Three colour salad

Three colour salad

Today has been a great day.

I’ve finished up at my old job and didn’t have to go to work. I got to sleep in this morning!

And, I had lunch with a good friend that I haven’t seen in ages.

And, the weather was gorgeous! As soon as I stepped outside and felt that warm air, I felt a twinge of glee.

PLUS, last night we had this beautiful salad. How can you not feel good after eating something so colourful and vibrant?

Three colour salad

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
400g broad beans, podded
1 bunch of asparagus
Lettuce
Red cabbage
salt and pepper

Parboil the potatoes and garlic in salted water until just cooked.

Blanch the broad beans in lightly salted water for a couple of minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and refresh under cold water. Peel off the thick skin.

Slice the asparagus into 3cm slices. Cook in the salted water for a couple of minutes and remove with a slotted spoon.

Slice up some lettuce and red cabbage (maybe a couple of leaves per person) and wash well. Spin in a salad spinner or dry well, then toss through the potatoes, broad beans, and asparagus with your choice of dressing (I used a bit of whole egg mayo and a dash of extra virgin olive oil). Season well with salt and pepper.

Baba House (closed) : Hainanese chicken rice and more

My parents used to work a lot – they would regularly work 12+ hour days. The exception to these long days was Sunday, when the shop didn’t open until 3-4pm (depending on how my dad felt). On Sundays we usually went out as a family for lunch.

It was during these Sunday lunches that my Bro and I were introduced to Hainanese chicken rice – white chicken served with rice that has been cooked in chicken stock. We always had it from a stall at Wakefield Market foodcourt (in Wellington). The rice from this small stall was heavily impregnated with the flavour of chicken – it was very oily and fatty. Eaten with the silky cold chicken, it was a real treat, but fortunately for our arteries we only ate it occasionally!

Hainanese Chicken rice

This version from Baba House ($8.50) was not as oily or fatty as the dish I remember from Wakefield Market but still tasty. The only downside was the MSG thirst that persisted for several hours!

Baba House is our “outside kitchen” – that is, when I can’t be bothered cooking, Alastair heads there to pick up dinner.

Char Kway Teow

I’m always on the look out for a good char/fried kway teow as it’s on my (rather long) list of favourite things to eat. Baba House do an acceptable version ($9.20) with well seasoned wok fried flat rice noodles, prawns, fish cake, dried mussels, calamari, egg, crunchy bean sprouts and a hint of chilli. Personally, I like more chilli and would love that hint of chilli to be upped, but that’s a personal preference.

I should also say that the last time I had this from Baba House it gave me an MSG thirst like the chicken rice did. It seems that only recently there has been an excess MSG problem. I’ll have to remember to ask for no MSG for future visits.

(By the way: If you know of a place that does an outstanding char kway teow, please let me know!)

Nasi lemak

I have saved my favourite Baba House dish (and unfortunately, the worst photo) for last. Although it looks a bit like poop in a bowl in my photo, I can assure you that the Nasi Lemak ($9.20) is good! There’s so much to love about nasi lemak. Coconut rice. Tick. Dried anchovies. Tick. Sweet/sour crunchy pickles. Tick. Spicy, tender beef rendang (there’s also chicken or lamb if you prefer). Tick. Crunchy peanuts. Tick. Hard boiled eggs. Tick. Fortunately, there was no MSG thirst when I ate this one. :p

Alastair has the laksa 90% of the time ($9.20). The soup is fragrant, spicy and creamy and it’s chocka with noodles, chicken, fishcake, beans, eggplant and fried tofu. He loves his laksa and says that it’s better than Laksa King.

Baba House – so much food to love. What a great outside kitchen to have!

Baba House
34 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 1762

KitcCh

Last weekend Alastair made a small bet on the NZ versus France rugby World Cup game. He bet on France (what a bad kiwi!) so we headed to Kensington Village to pick up his winnings. We stopped for brunch at KitcCh, which is across the road from the TAB.

