Thursday, September 15, 2011

cooking classes

Today's lesson - Asian style pan fried fish fillet.

This dish is so simple - all you need is a couple of fresh ingredients which highlight the flavours of good a good quality fish fillet.  

You'll need this:

1 x large fillet of firm fish (We used Red Emperor)
1 x large knob of butter
1 x red chilli, finely chopped
2 x cloves of garlic, minced
1 x large piece of ginger, minced
1 x bunch of coriander stalks, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper for seasoning
Light splash of Soy Sauce
Lemon, for serving

You'll need to do this:

Heat heavy based frying pan.  Add butter and heat until melted.  Add onion, garlic, chilli, coriander and fry for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add fish and cook on first side for 4-5 minutes, making sure to cover in onion mixture.  Then turn and fry on second side for another 4-5 minutes.  Serve with a splash of soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

I will be the first to admit that I am a total novice when it comes to cooking fish and yes, I get a little daunted by cooking fish for anyone who I don't know too well!  But it actually is super easy and well worth the pressure! 

Happy Eating!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

homemade veal ragu pasta

You'll need this:

1.5 kg fresh tomatoes, diced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
Large bunch of rosemary, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons of ground chilli
1 litre chicken stock
plain (all-purpose) flour
Salt and pepper for seasoning
250gms butter
1.5 cups dry white wine

2 kg veal shanks

1kg of your favourite pasta - homemade pasta will make this dish!

Serves 6-8 hungry people.

You'll need to do this:

Heat half the butter in a heavy based, oven proof saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot and saute for 6-8 minutes, careful not to brown.  Stir through chilli and rosemary.  Add white wine and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the wine reduces.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, lightly dust each veal shank with the seasoned flour.  Add remaining butter to a shallow frying pan and fry off the shanks in batches to brown on each side.  Once browned, add to tomato mix.

Once veal is browned and added to tomato mix, place saucepan in a preheated oven (180 degrees celcius).  Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone. Once cooked, pull meat and discard the bones.  Try not to break the meat up too much, as the chunkier, the better!

Once you are ready to eat, cook the pasta in boiling water and then stir through the ragu, with a small amount of the cooking water to create a silky texture.

Taste for seasoning, and add salt / pepper as needed.

A meal fit for a celebration (oh, and Father's Day of course!).

Eating this tonight, as well as reading about my family's wonderful day back home, has made me v. homesick.  I am feeling the full distance of the continent that separates us right now!  Really wish I could be home with them all...
Happy Eating!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

returning to the table

It is time for me to return to Blog world to share my passion for food and the other finer things in life again!  It has been too long, and I miss the whole blogging experience!

I have seen some spectacular places over the past couple of months and eaten some (slash way too much) delicious food.  Can't wait to share these experiences with everyone!

Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks for some new dishes that have consumed my time in the kitchen during my hiatus.
Can't wait to see you all back here soon.

Happy eating!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'll just have a salad


Ok and some pork.... 
The secret is the dressing - made from crushed marinated feta, rather than the traditional mayonnaise... Thanks mum.

You'll need this:-

1 x half green cabbage, finely shaved
1 x half red cabbage, finely shaved
1 x red onion, finely sliced
3 x sticks of celery, finely diced
1 x carrot, grated (this is an optional extra - not a favourite of the family on the east, but well received by newfound friends in the west)
Large handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
1 x green apple, chopped into fine match sticks

For the dressing:-
400g marinated feta
2 tablespoons of olive oil marinade from the feta
large glug of white balsamic

You'll need to do this:-

Add all prepared salad ingredients to a large salad bowl.  You'll need to be careful with the apple.  Only cut / add this at the last minute otherwise it will brown.

Prepare the dressing by adding the feta to a bowl and crushing with a fork to form a smooth paste.  Then gradually mix in the left over marinade and balsamic. 

Add dressing to vegetable mix and gently toss.  Sprinkle with some left over walnuts and serve.

I was going to add some mint and basil, but the not so trustworthy local supermarket was completely out of fresh herbs this afternoon.  Those of you lucky enough to have access to a 'normal' greengrocer, I suggest you add a handful of roughly chopped herbs to add some more depth to the salad.

