Saturday
May102014

asian noodle cakes

The story of my imperfect manicure all began with our sausage dog, Edweiner, pottying on our bedroom floor.  Does anyone else notice that it's the days that you plan with the precision of a Swiss watch that things all fall apart.  And as Murphy's Law would mockingly have it, the days it is most inconvenient for it to happen that shit goes down (in our case literally - right down on our brand new carpet).

Awaking at 5.30am for my ritual Friday morning trip to Queen Victoria Markets, I returned home late after a tram broke down along Sydney Road.  THBBF was waiting patiently at home (bless him), but I knew the delay would make him late for work (we are a one-car household - the joys of inner-city life).  I madly unpack my shopping, in hindsight I probably should have slowed this step down as this evening I tore my hair out trying to find spring onions for this recipe, only after I had finished cooking these I looked down and saw them peeking out from on top of our microwave, naturally, where everyone stores their spring onions these days.

I then raced upstairs, jumped in the shower, realised I hadn't shaved my legs in over a week (it was bad.  Real bad, like Guerillas in the Mist bad).  My big boss was coming in today and I now needed to add another grooming task to the regime, along with painting my little stubs some might call fingernails.  Showering in record time, I slap on some makeup, pull my hair up into a somewhat presentable style (thank you hair doughnut) and glance down at the time, with 15 mins left to plain nails.  3 coats x 5 mins each setting time = 15 mins.  Things are going well.

Until I go into our bedroom and see a suspicious damp patch.  THBBF had already left for work and I certainly wasn't responsible - I turn around and our dog has somehow managed to get up the stairs on her own (dachshund owners will sympathise with me that this is a disastrous thing to have happen) and is now staring up at me with a face that is guilty as sin.  F!@#.  Now I have to clean up this dog piss and there's no way a mani can be done in 5 mins.

I cannot go to work with naked nails.  This only leaves one solution - tram manicure.  I throw my Essie and Seche Vite into my bag, throwing caution to the wind and leaving the polish remover at home (I like to live dangerously).  I carefully time my brushstrokes with the stops, which I now know off my heart as I have caught the same tram for almost 3 years.  Women watch in awe, one even taps me on the shoulder to comment about how neat my mani is and another suggests I start a business doing manicures on public transport.  I laugh out loud but think about it for the rest of the day.  Perhaps if this food blogging business doesn't pay off I may just have a career backup plan.  

Anyway, this recipe really is quick and easy (by normal people standards, not mine).  I really couldn't be bothered tonight so I dropped into the supermarket on the way home, picked up a roast chicken and a pre-mixed coleslaw salad bag and threw it all together with the Maggi 2 Minute Noodles that are a staple in our home (a must for THBBF when recipe development goes terribly, terribly wrong).  I think in total this took me about 20 mins.  See, I am human afterall.

asian noodle cakes
Makes 8

2 packets of Maggi 2 Minute Noodles, flavouring sachet discarded
1 cup shredded BBQ chicken
1 cup coleslaw salad mix (this is the veggies only, without the dressing) 
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1 stick lemongrass, white inner core only, finely chopped
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
3 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Cook noodles according to packet instructions.  Drain.  Allow to cool for 5 mins.

In a large bowl, combine cooled noodles, chicken, coleslaw, coriander, lemongrass, chilli and flour.  Mix well to combine (don't be a sissy, use your hands, get in there!).  Break eggs into the mixture, season with salt and pepper, mix well to combine.

Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat.  Divide mixture into 8 equal balls (about 1/3 cup of mixture each).  2 at a time, fry balls, pressing down gently with a spatula to flatten, for about 2-3 mins each side or until golden and crispy.  The cakes will still be soft and delicious inside.  Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt just before serving hot.

Wednesday
May072014

world's best steak sanger

So I'm about to cook my steak like a boss, using my new favourite app SteakMate.  Yes, I could press the steak and then press the palm of my hand and then press the steak again, but I like the novelty of having an app to tell me when to flip my steak and when to get it out to rest (even if it does defy Heston's flip-every-10-seconds theory).  

