Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Grilled Whiting

At the fish shop, whiting fillets were $50/kg, and the actual fish was $25/kg. I bought the fish with the intention of filleting them myself. I never quite got around to it.

I dug out my copy of the Silver Spoon for inspiration (alas, Stephanie failed me) and did the following.

Fish Marinade

Any change from the original sea bream recipe I have marked with an asterisk (*).

Grilled Whiting

4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon, strained
Handful of fresh parsley
Whiting (or any firm white fish), cleaned*
Salt and pepper

Mix together all ingredients except for the fish.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes*, in a plastic bag whilst you are preparing other bits of dinner.
Drain and reserve the marinade – I heated this in a small frypan so that I wasn’t mixing raw and cooked foods.*
Coat the fish with breadcrumbs, and place under grill.
*Chuck any leftover breadcrumb mixture from your plate into the cavity.
Baste the fish with the marinade for about 15 minutes, until the flesh flakes easily.

If the fish fins/tail start to get a bit burnt during the cooking, cover them with foil.

Grilled Fish

Yum and Wow. Usually when you squeeze lemon over fish, my poor deluded taste buds think that I’ve added salt.

The advantage of basting a breadcrumbed fish with the lemon marinade is that the breadcrumbs absorb the lemony flavour. You can really taste the freshness and lightness of the lemon. The breadcrumbs gave a lovely crispy crust.


I love a good whole fish.
But the bones along the back of the whiting really curbed my enjoyment. I just wanted to crunch the crust, but I had to keep picking bones out of my mouth.

I will definitely be using this recipe again!


Grandma’s spicy tofu with pork (Ma Po Tofu)

This is one of my favourite comfort food dishes. I have tried making this with the instant ‘Ma Po tofu sauce’ that comes in a jar but it just tasted terrible. And gave me a MSG thirst to boot.

So I bit the bullet, and made it from scratch according to Charmaine Solomon’s Encyclopedia of Asian Food.

AsiaSociety took the trouble of providing an electronic copy of the recipe.

Grandma’s Spicy Tofu with Pork (serves 4)
#600 g firm bean curd
#500g pork mince
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions (scallions)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
#2 tablespoon ground bean sauce (mor sze jeung)
#2 teaspoon chilli bean paste
#6 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
[for this one I used Capibu Jari Jempol Sambal Asli chilli sauce and and a bit of tomato sauce]
#2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 & 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons fermented bean curd, mashed*
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chilli oil or sesame oil
(optional) diced ‘instant’ jellyfish or kelp seaweeds
Cooked Rice/quinoa/pearl barley to serve.

Where I have indicated an ingredient quantity with a hash mark (#), I have increased the quantities from the original recipe. Generally, I have doubled the sauce ingredients. I like this dish with a bit of sauce which you mop up with rice.

For the tofu, I used a combination of 200g fresh silken tofu, and ‘297g’ of uht packet firm tofu.

What irks me about Charmaine’s book is that the ‘Chinese’ pronunciation given is generally of the Cantonese language. Cantonese doesn’t really have an official method of translating the sounds into english, unlike mandarin. Providing the Chinese characters would brook no argument.

So here is a photo of the unusual ingredients that I used:

Spicy tofu ingredients

From left to right we have.
1. Mei3 Wei4 huang2 jiang4, (literally “delicacy yellow soybean paste”).
2. (top) instant natural sea vegetable fresh kelp.
3. (bottom) long life UHT firm tofu.
4. preserved beancurd

The fermented bean curd I bought after I tried to replicate the vegetable dish from Red Lantern, using water spinach (kang kong).

1. Cut tofu into 2 cm chunks and drop into a pan of boiling water until heated through, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.
2. Heat peanut oil in a wok and on a low heat fry spring onion for a few seconds before adding garlic and ginger. Stir and fry over low heat until fragrant and starting to turn golden.
3. Add pork and break up into small clumps until cooked.
4. Add chilli bean paste, soy sauce, chilli sauce, bean paste and mashed red bean curd mixed with 1& 1/3 cup stock or water.
5.Stir until boiling, then mix in cornflour stirred with cold water and stir until sauce boils and thickens.
6. (optional) cut up your crunchy pickles, jellyfish or kelp and stir through.
7.Add tofu and heat gently in the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve on steamed carbs of your choice.

