Thursday, April 29, 2010

Victoria Street, Richmond

I have always found Richmond a great place to buy pork, as it is a very popular meat in Vietnamese cooking, the quality and price is difficult to beat.

Only relevant pic I had that would download!

Well I had a great day in Richmond, starting off with lunch, which is always a foregone conclusion.  In between scaring local traders with my camera I managed to cover a number of areas ranging from best place to buy pork to good prices for bok choy.  Sadly technology is fighting with me and will not allow me upload the many pics I took.  Bear with me and hopefully I will have them uploaded asap, meanwhile if you are interested in my day out, click the link to my facebook page on the right hand side of the blog to see what I have been up to, as it would work there, go figure!

I have also been busy cooking some economical and tasty of meals, including pork and intend to blog about some slow cooking ideas, with pics of course, as we head into the colder months.  As always value your feedback. 

Monday, April 26, 2010


 As you can see my daughter has been busier than me over the last couple of days!   She told me she forgets about taking pictures of the end result, as everyone is too keen to eat :)

It's coming up to Mother's day and as a result I think of poached pears! When I was little I made mum poached pears for her mothers day breakfast, I may have been 11 or so (mum?) with dad watching that I didn't burn myself or the house. For mother's day I know anything kids do will be a winner but I think the mother hen was very happy the year I did pears!
I did these Nashi pears the other day as I couldn't find any nice looking pears while at the supermarket. They worked a treat and  kept their shape really nicely though don't have as good a figure as the standard pear!

When I was little I used a recipe, I'm not sure where it is but all I could remember is that it had red wine and cinnamon! As a result this is what I did. Roughly removed the core of my 4 Nashi pears and placed them in a pot, filled with water about 3/4 of the way up, add a splash of red wine (about half a cup) a splash of brandy (1/4 cup) quarter of a cup of sugar, 2 lemon wedges, a mandarin quartered and one cinnamon stick. Cooked on a slow steady simmer for an hour or so until nice and soft.

After removing the pears I reduced the liquid by about half (taste and add extra sugar if necessary). The consistency is a watery syrup which is not too sweet so you can serve your pear in a bit of the soup and vanilla ice cream. You can reduce the juice with extra sugar if you prefer a rich syrup to serve with your Nashi.

Ring a Roast

 Another recipe idea from a special blogger, my daughter!

A few times I have made a roast to take over to the boyfriends house, we have called it 'ring a roast' perhaps I should start a business! The oven at his place not only in need of a clean also takes many many hours to cook and as a result doesn't do a lot of roasting, take away roast it is.

I made this chook the other day. I used free range chickens and give them a quick clean with running cold water inside and out before drying lightly with paper towel and placing on baking paper. Gently lift the skin away from the flesh on the breast for the herb rub. I stuffed each carcass with half a lemon which I squeezed on the way in and a fat sprig of rosemary. In a bowl I mixed a very decent handful of roughly chopped mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley and sage) with a tablespoon of lemon zest, 50g softened butter, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. The butter binds all the herbs and makes it easy to rub under the skin of the chicken. With any extra herb butter on your hands rub over the outside of the chicken adding a bit of oil if you run out of butter. Season the outside of the chook with s&p.

These chooks took just over 2 hours cooking together on 180 degrees.  Just after half way I turned them both over to make sure the bottom browned.  The roasting juices from the chook make a delicious lemony gravy. Serve with nice garlic baked potatoes, pumpkin and green beans.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red Peppers, stuff 'em

The only time when stuffing up is a good thing!                                                                               There are lots of ways you can enjoy capsicum they are not only restricted to slicing and adding to a salad.  Here is one I enjoy at this time of year as they are plentiful and less expensive which is always the key!  Prepare the peppers by removing the tops with a sharp knife and with your hand pull out as many as the seeds as possible without breaking the flesh, as you want it to remain in tact making a nice little vessel for cooking the stuffing.  Give them a quick rinse and pat dry.

Tip This dish has a tomato style sauce to pour over the top, so while you are chopping do a little extra,  one more onion, 3 more garlic and some fresh herbs, saves starting all over again with the chopping when you have cleaned up!

