Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

New city, new job and n20140513-202943.jpgew kitchen… I’m back and a lot has changed since my last post. However some things haven’t and our loveof food, cooking and eating hasn’t. This week is a bit crazy at my new job, long hours, lots of politics and the prospect of working on Saturday. I came home from worktonight and really had major chocolate cravings. I was just going to buy some chocolate but instead thought I would bake.

Over the weekend my brother and I stumbled across a slice recipe that our Mum used to make for afternoon tea when we were young. Now, the slice is called Chinese Chews… I have know idea why and there is certainly nothing Chinese about them. My brother thought his Chinese wife would find the name hilarious. So I decided I would make this randomly named slice.20140513-194233.jpg

It was a very easy recipe and one I don’t think I have ever made. In a large bowl I mixed together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup mixed dried fruit, 1 self-raising flour, 1 cup desiccated coconut, 1 tablespoon cocoa. While I was combining the dry ingredients I had 125 grams of margarine melting.

When the butter was melted I added it to the dry ingredients along with an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Then I just mixed it all together. It is quite a stiff mixture so I got my hands in there to finish combining it all.

20140513-194241.jpgI then pressed the mixture into a slice pan that I had lined with baking paper. You don’t need to grease the tin or line it but I did this so I could easily remove the slice. Once evenly and firmly pressed into the pan I popped it into a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

While it was baking I mixed together the butter icing. Check out my recipe here. When the slice was baked I iced it while it was still hot. The icing melts into the slice and makes it chewy and yummy. The final touch was just to sprinkle some coconut over the top.

I let it cool before tucking in… Organising lunches, dinner and cleaning up while it cooled.20140513-194251.jpg

Then it was ready…. One bite and I was 10 again. Chewy, chocolaty and full of fruit! I behaved and only ate one piece and will take a lot into work tomorrow but it was worth the effort of baking just for that one slice of Chinese Chews….

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Mums Apple Pie.jpgSince my unexpected arrival back in Australia 2 weeks ago, I have been bunkering down at my parents’ house.  It has always been a place that I feel at home, get taken care of and can take some time to get my head on straight. I was fortunate to have one of my Apples.jpgclosest friends K and her baby and husband come up the first weekend for Sunday lunch. This was a wonderful distraction and enjoyable afternoon, a great way to get my mind of my own troubles.

I managed to help Mum whip up some food, making a mushroom risotto and some fresh bread. However in my less than stellar state I let Ingredients.jpgMum cook dessert. Mum’s apple pie (that is actually her sister’s husband’s grandmother’s recipe… yes it is one of those recipes) is sweet, delicious and not like the apple pies you get in the US. It has a sweet shortcrust pastry rather than the more savoury kind you get in the US.Pastry.jpg

Firstly put on the apples to stew… Just peel and slice up some granny smith apples and add them to a pot with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

For the pastry, beat 125 grams of butter and ¾ cup of sugar together until creamy. Add in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Next mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla Rolling.jpgand a pinch of salt. Then gradually mix in 2 cups of self-raising flour, ½ cup of plain flour and ½ cup of cornflour. Mix this until everything is combined.

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The rest is simply rolling out the dough for the base and the top. Filling the pie with thecooled apples and then baking.

It bakes in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. The great thing is that because the apples are cooked you’re Pie.jpgjust cooking the pastry until it is crispy.

This is now my new go to sweet choice for when I am down… not chocolate or icecream… Mum’s apple pie. Served with a dollop of icecream or fresh cream, it is just the perfect way to end a Sunday lunch or any lunch or dinner or breakfast… my new comfort food. Thankfully though it isn’t hard to make it is just time consuming enough for me not to make it too often… otherwise I could be in big trouble! Delicious, sweet and crispy… give it a try, it is guaranteed to help warm your heart!

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Sausage RollsWe are back from Hawaii with many adventures to share and food to write about, just give me a day or two to settle back in to real life! I wanted to put a quick repost in honor of tonight’s start of the NFL season. I now have 16 weeks of Sundays where J. will barely communicate ahead of me but we both love the game and of course the food that comes with it.

It is also finals time for Aussie Rules and NRL back home in Australia so it is fitting for my wonderful Aussie followers also.

So here is a favorite recipe and favorite footy food from Australia – the sausage roll! A delicious savory treat with ketchup, relish or bbq sauce on the side and of course the prerequisite beer.

