Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

KimchiFriedRice3I think everyone has certain rules or considerations before people can be considered as friends.  There are obvious considerations such as not being a complete tool or tosser in order to be looked upon as a friend… unless you like those qualities in people.  Some people prefer to limit their friendships with folks who have like-minded religious or political beliefs.  Ok, cool.  That’s fine.  I have certain rules and guidelines as well.  I can’t be friends with people who don’t like to suck the brains and guts out of shrimp heads when eating whole shrimp, or are grossed out when I do.  For those of you who don’t do that, you don’t know what you’re missing.  I also can’t be friends with people who refuse to try kimchi.  It’s cool if you don’t like it but as long as you’ve tried it.  But to flat out say that you won’t even taste it… that’s the culinary equivalent of being a narrow-minded bigot if you ask me.

I kid, I kid.

I’m not that serious, but you can see the point I’m getting at.  I often ask people who refuse to eat or try kimchi why they won’t taste it.  I get responses such as, “Isn’t it fermented?  Meaning that it’s rotten cabbage?”  Why yes.  Yes it is.  I often follow that up with counter questions of my own.  “Do you like cheese?  Oh you do?  Well you realize that’s rotten milk, right?”  “Do you like wine?  Oh you do!?  You realize that’s rotten grape juice, right?”  “Do you like beer?  Who am I kidding… of course you do!  You realize that’s rotten barley juice, right?”  And finally, “do you like sauerkraut?  Perhaps with your Rueben sandwich or with your hotdogs and brats?  Oh you do?  Well what do you know… kimchi is pretty much the exact same thing except spicier.”  Free your minds, people.KimchiFriedRice1

I’ve seen kimchi fried rice on menus in Korean restaurants before but I’ve never taken the plunge in ordering it.  I’ve of course had my fair share of kimchi and would be very happy eating it with plain rice.  Cold kimchi and hot rice is a typical lunch in Korea for the working class and it’s more than enough to make me happy.  But I started thinking about other uses for the kimchi I had bought at the local Asian store and decided to scour the internet for a kimchi friend rice recipe. One of my favorite accompaniments for kimchi is barbecue and I recently made a rack of ribs (that’s another post for another time) that went perfect with it.  The sweetness of the barbecue sauce with the richness of the fatty ribs with white rice and a side of cold spicy/sour/acidic kimchi hits a lot of flavor combinations that would make any palette dance.  But I wanted to try something different and dug up a kimchi friend rice recipe that I made some tweaks to form my own

Ingredients

-Previously cooked rice.  Preferably cooked 1-2 days before.  Enough for 3 servings or so.

-1 carrot

-Several shiitake mushrooms

-3-4 green onions (spring onions)

-Several garlic cloves (or less if you prefer)

-1 cup of kimchi

-Vegetable cooking oil

-1 egg per serving

-Salt and pepper

KimchiFriedRice2Start by heating cooking oil in a wok or large pan.  As the oil gets hot, julienne cut the carrot, chop up the shiitake mushrooms, chop up the green onions (save some for garnish), and mince the garlic.  Toss the julienned carrot, chopped up shiitake mushrooms/green onion, and minced garlic and let the flavors combine and soften.

As it’s softening, cut up the kimchi in a bowl using kitchen shears which would be a perfect tool.  The reason you’re cutting kimchi in a bowl is because if you do it on a cutting board, it will stain it and perhaps even leave a lingering smell.

Add the cut up kimchi to the wok and mix it in to incorporate it with the rest of the vegetables.  Add in the rice, and break up the clumps with the back of the spoon so that individual grains can pick up the sauce brought about from the kimchi and vegetable mixture.  It should have a light red tint.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Before plating, fry a sunny side up egg on a separate pan.  Plate the fried rice, sprinkle some of the remaining chopped up green onion, and land the sunny side up fried egg on top.  Enjoy with Korean barbecue, or your own barbecue concoction such as ribs, beef brisket, or even pulled pork.  I’d put this up against any other version of friend rice around Asia as well (Chinese, Filipino, Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, etc.).