We had the slaw with barbequed tandoori pork and veal cutlets.  Patak's tandoori paste is a life saver when you are strapped for time! To form the marinade, mix one jar of paste with 500ml of plain yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon.  Add meat and leave to marinade for a minimum of one hour.  Cook on a BBQ until ready and serve with another squeeze of lemon.

Another simple recipe- but the end result will always be well received....

Only two weeks until I am back on the east coast to spend some time with family and friends and to pack up my life for good.  Can't wait to see everyone, not least of which my young nephews!  I hope they remember who I am!!

Happy eating!

Friday, June 3, 2011

family favourites

Family Favourite # 3 - Gourmet Traveller Magazine's Annual Cookbook

I can't believe it is already that time of year again!!! At the supermarket last night I saw that there was a new edition of Gourmet Traveller and naturally I grabbed it from the shelf and threw it in the basket.  As I did so, I became even more excited by the fact that it was the double edition containing the Annual Cookbook.

The Annual Cookbook is a compilation of the best recipes from Gourmet Traveller throughout the year and is always an absolute cracker!  This year's edition is no different - especially the pasta section!  The first thing I will be checking when I call Mum tonight is to see if she has managed to get her hands on a copy....

Any Aussies out there who love to cook - I suggest you hop off to the local newsagent and pick up a copy.  You will not be disappointed!

Tonight it is seafood on the BBQ and oysters kilpatrick, before heading off to Broome for a long weekend. Should be a heap of fun!

Hope everyone has a cracking weekend!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

full as a goog!

Last weekend I dusted off the apron and finally rediscovered my cooking mojo - it has been a while since I actually had the time and occasion to cook anything of real substance. 

Given a small window of opportunity, I decided to make the most of Mum's care package and try out some of the recipes (with my own spin of course). 

I chose to cook Cafe Hanoi's Chicken Salad and the Caramel Pork Hotpot, followed by an adaptation (by adaptation I mean slightly overcooked, slash oddly shaped version) of Donna Hay's coconut cakes with dark chocolate glaze.   The food was amazing, as was the banter at the table.

The first hurdle to overcome with the Chicken salad was the fact that Cafe Hanoi's version of the dish is based on papaya.  I currently live in in the Pilbara.  Papaya is not the most readily available fruit in any main supermarket in Australia.  Need I have held any hope to find some here?? Certainly not. 

Anyway, I based mine on been sprouts and bulked the salad up with red onion and a couple of types of Chinese cabbage / greenery.  I also poached chicken breasts only and added star anise and a stick of cinnamon to the poaching broth to add some extra flavour.   I think I also used a fair bit more chilli.  

The dressing was so tasty and would be perfect for any fresh Asian salad.  Palm sugar, rice wine vinegar, chilli, lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce.  I could drink the stuff!!

For main, we had crispy caramel pork belly served with Asian greens stir fried in ginger and garlic.  This was the first time I had cooked with pork belly, and it certainly will not be the last.  Such a rich meal though and if you do have a crack at this recipe, make sure that you stop yourself from going for seconds (or, in fact, thirds). 
Such a simple recipe this one.  Rremove the skin and roughly cut about a kilo of pork belly into 3-5cm cubes.  Marinate in a couple of large glugs of fish sauce, a large piece of ginger (finely sliced into match sticks) and a generous sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper.  Marinate for a couple of hours.  Then add a cup of castor sugar to a pan on high heat and cook until browning starts to occur.  Add 2 cups of water to the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add pork and cook for approx. 1 hour.  I left the pan on medium heat for about half an hour and then turned the heat up for the second half an hour to make sure the pork crisped up suitably.

The Asian greens where subtle and finished things off perfectly.

SO GOOD!  I loved this recipe - I reckon it has to go close to being the best thing I have cooked in a long while. 

Finally, we battled through the coconut cakes for dessert.  I attribute the struggle through dessert to the 74 helpings of pork belly, others blamed it on the salad.

This was my first foray into cakes without mum's watchful eye looking over my shoulder and providing advice. Slash directing.  Not a bad outcome but certainly some room for improvement!  Great recipe and I will definitely have another crack in the next couple of weeks to try and perfect.

It turned out to be a bit of a feast, with a range of fresh, crisp, rich and subtle flavours alike.  I think we all gained at least a couple of kg's over the course of the night but had a fantastic time doing so.  Spending time cooking, having a kitchen party, listening to great music and talking crap with friends.  It's hard to beat nights like this.