The Boys and I have our own jargon that helps us recall things and places. We call KitcCh “the dark one” due to the dark wood panels and the painted black floor. The walls are lined with artwork that is available for purchase.

During the weekends, KitcCh does breakfast all day, but there is also a lunch menu. Since we’re late risers in the weekend, I generally have breakfast even when it’s closer to lunch time.

Kitcch

I had the Black jack cheese and baby spinach wrapped in a double smoke ham served with poached eggs, basil oil and hollandaise on english breakfast muffins ($12). It looks like eggs benedict – the cheese and baby spinach were hidden in the ham. Despite one of my eggs not being as runny as I like, it was still good. The spinach and basil oil helped cut through the fattiness of the hollandaise and egg yolk.

KitcCh coffee

Good breakfast, but the coffee was only average – mine was rather sour. I finished off with a raspberry smoothie (that I didn’t bother taking a photo of). Very yogurty, with a bare amount of sweetness, it made me happy and made up for the sour coffee.

KitcCh
512 Macaulay Rd, Kensington
(03) 9376 5694

Chorizo and chickpea salad

Chorizo salad

Another day, another meal utilizing canned chickpeas. I enjoy chickpeas, and I seem to use them a lot because they’re so easy. Most weeknights, I don’t have much time to cook – by the time I get home, chill for a bit (reading me some internets), exercise and shower, it’s at least 7.30pm by the time I get in the kitchen. It’s a good night when the bulk of my cooking time involves opening a can and tossing together some salad ingredients.

Chorizo & Chickpea salad

Serves 3-4

2 chorizo sausages, sliced
400g can of chickpeas
Handful of mixed salad greens/lettuce per person
2 carrots, grated
1 Avocado, diced
Handful of sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, add the chorizo slices, and sauté gently on all sides until the juices run and the edges are slightly crisp. Turn off the heat and add the chickpeas into the pan, tossing them around until they’re all nicely coated in that yummy, tasty fat.

Put the salad greens/lettuce, carrots, avocado and sprouts into a large salad bowl. Add the chorizo and chickpeas.

Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, toss gently and season well with salt and pepper.

Chickpea and ricotta balls

Chickpea and ricotta balls

The idea for these balls floated around in my head for a couple of days before I got around to making them. My cooking inspiration hasn’t returned yet. Even walking around the South Melbourne market on Wednesday didn’t help. Sadly, it was my last weekday wander around the market for the foreseeable future.

It’s my last week at my current job (tomorrow is my last day!) and next Thursday Alastair and I go on holiday. My head is full of finishing up, and sorting things out for going away and my routine is all shot. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that cooking has been neglected.

I’ve no doubt that inspiration to cook will return when we get back. I do have several meals that I haven’t blogged about yet. I’m finding it difficult to think of something interesting to say about them, but perhaps I’ll just whack them up with minimal commentary.

>My chickpea and ricotta balls ended up rather soft, which is why they look more like lumps than balls. I could’ve added some fresh breadcrumbs to stiffen the mixture but couldn’t be bothered. My Bro made a simple green salad of lettuce, cabbage and cucumber, which worked perfectly with them. The crunchy salad provided a great textural contrast to the balls.

Chickpea and ricotta balls

Makes 12

1 small onion, peeled
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
200g ricotta
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you prefer less spiciness)
Salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Pepper
Dried breadcrumbs

In a food processor, pulse the onion until finely diced. Add the chickpeas and pulse until mashed.
Tip into a bowl and add the ricotta, mashing it into the mixture.
Add the egg, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Mix well.
Roll into balls, then dip the balls in the breadcrumbs until covered.
Fry over medium heat, turning them every couple of minutes, until warmed through.

Beer battered fish

Beer battered fish

I resisted it for a long time, but a few months ago we bought a deep fryer. I realise that you don’t need an actual appliance – a pot will suffice – but I can’t use a pot of oil after standing above the commercial deep fryer in my parents’ shop for so many years. It just didn’t seem safe and I have problems figuring out the temperature, even with a thermometer.