* Red bean curd is the Chinese equivalent of ripe gorgonzola cheese.

I added one chopped up fresh red chilli at step 4 to add some colour. When I lifted the lid off the frypan just before step 5, it smelled just right. Ah. Satisfaction.

I added the kelp at step 6 for texture. Sometimes when eating this in restaurants, you get the sour crunch of pickles, which I quite like.

Ma Po Tofu

Delicious. Noms. I went back for seconds. And ate the leftovers for lunch.

Mango Lassi

After gorging myself silly on marsala dosa from the Indo-Lankan food bar, I had a craving for mango lassi. Perfect antidote to chilli overindulgence. But $4.50 for a glass? So let’s go home and make some instead.

I was convinced that authentic lassi is made using buttermilk, but it was a bit of a hunt finding a recipe that contained it. I finally settled on adapting one from thekitchn

Homemade Mango
Serves 2
1 ripe mango
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 plain yoghurt
Iced/Cold water to taste/texture
Seeds from 1 pod cardamom, crushed in a mortar & pestle

Peel the mangos cheeks and chop into small pieces. Save the seed for yourself. Put in the blender with the dairy and water. Blend everything in a blender until smooth and frothy.

Mango Lassi

If you don’t include the flesh from around the seed in the lassi drink you don’t need to sieve it.

I used ‘no fat’ greek style yoghurt. I also found that the mixture was sweet enough to not need sugar. It was very gelatinous without the water, which is why I would include it.

The other method I would try is to soak the cardamom pod in the milk ovenight before using. Like an infusion, that way – no gritty cardamom bits.

Mmm, homemade mango lassi, perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Celeriac Soup with Brussels Sprouts

I know only one way to prepare celeriac for eating: remoulade. Grate your celeriac, add mayo/plain yoghurt, capers and parsley and then eat.

So I was quite excited when I saw this recipe in the daily terror. I took a photo of the recipe when I first saw it in the paper, and this electronic one seems to match up.

Instead of full cream milk which I had forgotten to replenish, I whipped up one litre of skim milk from my emergency powder stash.

I used a packet of no nitrate smoked bacon from Trunkey Bacon as a substitute for the pancetta. I cut the fat off, and saved the rind for future stockmaking shenannigans.

The giant celeriac and brussels Sprouts also came from the castle hill market. 3/4 of the celeriac beast went into the soup, and the rest got turned into remoulade at a later date. Just don’t forget to store the cut celeriac in acidilated water.

And the soup?

Well the end result was very rich and creamy, yet in a plain flavoured way. The celeriac flavour was very subtle.
I substituted pecans for the walnuts, and since they are a denser meatier nut, it worked quite well. I completely forgot to add the celery, so that could have been why it seemed quite plain to me.

I don’t know how any one could use full cream milk, because this one gave me a bit a tummy ache the next day!

The soup kept well – and I had the last bits for lunch over a week later.

This is the first soup I’ve made which I used milk as the cooking broth. If i did make it again, I think I would use less milk, and add it at the end as a white roux to make the creamy flavour. The other variation I might try is cooking it as a variation to the lemon and parsnip soup.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

I discovered this salad at Sang Chong hotpot restaurant. L had read about this salad in his Chinese textbook, so we wanted to try it.

I enjoyed it at the time, it was very moreish and I wanted to keep eating. But I got a msg hangover afterwards, so was a bit wary of ordering it again.

I thought the ingredient that made it so delicious was sesame oil, but upon finding a recipe at
Jonathan in China’s blog, it seems to be salt, plain and simple!

Smashed Cucumber Salad (serves one)
1 Lebanese cucumber
1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chiles
1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch sugar
About one tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Peanut oil
Heavy knife – Chinese cleaver or Cook’s Knife

Wash the cucumber and top and tail it. Chop into bite size chunks, approx 3cm each. Using the flat side of your chef’s knife lean upon each chunky piece on the green side and ‘smash’ it into irregular bits. I found this easier than ‘smashing’ the whole cucumber, and chopping afterwards. This step gives the dish its name, but also lets the flavours penetrate the cucumber.

Put the chunky bits in a bowl, and scatter with salt. Mix and let it absorb and rest for 10 minutes.

