Friday, April 20, 2018

Another year has flown by!

Ever since our Japanese cooking class in Kyoto two years
ago, teriyaki tofu has been a weeknight favourite

Oh my goodness. I've been keeping a spreadsheet recording our household's meals for nine years this week. It's always a fun exercise to analyse what we ate, though each year it reminds me that I should probably try to be more experimental and creative ...

What did we eat most between April 2017 and April 2018?

Potato, leek, bacon and bean soup (19 times)
BLTs (sandwiches or wraps) (11 times)
Deconstructed samosas (9 times)
Potato salad (7 times)
Teriyaki tofu (6 times)
Chinese dumplings (6 times)
... and all sorts of other stuff, just not so frequently.

My new food year resolution is to try some new Middle Eastern and Asian recipes ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wellington (Welly to its friends)

We're spending a few days in Wellington before heading back to Canberra. The constant earthquake risk notwithstanding, it's a great city! Here are a few pics from our visit.

Brekkie at Caffe Mode: mushrooms, haloumi and basil
on sourdough. YUM

Our first ever visit to a cat cafe! Making new friends

Malaysian street food at the Wellington Night Market

Lovely exhibition on the Topp Twins at the National Library of NZ

They offer four levels of spiciness at Curry Heaven: mild,
medium, Kiwi hot and Indian hot. We're glad we chose Kiwi hot!

Wellington is a very walkable city ;-)

I know, I know. Most of our holiday pics are of food. In my defence, this is a food blog. My obsession with food is well documented! See you next time, wonderful Welly.

Friday, April 13, 2018

North Island wanderings

For the past two weeks Andrew and I have been holidaying in New Zealand. Although I've lived in Australia for over 28 years I grew up in NZ so we come back to catch up with family every couple of years. This time we have travelled around the lower half of the North Island, visiting several towns to combine visits to friends and family with tourism activities. A smattering of our adventures ...

A tour, on modified golf carts, down the Forgotten World Highway
near Taumarunui

A Malaysian feast at Madam Woo in Hamilton

The Classics Museum, also in Hamilton

A night at the elegant Chateau Tongariro

Snow! Near Waiouru

Feijoas, kindly collected by my intrepid niece Sophie

... and a return visit to a favourite B&B, the Old Manse in Martinborough

We're spending our final three days in New Zealand in Wellington. More photos may be forthcoming ...

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wattalapam (a Sri Lankan baked custard)

This weekend our friends are out of town and we're feeding their chickens. Today we collected four eggs so I brainstormed eggy desserts. This one is an old favourite. I first posted this recipe over seven years ago and it quickly became the most frequently visited page on the blog. Guess wattalapam is something a lot of people search for ...

Wattalapam is a Sri Lankan dessert, a little reminiscent of a spicy, coconut-based crème brulée. I've experimented a bit since obtaining the recipe, significantly reducing the quantity of sugar. I like the not-so-sweet version better, but you could double or triple the sugar if you like.

15 to 20 g dark palm sugar (jaggery), grated
125 ml coconut cream
2 eggs
ground cardamom
6 cashews, roasted and halved

Dissolve jaggery in warm coconut cream. Whisk eggs and mix with the coconut cream, jaggery and cardamom. Pour the mixture into two ramekins, top with cashews and bake in a water bath for 30 to 40 minutes at 175 degrees C. The wattalapam should be firm; try not to overcook or you'll get bubbles in the mixture. Serves two.

If you, like me, are a fan of cardamom you may also like to make firni (a spicy rice pudding), coffee and cardamom ice cream, or besan laddu (chickpea flour fudge). Mmmmmm!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mmmmm ... nougat!

Recently a former colleague, Zefan, got married. He and his new wife Lei handed out celebratory bags of home made nougat, and it was delicious! I couldn't resist asking for the recipe. I'd been tempted to try making nougat before but had always felt intimidated by the complexity of the recipes found. Mentions of egg whites and glucose syrup and candy thermometers and 'small crack stage' made me wary. So I was surprised and delighted when Zefan and Lei's recipe involved none of these things. They kindly translated the recipe from Chinese for me and this morning I made a test batch.

35 grams unsalted butter
160 grams marshmallows
100 grams full cream milk powder
150 grams nuts, cooked (and/or dried fruit, as preferred; I used pistachios)
non-stick pan
silicone pan slice

Melt the butter in the pan over low heat and spread the butter all over the pan. Add marshmallows and stir with silicone slice, keeping heat low. When the marshmallows are almost melted, stir the milk powder through and mix thoroughly. Add the nuts and/or fruit and mix again. Pour into moulds (I used a silicone baking dish) and cool in the fridge. Cut when cold. You could wrap pieces in edible rice paper to make them easier to handle.

