Friday, June 10, 2016

Roasted eggplant fattoush

With the last few weeks of my pregnancy, the baby has been taking up valuable tummy space to the point I've can't really fit in big meals. So it has been all about salads. I love Middle Eastern food and the fresh flavours with Lebanese bread.

The two flavours I love most are eggplant and fattoush so why not add these together. The dressing is so good with the sweet and sour notes from the pomegranate molasses and lemon, you'll want to make big match to pour over your salad.

I first made up this salad to have with the Uyghur style lamb skewers. Probably a little too filling to have both the skewers and the roasted eggplant but nonetheless it was delicious.






Serves 4

Ingredients


1 medium eggplant
2 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt

1 piece of Lebanese bread
1 tbs olive oil

Salad
1 tomato roughly sliced
1 cucumber roughly sliced
50g feta broken up
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 bunch basil leaves

Dressing
2 tbs pomegranate molasses
juice of half lemon
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp za'atar

Method


1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.

2. Place eggplant on a baking paper lined tray and drizzle with 2 tbs oil with a sprinkling of salt.

3. Roast eggplant for 40 minutes until tender and set aside to cool.

4. Drizzle oil over Lebanese bread and bake in oven for 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden.

5. Roughly tear bread and set aside.

6. Add tomato, cucumber into a bowl with the mint, basil, parsley leaves and baked Lebanese bread.

To make the dressing
7. Add cumin, za'atar, molasses, lemon juice, 2 tbs oil into a jar and shake until emulsified.

8. Drizzle dressing on the salad.

Handy hint

Za'atar is available at supermarkets used in marinades, salads and dressings. I prefer the taste of za'atar with the hints of thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac. Sumac alone is too tart tasting for me.

Pomegranate molasses can be found at Harris Farm supermarket.

I also love this salad with Ughur lamb skewers.





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dutch pancake

I love this recipe as it's perfect when you are time poor and feel like its a pancake kind of day. As I'm on my last legs of my pregnancy, everyday is a pancake kind of day.

This pancake is baked at high temperature in a skillet where it puffs up in the oven then settles down as it comes out. Typically served with a dusting of icing sugar, whipped cream and lemon wedges on the side. It's so delicious.

I love to whip this pancake up and throw whatever fresh fruit I have in the fridge. Today's option was juicy sweet figs.



Makes 1 large pancake

Ingredients


3 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1/3 cup yoghurt
2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup of plan flour

1 tbs of melted butter for the pan


Method


1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celcius.

2. With a mixer beat the eggs, adding the milk, yoghurt, sugar, salt and vanilla until sugar has dissolved.

3. Add flour and mix until smooth.

4. Use an ovensafe frypan and coat the bottom of the pan with the melted butter.

5. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top and dark brown around the edges. (Pancake will rise whilst cooking and deflate once removed to cool.)

Beware the frypan handle is HOT. Use oven mitts to handle the hot handle or else you'll burn your palms. Something I haven't forgotten in a hurry.

6. Loosen the pancake around the edges with a couple of shakes of the frypan and slide out of the pan onto a plate.

7. Serve with fresh fruit, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of icing sugar.



Handy hints
You can substitute 1/4 cup of yoghurt with thickened cream which will still give you a fluffy texture. But as I have yoghurt in my fridge at all times, this is what I use.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Uyghur lamb skewers


I first came across Uyghur food during my post graduate university days. On a cold night, my boyfriend now hubby came across this small restaurant with the ceiling covered in the grapes and vine leaves diagonally opposite UTS Library. Sorry to say this place no longer exists. It was at that restaurant, I was introduced to the mouth numbing use of Sichuan pepper, braised and steamed dumplings, handmade noodles, the most tender lamb skewers and delicious chicken potato stew dish.

There are many Uyghur restaurants in Chinatown, Haymarket with their giant tapestries, plastic tablecloths, ceiling covered in vine leaves and cheap d├ęcor but the food is what people come here for time and time again.

So who or what is Uyghur you may say. The Uyghurs are a mainly Turkic people whose home is in Central Asia, between Kazakhstan and Mongolia, just north of Tibet in Xinjiang. They're one of more than 50 ethnic minorities in China and speak their own language, Uyghur.

