burnt toast

Miso Tom Yum

miso tom yum

It’s time to talk about soup, kittens. Melbourne’s weather has once again turned into a European winter, just minus the snow and the fantastic European insulation.

 

Tom yum and I go way back. Oh yeah. As a wee kid my mum would joke that my love for the hot and sour soup started in her belly, when she regularly succumbed to her cravings by meandering down to China Town in Sydney for a steaming bowl of hot Thai goodness. Tom yum is my number one thing I will order at a Thai restaurant, but more often than not I’ll end up throwing one together at home when I can’t bother making something too lengthy and extravagant for myself. I’ve got a minor crush going for this soup, not only because it’s easy, but because it’s so versatile. Add some baby sweet corn or a few sliced snap peas,or if you’re feeling a bit mild, replace some of the water with coconut milk to make a tom ka.

 

Now you may have noticed that I omit the “goong” at the end of tom yum. Goong translated means prawns. And I hate them dearly. Often you can get chicken instead, or tofu if you ask nicely. I go vego all the way, mainly because I don’t tend to have a chicken waiting for me in the fridge. To make up for the missing prawn or chicken flavour, I add shitake mushrooms and a spoonful of miso.  Umami all the way darling. Chuck in some noodles at the beginning of the cooking time, or have it with rice.

 

Miso Tom Yum

 

Makes 1 serving

 

1 Tbsp sliced dried shitake mushrooms

1 garlic clove, sliced thinly

1 spring onion, sliced thinly

5 cm lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife

2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised

3 cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly

3 thin slices galangal, or ginger if you cant find it, bruised

2 coriander roots including stalks, bruised (if you don’t have roots, just use a small bunch of stalks)

1 small red chilli, sliced finely

½ lime, halved

½ tsp vegetable stock powder

 

50g fried tofu, diced

1 Tbsp light miso paste

dash of soy sauce

small handful fresh coriander leaves

 

rice, to serve

 

Place the shitake mushroom slices in a small bowl and add a dash of hot water to soften. Alternatively, slice 2 button mushrooms very thinly and use in the next step.

 

Combine the soaked and softened mushrooms with their liquid, the garlic, spring onion, lemongrass, lime leaves, cherry tomatoes, galangal, and coriander roots to a small saucepan and cover with 300ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are mushy. While the soup is simmering away, you can decide how much chilli you want to add. Start with a few rings, you can always add more. Add the juice of ¼ lime and the vegetable stock powder. We only add this much because the miso is going to be quite salty. Now, once the cherry tomatoes are how they should be, add the tofu and bring to the boil again, until everything is heated through. Remove from the flame and add the miso. I usually mix it with a bit of the soup in a small bowl so it doesn’t go lumpy. Now, have a taste. Does it need more salt? Add a dash of soy sauce. Maybe some more acidity? Add the rest of the lime. Pour into a bowl and top with the coriander leaves.

 

Yay! Your tom yum is done! Serve with rice or whatever starchy accompaniment you feel is right.

 

Remember you can’t really eat the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, coriander roots, or galangal. You’re welcome to give it a try but I doubt it would be very enjoyable.

Beetroot Dip

 

beetroot dip

Just when you thought there were no more dips, I come along and prove you wrong. Bam! I know, it’s a bit like Christmas. My pleasure. Truth be told, I don’t know why I’ve been withholding this baby from you. Too busy eating it I’d assume. Whatevs.

Do you like beetroot? I do. It’s particularly good in salady things, its earthy sweetness usually offset with the sour saltiness of some crumbled feta. Such a winning combo. Here in dip form, we oomp the awesomeness with some garlic, a little ground cumin and a dollop or two of greet yoghurt. You can use both canned or oven-roasted beets, only the canned variety will turn a more winey red and be more tangy, due to the pickling vinegar, while the latter will give you a zingy pink. You choose darling. I won’t judge you either way.

 

Beetroot Dip

 

1 medium beetroot

100g feta, plus a little bit more for decorating

1-2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt

1 small garlic clove

½ tsp ground cumin

½ vegetable stock granules

a sprinkling of chilli flakes

small dash soy sauce (umami that shit up)

a squeeze of lemon juice

 

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a tray with baking paper, get your beetroot, stab it all round – being incredibly careful as you do so okay? – wrap in tinfoil, then plonk it onto the baking tray and bake 45 min – 1 hour. Check with a knife to see if its done – it should slide in easily. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and remove the skin. Roughly chop the flesh and transfer to a blender.