The stuffing consists of 700 grams minced veal (pork or lamb also works well) 2 cups cooked rice, 2 medium onions finely chopped, 4 cloves garlic finely chopped, 2tsp mixed herbs, half handful of continental parsley, 1tsp fresh rosemary, and because lemon goes well with veal I put in 1tsp of fresh lemon thyme, (sage would also be really nice) 1 egg, salt & pepper (be generous)  I have made this a number of times so it usually tastes as I envisaged, but for the first time take a small ball of the mixture, a mini mini pattie, fry it, taste it and if it needs more seasoning, add it easy as that.

Next fill each of the peppers, (I made three as there were four of us for dinner) and really stuff the mixture down firmly, so that when you cut them you have nice slices, nothing worse than not enough meat and they fall apart.  All that's left now is onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, a splash of evoo, s & p and bake on a 150 degree oven for about 11/2 hours.  I don't like them to blacken them for this recipe that's why the lower heat.  Turn them over about half way.  When they are soft to the touch you are there.
Left:  This how its looks to start 

Below:  After about 1 + hours, voila
Now for the sauce which is a basic Napoli easy as.  First evoo into the frying pan, heat gently then add onions,  sauté, followed by garlic, dried mixed herbs, a couple of pinches of chilli, adds depth to the flavour, colour slightly then add two tins (410gm ea) whole tomatoes, stir and break the tomatoes up with your spoon, add a 1/4 tsp sugar this cuts the acidity in the tomatoes.  Finally add two tins of water, (I use the tins the tomatoes came from) and bring to a slow boil, turn down, add the fresh herbs and simmer for at least 1- 1/1/2 hours topping up with extra water from time to time, the consistency needs to be thick, but not like paste.  Add salt & pepper, remember to taste after seasoning. It sounds like a long time to cook but the depth of flavour develops with the cooking process, not cooking it long enough usually results in a watery nuff nuff sauce.                                           

A drizzle of evoo to the sauce, some fresh parsley and voila you are there, just pour over your peppers. The best thing about this is, not only is this dinner sorted you will have enough sauce to freeze or refrigerate and use on a pasta, a pizza combine it with some white beans (make your own style baked beans ) also good with a vegetarian ravioli, it's only limited by your imagination:)  Let me know what you think, happy cooking.

Accompaniments:  This dish is pretty well balanced, vegetables, protein and carbs all in the one package, I usually serve a green salad or wilted spinach with this, but I actually found some brussel sprouts $2 for a tray, and yes I love a bargain,  so I braised them, first sauté a very small onion with one slice of bacon or prosciutto till brown in a little evoo and butter, add the sprouts, gently toss till you have a little colour, then add about 1 cup water bring to slow boil, reduce heat and cover.  What will happen is that your sprouts will be soft but you will have an excess quantity of stock in the bottom of the pan (see pic)  now what you do is remove sprouts to a warm place, turn up the heat and reduce till a gravy like texture appears or "jus" if you want to be a bit cheffy :)  this can now be poured over your sprouts 

The two bottom pics show the before and after.  By turning up the heat for about 4 or so minutes you can reduce a nuff nuff excess of stock into an accompanying sauce without much effort!                              

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bogged down!

I'm bogged down in not knowing what to blog about first!  In the next couple of weeks I will be talking about baby food, if you havn't picked up on it already good nutrition for children is one of my hobby horses.

  In the coming weeks I am going to take a trip down to one of my favourite streets in Melbourne, Victoria Street try and take some pics of my suppliers with smiling faces and give those of you interested an idea of how, what and where when it comes to buying Asian supplies.

I try to make meals out of ingredients that are in season, and no doubt you have heard all this before, the celebrity chefs wax lyrical about seasonal produce continually.  The thing is if you know where to go, in season ingredients are less expensive and they do taste better.  To cut to the chase I bought red peppers $3.87 per kilo, so today I am going to stuff them with a veal  & rice mixture and make a tomato sauce to accompany.  Well that's solved today's recipe blog, all going well it should be on later tonight.

