Cookbook Challenge: Week 16, Noodles

Recipe: Chinese mushrooms with cellophane noodles
From: Chinese, the essence of Asian cooking

The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is “noodles” and for the recipe I’ve gone very Chinese. And by very Chinese, I mean – I’m not sure anyone but us Asians would eat this. :p

This week I made Chinese (shiitake) mushrooms with cellophane noodles. This is a very hearty vegetarian dish, that contains shiitake mushrooms, bean curd skins, fermented bean curd and wood ears/black fungus. It’s very filling. I ate a bowl of it and felt like I had eaten a seven course banquet!

Wood ear / black fungus
Left: dried wood ear. Right: rehydrated wood ear

Are you wondering what wood ears are? They’re an edible fungus, commonly sold dried, and they’re used for their texture as they don’t have much flavour on their own. The texture is firm, gelatinous and slightly crunchy and they soak up the flavours of whatever they’re cooked in.

Chinese mushrooms with cellophane noodles

I love the strong, meatiness of shiitake mushrooms, so I really enjoyed them in this dish. I’ve never been a huge fan of dried bean curd though, and I think there was far too much in this recipe. It made it all taste very “beany”. I think halving, or even quartering the amount specified in the recipe would be a good idea.

But I’ll just have to get over the “beaniness” of the dish since I have rather a lot left over. Alastair tried it and didn’t like it, so it looks like it’s up to me!

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here

Update: See the round up at My Food Trail.

Chinese mushrooms with cellophane noodles

Chinese mushrooms with cellophane noodles

From Chinese, the essence of Asian cooking

Serves 4

115g dried Chinese mushrooms
25g dried wood ears
115g dried bean curd, broken into small pieces
30 ml vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
10 Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
15ml (about 1 tablespoon) red fermented bean curd
1/2 star anise
pinch of sugar
15-30ml soy sauce
50g cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until soft

In separate bowls, soak the Chinese mushroom, wood ears and dried bean curd in plenty of hot water for 30 minutes.

Strain the mushrooms, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and reserving the liquid. Discard the stems and cut the mushrooms in half if they are vey big.

Drain the wood ears, rinse thoroughly and cut into 2-3cm pieces.

In a heavy based pan, heat the oil, and add the garlic, ginger and Szechuan peppercorns. Fry for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms and red fermented bean curd. Stir and fry for several minutes.

Add the reserved mushroom liquid to the pan, with enough liquid to completely cover the mushrooms. Add the star anise, sugar and soy sauce, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the chopped wood ears and reconstituted drained bean curd pieces to the pan. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Drain the noodles and add them to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes, or until tender. Add more liquid if necessary. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Spiced aubergine stew

I received Nigel Slater’s Tender for my birthday in December – and it has quickly become one of my favourite cookbooks. Every time I read a bit of it, it makes me want to eat and grow vegetables! The book is set out alphabetically, with each chapter dealing with a different vegetable in the garden and in the kitchen. Admittedly, I am biased about this book because Nigel Slater is already one of my favourite food writers. I adore the way he writes about food and even the recipes in the book are interesting reading. I also particularly love the photos of his small but productive London garden over the four seasons. Oh, to have a garden that looks like that!

Spiced aubergine stew

Aubergine is one of the first chapters in the book, and recently I followed the recipe for a spiced aubergine stew and – it was amazing! The stew was spiced with cardamon and coriander seeds, perfect because I love those flavours. There was also a sweetness from the tomatoes, followed by the creaminess of the coconut cream and then lastly a real hit of chilli heat. The aubergine was meltingly soft. We ate the stew with basmati rice and it was delicious.

It’s one of those recipes where you definitely want whole spices to grind yourself. The spices smelt amazing. Near the end of the cooking time, I tasted the sauce before and after adding the herbs, and I think I preferred it without the herbs. The herbs seemed to make take the pow! out of the stew and make it less spicy. I will leave them out next time because I loved that chilli hit.

I reckon even people who don’t normally like aubergine wouldn’t mind this dish. And if you don’t like aubergine? Well, I’ll leave you with a quote from the book, and perhaps it will change your mind:

The aubergine seduces. No other vegetable can offer flesh so soft, silken and tender. You don’t so much chew an aubergine as let it dissolve on your tongue.

I’m convinced.