Check out the original entry here – Aussie Footy Food!

Enjoy the recipe and the football – whatever code or team you might follow!

Muffin Tin Meat Pies.jpgWe reached a milestone this week… we have over 2500 followers now! To celebrate this great milestone I thought I would revisit a recipe from the early days of the blog.

Also, I have been craving a taste from home and what better way to taste Australia than through meat pies.

These were tasty little treats I made for J. and I during NFL season last year. A nice little snack for watching footy. We did an entire series of Football Food posts last year and with the NFL season only 3 weeks away, I am going to have to prepare some more great snack ideas.

These pies were very easy to make, especially since I cheated and bought the pastry instead of making it myself. You could also try all different kinds of fillings but we stayed with the traditional beef and added some spice and chili! You could also make them into a full size pie but these were the perfect size for a tv snack. Beer and a pie – a completely Australian way to watch the football.

So take a trip down memory lane, across the Pacific to Australia with me…. here.

We’re back!

We haven’t really been anywhere but it seems as though life got in the way of the blogging for the last few months… However just because we were too busy to blog doesn’t mean we were too busy to eat.

We have been eating as hard as always. The last few months have been a combination of travelling, delicious tastes, addictive drink and great cooking home!

So stay tuned for some tales, recipes, photos and FOOD!

We’re happy to be back…

The Feast.jpgThis is our 100th blog. This is such a milestone, J. and I wanted it to be one about something that was special to us. That is why it has taken so long to post. To make it even more special I thought J. should write it… So from J. and I thank you for your support of the first 100 entries, we are looking forward to the next 100.

C & J

Take any style of cooking or cooking technique.  From any country.  I’ll give you a second to think about that for a bit.  No, really, think of any country or cooking style… Italian, French, Greek… you name it.  Guess where they got their origins?  China.  That’s right… any type of modern-day cooking technique has come from the Chinese.  Grilling meat over coals… they came up with that.  You think the French came up with sautéing?  Guess again.  The Chinese came up with that in a little vessel called a wok.  You thought boiling noodles until they were al dente came from the Italians?  Chinese came up with that centuries before Marco Polo made his trip back.

For all of their amazing techniques, you’d think there would be a lot more authentic Chinese food here in the US.  Unless you happen to live in San Francisco or New York and within walking distance to their respective Chinatowns, chances are what you know as Chinese food here in the US is fake.  I hate to burst your bubble, but P.F. Changs or that chain with the smiling panda found in most airports are Pork with Capsicum/Peppers.jpgabout as close to real Chinese food as those Gucci purses that just happen to be on sale for $20.

So when C and I had the opportunity to enjoy a banquet to end all banquets prepared by a Chinese grandmother, we couldn’t help but document the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Let’s be honest, grandmothers kick ass in the kitchen.  That Italian grandma you have who came from the old country who makes that great polenta you like?  Nobody can duplicate it.  That Polish grandmother who makes the best pierogis?  She’ll kick your ass with her kitchen skills.  With this banquet, we were bowing down to the one true kung-fu master in the kitchen.  Grand Master Qi Fen (for an apprentice like me, I must refer to her as master or shi fu)!  Grand Master Qi Kung Pao Chicken.jpgFen just happens to be a brand new grandmother after her daughter (SW – C’s sister in law) gave birth to a bouncing baby boy over the holidays, and she was gracious enough to prepare an amazing meal of 10 dishes for the whole family.  I’m going to let that settle for a bit… that’s right… 10 dishes!

She spent the entire day shopping, prepping, and cooking the amazing meal and I had no choice but to take my place as the apprentice, knowing that I didn’t even come close to her kitchen prowess.  That place just happened to be the kitchen stool next to her.  Watching her knife skills, her seasoning technique, her marinating technique, ingredients she used, and most importantly, her ability to balance up to 5 dishes being cooked at the same time yet making sure each was closely Mapo Tofu.jpgwatched.

Ever see a Chinese cook use a meat cleaver as precisely as a paring knife?  It’s something else.  You think you have good control with chopsticks?  I’m half Korean and have been eating with chopsticks since I was 5.  Grand Master was using long giant ones as if they were built into her wrist.

