I have a new love. Market love that is. South Melbourne market may be smaller than the infamous Victoria Market in the CBD, but it certainly has my vote when it comes to quality of fresh food and healthy sanity levels. Unlike Victoria market where the vendors are yelling out bargains and the shoppers are trampling over one another, South Melbourne market (on an early Sunday morning run) is a calm, organised shopping haven. Even my market-phobe of a hubby enjoys tagging along and finding interest in what the stalls have to offer!
Some people have said that the price of produce is slightly higher in South Melbourne and for the most part, I disagree. Depending on what you’re getting, I think prices are quite competitive. Well, except when hubby dearest got very excited and encouraged me to buy ‘the most beautiful piece of tuna steak’ recently. When the lady at the fish produce counter handed over the package and said ‘$16’ I handed over the cash with a frozen smile on my face. You see, I usually go for the bargains like fresh fish of the day or Sunday tray which has a few gorgeous fillets of fish for $12. So when I had to pay 16 bucks for ONE steak…I was just a little gobsmacked. The budget shopper in me was clawing to get out and kick me in the shin for not going for the ‘specials’.
Since the deed had already been done, I decided we’d make the best of it and create a meal worth all the glory the tuna steak could bring. And this was it.
I marinated the tuna steak, gently seared, sliced and layered with some peppery watercress and roma tomatoes on lightly toasted Turkish bread. Simple, fresh and delicious. Would I do it again with a $16 piece of tuna steak? Most definitely. (Scroogy shopper me is probably screaming in the background) But yes, I’ll do it all over again.
Marinated tuna steak
1 tuna steak (1 inch thick)
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cooking wine / dry sherry
1/2 red chilli, finely diced
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp grated garlic
Mix all the ingredients together and marinate the steak for at least 20 minutes. Save the marinade as a dressing for the salad and to drizzle over the fish after it has been sliced and layered on the sandwich.
Sear the steak gently on each side for about 2 minutes on high. Cook for longer if you prefer your fish cooked through but I wanted to enjoy the freshness of the steak in its rare form.
This summer in Melbourne is a true reminder of the song by Crowded House – Four seasons in one day. From blazing hot 38C days to chilly 15C. To make the best of it, I enjoy myself by cooking and eating cool summer salads to rich, warming soups all in the same season. Awesome isn’t it?
On one of those stinking hot days (i’m not very good in extreme heat – picture Oscar the grouch scenarios) I really didn’t feel like cooking or doing anything for that matter but I really wanted a light, healthy and delicious lunch. So despite the non-desire to cook, I left behind my personal indent on the couch and moved sloth-like to the kitchen to whip this dish up. And I was glad I did. I love dishes that require such minimal cooking but yield great results. There’s no sweating over a hot stove either – thanks to whoever invented electric kettles and microwave ovens!
PRAWN, FENNEL AND TOFU SALAD
20 medium prawns, shells removed (I used frozen ones)
150g fresh firm tofu (bean curd), cubed
1 small fennel, sliced finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from asian stores)
handful of fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley), leaves picked
100g glass noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
Prepare dressing by whisking lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger until all the sugar has dissolved.
Cook prawns – you can boil them in a pot or cook them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 5 minutes (or until cooked through), drain and set aside to cool.
Place glass noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave aside for 10 minutes, then drain and cool by running through some cold water.
Assemble salad with all of the ingredients including cooked prawns and noodles except the fried shallots.
Toss salad with dressing, then top with fried shallots. Serve cool. Yum.
There are days when the hours seem to slip by so quickly and stealthily and soon enough the sun’s setting and it’s time for dinner and oh my gosh, I haven’t prepared anything yet! Yes, yes – this is even when jobless me is at home all day fiddling around. You see, if I’m actually at work, I tend to plan ahead a lot more and usually I have something prepared, defrosted or planned for dinner.
Thank God for pasta. It has got to be one of the easiest and fastest meals to whip up…aside from baked beans on toast of course. Well, this linguini was done in 30 minutes tops, and only because the pasta took time to cook and the prawns needed to be defrosted in the microwave. It’s quick and delicious and pretty much a fail-proof, mid-week, when you’ve-forgotten-to-prep-for-dinner kinda meal.
Chilli Prawn Linguini
400g shelled, green prawns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves
400g tinned tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook prawns for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to change colour. Add in chilli and garlic. Cook for another minute before adding in tinned tomatoes, including all the juices. Season to taste and stir through basil leaves.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta through the sauce, adding in some of the cooking liquid to get a smooth, glossy coating of sauce throughout.
Some people are able to run their lives like well-oiled machines – stable, unchanging. Some people rock it with crazy happenings everyday and live by the motto of “go get ‘em or else”…For me, I feel like I’m just unsettled – not simple, not rocking it either. Probably due to the fact that we moved to a whole different continent about 4 months ago. Although it’s back to where we call home, the feeling like we haven’t quite completed our journey is still hovering around.
Hubby and I are super blessed to have found an apartment to rent really quickly, we found jobs speedily too and we’re back into life as we once knew. Well…not quite. I’ve resigned from my brand new job – yes after just 2.5 months of action. It just wasn’t what I expected. It just wasn’t something I could see myself doing for the next few years. I had to leave. I’ve never ever done this in my life – probation period definitely holds new meaning for me now! So yeah, it’s back to square one.
Plus I just read an update from an acquaintance’s blog of their thoughts from a recent miscarriage. Made me super sad, which explains why I’m so melancholic at the mo. Sorry!!!
