Braised pork with star anise and ginger

Braised pork with star aniseIt’s a good thing that there’s internets. Instead of having something interesting to say, I can tell you about something interesting I read! Look at this article on the Guardian that discusses food combinations, and check out the recipe for Braised Lamb Shoulder. Apparently star anise, when combined with onion, enhances the flavour of meat. I think some experiments are in order!

The recipe for the braised pork above was from taste.com.au here. The only changes I made was to substitute the dry sherry for some chinese rice wine, add another clove of garlic (we love garlic), and double the amount of soy sauce as I didn’t use stock – just water. It was a satisfying meal.

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Roast cauli

Broccoli has been one of my favourite vegetables for several years. This winter though, I’ve been turning away from it in favour of it’s close relative, the cauliflower.

Last week, having both cauliflower and broccoli in my vegetable crisper, I wanted to find a way to eat them both. I often do stir fry, occasionally some roast vegies, and I wanted something a bit different. Something with a bit more oomph.

After mulling over it for half a day, a light bulb went on in my head. How about fritters? A google search soon threw up a couple of recipes for a very basic cauliflower fritter. I decided to sex it up by adding some roasted cumin seeds, which gave them an aromatic, peppery edge.

We ate the fritters wrapped in flat pita bread and with home made hummus (recipe from taste.com.au here). The following day, the three of us stood around the kitchen bench and ate them cold. Gosh they were good.

Next time I make these I will skip the flour and dip them in egg and dried breadcrumbs instead. I suggest you try that rather than following my recipe and rolling in flour.

Broccoli fritters

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Serves 4

600g cauliflower
400g broccoli
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Fresh breadcrumbs
Flour
Salt & pepper

Wash the cauliflower and broccoli and cut into small florets. In separate pots, boil the florets until tender in well salted water. Drain the vegetables, transfer to a bowl and mash.

In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the cumin seeds over medium heat. Crush in a mortar and pestle and tip into the cauliflower and broccoli mixture.

Add the garlic and egg, and season well with salt and pepper. Work in enough breadcrumbs to obtain a fairly stiff mixture (possibly about 3/4 cup? I didn’t keep track…).

Wet your hands and form the mixture into balls then roll them in flour. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and fry the fritters until golden.

Drain them on absorbent paper and serve.

60 years of marriage

Cake

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in the weekend. A banquet was held at Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Auckland. I stole one of the menus that was displayed on each table, and if any of the dish names seem a bit weird, well, I copied them directly from the menu.

Grand Pork BBQ and Suckling Pig Mixed Platter

First dish out was Grand Pork BBQ and Suckling Pig Mixed Platter.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish was part of the platter. I love jellyfish. It doesn’t have much flavour, apart from the sauce that it is generally dressed in (normally sesame oil, soy sauce and sometimes chilli), but the texture is great. It’s crunchy but soft.

Pork

The pork crackling was very crispy. I love crunching through the skin to be met with the fat underneath. Mhmm. Next to the pork on this plate is some roast beef.

Stirred Scallop with Macadamia Nuts

Next was Stirred Scallop with Macadamia Nuts. There was no skimping on the nuts in this dish. Truthfully, I found them a bit weird. I like macadamia nuts, I just wasn’t sure about them stir fried with scallops and vegetables. The crispy noodle nests were good fun though. They tasted just like uncooked 2 minute noodles!

Deep Fried Golden Prawn Balls

These were the Deep Fried Golden Prawn Balls. It’s hard to go wrong with deep fried food, but they could’ve used a bit more oomph. More seasoning, or some spices perhaps.

Soup

Next we had a bowl of Shark Fin Soup with Shredded Chicken. The red stuff is vinegar. Shark fin itself doesn’t have much taste – like jellyfish it’s about the texture. This soup was a disappointment as there wasn’t much flavour.

Lobster

After the soup came the Lobster in Superior Sauce (I don’t know what made the sauce so superior!). This was a large lobster – and there was one for each table! My Bro ate half of it by himself as he was the only one willing to get messy and crack the legs.

White chicken

This dish was Steamed Marinated Chicken, eaten with a dipping sauce of oil, ginger and spring onion. Hoorah for the chicken head!

Steamed fish

The Steamed Live Blue Cod Fish was U-G-L-Y. Not sure what they meant by “live” but the flesh was soft and delicious. There’s a word in Cantonese that is used to describe the texture of food – the closest translation I can think of is silky. The fish was silky.

By the way, if you ever get presented with a fish like this, try eating the flesh from the cheeks. It’s very soft and delicate. Since no one else on the table looked interested, I ate one cheek and gave the other to Alastair.

