Category Archives: Cooking

Hey Girl.

Dear readers, let me tell you a story. During my early childhood I never knew what the typical parent was. In fact I’m pretty sure I had no idea of the concept, because you see when I was only a few months old, my parents who’d only recently moved to this country were struggling to keep afloat. It’s a story that many of you with ethnic upbringings or those surrounded by people of ethnic backgrounds may be familiar with, and in the 80’s it was especially tough for a young migrant couple with a newborn child. Because of this my parents made the decision to send me back to Indonesia where I would live with my aunty and cousins for the next few years while my parents tried to build a life here.

My memories of growing up in Indonesia are quite sketchy these days, in fact the only vivid ones I have include that time I went into an open sewer to rescue the family cat (see, I don’t hate cats…), and also the time I saw my first ever sex scene on TV only to have the maid cover my eyes. What I do remember however, is that I was quite close with my cousins, and seeing how there was a 10 year gap to the next youngest one I was always quite in awe of them. I still remember seeing one of my cousins lighting a cigarette and thinking it was the coolest thing ever.

I came back to Sydney when I was 5 and it was strange. Strange to meet these people calling themselves Mum and Dad. Strange to be sleeping in my own bedroom. Strange that I had to say goodbye to my aunty who was the closest person in my life for what I thought was only going to be a week but indeed turned out to be indefinite.

Fast forward a few years to a only a couple of months ago and that same cousin who’d I thought was so cool for lighting up that cigarette in a South-East Asian James Dean kind of way came to visit, and to celebrate we had a gathering where I was of course in charge of the food. Not realising that in the 25 years since I had last seen him that he’d converted to Islam I, feeling in a very porky mood went on a spree of ordering anything with bacon, ham and chorizo. Of course when I did find out, I told him he was simply eating baby cow. Or was it lamb? Smoking, pork… makes us even right?

A few nights ago I was feeling a porky mood again and knowing that my Portuguese mate who you may remember from this post, had just received his permanent rodency, I decided to make some Portuguese Caldo Verde soup, as an ode to him, my cousin and my parents.

Ingredients (Serves 4, or a very hungry 1)

caldo verde-ingredientsThis picture is kind of disturbing. Hehehe.

  • 2-3 potatoes
  • 1 bunch kale (or if you can’t find any, Chinese broccoli)
  • 1 chourico (or if you can’t find any, chorizo – notice a theme here?)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 cups of water or stock

Method

caldo verde-method

    • Peel your potatoes and roughly chop them up into cubes, or whatever shape you’re feeling for. While you’re at the chopping board get your kale/ Chinese broccoli and roll the leaves up like a cigar then finely slice them. Seeing as you’re still at the chopping board, get your garlic and again, finely slice.
    • Now, chourico is pretty hard to find and unless you know a good Portuguese butcher then you can just substitute it with chorizo. It’s a fine substitute. Get your sausage and slice it.
    • Now you’ve done all your prep get a medium sized saucepan and heat up with a little oil. Drop your chorizo in and fry it off to your liking. I like mine with charred edges. Once that’s done take the chorizo out and set it aside on some paper towels. You’ll notice that you have a nice amount of chorizo fat at the bottom of the pan. If you’re a little conscious about your weight then remove some of it, as you know what they say, ‘a moment on your lips, forever on your hips’. I on the other hand have big hips so I choose to leave the oil in.
    • With your reserved pork fat, lightly fry the garlic and once you have some nice colour add in the potatoes. I toss everything around so it’s all nicely coated. By now your kitchen should smell of garlic and pork. Awesome.
    • Now fill your pan with the water/ stock and bring to the boil. Once there, keep on simmering until the potatoes are soft and creamy. You could leave your soup as is from here, but I like to get my stick mixer out and blitz away until left with a nice thin and creamy consistency.

caldo verde-soupmix

  • Once you’ve done that bring it back to the boil and throw the chourico/ chorizo back in then throw in the kale/ Chinese broccoli, letting it simmer away for a further 5 minutes.
  •  From here Ladle a few spoonfuls into a bowl, crack open a bottle of red, pour yourself a glass or 3, put on the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother you’ve just finished downloading, take a photo for Instagram and wait for the comments and likes to come in.

caldo verde-finishedBin Ends – Because ‘all ends, start with a beginning’

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Filed under Cooking, Portuguese

It’s Been Awhile….