However, having said all that, I know I should be thankful – for all of God’s amazing blessings in my life. Especially for my hubby who is ever so gracious and supportive – I could quit a thousand jobs and he’ll still be okay with it. Thank you hunny! You’re the best! It’s now written for the world to see, so you can’t take it back !!! I love you!
I am also thankful that simple, pleasurable things do exist. Like this baked swordfish dish I made a while back, and the fact that tomorrow will be the first day of spring. Yippee!
EASY BAKED SWORDFISH WITH HERBS
Adapted from cuisine.com.au
- 4 medium sized swordfish steaks (about half an inch thick)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 ripe tomatoes, halved, juice and seeds removed, and chopped
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Splash of white wine
- Juice of half a lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 180C.
Season fish with salt and pepper and place in an ovenproof dish. Combine the tomatoes, herbs and garlic in a bowl, then sprinkle over the fish. Add the white wine, lemon juice and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through.
My hubby says that all Singaporeans have an obsession with pepper. He had noticed this to be true at a dinner with my family back in Singapore when we were there in May this year. We were all enjoying a delicious dinner at a famous chinese (hokkien cuisine) restaurant called Beng Hiang and they had amazing fish maw soup. Being the ‘outsider’ looking in, he noticed that every single one of us at the table were dumping generous amounts of pepper in our soup, along with lashings of red vinegar. All except him. And now he just makes sweeping statements about Singaporeans and pepper. But I do think it’s just me, well…and maybe my family.
When it comes to a dish that is the epitome of pepperiness (is there such a word?) there is none other than Black Pepper Prawns. This popular Singapore seafood dish (usually cooked with crab) is second to the more famous chilli crab. Colonel Sanders thought only his chicken is finger lickin’ good? Nah-ah! Get your fingers dirty and enjoy the addictive dark brown pepper sauce that coats the prawns. The natural sweetness of the prawns along with the spicy and salty sauce is a killer combination. It’s a really simple sauce too which was a surprise when I was looking for a recipe to follow.
It’s great as a dish served with rice and a side of stir fried veggies, or as finger food to go with beer or wine. I cooked this while non-pepper fan hubby was away and ate it on its own washed down with a glass of pinot gris. Ahhh…the things I get up to when the hubs is away.
Not the healthiest dish but life is too short. Just eat.
BLACK PEPPER PRAWNS
Adapted from GroupRecipes
10-12 large prawns, shells on
A knob of butter
1/2 tbsp of ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
a splash of chinese cooking wine
a splash of light soy sauce
1 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked / crushed
In a hot work, heat up some cooking oil and stir fry the prawns until just cooked.
Drain the oil, and in the same wok, add the butter, ginger and garlic. Fry till slightly brown and fragrant. Add the sauces, wine and peppercorns and mix well. Return the cooked prawns to the wok and stir to coat the prawns.
Cover the work for about a minute to let the prawns and sauce infuse. All done! Serve, eat and lick those fingers clean.
Here’s my second instalment of the 365 Challenge. Prawn curry’s on the menu. I’ve cooked prawn curry before but they were mostly southeast asian style – mostly with a slight tang from assam (tamarind), or more of a sweet chilli prawn rather than an actual curry.
The ingredients from this recipe is pretty stock standard. Aromatics – check. Spices – check. Coconut milk – check. White wine – check. Wait a minute! White wine????? Right, I guess this is where the French influence comes in. This is the first time I’ve used white wine to cook a curry. Totally out of my curry comfort zone, but I did it anyway as I wanted to stay as close to the recipe as possible. The only thing I didn’t have was the tandoori paste. In place of that, I used a thai red curry paste which worked just as well. And I used parsley instead of coriander.
I also adjusted the portion size. 18 prawns was just a bit much for a dinner for one. Hubby was away when I cooked this. I reduced portions to a third. Six prawns makes for a good meal. Served with crusty bread or rice.
There was nothing mind-blowing about this recipe, but it is a decent curry. Spicy (watch out for that birds’ eye chilli!), fragrant (love the touch of lemongrass), sweet (especially if you leave the heads and shell of the prawns on). To me, the white wine was probably better poured in my glass as an accompaniment to the meal and not cooked in the curry.
Another simple to follow, pretty fool-proof recipe and good for those who prefer a lighter curry rather than the richer, more robust asian style versions.
Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Reasons to Sit Down to Eat
4 garlic cloves
50g fresh ginger
4 french shallots
1 red capsicum
1 lemongrass stem
1 red birds’ eye chili
1 tsp tandoori paste
1 tsp curry powder
100ml olive oil
18 large prawns
250ml white wine
salt & pepper
200ml coconut milk
6 sprigs coriander, leaves only
Peel and slice garlic, ginger and shallots. Cut eggplant into large cubes and the capsicum into small cubes. Thinly slice the lemongrass and chilli. Saute the spices and curry powder in olive oil with the veggies for 10 minutes. Add the prawns, cook for 5 minutes, moisten with the wine, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season, then add the coconut milk and coriander leaves.
My wonderful man and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last month. Having just settled back in Oz, with our stuff still in transit, with my future in the working world still in limbo and with our savings dwindling a little – we thought a quiet little home-made celebration was in order.
There’s nothing better or more satisfying than to cook the hubby a meal that he craves for. Thanks to a programme on SBS called Flavours of Singapore, we were both gawking longingly at a recent episode featuring Singapore Chilli Crab and that gave me the idea to cook the dish for our anniversary dinner.