Fish Maw and Chinese Mushroom

The Fish Maw and Chinese Mushrooms on seasonal vegetables was interesting. The abalone (paua!) in the middle was thinly sliced but slightly chewy. It had a stronger flavour than I normally associate with abalone. The interesting part about this dish was the fish maw (it’s the whitish stuff you can see). Fish maw is the gas bladder that helps fish control buoyancy. When eating it I was struck by the gelatinous texture and then the fattiness. It didn’t taste fishy at all – just fatty. Really fatty. Ick.

Two further dishes came out before cake and dessert. The last two dishes were fried rice and long life noodles. I didn’t bother taking photos of them because they were just fried rice and noodles. Everyone was so full at this stage that they were barely touched.

Read bean soup

Dessert was Red Bean soup. I wasn’t that enamoured. It needed more sugar and they used dried orange peel when cooking it. I find the dried peel too overpowering. My mum makes good red bean soup. She’s shown me how to make it, and the last time I tried, I mistook kidney beans for red beans (I don’t know where my head was at – they’re completely different!). I think I ended up making a big pot of chilli instead.

Long Life Buns.

And finally, we were served Long Life Buns. These steamed buns are shaped and tinted like a peach.

Long Life Buns inside

Inside the soft buns was lotus paste and salted egg yolk. Love the contrast of the salty egg yolk with the sweet lotus paste. I didn’t think I could eat any more but I managed two because they were delicious.

It was such a pleasure to be there while my grandparents celebrated their years of marriage. Maybe one day Alastair and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary (if we’re long lived enough!). What a lovely thought.

Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Cnr Manukau Road & Greenlane East, Alexandra Raceway (Gate B)
Epsom, Auckland

Phone: + 64 9 638 6998

Auckland: Sunshine Chinese Restaurant

Somewhere between Auckland and Melbourne I caught a cold. Right now my head is a bit fuzzy and my memory of the dinner below isn’t great…. Even the pictures haven’t jogged my recall much so apologies for the lack of details. It didn’t help that I never looked at the menu – the ordering was done by the “adults”. No matter how old you get, when you’re with family you become a kid again.

Our first night in Auckland was my Aunt Miriam’s birthday. We loaded up the van (something that can take half an hour with my family) and headed off for an early dinner at Sunshine Chinese Restaurant. A sign on the door said that it was Auckland’s best Chinese restaurant, as decided by Cuisine magazine in 2005 and 2006.

Soup

Dinner started off with a bowl of thin Chinese soup.

Soy sauce chicken

Next out was the soy sauce chicken. The flesh was slippery and tender.

Chicken Head

The chicken head was left on for presentation. Cluck cluck!

 Pork spareribs in plum sauce

Pork spareribs in plum sauce.

assorted cold meats

This was assorted cold meats – roast pork, roast beef, roast duck and, my favourite of the plate, jellyfish!

Green beans and minc

Green beans and mince – this dish was rather salty, but good eaten with rice. I would’ve preferred more spiciness.

Seafood and tofu hotpot

Seafood and tofu hotpot. The hotpot was delicious – the seafood was sizzling hot and just cooked through. I also enjoyed the tofu which had soaked up lots of sauce.

Beef strips and celery

Beef strips and celery. I think that the beef had just been dipped in flour and stir fried. It looked like the beef should be crispy, but it wasn’t.

eggplant hotpot

The eggplant hotpot was probably my favourite dish of the night. The eggplant was very, very soft. My only wish was for some chili to go with it.

Birthday cake

This was my Aunt’s birthday cake. My cousin, Anthony, blew out the candle (he’s 5).

Birthday cake

The cake was okay. I dislike fake cream, so points off for that.

Sago

And finally, a bowl of sago to finish off. I love sago. It was a good ending to the evening.

Sunshine Chinese Restaurant,
39 Market Pl, Viaduct, Auckland
Phone: +64 9 302 3322

Plane Food: Emirates

There’s a sure fire way to gain a couple of kilos in a weekend – spend time with my family. This weekend, Alastair, my Bro and I flew to Auckland to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. (60 years! How incredible is that?!)

From the moment we got on the plane we started eating, and didn’t finish until we got back to Melbourne. Al and I flew Emirates (the first time I had flown with them) and I was impressed. I loved the plane (an Airbus A340-500 I think), I loved the hot towels they handed out just before take off, and the food – well, considering we were 40,000 feet in the air, the food was pretty good!

On the flight over to Auckland, we were served brunch. There were two choices – an omelette and chicken.