It can be an awkward moment when you try and start a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in awhile. There’s that short uncomfortable exchange of ‘how are you’s?’ and ‘what have you been up to’s?’ – even though  in this age of social networking we all know what really is up. It gets even more awkward when the last time you spoke to that person there wasn’t any suspicion on their behalf that that was most likely going to be the last time you’d be speaking with each other in awhile; that the ‘I’ll see you soon’ coming from your mouth really should have been backed up with a disclaimer of ‘don’t count on it’.

Not being one for confrontation I’d usually just skirt around the issue, act as though we’d only spoken just yesterday and tell of some half amusing anecdote like the one about that time I passed out at a friend’s apartment only to wake up in the morning with a burning need to use the bathroom and then come to the horrible realisation that bathroom access was only through her bedroom which then led me to contemplate doing my business in her kitchen sink instead (it’s ok I went on the balcony).

But alas, perhaps I do owe you my dear readers an explanation for my absence of late. It’s not that I don’t care about you all it’s just that sometimes life gets in the way of a good thing. Lack of motivation, disappointment, excessive alcohol consumption and a questioning of one’s existence had all melded into the perfect storm that was the sorry state I was in until about 20 minutes ago.

A lull can only go on for so long though, so like any good TV hero that’s gone through some major lows in their life I pick myself up as best I can and this is how I found myself in the kitchen on a cold and dreary Thursday night cooking a very soul warming dish of ‘Pan fried fish with a salad of chickpeas and roasted green friends’ (inspired by the awesome heartbreakpie).  

Ingredients  (serves 2)

fish_and_friends_ingredients

  • 2 filets of any white fish of your choice
  • 1 small head of broccoli (my local had no broccoli so I just used broccolini)
  • 5 or so asparagus spears
  • Good handful of spinach
  • 1 lemon
  • 400 gm can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • 2 small chillis (finely sliced)
  • 1 garlic clove (finely sliced)
  • Smoked paprika
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

fish_and_friends_method

  • Pat your fish fillets dry and if you suffer a little from OCD like me then trim off any scungy parts just so the fish looks pretty. Season well on both sides.
  • After washing your fresh ingredients (or not if you’re like my workmate) tear off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut them into 5 cm lengths and whack them on a roasting tray along with the broccoli which you would have chopped roughly into the same size.
  • Dress the asparagus and broccoli with the thyme, olive oil, lemon zest, chillis and a little dusting of the smoked paprika, and throw it under the grill for 8-10 minutes turning everything halfway.
  • While the broccoli and asparagus are in the oven, quickly sauté off the spinach in a pan with some olive oil and the finely sliced garlic.
  • Once the greens are cooked combine them all into a bowl with the chickpeas and mix well, seasoning with the juice of half a lemon, salt, pepper and a little more smoked paprika.
  • Set the salad aside and bring a pan up to heat with some olive oil (Ok if you’re like me you’ll probably whack in a whole load of butter as well). Once the pan is up to heat throw your fish in and watch in pleasure as it swims amongst all the butter. Once it’s done take it off the heat and squeeze in the other half of the lemon.
  • Get a piece of fish onto your plate as well as a reasonable amount of the salad and along with a glass of any white wine you’ll have the makings of a decent evening. It gets even more decent if you have another 1 or 2 glasses after that, although drink anymore than that and it may turn into something indecent.

fish_and_friends_finished

So those of you who are observant enough will notice this is my second post in a row where a bottle of Arrogant Frog wine can be seen in the background. I am in no way loyal to this brand, just its pricing of $10.00 a bottle at woollies liquor, and hey if I can bring a little bit of France into my kitchen then that’s $10.00 well spent I think. Now I’m hoping by this point you’ll have forgotten about the lack of activity on this humble blog of mine and instead remember all those things that you loved coming back here for, but just in case you haven’t I promise I’ll try and make this a more regular thing*.

(Excuse the change in photography direction, I was trying to have new age fun with a vintage feel…. If you’re not a fan let me know, it may or may not effect what I do in the future).

