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.
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.
I’m not usually this organised. What with being jet-lagged at the beginning of the week, and having to drink copious amounts of tea and diet coke to stay awake through the day…I’m surprised I even had the energy to get some of my Miami photos sorted and edited. So…surprise! Here’s my first vacation post.
We crashed with a friend in his apartment in Ft. Lauderdale during our weekend stay and drove daily to more exciting parts of town like Miami and Key West. There were long rides on the harrowing freeways of South Florida (there were some insane driving moments – and did you know you’re allowed to speak on the cell phone while driving? Erm yes, WITHOUT a handsfree set!) but at the end of each ride, we were rewarded with sights to behold and gorgeous food to stuff our faces with.
Marker 88 is a mile marker on U.S. Highway 1. The mile markers in Florida begin in Key West at zero and go northward ending in Fort Kent, Maine. It is 2,390 miles long. Marker 88 is also a restaurant. Yes I’m sure you’ve guessed it – it sits right at the 88th mile marker – in the village of Islamorada. (Also known as ‘village of islands’)
The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside…but once you step into the grounds, you’re greeted by the beautiful Florida bay. Calm, clear, aquamarine water lapping on the side while you sit by the bay.
White wicker dining furniture dominates the front of the restaurant facing the bay, but there are also a couple of outdoor canopy-covered wooden booths. Cute! Of course we chose to dine in the booths. Right next to the pier sits a short stretch of beach with colourful deck chairs, kayak parking spaces (people do kayak instead of drive to the restaurant – how cool!) and cute benches for couples to snuggle and smooch on while they watch the sunset.
Now comes the food. We started with cocktails and coronas. (Yes, light version’s mine…stop with the scoffing already)
Then the appetizers. I have to say, this was a fabulous start to our eating extravaganza. We had the hot blue crab dip (omg…creamy, slightly spicy, cheesy blue crab dip is to die for!), crab cake (none of those potato-pretending-to-be-crab patties. This was full of chunky crab meat. So delish!) and conch fritters. I’ve never tried conch before. The only conch I know of was from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Ok, irrelevant info…anyhoo… Conch is a large mollusk (like a sea snail for lack of better description) and in this dish, it’s cut up into small pieces and mixed with a thick batter and piped into the deep fryer. It doesn’t taste like much, but hey it’s a fritter. It’s deep fried. It has mayo and salsa dipping sauces. Therefore it’s good.
Please excuse the blurry conch fritter shot. I thought it looked ok on my tiny netbook screen. I blame jet-lag. And I’m not too enthused with the idea of re-loading and editing another photo. Sorry!
Making up for it with the mains now. Grilled Mahi Caesar - Grilled mahi over a Caesar with Haiku tomatoes, roasted red peppers & Reggiano croutons. Yum or what? Captain’s Platter - Broiled Florida Keys Lobster, grilled mahi and grilled shrimp. Need I say more? And the guys shared an Islamorada Fish Sandwich – Blackened fresh Mahi topped with sauteed onions and cheddar. Served on a Kaiser.
A lot of food for three right? Which explains why we only shared one dessert. Marker 88′s most famous dessert – Key lime baked alaska. Divine!
That’s it for now. I’m off to Amsterdam for the weekend. I know – it’s a ‘tough’ life. But I’ll be back with more travel news and I promise I won’t be trying any space cakes while I’m there!
Marker 88 Restaurant
8800 Overseas Highway (mile marker 88)
Islamorada, FL 33036
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)
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.
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!