As always would really love some more feedback, the reason I am venturing into Victoria Street is because someone out there in the vortex has requested it, happy to accommodate!  Any excuse for me to stop for a while and have lunch :)

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with what I have been talking about, but why let the content get in the way of a good picture. I found it while searching and remember eating it and it bought back great memories, so why not share.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kids in the kitchen

I had a great dinner with my sister a couple of days ago, and she was telling me how my nieces enjoy watching the lifestyle cooking channel.  Now, every Saturday they have a cooking day with their mum, so I thought a recipe for them would be appropriate.  This is for you girls, let me know how they taste!

I use a sausage mince from my butcher as I prefer it over the supermarket options.  Check with your butcher, I'm sure he will be able to help.

In a large bowl add 1kg sausage mince, 2 medium onions, one diced and raw, one diced and gently fried, this adds both sweetness by the cooking process and texture with the raw.  Two medium grated carrots, 3tsp mixed herbs, one handful of finely chopped Italian parsley, one egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1tsp sambal olek (optional, so little of this is used it does not make the mixture hot at all, just adds an extra level of depth to the end flavour) salt & pepper (be generous)  Mix well, I use my hands, it's the only way to distribute all the ingredients evenly.   I have made these generous in size, but for little mouths they may need to be a little smaller.   Roll your mixture into sausage lengths in some seasoned flour, place in 1/2 sheet puff pastry, roll then brush with beaten egg and bake until golden brown.  These freeze well so can be on hand for a quick snack.  Happy cooking :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the Soapbox after watching a doco

Cooking is not just about what is on the plate, I think it's more about how the plates can connect on the table, they seem to have the ability of bringing family, friends and people together.  I know this sounds pretty simplistic, but hey nothing else seems to be working.   Perhaps if all cultures sat, ate, talked and shared recipes around the same table we would not have the issues that we have today. The bottom line is we all want to live, care for our children, and basically lead a happy life, it's a bugger that's it's so hard for so many of the world's  people to do just that!   

I wonder if it would help getting all  the world's leaders around this table, no I think they have done that (on a regular basis)  but still nothing productive happens. Ok enough of me on the soapbox!

I have some blogs coming on "kids in the kitchen" and economical family meals.  As always would love to hear your opinions and suggestions.

Happy cooking!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ripe for the picking!

In an ideal world it would be great to have oven roasted tomatoes on hand always, but sadly there isn't all ways the time and they are not always an economical way to go, but when they are down to $2 per kilo, buy them!   Cut them in half, lay in a tray lined with baking paper, splash over evoo and salt and roast on a very low heat 90 degrees for 3+ hours.  I throw in a bulb of garlic to roast also, this way you have these ingredients for a pizza, quick pasta sauce or jazz up a boring old sandwich. My personal favourite, sopressa salami (hot) cheese, paste out of one clove and of course a couple of roasted tomatoes.  A hand full of rocket with some balsamic glaze thrown in also doesn't go astray either.  These go along way when roasted as the flavour is more intense.  It's amazing what you can do in hurry if you have a couple of yummy ingredients standing by.  Buy vegetables like eggplant and tomatoes when cheap, grill, roast and store them, you will be surprised what you can whip up without breaking the bank.

Tomatoes turned from ordinary to gourmet!


I remember back in the day when all vegetarian food tended to taste the same, I think it was because just about every item seemed to have an underlying taste of parsnip, great if you like parsnip but all the same it was a bit dull!  Today however Vegos are well catered for.    I had a friend over for lunch a few days ago and this grilled vegetable roll went down a treat.  I used a combination of zucchini, pumpkin and eggplant, I used up the rest of the pickled beetroot I made and blogged about, some yoghurt and a handful of mixed lettuce.  I was in Richmond so picked up some French style bread rolls, but it would be ideal in between some Turkish bread and put in the sandwich press or oven.  Fetta or a tasty style cheese also adds to the taste.  Another tip to save you time at a later date, use the oven to roast more vegetables than you need you then have a supply of roasted vegetables to put on top a pizza for a quick Friday night dinner.  Making pizza dough takes time that we don't always have, so try the large Turkish breads available at most of the major supermarkets, it's quick easy and if you are on a budget a very economical  family meal.