The challenge was getting mud crabs from the market. This dish works best with big, fat and juicy mud crabs, but they are not as common as Blue Swimmer Crabs and as expected, I could not find any. So these would have to do.
Fortunately, the blue swimmer crabs were of good size and beautifully blue. Look at those colours!
Cleaning crabs is not as daunting a task as you may imagine. It was tricky having hands full of crabby bits and taking photos, so I don’t have step by step ones to show you. I’m sure there’s a youtube video somewhere out there that you can follow.
I love watching the crabs change colours as they cook. They turn into a gorgeous shade of vermillion and not to forget – the amazing aroma!
After trying out a few recipes, I find this one to be most authentic. The key to good chilli crab is in the sauce. The sweet, slightly spicy sauce lightly laced with egg chiffon is what makes the mess from eating crabs worth its while.
The plus point of eating at home meant we could do away with table manners and niceties and lick, slurp, smack our lips and fingers all we wanted without a care. It doesn’t make for a very romantic anniversary meal, but we totally loved it.
Happy Anniversary babe. Thanks for being my best friend, lover and partner. Maybe chilli crabs could be an anniversary tradition from now on eh?
SINGAPORE CHILLI CRABS
adapted from Almost Bourdain
3 medium swimmer crabs, cleaned and quartered (two mud crabs would have been better!)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 chilli, seed removed and finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tbsp tomato ketchup (don’t diss it, it’s an essential ingredient!)
4 tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce (I used Thai sweet chilli sauce)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp cornflour
parsley or spring onions for garnishing
- In a very hot wok, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and fry the crabs until they have turned orange, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.
- Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary and fry garlic, ginger, chilli and onion until fragrant.
- Mix tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, water, lime juice and corn flour in a bowl.
- Add the sauce mixture to the wok, along with the crabs, cover and bring it to a boil. Feel free to adjust the seasoning by adding more ketchup, chilli sauce or lime juice, according to your preference.
- Drizzle the lightly beaten egg into the sauce. Stir through.
- Garnish with parsley or spring onion and serve with fried mantou (chinese steamed buns) or rice. The buns are handy for mopping up every last bit of that yummy sauce.
I’m off to Singapore and Vietnam tomorrow for two weeks of food and festivities. It’d be my first time visiting Vietnam and I’m looking forward to it. Most of the time will be spent celebrating the union of my brother-in-law and his future wife, but trust me, I’m definitely going to try and fit in copious amounts of food sampling. Yay me!
Nothing exciting happening in my own kitchen though…it seems my boxes and beloved cookware have now gone past the Mediterranean and enroute to Singapore, possibly somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Fingers crossed the boxes will go through a smooth transfer to another ship before making its way down under.
For now, I’m dusting off an older post, birthed in my London kitchen. It was inspired from my trip to Miami, the land of giant and delicious crab cakes.
EASY CRAB CAKES
Makes about 6-8 cakes
3 x 170g canned crab meat
1/2 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup of cooked potatoes, chopped or crushed
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup of yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne pepper
a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice
a handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs together.
Divide the mixture into 6-8 portions, shape into patties, coat lightly in breadcrumbs and shallow fry till golden brown.
Serve with lemon wedges and a side salad.
Enjoy!! See you in two weeks time (I may blog while I’m away but no guarantees, I may be too busy eating!)…
Right, apologies for not posting sooner. I’ve been up to my ears with Project Homecoming. Before any of you think it’s some cool cooking project, it’s not. Hubby and I are finally uprooting (again) and heading back home to Australia. So imagine a small one bedroom flat in London, full of packing boxes and an outrageous accumulation of worldly possessions from our four years here, a countdown calendar which we have forgotten to rip off for the past three days and now reads 22 days left, but in truth we only have 19 days left before we jump on a plane home. So many things to do, so little time!
More on Project Homecoming another time. For now I leave with you this one-pot distraction. Almost like a bouillabaisse but with just cod, mussels, calamari and no sign of traditional sauce rouille. A really simple recipe – quick and easy and a really good distraction for when you can no longer handle cardboard boxes, sorting through crap and a messy house.
Adapted from allrecipes.com
- olive oil
- 1 onions, thinly sliced
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 sprig of dill
- 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 300ml stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 – 2 fillets of cod, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 pinch saffron threads
- 2 calamari tubes, cleaned and sliced into pieces or rings
- 8-10 new potatoes, pre-boiled till just cooked
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the onions and garlic and cook for a few seconds till fragrant but not brown. Add chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and dried thyme. Cook for another minute.
- Add stock and potatoes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Turn up the heat to high and add mussels. Cover and add fish and calamari when mussels are just starting to open. Turn heat to medium, add saffron and dill and continue cooking for 10 more minutes or until fish is cooked but still firm and not falling apart.
- Taste the bouillabaisse and adjust the seasoning, then serve.
“Recorded from 1803 with uncertain origin, but possibly a euphemism for Holy Mary, with Mackerel being a nickname for Catholics because they ate the fish on Fridays. Another suggested explanation is the practice of selling mackerel on Sundays in the seventeenth century (because its quality deteriorates rapidly), so it was known as a holy fish.”
Just a titbit of information to start this post off. Holy fish, I’m on a roll! (All puns intended)
I’ve recently fallen in love with my local waitrose’s fish deli. Fresh fish is not readily available in central London’s supermarkets, but here at Waitrose there’s quite a decent selection.And that was where I first locked shiny eyes with a whole mackerel. Slim, beautiful, glossy body with a slightly grumpy face. I love that there are no (or hardly any) scales and it’s easy to clean and cook.