Spiced aubergine stew

Spiced aubergine stew

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1

Note: I have paraphrased the recipe to make it more “instruction-y”. The recipe in the book is far more chatty.

Enough for 6

1kg aubergines
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 green cardamon pods
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic
a thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
2 rounded teaspoons ground turmeric
2 x 400g can of diced or whole tomatoes
1 x 400ml tin of coconut cream
4 small, hot red chillies, finely chopped
a small bunch of mint (I would suggest leaving this out)
a small bunch of coriander (again, would suggest leaving this out)

Wipe the aubergines and cut them into fat chunks (don’t cut them too small). Place a colander into the sink, tip in the aubergines, and sprinkle salt over them. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Peel and roughly chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, and add the onions, cooking until they are soft and translucent.

Meanwhile, crush the cardamon pods with the flat of a knife, and shake out the little black seeds into a mortar or spice grinder. Add the coriander seeds and peppercorns, and grind all the spices to a coarse powder.

Thinly slice the garlic and cut the ginger into thin matchsticks. Stir the garlic and ginger into the onions. Add the turmeric, ground spices and canned tomatoes.

Rinse the aubergines and pat dry. Without oil, fry them in a pan until they are starting to soften and starting to go brown, turning them as they cook. Do a small amount at a time, until all the aubergines are fried.

Add the aubergines to the onions, and add the coconut milk, chillies and a little salt. Add enough water to just cover, if necessary. Bring up to the boil, and then turn down to a low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Afterwards, the aubergines should be very soft but not falling apart.

Lift out the aubergines and some of the onions with a draining spoon. Boil the sauce hard for five minutes to reduce, and then puree with a stick blender (you could skip this step and just have a chunky sauce).

Return the vegetables to the pot, chop up the mint and coriander and stir in, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with rice.

Cookbook Challenge: Week 10, Cool

Iced beetroot soup

Recipe: Iced beetroot soup
From: Jill Dupleix’s Lighten Up

Argh! I’m late for (last week’s) Cookbook Challenge! Despite knowing what I was going to make at the beginning of the week, I’m still late with it! In my defense though, I was going to do it in the weekend but ended up spending all day Saturday painting the walls of our bottom floor. I thought that I would be able to squeeze in some quick cooking on the day, but the painting took much longer than I thought, despite getting up early (7:30am on a SATURDAY, thank you very much). We were out on Saturday night, and out all day on Sunday, so there was no opportunity to do my Cookbook Challenge recipe.

I did take yesterday (the day before Australia Day) off, but guess what I spent it doing? More painting! I painted the lower stairway, and again that took all day. Anyway, here I am finally, only a couple of days late. Thank goodness today is a public holiday!

Iced beetroot soup

The theme for Week 10 is “cool” and guess what? Unlike the past five weeks, I didn’t do a sweet recipe! Instead, I did a chilled beetroot soup. I can’t say I’ve ever had a beetroot soup before, much less a cold one, so had zero expectations of this one.

Well I’m pleased to say that the soup is very good and would be very refreshing on a hot day. It’s quite spicy with the shallots and raw garlic (warning, it tends to hang around for a bit afterwards!), while still being sweet and earthy. Plus it’s a gorgeous ruby-red colour. It could be the prettiest soup ever!

After making the soup, I still have half a bunch of beetroot left. I wonder what I should do with it. Perhaps I could work it into this week’s theme (mixed)…?

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: See the round up for this week at My Food Trail.

Iced beetroot soup

Iced beetroot soup

From Jill Dupleix’s Lighten Up

Serves 6 to 8

3 shallots
2 celery stalks (I didn’t have any and left this out)
500g beetroot, cooked and peeled
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
300ml vegetable stock or water
sea salt and pepper
1 tablespoon horseradish cream
100g thick Greek yoghurt
chives to finish

Roughly chop the shallots, celery and the beetroot and mix with the crushed garlic, wine vinegar and olive oil.

Cover and leave it to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Place the beetroot mixture into a blend and blend to a smooth puree. Add the stock, salt and pepper and blend again until smooth.

Chill until ready to serve.

Stir the horseradish cream with the yoghurt. When ready to serve, add a dollop of the horseradish yoghurt on top of the soup, grind over some pepper and spear with a chive.

Japan: Koyasan – shojin ryori at Rengejoin Temple

After Takayama, we headed to Koyasan. To get to our accommodation in Koyasan, it took us 7 hours, 7 trains, a cable car and a bus ride!

