My New Cuisine Crush

It's very nearly winter down south, which usually means I am craving roast beef, yorkshire pudding, and piles and piles of pasta covered with cheese. This year however, I've ditched the heavy European fare in favour of a winter of Thai food. Coconut, lime, ginger and lemongrass are my flavours of the season. Warming me to the core with chilli - not carbs - and enlivening my evenings with a new culinary challenge too (there is nothing worse than food boredom, my friends). Below are my two favourite Thai dishes. I've built up the recipes from bits and pieces that I have read online, and developed them through rather a lot of trial-and-error experimentation. If you'd like to embark on your own Thai adventure, I suggest you do the same - as David Thompson says, Thai food is all about intuition and interpretation.

Note: A few of the ingredients required here can be a little hard to come by, but don't let that deter you - tracking them down is half the fun! Black glutinous rice (otherwise called sweet black rice, Thai black rice, or even Indonesian black rice) can be tricky to find, even in the best of Asian grocery stores. Similarly, thick rice noodles can be hard to track down. The noodle fridge at my favourite Asian grocer is usually empty by five in the afternoon, probably because noodles are delicious and they walk off the shelves... so get in early folks. White pepper is a little known ingredient, but it's used extensively in Thai cuisine. Use whole peppercorns and grind them up yourself, the powdered stuff is rubbish...

Pad See Ew

What You Will Need:
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 300g approx of firm tofu
  • 500g of large, flat rice noodles
  • 1 large bunch of pak choy
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of black soy
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 level teaspoon of white pepper
For the Marinade:
  • 3 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of light soy
  • 1 tbsp of black soy (sweet soy)
  • 1 small chilli, finely chopped
What you will need to do:

1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Thinly slice the chicken breast and dice the tofu into bite sized chunks, then add to the marinade, stir to coat everything, and refrigerate the lot until it's time to stir-fry.

2. Heat a little oil in a smallish frying pan. Beat the eggs together with a pinch of salt and add to the hot oil. Fry the eggy mixture til you've got yourself an omelette, then slice into strips and set aside. Turn the heat down on your frying pan, add a little water, and blanch the pak choy until it is vibrant green. Set this aside too.

3. When you're ready to stir fry, heat a little oil in a large wok. Add the garlic cloves and fry until
lightly browned. Add the chicken/tofu mixture and all of the marinade, then toss the lot until the chicken is cooked through and the tofu has charred slightly.

4. Now it's time to add your noodles! The noodles I use are each about two metres long, so I add them one at a time, snipping them into manageable lengths as I go. I'd suggest separating your noodles in this way even if they're not ludicrously long, as it stops them from sticking together in a sad little lump. Stir the lot until the noodles begin to char too.

5. Finally, add the eggy slices and pak choy. Drizzle in the extra soy and rice wine vinegar, and at the last minute, add the white pepper. Toss until warmed through and serve immediately with slices of lime on the side. Noodle perfection.

Black Rice Pudding

What you will need:
  • 2 cups of black glutinous rice
  • 1 400ml can of coconut milk (full fat is best!)
  • 1/4 cup of caster sugar
  • the juice of one lime
  • Shredded coconut & sesame seeds, fresh fruit - whatever you'd like to top your pudding with!
What you will need to do:

1. Rinse your rice in cold water, then soak, although not necessarily according to packet instructions. Different brands of rice recommend differing soaking times; I would suggest four hours at a minimum, but the longer the better.

2. Once your rice has finished soaking, it's time to steam! I do this by bringing 2 to 3cm of water to the boil in a large pot. I place my rice in a metal colander, then rest the colander over the boiling water and cover the lot with a lid. (I plan to invest in a proper Thai steamer set, but my colander / pot method works well in the meantime.) Steam for 30 - 40 minutes.