I’m not very well versed in the language of fish and I hardly cook whole fish. Namely because I do not get them easily here, and my beloved other half balks at the thought of fish bones and ‘fishy-smelling’ fish. I think I snagged myself an Atlantic mackerel this time and I took the opportunity while the hubs was out of town for business to grill it up for my dinner for one. Holy mackerel – it was delicious!!
Mackerel is definitely not a delicate fish and is what the hubs would consider a ‘fishy-smelling’ fish. To me, it was heavenly. I simply grilled it stuffed with orange slices and parsley, drizzled with orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. The sugars from the orange juice caramelised the fish beautifully and gave it a citrus-kick. As I tucked into the meal, I was brought back to my vacation in Portugal where i could easily eat grilled sardines with rice every day. Oh my. Those were wonderful times. And then the hubby got home and said ‘Wow, the house needs some airing.’ Oops – while I enjoyed my grilled fish, I had forgotten to open the window to air the place out and we had ‘eau de mackerel’ wafting all around.
Fishy fishy…yummy, yummy!
Grilled mackerel with orange and parsley
1 x fresh whole mackerel gutted and cleaned
1 small handful of flat leaf parsley (stalks included)
2 orange slices
Juice of 1/4 of an orange
sea salt & black pepper
Get oven grill going on high. Score the fish on both sides. Place fish on baking tray lined with parchment. Stuff the cavity of the fish with parsley and orange slices. Squeeze orange juice over both sides of the fish, drizzle with oil and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Grill the fish for about 10 minutes on each side. Check that it is cooked through. The flesh should be white (you should see it clearly from the scored slits).
Serve with a drizzle of lemon juice (optional) and a side of plain or egg fried rice.
Oh, and remember to keep a window open!
Wat Dan Hor Fun – no no, I’m not making funny noises. It’s the actual name of this dish in Cantonese. Translated, it means ‘smooth/silky’ (wat) ‘egg’ (dan) ‘flat rice noodles’ (hor fun). It’s a very common dish especially in Singapore and parts of Malaysia.
How do I describe this dish? The perfect wat dan hor fun has slightly charred ‘wok-flavoured’ rice noodles, smothered in a tasty, lightly thickened stock with chiffon ribbons of egg, fish cake, prawns, chicken or pork and chinese mustard greens or bok choy.
The ‘charred wok flavoured’ noodles bit is rather important. Pre-frying the rice noodles softens and adds a whole level of tastiness to the dish. Done the right way, the wok should be searingly hot, and the noodles are lightly seasoned with soy sauce and stir fried quickly to give the noodles the wok flavour and light brown colouring. If possible, use the thicker (wider) rice noodles instead of the thin, pad thai ones. It’s rather difficult to get the right kind of rice noodles here in the UK. I got the medium width ones and they weren’t as good.
And I didn’t have a searingly hot wok. Something to do with my pathetic electric stove. I can never get the wok hot enough. So my noodles weren’t as charred as I wanted them to be.
I’ve had better attempts at making this dish, but this was the only one I took photos of. So you’re kind stuck with a dud-y version. Still good (taste wise) but the texture from the rice noodles was a big, fat FAIL.
Anyway, accompanied with good sambal chilli or pickled green chilli – hubs and I enjoyed every tasty ribbony bit of it. I’ll just have to get the right kind of rice noodles next time.
Texture is so darn important in a dish isn’t it??
RICE NOODLES IN EGG CHIFFON SAUCE (WAT DAN HOR FUN)
650gm flat rice noodles (get the wider ‘frying type’)
4 tbsp oil
2 tsp soya sauce
2 tsp dark soya sauce
120g lean pork/chicken
100g fish cake (optional)
4 whole stalks / heads of chinese mustard greens or bok choy - washed and cut into bit size
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp cornflour(heaped) mixed with 1/2 cup water
600ml stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tbsp soya sauce
pepper and salt to taste
Soften and loosen the fresh flat rice noodles as they tend to be stuck together and brittle when refrigerated. (steaming the noodles on a covered dish in a microwave is probably the quickest and best way)
Heat wok until very hot, add in enough oil to grease the wok, fry a handful of the the noodles. Add light and dark soya sauces and stir fry briskly. Allow noodles to burn a little at the edges to obtain a smoky taste. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the noodles.
Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry prawns and meat until cooked, add in garlic and fish cake and fry until fragrant.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add in the vegetables and when gravy comes to a boil, add in the cornflour mixture. Bring gravy back to a hard boil to cook the cornflour and thicken the sauce. Season to taste.
Turn off heat and mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs, stir with a pair of chopsticks to cook the eggs and create the eggy chiffon ribbons.
Dish gravy onto the fried noodles, garnish with crispy fried shallots (optional) and sambal chilli / sliced pickled green chilli).
I have been told that in Sicily, you will rarely eat anything that is produced or grown more than a few miles from where you are sitting. They believe in local, fresh and simple food. Sardines caught fresh in the morning is soon found in a delicious lunch, grilled or cooked in their unofficial ‘national dish’ – Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines).
Pasta c’anciova e muddica (Pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs) is also a very Sicilian dish and it’s a new discovery for me. I’ve always wondered about having breadcrumbs in pasta – it’s like adding carbs to carbs! However, it’s a dish I will definitely be cooking again.