If you have a cat, at this stage he will be pestering you like crazy because he is assuming that the big lump of maroon you’re handling absolutely must be a sheep’s heart. Either ignore him, or to further confuse him, give him a sniff of the beetroot. He will be thoroughly unimpressed, but will decide to keep on meowing anyway. Cause that’s how he rolls.

Add ¾ of the 100g of feta, the yoghurt, cumin, vegetable stock granules, chilli and soy sauce. Give it a nice whiz, then have a little taste? Not tangy enough? Add a small squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the remaining 1/4 of the feta, give it a stir, then transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle over the extra feta over the top and you’re in business.

If you were to do this with tinned beetroot, a small can should do it, or an amount equivalent to what we used above. Omit the lemon juice because it will be tangy enough.

Quiche

zucchini and leek quiche

Quiche. Quiche can be many things. The most common species would be the bland quiche, with a handful of boring, unloved veggies chopped up and chucked in, usually raw, so you end up with this wonderfully average watery slice of wodge. Then there’s the just as famous eggy quiche, which just overtrumps with le flavor de egg, more of a frittata in a tart case than anything else. Then there’s the tasty quiche, with creamy and ultra delectable fillings, the one that trumps all. That is my favourite.

A good quiche only needs about three or so different flavourings. Three that work, three that shine. By roasting the zucchini with the thyme and softening the leek first, you concentrate the flavours, also guaranteeing yourself a non-watery filling. Not having a crazy amount of eggs is also key, and the sour cream, well that’s just delicious, and it makes things super silky.

Obviously you don’t have to make a tart crust, but I like to, because you know, if you’re going bake a quiche, you might as well do it properly.

 

Happy quiching.

quiche

Zucchini and Leek Quiche

 

 

1 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour

½ tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, chilled, finely chopped

2-3 Tbsp water

1 egg, chilled

 

1 leek (250g), white part only, sliced thinly

2 smallish zucchini (500g), sliced into ½cm rounds

2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Salt

Olive oil

 

400ml sour cream

3 eggs

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

 

Combine the salt and flour in a large ball. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk the water and the egg together and add to the flour mixture, combine and knead until it comes together and forms a ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Spread out the zucchini on lined baking tins, sprinkle over thyme, salt and some olive oil and bake until soft, reduced in size and caramelized in some bits. Remove from the oven and cool.

In the meantime, fry the leek in a saucepan over a low heat with a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter until soft.

When you’re ready to pre-bake the crust, make sure the oven is still at 220°C and roll out the dough and fit it into a tart tin. Make sure you have a walnut-sized ball of dough left, so you can patch up any possible cracks after. Got the dough ready? Get some baking paper, lay it on top of the dough and fill with beans, or alternatively, if you’re like me and you don’t have any beans to bake, get a few sheets of aluminum foil and fit it snugly against the dough. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/foil and bake for 10 more minutes, until very lightly golden. Remove from the oven. If there are any tears or cracks, get your leftover dough and patch them up.

Combine the sour cream, eggs, and vegetable stock powder in a jug and give it a few bursts with a hand held blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now darling, time to assemble. Turn the oven down to 180°C. Get your leeks and spread them over the base of your tart. Pour over the filling, then arrange the zucchini over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. If you have a gas oven, I suggest you bake it on the bottom part of the oven for the first 20 minutes, then transfer to the top for the next 20. If you have a fan-forced oven, then I am truly jealous of you. The quiche is done when it’s not wobbly in the middle anymore and is nicely golden on top.

Sling

Singapore sling

It’s Friday ladies and gents. Time to celebrate. Why, you ask. Because it’s the day all the good comes together, and all the bad gets released, the pressure, the stress, all gone. It’s the day of reflection, recounting the irritating, the weird and the hilarious, sharing it with friends, loved ones and cats. This one is especially for two of my favourite people, the co-founders of Friday night drinks and Nibbles, Hayley and Ross. Back then in the “Free-tapas-plate-with-every-two-cocktails” days at Dominic’s in Brunswick heads, back then when the bar tender was called Cameron, back when the cocktails were teasingly flirty, the conversation pun-heavy, and the tapas phenomenally memorable.

