Monday, October 18, 2010

What's your comfort food? (and Har Gow Recipe)

Mac and cheese, lasagne, chicken noodle soup, casserole - we all have our comfort foods. Most of them will probably stem from our childhood and our fondest memories - when mum tucked us in with a blanket in front of the TV and served up a piping hot bowl of tomato soup with our fav cartoons.

Being asian, a lot of my comfort food is chinese - although when I was sick, my mum usually gave me a bowl of some sticky black bitter herbal concoction that was supposed to make me better. Much worse than cherry cough syrup. Anyway, my point is that a lot of my "comfort" foods come from comforting routines my family had established. Because my dad worked in a restaurant I didn't get to spend weekends with him when I was in school - but during school holidays we always went out for lunch, usually to some chinese noodle place where I would always order roast pork and wonton noodle soup. Or we would go to yum cha and I always had the har gow. So those are at the top of my list for "comfort food".

What's on yours?

Har gow recipe

Taken from


300 g prawns
150 g water chestnuts minced
2 1/2 tbs corn flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black bean sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp grated ginger

1 1/4 cup wheaten corn flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 cup boiling chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oil

Peel and devein prawns and cut into 1 cm pieces. Mix with filling ingredients and set aside.

Mix wheaten cornflour and tapioca flour with broth and oil. Knead into dough - if it's too sticky, add more wheaten cornflour.

Break off about 1/4 of the dough and cover the rest to keep moist. Roll into a 1.5 cm thick tube then divide into eight pieces.

Roll each piece out as a flat dumpling wrapper - using a flat bottom of a pan to press down on the dough really works! Your wrapper should be round and no more than a couple of mm in thickness.

Pleat the edges of about 1/2 the circumference of the wrapper so you have a small little 1/2 cup. Traditionally, 8 pleats iis a lucky number in chinese culture. Place filling into the "cup" and fold over to form a half moon shape. Fold the corners in a little and flatten the bottom on a piece of grease paper to form the rest of your dumpling shape. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Steam in a bamboo steamer lined with grease paper for about 7 minutes. Let sit for 3 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crab, ricotta and chive parcels

So we're finally back on track with the cooking/blogging. Over the past month I've done little else except make failed batches of macarons - although I did revisit some of the old favourites including Portuguese coffee tarts and roast pork with my mum visiting for a few weeks. I did finally conquer the macarons - well, sorta. I ended up with some great tasting macarons that stayed up (instead of being flat as a coin) using a recipe from Tartelette. (Shout to to Julie Mak for the heads up - she has an awesome food blog btw that you should all check out -

The only thing was - that my macarons still didn't have the little feet. :(

Anyone with any more suggestions??

Meanwhile, I of course, a long with the many MasterChef fans out there - have been eagerly following the launch of the pint-sized version, Junior MasterChef. I really have to say I am amazed at how mature and inspiring these kids are when it comes to cooking. You can really see the depth of their passion - and how disciplined and process driven one has to be to achieve.

I do hope that these kids remember that every now and then - it's just as important to get into a mud pie!!

One of the little darlings had a great idea for making ravioli in wonton wrappers. "I use the wonton wrappers so the skin gets crispy," she says. (I'm paraphrasing here - sorry). But it is a great idea - and really easy! I served these with some rice noodles, coriander and sprouts with a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice and rice wine vinegar

Crab, ricotta and chive parcels (in wonton wrappers)


1 cup shredded crab meat (in a pinch I used tinned crab meat)

150 grams ricotta

1/4 cup chives, finely chopped

wonton wrappers


Preheat over to 180 degrees Celsius. Mix crab meat, ricotta and chives in a bowl. Put about a heaping teaspoon of filling in the centre of a wonton wrapper and gather up the corners, using a bit of water to seal.

Line the parcels up on a greased baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are just about crispy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flat Macarons again

Foodies - I'm at a loss. I tried to make the macarons again for the 2nd time. I got a new little egg beater thing to make sure I beat the eggs to peaks. And again everything seemed to be going well - in fact the little macarons were definitely rising in the oven! I have a picture to prove it!!

See? Rising macarons!!

But low and behold - when I took them out of the oven - collapse! They went back to being flat as coins (again I have a picture to prove it!)