Fresh anchovies are very popular in the Mediterranean, very similar in taste to sardines. However they do not travel well and so almost all exports are cured, packed in salt or oil. Many people I know are not fond of these little flavour-packed fish but I love them! They are really great blended with butter and adds instant flavour to pasta, vegetables etc.
I saw this recipe online a while back and thought it sounded divine. It sat in my drafts folder for the longest time until I finally remembered that I have a few fillets of anchovies left which would be perfect for it.
Fresh hot spaghetti tossed in a delicious combination of melted anchovies, soft, sweet onions and garlic and topped with teeny, tiny toasted breadcrumbs and finished with an added sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil – speechless. So simple, so wonderfully tasty.
Pasta c’anciova e muddica
* 160g spaghetti
* 8 anchovy filets, salted or brined
* 1 large garlic clove
* 1 small onion
* 25-30 g bread crumbs ( I used one slice of regular sandwich bread)
* some dried chilli pepper (to taste)
* chopped parsley
* a teaspoon of grated Sicilian pecorino (optional) (I used parmigiano reggiano)
* 3 tablespoons of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
* salt for the pasta
Coarsely chop the anchovies, slice the garlic and onion paper-thin and set aside.
While you bring the water for the pasta to a boil, heat the bread crumbs in a pan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the bread crumbs become a nice tan colour. Remove the pan from the flame, pour half the oil into it and stir till all the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside.
When the water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the remaining oil in a pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, add the chopped anchovies and with a wooden spoon, mash them till they dissolve into the oil. Add the onion and garlic and let it cook till they just start to become golden, then add the chilli, reduce the heat and cook for another two minutes; set aside.
The pasta should be ready and al dente by now: drain it well and dress it with the anchovy-onion-garlic mixture. Add two thirds of the bread crumbs, the parsley and cheese (if using) and stir well. Serve with last sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and light drizzle of olive oil.
My brother-in-law finally proposed to his gorgeous other half, and they’ve decided to have their wedding in Vietnam where they currently live and work. It’s very exciting news! Not only for the lovely couple but for me as well…I’ve never been to Vietnam, and I’m sure it will be an amazing and beautiful experience.
Until then, I thought it would be a great idea to join fellow bloggers in a monthly blogging event called Delicious Vietnam. The founders of this event A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple put this together so food enthusiasts and bloggers alike are able to come together in the blogosphere to share and explore the wonderful flavours of Vietnamese cuisine.
Aside from Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, I have never tried making vietnamese food at home. It always just seemed easier to pop into a local vietnamese restaurant and order my favourite steaming bowl of beef brisket pho.
With this event, I thought it would be nice to cook one of my other favourite Vietnamese dishes. Banh Xeo – a southern Vietnamese recipe. This is a rice flour crepe flavoured with coconut milk and turmeric and is usually made with pork, prawns and bean sprouts. The savoury crepe is crisp and fragrant,(coconut milk in a crepe mix – the Vietnamese sure know how to do it best!!) along with succulent prawns and fresh bean sprouts and eaten with the sweet and tangy Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) – this dish is certainly a winner.
Instead of sliced pork or pork belly, I used chinese sausage (lap cheong) which gives a more caremelised and sweet kick to the filling.
Usually eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves and other herbs like basil and mint, Banh Xeo is a great sharing starter. However I decided to make it a main dish, and simply shovel the deliciousness sans lettuce leaves into my gob. Yum yum.
Be patient while making the crepe, cook on medium heat and give the crepe enough time to crisp up. The crispy bits make the dish!
Adapted from Southeast Asian Flavours
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 chinese sausage, cut into thin slices
500g shelled king prawns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions, sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) - the best recipe I’ve tried so far
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
1 clove garlic, minced finely
- In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set batter to rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat up a 10-inch non-stick pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then add one portion of sausage, prawns, onions and spring onions. Stir fry until prawns are half done, turn down the heat and ladle 1/2 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly. Add bean sprouts over half the crepe. Drizzle a little more oil around outer edge of crepe.
- Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft spatula. When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
(I found that by pushing more of the prawns to one side of the pan before ladling the batter – the same side where the sprouts go – allows the crepe to be less heavy on the side that you need to flip over. This avoids breakage and produces a much prettier crepe)
Happy New Year! It’s the fourth day of 2011, and I have to admit – I’ve been a slacker. No greetings, no new posts, no photos from my Swedish vacay. Tsk Tsk! I just cannot bring myself to get going…it’s going to be a very slow start, plus it’s my birthday week, so all I really really want to do is a big, fat n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Yup, if only I can lie in bed, watch chick flicks, read books, read blogs, play computer games all day long…like i said, ‘if only’. But nope, I’m back at work today, and it sucks. Like totally.
So grumpiness aside, new year new beginnings. Droolfactor has come quite a long way in 2010. There’s so much more to learn, to try and experience, to develop and grow. I am looking forward to a new year of cooking, photos, experiments and participation in the blogging community. There are loads of recipes I am yearning to try out. Many more failed ones that I want to try to make a success of.
2011 will be busy. And I like it already.
To start the year off I’d like to share this Saffron Fish Stew recipe. I bought some precious saffron from that wonderful and colourful spice store while in Greece last year and this is the first dish I made with it.
Saffron is known to be the world’s most expensive spice (by weight). It is from the dried stigma of a saffron crocus flower and is normally used as a spice to inject fragrance and colour to a dish. On its own, the beautiful rich and red stigmas look gentle and fragile but when soaked in water, it produces the most robust golden hue.