Rinse the salt off the cucumber and pat the cucumbers dry.

Add the dried chili flakes, garlic, diced fresh chillies, and sugar. Taste, and add a very small amount of salt if required.

Heat a couple tablespoons of peanut oil (depends how many cucumber chunks you have) in your frypan until it smokes.

Pour the hot oil over the cucumbers, it should sizzle upon contact.

Mix it all together with a small splash of of the red wine vinegar.

Smashed cucumber salad, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

Serve as a side. Yummo! I know I’ll be doing with that other cucumber that I bought!

Guava Jelly

So I had an over abundance of guava fruit, and needed to do something with them before I was driven insane with too many guavas. I had already given kilos away to neighbors, colleagues and family, and kilos were arriving by the day.

Since the flying foxes had discovered my tree, and although I like the idea of guava jam, I think it would also remind me too much of bat-poo, so Charmaine offered guava jelly.

The following are my interpretations of her recipe, with some consulting online.

Guava jelly
1. Obtaining the juice
2kg guava fruit, halved
Water to fill just below the top level of fruit.
Knob of Ginger, julienned

Bring to a boil, and simmer for about an hour until fruit is soft.

Boiling up Guavas, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

Cool slightly, then pour into a muslin cloth* which has been wrung out in water so it does not absorb too much of the juice. Allow to drip slowly preferably overnight.

Draining the juice, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

*Yes, I really did use a delicates laundry bag for my muslin cloth substitute.

This yielded just over two litres of guava juice. This smelled quite sweet, and nothing like guava.

Leaving the bag overnight didn’t really give me much more juice than the initial drain. This may be because of my muslin bag substitute.

2. Making jelly
1250ml guava juice
920g sugar (3 3/4 cups)
Strained juice of five limes (approx 5 tablespoons)
33g pectin (“25g per 1.5kg fruit”)

Cooking no more than five cups of juice at a time, allow for 3/4 cup sugar and the juice of one lime per cup.

Bring to the boil, add sugar and lime juice. Stir until sugar dissolves. Boil for 5-10 minutes. Draw pan away from heat, and add pectin, sprinkling over it if it is in powdered form.

Once more, bring to the boil and boil hard, stirring, or until jelly from the side of the spoon in two or three slow drops, joined by a ‘sheet’ of transparent liquid^. this is a good indication that a good set will be obtained. Do not skim the surface while cooking, or much of the pectin will be lost.

I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the jelly to reach ‘sheeting’ stage, and it didn’t. In the end I was boiling on-and-off for about an hour before I gave up. The stuff was setting as a skin when left on abandoned spoons after all.

I had been sterilising my jars in the meantime, and pulled my jars out of the oven just as I turned the heat off the jelly.

I’m still unsure as what I’m supposed to do at this stage. Do I drop in some paraffin wax on top of the jelly? Am I supposed to fill the jars all the way to the top?

I forgot to read up before I did this so I don’t think I did this quite right. I filled up each jar almost to the top (I suspect it is supposed to be all the way), with a 1cm gap.

I had these new Fowlers Vacolla ‘kleerview’ plastic jam covers which appear to seal the jar. You wet the outside, stretch it over the rim, and then fasten in place with a rubber band. When it dries, it is stretched taut and goes all crinkly like cellophane. But then what? Do I screw on the original jar lid on top, or am I supposed to attach my very own tartan tablecloth jar cover? I settled for the former, on the basis I might accidentally pierce the plastic cover without it.

So here we are on the far left: my very first batch of overcooked guava jam.

Guava Jelly and Butter, a photo by A Sydney Foodie on Flickr.

Batches two and three were a lot lighter in colour. I followed the suggested timing of 5-10 mins boil, add in pectin, and 5-10 mins hard boil; with a preference for a shorter boil time so the jelly would not be as sweet.

And tonight’s entertainment is…

And tonight’s entertainment is: lamb shanks, cooked in my magic thermos pot ala Stephanie Alexander.

Shanks: $13.35 for four
Tinned organic tomatoes: $1.29
Two onions, stock cube, cinnamon quill, water, heat: $1
Parsley, bayleaf, and thyme from my garden; mandarin skin from neighbour’s garden