Plus for those out there who have yet to try kimchi, this is a great way to get an initial taste before eating it as an accompanying side dish as it is meant to be.

20131023-151549.jpgSo I’m scanning yahoo the other day and came across this really easy Mexican dessert recipe.  I took a quick look at the list of ingredients and saw that there was cheese involved with the dessert which sounded interesting… plus one of the comments on the bottom mentioned that the consistency/texture is similar to flan, but with nowhere near the amount of calories which really started to get my attention.
Talk about one of the more simple recipes out there!  I’ve included the info below:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
5 ounces of Mexican/Latin cheese (I went with a mixture of cojita cheese and queso fresco which you can find in any latin grocery store)
 Butter to spread on the baking dish20131023-151534.jpg
I mixed the eggs, milk, sugar, and cojita cheese/queso fresco in a blender but I also added some cayenne pepper just to give it a little heat with the sweet of the sugar and the saltiness of the cheese.  I then preheated the oven to 350F andrubbed the butter along the bottom and sides/corners of a square glass pyrex dish.
Threw in the blended mixture and placed it in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top was golden brown.  Let it stand to cool then I threw it in the fridge with a cover.
20131023-151525.jpgAfter a few hours, I had some for dessert that night and it really was like flan but a little bit more “chunky” because of thecojita cheese.  I thought it tasted great but I might be a little bias!  If you think you’d like a cheesy kind of flan, then give it a try.  The cayenne gave it a nice kick but I would enjoy it without the pepper as well.  I even put some in a bowl and threw on some chocolate syrup which gave it a nice chocolate flavor as well.
Enjoy!

Time to eatBeing the foodie in our office has lead to me bringing in cakes for birthdays. Fortunately we have a staff of 6 so it doesn’t happen too often. Earlier in the year I made a Mum’s Sticky Chocolate cake for everyone which was a huge success. This time around I gave the birthday girl a few choices and she went with the Triple Chocolate Marble Mud Cake… well really, who wouldn’t!?

Step 1

The only problem… I had never made it before! How difficult could it be.

In a small pan I combined 250 grams of chopped, unsalted butter, 2 cups of caster sugar, and 1 cup of hot water. I mixed this until it was all melted and combined. Then I just set this aside to cool for 15 minutes and got on with the rest of the recipe.

Base mixture

While it was cooling I melted 150 grams of white chocolate in a bowl and in another bowl I melted 150 grams of dark chocolate. I used 70% dark so that it wasn’t too sweet. There is so much sugar in this recipe already I didn’t think I need extra in the chocolate. I then set these aside.

Going back to my sugar, butter and water mixture I whisked in 1 cup of plain flour, 1 1/2 cups of self raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla. I added 2 eggs that I had already lightly beaten and whisked everything together. Now the tricky part… I had to divide the mixture into 2 equal parts, putting them in separate bowls. After a bit of back and forth, I think I got pretty close.

Two mixtures

To the halved mixture I added the melted white chocolate to one and the melted dark chocolate to the other. I just quickly mixed the chocolate into each mixture and the cake was ready to assemble.

Layering

In my large cake tin I spooned a spoonful of the white mixture in one corner and then next to it a spoonful of the dark mixture. It was easy just alternating between the two, layering them on top of eachother, until the mixtures were completely gone.

This went into a preheated 150C degree over for 1 3/4 hours. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, well relatively easy. I then just sat back with a glass of wine and waited for it to cook.

Cream and chocolate - Copy

When I opened the oven I discovered it may not have been as easy as I thought. The middle of the cake had sunk! Oh well, that was what the ganache was for… to fill up the large crater in the cake.

Ganache

I turned it out and let it cool. Of course as it cooled the center dropped more… What could I do? More room ganache is what I say!

When it was cool and ready to coat in ganache, I quickly combined in my double boiler 300 grams of milk chocolate and 3/4 cup of thickened cream. I slowly melted these together over a low simmering pot of water. I stirred this continuously until the chocolate had completely melted and was combined with the cream.