See - FLAT macarons. :(

Any help? Advice? Suggestions? Has this happened to you? If you know anything about meringue and how it's supposed to crust over and not collapse - help would really be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Slow cooked salmon

A co-worker pointed me to this exciting concept, slow cooked salmon. The idea is to brush and bed a beautiful piece of salmon and then cook it in an oven at just around 100 degrees for 30 minutes. The result - beautiful tender and juicy salmon that is moist and flavoursome - delicious!

We started with a brush of olive oil, salt, pepper and ground coriander. We then threw the salmon skin side down in skillet to crisp it up a bit.

For the bed, we used caramelised onions quickly sauted in a fry pan with some fine white wine and a few chunks of navel oranges. Lay the salmon, skin up, on the bed and top each fish with a slice of orange. Cook in oven at 100 degrees for 30 minutes.

Ground some macadamia nuts and chillis and roast in pan to release flavour. Mix nut mixture with some finely chopped mint. Remove salmon from oven and top with nut and mint. Serve.

Too easy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When life gives you flat macarons - make cookies!

Inspired by Adriano Zumbo's macaron tower, I really wanted to try making macarons myself. I checked a number of recipes including from Poh's kitchen. I sieved almond meal and icing sugar to grainy fineness, whipped egg whites to peaked perfection, and folded everything together to that magma like consistency that all the experts harp on about - well, given my first hand familiarity with magma.

The macarons flat as a pancake - literallly the size and thickness of a 20 cent piece.

I'm not sure what I did wrong - maybe my egg whites weren't separated early enough (I left them for the day instead of overnight) maybe my 15 year old oven can't cope with pre-heating to 200 and then turning it bakc DOWN to 160. Macarons, I'm sure, are just temperamental things that take awhile to master...

The challenge for me was what to do with the 2 cups of sensational blueberry ganache I had made for the macaron filling...

Make sugar cookies. :)

Sugar cookies with blueberry white chocolate ganache



2.5 cups flour
1 cup butter
1.5 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbs baking powder.


300 mL thick cream
1 can blueberry pie filling or 1 cup fresh blueberries
1 bar (280 g) white chocolate, chopped roughly


Start with the ganache. In a saucepan, bring cream and blueberry puree to gentle boil. Remove from heat. Stir in white chocolate and mix gently until smooth.

Spoon out mixture into large tray and let set at room temperature for one hour.

For the cookies, preheat oven to 190 degrees. Mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg, flour, vanilla and baking powder and work the mixture into a soft dough.

Spoon out the dough in round circles about the size of a 20 cent piece and bake for 8-10 minutes until just brown along the edges. Allow to cool.

Sandwich ganache between two cookies to finish it off!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Which potatoes should you use to make chips?

So MasterChef favourite Aaron failed to make the cut for the final 6 – his downfall – the wrong potatoes.

I’m gonna be honest and say that I have no idea about different types of potatoes – I always generally assume a potato is a potato and there isn’t that much different between the different types. I’ve also never tried to make chips...

So a quick rundown on potatoes:

Russet potatoes – these are starchy potatoes with low moisture content, making them perfect for chips (sorry Aaron), baked and jacket potatoes. They produce a beautiful fluffy texture when cooked, so they’re perfect for mash. Look for them by their brw

Chat potatoes – these little cocktail potatoes are small and waxy in their texture. This makes them ideal for boiling, steaming and serving in salads as they hold their moisture and have a lovely potato flavour that is not too dry.

Larger sized white potatoes can also be used for boiling and have a similar high moisture content.

Desiree potatoes - these medium starch potatoes have a pale pink skin and are great for roasting and mashing.

The problem is that it seems if you go to Coles or Woolie’s in Australia, you seem to be limited in your potato selection with your choice of tubers being “brushed” “washed” or cocktails. The cocktail potatoes are the chat potatoes above, while potatoes generally tend to be Nadine potatoes, which like the chats, are of a higher moisture content. If you can find them, desiree potatoes will probably be your most likely candidate for higher starch content.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Perfect Man spruiks the perfect cheese - Parmesan!

If you live in Australia, you've probably seen the Perfect Italiano advertisements featuring the Perfect Man - he's sensitive, athletic and a great cook to boot. I especially love the part where he looks into the camera and says "And when there is no woman to listen to, I practice my listening face."

Pretty hilarious!

Anyway, the Perfect Man has got the right idea about what I have come to think is one of the world's most perfect cheeses: parmesan!