Anyway, enough ramblings from me.

Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

suggestions please

Now that I am a token Western Australian I feel like I need to get up to speed with the local foodie scene (outside of Hedland that is, because up here there isn't much on offer), which is difficult when you don't know too much about the place you are visiting. I have to fly to Perth tomorrow for work and have been scouting for a laid back restaurant / bar where I can occupy my time after work tomorrow night.    I have trowelled through the Gourmet Traveller lists, but all I can find is fine dining options....  Can anyone suggest a place (bearing in mind I love Italian food and red wine!)???  Falling short of that, I guess I will just have to walk the streets, the old fashioned way!  What did people do before they had the internet?!



care package

Today my kind and wonderful mother sent me a care package containing the latest edition of Cuisine Magazine.

The highlight for me was the spread on Auckland's Cafe Hanoi (especially the Beef Noodle Salad and the Caramel Pork Hotpot) as well as the feature on rustic Italian cuisine (who would have guessed!).   I am definitely going to have to get motivated and try some of these recipes out over the weekend.

Mum and Dad are lucky enough to be heading to Auckland in the next month or so and Cafe Hanoi will be the first choice food destination.

When you are on the opposite side of the country, isolated from your family by one of the biggest deserts on the planet, it is such a nice feeling to receive something to let you know that they are thinking of you too.

Thanks heaps Ma!!!!

Happy eating!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

the hunter and gatherer

Another week in the desert and more new experiences to report.  Yesterday we headed off into the wilderness to do man things.  Four wheel driving.  Fishing.  Crabbing.  Beer drinking.  General exploring.... Being the city slicker that I am - I was well out of my depth!!

About an hour and a half out of town is a secret fishing spot which I was lucky enough to be introduced to.  The journey out was interesting to say the least... Travelling along a 5 metre high levy that is only just as wide as our car with a sheer drop to water on either side was enough to have me holding my breath for the entire trip....

We caught bucket loads of fish, I was introduced to a bunch of great people and had an absolute ball!  The countryside in this part of the world is simply magical.  The natural beauty is so impressive!

Given we returned late and were extremely exhausted, we simply cooked some of the fish fillets on the BBQ in butter and served with a squeeze of lemon.  You just can't beat fresh fish pan fried in butter!  We plan to cook the left over fillets during the week.  I am thinking of trying something new - poaching in a bath of soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Will let you know how I go.

Another big weekend had me struggling to find the motivation to cook something exciting for Sunday dinner.  I turned to the latest Gourmet Traveller for some cues and found what I needed.  I decided on a simple pasta - my take on pork and fennel sausage meat pasta.

You'll need this:-

1.5kg of italian sausages (pork, fennel and italian herbs), skins removed - you only want to use the meat of the sausage
1 x white onion, diced
2 x red chillies, finely chopped (seeds included - I like a bit of a chilli hit to this dish)
2 x cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 x cup of dry white wine
1 large handful of green olives (marinated in chilli and garlic)
750ml tomato passata
1 x handful of torn fresh basil leaves
Fresh baby rocket leaves to serve
1 x large bag of dried rigatoni
Grated darmesan to serve
Olive oil

You'll need to do this:

Add olive oil, garlic and onion to a pan and cook on medium-high heat.  Once onion is translucent, add chilli and the sausage meat.  Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage meat.  Allow to fry for approx. 10 minutes.

Add white wine to the sausage mixture and then allow to reduce (approx. 3 minutes).  Once the aclohol has reduced, add passata and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the roughly chopped olives and then remove from heat and allow to rest.

Meanwhile, add pasta to plenty of boiling water and cook as per instructions on packet.

Combine pasta with sauce and stir through the basil. 

Serve with baby rocket, a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Another busy week ahead and I can't wait to see what new experiences are in store. I hope everyone has a cracking week.

Happy eating!!!


Saturday, May 7, 2011


So this is where I have landed:-

I have temporarily relocated to the wild wild west - Port Hedland, Western Australia.  For those of you who don't know Australia well, Port Hedland is on the complete opposite side of the Country from my hometown (Brisbane).  Pretty much in the middle of no where, surrounded by not much other than mines and desert.

