Sunday, 30 April 2017

Frugal take on takeaway chips

We have a takeaway in the nearby suburb called “Billy Banks”. They are the quintessential local Aussie takeaway, with pizzas, burgers, fish, dim sims and chips the staple menu items.  

We first met them days after we moved into our new home, and made the mistake of ordering a burger each, plus chips. Whoooo-weeee, the burgers are LARGE and we were hard pressed making a dent in the pillow that was the chips. Mind you, it was a minimum order of chips, so great value of money for our $5.  

Times have moved on, we are much wiser in the burger department, but the serve of chips has not changed in size, nor in price. $5 still buys you a pillow of chips which is enough to feed a small army (well, at least half an under 7’s soccer team).

Our latest venture saw us split a burger, and again order the minimum chips. After we had had our fill of the chippies I swore I would turn the remaining chips into something tasty. To the internet I went to get inspired. I saw many a recipe for leftover mashed potato, and thought the chips (well, they are cooked potato) could lend themselves to that. Hence the ‘baked mashed potato cups’ were born.

I must have had around half the chips left, which still equated to a cardboard box full. Load that into a food processor and blitz until the chips are pleasantly crumbled.

Tip this into a bowl, and add in a heaped spoonful of flour, a level spoonful of garlic powder, quarter of a small white onion; chopped, a beaten egg, a handful of grated tasty cheese, about ½ cup milk, and 40g (or so) of melted butter. Mix this together, then spoon into a greased cupcake pan. I smoothed the tops of each cup and sprinkled a little more cheese on top.  Cook them for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, in a 170 degree fan forced oven.

I would say that next time I make these I would add in a little more liquid, probably in the form of more butter and milk, to make them a little more indulgent. But having said that, they were darn tasty, easy to whip up, and certainly made the most of our takeaway chips. I really hate to waste food so was quite happy with how these turned out.

Tell me reader, what tips do you have for re-purposing leftover food? 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A World of Dumplings

There are as many types of dumplings served around the world as there are grains of sand in the desert.  Well, not quite, but you get the idea there are LOT of varieties of dumplings.

What yum cha wouldn’t be complete without dumplings? Wonton wrappers in a variety of colours enveloping a wide variety of fillings. Meats, seafood, and vegetarian abound in all manner of crimped parcel shapes and crescents, either boiled or steamed. Dipped in soy based or spicy sauces, or served in a fragrant broth.  

Potstickers are a form of Asian dumpling, usually boiled in water in a shallow fry pan until the water evaporates, which allows them to then fry against the hot pan turning a golden brown and becoming crispy. Similar to the Japanese gyoza, but gyoza generally have thinner casings and are a little smaller in size.

Russia has the pelmeni. A thin dough, encasing a usually raw meat/onion based filling. Served with loads of sour cream and fresh dill. Pelmeni literally means ‘ear bread’ due the ear like shape of the folded dumpling and they are usually boiled in water or beef stock. These pelmeni pictured below were purchased from a Russian Easter Bazaar and I can only hazard a guess how many 1000’s they made for this weekend event!

The pierogi is from Poland, and is similar to the varenyky of Russia/Belarus/Ukraine. Fillings for these are either savoury or sweet, and are circles of dough folded into a semi-circle, or crescent shape. Boiled, then fried.

The Italians have the ravioli, tortellini, agnolotti, the cappelletti… to name just few. Various shapes of flour/egg pasta abound, and the fillings range from meats, to cheeses, or vegetable based. Served with a sauce, or in a broth.

How about gnocchi? Something as simple as potato, flour and egg come together to create clouds of grooved boiled deliciousness. The grooves help the sauce adhere, and sauces are usually tomato or cream based.

Indian cuisine is peppered with a large variety of dough filled foods. From crispy fried savoury samosas filled with meats and vegetables, to modak a sweet dumpling filled with coconut and sugar and encased in usually a rice flour based shell.

The Brits can relate to flour based dumplings, cooked on top of a casserole or stew. Flour, milk, butter and herbs are staple ingredients. 