I had two good experiments with parmesan recently. The first was parmesan carrots. A fairly simple dish, made with Dutch carrots and fresh breadcrumbs. I usually don't like carrots but parmesan and breadcrumbs really makes everything delicious.

The second was a really simple idea - parmesan crisps! All you need is parmesan - and you're in cheese heaven!

Here are the two ideas below!

Parmesan Carrots


1 bunch dutch carrots - stalks trimmed (approx 500 g)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 tbs seasoning - I used middle eastern
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbs freshly grated parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
Flour for dusting (approx 6 tbs)
2 eggs beaten
Oil for frying


Wash carrots thoroughly and allow to dry.

In a large bowl, mix together bread crumbs, seasoning, parsley, parmesan, chili flakes and zest. Lay out the flour and the eggs in separate bowls.

Dip the carrots first in the flour to coat, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs - ensure they are well coated.

Use about 2 cups of oil in a fry pan, enough to create a shallow layer of oil. Heat to frying temperatures and lay out the carrots. Shallow fry on both sides until golden brown. Serve with aioli mayonnaise.

Aioli tip: You should try and make mayo from scratch but if you're short on time, mix 1 tsp minced garlic with 3 tbs store bought mayo. Mix well.

Parmesan Chips

This is way too delicious and too simple not to try! They are perfect accompaniment to a light cream soup.


2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (or as much as you want to make!)


Preheat oven to 190 - 200 degrees Celsius. Lay out a couple of sheets of baking paper on a tray.

Place egg rings on to the paper and layer grated parmesan in each, spreading evenly. Each ring should have about a thick (1 - 2 mm) layer of cheese. If you space your circles out, you can remove the rings for a more "lacy" look.

Place the parmesan rings into the oven and bake for about 5-8 minutes or until a crisp golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool and remove your beautiful, delicious parmesan crisps!

What delicious recipes do you know with cheese?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

MasterChef, Jamie Oliver and Dressing the board

As many of you are probably aware, I live in Australia and am a big big fan of Australian reality show, MasterChef. Amateur cooks compete in these amazing challenges recreating siganture dishes from some of the world's biggest culinary icons - Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong, Neil Perry - and at the end one is left standing to be named the MasterChef and gets a publishing deal, money and prestige. Anyway if you haven't seen it - you should - the eps are here -

Anyhow, this week, the show's being filmed in London, home to some of the biggest cooking names around - including of course, Jamie Oliver. I've seen his shows, read about his philanthropic work - he was showcased in a cover story I had worked on at my old job. To see this guy doing his thing on ANOTHER show though I one he's not the producer of - was actually quite phenomenal. You can see Jamie is the real deal, passionate - bursting with energy - completely eccentric and running at 50 million miles a minute!

One of the interesting concepts he presented was a new way to cook steak - he called it "dressing the board" - quite a simple concept but really brought out some fresh new flavours. Here's what we tried:


1 thick juicy 200 g sirloin steak
3 tbs mint, finely chopped
2 small chilis finely chopped
1 tsp mince garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Large wood chopping board


Cook the steak in a pan as desired. While the steak is cooking prepare your dressing ingredients and mix the mint and chili well on the board. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and stir through. When the steak is cooked take it straight out the pan, place it on the board with your dressing and coat liberally. As the steak starts to cool and seal off, it'll take on the flavours of the board - so you have a well flavoured piece of gorgeous and juicy steak - without the typical burning of the marinade! Genius!

Disclaimer: blatant self promotion and update. Sorry folks, but I'm using my own blog to my own gain. :) Outsie of cooking - I write kids books, including girls books age 8 and up and my first book is out! I would love if you would take a moment to check it out! Okay - that's it, I promise! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lobster ravioli

After watching so much MasterChef I've come to realise that I am missing a lot of the basics when it comes to my cooking arsenal. I can make rice - and I know how to make pastry - but these guys are doing things like making pasta from scratch, or knowing exactly which herbs and spices are missing in a korma (I don't even think I can name 3 spices that go in a korma - let alone identify the taste of 5 missing ones.) In order to be a good cook, its important to know about the basics - like making pasta or rice.

So here we go - making pasta from scratch. I got some frozen lobster tail from the fish markets for the filling - you can't seem to find fresh live lobster like I can in ny. One of my clearesy early cooking memories is watching my dad chop up live lobster - he's chinese so he doesn't bother with the boiling it alive first. He just hacks it up to pieces and the grey matter inside the bits of shell twitch for awhile long after the thing's dead. Quite fascinating really - but probably not something I could stomach to do on my own - I'll get the frozen bits thank you.