Finally, I succumbed to the allure of deep fried goodness. Honestly, we don’t use it too much, but occasionally we have deep fried nights (not healthy but oh so good). Below is a good, simple recipe for beer batter. It’s nice and crispy and the bonus is the faint malty taste of beer.

PS: The chips were frozen chips from the supermarket. I like to cook, but that doesn’t extend to making my own chips. Maybe one day.

PSS: The model in the photo is Alastair, who patiently held the cone while I demanded that he hold it higher – no higher! No, lower! Lower! Right there. Oh, that shot doesn’t look good, hang on, don’t move!

Beer battered fish

Serves 4

600g fish fillet, skin and bones removed
200g (1 1/3 cup) plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
300ml beer (I used Coopers Sparkling Ale)
Vegetable oil, to deep-fry

Method

1. Cut fish into 8 pieces. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Gradually add beer, using a whisk to stir until well combined.

2. Reheat oil to 190°C. Dip 4 pieces of fish, 1 at a time, into the batter to evenly coat and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with remaining fish pieces, reheating the oil between batches.

Spring time orecchiette

Springtime pasta

All the different produce coming out with the change of season gets me quite excited. I usually buy vegetables without meals in mind, and wait for inspiration to strike. When I realised that I had asparagus, broad beans and fresh peas, I knew that I wanted to throw it all together and have a little homage to spring. As a bonus, I also had ricotta, left over from the chocolate and cherry ricotta cake. This pasta made itself, really.

I am my harshest critic when it comes to my food, but even I thought this pasta was freakin’ awesome. 😀

This is my contribution this week to Presto Pasta Nights. Check out Presto Pasta Nights for more great recipes!

Spring time orecchiette

Serves 3-4

300g dried orecchiette or other pasta
400g fresh broad beans, podded
200g fresh peas, podded
Small bunch of asparagus (around 250g)
3 rashers of bacon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
200g ricotta
Salt & pepper

Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil, this will be for the vegetables. When boiling, add the podded broad beans and blanch for a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water.

Return the water to the boil, and add the podded peas. Boil for 5-10 minutes .

While you’re waiting for the peas, peel the thick skin off the broad beans and set aside. It should take a few minutes to get through and by then the peas should be ready. When the peas no longer taste raw, remove them from water with a slotted spoon and add to the broad beans.

Put a pot of water on to the boil for the pasta and start cooking the pasta.

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus, and slice into 3cm lengths. Add the asparagus to the water and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from the water and set aside with the broad beans and peas.

In a frying pan, fry the bacon to your liking. Remove and drain on paper towels, then cut into small pieces.

Wipe the frying pan with paper towels, then add and garlic on a medium-low heat. Cook gently for a few minutes, then add the vegetables and bacon and leave them on the medium-low heat to warm up, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Tip the pasta into the pan, adding a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water. Add the ricotta, and stir it through the pasta, mashing it up a bit if necessary.

Taste, season with more salt if required, and finish off with lots of freshly ground pepper.

Chocolate and Cherry Ricotta Cake

Chocolate and ricotta cake

The second sweet item for the inaugural barbeque was a chocolate and cherry ricotta cake. I adapted it from a recipe on taste.com.au which was for a Chocolate and Raspberry Baked Ricotta Cake. Essentially, it’s the same, except I used cherries instead of raspberries (der).

I had long ago eaten my frozen berry stash from last summer, but I did have a jar of cherries that I bought in a moment’s madness in Aldi. We hardly ever go there, but whenever I do I’m always amused by the weird stuff you can buy. Last time we were there, you could buy a petrol generator, or a portable foozball table, in case you needed more than just groceries and alcohol! Totally random, and that randomness must’ve influenced me to buy a jar of cherries that I didn’t need.

The cake itself is a contender for the ugliest thing I’ve ever baked. It was so ugly it was beyond ugly. It was fugly. I found the “batter” very thick, and had trouble smoothing it down. When I pulled it out the oven, I had concerns that it would be dry – it certainly looked dry! After we dished it out though, I was happy that my fears were unfounded. It had quite a dense texture, and you could certainly taste the tang from the ricotta. I didn’t think it was quite sweet enough, or taste chocolaty enough but it was still tasty. I would love to play around with the recipe and try it with some melted dark chocolate.