 

I’ve never tasted a Singapore Sling that good since. Sad? A little. But not despaired. I was stealthy enough to memorize the ingredients and amounts on one such Friday night occasion, so that I could recreate it for myself and others in future, creating peace and happiness all around for many, many more years. Such stealth. Wow.

lime slice

Singapore Sling

(The way it should be. Forever.)

 

Makes 1

 

30ml gin

15ml Benedictine

15ml cherry brandy

15ml Cointreau

15ml lime juice

10ml grenadine

120ml pineapple juice

Ice

 

lime slices or umbrellas or parrots or something even more exotic than that if you feel like decorating

 

Get a nice big jam jar and pour all the ingredients with a few cubes of ice in. Give it a mighty good shake, then pour into a tall glass filled with ice. Decorate however you see fit.

Smoky Lentil Salad

smoky lentil salad

So remember when I said I’d found the recipe for the most amazing lentil salad, daring, even, to name it “the best”? I lied. I found its incredibly attractive and rather enticing cousin. I’ve never been competitive – because I think it’s a waste of time – and I also believe in equality, especially when it comes to lentil salad. I love these two recipes of mine equally, but because this one is newer, I feel like I have the right to play with it a little more often than the old one, so we get the chance to familiarise ourselves with one another, solidifying and deepening our friendship. Because ladies and sirs, this is one seductive salad. Packed with a delicious medley of roasted zucchini, feta and smoky paprika, this little number is sure to satisfy. Best packed lunch ever. Amen.

 

 Smoky Lentil Salad with Feta and Roasted Zucchini

Serves 2 incredibly hungry people, 3 medium hungry ones, or 4 as part of a meal.

 

1 cup Puy lentils

1 bay leaf

2 firm skinny zucchinis, on the medium side, sliced into 1cm rounds

2 carrots, finely diced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

 

Dressing

5 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp dark balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ Dijon mustard

2 tsp vegetable stock granules

1 garlic clove, crushed

chilli flakes

 

150g Danish feta, crumbled

 

Throw your lentils in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Stick in the bay leaf while you’re at it. Let the lentils soak for an hour or so, then bring to the boil and simmer gently until cooked. You may or may not have to top up with water in the meantime, just make sure they never go dry.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with paper. Spread the zucchini over them, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle over some sea salt. Bake in the oven until soft and about 2/3 of their original size. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large fry pan, heat a few splashes of olive oil and add the carrots and onion. Stir over a low flame until soft, then add the paprika. How good does it smell?! Alright, remove that from the heat and have a look at how you’re lentils are going.

Once they’re soft, pour them into a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of any excess water, shake them a bit, and then transfer them to the large fry pan of delicious smoky goodness. Add the dressing ingredients and give it all a good stir. Let the lentils sit for about 15 minutes for all the flavours to unfold. After that, all you have to do is add the zucchini and feta. Have a taste now. Taste incredible? I know.

Quinoa – It’s come this far

quinoa and sweet potato patties

I like food that triggers emotion. The nostalgia a slice of good, crusty bread evokes within me, transporting me back to the magnificent bakeries of Bern. The tango of crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet of a Greek salad, winking at you with all its healthy colours screaming “Eat me! I’m good for you!” Or the guilty decadence that comes with eating something rich and chocolatey, the guilt that over the years of consumption has turned into pleasure with a hint of satisfaction. Quinoa did none of these things to me. On the rare occasion I’d be eating it I’d question it’s validity, how serious this grain was about its super powers, because in all due respect, taste-wise, it gave me nothing.

However, being the flexitarian that I am, it seemed almost ridiculous not to give it and its complete protein and minerals a fifth chance. Apparently, we all seem to need more quinoa in our lives, so who am I to argue. Even though I’m incredibly hesitant to hop on that superfood bandwagon everyone’s been going nuts about, because, you know, it’s not really my style. I don’t follow trends. I will not admit defeat, I’m too proud. But I will admit that I’m still getting over how good these little suckers taste.

quinoa times

 

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Patties

Makes 9

1 medium sweet potato

2 fat garlic cloves, unpeeled

½ cup quinoa

1 bay leaf

pinch of cinnamon

vegetable stock granules, or salt, for purists

1 Tbsp white miso

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Chop the sweet potato into 2cm cubes, and place them into the baking tray, tossing them with a glug of olive oil, and finishing with a sprinkling of salt. Wrap the two garlic cloves in aluminium foil and pop next to the sweet potato cubes. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

In the meantime, soak the quinoa in ¾ cup water in a saucepan for 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then cover and let steam until all the liquid has evaporated and the grains are nice and fluffy.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a pan until they’ve all puffed up. Let them cool, than whizz them up to a fine powder in a blender. Stop before they turn into a paste.

