Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Monday, January 09, 2017

Kelp noodle salad

I don't know Masa and Michael, the Canberra couple who blog at The Minimalist Vegan, personally. But I enjoy following their occasional blog posts, and appreciate the recipes they share! Today's lunch is leftovers from last night's dinner, their kelp noodle salad. Thank you ;-)


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Brekkie @ Penny University

The first time we ate at Penny University both Andrew and I ordered humongous croissants cooked French-toast style with lashings of mascarpone. They were delicious and picturesque, though I didn't blog about them as I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the sugar. I usually go for savoury rather than sweet breakfast foods and the giant croissant reminded me why ...

Penny University tends to be very crowded so we took advantage of January being Canberra's quietest month and went there for brekkie today.

He had:

Black barley porridge, slow cooked with spiced almond milk,
with nuts, seasonal fruit and a goat's cheese and maple panna cotta

and she had:

Smashed avocado and chèvre on toasted dark rye, with charred
corn and quinoa tabouleh, chilli oil and a poached egg

The coffee was good too. The menu has heaps of yummy-looking options and some fun puns. We'll have to brave the crowds again one day, methinks.

Penny University Coffee Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dinner @ The Hungry Buddha, Belconnen

Back in 2013 a visiting American friend introduced us to The Hungry Buddha Nepalese restaurant in Curtin, on the south side of Canberra. She's a vegetarian and had Googled for Canberra vego restaurants before leaving home! We enjoyed a lovely meal there, and I ended up on their email list as I'd booked online. Fast forward three years, and they've opened another branch in Belconnen. Andrew and I had dinner at the new place last night. Great food, cool décor and cheerful service.

For the entrée we shared:

Makkai fry (corn kernels sautéed in Nepali style with onion,
ginger, garlic and pepper timmur) and pakora (spiced mixed vegetables
in a chickpea batter, served with tamarind sauce)

and our main course was:

Bheda ko masu (boneless lamb cooked in traditional Nepali style 
with tomatoes, coriander, bay leaves and other spices) and
jogi tarkari (Nepali style mixed vegetable curry of cauliflower,
broccoli, carrot, zucchini, peas, potatoes and bamboo shoots)


The Hungry Buddha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Kahlúa and pecan ice cream (Happy New Year)

600 ml cream
0.5 tin (200 g) sweetened condensed milk
0.25 cup Kahlúa liqueur (or more or less, to taste)
100 g pecans (or other nuts if preferred)

Whip the cream till thick then mix in the condensed milk. Add the Kahlúa and pecans, combine well and freeze …

Makes about two litres.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Talkin' about an evolution

Well! What a year this has been. Don't get me started on the year's bizarre and sad politics. Syria. Brexit. Trump. WTF?

On a more personal level it has been another year of troughs and peaks. 2015 was characterised by health challenges and I'm grateful 2016 hasn't featured any hospital visits; this year has been more of an emotional roller coaster.

In January Japan stole our hearts

In February I learned my job was on the line

In March (in the midst of job insecurity) we decided to move house ...

In April we travelled on the Indian Pacific

In June we moved to a groovy new place

In July we went to Lady Elliot Island to celebrate my 100th birthday (in base seven, that is)

In September we explored Victoria

In November our garden bloomed!

In December I pondered stuff and standing desks and made salads

The biggest surprise this year, for me, has been discovering my absolute JOY in gardening. It's been wonderful to finally move to a house with garden beds and weeds and lawns and so much potential. I feel like it has rewired my brain ... from being someone whose life revolved around indoor activities (cooking, reading, housework) to someone who would rather be gardening or mowing or cycling. Where to from here, I wonder? From recipe blogger to garden blogger? There's still a steep learning curve but it's all good fun.

Happy New Year.

May 2017 be kinder and less precarious than 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Still searching for the knack

There's a cute video on YouTube called 'the knack', on how to tell if your kid will be an engineer. I'm not an engineer and don't exactly have 'the knack'! But practice makes perfect, right? For the past few weeks I've been trying to make Vietnamese rice paper rolls. All the previous attempts were far too un-photogenic to appear here. Delicious but weird looking.