Rengejoin Temple
Rengejoin Temple

Koyasan, a small town located on Mount Koya, is the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Shingon is a Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi. Kobo Daishi is one of the most significant personalities in Japan’s religious history.

Koyasan is located in an 800m high valley amid the eight peaks of Mount Koya (the terrain is said to resemble a lotus plant, which is why the location was selected). With a population of about 4000, the town supports over one hundred temples, but in its glory days, Koyasan is said to have contained over 9,000 temples, shrines, and other buildings, with a monastic population of approximately 90,000. In 2004, UNESCO designated Mt. Koya as a World Heritage Site.

When walking through the small town, you can literally trip over temples. They are everywhere!

Rengejoin Temple
Rengejoin Temple

At Koyasan, we stayed for two nights in a Buddhist monastery, Rengejoin Temple, where we had the opportunity to participate in mediation and morning prayers.

Rengejoin Temple
Our room at Rengejoin Temple. There were paper screens between the rooms, so you could hear EVERYTHING.

After arriving at the temple and checking in, we joined the Head Monk for mediation. We had to sit still in a dim, incense filled room for forty minutes. Yes, we struggled!

After mediation it was time for dinner. We headed off to our dining room, where individual tables were set out for us. On offer was shōjin ryori, which is purely vegetarian food that is intended for monks. As well as no meat, no garlic and onions were used in the cooking.

Vegetarian food

We were served Koya tofu, which is a special preserved tofu that is attributed to the monks in Koyasan (in the middle of the photo above, above the beans). Historically, it was made by monks, who cut tofu into thin slices and put it outside to freeze. Then the tofu was brought back in, thawed and pressed, before being dried in warmed sheds. This preserved the tofu, ensuring that it could last a long time without refrigeration. When rehydrated, the tofu becomes very spongey, soaking up a great amount of liquid. It’s literally like biting into a sponge, with liquid gushing out! In the same bowl as the Koya tofu was seaweed that had been stewed with mushroom broth, soy sauce and sugar.

In addition, there was a small bowl of beans that I found too sweet for my liking, and a bowl of clear soup, inside of which was fu (wheat gluten). Naturally, there was rice, pickles and tea.

Vegetarian food

There was also goma tofu / sesame tofu. This is technically not tofu, as it is made out of ground sesame paste, water and a thickener (arrowroot powder). This had a very soft, jelly-like texture, similar to coconut pudding that you get in Chinese restaurants. It was topped with a dab of wasabi and sitting in soy sauce. The goma tofu didn’t have much flavour but it had a wonderful texture and I thought it was delicious.

Vegetarian food

We also had vegetable tempura – beans, carrot, seaweed, eggplant, pumpkin and sweet potato. As well as this, there was a bowl of somen in a mushroom broth. And finally there were a couple of slices of apple for dessert.

(You can see slightly more clearly the preserved tofu mentioned in the previous paragraph at the bottom right of the photo above.)

Vegetarian food

Breakfast was also served. It was just a small breakfast, with seaweed, miso soup with mushrooms and wakame, more Koya tofu, cucumber pickles and rice.

(There was a second dinner and breakfast at the monastery, but the food was very similar to the ones described, so I won’t go into details.)

I enjoyed the meals at Rengejoin Temple. They didn’t reach the exquisite gluttony of Takayama, but they were simple and wholesome. It was probably exactly what we needed to detox after the excesses of the previous dinners!

Rengejoin Temple
700Koyasan, Koya-cho,
Ito-gun, Wakayama Prefecture 648-0211,

Soup Sunday: Spicy lentil, potato and spinach

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

Gak! I’m being slack with posting Soup Sundays. After this one I still have two to post – plus I’m sure I’ll have a new one this Sunday. Better get on to it!

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

This soup was made on one of those freezing cold evenings we’ve been having lately. I say this every year around this time – I can’t wait until summer!

On this particular evening I felt like something spicy, filling, and it had to be vegetarian because I didn’t have any meat around. Lentil soup seemed to fit the bill, and because I wanted something fairly quick to make I opted for red lentils.

