Thursday, February 28, 2013

I hate snakes, will all year and forever

There is nothing I hate more in this world than snakes. I'm a tad odd, as I can watch a snake in an open area without a hint of Whitney Houston pitched screaming. But put me in a dark enclosed reptile house and I am running for the hills. The strangest part of my "condition" is that is it a million times worse if it is just an image on TV or in a magazine. I would often have to drive past a furniture store called the Cane Cobra and their sign with a badly drawn not remotely realistic image would freak me out. AB has been nothing but a rock when it comes to this phobia, especially when he had to show me every plastic snake in Toys R Us, there wasn't chasing more just running away. So great is my hatred that AB had a dream about there being a snake in our backyard but didn't tell me for weeks in fear that I would put the house on the market that morning.
I am sounding like a total wimp but I have touched a snake, on my 25th birthday at a reptile park. Yep I was taken (the man who hates snakes) to a reptile park for my birthday, this was only topped by my cake which was topped with more plastic snakes than the set of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So you can imagine my despair about this Chinese New Year starting the year of the snake, I am concerned it will impact on my Yum Cha experience if I have to be constantly on the look out for snakes. With snakes at the end of the hate spectrum, Yum Cha is worlds apart on the absolutely love immensely end...ahhh my poor brain!

The first thing I always get at Yum Cha is the chickens feet, it's like a code to the staff to not just send the spring rolls to this table. It proves you're hardcore and can handle the tendons, jellyfish and tripe, oh then tendons.
In Eurovision terms it means you're not just after ABBA and Lulu, but bring on the Bulgarian stilt walkers.
My other must have item is sui mai, those steamed morsels of pork and prawn goodness. I'm not proud of it but there is probably nothing I wouldn't do for a sui mai......I mean nothing.
I'm late for Chinese New Year but I have been making a couple of inspired dishes, more a homage than truly authentic, and sometimes the eating has gotten in the way of the photography.

Enjoy the year of the Snake, just keep em far away from me.

Seafood Roll
  • 250grams green prawn meat
  • 200grams boneless fish fillet (I used Basa)
  • 2 chopped spring onions
  • 1 teaspoon schezwan pepper
  • 1/2 thumb ginger grated
  • Salt to taste
  • Sesame Oil
  • 1 packet rice paper
  • extra cornflour
  • In a food processor add prawn, fish, spring onions, schezwan pepper, ginger, salt and a couple of drops of sesame oil.
  • Pulse to mince the prawns and fish, but not into a puree. Some rough bits add texture.
  • Wrap a small amount of the mixture (however big or small your like) in the rice paper.
  • Coat the wrapped rolls in a little corn flour
  • Fry in hot oil for about 5 mins or until firm and slightly golden. You will know when they are cooked by the colour, so you may need to make a few extras to try just to make sure it is right, bonus!
  • A tip I learnt for the rice paper is to not over water them, 2 seconds max in the water and then onto a barely damp tea towel.
  • The 2 dipping sauces in the picture are quick and tasty, not really cooking more combining.  To 3 parts kewpie mayonnaise add either 1 part sweet chili sauce or kepis manis.
  • Bamboo shoots can also be added for extra texture, either chopped separately or towards the end of the pulsing.
  • If you would like me to add some pics of how to roll the rice paper, let me know and I'll make it happen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's not horse meat it's monkey bread

When AB asked what I was baking and I said Monkey Bread, he was a little concerned that in light of the UK horse meat scandal I had taken things a bit too far. Once I explained it didn't contain any actual traces of monkey all was well. 

Honestly I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, I had horse when I was studying in "a Roma" and found the mystery of it more exciting that the reality. Tastes like chicken, I mean beef.

This recipe is a variation from the one in the Great British Bake Off book how to bake. I don't think I have bought a loaf of bread since I auditioned for the Australian version. I didn't get in, but I realise that for reality TV you can't be too talented, too good looking or too nice, failed in all 3 areas, my story and I'm well and truly sticking to it.