The Flip Side

Ricotta pancakes with fresh berries and natural yoghurt. These would also be great with lemon juice, or maple syrup, substitute with ice cream and it make a yummy desert!

When making pancakes, double the mixture as it keeps well enough for a few days. I whisked together 2 cups self raising flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp baking powder and two eggs, then I folded in 1/2 kilo of fresh ricotta cheese. Let the batter rest for about ten minutes then pour required size into a buttered pan. I like more of a savoury spin on my pancakes while my other half would eat dessert three times a day so here's how to keep everyone happy.

I made a slightly larger one, actually it was huge now that I look at the picture, topped it with grilled bacon, tomato and basil. I like a drizzle of thick balsamic glaze, I use Mazzetti but any of the other good quality glazes will work just as well.

For those who like dessert for breakfast, smaller ones are ideal, topped with a drizzle of honey, raspberries and served with some natural yoghurt.

Tips on cooking pancakes. Let the mixture rest for about ten minutes. Heat your pan first, add butter then remove excess with kitchen paper, this stops the batter from sticking. Be patient, remember cooking is 90% patience, don't be tempted to flip your pancakes until small bubbles appear on the top then over they can go. Think of the variations you can come up with, use a tasty cheese, make them thinner, fill them with spaghetti sauce, roll them up add a salad and there's a quick lunch.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I don't understand why paté is so expensive, a tiny slice hardly enough to have on toast can cost up to $4 no need to have any of that.  Chicken livers are very inexpensive around $3.50 per kilo, just one half of a kilo will make twice as much as pictured.  A few ingredients and you are there. Once you have made one and realise it's a snap you can experiment with different herbs, spirits there will be no end to what's possible.

Simply brown the chicken livers, 2 medium size onions, two cloves garlic, some chopped sage and two bay leaves and salt and pepper.  For this recipe butter really does make it better so sauté in a good 100grams of butter till brown but still a little pink on the inside. Add 1/3 cup brandy or port and flame.  This is achieved by tipping the pan on an angle allowing the the alcohol to catch alight, this then cooks the alcohol out of the mixture.

Once the flame has died down remove bay leaves allow to cool then pour into a food processor and blend well in short bursts. You could put it through but I like the rustic version so I tend to serve it as is.  Taste again before putting it into the container just to check the seasoning.  Refrigerate until ready eat, it's as simple as that.  If you would like to keep it longer than a day or so, melt some butter and tip it over the top, this will increase the shelf life.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wrap it up!

Hey mum another favourite for the blog!

I had these for dinner tonight as a treat for being injured and home alone on a Saturday night. Dad had just got some pork and fennel sausages from the butchers and with little ingredients available and not feeling like anything really heavy I thought some rice paper rolls would be perfect.

Usually I use pork or sometimes chicken for my rice paper rolls but anything you like to eat I think is good enough! These guys are so yum and thanks to my 'The Songs of Sapa' cook book by Luke Nguyen (of Red Lantern) I now know how to make a superb Hoisin dipping sauce. If you like Vietnamese food and cooking I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I was so excited to get it as a Christmas present the SBS series that the book follows is worth a watch too.

To make the rolls fry a couple of sausages in their own fat no oil necessary and prepare thinly sliced cucumber and carrot. Add the vermicelli rice noodles to boiling water, these cook really quickly but will need to cool down before using them. If they're too warm they could break the rice paper when rolling.

I use this brand of rice paper and thought I'd include a picture to make life easier if anyone reading happens to be looking for some! I like this brand as opposed to others as they are easy to handle, relatively thick so they won't break as you start to roll. All you need to do is to fill a dish the size of the paper with hot water. The hotter the water the quicker the paper will soften. Soften the sheet just before use and use your hands to immerse it in the water so you know when it is soft.

Lay the soft rice paper on a clean bench or tea towel and place a small handful of noodles a third of the way up, add one or two thin slices of sausage, a few slices of cucumber and carrot and a few leaves of Vietnamese mint. Fold the bottom over, the sides in before rolling to the other edge pushing quite firmly as you go to get a nice firm shape.