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

It was another one of my “throw stuff in a pot” soups. In a dry pan, I gently toasted a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, chilli powder and cumin seeds for a few minutes until all nice and aromatic. Into a pot with a splash of oil went a diced onion, a couple of diced carrots and a couple of diced celery sticks. To that I added a cup of rinsed red lentils, a 400g can of tomatoes, a couple of peeled and diced potatoes and enough water to just cover everything. It simmered for 20 minutes and then I added four cubes of defrosted frozen spinach and seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

It wasn’t bad for about 30 minutes worth of work and helped warm me up a little. I still can’t wait until summer though!

Portuguese-style chicken curry, daal and cabbage slaw

I’m having difficulty with food blogging at the moment. It’s not due to lack of time or energy. It isn’t because I’m not eating well, or not cooking good food, or not photographing meals. My issue is with the whole stringing words into coherent sentences thing. It seems that food blogging involves more than just food, it also involves writing. I know. Who’d thought!

However, I am pushing through and making an effort.!

The other week, I cooked a meal from a Indian cookbook I had received over Christmas. I made a chicken curry, a daal, and an interesting cabbage slaw that I’d never tried before.

The Portuguese-style chicken curry (aka mungh vindaloo) wasn’t as spicy as it usually is in restaurants, although I did try to up the heat factor. Originally, vindaloo wasn’t particularly spicy and the cookbook tells me that vindaloo actually means “vinegary”. Other sources (internets!) say that vindaloo is a derivative of the Portuguese “vinho de alho” which literally means wine (vinho) and garlic (alho). Vindaloo was bought to Goa by the Portuguese and was traditionally cooked with pork. I used chicken drumsticks in my version. They took ages to cook, but were very succulent.

The daal was good, but a bit overshadowed by the vindaloo and the cabbage. My daal was quite soupy at first, but after standing for a while (I had to wait for the curry to finish cooking) it thickened up. I was rather heavy handed with the ginger!

But on to the cabbage. The cabbage slaw was a real surprise. The coconut gave it a lovely fragrance, and the cabbage was sweet, slightly nutty and spicy. If you like coconut (and cabbage) give it a try. It was very different from how I normally cook cabbage and we really enjoyed it.


Gujarati Cabbage Slaw

From Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking

Serves 6

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
1 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 medium head green cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), finely shredded (8 cups)
1 cup shredded fresh coconut or 1/2 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
3 fresh Thai, serrano or cayenne chillies, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
Juice of 1 medium lime (2 tablespoons)

Heat oil in wok or pan over medium-high heat. Add asafetida and peanuts; sizzle 30 seconds.

Add remaining ingredients except lime juice, stir fry about 5 minutes or until cabbage is hot; remove from heat. Stir in lime juice.


Moong daal

From Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking

Serves 6

1 cup dried whole green lentils (sabud mung), sorted, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon asafetida (hing) or garlic powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium tomato, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
2 fresh Thai, serrano or cayenne chillies, cut lengthwise in half
1 teaspoon salt

Place lentils, water and turmeric in a saucepan. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until lentils are tender.

While lentils are simmering, heat ghee/oil and mustard seed in a a pan over medium-high heat. Once seed begins to pop, cover skillet and wait until popping stops.

Add asafetida and ginger to mustard seed; stir fry about 30 seconds or until ginger is partially brown. Add tomato and chillies, stir fry 3-5 minutes or until tomato is softened.

Stir tomato mixture and salt into lentils. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.


Portuguese-style chicken curry / Mungh vindaloo

From Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped ginger
5 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I think this is tomato puree, I used a can of whole tomatoes)
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch strips (I used drumsticks instead)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup plain yoghurt

Heat in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger and garlic; stir fry about 5 minutes or until onions and garlic are golden brown.

Stir in tomato sauce, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and turmeric, reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer around 5 minutes or until a thin film of oil starts to form on surface of sauce. Remove from heat; cool 3 to 4 minutes.

Place sauce in blender (or use a stick blender). Cover and blend on medium speed until smooth. Return sauce to saucepan.

Stir chicken into sauce. Simmer uncovered 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is partially cooked.

Stir in vinegar and coconut milk. Simmer uncovered 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in centre.

Beat yoghurt with wire whisk until smooth; stir into chicken mixture. Cook uncovered for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, just until yoghurt is warm. Serve with rice.

Spicy eggplant and garlic shoots


Remember encyclopedias? Do you remember how those big books took up several shelves? This is a very nerdy thing to admit, but when my parents bought us a set of encyclopedias, I read most of the volumes. Nowadays, with Wikigoogle at our fingertips, who needs encyclopedias filling up the bookshelf?