Emirates breakfast

Alastair had the omelette with gruyere cheese accompanied by creamed spinach, tomato wedge, grilled veal sausage and rosti potatoes. I had a moment of panic when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted and I choose the omelette. Al picked the chicken and we ended up doing a swap. After I saw him eating the omelette, I wanted it back. It was super cheesey, and I like cheese!

Emirates chicken

I had the sauteed chicken with mushroom sauce served with creamy mashed potatoes, buttered green beans and carrot batonettes. Even though I had cheese envy, this wasn’t bad. The mushroom sauce was well flavoured, and the vegetables still retained a bit of crunch. The mashed potatoes could have used more seasoning but I couldn’t be bothered trying to find my tiny packet of salt amongst all the other stuff on my tray.

Emirates crackers and cheese

The obligatory bread roll, and cheese and crackers. I was happy that the butter (in a little packet) was spreadable but was intrigued to see that it was white. It was Australian butter too.

Emirates fruit

What I had of the fruit was good. There was strawberry, a couple of red grapes and some pieces of rock melon and honey dew. Al got my rock melon and honey dew as I’m not a fan. I did eat a piece to confirm that I don’t like it – yes, that dislike is still there.

Emirate dessert

Light cheesecake with strawberry topping and whipped cream. This was a bit light on the strawberry flavour. And I didn’t realise it was cheesecake until I checked the menu to type out this entry!

The flight back we were served dinner, with two choices – New Zealand lamb ragout or pan-fried blue cod. Al and I both went for the lamb.

Emirates lamb

The lamb ragout was served with roasted pumpkin, buttered green beans and creamy herb mashed potatoes. This smelt SO good. The lamb was tender and the sauce was rich and savoury.

Emirates bread

I mopped up the rest of my sauce with my bread roll. And then polished off the cheese and crackers.

Emirates salad

The appetiser was sliced charsiew duck served with marinated Thai glass noodle salad. There was also a salad with ginger dressing.

Emirates chocolate dessert

Dessert was a rich chocolate gateau/mousse with pistachio and raspberry coulis. Couldn’t taste or see the pistacho, but I enjoyed the texture of the mousse and the raspberry against the chocolate.

I’ll post about the two main meals we ate in Auckland over the next few days. There was lots of food, lots of family and lots of photos!

Rainy days

Soup

A big bowl of home made soup would be perfect on a rainy day like today.

No recipe, because no one needs a recipe for beef and vegetable soup. Throw whatever you have into a big pot and let it simmer.

Soup makes me feel good about being inside on a rainy evening. I know what I’m having for dinner!

Cafe Plum (closed)

Cafe Plum

Every few weekends, you’ll often hear a conversation in my house that goes something like this:

“Should we go to a café for brunch?”

“Okay! Where should we go?”

“Let’s go to our favourite.”

“Our favourite….?”

“You know! Our favourite café!!”

“Ummm…”

“OUR FAVOURITE! Plum!”

“Plum! Oh, that’s my favourite! Let’s go there!”

Plum is our current café of choice, and yet the Boys never know what I’m talking about. Sigh. It can be hard being the smart one in the house (haha).

Located across the road from the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital, Café Plum is small, but it’s cookin’. While I do enjoy a good poached egg on toast, when I go out for brunch I generally feel like something a bit different. There’s only so much eggs and toast that you can stomach before you get bored.

That’s one of the great things about Plum. The menu has more interesting things than just bacon and eggs and there’s always a couple of specials up on the board. A couple of specials that I’ve seen (and eaten): Ricotta hotcakes with smoked salmon and horse radish crème fraîche, Cuban fried eggs with fried banana and chorizo, and Mozzarella in Carrozza (fried mozzarella sandwich). For sweet brunches, there’s items like pancakes with banana and French toast with a touch of orange blossom syrup. (I can’t recall the sweet brunches as well because I prefer the savoury ones!)

The regular menu has a couple of interesting items beyond the usual big breakfast, such as marsala potatoes with sausage and spinach, and soy scrambled eggs with chinese sausage.

If the cafe isn’t too busy, often the chef/owner will come out and have a chat. From the conversations we’ve had with him, it’s obvious that he is someone who is passionate about food, and loves to see others enjoy his cooking. That’s a quality that I adore, and it’s just another reason that I love his café.

Cafe Plum
193 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne 3051
Ph: (03) 9329 8867

Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant

Tibas Lebanese Restaurant

In celebration of my Bro’s birthday in August, we took him out to dinner. Because it was a weekday, I didn’t feel like going somewhere too fancy, so I picked Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant.

Well, it was a good thing I wasn’t looking for fancy, because Tiba’s certainly isn’t! The atmosphere was…… what’s the best word? Functional comes to mind! It was a bit like having dinner at someone’s house – someone who hadn’t decorated for a couple of decades. Still, we weren’t there for the atmosphere or interior design – we were there for food.