I took it off the heat and set it aside. As I was preparing the cake I realized that the square cake didn’t quite fit in my round Sunken but deliciouscake carrier… being the ideas woman I am, I angled off the corners to make a shape that would fit in the container… Later people in the office commented on how cool it looked – I didn’t tell them it was purely to get it to fit, not make it look pretty.

The ditch

My cake now fit in the container, it was time to ganache it! I poured my ganache onto the cake and filled up the huge crater in the center. I then smoothed it down and around the edges until it was completely covered. It looked great! You couldn’t even tell that the cake looked like it had been hit by a meteor. A few quick decorations with fresh strawberries and I was done!

I held my breath when we cut it in the office, praying that it was actually marbled and that the puddle of ganache wouldn’t run off the cake like a waterfall. Luckily it didn’t!

Iced

The best news is that everyone in the office, including the birthday girl loved it. The cake is moist, dense and incredibly rich (especially the parts in the center with an inch of ganache on top). The cake was an afternoon snack for everyone for the rest of the week. I even managed to sneak J. home a slice. He really liked it, he thinks the texture is like a soft, dense cookie.

For a first attempt at this recipe I think I did well. It wasn’t as great as my mum’s but I rarely make her recipes as well as she does. It was a hit and it was delicious, I couldn’t really ask for more but I think I will need a little more practice to be able to make it as easily and as well as I make my Mum’s Sticky Chocolate.

Close up of marbling

Plum & Lime Jam.jpgWalking through one of our local supermarkets recently I had a flash back to childhood when I saw mountains of delicious red plums on sale… not just for sale but on sale for a ridiculously low price! J. watched with wide eyes as I kept adding more and more plums to my bag! I explained to him that mum used to make plum jam at home and nothing tastes quite as delicious as homemade jam.

The plums weren’t completely ripe so I decided to wait until the weekend to make my jam. During the week I kept trying to think of another ingredient I could put with the plums to make it a little more interesting and possibly even more delicious. It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was getting prepared to start cooking that I looked down and saw some limes… Plum and lime jam – of course!

My mum’s recipe is 1:1 ratio of fruit and sugar… delicious, yes but high in sugar so I thought I would play with it a bit. I used 4 pounds of red plums that I cut in half and took out the seed. I didn’t cut them smaller because I wanted my jam to have some chunks of fruit in it. Plums and Sugar.jpg

My 4 pounds of halved plums went into a large. I had tasted the plums and they were really quite sweet so I decided to just add a single cup of sugar to the pot. I thought I could always add more later if it wasn’t sweet enough, but in the end I didn’t need to.

I put this pot onto the stove on a medium heat to start the stewing process. I added 1/2 cup of lime juice to the pot and stirred everything together. How easy is that! I just left everything to bubble away while I cooked some other things (fresh bread, triple chocolate marble mudcake – posts to come soon on those!)

Bubbling away.jpgI occasionally stirred the mixture to make sure it wasn’t sticking and also tasted it a couple of times to see if it was too tangy and needed more sugar. Once it was the consistency I wanted – jammy! I turned off the heat and let it cool. While it was cooling I sterilized a few jars.

I loved how this turned out, it was both sweet and tangy. The lime really gave the plums a zesty lift and made sure that the jam wasn’t just completely sweet. J. tried it out on some of the bread I had just baked and really enjoyed it. He like that it was tangy and tasted so purely of plum!

I really enjoyed making this. I haven’t ever made jam by myself and have only watched my mum do it when I was really young. I really only remember licking the spoon. For a first time effort I think I did well. We have a large supply of plum and lime jam now so I won’t need to make any for a while. I might even give some away as edible gifts… always a yummy present. It might make a great Christmas gift in a few months since it is such a fabulously festive color.

Now I just need to think of some other interesting jam combinations!

Tortino Pasta.jpgMy final night in Washington DC, I took a gamble and went to Founding Farmers, hoping that being by myself I could get a seat. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. They were booked out and there was also a line out the door. Never mind, I had a back up.