For the Hoisin dipping sauce you will need half a cup of Hoisin sauce, 1 and a half tbl spoons white vinegar, half a cup of milk, 3 tsp crushed peanuts and 1 birds eye chilli thinly sliced. Combine hoisin and vinegar in a pan and heat, add the milk, stir until just boiling then remove and allow to cool before adding the chilli and peanuts. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week. PS I am often too lazy/hungry to heat this sauce and can safely say that is tastes good adding it all together with a quick mix!

Spice up your Life

Hi Mum. I thought you might like to add a blog about my tagine. Thanks for the preserved lemon :)

The Moroccan Tagine is such a beautiful thing to cook with. Though cooking with the earthy clay variety is authentic and an excellent way to present a meal it is not as sturdy as the stainless steel variety. As you can see from the picture the terracotta tagine is without its base! It is important to soak the clay before use so it doesn't get too dry and hot when cooking and crack. I learnt this lesson the hard way despite saying to myself 'I really should have soaked this again, it has been a while'. Don't worry though my fish tagine was safe and delicious despite wrecking the tagine.

I received this stainless steel tagine as a birthday present and the first thing I made was a chicken and preserved lemon tagine with potato, peas and beans.

Ingredients: 4 or 5 chicken thigh fillets, 2 potatoes sliced, cup of peas, handful of green beans, 1 onion thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, 250ml chicken stock. Spices: 1tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, 1 and half tsp cumin, 1tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground ginger.

Fry the garlic and onion on a medium heat in some olive oil until soft and slightly browned. Pop the potatoes in and let them soften just a little. Add the chicken and spices, you may need to add a little more oil as the spices tend to soak it up. Allow the chicken to brown before adding the stock and simmer with the lid on. 

My daughter is a wonderful cook, I wish she still lived at home so I could get to taste these lovely dishes, guess I'll have to be happy with just looking at the pictures for now.

Alfresco Lunch

I always enjoy spending time with family and friends down the beach, fortunately they are all very patient, which is great when there is a need to take a quick pic!  I thought I would share one of our lunches.  I will blog on how to make a Paella in the future, not as difficult as you are lead to believe,  it's like doing anything, a high level of patience and common sense is more important than a high level of skill!
Fresh seafood and seasonal fruits are always are a great start.

Paella is a great starter as the weather gets cooler, the pans are easy to find, Casa Iberica in Hoddle Street, Collingwood has a large range of Spanish cooking items along with fantastic jamon, cheeses, white marinated sardines (boquerones) a personal favourite.  In Spain they are a popular tapas, eaten simply between good bread, yum!  Tapas bars in Spain are great fun, reasonably priced and full of variety, we went on crawl while in Spain, not a pub crawl as such more of a tapas one.  We went in search of the best tortilla, I must confess most of them were pretty good, but you never know what's around the next corner, needless to say we turned a lot of corners!

Paella, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, vine ripened tomatoes, good bread and the obligatory glass of red.  

Definitely something to smile about!

Roast joint of Pork, not leg but the neck, very popular in Asian cooking as it has a good amount of fat which renders down during the cooking process and keeps the meat very moist.  I usually splash some hoisin sauce mixed with a little oil over the top.  As with all meat let it rest, covered for a least 20minutes, this gives the juices time to distribute through the joint, the result tender, moist delicious pork.  Pork neck is an economical cut, give it a try you'll be surprised with the results!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blogs on the way