South America is home to flaky pastry crescents called empanadas which are usually flour or corn based pastry stuffed with meats and vegetables. Baked or fried to a crispy golden colour they pair well with spicy sauces.

What is your favourite dumpling? 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Vegan Yum Cha at Bodhi

When I recently put the call out to the Canberra Food Bloggers brains trust seeking a great place for a vegetarian lunch when in Sydney, I got back a ton of excellent ideas for a venue. From various eating options in Customs House, to the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. I’ll need a few trips to Sydney to explore all of the above eats!  We did decide on a location which made our vegetarian very happy indeed… vegan yum cha at Bodhi Restaurant and Bar. For the vegetarians out there, it’s not often that you can have everything (repeat … everything) on the menu, without having to scrutinise the details of what’s in the sauce, or what ingredients have been used.  

Bodhi is a lovely venue, nestled between Hyde Park and the Cook & Phillip Park. Most of the tables are outside but sheltered under large weather-proof umbrellas.  On a very sultry Sydney day, we opted to sit inside, just in reach of the cool air blowing from a large wall mounted fan. Ahhhhh.

Bodhi is a vegan restaurant that does yum cha for lunch, and has an al a carte menu for dinner. Dishes on the extensive yum cha menu are mostly in three portion serves, but some serve two and others four, so between the four of us we had the following:

- Green tea and choysum dumplings
- Sweet Japanese pumpkin dumplings
- Cream corn and ‘chicken’ dumplings
- Vietnamese rice paper salad wrap
- Blanched fresh vegetables
- Chinese cabbage and ‘chicken’ buns
- Rice paper sesame seed ‘prawn’ pillow
- Red bean puff
- Coconut agar jelly
- Apple pies
- Mango and vegan ‘cream cheese’ pancake
- Mango, rambutan and Asian citrus sago

Although we could have had far more of the delicious dumplings and hot crunchy dishes, we held back to make room for dessert. On a very warm day, the cool desserts were magic to end with.  

Costs were around $37 per head, which included soft drinks. 

Bodhi is open for lunch from 11:00am – 4:00pm, 7 days a week, and dinner is from 5:00pm to 10:00pm Tue-Sun. Ph 02 9360 2523, or email a reservation to

Address: 2-4 College Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Pistachio Dining January 2017

Dave Keeley is the owner and chef at Pistachio Dining in Torrens. He’s adventurous with food, innovative, passionate, lovely to chat with, and he’s only in his 30s. He is European culinary trained, and has worked in iconic restaurants such as Aubergine, Courgette and Sabayon. 2017 will see a new direction for Dave at Pistachio, seeing him pair back a little on his offerings in order to let the fresh produce shine.

I introduced my bestie to Pistachio nearly two years ago, and it has been her regular eatery ever since. To the point she has been there nearly forty times!  I have joined her on several of these occasions and to this day, we have only ever ordered the “just feed me Dave” menu option. This consists of a canape, plus four courses for only $65.  Matching Canberra district wines is an option for only a further $20, which is stunning value. The anticipation of not knowing what you are going to be fed is exciting. Who doesn’t like a degustation menu anyway!  

Dave was being extra generous tonight (or maybe as we were frequent diners) as he squeezed in an extra course.

We started with the beetroot gazpacho soup, with cubed roasted beetroot, cucumber, school prawns and croutons.

Course one was the tender-as beef tenderloin with salsa verde and crispy potatoes.

Course two was a light and very summery offering of scallops, with part of a Peking Duck rice paper roll.

Course three presented chicken two ways; Szechuan crusted chicken, and a sous vide chicken breast flash pan fried to crisp up the skin, with spinach and a confit cherry tomato.

Course four (the sneaky extra course) was Dave’s pork tenderloin with garlic and shallots, French lentils, smoked potato puree and heirloom carrots.

Course five (aka the final course) is a tasting plate sampling four of the desserts. We received the lemon tart with black sesame meringue and mascarpone mousse / a chocolate macadamia brownie and vanilla ice cream / a large cube of hazelnut cheesecake with a crunchy topped jelly, and pistachio (of course!) biscotti / and finally a single folded vanilla crepe with vanilla ice cream.