After perusing the menu, we decided on the set menu and chose Tiba’s House Special. I assumed that the price was per person, but it wasn’t – it was per serve. After a bit of confusion where we got the feeling that we only had ordered one House Special (we had), Alastair went to the waiter to clarify and settled on two serves of the set house special. He was told that three would probably be a bit too much for the three of us and that was good advice.

I really needed to eat – a strong coffee in the late afternoon had been churning my stomach and I was still feeling a bit nauseous. I kept being teased by the sight of food being bought out only to disappear around the corner. So when food arrived (after a couple of quick nasty photos of course) I started stuffing myself.

Because I was so focussed on eating, I don’t really remember exactly what we had… I know there was pita bread, and dips (hummus, tzatziki, & baba ganoush), dolmades, chickpeas, parsley salad (I’m still not sure if this was supposed to be tabouleh as there was no visible signs of burghul), garden salad, pickles, Lebanese pizza and falafel. While I was eating stuff individually, Alastair had the brilliant idea of sticking stuff in pita bread and wrapping it up. Just like a bought one!

Tibas Lebanese Restaurant

Then the meat came out – lamb, chicken, beef, sausage, some random meat on a stick, sitting on a bed of rice.

Tibas Lebanese Restaurant

And that rice – OH MY GOD. All the juice from the meat had soaked into the rice and it was so tasty. It was oily and meaty and delicious – I could’ve eaten a bucket of it. My only wish is that the rice had been a bit warmer. There is nothing like steaming hot rice straight from the pot or rice cooker. Mhmmmm.

It didn’t feel like I had eaten that much, but by the end of the meal we were all completely stuffed. Not that my full stomach stopped me from taking a small pack of pastries home to savour on the couch…!

Tibas Lebanese Restaurant

Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant.
504 Sydney Rd Brunswick 3056.
Phone: (03) 9380 8425

Tibas Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Polenta and Sumac Drumsticks with Creamy Coleslaw

Chicken drumsticks

The night I made this, I had crispy drumsticks in mind, coated with cornflakes or weetbix. Unfortunately when I got home, I realised that we didn’t have any cereal in the pantry, so I improvised instead. The Boys loved them, but then they always love it when I cook meat!

I had half a cabbage sitting in my vegetable drawer so I decided to serve the chicken with coleslaw. I started adding stuff together to make a dressing for the ‘slaw – thankfully the “bit of this, bit of that” approach worked and I didn’t have a disaster. After tasting the dressing, I wanted to eat it just by itself – it was creamy, and a bit tangy with a touch of sweetness and nuttiness.

Polenta and Sumac Drumsticks

For the Drumsticks

2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup yogurt
3/4 cup polenta
3 teaspoons sumac
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of milk
8 chicken drumsticks

Preheat your oven to 200 degree C.

Crush the garlic & salt in a mortar and pestle. Mix into the yogurt, then add a dash of milk to thin.

Mix together the polenta, sumac, chilli powder and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Pat dry the drumsticks with a paper towel.

Dip each drumstick into the yogurt, letting the excess drip off, then dip into the polenta mixture.

Place on an oiled baking tray then bake for 40 minutes or until cooked.

Creamy Coleslaw

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon tahini
1 teaspoon sumac
salt and pepper

Coleslaw:

Cabbage
Carrots
Capsicum
Red onion

Melt the honey, then mix in all the other ingredients. Finely slice your vegetables and toss together with the dressing.

Pikelets

Pikelets

I should learn by now that I shouldn’t cook late at night. Whenever I do, I make mistakes because I’m tired. Like the time I started a caramel slice at 9:30pm on a work night and turned the grill on instead of the oven. I didn’t realise until after I had “baked” the base of the slice and had poured on the caramel. It took me a while before I figured out why the caramel was bubbling so much in the oven!

Still, pikelets are hard to screw up. Even though I made them late in the evening they turned out okay. However, the shapes were all over the place and not as round as I would’ve liked. Apparently if you drop the batter from the tip of the tablespoon, the pikelets will come out round. I’ll have to remember it for next time!

Pikelets

From Donna Hay Modern Classics 2.

Combine 2 cups plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar in a bowl. Combine 2 eggs, 1 12/ cups milk and 70g melted butter in another bowl, then whist into the flour mixture.

Cook 1 tablespoon of the mixture over low heat in a frying pan greased with butter for 1-2 minutes. Turn and cook for another minute or until golden.

Serve the pikelets warm with lemon and sugar or cool with jam and whipped cream. Makes 40 (apparently).