*disclaimer: don’t count on it.  

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Filed under Cooking, Sydney, Western Sydney

Cutting the Fat

My workmate bowled me over in the hallway today. We have this ridiculous game where we like to push each other into things, and 95% of the time it’s me doing the pushing, whether it be into a pot plant, stairways, clients or even the various managers offices. Today however, she got me good. Yes before I go on, the workmate is indeed a she and while I would never lay a hand on a female (in fact anyone in general as I see myself as a lover/ not a fighter with a little bit of George Costanza thrown in), I wouldn’t really label her a female; instead she’s more of a tank/ beast. As I write this post my shoulder is still a little sore from where she nailed me and my head’s a little bruised from where it met the wall after said nailing (get your mind out of the gutter).

This whole ordeal has made me realise that maybe I’m not leading a balanced lifestyle after all. I’ve been feeling a little weak and unfit of late and situations such as this and running out of breath after a quick minutes jog aren’t helping matters much. I tried to rectify this awhile back by exercising on a regular basis, and I can proudly say that I even completed the City 2 Surf in a respectable time. However, having done so I’ve rested on my laurels fallen back into a world of sloth and gluttony. Seems like my penchant for anything deep fried and alcoholic is coming back to haunt me.

Last night in recognition of this I prepared myself something erring a little on the healthier side. I pinched a Donna Hay recipe and bastardised it slightly, and needless to say it was pretty tasty (enough to blog about).

Dear readers I present to you my ‘Feeling guilty ‘bout my state of being white bean and friends toasties’.

Ingredients (serves 2)

whitebeantoast - ingredients

  • 400 gm of canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 4 bocconcini cheese balls
  • Handful of rocket
  • 1 Chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Bread of your choice (I used pre packaged bruschetta)

Method

whitebeantoast - method

    • Get a stick mixer out and throw in your beans, garlic and half of your lemon juice. Blitz it till you get a nice and chunky paste. Give it a taste and season it to your liking with salt and pepper. (If you don’t have a stick mixer, give it a bash on a mortar and pestle)
    • Get your parsley and throw it in to your white bean mix and give it a good stir with a fork/ spoon.
    • While you’re doing this toast your bread until it’s nice and charred.
    • To prepare the toasties, get your toast and smear with a generous portion of the white bean mix. Throw on a few rocket leaves, a few tomatoes, a slice of prosciutto and tear the bocconcini over it.
    • Simple as that and if you’re like me you’ll want to sprinkle some of the chilli over it along with a good drizzle of olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice (wow all of Jamie Oliver’s favourite things).

whitebeantoast - finished2

By this point you’ve probably realised it’s not the healthiest thing you’ve ever made and seeing as you’re just in time to catch NCIS LA on TV you might as well crack open that bottle of white you had lying around (i.e. you bought with the intent of eating with the meal) and pat yourself on the back for not having succumbed to ordering that pizza you were seriously thinking about an hour earlier. Go on… you deserve it.

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Filed under Cooking, Italian, Western Sydney

A Party With Food

photomontage-1

Costume parties. Who doesn’t love them? Well for starters… Me. Yes that’s right I’m no fan. Call me a hater or whatever else but I dread the thought of having to think of something to wear, worried that if I dress like this does it then reveal some deep seeded desire to be a superhero in tights, or if I dress like that do people then think I have some strange perversions. It’s a tricky thing this dressing up biz, go a little too far left of centre and instead of being the ‘talk of the party’ (positive tone), you’ll instead be ‘the talk of the party’ (dun dun duuun tone). Above all else I hate that by being in costume, this usually then gives people some licence to automatically act like a d*ckhead, like for example by roughing up your hair (and do you have any idea how long I spend on my hair? It’s a work of Elvis inspired art).

photomontage-2

But… If there’s one thing I hate more then a costume party (actually there’s many things but figure of speech… keep up with me here), it’s a party pooper. The person who dresses as they would normally and comes out with the default ‘I’m dressed like me – ‘cause I’m a hero’. You know what I mean, there’s one at every party. So during this past weekend when I had the chance to attend a costume party I decided to put some effort into it. I left my inhibitions at the door (or perhaps suppressed them with a few too many bottles of beer), went ballistic with the amount of product in my hair and worked the room like the charmer I am.