2 cups flour
3 eggs

200 g cooked lobster meat shredded
200 g fresh ricotta
1 cup diced shallots
1 tbs sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

150 g tomato paste
1/2 onion diced
100 mL cream
1 tbs dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste


Put flour and eggs in a food processor and pulse until combined. Scoop out dough and knead on the bench until it forms a tight smooth ball. Cover with glad wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. You can prepare the filling ingredients during this time.

Combine lobster, ricotta, shallots and oil in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside for stuffing the ravioli.

Roll out about 1/2 of your pasta dough to a 1.5 cm thick rectangle. Normally, to get the right thickness and consistency, you would pass this through a pasta maker a few times to flatten the dough. I, of course, do not own a pasta maker to I did my best with a rolling pin. Fold the ends up into the middle, turn 90 degrees and roll flat. Repeat about 6 times.

In the case for ravioli, the rolling pin can work because you can cut the dough into smaller pieces and rollit quite thin, essentially each raviolo piece out one at a time. You would definitely need a proper pasta maker for anything long, such as fettucine, linguine or lasagna sheets. Hang your pasta out to dry over the back of a chair or an aluminium covered clothes drying rack.

Extract the white of 1 egg to close your ravioli. Cut circles out of each piece of pasta and pile lobster filling in the middle. Brush the edges of each ravioli with egg wash and seal with fingers.

Boil a large saucepan of water to cook pasta. While you're waiting you can start making your sauce. Brown onion in a fry pan, add basil, tomato sauce and cream and about 100 mL of water. Let simmer to reduce sauce.

Cook your pasta in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Serve imnmediately with sauce.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rainy days and prawn soup

It's been raining quite a bit in Sydney - and unfortunately Sydney, or maybe Australia in general isn't really well equipped for rain. There aren't pubs with warm fires to cosy up to or warm grog to drink. NY, Japan - these other places seem to lend themselves to some sort of winter entertainment - here girls are still hitting the cross in mini skirts.

We were at the fish shops thinking about making mussels but they were all out. I caught sight of some fresh green king prawns with heads still attached. I remember my dad has always said that when it comes to seafood, the heads are the sweetest part of a crustacean. Being cold and rainy, I thought it would be the perfect time to try and make a warming seafood soup.

500 g green prawns, unpeeled with heads attached
1 large ling fillet, cut into pieces
250 mL fish stock
1 cup white wine
water, as needed
1 tin diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic - peeled crushed
2 small garlic shoots
1 red onion chopped
1 tbs grated ginger
1/2 red capsicum chopped
150 g enoki mushrooms
1 tomato diced
1 bay leaf
1 small tin sardines in olive oil - DO NOT STRAIN
salt to taste
coriander to taste


In a large pot, add the fish stock and garlic and bring to boil.

Separate the prawn heads from the bodies. Leave the bodies to shell and devein later, add the prawn heads to your stock and bring to boil. Add onions, tin tomaties, garlic shoots, bay leaf, ginger, white wine and oil from the tin of sardines. (I served the sardines as finger food with some red capsicum dip and water thins). Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, adding water and liquid as needed. You can shell and devein your prawns and prepare your other ingredients during this time.

Remove the soup stock from the heat and strain. Return liquid to stove over a medium flame and add diced fresh tomatoes, capsicum and enoki mushrooms. Let simmer for 5 minutes or until capsicum is soft. Add ling pieces and prawns and continue to simmer until fish and prawn meat are cooked through (2-3 minutes). Serve with coriander and salt to taste.

For an extra bit of kick - add a few slices of fresh ginger to the strained soup. I would also consider sauteeing the prawns separately in garlic and serving over the soup instead of cooking it in the stock.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Homemade gnocchi with garganzola spinach sauce

Garganzola is an amazing cheese - succulent and packed with taste. We had some great homemade gnocchi at il baretto last week - again a great italian joint in Surry Hills. It came with a delightful garganzola sauce. In this version, I've spruced up the sauce with a bit of spinach for colour.


1 kg potatoes, washed but not peeled
1 egg
250 mL flour plus more to flour surface
2 tbs grated parmesan
Pinch of salt

125 g garganzola cheese
1/2 cup milk
20 g butter
100 mL cream
100 g spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


To make the gnocchi:
Place the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Insert a skewer to test.