On my walks around the neighborhood near my hotel I had spotted a small, Italian trattoria that intrigued me. Tucked into the basement of a brownstone, in amongst residences, Tortino just looked like the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Inviting, small and fingers crossed, delicious!

I took a seat at the bar to eat and also because it was still happy hour, I ordered myself a bellini (prosecco with peach puree). The bellini was delicious and I had to make sure I didn’t drink in a few seconds.

I chatted with the bartender about football (NFL… GO BEARS!) for a while and then asked him to recommend a pasta dish Bellini.jpgfor me. After making sure I liked seafood he suggested the pasta special. Handmade spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, mussels, and broccoli in a garlic butter sauce! I went with his recommendation!

While waiting for my food to arrive I sipped on a second bellini – I couldn’t help it, they were just too delicious!

My pasta arrived! A large bowl filled with spaghetti and a surprisingly huge amount of mussels. The pasta was good, al dente, just how I like it and how it should be. The mussels were perfectly cooked and smothered in the garlic butter sauce. The crusty bread was great dipped in the sauce. And even though I am not a big broccoli fan, I ate every bite.

This was a lovely, intimate little restaurant – it would be perfect for a date night. The food was good Italian comfort food and they had lovely, friendly staff who chatted to me and kept me company at the bar. Oh, and the bellinis were yummy.

I was happy with my random choice, even though it wasn’t Founding Farmers. I will go back to this restaurant next time I am in DC and will also hopefully make it into Founding Farmers too!

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.

Panfried Scallops with Pomegranate Glaze.jpgI’m back from DC and still have more restaurants to blog about but I thought I would go back to some home cooking for an entry to keep things varied. As I mentioned last week, I made J. a three course meal as payment for a bet we had made. Although I started with dessert in my blog last week, I thought I would share the delicious first course we started our meal with.

J. had requested scallops… he hadn’t said anything about how he wanted them cooked or with what… just scallops. This left it open for me to try something new and a little different to how we would normally eat them. After looking through recipes and more recipes, I was inspire to mesh together a half dozen ideas to create my own Frankenstein of a dish. I shall call it “Pan-fried Scallops and Baby Spinach with Spiced Pomegranate Glaze.”

Pmegranate Glaze.jpg

I started on the glaze early so I could set it aside and concentrate on the main course but it was relatively quick and easy. In a small pan I combined 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (use 100% juice for best flavor), 1 tablespoon of honey, a pinch or dried thyme, cinnamon and red chili flakes. I mixed this together and placed it on a medium heat to bring to a simmer.

While this was heating up in a cup I mixed together 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. When the pomegranate mixture was boiling I poured in the lime mixture, stirring it in quickly. I then just left this to simmer for 15 minutes until it had reduced and become syrupy. Once syrupy I set it aside… that’s the hard part of this recipe done!

Scallops.jpg

A few minutes before we were ready to eat I cooked up the rest of the course.

I lightly oiled a pan and brought it up to heat. When the pan was nice and hot I added 6 large fresh scallops. I had seasoned these lightly with some freshly ground black pepper. I only cooked these for about 90 seconds on each side before removing them from the pan.

Into that same pan I put around 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach. As these cooked down I seasoned with salt and pepper. When the spinach was slightly wilted I turned off the heat and put together the dish.

Spinach in a small pile with the scallops on top and the glaze drizzled over the top… done!Baby Spinach.jpg

I was surprised by how delicious this was. I love scallops and could eat a plate of them with nothing else but salt and pepper. The pomegranate glaze really brought out the sweetness in the seafood which was amazing. This really was the perfect way to start the meal. Light, delicious and different. J. enjoyed them thoroughly which I guess is the most important thing but the fact that I loved the dish as well just makes it even better!

Passionfruit Choc Brownies.jpgOver the weekend we ran out of sweets. We have been trying to cut back on sweets, which means I have curbed my baking a little but we still like to have one small thing after dinner each night as a treat. So on Saturday when we discovered all our treats had been eaten, I know I had to bake.