3. While your rice is steaming, heat the coconut milk over a low heat. Stir through the sugar (1/4 of a cup is just a guide. Most recipes I have read call for more sugar, but I don't posses a sweet tooth so I don't use very much. Adjust to taste.) Squeeze in some lime juice, just enough to cut through the rich, sugary coconut milk. Toast a little shredded coconut and some sesame seeds too, or prepare any fruit you'd like to serve, and set aside.

4. Your rice is sufficiently steamed when the grains are soft, but not mushy. I like the grains to almost burst when chewed. Place your steamed rice in a bowl and stir through just enough of the coconut milk to create a thick, glossy purple porridge. Push the rice mixture into moulds and turn out into serving bowls to create delicious, purple pudding mounds. Pour a little of the extra coconut mixture around the pudding, and top with toasted coconut, sesame seeds, or fruit. Serve immediately.

My New Favourite Website

Do you like dinner? And cussing? Do you often despair at deciding on dinner? And cuss? You're reading this blog, so I'm going to assume you do. Check out What The Fuck Should I Make For Dinner, my kind of recipe aggregator. It's got a vego option and everything.

Fuck yeah it does.

A Long Awaited Reunion

Picture this scene: A busy Melbourne marketplace. Early afternoon. Thousands of hungry foodies bustling about with trolleys, vying for the best pumpkin, the juiciest tomatoes, green-bags akimbo and smug "I buy organic" facial expressions firmly in place. All of a sudden, spied across the crowded market floor. Could it be? Yes! I let out a gasp of joy, the boyfriend, a dismaying groan. No folks, it wasn't Alan Rickman, down on one knee and come for me at last. It was... a feijoa. Several feijoa's to be precise. Sitting in a happy green pile, just waiting for me.

What is a feijoa, you may ask? Well, I know I've probably said the same of countless foodstuffs before, but feijoas are my all time favourite food. They are defined variously as a strange gooseberry, a sort of guava, or if you're my boyfriend "that dirty fruit that tastes the way deep heat cream smells." To most, they are a strange green item roughly the size and shape of an egg, never tasted and therefore never enjoyed. To me, they are autumns in my grandmother's backyard. They are spoons and sticky hands. They are excess consumption, followed by indigestion. In short, they are the best.

You'll have to pardon this odd, ecstatic little post. It's just that I've finally found someone south of my Grandma's poolside who grows and sells feijoas - until the weekend, a feijoa hadn't passed my lips in years, and needless to say it was an overdue reunion. If you haven't tasted my favourite of fruits, you really ought to. Take a close look at the photo provided, and if you see one hanging over a back fence, or lying idly in a front yard, snap that shit up and eat it where you stand. Feijoa's are a strange fruit, something like a guava, a kiwi, and a fig combined, but... better somehow. Delicious.

A Few Feijoa Recipes, should you ever get your hands on some:

Salad (substitute figs for feijoas):

Cocktail - Feijoa Mule:
  • Vodka (The 42 below feijoa flavoured kind is delicious, if you can find it!)
  • Ginger beer
  • Fresh mint, lime, and a peeled and halved feijoa.
Muddle ice, a shot of vodka, mint, lime wedges and feijoa. Pour over ginger beer and enjoy.

So go forth and enjoy the humble feijoa. Just keep your hands off the ones at the Vic Markets, they're mine.

The Parts Make Up The Whole

About a week ago, The Boy - on kitchen duty - asked me what I wanted for dinner. "A delicious feast!" is what I asked for, and a delicious feast is what I received. Two dollar pork buns courtesy of our local Asian grocer, wok-fried greens and a lovely eggy rice dish. The parts made up the whole, and the whole meal was delicious.

These two side dishes are perfect mid-week fare, quick and simple and cheap as chips. Get your hands on some sesame oil, it is really the key ingredient in these two recipes, and keep a few pork-buns in your freezer too. Yum-cha in your own kitchen!