Peel the potatoes and mash well - I used a stick blender. Combine with flour, egg and cheese and mix well.

Flour surface and lay out small amount of potato dough. Carefully roll in flour to create a 1.5 cm roll. Cut into 1 cm pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the potato dough, then set aside. Put a saucepan with water on the range to boil while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce:
In a large frying pan, combine garganzola, milk and butter until creamy. Reduce heat and add cream and spinach and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering and once the water boiling, you're ready to cook the gnocchi. I cooked it in small batches, adding about 10 pieces at a time. Scoop them out as soon as they start floating - think of it as rescuing survivors from a ship wreck (ok - maybe that's just me. =P)

Stir the gnocchi through the garganzola sauce and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Curry Mussels

This particular dish is inspired by Luke Nguyen from Red Lantern in Surry Hills. I have always loved mussels - the meat is so sweet, juicy and succulent and the local mussels in Sydney are always plump and beautiful. You could - and probably should - make your own curry paste with chilli and shrimp paste etc. But in a pinch, the red thai curry paste from coles (get the paste not the sauce form) will do well. This is a superb winter dish.



1 kg fresh mussels
1/2 stick lemon grass - cut in 3
250 mL coconut milk
155 mL coconut cream
2 tbs thai red curry paste (add more to taste)
2 bunch baby bok choy chopped
1 chilli - chopped
2 cloves garlic - minced
Fresh parsley to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups cooked rice for serving


In a large wok or sauce pan, fry the garlic to release the aroma. Add stock and bring to a simmer.

Add curry paste, baby bok choy, chilli and lemon grass and let simmer 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat.

Add mussels and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes. Mussels should just be starting to open. Add sprouts and let cook for additional 3 minutes until all of the mussels have opened. Remove from heat.

Dress with fresh parsley and stir through. Serve in bowls over fluffy cooked rice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Master Chef Inspired Pavlova

Marshmallowy Goodness.

For Anzac Day - I decided to try and make a Pavlova, having seen Donna Hay's recipe on Masterchef. I mean what better way to celebrate a great Australian public holiday than with a great Australian dessert?

The only problem - small tiny problem - was that I didn't own a beater. And when I saw those dreaded instructions: "whip egg whites to glossy, satiny peaks" I knew I was in trouble.

About 30 minutes of hard core whipping later - I had my glossy peaks and my pavlova in the oven. Feeling quite proud of myself, I went on to read about the topping.

"300 mL cream, well whipped"


(turned out okay, but definitely investing the $30 in a mixer!)



4 egg whites
300 g caster sugar
1 tsp vinegar
3 tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla
-- and if you don't have a mixer - a fork and some strong forearms!

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lay out a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and draw a 20 cm circle, if desired.

Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly sift in sugar and continue beating until the peaks are stiff and satiny. Mix in corn flour. Fold vanilla and vinegar into the mixture.

Mound your mixture into the centre of your baking paper and bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow pavolova to cool in the oven.

For the topping, use about 300 ml of well whipped cream and seasonal berries, kiwis, passionfruit etc.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Over Easter long weekend, I finally managed to tackle it - the elusive croquembouche. I started at about 1 pm (this time without a dinner party or non-cooks trying to tell me what to do going on in the background). Four hours, eight eggs and a burnt sauce pan later (which I managed to scrub out - whew) - I had it - a 2 foot tall croquembouche!

A croquembouche is essentially puff pastries (or choux pastries in the book), filled with custard then stacked into a tall cone shape held together by rich thick caramel. Event croquembouches use about 100 puffs and are about 3-4 ft tall. You can rent or buy a croquembouche cone from a catering shop to get the cone shape. Or you can do what I did - rolled up some newspaper into a cone and line it with baking paper.

It took about 40 choux patries (many of which were quite flat and not very well puffed, but they were okay once I turned them on their sides). Though on the small side - the results were certainly delicious!

One word of warning though, choux pastry and caramel do NOT keep in the fridge. We put 1/2 our croquembouche in the fridge thinking we could save it for later (there were only three of us that night as I was afraid of another eminent disaster). Unfortunately, I discovered the next day a gooey sticky pile of pastry with runny caramel on top. Very not cool.