100 g bean thread (or rice) vermicelli
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
fresh coriander [cilantro], chopped
about 10 mint leaves
Vietnamese rice paper sheets
sweet chilli sauce

Soak the vermicelli in boiling water for a few minutes then drain and put aside to cool. Chop the vermicelli (kitchen scissors work well) and combine with the cucumber, carrot, coriander and mint.

Dampen a tea towel with water and spread it out on a flat bench. Fill a large plate with water. One by one soak the rice paper sheets in the water (15 seconds seems about right) then place on the tea towel, put a handful of the vermicelli filling in the middle, roll up as neatly as possible and place on a wire rack for a few minutes. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

This quantity makes about ten rolls, depending how much filling you manage to get into each one. Enjoy ...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A yummy Christmas salad

My sister-in-law Anne is an excellent cook. Much as I enjoy cooking, and entertaining, I often feel inadequate next to her! She has kindly hosted the family Christmas gathering almost every year for the past decade. This year she planned a whole bunch of fabulous salads, pre-prepared as much as possible, then delegated the final touches to the guests. This is the salad I compiled, under instruction ...

Lettuce, avocado, mango, toasted walnuts, crispy bacon, and
a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, French mustard and cream

Monday, December 19, 2016

Standing up for standing up

Seven years ago I managed to score a standing desk at work. It wasn't easy – I’d expressed interest in having one quite a while earlier, but office politics intruded. In the end I inherited one from a colleague who was leaving. Why would I want to stand all day anyway?

In recent years there has been a lot of research indicating that sedentary behaviour (i.e. sitting) is bad for health. It seems that even if you get plenty of exercise outside of working hours, sitting all day increases the risk of early death. Apparently prolonged time sitting can adversely affect things like triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight. So it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to me.

There’s plenty of evidence out there that we should stand more and sit less (Google it if you don’t believe me) and the topic has also been featured in the mainstream press, e.g. the New York, the Huffington Post and Forbes. Some more intrepid souls than me have even rigged up treadmills under their standing desks, to combine standing with constant exercise. I took to my standing desk like the proverbial duck to water, though I know some people find them a bit weird at first.

Anyway, the thing about getting a standing desk – when most of your colleagues still sit all day – is that you need to maintain a cheery sense of humour as there are a few FAQs. For example:

– Don’t you get tired, standing all day? No. Realllly? No.
– Don’t your legs/feet ache? No. I keep several pairs of shoes at the office and alternate between them. I think this helps. Or you could get a rubber mat.
– Why would you want to stand all day? Rather than sharing my family’s horrible cardiovascular history with random strangers, I opt for sharing the research. I do work with science nerds, after all! I try to keep up to date with research on the topic so I can forward references if asked.
– Haven't you heard that standing gives you varicose veins? Well, yeah. But given a choice between varicose veins and heart disease I'd choose the veins any day. (BTW, I don't have varicose veins. It has been seven years so you'd think they would have shown up by now.)

Since getting a standing desk my blood sugar has returned to normal. Woo hooooo! On the fence about standing desks? I recommend giving one a go. They’re great.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Happy National Maple Syrup Day!

So, apparently it is National Maple Syrup Day! Seems a good excuse to repost a favourite maple-themed recipe.

A café we frequented in Sydney (alas, long gone) used to serve an addictively yummy granola. It was crunchy, nutty, and not excessively sweet, and I wondered if I could make something similar. Well ... can't claim it is the same, but this recipe (adapted from one received from a friend) is well worth a try:

6 tablespoons (real) maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups rustic rolled oats (not the quick-cooking variety)
2/3 cups nuts of your choice (almonds, hazel nuts and pecans work well)
1/3 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Melt the maple syrup and butter together in a saucepan but don't let the mixture boil. Mix the oats, nuts and coconut together in a bowl. Combine all ingredients, then spread out on a non-stick baking tray. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

This is far too decadent (read: sugary and buttery) for everyday use, but makes a wonderful weekend breakfast treat or edible gift. Store in an airtight container once completely cooled.