Hedland is a port town, with its sole focus being to export Iron Ore to China.  I am over here to help manage the region's urban growth, both on behalf of the local government and BHP Billiton.  A pretty exciting adventure, but a long way from home (already missing the family after only one week....)!

Last night was my first Friday night in town and having explained to my new work mates my love for cooking and Friday afternoon beers, they decided to combine the two and show me how Friday's go down in Hedland....  After a couple of beers we decided pizza was the go for dinner.  The options are pretty limited over here other than Bruno's Pizza Parlour which is apparently just a front for other dodgy businesses (I've been told not to ask for the 'special' pizza).  With self preservation in mind (apparently Bruno's is Hedland's kebab shop - only good for late at night on the way home after a couple of beverages at the one night spot - the Pier, which apparently has the record for the most stabbings in a week [I'm not lying - check the Guinness Book of Records] - nice place!!) we decided to head to the supermarket and make our own pizzas.

My tip for pizza is less is more.  I know it is a cliche, but pizza's aren't meant to be over cluttered with meaningless ingredients.  Keep it simple with only a handful of ingredients and you will definitely enjoy the end product.  Also, don't drown the pizza in cheese.  Original pizza's from Italy, I am told, didn't even have cheese on them.

When I get more organised over here I will do a post on making the dough from scratch (which is actually really easy!) but for now, the thin bases from the local supermarket will have to suffice.

Happy eating!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

turn out the lights, the party's over

12 days. A group of 10 close mates. An 80 foot floating palace.  Amazing Crew. The best quality waves on the planet. 

How could we not have a great time!!!

It is extremely difficult to capture the beauty of this island chain in the Indian Ocean through a lens, but here goes...


Having now been home for a couple of days, I can truly appreciated how fabulous our Mentawai surfing  adventure really was.  We caught some of the best waves we have ever seen, recharged our batteries, spent some quality time solving the world's problems late at night over a couple of Bin Tang beers, banged ourselves up on the reef and generally absorbed the sensation of this tropical paradise.  

We caught a couple of Fish which were served as the best sashimi I have ever eaten within 2 hours of being caught.

Now, the time has come for me to return to reality.  Our amazing trip to the Mentawai Islands has come to a close, and I am now grappling with the realisation that I have to face up to a bulging email inbox and a whole raft of new challenges, not the least of which is relocating to the other side of the country....

I hope everyone had a cracking easter and overindulged in chocolate and other pleasantries.

Happy eating!!!


Friday, April 15, 2011

let's go surfing now

Tonight Didds and I are boarding a jet plane, the beginning of our surfing safari. 

Tomorrow we will board this:

On our way to this:

To do this:

So I will be offline for the next fortnight, having an absolute ball!  Can't wait!!!

Hope everyone has a fabulous Easter and eats way too much chocolate!!!

Happy eating!!!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

buon compleanno!!!

A little bit wierd putting the shout out to a big happy birthday to myself .... but, here goes...

What a cracking weekend!  Way too much pinot, beer, chardonnay, cider, shots, food.  Pretty much everything! Glutinous.

Quarter of a century is a big thing and there is only one way to come to terms with the realisation that I am getting old!!! Drinks with my closest friends and, of course, my family.

Birthday presents a plenty.... Truly spoiled. Beautiful shirt and a couple of bottles of Pinot from the brother.  Vintage milk jug + succulents from sister.  Plenty of vino and cook books from the extended fam!!! Cash from Mims and Didds (they know me too well!!)

I really want to make a point of how fabulous my day has been today!!!  I don't think there could have been a better way to celebrate. Lunch with the fam at Il Centro and then kicked on with some beers at Crosstown in the Gabba.  I have finally made it home now and am absolutely exhausted - my cheeks hurt from the laughter....

I honeslty think that there is nothing better than a meal with my family.  We talked so much rubbish.  We laughed.  We had a family fued.  We were clearly too loud for the other patrons.  Max (the 1 year old baby with a personality to knock your socks off) befriended our neighbours. We drank pinot and Didds even got a Gamberri Pizza (despite there being nothing remotely similar to this on the menu)... Lucky to get out in one piece...

All in all, a great celebration for a quarter of a century. 

I hope everyone's weekend was as fabulous as mine!!!

Happy eating!