More importantly, watching Grand Master allowed me the opportunity to find out how the Chinese get those amazing flavors in to their food.  I don’t mean to give up a secret here, but you only need a handful of ingredients to get great authentic Chinese flavor in your dishes:  dark soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, green onion, garlic, and salt.  Stuffed Pork Meatballs.jpgThat’s it folks… you figure that out, you’re about 2% there in becoming the next Grand Master.  The other 98% I think is attributed to years of experience and repetition, but what do I know?

I’m not about to give out recipes in this post… that would take an eternity and I think C would rather give out that information after we take a shot at a few of these dishes ourselves.  I’m not about to name all of these dishes either but I’ll do my best in trying to describe them.  On to the food!

Kung Pao Chicken – Cut chicken thighs marinated in dark soy, Chinese cooking wine, a little salt and green onions quickly cooked with Chinese chili flake oil and green peppers with peanuts.  Who knew a dish in almost ever neighborhood Chinese restaurantPork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs.jpg menu would taste this good.

Pork with Capsicum/Peppers – Thinly sliced pork (sliced with a meat cleaver no less) cooked with thinly sliced green capsicum/pepper.  I dare anyone to try and cut pork as uniformly as she did with a cleaver, and not lose at least part of a finger.

Mapu Tofu – Ground pork with spicy tofu.  The dish to judge all Chinese cooks by.  This one was flavorful and delicious. We have made this before – but we do it the cheats way.

Kick-Ass Fish.jpgStuffed Pork Meatballs – I have no idea how those balls went from hollow fried spheres, to soft, flavorful stuffed globes full of pork.  The dark soy/Chinese cooking wine marinade was excellent once again.

Pork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs – Ever seen what the Chinese call 100-Year Old Eggs?  These weren’t those but they sort of looked like them with the dark soy infusing to the egg whites.  Soft pork belly slow cooked with that rich marinade.Salted Cucumber.jpg

Kick-Ass Fish – I challenge anyone to cook a flavorless white fish like tilapia and have it packed with as much flavor as Grand Master did in this dish.  One of the better fish dishes I’ve had in my life.

Salted Cucumber – A simple dish to cleanse the palate.  Crunchy cucumber cut uniformly with a giant cleaver.

Shrimp with Egg.jpgShrimp with Egg – Ever try de-veining 30 or more shrimp with a cleaver?  Try doing it and let’s see how many fingers you’ll have left.  Grand Master did that for every single shrimp (prawn for you Aussies) we had.

Snowpeas with Garlic – Crunchy snowpeas that went so well with rice.

Vegetable Medley – Gotta love that corn starch slurry to give it that classic Chinese shine!Snowpeas with Garlic.jpg

Definitely a meal I won’t soon forget.  I feel as if we’re indebted to Grand Master for this meal.  Maybe one day I’ll get to make my famous (to a circle of about 8 people) BBQ ribs for her, although that won’t even come close to the spectacle she put on for us.

If Grand Master Qi Vegetable Medley.jpgFen ever has a chance to read this, she’s invited to our house any day for dinner.  If the meal we cook for her is even halfway as good as the meal she prepared for us, then I would consider that a success.

Betel Leaf.jpgFirst let me apologize for my absence. I haven’t been well and have not been up to sitting down and writing when I Watermelon.jpgget home from work. I hope I am back to normal and be posting regularly again from now on.

Back to food!

J. and I still have so much food to write about from our time back in Australia. I thought I would share one of the meals we had at a great Asian restaurant in Melbourne while we were there.

For Christmas we were lucky enough to get a $100 gift card for Red Spice Road, a very cool, very delicious Asian restaurant in one of the gorgeous laneways in Melbourne. For those of you who don’t know Melbourne, it is filled with small laneways that have some of the best food, coffee and nightlife the city has to offer, well really, Australia has to offer. Whenever in Melbourne, time must be taken to wander these laneways and see what has changed, discover new places and visit old favorites.

Oysters.jpgJ. had never been to this restaurant before so we decided to go all out and get the $75 per person tasting menu… Tofu and mushrooms.jpgwhy not when we had the gift card! We mistakenly thought that we needed to pick a few of the items from the huge tasting menu to have, however it turned out that we got enough of everything on the menu for two… Oh dear!

The first trio of dishes were little nibblies or starters. Just a bite of each for us. But those bites were magnificent! First up was Betel Leaf with Chicken, Crab, Coconut, Chilli & Kaffir Lime. I usually find things wrapped in betel leaf to bitter but this was just perfect. The chilli & lime fought against the bitterness and the sweet crab and coconut just tied it all together. The next bite was Watermelon topped with Sticky Pork, Peanut and Prawn Relish. As weird and unusual as this sounds it was probably my favorite thing of the night. I don’t actually know how to describe this accurately but it was a burst of sweet, savory flavor in your mouth. I could have eaten 12 of them but we only got 1 each.