The food is delicious and very comforting. With sciatic nerve issues with walking, it has been harder to go out for dinner so I thought I would try and bring Uyghur food to me with attempting the spice mix on the lamb kebabs that will have you salivating.

The spice mix hits it on the nail and is so good. I dare you try it for yourself.  These are perfect with the eggplant fattoush salad.

Ingredients


1 kg diced lamb (I've tried neck, leg which has worked a treat so far)

3 tbs cumin seeds
2 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs chilli powder with seeds
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp of powdered garlic
2 tsp salt

3 cloves of garlic
2cm knob of ginger


Method


1. Place 20 skewers in water so these don't burn when you place these lamb skewers on the bbq.

2. Make the seasoning by pounding together, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, chilli powder, powder garlic in a mortle and pestle and set aside.

3. Add garlic and ginger to the mortar and pestle and pound to a paste is formed.

3. Add the garlic and ginger paste with the powdered spices to massage the seasoning into the diced lamb.

4. Skewer the marinated lamb meat onto the skewers.

5. Put the skewers on the bbq grill and cook for 4 minutes and then turn them. Continue grilling until meat is cooked through, approximately 8-10mins in total.

6. Wait til they a slightly cooled and devour with salad.



Saturday, June 4, 2016

General Tso's chicken


Flicking through the pile of Delicious magazines that I've been meaning to go through, I was drawn to Cantonese style dishes. Spicy, Chinese flavours and of course fried goodness.

With the forecast of lashing rain for the entire weekend, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy the indoors with an American Chinese dish of General Tso's chicken.

I found this recipe rather therapeutic to make. I think it was focussing on grating the garlic and ginger and having all the ingredients in the pantry is always handy. The marinade was relatively easy to make and timing it to make an hour before lunch was perfect.

The batter mix was light and perfect for coating the chicken before frying. General Tso sauce was easy to make and makes extra for another dish. I made up a cabbage slaw instead of serving with rice.

Using 8 chicken thigh fillets makes a lot perhaps too much for 4 people as we had a fair bit left over. The crispness of the chicken does disappear but I found refreshing the chicken in the oven worked well.

I loved this dish, it was so good that we had to this again for dinner.
Recipe by Patrick Friesen, Eric Koh and Christopher Hogarth from Queen Chow, Queen Victoria Hotel Enmore.

Serves 6

Ingredients


Chicken marinade
250mL Chinese rice wine
1 tbs caster sugar
2cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
8 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 6 pieces each

Batter mix
1 tbs sunflower oil, plus extra to deep fry
2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
2/3 cup (100g) cornflour
1 cup (250mL) water

To serve
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

My cabbage slaw
1/4 white cabbage thinly sliced
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 red capsicum thinly sliced
handful of pickled red onion or fresh red onion

General Tso's sauce
1/2 cup (125mL) chicken stock
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbs peanut oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 spring onions, white part finely chopped, green part cut into 2cm batons
12 died long red chillies
1/4 cup (60mL) dark soy sauce
2 tbs Chinese rice wine (shaohsing)
2 tbs Chinese black rice vinegar
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp kombu tsuyu (kombu extract - optional)

Method


To make the marinade
1. Combine the rice wine, sugar, ginger, garlic, stock powder, pepper and 1 tsp salt in a bowl.

2. Add the chicken, cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight to marinate.

To make General Tso's sauce
3. Whisk stock and cornflour in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Heat peanut oil in a wok over high heat.

5. Add garlic, ginger, white spring onion and chillies and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and softened.

6. Add soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, kombu extract and cornflour mixture and stir to combine.

7. Bring to boil then remove from heat and set aside.

To make batter
8. Place sunflower oil, flours and 1 tsp salt in a bowl.

9. Slowly whisk in 1 cup (250mL) water until smooth.

To make chicken
10. Half fill a large pan with sunflower oil and heat to 180 degrees Celcius.