First I select the cut - porterhouse (the app doesn't seem too concerned with the pedigree of said meat, but for those who are interested, it's Cape Grim).  I then choose my cooking method from electric stove, gas stove or BBQ.  I would like to BBQ but it's filthy from last week's double house party and pulling out a chargrill pan is a much more appealing option right now - gas stove, lock it in Eddie.  I then use my fingers to try and guesstimate the thickness of my steak, something you think I would be quite proficient at as I spent 15 years of my life designing jewellery, yet I still manage to stuff it up somehow and end up relying on the old palm-pressing method of steak doneness testing.  

The final step I find most disturbing.  The app prompts me to give my steak a name.  The app wants me to NAME A PIECE OF ANIMAL FLESH before I throw it into a screaming hot pan for 8 mins and devour it in between two slices of bread.  I try to proceed without getting emotionally involved but SteakMate just won't let me.  I'm starting to think this app was created by vegetarians.  I cringe as I affectionately name my steak "Sanger", at least I am not giving it false hope - honesty is the best policy.

world's best steak sanger
Makes 2

200g porterhouse steak
6 slices of prosciutto
60g gruyere cheese, grated
2 medium vine tomatoes, cut into thick slices
2 large cos lettuce leaves 
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 head of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
4 slices ciabatta
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper 

To make gruyere crisps, preheat the grill setting of your oven to 200ºC.  Line a baking tray with foil, spray with cooking oil, place 4 egg rings evenly spaced on the tray and divide cheese evenly between the rings.  Grill for 4-5 mins or until cheese has melted and becomes light golden in colour and hard.  Remove from grill, allow to cool before removing egg ring.  Reserve gruyere crisps.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180ºC.  To make garlic spread, cut 1/4 off the top of the garlic head so that the cloves are revealed.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil, then wrap in foil and bake for 30-35 mins until golden and soft.  Allow to cool before squeezing garlic flesh out of skin (discard skin).  Mash with a fork, season with salt and pepper and combine with yoghurt.  Set aside.

Fry prosciutto in a very hot frypan for 1-2 mins or until it starts to become golden and shrivel.  It will still feel soft and pliable, with tongs, take the prosciutto out of the pan and form two bundles.  As the prosciutto cools it will harden in this bunch.  Set aside.

Cook steak in a hot char-grill pan for 8-10 mins, turning every 1 minute, until medium (you might prefer medium rare but be prepared for a bloody sandwich).  Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest 4-5 mins before slicing very thinly.  

Toast ciabatta (both sides) under a grill until lightly toasted.  

To assemble the sandwich, arrange lettuce on top of one slive of ciabatta.  Arrange tomato on top, to weight the lettuce down.  Then place half the steak on top, followed by prosciutto bundle and gruyere crisps (two per sandwich).  Spread remaining ciabatta toast with garlic spread, this is the lid.  Devour!

Tuesday
May062014

babotie-stuffed baked capsicums

Some girls lose their $hit over a French accent, but I'd take a South African accent over it any day.  South African accents are the only reason I watch the cricket, and when Leonardo nailed it in Blood Diamond I went so weak at the knees I could barely walk for a week.  

Apart from the accent, another thing I love from South Africa is their national dish, babotie.  I know what you're thinking, the name sounds so darn cute.  But don't underestimate the humble babotie - the cocktail of spices and curry in this moussaka-like meal will give you a slap right across the face.  Well, the tastebuds anyway.

There are countless variations of this South African classic.  Here's my take...

baboutie-stuffed baked capsicums
Serves 6

3 large red capsicums, cut in half, seeds and stalk removed
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
500g lamb mince
2 tbsp madras curry paste (I used Pataks)
1/2 tsp allspice
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil 
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sultanas
6 floury potatoes (Golden Delight or Dutch Creams are good options), peeled, quartered
2 bay leaves
30g butter
Splash of milk
1 egg
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180ºC.  Line a baking tray with foil.

Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil.  Add bay leaves, then cook 15-20 mins or until potatoes are soft when stabbed with a fork.  Drain, discarding bay leaves.  Add butter and milk and mash well until smooth.  Stir through egg until well combined, then season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté 3-5 mins until softened and opaque.  Add curry paste and all herbs and stir to combine.  Add mince, breaking up lumps with a spoon.  Cook, stirring regularly, for 6-8 mins or until mince has browned.  Remove from heat, stir through sultanas.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you can find the cloves at this point (think Where's Wally style) then remove them.  If not, you might want to warn your fellow diners - a whole clove is never a pleasant surprise in a meal!