I gave J. a few things to choose from and he settled on Passionfruit Choc Brownies. Like every normal person we love chocolate and we are both crazy about passionfruit, even though you can’t get fresh ones here in Arizona.

(I am trying to grow my own vine though…)

Luckily I still have some of the passionfruit nectar in a tin left from our last supply run to Australia!

I must apologize for the lack of step-by-step photos… but it is so easy, the photos aren’t really necessary.

Out of the oven.jpg

First up, I preheated the oven to 180C (356F) and greased my square baking tin. I roughly broke up125 grams of 70% dark chocolate and chopped up 125 grams of unsalted butter, putting them into a heatproof bowl. Over a saucepan of simmering water, I melted the butter and chocolate until combined.

Once completely melted I took it off the heat and added 150 grams of light brown sugar, stirring until the sugar is incorporated. To this mixture I added 2 medium eggs and 1 additional egg yolk… (2 whites, 3 yolks). I mixed all of this together before sifting in 40 grams of self-raising flour, 40 grams of cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. It is best to use a really high quality cocoa powder for this so you get the best flavor in the brownie.

Ready to cut.jpg

When this was all combined I added 4 tablespoons of passionfruit nectar (including seeds) and mixed that in. I poured the mixture into the

tin and placed it on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

They smelt delicious when they came out of the oven but we were good and went to the gym, had dinner and then ate a brownie. I cut them up and J and I ate one with a glass of milk.The best way to tell that the brownies are done is to insert a skewer and it comes out with some dense crumbs left on the skewer but no gloopy, wet mixture.

The brownies have a great chocolate flavor with just a hint of the passionfruit. I would probably add more passionfruit nectar next time. However, they are yummy and delicious and not too sweet, just the right amount of sweetness, thanks to the dark chocolate.

This was the first time I have made them and I will be definitely making them again… J. really enjoys them too – a nice sweet treat after dinner!

Freshpasta.jpgI have a pretty great life and lifestyle. I am incredibly fortunate and really don’t have many things to complain about. But every now and then I am going to have a bad day, whether it be due to stress at work, homesickness or just general annoyances. I am going to get stressed, angry, sad, tired and I have the cheapest and most effective form of therapy to get me through those bad days…. PASTA MAKING!

The process is so familiar, repetitive and calming that by the end when I am more than likely sitting down to a giant bowl of delicious fresh pasta I am back to my regular happy self.

The recipe we use for the pasta is one that my mother gave me and it is slightly ridiculous. Promise not to laugh!! The measurements are very much open to interpretation. Going by feel is the best way to make sure it is just right…. This can take a little practice.

Well and eggs.jpg

Onto the kitchen counter measure out 1 pound (450 grams) of plain flour. Make a large well in the middle of the flour so that you can see your counter top. Add into the well 5 eggs (3 medium, 2 large). To this add 1 capful of olive oil (what size cap you ask? What cap? – these are all very good questions!) and ½ an eggshell of water. (which eggshell – the large or the medium? Another excellent question!)

I will answer these questions, as best I can, shortly.

With all the ingredients in the well, using a fork I gently start drawing the flour from the edges of the well into the center. This slowly starts to form the dough. The tricky part is not to break the well walls and end up with runny egg and flour all over your kitchen floor (Yes, I have done this before!).

Once it has started to form a ball I coat my hands in flour and doing the final mixing by hand. The trick is not to over mix/knead the dough and end up with tough pasta. Just mix until it is completely incorporated and is one solid ball. Then just wrap and set it aside for 30 minutes to rest.

While the dough is resting let me answer the questions from earlier. I generally use the cap of my olive oil bottle which is around 1 tablespoon of oil. You can always add a smaller amount and add more later if the dough is too dry. As for the eggshell full of water, I usually just use the most complete looking shell, it probably close to 1 tablespoon of water but again, use an eggshell and just add a little more if it is too dry. I both of these circumstances it is best to use smaller amounts and have to add more than add too much right at the start!