11. Remove chicken from marinade and drain in a colander.

12. Coat chicken in batter allowing excess to drip off.

13. In batches, deep fry chicken for 5 minutes until crisp, golden and cooked.

14. Drain on paper towel.

15. Add fried chicken to General Tso's sauce and toss to coat.

16. Repeat with remaining chicken.

17. Deep fry dark green onion for 2 minutes or until crispy.

18 Top chicken with crispy spring onion and serve with steamed rice or cabbage slaw.







Saturday, May 14, 2016

Apple, ginger and lime jam

Making the most of this warm winter, we spent a day out at Bilpin, picking apples at Shields Orchards. It was here, I discovered the taste of tree ripened apples and I can't believe how sweet a Granny Smith apple can be.

The kids and I may have gone slightly overboard with our picking as we managed to pick my youngest child's weight in apples (15kg). Not a bad effort in 30 minutes, But now, I wondered what to make with all these apples. May be even try an apple pie, apple tarte tatin and perhaps apple jam.

Strange as it may sound, I was going to attempt apple jam. Knowing that apples contained high levels of pectin, the jam wouldn't have any problems setting.

The first batch was a mixture of Pink Ladies and Granny Smith apples which worked out a treat. So I made a second batch with just Granny Smiths.

This is a great jam to make as the cooking process time was a lot less than making mandarin marmalade.

I was pleasantly surprised how good both jams were. The Pink Ladies tended to keep its shape better than the Granny Smith apples but I found apples didn't take long to make into jam.



Makes 11 x 300mL jars

Ingredients

3kg of apples once cored and peeled reduces to 2.3-2.5kg.
zest and juice of 3 limes
1.1kg white sugar
50g grated ginger

Prevent apples from browning
water
juice of half lemon

Optional spices
Cinnamon sticks
Cloves
Star anise

Method


1. Peel and core all the apples and slice into 2cm pieces.

2. Place the juice of half a lemon and water into a deep bowl to place the chopped apples to prevent from browning.

3. Drain the lemon water bowl and place chopped into a large heavy based saucepan with 1 Litre of water over a low heat for 30 minutes until the fruit softens.

4. Once the fruit has softened, add sugar and stir using a wooden spoon until dissolved.

5. Add half the zest, all the lime juice and grated ginger.

6.  Bring to boil for 40 minutes or til setting point is reached, stirring continuously so it doesn't catch on the bottom and burn (you want to avoid this as cleaning this burnt sugary goodness is not fun). The jam will turn slightly more orange pink in colour.

How to test your setting point?
Put a plate in the freezer and chill it. Take it out when ready to test, add a dollop of jam onto plate. Let it stand for a 30 seconds. Then draw a line through the jam with your finger, if the line disappears, its means the jam is still runny, so keep boiling the mixture for another 5-10 minutes and test again. When the you draw a line through the jam and the line remains, your jam is ready for bottling.


7. Meanwhile, sterilise jars by giving these a warm soapy wash then placing into the oven at 110C for 15 minutes until completely dry. To sterilise the lids, place into boiling water in a saucepan for 5minutes and leave these to air dry on the dish rack.

8. Once setting point of the jam is reached, add the rest of the lime zest.Feel free to add a cinnamon stick into the jar, a few cloves or star anise to vary the flavours.

9. Carefully ladle the jam mixture into the sterilised jars filling to the top.

10. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clear damp cloth before putting the lids on.

11. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years. Once opened, refrigerate and use within a few months.

Handy hints

You can mix up the jam by adding Cointreau, whisky, brandy for an adults only version of this jam. For this jam, I added a mix of 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and star anise. I'm looking forward to trying these variations in a few months time and seeing how the flavours have developed.

A great breakfast option is toast with ricotta and apple jam. Yum yum. 


Friday, February 12, 2016

Happy New Year 2016 mochi ricecakes

The soft chewy texture filled with red bean filling oozing with that first bite, that's when I fell in love with mochi. I vividly remember as an after school snack, mum would purchase these favourite treats of mine. Wrapped in clear plastic, 6 mochi balls of pink, white and green filled with red bean which I would devour in a few minutes.

To celebrate Chinese New Year 2016, I thought I would attempt to make rice cakes of some sort. This meant experimenting with different flours to attempt hoddeok, a sweet Korean pancake which reminded me of the street stalls in Korea selling these tasty treats filled with cinnamon peanut sugary goodness. With that down pat, my next experiment was to try mochi.