A couple of extra tips from Zefan and Lei:
– You can vary the softness of the nougat by using more butter (for a softer consistency) or more milk powder (for a harder consistency).
– Extra flavourings such as cocoa powder, coffee powder or matcha (green tea powder) may be added at the same time as the milk powder.

Melting marshmallows is squishy fun

As you can probably guess from all the mentions of 'non-stick' and 'silicone', above, the mixture quickly becomes very sticky when you add the milk powder. I'm tempted to try making it using a microwave one day, rather than a stove. Will blog about it if I do ...

This recipe is less sweet than many commercial nougats, which is nice. Thank you, Zefan and Lei, and congratulations!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lunch @ Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery

Andrew and I spent the weekend in Jindabyne, NSW, where we walked in the Snowy Mountains (not so snowy at this time of year), ate at some old favourite and new favourite restaurants, and read lots of books. Bliss. After a bush walk in Kosciuszko National Park on Saturday, we popped in to the Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery for some schnapps tastings and lunch.

We both ate:

Pulled pork on ciabatta bun with apple pomegranate
slaw, homegrown horseradish aioli and wedges

I also tried:

Fresh organic raspberry soda

and of course no trip to a distillery would be complete without buying a couple of bottles to take away:


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

One night in Melbourne and the world's your oyster ...

Last week I spent 48 hours in Melbourne as I had to attend a training course. The course took up a full day but I allowed an extra day to explore the city. Unsurprisingly, most of my photos feature delicious food!

Egg tarts from Maxim's in Chinatown (I crave these things between visits)

Vegetarian dumplings and spring rolls, also in Chinatown

Dinner at Chocolate Buddha in Federation Square:

Agedashi tofu

Miso buta

Green tea brûlée (my recipe is here if you want to try making it yourself)

Oh, and a few other interesting things ...

The most expensive coffee in the world?! $6.20 for a mug
of soy flat white, at Caffe Duomo in the Block Arcade

Guess I was paying for the ambience. The Block Arcade is sorta cute!

Friday, March 02, 2018

Friday night treat ... tomato fondue

Back in the 1970s, my parents used to go to fondue parties. They would come home with fabulous tales of meaty fondues, cheesy fondues, chocolatey fondues ... sadly fondue is not so fashionable these days, but I still like to make this one, from time to time. It's fun!

150 ml white wine
420 g can of tomato soup
150 g grated cheese
2 eggs, beaten
freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together, and stir over low heat (not boiling) until hot and well combined. Put into serving pot, over low flame if possible. To serve, use long-handled forks to dip cubes of French bread into the fondue.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When life gives you pumpkins... bake pumpkin bread!

OK, so life hasn't exactly given me pumpkins just yet. I bought the pumpkin used for today's pumpkin bread from my favourite organic shop Choku Bai Jo. But the pumpkin plants in my garden are blooming and I'm crossing all fingers and toes they'll produce fruit before autumn sets in this year ...

0.25 cup olive oil
2 eggs
0.5 teaspoon vanilla essence
1.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 cup chopped nuts or pepitas (optional)
2 cups pumpkin, chopped and microwaved (or steamed) until soft

Beat oil, eggs and vanilla together. Add to sifted dry ingredients, nuts and mashed pumpkin. Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 to 1.5 hours in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees Celsius).

Slather on some butter for a delicious yet nutritious weekday lunch.

Today I used pepitas rather than nuts

Friday, February 23, 2018

Aloo tama (potatoes with black-eyed beans)

We have a lovely Nepalese restaurant near our place called the Hungry Buddha. I've eaten there several times (and blogged about it here) and by booking online I ended up on their email list. While not usually a fan of mailing lists (who needs more brain clutter?) I quite like the messages from the Hungry Buddha. They provide interesting facts about Nepal ... and recipes! Tonight we ate Aloo Tama, a spicy dal with potatoes. I confess I used red lentils rather than black-eyed beans, as that's what I had on hand, but otherwise followed the recipe. Here it is! The quantities of ingredients shown made enough for three, two-person meals. One for tonight and two more to stock the freezer. Delicious. Serve with rice or roti.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

CNY dinner @ the Lanterne Rooms

The Lanterne Rooms is my favourite restaurant. In the WORLD. We've been going there, once or twice a year, as a couple or with friends or colleagues, for about ten years. The food, the decor and the service are all sublime. Yesterday I invited Andrew to join me for a Chinese New Year feast, to celebrate my recent transition from employment to self-employment (I'll write more about that here when I've had a chance to catch my breath!)