Dough.jpgThe dough has rested, now it is time to roll it out. I cut the ball into six pieces to make them more manageable. My parents recently bought us a new pasta maker since our previous one just randomly started chewing up the dough, when this was happening it wasn’t the most calming exercise. (I think it got bent being transported from Australia to Phoenix when we moved!).

However, with our new pasta maker things are going smoothly again. We run the each piece through the machine from the widest setting to the second last. I don’t want it too thin for making fettuccine, when I make ravioli or agnolotti it go for the thinnest setting. Once rolled through I set it aside to dry a little while I run the other pieces through.

Once I have my long pieces I run them quickly through the fettuccine attachment and twist them into little nests to dry. We usually will store at least ½ of the pasta in a cool dry place to use later but will always whip up a quick meal with some while it is still really fresh. By the time we are ready to cook I am feeling a lot better, covered in flour and with a mess of a kitchen to clean up but I am definitely happier!

We were lucky enough earlier in the summer to have some delicious cherry tomatoes growing in our garden. So while the pasta was cooking in some boiling water I cooked about 20 tomatoes in some olive oil and garlic, added some fresh basil and thyme (which at the start of summer I had growing in the garden). I only cooked them for a couple of minutes before adding the cooked pasta to the pan and mixing everything together. YUM!

So easy and delicious with the fresh pasta, plus you actually get to appreciate all the hard work the pasta was because you can really taste it with such a simple accompaniment. After a bowl of this I am definitely feeling better and though it probably takes about an hour from start to finish it’s a delicious and productive way of making me feel better!

PeaandBaconBone.jpgI thought we would start back with an oldie but a goody! Pea and ham soup used to be one of my favorite winter dishes growing up… who would love the delicious combination that is the salty, savory flavor we get from split peas, ham bones, onion, potato… oh you get the idea.

Back in the colder months (seems so long ago since we have been averaging over 100F for what seems like eternity), I thought I would whip up this delight for J. He had never actually tried this before and he has an irrational aversion to peas… peas of any kind! I don’t understand the terror and disgust he feels when I suggest anything that could come even close to a pea!Carrot & Potato.jpg

Somehow I convince him he would like this since I puree up all the veggies and dried split peas aren’t anything like green peas!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any ham bones and had to run the risk of using something I hadn’t tried before in bacon bones but I wasn’t too worried because it was bacon… bacon makes everything better! The night before I was going to cook this I soaked 500 grams of

Split Peas.jpggreen split peas in water. I just covered the peas with water and left them overnight.

The next day… I roughly chopped a large white onion, 4 large garlic cloves and 2 shallots. I softened these in some olive oil in our large soup pot. Once these had softened I added 3 diced potatoes, 3 chopped carrots and a bunch of celery. I recommend getting a large pot for this because it gets very full very fast!

I mixed all of those ingredients together and let them cook for a few minutes. While this was cooking away, I drained my The bones.jpgsoaked green split peas. Once I had got most of the water out of those I added them to the pot and mixed everything together. To this I added my ½ dozen large bacon bones and 1/2 cup of tomato paste.

I had tried to get some bones bits of meat still on them because I love getting those chunks when I am eating the soup.

I carefully mixed all of this together and then added 2 cups of chicken stock and then water until everything was just covered.  This just sat and bubbled away for 2 hours while we did whatever we did back then… we were probably watching football knowing how we usually spend our winters.

Tomato paste.jpg

When this had cooked for 2 hours I carefully removed all the bones, scraping off any meat that was still somehow clinging to the bones! With a stick blender I puréed everything together and it was ready!

We served up giant bowls of soup with some crusty bread and sat down to eat. J studied it carefully before tasting it slowly… then he took a second spoonful, and then another! Yay! I had him eating peas, even if it was mixed with bacon and puréed beyond recognition.

So even though it is over 100F here back home in Australia it is the perfect weather for something like this… and those of us lucky to be in summer will just have to keep for the colder weather… whenever that arrives!