Chocolate and Cherry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Taste.com.au

Ingredients (serves 8)

3/4 cup (165g) ricotta cheese
2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
100g butter, melted
1 cup hot water
1 cup pitted cherries (I used ones from a jar)

Cherry sauce
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup pitted cherries

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line base and sides of a 6.5cm-deep, 22cm (base) round cake pan with baking paper.

2. Sift flour and cocoa into a bowl. Add sugar, butter, water and ricotta. Mix well. Gently fold through cherries. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

3. Make cherry sauce: Combine sugar and 2 tablespoons cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Add cherries. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Cut cake into wedges. Place on plates. Spoon over cherry sauce & serve.

Malteser biscuits for an inaugural barbeque

Malteaser biscuits

On what turned out to be a rather windy and chilly Saturday evening, we were invited to an inaugural barbeque at Ben and Lisa’s. The inital inaugural barbeque had been scheduled several months ago, but unfortunately the connector from the barbeque to the gas bottle didn’t, well, connect. This time, we were assured that the correct connector had been purchased, and some barbeque would be had!

So it was a rather special occasion, and in it’s honour I took along a couple of sweet things. One of those items was malteser biscuits and the other was a chocolate and cherry ricotta cake (to be blogged about later).

They’re quite straight forward, and contain condensed milk and chopped maltesers (I gave mine a good bash with a rolling pin). The recipe is from taste.com.au here. My only deviation from the recipe was to only add one teaspoon of vanilla essence rather than two.

The biscuits were soft and chewy, and particularly chewy in the parts that had malteser bits. If I’m going to be picky, I think they may have been a tad dry…. which was most likely my fault as I turned on the grill instead of the oven again. I didn’t even realise until the biscuits had been in the oven for 10 minutes. Still, I was probably the only one who noticed the slight dryness, judging by how quickly the biscuits got gobbled up!

Wontons

Wontons

I learnt how to make wontons by watching my mum make them. My parents used to own a small food business, and I worked there from when I was an awkward teen of 13 till I was 22 (gotta love family obligations). Nowadays I wonder what people thought when they came in. Even when I was young, I would be making burgers and frying up fish and chips. I wonder if that was ever considered weird.

I know that on the very few occasions when I got to a fast food “restaurant” like KFC or McDonalds I often have a little internal shudder when I see the youngies. It’s another reason to not like those places – I don’t quite trust teenagers cooking my food!

Right, I’ll put my grandma persona away and get back to wontons. I tend to mix up a big batch of dumpling meat, then divide it into smaller batches and freeze. 200 grams of mince seems to make around 30 wontons (depending on how much meat you put in each). The recipe I use for the mince is below, along with a lesson on how to fold wontons.

Wontons can be deep fried, steamed or boiled. My favourite way is boiled in soup. I love biting into the meat and then slurping up the soft skin. I also use the same mince to make pan fried dumplings by wrapping it in gyoza skin. I must warn you though – while they taste great, dumpling burps can be something awful. Don’t drink something fizzy during or immediately after eating!

Wonton soup

I served my wontons in home-made chicken soup with fresh shitake mushrooms, bok choy, sprouts and squid (left over from the lemon herb squid evening).

Wonton mince

1 kilo pork mince
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes then diced finely
1 tablespoon chinese rice wine
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the pork, ginger, garlic, shitake mushrooms, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg and salt. Stir until well mixed.

To shape wontons

Wonton 1

Step 1: Take a small teaspoon of mince and place it near the top half of the wonton wrapper. Don’t use too much mince, or the wontons will be hard to shape.

Wonton step 2

Step 2: Fold the wrapper over and flatten it around the mince.

Wonton 2

Step 3: Wet one corner of the wrapper and bring the two edges of the wrapper together. Press the corners together until they stick.

Wonton 3

Your wonton should look like this!