The tasting menu consisted of seven small courses followed by dessert. All were magnificent.

The menu

Fresh XO scallops, mango salsa, sesame leaves

Tom Yum infused prawns, rockmelon and apple

Tofu and eggplant with lemongrass-infused soy broth

Char Siu Bao: Chinese-style roast pork with pickled cabbage

Fish of the day with burnt butter and pickled mustard greens
dressing, plus slow-cooked Wagyu beef 'Kampung style'

(Karin's dessert) Lime and coconut posset, mandarin semifreddo, rose praline

(Andrew's dessert) Warm banana cake, pistachio crumbs, smoked date ice cream

Chinese New Year lasts a whole week. We can thoroughly recommend celebrating it at the Lanterne Rooms!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Life with Bob

'Sometimes you fall so much in love with a book that you simply have to tell everyone, to spread the love and to explain the state you're in.'
(page 135, My Life with Bob)

I read this book by accident. There are so many books I want to read, and so little time, that most of my reading is carefully planned: I hear about a book, download a sample to my Kindle, (eventually) read the sample, either borrow or purchase the book (assuming I like it) and discard the sample. At this moment, I have over 30 unread books on my Kindle, over (ahem) 100 unread samples, and over 20 books on order at our fabulous local library. So when I saw this book sitting on a shelf at said library I wasn't really looking for extra reading material! What attracted me to it? Perhaps the quirky title. Perhaps the intriguing premise. Unlike Pamela Paul I've never kept a record of books read. But what if I had? What would it say about my journey through life?

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues is a meta-book. A book about a book about books. (Does that make it a meta-meta-book?) And it is wonderful. Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and, unsurprisingly, a prolific reader. My Life with Bob is an autobiographical romp through her life, from a book-loving and sport-hating childhood (something I understood utterly), through travels in France and Asia, bad relationships and good, disappointments, losses and triumphs. It reminded me of books I'd not been allowed to read (Roald Dahl's Switch Bitch, a fabulous collection of short stories, was restricted to 'seniors' at my high school library), books others had recommended but that I'd hated (The Slap  ugh!), and books read over and over and over. It also mentioned a bunch of books set in Asia I hadn't heard of but now want to read, so my library list and Kindle samples collection have become even longer lately.

Pamela Paul and I inhabit different worlds yet I found her story immensely relatable. It was a joy to read this book. Thank you, Ms Paul!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Purple rice pudding

We've invited a friend to dinner tonight and I've made a Thai-themed feast: a spicy Thai salmon salad and some purple rice pudding. While the rice is called 'black' when you buy it, it turns a lovely purple colour when cooked.

1 cup glutinous black rice
800 ml water
piece of pandan leaf
1 tbsp palm sugar
coconut milk
small pinch of salt

Wash the rice and place in a saucepan. Add the water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently with the pandan leaf, covered, for 40 to 60 minutes. Stir occasionally, and more frequently as the mixture thickens. After about 30 minutes, start testing for softness. Add extra water if necessary. When the rice is pleasantly soft (it will still be a little chewy) add the sugar and continue cooking for about five minutes. Remove the pandan leaf, pour into small bowls and leave to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with lightly salted coconut milk, or ice cream. Slivers of fresh coconut add flavour and texture.

Notes: glutinous black rice, pandan leaves and palm sugar are available from many Southeast Asian grocers. This freezes well so can be a fun thing to take to work for lunch. Despite the name, glutinous rice does not contain gluten.

Tonight's salad. I couldn't find fresh lychees so used
mango instead. Pretty sure our guest will approve!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thai green eggplant curry

It's a ferociously hot day in Canberra so, perhaps counter-intuitively, I've made a curry. The quantity here is enough for the two of us for dinner tonight, plus two more weeknight meals (for the freezer).

1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tin (560 ml) coconut cream
20 Thai eggplant, quartered
hot red chillies, chopped (quantity to taste)
5 kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces
20 leaves Thai basil
3 to 5 tablespoons fish sauce

Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut cream until boiling. Mix in the curry paste and stir for a minute. Slowly add the rest of the coconut cream, stirring continuously for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add a cup of water, then the lime leaves and fish sauce. When it returns to the boil, add the eggplant. Turn down heat when eggplant is cooked. Taste, adding more fish sauce if necessary. Remove from heat and mix in the Thai basil and chilli. Serve over rice.

All of the ingredients above can be obtained from Southeast Asian grocery stores. Happily, I used kaffir lime leaves from my own garden ;-)

Thai eggplant are about the size and shape
of golf balls, and range from white to green

The finished product. Yum!