PistachioDining is located at the Torrens Shops, and is open for Dinner only from Tuesday to Saturday. Ph 6286 2966.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Murrumbateman Winery Bottle Your Own Sangiovese Event

I spent the last Saturday in November helping Murrumbateman Winery bottle their 2016 Sangiovese drop and it was loads of fun! 

Being the first time they have requested the public to help them out, meant that we got to go behind the scenes, sample the wine, and get hands on experience in the wine making process. Well, the tail end of the process actually. 

They of course did all the hard work beforehand in tending the vines, growing and harvesting the fruit, squishing it all and turning it into wine. We merely helped fill the bottles, cap the bottles, label the bottles and pack the bottles into boxes. And of course, purchase six bottles each for the privilege.

Murrumbateman Winery is run by Bobbie Maken, and is a boutique winery producing small runs of a wide range of varietals. Reds, whites, heady Rose’s and luscious fortifieds. The Sangiovese crop for this year only produced 2000 litres, so they are already looking ahead and planning their next bottling and crops to ensure they have a steady product flow.

While we were there, we got to also sample their 2016 Tempranillo which was still in its barrels. Talk about smooth, even straight out of the barrel. I can’t wait until this batch hits the shelves.

Murrumbateman Winery is located at 131 McIntosh Road, Murrumbateman. Here is their website and Facebook account.  Keep an eye out for their upcoming events. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Elegant Party Bundt

Wow! This Gingerbread Bundt cake turned out a treat!  Made in my new Nordicware 'Elegant Party' Bundt cake tin, it made slicing a breeze as I just followed the indents.  It was super impressive, and it made a tasty option in a recent work morning tea. 

Now... for the cake.

It was a Gingerbread recipe, full of heady spices and molasses goodness. Yep, that's right... molasses. I got the recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, and what a coincidence, they used the very same bundt tin for theirs! 

For the glaze, I wanted something just colourful enough to be seen, but with a nice complimentary flavour. The cinnamon glaze from the blog Someone Left the Cake Out In The Rain certainly did the trick.  

All up, a very delicious cake, firm but not dry. Would go heavenly with a caramel drizzle for the icing. Maybe next time :)  

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Chile Rellenos

My recent trip to Texas allowed me to indulge in some authentic Mexican dishes, including this delicious homecooked Chile Rellenos recipe whipped up by my sister-in-law.  

A quick, tasty dish involving a pepper stuffed with cheese, and lightly deep fried. Chile Rellenos literally means 'stuffed chile'. It originated in the Mexican town of Peubla, hence the namesake of the main ingredient, the poblano chile.  

The ingredients used were:

- 3 x Poblano peppers (also known as an ancho pepper, a dark green pepper with a mild flavour. Substitute with a banana pepper)
- 4 x eggs, separate the whites from the yolks
- Plain flour
- Monterey Jack cheese (or could use slices of mozzarella)
- Vegetable oil, for frying

Start by first removing the outer skin of the peppers. Hold them over a gas burner until they begin to blacken. Keep turning the peppers around to char all the skin, but don't let them burn. You could also lay the peppers on a tray, and grill in the oven, but keep watch on them. 

Once the skin is nicely charred, drop the whole pepper into a plastic zip lock back, seal the bag and let them sweat it out for a few minutes. This will make the skin easier to remove, and will allow them to cool down slightly enough to handle. 

Remove the peppers, and using the blade of a small knife, scrape the skin away. Using the knife, cut a lengthwise slit in each one, and remove the seeds and the seed membrane. Pop inside a couple of thick slices of cheese. 

Now for the batter to coat them with....
Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk two of the egg yolks with a tablespoon of the flour. (use the remaining two yolks in another recipe). Next, mix a third of the egg whites into the egg yolks. Then gently fold the yolk mix back into the remaining egg whites. 