Lamb Ribs.jpgThe last dish in this first trio was an Oyster with Chilli Jam, Lime Juice and Crispy Shallots. Now IBeef salad.jpgam not sure if I have ever expressed the love J. and I have for oysters on the blog before… but we seriously have an obsession with them. I think we would have been happy to eat the oysters and nothing else if we could have had 3 dozen of them! These were the perfect bite, but sadly just one bite each.

A few sips of wine and a little chatter later the next trio of dishes arrived. These would be the appetizers. First was the Beef, Rice Noodle, Herb, Pickled Carrot, Cucumber and Shallot Salad, seriously spicy and delicious. There is something so refreshing about this kind of salad!

Kingfish salad.jpgIn this trio we also had Crispy Tofu with Mushrooms, Wombok, Bamboo, Green Onion and Masterstock Duck curry.jpgand Twice Cooked Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind and Coconut Relish. Both of these were completely amazing. The lamb ribs, well the meat just fell off the bone and then the tofu dish was unbelievably delicious. J. even enjoyed the tofu.

I was getting full, really full by this stage and the main dishes were still to come! I thought they would be small but they were huge and this trio had my favorite dish from this restaurant in it so I had to find room to eat!

The final trio… could we do it??

First was the Raw Kingfish, Green Tomato, Asian Celery, Green Chilli and Coriander Salad, light and perfectly cooked… we managed to squeeze all of this in. J. was a trooper and pushed through the pain. Also in the trio was a Duck Red Curry with Pineapple and Sweet Potato. This was a creamy, spicy curry with just the right hint of sweetness. If I hadn’t already had 7 other dishes I could have dived into this!

Pork Belly Perfection.jpgThe last dish was the dish that I come to Red Spice Road for… Pork Belly with Apple Slaw, Chilli Caramel and Pandan Cream.jpgBlack Vinegar. What do I have to say really… the name says it all. Crispy pork belly with chilli and vinegar – PERFECTION!

We were full… 9 dishes of food… I know it was a tasting menu but those servings were not small… And then there was still the dessert. I didn’t know if we could do it but the waiter promised us it was light and refreshing…Pandan Cream with Puffed Wild Rice, Peanut Praline and Coconut. Well, the waiter was right. It was fresh, light and delicious. The best thing to finish off our feast.

It was a long meal… 3 hours. It was a delicious meal and it was a big meal! We were both so impressed and happy with our dinner. We didn’t really need to eat for a few days after but of course we were on holidays so that didn’t happen.

So if you ever find yourself wandering around Melbourne’s laneways definitely check out Red Spice Road!

BBQ Lamb.jpgA few weeks before we jetted off to Australia, J and I did our own version of marinated grilled lamb. It was delicious, I was pretty happy with it. However, we also requested for our trip home that my Dad make us his herb & garlic barbeque lamb. Even though ours was good it didn’t come close to what his is like.

That first Sunday we were home Dad whipped this up to go with our Wombok Salad.

First thing first. You need to be able to get a de-boned butterflied leg of lamb. If your local supermarket does that for you great! Otherwise you might need to find a specialty butcher shop (not something we have a lot of here in AZ). This recipe uses a 2kg piece of lamb.

In a bowl 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly, 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard, 3/4 cup dry white wine and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaves. Mix this together well. Then, in a shallow dish lie the lamb out as flat as you can and pour the marinade over the top. Cover this and then you refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours… I always like to do this overnight.

Dad cooks his on the BBQ, and I think this is why his tasted better than ours, which we cooked inside on a grill pan… The BBQ just makes everything taste better.

After marinating for a few hours/nights, remove the lamb from the marinade. You can use the marinade as a sauce later so put it into a shallow pan and set aside. Place the lamb flat on the pre-heated BBQ over low heat, sprinkle with salt – we use around 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the top of the lamb with foil if you aren’t cooking it in a covered BBQ.

Cook for 15 minutes and then turn and cook for another 15. You can cook more or less depending on how you like your lamb cooked. This comes out a medium – medium rare. After the 30 minutes cooking time brush the lamb all over with mint jelly. Cook for another 3 minutes on each side. This should get the lamb nice and brown with a thin crust. Remove from the BBQ and rest.