I have been away for a few days, enjoying what others have to offer in the way of culinary delights. I have  a number of recipes and pictures of course to blog about on my return. As the leaves turn to that lovely rich red and the grass greens once again I feel inspired to cook some hearty dishes that warm you up from within, which got me thinking about France. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to spend some time  there in both Paris and rural France.  The markets in France, even in the very small towns were a pleasure to stroll through, full of taste sensations and happy faces,  there you find fast food in terracotta pots filled with cassoulet, terrines, and an assortment of yummy stuff!  For around nine euro (15 AU) you can have a great meal and you get to keep the container, bonus.  We stayed in a country town called Ginestas which is very close to the Canal du Midi,  Rick Stein, the English chef did a program years ago called "A French Odyssey" where he barged down this canal to the Mediterranean stopping from time to time to eat at different small cafes. We didn't barge, but we did cycle, and as it's a canal it's flat, which is sensational as I am way past cycling up hills. There are the most beautiful places to stop, eat, drink red wine, picnic and pick the obligatory flowers on the way. My daughter also spent some time there  on exchange and brought me home some cookery books, fortunately her French is great as is my father in laws so I am looking forward to giving the French country classics a whirl after they have been translated to the degree I need, I have only mastered the very basics in French,  I am great at ordering meals!  I will add some of my favourite French pics to this blog upon my return,  surprisingly they all tend to revolve around, yep, food

One of the barges along the canal that sell fresh bread, fruit & vegetables .   As you can see the markets sell just about everything to go,  the French to fast food in a spectacular fashion!
Yes they are crayfish legs, I don't know what they are feeding on, but it's obviously working, they are huge.

Assortment of pickled sardines and vegetables

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pretty Corny!

Not long ago I had a sad experience at the cafe that make my favourite corn fritters. They weren't as corny as I like! Disappointed that the owner didn't want to hear my feedback I was determined to create my own fritter recipe... with extra corn thanks very much!

I use a can of corn, a small grated potato (squeeze to remove excess water), an egg, heaped tablespoon of plain flour, 2 tablespoons of milk, teaspoon of paprika, a few leaves of basil, oregano and parsley chopped, salt and pepper. The consistency should be reasonably thick so that you can spoon it into the pan but runny enough to spread. Depending on the moisture in the potato and corn you may need to tweak the flour and milk to get a not too runny not to thick mixture, just right!

Fry these in a little olive oil. Make sure the oil is hot then when adding the batter reduce to a medium heat to ensure they brown but also cook through. Cooking them slow will make it easier to flip as the batter cooks rather than just browning the outside, be patient. I have flipped many a fritter too soon and messed it up, luckily they still taste good even when they don't look quite right!

This recipe will be enough for 5 reasonably sized fritters. Serve these with sweet chilli sauce fresh vietnamese mint and sour cream if you have it. For a more substantial breakfast top with some grilled bacon. 

Kangaroo Stew aka Roogu

Hey mum I made the Roogu! I thought I would send you the photos for your blog!

Cooking with Kangaroo makes you seem really tricky in the kitchen but it is such an easy and tasty ingredient to use. Often when I cook Kangaroo I use fillets and bbq with some spices. I thought I would try something different today. The name came first 'Roogu!' yes a ragu with roo, it's worth making just to announce the 'Roogu is ready!'

I could only find marinated mini roo roasts at the supermarket so to prepare the meat I cut it out of its twine and removed any stringy bits. Kangaroo is really lean but these roasting portions had a little extra fat than you find in fillets which I was pleased with for my roogu! I gave the meat a quick clean as it was marinated in garlic and herbs ala Coles, not a huge deal but often I find the marinade too salty.

I used garlic, shallots, red wine, home made tomato sauce and a mixture of herbs, including rosemary, oregano, parsley and 2 bay leaves all fresh from the garden.

I dusted the roo in flour which I seasoned with a little salt and pepper. I fried it in batches with oil. After the meat was quickly browned I set it aside. Added the shallots and garlic to the pot, after it had softened I returned the meat added the wine, followed by the sauce then quickly chopped my herbs apart from the bay and threw them in.

The roogu cooked for about 3 hours on a really low simmer. 
I served it with gnocchi that I had left over in the freezer and freshly grated parmesan, mmm!

I steamed some green beans as a side for the gnocchi which I made a dressing for using 3 cloves of roasted garlic, a dash of balsamic, a dash of red wine vinegar, EV olive oil, salt and pepper. This dressing was quite thick it looked almost like gravy with the garlic creating a paste. I added only a few teaspoons to the beans while hot and it melted in nicely. They were delicious.

For dessert... Mums chocolate brick - always handy to pick up some takeaway cake! I marinated some strawberries in Cointreau, Aperol and mint to have with the cake.