Roll each of the peppers into the flour, then gently coat each one into the egg batter. 

Carefully remove excess batter from the pepper, and gently lower it into the hot oil. Turn the pepper after 2-3 minutes, or until a light golden crust forms. 

The peppers can be served with a spicy tomato based sauce, or salsa. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Beginners Italian Cheese Making Class

The thought of making cheese may have seemed intimidating to a novice like me, but after recently attending a class demonstrating fresh Italian cheese making, the mystery has been revealed and I can see cheese making in my future. Mad Millie, the brand behind several handcrafted “do it yourself” kits held a beginners Italian cheese making class, which was hosted at Sauvage Urbain's Fyshwick store.

Gayle Rowan from Mad Millie was our enthusiastic and passionate demonstrator. She had been a home economics teach for a long time before she discovered the Mad Millie kits. “Mad Millie make it easy” she said, and with more and more people nowadays concerned about the food they eat and how it has been prepared, they are wanting to make more from scratch. Mad Millie have a video tutorial on their web site for all the cheeses that can be made from their kits. There are also general videos on YouTube as well, so there is a wealth of information to help a novice cheese maker!

Let’s talk about some of the fundamental cheese making elements.

The quality of milk used will determine the amount of, and the flavour level in the cheese produced. The more a milk is processed, the more calcium will have been removed, which is why calcium chloride needs to be added in making some cheeses. The best milk to use is full cream, and non-homogenised. Cold pressed raw milk is a recent addition to mainstream supermarkets and farmers markets and makes excellent cheese. Paul's Farmhouse Gold milk gives a high volume and a great taste. A lower fat milk can still be used to make cheese, but it will produce less flavour, and less volume of curd. Cow's milk will give good yield, but goat's milk will product slightly less and will take longer for the curd to form. Anyone for camel milk cheese? 

Adding salt to the cheese will bring out the flavour, but will not necessarily make it taste ‘salty’ so don’t skimp. Also do not use iodised salt as the iodine will interfere with the bacteria ripening process.

Rennet is an enzyme and its job is to congeal, or set the curd. The origins of rennet were animal based and it was derived from the lining of the stomach of ruminant animals like sheep and goats. Chymosin is the main component of rennet and it curdles the casein protein in milk. Not all rennet is animal based, and there are a variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. The rennet tables in the Mad Millie kits are vegetarian and use figs, mushrooms and thistles for their microbial-based congealing properties.

Use water that does not contain chlorine as it will stop the enzyme action in the rennet from working. Either use bottled water which is chlorine free, or ensure your water has been filtered to remove chlorine.

There are two types of protein in milk, casein and whey proteins. As the name suggests, the whey proteins are found in the whey, and the casein protein stays with the curd.

Curds and whey.
The curds are the solids, and the whey is the milk with the fats and solids removed. The whey is chock full of protein and can be used in a variety of ways, so don’t just tip it down the sink after you have made your cheese. Tips from Gayle for using up whey include:

  • Use in place of water when making pizza dough, or add when making sourdough bread to give a lovely flavour to the dough.
  • Add it to smoothies, soups and casseroles for richer flavours.
  • Gives curries added creaminess.
  • Speeds up the fermentation of vegetables as the whey gives a power boost and reduces the time it takes for the fermentation process.
  • Drink it! (as Gayle’s husband does, but it isn’t an acquired taste for everyone)
  • Freeze it for later use, and
  • Reuse it to make ricotta, but only if you haven’t added in an acid like citric acid, vinegar or citrus juice.

Other tips for using up whey include:

  • Feed it to animals if on a farmyard, or chickens, and dogs love it over dried dog biscuits to make a cereal.
  • Add it to the compost heap for an added boost, and
  • Strain it very well of solids, and add it to soil when growing tomatoes or blueberries, as they love the added acidity.  

Make sure all your equipment is clean and sterile before you start. Use a pot with a nice thick base for even heat distribution. Use a silicone or plastic spatula for stirring instead of a wooden spoon, as the wood could introduce bacteria. Use an accurate thermometer. The thermometer included in the Mad Millie kit has two nodules on the end of the prong and both of these need to be submerged in the milk/cream to give an accurate temperature reading.