Arrange capsicums, cut side up, on the prepared tray.  Divide mince mixture evenly between the capsicums.  Bake for 20 mins, capsicum will become soft.  Remove from oven, spoon potato mixture evenly over the mince-filled capsicums.  Turn your oven to the grill setting, increase heat to 220ºC and grill capsicums for 5 mins or until the potato becomes golden forms a nice crust.  Serve immediately.

Sunday
May042014

roast garlic and kalonji seed spaghetti

It's been a while since my last post, sorry folks! I've been super busy (day job), so much so that I actually had to schedule in 3 and a half minutes to catch up on the latest internet video sensations. Here's a brief of what you've missed over the last few days:

1) I've been suffering with a very unhappy tummy (which a quick trip to the Dr revealed to be a stomach bug, not just the need to fart, but thanks for the mis-diagnosis co-workers);

2) Held a high tea at a jewellery store, followed that evening by co-hosting a double house party complete with kitchen DJ setup with smoke AND laser machines (yes, it was awesome);

3) Watched a very cute video of a hamster eating several tiny burritos.

Anyway, I am completely exhausted but one needs to eat, so here's a half-arsed meal I threw together in between Game of Thrones marathon with THBBF. Miraculously, it was quite good.

roast garlic and kalonji seed spaghetti
Serves 4

500g spaghetti
2 heads of garlic, outer skin removed so individual cloves are exposed
1 cup rocket
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp kalonji (nigella) seeds
3 small escallots, finely chopped
30g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180ºC. Cut the tops off garlic so that the cloves are exposed. Drizzle each bulb with 1 tbsp oil, then wrap in foil and bake for 30-35 mins until golden and soft.

Meanwhile, heat a small frypan over low heat. Dry toast kalonji seeds for 1 min or until fragrant. Remove from pan. Add remaining oil to pan, saute escallot until softened. Add chilli flakes and kalonji seeds then remove from heat.

Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions. Drain, then add butter and allow to melt through the spaghetti. Add escallot mixture and rocket, toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully squeeze baked garlic cloves from the shells and toss through pasta.

Tuesday
Apr292014

fennel smoked fish with fennel, orange and basil salad

Perilously perched on top of three 30kg bags of rice, I extend my right arm, while using my left as a counterbalance as I stretch, go-go-Gadget arm-style for the bamboo steamer on the very top shelf.  This is something I have become quite accustomed to as I don't have the best track records with bamboo steamers who ultimately meet an untimely death in my kitchen, going down in a burning ring of fire on my stovetop.  

I haven't had much luck with indoor steaming.  Confucious says "Man who can't cook use smoke alarm as timer" definitely rings true in our house.  But tonight, I am proud to say, the bamboo steamer lived to tell its tale.  

fennel smoked fish with fennel, orange and basil salad
Serves 2

2 mild, white fish fillets (I used Blue Eye Trevalla), skin removed
2 baby fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, shaved super thin on a mandolin
1 orange, segmented
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1 cup mesquite and alder smoking chips (fellow Aussies - you can get these from Bunnings)
1 tbsp olive oil 

Line a large wok with foil.  Place smoking chips in the bottom of the wok, place lid on wok and heat over a high heat until smoking.  Make sure all of your windows and doors are open and that your exhaust fan is pushed to the max!

Line an 8" bamboo steamer with baking paper.  Make a layer of fennel bulb on the bottom, then place fish fillets on top, then top fish with fennel fronds (reserve some for the salad).  Place the bamboo steamer into the wok, being careful not to pierce the foil.  Drop heat to low, cover with the lid, ensuring it is perfectly fitting so smoke doesn't escape.  Smoke fish for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, to prepare salad combine remaining shaved fennel, 1/4 cup fennel fronds, orange segments and basil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

When fish has smoked for 15 mins, take the wok outside and remove lid.  Don't be tempted to do this inside - unless you want a visit from your local fire brigade.  Discard smoked fennel.

Heat oil in a frypan over medium-high heat and pan fry fish 6-8 mins or until it reaches 60ºC in the centre and is opaque and flakes apart easily.  Remove from pan, set aside to rest for 5 mins.

To serve, flake fish into large chunks.  Toss gently through salad just before serving.