Costumes and inebriation aside I was also tasked with catering the party as best I could, so here my dear readers I’d like to share my endeavours with you (excuse the picture quality, my camera went AWOL and found itself in the hands of a drunk version of me).

rochellesparty - menu

I kept the menu fun and simple and I salad aside I tried to keep everything handheld.

rochellesparty - banhmi

I made the Banh Mi by poaching some chicken breasts in coconut milk with some lemongrass, ginger, garlic and onions. After allowing it to cool I shredded it all up and put inside the baguettes with some kewpie sriracha mayo, julienned pickles carrots (all done by me – impressed?), cucumber, coriander and a liberal dash of maggi seasoning.

rochellesparty - spammusubi

People tend to think of Spam as some gross concoction of pork by products, and it really is but in this age of trendy nose to tail eating you can’t get anymore nose to tail then Spam. You could say Spam is a little ahead of its time, the hipster of the meat world. Anyway slice it up and fry / grill it and you’ll wonder how you ever hated it. Here I did it Hawaiian style and simply put it with some sushi rice and tonkatsu sauce, all wrapped in seaweed to make a Spam Musubi.

rochellesparty - reuben

I love a good Reuben sandwich but I was too lazy to cook up a corned beef (also I didn’t want the whole place to smell of beef) so I just used some canned corned beef and turned it into an almost crispy hash. Luckily most of the people didn’t really seem to mind and these were a hit. To the corned beef I added swiss cheese, sauerkraut and some thousand island dressing.

rochellesparty - greeksalad

I was most proud of my greek salad. I simply took the best bits of what I found on the internet so it’s a simple mix of cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta, oregano, balsamic, a liberal coating of olive oil and best of all some pulled ciabatta pieces that I’d grilled off in the oven. The ciabatta just added a whole other dimension. I can thank George Calombaris for that one.

rochellesparty - antipasto

The Antipasto was a nice little filler. I just wacked on some pepperoni, mortadella, bocconcini, stuffed olives, baby roma tomatos and some chickpeas I marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and dried chilli flakes.

I also made some mini hot dogs and burgers which I didn’t manage to get any pictures of but by all accounts the burgers were pretty good (didn’t get any feedback on the hotdogs… maybe its best they don’t get a mention). I think it has something to do with my killer burger mince recipe which I’ll share with you all at a later date.

rochellesparty - cake

I didn’t do the cake, this was provided by the lovely appl3pie, but how cute does it look?

So I haven’t really changed my opinion on costume parties, I still feel all those things I said previously but I can’t say I didn’t have any fun and if you are going to act like a French shower then at least you have an alter ego to blame it on. As for who I went as? Well I’ll leave you with a pre-party teaser to figure that one out for yourself.

rochellesparty - quidditch

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Filed under Cooking

P*** Easy Penne Napolitana

Sometimes after a hard day of work spending countless hours on the internet and catching up with the news all you want to do is plonk yourself at home, have a nice yet simple home cooked meal and be able to enjoy that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a rainy day. It’s such an awful moment then, when you realise that someone else has beaten you to said bottle of wine and left you with only the last remaining drops of sediment (and this is only after you’ve finished prepping all the ingredients needed for your dinner). Usually you might be smart enough to check the booze status before you even contemplate what you’re going to cook, and if there is nothing there it might be a simple case of saying f*** it I’ll just make some instant noodles, but when you’ve gone as far as I had on this supposed rainy day… well you’ve no choice but to carry on cooking.

Now, I have quite a few friends that don’t enjoy cooking which I think is quite normal however, these same people wouldn’t be able to cook even if they enjoyed it, they’re that hopeless. These are the kind of people that when making a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich cut the slices so thick that upon receiving your sandwich everything inside is still cold. So this little recipe is dedicated to them, after all if I can be inspired to cook this up in a boozeless state then I’m sure they’ll be able to manage.