One of the cheeses made at the demonstration was Ricotta, and it is so gosh darn easy to make, anyone can do it. Start with 2 litres of milk and a little salt. Heat to 95 degrees. Take it off the heat and add in citric acid which has been dissolved in water. (You could also use lemon juice or vinegar in place of the citric acid, or the twig of a fig tree.) Leave the ricotta for around half an hour to curdle. Using a slotted spoon, scoop into a draining basket and drain (or press) until the desired consistency is obtained, either soft or a bit firmer. 

Gayle drizzled a balsamic glaze over the warm ricotta and served it plus a cold ricotta made earlier that morning, and a mozzarella cheese also made at the demonstration, alongside homemade bread, tomatoes, fresh basil, grapes and strawberries. This feast was delicious beyond words.

The Mad Millie Italian Cheese making kit is an excellent introduction into cheese making. With Christmas just around the corner it would make a wonderful present.

Happy cheese making!

The opinions expressed in this post are my own, and I attended the cheese making class at my own expense. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Asparagus Tart

I was grateful to recently receive a box full of fresh Australian asparagus, with thanks going to the lovely Vicky Leng of the Australian Asparagus Council.

Today’s creations paired the asparagus with ricotta and parmesan cheese, and frozen puff pastry. An awesome combination.

For one large square tart… there is no set recipe. Just a creation of my own.

Firstly cut 5-6 large asparagus spears into small pieces, add in a handful of sun-dried tomatoes and a good spoonful of seeded mustard. Whizz that together to make a chunky paste. Next, take one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, and line a square, fluted tin with a removable base with it. Lay a rough layer of the asparagus paste mix on top.

Next top with a mix consisting of two beaten eggs, approx. 250g fresh ricotta cheese, approx. 80g grated fresh parmesan cheese, and a small pouring of cream.

Lay on top of the cheese mix a handful of the mini asparagus spears, creating a head-to-toe pattern. Sprinkle over that around 20g of grated parmesan. You can never have enough cheese!

Bake the tart in a fan forced oven set to 175 degrees, for around 25 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cherry Pastries Make It All Better

Eeerrgghhh. I am sick. I have the plague. I’m doooooomed! Well, not really. It IS just a head cold but I just want a clear head again. In my congested haze I got bored and turned to baking to zazz up a dreary Saturday afternoon. With a bowl full of pie-filling cherries and a packet of cream cheese in the fridge, and frozen puff pastry sleeping in the freezer, these cherry Danish pastries were born. Nothing beats a head cold like a sweet crunchy pastry, right? 

Talk about easy!

Defrost pastry > check.
Mix up cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar and blood orange juice > check.
Assemble pastries, bake, glaze and eat > check, check, check aaaaand check.

The recipe is thanks to the wonders of internet searching, and can be found on Shannon’s ‘Rumbly in my Tumbly’ blog. Check it out! She also has a cinnamon roll cake that I am dying to sink my teeth into.

1 x square of frozen puff pastry
125g cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Splash of vanilla extract (homemade is divine)
Splash of blood orange juice (or lemon, if you have it)
1 ½ cups of cherries, I used Duncan Hines brand pie-filling cherries
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
Other fruits to decorate

½ cup powdered sugar
Add a splash of milk, enough to make a smooth consistency

Defrost the pastry and cut into 9 equal squares. Have fun shaping each piece by either turning up the sides to keep the square shape, moulding against a round scone cutter, or creating pinwheels.

Mix up the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and orange juice until light and fluffy.

Assemble each pastry by spooning on a little cream cheese mixture then top with cherries, or other fruits. Brush the pastry lightly with the beaten egg and water mixture.

Lay the pastries on a tray lined with baking paper, and bake in a 200 degree oven for around 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on the pastries while they are cooking, as some (ie the pinwheels) will be done faster than the others.

When cool, drizzle over the glaze, and enjoy.