Wikipedia in particular is great. Now, I know there are problems with it: anyone can edit it (gasp), plus it’s on the internets and we all know that everything on the internet is a lie. But since I don’t look at it when I need 100% accuracy, I reckon it’s fab!

For example, if it wasn’t for Wiki, I never would have known that:

“Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking.”

Put that in your aubergine and smoke it…..!

Righto, enough of the bad puns and useless trivia, how about a recipe? I made this dish to use up the second half of the bunch of garlic shoots that I cooked previously. I think that the eggplant worked nicely with the garlic shoots – they were soft against the crunchy shoots and the eggplant also absorbed some of the flavour.

Despite the amount of chilli in the recipe, and the extremely hot vapours that will come out of the wok, the end result isn’t actually that spicy. But you’re not supposed to eat the chillis. Those little babies will be hot!


Spicy eggplant and garlic shoots

Serves 4 as part of a multi dish meal

4-5 small eggplants (or a couple of large ones)
1/2 bunch garlic shoots, sliced into 3cm lengths
150g bean sprouts
1 tablespoon peanut oil
A handful of dried whole chillis
Soy sauce

Slice the eggplants into 2-3cm pieces. Steam over a pot of boiling water for approximately 10 minutes, or until they are tender.

Give the garlic shoots and bean sprouts a good rinse, and drain well.

Heat the oil in a hot wok. When the oil is hot, throw in the chillis. They will darken quickly, so watch them! Add the garlic shoots and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until they are tender and start to darken in spots.

Add the bean sprouts and eggplant and swish around for another minute.

Add a splash of soy sauce and mix well to coat the vegetables. Taste – you may want to add more seasoning, but I found that the soy sauce was enough.

Serve with rice.

Garlic shoots and steamed tofu

Garlic shoots and mushrooms

Firstly, happy Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year! I’ve always liked Chinese New Year, mostly because of the red envelopes that are given out (who doesn’t love a bit of extra pocket money?). Now that I live in a different country to my family, I don’t get many red envelopes anymore. However, a phone call to my parents revealed that Grandma had given our red envelopes to mum. So there are some traditions that you can always rely on Grandma for!

The last couple of nights I’ve been cooking some rather Chinese inspired meals. I was doing some random food shopping and came across a bunch of garlic shoots. I first read about garlic shoots in someone’s blog (can’t remember which one now) so I bought some to try out. Garlic shoots are the young shoots that come off a garlic plant, prior to the bulb maturing. They look similar to spring onions, except that they’re not hollow. They have a gentle, sweet, garlic flavour.

The garlic shoots went into a stir fry with shimeji and oyster mushrooms plus some bean sprouts. Yummo.

Steamed tofu

We also had some steamed tofu with the stir fry. There are lots of different kinds of tofu available but my favourite is silken firm tofu. It has a wonderful silky texture that shines when it’s prepared very simply.

Garlic shoots and mushrooms closer

Stir-fried mushrooms and garlic shoots

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin matchsticks
1 fresh chilli, seeds removed (if desired) and sliced thinly
½ bunch garlic shoots, roughly chopped into 3cm lengths
150 g shimeji mushrooms, separated or cut into small clumps
150 g oyster mushrooms
150 g bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
Salt and sugar

(I know that generally mushrooms don’t need to be washed, but I think there are some kinds that do need a rinse. I don’t know if shimeji and oyster mushrooms need it but I gave them a quick dunking anyway.)

Add the oil to a wok on high heat. When the oil is hot, throw in the chilli and ginger and swish around for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic shoots and stir-fry for a couple of minutes, until they start to become tender and brown in spots. Keep the garlic shoots moving.

Add the shimeji and oyster mushrooms as well as the bean sprouts and stir-fry for another minute. Add the oyster sauce and mix well to coat all the vegetables. Taste before deciding whether you need to add more salt and perhaps a touch of sugar (I added about ½ teaspoon of each). Serve with rice.

Steamed tofu

Steamed silken tofu with ginger and chilli

1 block silken firm tofu
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin matchsticks
1 fresh chilli, seeds removed (if desired) and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil

Carefully pop the block of tofu out of its container and on to a heatproof plate/bowl.
Bring a wok or saucepan of water to the boil. Put the plate of tofu in a bamboo steamer.
Place the sliced chilli and ginger on top and pour over the soy sauce and peanut oil.
Place a lid on the bamboo steamer and steam the tofu over boiling water for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the hot plate from the steamer and serve immediately.