Scouring the internet for an easy recipe, they varied from baking the glutinous mix to some fiddly and time consuming methods. I adapted Maagchi's "Korean style mochi rice cakes" recipe for my purposes. I found that you'll need to work quickly with the mochi to make the most of the elastic quality whilst its warm to cover the balls of red bean or black sesame paste. The kids will love stretching out the mochi and attempting to enclose their filling of choice.

The Koreans call this dish chapssaltteok whereas the word mochi is a Japanese word that simply means “rice cake.” The Korean version of chapssaltteok uses the colour green which is created with green tea powder. I found that mochi came in three different colours, white (plain), pink (with 2 drops of red food colouring), and green (with 1 teaspoon green tea powder or 2 drops of green food colouring).

I would of liked to make the filling but due to time constraints, I opted to try the ready made pastes. Next task for me is attempt to make the white sesame filling that hubby loves so much.

You'll never buy mochi again once you discover how easy it is to make it. I recommend you devour a few before the kids and hubby have discovered that you have made these delicious delights.



Makes 10 mochi balls

Ingredients


Filling
Red bean paste
Black sesame paste

Ricecake
1 cup glutinous rice flour
sprinkling of potato starch/ or mung bean starch powder
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of water
2 drops of food colouring of your choice, I opted for green

Outside coating
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup black sesame powder

Method


1. Roll your paste into 10 balls 2-2.5cm diameter for easy insertion into the rice cakes. I found putting the paste in the fridge to harden slightly made it easier to roll into balls. Or sprinkle a little starch powder to prevent the paste sticking to your hands when you roll into balls. Set aside to use later on.



2. Place glutinous rice flour, salt, sugar and two drops of green food colouring into a microwave-safe bowl.

3. Add water to the rice flour and mix well. (It may look like a liquid mix rather than dough, but don't worry)



4. Cover the rice mix with plastic wrap and cook on HIGH 3 mins in the microwave. (Watch the mixture slowly rise and fall before you have a ricecake)


5. Remove the rice cake from the microwave. (Be careful taking off the plastic wrap or else be blasted with hot steam, this happened to me). Mix the rice cake with a spoon for 20 seconds.

6. Cover the rice cake with plastic wrap and put back in the microwave for HIGH 1min.

7.  Knead the hot rice cake with a spoon as the best you can for about 1-2 minutes. This is the key part to get that soft chewy texture.



8. Sprinkle your choice of starch powder on your cutting board. Pull out the rice cake with a spoon into a sausage shape.

9. Wet your hands first, to stop the rice cake sticking to your hands. This way you can attempt to shape your rice cake into a rectangle about 15 cm x 5 cm. (Somehow I managed to flattened my rice cake into an oval shape that was 15cm long and 2-5cm in width) 

10. Cut the rectangle into half with a sharp wet knife and cut 5 even perpendicular cuts, to make 10 pieces of rice cake. Cover the rice cakes with plastic wrap to keep them from getting dried out.



11. Take one piece of rice cake, flatten and stretch out to a round circle about 5 cm in diameter.

12. Add a sweet red bean ball or black sesame ball to the middle of the piece of rice cake. Pull the rice cake over the ball and seal by dabbing a little water to join the edges with your fingers. Roll the mochi to look like a nice round ball. (If the rice cake starts sticking to your fingers, add a little starch powder to prevent this.)



13. I wanted to add an extra dimension of taste, so I dabbed water on the outside of my mochi and rolled this in coconut which the kids loved. Hubby is more of a black sesame fan, so I rolled a few mochi in black sesame powder for him.



14. Repeat this until you’ve made 10 pieces of chapssaltteok/mochi ricecakes.

15. Eat a couple before the kids discover them.

Handy hints
*Red bean and black sesame paste can be found at Asian grocery stores.
*Place paste in the fridge as this hardens this slightly and makes it easier to roll into balls
*Potato starch and mung bean starch can be used. I prefer the mung bean taste so I went with mung bean starch.
*It's extremely hot when it comes out of the microwave, so be careful with removing the plastic wrap.
*Work within 5-8 minutes of the dough being cut to make nice smooth round balls for presentation