This recipe is one of the most fuss-free fish stew recipes I’ve come across. Along with the saffron, the other ingredients are standard, shop-bought stuff like onions, fennel, fennel seeds, chilli, tomatoes etc. If you can get your lucky hands on a bunch of fresh seafood, then all the better. I only used what I could get from the supermarket.
This is a great dish to cook in under 30 minutes. It’s fresh and full of goodness. A comforting dish for a cold day. Eat it steaming hot with fresh bread or rice. Enjoy it! Happy days…
SAFFRON FISH STEW
Adapted from The Independent
*A generous glug of olive oil
*1 red onion, thickly sliced
*1 small fennel bulb, cut into chunky slices
* 2 small leeks, cut into chunky rings
*3 garlic cloves
*1 bay leaf
*1 red chilli, thickly sliced
*1 teaspoon fennel seeds
*250ml white wine
*600ml hot fish stock
*500g ripe tomatoes, chopped
*1 large pinch of saffron strands, pounded in a little warm water
*200g any firm, white-fleshed fish, cut into bite-sized chunks (I used cod)
*300g mixed seafood such as prawns, mussels, squid
*1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley
*Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then fry the onion and fennel until softened and just beginning to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the whole, peeled garlic cloves and bay leaf and then the chilli and fennel seeds. Cook for another three minutes, then splash in the wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape off all the bits caught at the bottom of the pan and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Pour in the hot stock and add the tomatoes and saffron. Cover and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
Once the stew has thickened a little, add the fish and cook for five minutes. Then add the rest of the seafood, cover the pan and cook for three to four minutes. Scatter parsley over the stew and serve with fresh bread.
Originated from Baja California in Mexico, these fish tacos are super popular in California. I’ve never been to the west coast of US, and my experience with fish tacos are limited to my incessant drooling over my food trawls on the internet. Well, I finally took control of that, and decided to bring fish tacos to my casa! Woot!
Numerous web pages later, I decided that I’m not going to follow any recipe and go with my own ‘killer’ instincts. With the exception of the fried fish, everything else was store bought anyway…so really, it’s not brain surgery.
I wanted the fried fish fillets to have a little kick to it, so I coated them in spiced cornflour before I shallow fried them. Turned out to be the best part of the tacos! They were very, very tasty and I wished I had loads more…
I used crisp taco shells and it turned out to be MESSY! I had to so some contortioning of my neck to get the right angle to crunch into those overflowing taco shells. Quite a challenge but they were so yummy, I’d happily contort…anytime. Actually, next time I might go for the soft flour tortillas instead…and save on those chiropractor bills. Kidding!!!! No chiropractors were involved in this experience.
This one’s definitely a keeper. Now to wait for my beloved hubby to take me on a Californian holiday so I can try the real thang! *hint hint* Love you babe!
Spiced fried fish fillets
2 haddock fillets skinned, deboned and cut into thick strips (cod would be good too)
3 tbsp of cornflour
¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
¼ tsp of paprika
¼ tsp of stock powder
Salt & pepper to season
Clean, dry and cut the fish into manageable taco-size strips.
Mix the cornflour and seasonings on a plate. Coat the fish strips with the spiced cornflour lightly.
Heat a pan with vegetable oil, and fry both sides of fish strips. The fish cooks very quickly, so don’t wander away…once cooked and crispy…drain on kitchen towel.
½ a cucumber, deseeded and cubed
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ a red onion diced
Handful of parsley, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Splash of olive oil
Splash of white wine vinegar / lemon juice
Salt & pepper
To complete my fish tacos, I also added shredded lettuce, refried beans, hot pepper sauce and sour cream. Messy but totally delicious.
I’m always at a loss when it comes to cooking fish so I’ve been trying out different recipes and I’m glad to say it’s been very rewarding…no more teriyaki or sweet chilli salmon for a while. Hurrah! This also means that I’m using different types of fish (other than salmon or trout). It is a bit of a challenge getting good fresh fish in central London and the variety isn’t great. I blame it on supermarket shopping. I should just get my act together and make my way to fresh food markets on weekends! Bah!
With this recipe – I used cod – the only other white fish (besides haddock) easily available at the supermarket. To give the dish a little bit more body, I used 400g of de-shelled prawns as well.
I’d have to say, this isn’t making it to my favourites list. It is good, but somehow I feel that the combination of the seafood and passata with chorizo didn’t quite click. I can imagine the sauce would be fantastic with sausages or meatballs….(hmm…that’s a thought)…but with the fish…it was just not quite there. I went back and read some of the comments on the website, and found that a couple of people felt the same way too…but tons of others loved it. As did my hubby. Oh well…I might just give it another chance – at a much later date.
Next to its famous cousin, phở (Vietnamese rice noodles soup), the rice paper roll is probably one of the other more well-known Vietnamese favourites. In general, the spring roll-like combination of rice paper, salad, noodles, shrimp or pork is rather bland which I take it to mean – uber healthy! There’s not a single drop of oil used in this recipe, and everything in it is either boiled or steamed.
All the yumminess lie in the dipping sauce – Nước chấm – which is generally a concoction of fish sauce, lime/lemon juice/vinegar, sugar and optional aromatics like garlic and chilli.
Rice paper comes in stiff round sheets which is softened in a shallow dish of hot/warm water and then placed on a clean tea towel for some rolling action. The filling ingredients are kept simple and fresh. In this shrimp roll, I used carrots, lettuce, cucumber, coriander, cooked shrimp and cooked rice noodles. When there’s too much filling, it gets tricky handling the now sticky rice paper and the strands of rice noodles or lettuce that insists on sticking out…The key is to not over-fill and leave enough space around the sides of the rice paper for folding and rolling.