Rosemary and Parmesan Monkey Bread
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 50g unsalted butter melted
  • 200g lukewarm milk
  • 1 large egg

For assembly
  • 100g unsalted butter melted
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 200g shredded Parmesan
  • 3 stalks of rosemary, leaves finely chopped

  • Into a stand mixer add milk and 50g butter, egg, yeast, flour and salt.
  • Knead into a soft dough
  • Leave to rise in an oiled bowl till it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  • Punch down the dough and then pull it apart into about 60 little balls
  • Wedge the garlic into the 100grams of butter and melt in the microwave, about 1 minute. It will give the hint of garlic without being over powering.

  • Dip the balls of dough into the butter and then cheese and rosemary and put into a greased loaf pan.
  • Use up all the balls making sure it looks even (ish)
  • Place into a plastic back and let rise till doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  • Bake in a 200 degree Celsius oven for 35 minutes or golden brown.
  • Loosen from the tin using a knife and cool on a wire rack (if you can resist just eating it)
  • The loaf can be sliced or just pulled apart like monkeys grooming each other, perhaps use a knife that sounds a bit gross.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mother Hubbards work lunch

As much as I would love it, like most people I don't have a Nigella sized pantry or a Master Chef store room that is restocked by the ingredient fairies overnight.
So there are time I stand in front of the fridge/pantry and say I have nothing to make. This quick post was the result of throwing some of the nothing together and ending up with a pretty good work lunch or side salad.

Rocket chickpea salad
Ingredients (or whatever you have on hand)
  • rocket (washed)
  • 1 can chickpeas (or soak dried)
  • chopped capsicum
  • chopped red onion
  • chopped sweet chili
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • good splash olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Combine all ingredients and toss
  • I didn't make the dressing separately I just added it all together.
  • Serve and enjoy the pleasure of creating something from what seemed nothing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

That's not how you make porridge...

I cook with the philosophy of Yoda, you'd think Julia Child would be more appropriate but no, Yoda, it is.
So when I was watching an episode of River Cottage where they made a breakfast bar, it did not deter me that I only had 3 of the ingredients required. The peanut butter was substituted for some tahini blended with some pecans and hazelnuts, the honey was golden syrup and so on. The key is never be afraid to cook, it may not arrive as the planned but you have created an original recipe (just pray its edible).
This is the original River Cottage recipe below is a combination of my replacement ingredients and a trip to the shops.

Date and Oat Bar
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 80 grams brown sugar
  • 150 grams total combined weight of peanut butter and tahini (how much of each is up to you)
  • 80 grams honey
  • zest of 1 lemon and lime
  • 300 grams rolled oats (450 grams if you want extra crunchy bars)
  • 150 grams chopped dates
  • 150 grams mixed seeds, Pepita, linseed, sunflower and black sesame
  • 50 grams almond meal
  • extra honey and white sesame seeds
  • In a large pot melt butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, tahini and honey on low heat.

  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well

  • Press into a greased pan (i used 18cm x 28cm, but what ever you have is fine)
  • Drizzle top with extra honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds
  • bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
  • Cool completely before cutting.

I store this in the fridge, mostly because is a million degrees at the moment and it is really nice chilled.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Orange, Lemon and Lime Cordial

This is a budget saving recipe for those horrible days of summer where you just pray for some snow. Summer and I have never been friends.
This cordial is beyond easy, it really is just heating water, everyone can do that..I hope!
There is a real joy in the DIY homemade, you can create a gem with the stuff you have in the fridge.

Orange, Lemon and Lime Cordial

  • 2 litres of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of citric acid (optional)
  • Add water and sugar and citric acid to a saucepan
  • Zest all the fruit and add to the pan
  • Stir to dissolve sugar and simmer just below boiling for about 30 minutes.
  • Add the juice of all the fruit, strained to avoid pips.
  • Leave to cool
  • Strain cordial into bottles.( I didn't strain this one as the zest is ultra soft)
To use just dilute with water to your preference, weak vs strong. Or serve in a jug with more slices of fruit and some mint. (mint not pictured blame summer!!)
A splash of vodka and ice could achieve a delightful beverage for responsible adults only