Corn and chickpea flour fritters

Corn fritters

Like a lot of people who enjoy cooking, I own a few cookbooks. Over Christmas and my birthday, I got given several to add to my collection…. plus I did buy a few myself!

I tell myself that I don’t need to feel guilty about my cookbook collection since I do read each one I own. I’m sure I’m not the only one who takes cookbooks to read in bed.

The other weekend it was just Alastair and I at home for brunch. I had seen a recipe for pancakes or fritters using chickpea flour, but couldn’t remember where I had read it. I tried flicking through a few of my newest cookbooks and online through my usual recipe websites but with no success. Gaaah! Don’t you hate it when that happens? In the end I couldn’t track down the recipe and had to wing it. That’s the problem with reading so many books and food magazines – you get ideas and inspiration but then you can’t remember where those ideas came from.

I ended up with corn and chickpea flour fritters. I bought the chickpea flour from an Asian grocery store to make onion bhaji and have used it a few times since. Plain flour would work as a substitute, but the chickpea flour gives a unique nutty depth of flavour.

On a side note, I have discovered that indian style chickpea flour is made from chana dal, which is a cousin of the chickpea, not an actual chickpea. There’s lots of alternative names for this flour: chana dal flour, gram flour, dal flour, or besan flour to name a few. Actual chickpea flour (ie made from actual chickpeas) is popular in Italian cuisine and is called farina di ceci.

Corn and chickpea flour fritters

Rating: 31

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Makes about 6 medium fritters

Corn and chickpea flour fritters


  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups chickpea/besan flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk (add a tad more if you think it’s too thick)
  • Pepper
  • Oil spray
  • Cream cheese
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered and tossed with a dash of olive oil
  • Extra chives to garnish


  1. Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Mix together the eggs, milk, and chives, season with pepper, then stir in the dry ingredients and mix lightly until combined.
  3. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, and lightly spray with oil.
  5. Drop 1/4 cup measures of mixture on to the frying pan, allowing room for spreading, and cook over medium heat. Turn when bubbles come to surface, and cook another minute.
  6. Put a dollop of cream cheese and some cherry tomatoes on top of the fritters, and garnish with some extra snipped chives.

Soul Mama (closed)

Soul mama

Last year, Alastair got the opportunity to go to Mumbai for business. While there, he was kindly shown around by a couple of his colleagues in the Mumbai office. This weekend, he finally had a chance to return the favour, when two of those colleagues came over for a visit.

On Sunday we took them on a little tour of Melbourne, and after a lot of walking and tram riding, we decided to have a late lunch. As both his colleagues are vegetarian, we opted for Soul Mama.

I’ve heard plenty about Soul Mama but had never been there before. I suppose that’s why I was surprised by the buffet and bain marie arrangement! The way it works is that you choose your desired size bowl or plate, and that gives you a certain number of choices from the buffet.

We all choose the medium bowl, which was $15.50 for rice and 4 choices from the buffet. I’m glad we didn’t go any larger, as the medium bowl was very filling.

I choose saffron rice (you could also have jasmine or brown rice) with a tempeh and vegetable curry (front right), some kind of pasta (front left), tandoori vegetables (back left) and a vegetable and pesto gratin (back right). I was starting to get choice overload looking at all the options, so my brain was too busy to take note of the exact names of the dishes!

The pasta and the gratin were pretty good. The pasta had a lovely creamy sauce, and the gratin was delicious and also creamy. Most disappointing in my selection was the tandoori vegetables. There was no tandoori flavour AT ALL. It was basically plain vegetables, with minimal seasoning. I also wasn’t impressed with the curry. There was a strange edge to it – I didn’t like the flavour much.

All in all – the food was okay. Not bad, just okay. If you’re after a place with interesting food that might convert a meat eater to a vegetarian lifestyle (or even just convince them that vegetarian food can be really tasty) then Soul Mama isn’t up to the job. But if all you’re after is a filling vegetarian meal with average food but a gorgeous view, Soul Mama is perfect!

Soul Mama
St Kilda Sea Baths
10 Jacka Boulevard
St Kilda
Ph: 9525 3338