It’s a great entrée to serve at dinner parties, or as canapés or snacks. The good thing is that the rolls stay fresh covered with a damp cloth for a few hours, so it’s a great dish that can be prepared ahead of time.
Ingredients for rice paper roll:
- rice paper
- julienned carrot
- coriander leaves
- shredded lettuce
- julienned cucumber
- cooked shrimps (split in half)
- handful of cooked rice noodles
Basic Nước chấm:
Makes ¾ cup
3-4 tablespoons lime/lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 birds eye chilli, finely minced
Combine all the ingredients together, taste and adjust accordingly. There should be a good balance of tartness and sweetness. Once you’re happy with the sauce, add garlic and chilli and let the sauce sit for at least 30 minutes.
I was at Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant ‘Jamie’s Italian’ at Westfield London recently and had the most delectable Fish in a Bag. I didn’t have my camera with me so no pictures – sorry! I loved the dish so much I went back home, scoured through Jamie’s cookbooks and found a similar fish in a bag recipe which I could easily adapt to replicate the same delicious meal I had at the restaurant.
Preparation was seriously painless…Plonk all the ingredients in a foil bag lined with parchment paper and that’s it! It’s so clever, and saves up on washing – big time!
The stock combined with the melty anchovies, natural fish, tomato and lemon juices cooked and flavoured the couscous and tenderised the fennel, making everything taste wonderful and fresh. Once cooked, tear open the top of the bag, and let the amazing aromas waft through. Accompanied with a nice, chilled glass of chardonnay. Mmmm…
Fish in a Bag
Adapted from ‘Jamie’s Italian’
One bag per serve…in each bag:
1 cod fillet
½ small fennel, finely sliced
Handful of couscous
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of basil and parsley leaves
2 anchovies, roughly torn up
Juice of half a small lemon, and couple of slices for cooking with
¾ cup of stock
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 200°C. Tear off a big piece of foil, line it with parchment paper, lay your fennel and couscous first, then the fish on top. Place the herbs, tomatoes, lemon slices and anchovies all over the fish and couscous. Season with salt and pepper, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil over the lot.
Use another piece of foil, cover the pack, and squish three of the edges real tight (don’t want the yummy juices leaking out – Jamie used egg to seal the edges but I don’t find it necessary). Leave one of the edges open, so you can pour in the stock. Seal the last edge tight and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes.
You would think that I’ll be totally over dumplings by now. Nope…not even close. I’ve found a renewed love for these wonderful parcels of goodness recently. Dim sum versions such as har gow, Japanese style pan-fried gyozas, steamed xiao-long-baos, Chinese wontons – I love them all.
With the exception of xiao-long-baos, the rest of the above-named dumplings are very easy to prepare at home. The skins are easy enough to make, but it is very time-consuming. Why bother when there are so many ready-made dumpling skins available at any good oriental grocery store.?
I got hold of a pack of wonton ‘pastry’ (that’s what it says on the packet!) from my local Chinese grocery shop and decided to make prawn dumpling soup (sui kow). These dumplings are big mama ones compared to the regular pork wontons. The general idea is the same, just much bigger in size…and with the addition of prawns of course.
My recipe makes about 40 – 50 dumplings (depending on how many pieces of dumpling skin is in a pack and how generous you are with the filling).
For the filling:
350g minced pork
200g prawns, cut into smaller pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks of spring onion (the white ends minced for the filling, the green parts for garnishing)
2 tbsp cornflour
Soy sauce and white pepper for seasoning
For the soup:
A few slices of ginger
2 stalks of spring onion, left whole
Salt and white pepper for seasoning
Dash of sesame oil
Combine all of the filling ingredients, mix well. See how simple this is??
Use about a teaspoon and a half of filling per wrapper. Place filling in the middle of the skin, dab some water on the edges, fold one square corner of the wrapper to the opposite corner (to form a triangle) and seal those mamas up!
The soup’s even easier – boil everything (except the sesame oil) together. Toss in some vegetables towards the end. I used sliced up napa cabbage (wombok) but I would recommend Chinese mustard leaves (choy sum).
Cook the dumplings in a separate pot of boiling water. Once they’re floating, they’re done. Drain them and add to the boiling stock, simmer another minute or so. Serve with a garnish of spring onions – on its own, or with a side of egg noodles tossed in sesame oil, oyster, chilli and soy sauce. Enjoy!
Brazilians have been cooking Moqueca (pronounced as Moh-keeh-ka) for 300 years now. The first time I came across this traditional Northern Brazil fish stew recipe, I knew I had to give it a try. When I went through the list of ingredients, it sounded very much like a curry and I was intrigued. Coconut milk, and traditional palm oil are the signature ingredients – but who on earth has palm oil handy in their kitchens nowadays?
I used cod and fresh prawns and for once, I followed the recipe closely. Well…almost. I went to Chilango’s (a burrito joint near work) for lunch and brought home some extra hot sauce to add to the dish. I read several other recipes and they all included hot sauce. I love Cholula hot sauce and I can just imagine the added kick to the dish.