Here I used cashews, pecans and pistachios

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

It takes a village to make a garden

It's been almost six months since we moved into our 'new' house, and people have been so generous! The garden had been neglected for years and I declared, to all and sundry, that we planned to weed, weed, weed and to reintroduce fruit trees, vegetable plants, shrubs and flowers. Several people have given us garden tools and gloves. A neighbour connected me with plant breeders selling feijoa trees and gooseberry bushes. One friend showed up with a tray of tomato seedlings, and another brought a cute wee lime tree! Today the lovely Chinese lady I tutor in English asked if I wanted some winter melon plants. I'm not even sure what winter melons are, but said 'sure, why not?'! Thanks everyone.

Winter melon seedlings. Let's Google that ...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Craving Chinese egg tarts

I first encountered yum cha (and Chinese egg tarts) at the iconic Marigold Restaurant in Sydney's Chinatown in the early 1990s. The yum cha lunch, featuring all sorts of intricately crafted dumplings, filled buns, unusual vegetables, spring rolls and spicy delights was a revelation in itself ... but the Chinese egg tarts afterwards were magnificent! So I've been mildly obsessed with egg tarts ever since. They're hard to find in Canberra (more on that shortly) but when in larger cities I make a beeline to Chinatown to satisfy my cravings. Dixon Street in Sydney, Little Bourke Street in Melbourne, and almost anywhere in Singapore are good places to search for them.

As far as I know there's no place in Canberra where you can buy authentic Chinese egg tarts separately; I've only found them as part of yum cha lunch menus. About a year ago Andrew and I went out for yum cha with eight friends. As usual I quietly counted down 'til the end of the meal, in anticipation of egg tarts. To our dismay, the servers only brought three tarts to the table, saying they'd run out! Very disappointing. We made a mental note to try somewhere else next time ... and did so yesterday . Once again, we enjoyed all sorts of delicious morsels (and they were delicious) and eagerly awaited dessert. This time there were only two egg tarts. To be shared among a table of nine people. And when we asked for more they said there were no more available. I'm puzzled. Are egg tarts somehow rationed in this town? The arrangement with yum cha is that the diners pay for each dish ordered, so we were willing and able to pay for more egg tarts. Many, many egg tarts! Another dozen would have been about right. We were at an early lunch sitting, too, so wondered whether everyone who dined after us missed out on the tarts altogether. It's a mystery. If you happen to be reading this, and happen to have any insights (or know where I can buy egg tarts in Canberra without signing up for a full yum cha lunch) please let me know in the comments.

Have I thought about making them myself? Well yes, but by all accounts they're hugely finicky and time consuming ...

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Green tea ice cream (no fancy devices required)

'Tis the season (here in Canberra, at least) to be enjoying ice cream. Happy summer to y'all!

I used to make this recipe using twice as much condensed milk but recent experimentation has shown it's just as good (even better, methinks) using the smaller quantity. Less sweet, more flavoursome.

600 ml cream
0.5 tin (200 g) sweetened condensed milk
1 to 2 tablespoons of matcha green tea powder (find it at Asian grocery stores)

Whip the cream till thick then mix in the condensed milk. Add the green tea powder, combine well and freeze …

Makes about two litres.

No muss, no fuss, no fancy machines required!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Beetroot, spinach and goat's cheese salad

Another winner from the Sydney Markets recipe collection! I confess I simplified it, using just microwaved beetroot chunks, baby spinach, goat's feta, toasted pecan nuts and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Tonight's dinner ... delicious

Friday, December 02, 2016

Apricot fudge slice

Today my office will farewell two visitors, one from Japan and one from Austria, so I've made some goodies to share.

50 grams butter
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk *
1 packet (200 grams) malt biscuits, crushed
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

Melt butter and condensed milk together. Add apricots and biscuit crumbs. Press mixture into greased tin. Set in refrigerator and cut into squares.

* in case you're wondering what happened to the other half of the can of condensed milk ... it's going into a batch of green tea ice cream ;-)