Lovely readers I present to you my 15 minute, restaurant quality Penne Napolitana. (I personally vouch for it being restaurant quality, for as a foodblogger I believe I have an acute sense of taste)

Ingredients (serves 2)

penne-ingredients

  • 250 grams penne rigate
  • Roughly half a 700 ml bottle of tomato passata
  • 2x clove of garlic
  • Handful of torn basil leaves
  • 30g grated parmesan (to serve)

Method

penne-method

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil for your pasta, and while you wait finely dice your garlic cloves.
  2. In a saucepan pour a good lug of olive oil, and once brought to heat throw in your garlic.
  3. Once the garlic releases its aroma and there’s a slight turn of colour throw in your basil leaves and fry for half a minute or so.
  4. By now your water should be at full boil, so throw in your pasta and salt the water (a few pinches should be fine).
  5. Back to your saucepan throw in the passata, and bring to the boil while stirring (be mindful the sauce is quite thick so it’ll start to bubble and burst all over the joint if you leave it)
  6. At this point you can check for seasoning, and season to your taste with salt, pepper or even balsamic vinegar.
  7. Back to your pasta, and you want to stop cooking while it’s a little underdone, this may be a simple case of if the pack says 11 minutes, drain at 9. Once you’ve drained the pasta (keep inside pot) throw in a few spoonfuls of the sauce and stir on low heat for a minute or so just to keep the pasta cooking to al dente.
  8. Serve your pasta in a bowl, ladle over a spoonful of the remaining sauce and grate the parmesan over. Pour yourself a glass of wine if you’re lucky enough to have any nearby, chuck on some Jersey Shore or any slightly racist Italian American show/ movie of your choice and you’ve got the makings of a good mid-week evening.

penne-finished

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Filed under Cooking, Italian

La la la Bamba – Last Nights Quesadillas

The best laid plans often go astray. I hate that quote, only because I’m not really a plan B kind of guy. Once I’ve got something set in my mind then I tend to forget everything else. I had every intention of making a pesto based pasta dish for dinner after watching some tv cooking show, but alas when I went out on my merry trip to the local woollies they had no basil. After walking around the aisles cursing to myself looking slightly crazy to those around I managed to pick my morale back up and come up with that elusive plan B.

After dealing with the initial disappointment I knew I wanted something I could kick back a few drinks with, ‘cause as everybody knows alcohol makes you feel better about yourself. I also wanted something herby and green (pesto – sigh). So that’s how I came about last night’s dinner.

Lovely readers I present to you the greatest quesadillas ever (recipe half stolen from Jamie Oliver – also no Mexicans were available to vouch for them being the greatest ever at the time)

Ingredients

Ingredients-quesadilla

  • Assorted chillies (I used 8, mix of jalapenos and green chillies)   
  • 1x bunch of coriander
  • 1x bunch of chives
  • 1x ripe tomato finely chopped
  • ½ small red onion finely chopped
  • 150g of cheddar (or queso fresco if you can get it)
  • 8 tortillas

(Guacamole)    

  • 2x avocados
  • 1x ripe tomato finely chopped
  • ½ small red onion finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lime

Method

mixture

    1. Get the chillies, coriander, chives and whiz it all up in a stick mixer till its finely chopped. Use a knife if you want to feel at one with your food, but seriously that’ll just take ages.
    2. Grate your cheese and combine with the chopped greens along with the onions and tomatoes.
    3. Get your mixture and place it in between 2 tortillas and press flat. You should get enough to do 4 of these (hence the 8 tortillas)
    4. Get your quesadilla and place it in a medium hot frying pan. Grill it for 2 minutes on each side or until you get some nice colour.
    5. In the meantime make your guacamole by combining the avocado (mash them first) tomatoes and onions, and finish it off with the lime.
    6. Pour yourself a drink of your choice (I had wine) kick back, enjoy and pretend you’re somewhere exotic… and if you are somewhere exotic then you won’t need to pretend.

quesadilla+guacamole

By the way if you haven’t already determined by the ingredient list these really are quite spicy. If you can’t handle the heat then just substitute the chillies for capsicum or something… otherwise you’ll be paying for it the next day, and if you catch public transport to work then that won’t be a pretty sight or feeling.

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Filed under Cooking, Mexican