Wok Fried Greens

You can use any veggies you like for this dish, this recipe contains my favourites:
  • Bok Choy (or pak choy, or choy sum. Whichever you prefer)
  • Brocolini (or brocoli) cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Green beans
  • Snow peas
  • Baby corn (not strictly a green but delicious nonetheless)
  • Thickly diced zucchini
  • One tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • One tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • Three or four drops of sesame oil
  • A pinch of chilli, if you'd like a little kick
This dish is simplicity itself. You'll need fresh produce, minimal accoutrements, and a red-hot-wok. Prepare your veggies, heat your wok, then toss everything in and off you go! If you don't have a wok, try to avoid using a non-stick frypan. The flavour of this dish is all in the burning, so none of that fancy-pants teflon thank you very much! Resist the temptation to add extra oil - the vegetables should char, so keep your wok as dry as possible. Remove when everything begins to burn at the edges, and serve immediately. A delicious and nutritious side dish.

Eggy Fried Rice
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil, light soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil
Another simple side dish, this makes a good base for other fried rice dishes too. Fried rice is Asia's answer to bubble and squeak - you can throw anything in there (within reason) and chances are it will be tasty!

Cook rice as per packet instructions, stand aside and allow to cool completely*. Heat a little vegetable oil in your wok- just enough to coat the bottom - whisk two eggs together and pour them over the hot oil. As they begin to cook, splash some soy sauce over them, then scramble with a fork. This dish is best when the eggs are half way between runny and solid, they need about a minute before the rice goes in. Throw in your cold rice and toss everything around until the egg scramble breaks up and disperses. Drip in a little sesame oil, a little extra soy to taste, and keep tossing until the dish is warmed through and the rice has yellowed slightly. Then eat, eat, eat.

* When cooking fried rice, the temperature of the rice itself is important. Using cold rice prevents your dish from turning into fried mush. Any long-gran rice is suited for frying once cooled, but basmati is best as it has a lower starch content than other types of rice and is less likely to soften when re-heated. Leftover takeaway rice is perfect for use in this dish, if it's sitting in the fridge lookin' a little dry, all the better for it!

For Emily, Wherever I Might Find Her

A few weeks ago Canberra lost one of it's loveliest ladies. Journal editor, inner north compatriot, fellow vego, lover of soft cheeses, poetry, secret passageways and robots, my friend Emily packed it in for a life of glitz and glamour in Melbourne.

We are going to miss her like crazy here. I'm hoping to join her down there one day, but in the mean time I thought I'd share some of my favourite Emily endorsed tracks (right click to download).

Grand Salvo - In the Morning
Dirty Three - Quarantine
Machine Translations - The Zither Player

These tracks are gorgeous - they're landscape art. Thoroughly Australian, subtle and sweet. This girl is on to good things, as you can see. As a small parting gift, my fellow blog mistress has devised some wonderful Melbourne adventures for her - we hope you enjoy.

Books For Cooks – A lovely little shop full of books... for cooks. It’s worth a visit, as is almost every other store along Gertrude Street.

ACCA (The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) – The slightly peculiar cousin of the NGV, and only a hop-skip-and a jump away if you’re planning to do the Melbourne Gallery rounds. We had an incident with the giant wall of spotlights... very interesting exhibitions indeed!

Double Happiness - This place is 1920’s speakeasy meets Mao era Chinese revolutionary hideout. A little on the expensive side, but the cocktails are delightful, unusual things and the staff have great taste in music. Try the plum martini. Yum.

The Brunswick Green (313 Sydey Road, Brunswick) – a lovely Sydney Road pub, it doesn’t look like much from the front but the beer garden out the back is fantastic. Great on Fridays – full of friendly folk, and the staff will deliver you a pizza from next door, but only if you ask very nicely.

Trippy Taco – amazing Mexican vegetarian restaurant on Smith Street, Fitzroy. The special quesadilla is to die for, and the sweet tamale dessert is killer too. I can’t recommend this place enough. (Also, Matt Preston eats there!)

Enjoy, lovely lady.