There was heat (from the chilli flakes – I added more than a pinch – and also from my dear friend Cholula), there was tartness (from Cholula again, as well as generous splashes of lemon juice), there was a light creamy sweetness from the coconut milk and it was altogether one of the most beautiful and successful fish stews I have ever tried cooking. There were many spices and ingredients in this dish and you would think it would overpower the delicate flavours of the fish and prawns but I assure you, it didn’t. I served it steaming hot with brown rice, and there was not a drop of the stew leftover…
Super easy and caramelisingly delish. I made this quick meal for a late post-gym dinner. After having a full-on, pumped up cardio session at the gym, I was inspired to have a healthy, low carb meal. Why waste all that sweat and effort that I put in at combat class right? In all honesty, I would have preferred a huge, steaming bowl of pasta but I’m proud to say resistance was not futile this time. I also needed something real quick – hubby’s fainting from hunger in the corner and probably dreaming of pasta as well.
This dish was done in like 20 minutes flat. All that was required – a quick squeeze of lemon juice on the skinless and boneless salmon fillets, plop a generous spread of Thai sweet chilli sauce on the top of the fillets, chuck under the grill for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the tops of the fish is all sticky and caramelised. A quick sautéed of spinach with garlic was performed the last couple of minutes before the fish was done.
Despite sounding like such a hasty attempt at preparing a meal, I must say this is one of my favourite salmon dishes. The sticky, caramelised sweet chilli topping goes really well with the rich, oily flavours of the fish. It will be a good match in a salad or even on rice. Very versatile, very tasty – makes me very happy. Hubby, not so – he still wanted his carbs. Sorry hunny!!
Many people are put off with the idea of preparing and cooking mussels. It can be quite time consuming especially if you’ve got a bunch of sandy, barnacle covered, hairy buggers. However, as long as they are alive and fresh, you’re guaranteed a fabulous mussel dish after. It’s worth it, really!
To ensure that you do not end up with a dodgy shellfish, make sure you chuck out any broken ones and those that refuse to budge when it’s gapingly open and you try to close it back.
Soak the mussels in clean water for about 20 minutes – this is so they can happily spit out the sand for you (they’re really cooperative that way). To remove the beard, grab the fibrous bits and yank it towards the hinge of the shell and not towards the opening – doing it this way ensures that you do not tear the mussel, thus killing it. If there are barnacles and other marine bits attached on the shell, simply scrub it with a brush or wire wool.
Mussels are a joy to cook with. And to eat, of course. Chilli mussels are my favourite. A very simple way to cook them is to have some aromatics like garlic and ginger, and you can use fresh cut chillies but I like to use a very tasty and spicy chilli oil which I bought from an Oriental supermarket. The chilli oil is slightly salted, so I didn’t have to use any salt or fish sauce. Fry the aromatics in a hot wok, spoon in some fiery chilli, toss in the mussels and coat them with the garlicky chilli, add a little water, cover the wok and voila! Once the mussels are opened, they’re ready. Zippy and yummy…and the sauce is amazing even though I didn’t add any seasoning except for the chilli – happens just like magic!
Do you know the difference between trout and salmon? I, for one am baffled. I only know what I’m cooking, thanks to the label on the pack that tells me so. I have very little experience shopping from a proper fish market. On occasions when I do, I face the mountain of slick, shiny fishes and flip out. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but I generally go for the safe option of only buying what I can identify – which really doesn’t amount to much.
I tried cooking trout fillets for the first time. Not an ounce of a difference to cooking salmon. Again, I don’t know the difference between the two. They look the same, they taste the same…oh wait, trout’s cheaper! Yay, I now know ONE difference between trout and salmon.
Anyway, I thought if I had trout and lemon and some herbs and if I put them together I should get a pretty decent meal, right? So I put on my invention hat and got working. I started by mixing some butter, bread crumbs, lemon zest and juice, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. I heated a pan in the oven till it’s searing hot, lightly oiled my fish and gave a generous spread of the lemony mix on the skinless side and placed the fish skin side down on the hot pan. Baked it in the oven for 12 mins and there we have it, tangy trout – served with lightly grilled asparagus.
The trout was fork tender and the flavours were pretty well balanced – not overly tart (which I was afraid of as I was quite enthusiastic with my use of lemon) and the taste was clean and very refreshing. It could have done with a bit more texture – perhaps some toasted almond flakes could fit in well. It’s a quick, light summer meal that I will definitely try again.
Many people I know find cooking a chore, especially after a long day at work. Once in a while, I feel the same way too. But for 80% of the time, cooking is therapy for me. I get to stop thinking about work or anything unpleasant or stressful and simply focus on producing a good plate of food to satisfy our raging appetites. I say ‘raging’ because sometimes I do take a little more time than usual to dish up dinner.
So I really love quick recipes. One pot, chuck in the oven and ‘voila’ type of meals. The less washing, the better. You get the idea.
This recipe of pan roasted cod was nicked from one of the earlier JO cookbooks. It took me all of 20 mins to prepare. Ten minutes to get things together and ten minutes in the oven.
All you need: fillets of cod, parsley, de-seeded fresh chilli, asparagus and baby tomatoes. Only one pan was harmed in the process and if I had been ultra lazy, I could have eaten straight out of the pan to save washing an extra plate, but civility won.
The fish was only in the oven 10 mins. It was cooked perfectly – succulent and sweet. (I tend to either over or under cook my fish, but not this time!) The asparagus was cooked through but still had a good bite and the baby tomatoes were split and ready to burst with its own juices.
As usual I didn’t follow the recipe to a T and having very little fish cooking experience, the dish still turned out to be a success. I have to say – this one’s a keeper. Thanks JO!