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.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Salt & Pepper Prawns

My father can spot cheap seafood from about 50 miles away. Asking him what he wanted for dinner that night, i made the (error?) of mentioning that i might cook something with prawns. Immediately he lit up, excitedly telling me about the sale on prawns down at the local supermarket.

Well, right he was, so i grabbed 20 of the things and set about making salt and pepper prawns. This dish, like all of the best prawn dishes, is elegantly simple, consisting of just salt, pepper and cornflour. However the dry, crisp prawns marry so well with the salt and the heat of the pepper, making them absolutely delicious. If it wasn't for the quite salty Dan Dan Mian that i serve with this, i would have easily polished off the entire bowl.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dan Dan Mian

I do have a love affair for Sichaun food. From the smoky sweet kung pao chicken, to the fiery hot morsels of fried chicken in chong qing lazi ji, Sichuan food is an epitaph in today's age for the overpoweringly strong flavors of garlic, salt and chilli.

My understanding of Dan Dan Mian or Spicy Sichuan Noodles is that the sauce can be almost souplike, where the noodles are swimming around; or, as in this case, the sauce clings to the noodles as like an Italian pasta. Either way, Dan Dan Mian is a mouth watering mix of creamy peanut, pungent garlic and ginger, and salty pork. 

To cater to the tastes of my diners (my mum for one! haha) i toned down the heat a little in this recipe. Feel free to crank up the heat with dried chillis or more peppercorns.


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