Meanwhile, inside… add ¼ cup of chicken stock to the leftover marinade and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 mins. Slice the lamb and then drizzle the sauce over the top.

Now I am sure it is obvious how much we love this. I won’t go on and on and on… I will the photos and the recipe speak for themselves… But you do have to love some Aussie lamb on the BBQ!

Prosciutto Salad.jpgNow that I am working I am finding less time to blog so I am still filling you all in on the wonderful food we ate in Australia back in December and early January. I am hoping I will get into a better blogging routine once I am used to working again! In the mean time I wanted to share a great salad we ate Christmas Eve in Australia.

This salad is a meal on its own but we were lucky enough to have it with some delicious Moreton Bay Bugs. These are a type of crayfish found in Queensland. They are one of my favorite types of seafood and something we traditionally have at Christmas time. We eat these plain… they don’t need to be boiled in spices or anything just cooked simply, cut down the middle and this time we served them with a mango chili mayonnaise. (Recipe for the mayonnaise to follow later).

Back to the salad.

In a large (and I mean LARGE!) salad bowl put a mixture of salad leaves. You can choose any kind you like, we did a mix of my parents’ home grown lettuce. Drain around 270 grams of semi dried tomatoes, make sure you keep the oil though because this becomes part of the dressing. Add the tomatoes to the salad leaves.Moreton Bay Bugs.jpg

Next, slice up 1 bunch of asparagus into about 1 inch lengths. Blanch these for a few minutes, but make sure they are still crunchy. Set them aside to cool.

Add to the salad bowl ¼ cup of pine nuts and 1 thinly sliced red onion. Finally add in the cooled asparagus and toss all the ingredients together.

Now the thing that makes this salad more like an entire meal is the topping. On top of the tossed ingredients the deliciousness is layered. First, pan fry 6 large slices of prosciutto. Break these up when cooked and layer them over the salad. The shave large pieces of fresh parmesan cheese over the top of the prosciutto and salad. I like to use a vegetable peeler to get the big chunky shavings of parmesan. Now, I know some people don’t like parmesan so you could use pecorino or even a mild Mango Chilli Mayonnaise.jpgcheese like swiss over the top.

The final part of this salad is the dressing, quite possibly the simplest dressing ever. In a bottle mix the drained oil from the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Shake this well and then drizzle over the salad.

Serve and eat… It is such a delicious, hearty salad and I could eat it as a meal all by itself. The bugs were just an awesomely delicious bonus. The saltiness of the prosciutto and cheese with the crunchiness of the pine nuts is so yummy! The bugs dipped in the mayonnaise on the side was a perfect warm summer’s day lunch!

Wombok Salad.jpgI am a big fan of salad during the summer. When we were home in Australia Mum brought out some of my favorites. The one I want to share today was made the first Sunday we were home and some friends were coming up from Brisbane for lunch.

This is what I refer to as a Wombok Salad but it is probably more accurately called, Oriental Fried Noodle Salad . Sometimes I add roast chicken or pork to it but this day we had it as an accompaniment to Dad’s grilled lamb.

Now be careful… this is so easy you might just get it wrong!

Finely slice half of one large Wombok (or Chinese cabbage) until it is just above the base. The leaves around the base can get quite thick and bitter so I use a little but not all of that thicker part. Put all of this into a large salad bowl.

Then put 100 grams slivered almonds into a fry pan and gently brown them. I was kidding about the whole be careful because it’s so simple but the number of times I have got distracted and burnt my almonds is unbelievable. When browned just take these off the heat and let them cool.

Meanwhile, chop up 6 green onions (spring onions), these don’t have to be too fine but don’t do giant chunks either. I usually cut them around ¼ of an inch long. When cut throw these into the salad bowl with the wombok.

Next up is to make the dressing. In a bottle put ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and ½ a cup of olive oil. Close the bottle and shake furiously!

Just before you are ready to serve throw in 1 small packet of fried noodles, the almonds and then pour the dressing over the top. Gently mix everything together and it is ready to serve.

I love this salad… It is one J likes too which is always good. I could eat this without anything else for lunch anytime. It was great however with Dad’s lamb… so delicious. This was just the start of the feast my parents put on for us when we were home!

P.S. Check out the salad bowl we used in the photo… very cool!