(will post ingredients and methods soon!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Squid and Baby Bok Choy

This brings back memories – the perfect home cooked dish. When I was growing up, my dad worked in a Chinese restaurant as a chef and like most Chinese restaurant workers he worked six days a week. Wednesdays were his usual days off, and because my mother wasn’t really the best of cooks – my dad would still cook us dinner on his day off. He’d dish up steamed fish, blanched veggies – and then an extra something, sometimes barbecue pork, sometimes a stir fry – whatever it was, it was always delicious.

This was a classic Dad dish. He’d do this really cool thing and gently slice a cross hatch pattern into the larger squid pieces. This helped them cook and let them naturally curl into themselves, plus they looked really cool.


1 large squid – in Australia, squids seem to be extra large, while in the states I only saw small ones. Either ways you want about 400 grams

3 small baby bok choy – cleaned and roughly chopped

Oyster sauce to taste

1 tbs sugar

Salt to taste

3 cloves of garlic – finely minced

Oil to stir fry

4 small slices of ginger


Clean the squide. You’ll want to remove head with the tentacles attached, but while you’ll want to cut off the tentacles and cook those as well. (Be sure you remove the hard mouth!) Empty and clean the insides, being sure to remove the cartilage that acts as the spine of the animal. Peel back the purplish skin so you’re left with the white meat.

Cut into chunks and sizable slices. Cross hatch each slice but cutting first across and then up and down, but don’t slice all the way through.

Heat about 2 tbs of oil in a wok. Add the garlic and fry in the oil for about a minute to release the flavours. Add squid pieces and ginger and fry for about 2 minutes. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the baby bok choy and stir through. Add about 3 tbs of oyster sauce (depending on taste) and sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly, cover and cook for an addition 2 minutes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Squid Ink Pasta with Oyster Mushrooms

One of the beauties of making pasta is that you really don't need to worry too much about proportions and measurements. By having a general understanding of cooking (ie knowing things like a pinch of garlic goes a long way) you can really just throw everything together however much you have!

I came across a book the other day, called "Relaxed Eating" - food from a bowl. Pasta is definitely one of those foods where you can feel good about indulging in a hearty serving straight from the bowl.

Here's our recipe for a delicious squid ink pasta dish (note the lack of measurements. Just throw it altogether):

Pre made Squid Ink Pasta (you can make your own if you're feeling daring!)
Semi dried tomatoes
Oyster mushrooms (cut into hearty chunks)
Anchovies (anchovies are strong so we just added about 1 small jar)
Minced Garlic
Chilli (Our first chilli harvested from our chilli plant!)
Olive oil (plenty of it)
Oregano - finely chopped

Boil the pasta to cook and drain. In a medium sauce pan add the oil and garlic and chili and saute to release the flavours. Add mushrooms and semi dried tomatoes and saute for about 1-2 minutes to soften

Add pasta and stir through to combine well. Stir through the anchovies and oregano so that they break completely apart and the pasta is evenly coated. Serve in large bowls for a relaxed meal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Eataholics - what's your food phobia?

Been watching the ABC documentary about Eataholics - guys who have eaten nothing but chips for 20 years. Or a guy who has lived on a diet entirely of chips and beans, and doesn't even chew his food.

We all have our food phobias - and weaknesses. I'm Asian and absolutely love noodles - especially the instant kind. When I was younger, my parents wouldn't let me eat them because of their MSG...sometimes, my dad would let me have ONE single noodle out of his bowl. So to date, even though I know it's bad for me, and they actually taste pretty awful at times, I still find myself craving them. I guess it's like a comfort food - like mac and cheese.

Meanwhile, I'm not really a huge fan of chips and fried foods. Nor chocolate for that matter. Which I guess makes me pretty odd -especially the chocolate part.

Anyways, I'd love to hear what other comfort foods and food phobias people have. Leave a note - let me know! (Let me know if I can create something out of it...)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chocolate AND cheese cake

Seriously, two of my favourite desserts - in ONE! I saw these lil chocolate cheesecake cupcakes at this patisserie near work and thought, wow! What a concept! I figured I'd give them a go for my boyfriend's birthday.

The tricky part was trying to figure out how to bake the cake for long enough but then be able to add the cheesecake in the flatmate suggested baking paper, which totally did the trick. I tried to put some rice in the middle to weigh it down, but it just ended up rising with the cake.

