. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde is a popular soup in Portugese and Brazilian cooking, which i came across in Gourmet Traveller. Considering the wealth of cavolo nero (or black cabbage) in the dish i was anxious to see whether i'd like it. Happily, after the first mouthful, i loved it! The cabbage does not overpower the dish and in fact adds to the richness within. Redolent with garlic and the spices fo the chorizo, it's still an easy soup on the tummy and very wintry. I would recommend this soup to anyone who's looking for something a little bit different for winter! Despite the ingredients, it will appeal to almost all palates.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chocolate Marzipan Truffles

Tonight i am off to a French themed soiree for my friend Jack's birthday. I was honored that he asked me to bring some food fitting to the theme, and was charged with desserts! In addition to the obligatory chocolate eclairs i also wanted to make truffles as something a bit special.

Although these truffles are not truly authentic in that they do not resemble the black fungi that is so relished across the globe, they are French in their shells of French marzipan, a pasta made from ground almonds and sugar. And they're also, ridiculously massive!! I used Lindt chocolate for a little extra extravagance.

This recipe was adapted from that of Jugalbandi

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese shaking beef)

Every now and again (namely after a work conference laden with rich company-paid meals and constant snacking) one feels like a salad. Alas, in the middle of winter, the green grocers tend to ignore the great herbs that makes a great Thai larb, or even most Vietnamese salad.

That said, on the hunt for a light dinner that wouldn't hurt the waistline, i came across recipes for Vietnamese Bo Luc Lac or shaking beef. Most of the recipes seemed to offer either a dressing or a dipping sauce; for me, i combined the two. Apparently the translated name, shaking beef, refers to the shaking of the wok as you sear all sides of the meat. So don't go expecting any plate theatrics here kiddos.

For a little extra indulgence i went and purchased King Island eye fillets; they were definitely worth it! For meat that is only briefly cooked you really do need to buy a tender cut of meat. These morsels just melted in your mouth as you devoured the plate of them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

I love a simple pasta. Back in the days of highschool holidays, i would get up every day and devour an entire packet of spaghetti, with a simple sauce of olive oil, basil, garlic and fresh chilli, covering it in a snowstorm of parmesan cheese.

Gone are the days of devouring entire packets of pasta, but there is nothing more satisfying than a simple sauce for pasta that can be whipped up in seconds. This roman pasta is perhaps the simplest that i have yet seen, consisting of only 2 ingredients to the sauce. Better still, they are ingredients that i always have hanging around! Bewarned though, that the pepper can pack a bite! If you don't like it so peppery, i can only say that you shouldn't make this dish.


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