However, in the end (little bit of Physics here...) because the cheesecake is denser than the chocolate, it held its own so the cake just rose around it. And I have to was indulgently good!
Gourmet Inspired Tip: I was short on time so I cheated and bought cake mix. I'm sure your favourite choc cake recipe will work just as well. Or you can try and mix up the flavours? Do an orange cake with chocolate cheese filling? Hmmm...combinations are pretty much endless!


Chocolate cake batter: here's a good one from Nigella that should work. I would just make enough batter for one 8 in cake tin and skip the frosting. Or if you're lazy, buy a mix!

For cheesecake filling:

250 g cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs vanilla
20ish Blueberries


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Make the batter per instructions and pour into a round, greased 8 in cake pan.

Lay a sheet of baking paper across the surface, gently pushing down in the centre so that the paper sticks to the batter, but don't push the paper all the way to the edges of the pan. You want the edges of the cake to rise and a crust to form while the paper keeps the middle gooey.

Bake pan for 15-20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, gently fold the cream cheese into the sugar and the egg until smooth. Add lemon juice, vanilla and most of the blueberries and whip quickly until well mixed and the blue berries are just starting to break apart.

Remove the cake (but leave the oven on!) and gently remove the baking paper from the centre of the cake. The sides of the cake should just beginning to set while middle should still gooey without a crust. Carefully spoon your cheesecake mix into the middle of the cake, using the back of a wooden spoon to evenly distribute it into a general roundish shape. Don't worry if batter spills over the sides of the developing crust. Top cheesecake centre with remaining blueberries.

Put the cake back into the oven and bake for another 25 minutes until the cake part is cooked all the way through and toothpick comes out clean. The cheesecake part should be firm and not runny and little brown peaks should just be starting to form. Turn off the oven and cool the cake in the oven with the door ajar for about 2-3 minutes. Remove, let cool completely and serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No fresh ingredients challenge - Tins and frozen veg can make a meal

So over the holidays, I ran into a strange Boxing Day dilemma. After a Christmas of ham and pastry, I was hankering for some homemade veggie soup. Specifically, I was looking to make a potato and leek soup, Only problem was, it being Boxing Day, every single fresh fruit and veg shop in Newtown was closed. Instead of succumbing to the easy Take Away option - Addison's on Erskineville Rd was still open - we hit the local "supermarket", aka glorified convenience store, to check our options.

Here's what we came back with:

1 tin whole champignon mushrooms
1 tin Mini taters with a hint of mint
1 pack frozen spinach
1 small carton of pure cream
1 stick salted butter
Approx. 300 ml chicken stock

And from this, with a bit of spices and herbs, we proceeded to make a very green but surprisingly tasty, cream of potato and spinach soup! :D How's that for a Boxing Day Feast?

Gourmet Inspired Tip: Nutmeg! Seriously - discovery of 2009. The flavour of the spinach was a bit to powerful and it wasn't quite complementing the cream the way I was hoping. Thanks Anthony Bourdain's potato and leek recipe, I added a bit of nutmeg to really tie everything together.


To the above list I added:

1 tbs chilli flakes
1 tbs nutmeg


Heat the chicken stock until boiling. Add potatoes and spinach and simmer on low for approximately 20 minutes. Add the butter and mushrooms and simmer for another 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Scoop out the mushrooms from soup, they get lost if they get blended up with everything else. Blend the remaining soup until smooth. Return to pot, return the mushrooms and return to heat.

Add approximately 100 ml of cream and combine until smooth. Season with chilli flakes and nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year - and Croquembouche 2009 was a #FAIL

Happy New Year folks! Had a lovely holiday as my friend came to visit. I even got to cook her my signature paella which she whole heartedly enjoyed.

Ahh – the Croquembouche test...I tried and I failed...miserably.

The main issue that happened was my first batch of choux pastry were way too they puffed up way too huge, which alarmed some of the people in the kitchen (non cooks of course!) who then suggested that I take them out of the oven. They then quickly deflated, became completely useless and I had to start again. This was about 6pm and I had run out of ingredients. :(

So the next batch was much too runny, they didn’t puff at all so I ended up with tiny little choux mounds instead of balls. They were impossible to fill with custard and I was utterly disheartened by then so I messed up the caramel part as well and it didn’t get hard enough.

I piled my little disheartened mound into something resembling a little runny volcano. Nothing like the glorious croquembouche it was meant to be. :(

Well that was my failed test for 2009. I’ll give it another go in 2010...hopefully with better results.