To assemble, remove the bay leaf from the quinoa. Add the mashed sweet potato, the ground pumpkin seeds, the miso and as little or as much vegetable stock granules or salt as you think is right. Give it all a nice good stir, then, with wet hands, form into patties. Heat a frying pan with a splash of olive oil and fry those cuties until golden on each side. Done. I usually have them with some crumbled feta and a few chopped parsley leaves, sometimes even a fried egg. Best breakfast ever.

If you don’t feel like cooking them all at once, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.

Saffron, Rosewater and Pistachio Kulfi

pistacio top

They said I had too much wisdom, so they took it all away. Bastards. I mean, what is even the point of having four extra teeth right in the back of your mouth?  It’s a pretty flimsy attempt of interior decoration if anything. Just an added bonus for having successfully survived the crippling years teenage hood and transferred to the next blissful decade of so-called life. You’d think we would’ve evolved past that by now. Have an inbuilt toothbrush instead. Evolution? Whatever.

 

Other than pain I’ve had some other great things happen to me these last couple of days. Like soup. And cold packs. And delicious pain killers. Before you get all jealous though, let me tell you about ice cream. Because ice cream is delicious. You know those moments when you invite people for dinner and they bring along something that just completely blows your mind? Nah? You’ve got the wrong friends.

 

I’ve adapted, adopted and tweaked le recipe, and this is what I ended up with. In the past, a very long time ago – the wisdom era I like to call it – I made some cardamom and pistachio kulfi. A deliciously moreish and refreshing milky ice cream enjoyed in India. Well, now it’s time for another one, the rosewater and saffron one. Kittens, it truly is a stunner. And before you point it out, yes, it’s got pistachios as well, but come on, what goes better with saffron, both visually and tastedly?

saffron rosewater kulfi

Saffron, Rosewater and Pistachio Kulfi

 

400ml mi full cream milk

1 big pinch of salt

1 big pinch saffron threads, or 1 packet ground

1 can/379g condensed milk

1 can/354ml evaporated milk

2 Tbsp rosewater

50g pistachios,  chopped

 

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot. Add the salt and the saffron and let it steep for a few minutes until the milk turns golden. If your saucepan is big enough, whisk in the condensed- and evaporated milk, as well as the rosewater. Alternatively, pour everything into a plastic container that will fit into your freezer. To speed everything up, place it into the freezer already. None of that “waiting till it’s room temperature” bullshit. Every half hour or so, whisk the mixture with a fork so as to break up the ice crystals. After about 4 hours or more, depending on how good your freezer is, your mixture will have the consistency of slushy snow. Now stir in the pistachios and fill into whatever mould makes you happy. I usually use small cups or those popsicle trays you can buy. If you’re lucky enough to have 2 of those trays, I reckon you could make 14-16. Now put them back into the freezer to firm up. When ready, hold a knife under a hot tap and slide it around the edge of each popsicle until it comes out.

Three-Cheese Quesadillas with Mango and Basil Salsa

three-cheese quesadilla

Quesadilla. The cheat’s pizza, the new toast – basically the most versatile piece of foodage out there. And delicious obviously. Crisped in a pan until golden, the cheese sexily oozing out of the sides as you cut it into triangles, as you try not to look like a glutton and ram a whole piece down your throat while you’re already topping the next with the fruity salsa.

Basically best Friday evening nibble ever. I’ve got a feeling I will be turning the topic of quesadillaing into a bit of a series because really, there are just so many different options to share.

Lets start with the mother of all cheese quesadillas, shall we? A riveting combo of feta, Philadelphia cream cheese and cheddar, satisfying that cheese tooth of yours to the max. Whack on some mango salsa – you’re done. It’s pretty simple and really, I don’t know why I’m still writing. Go make some. Now.

more three-cheese

 

Three-Cheese Quesadillas with Mango and Basil Salsa

 

Makes 4-5 quesadillas, depending on size

 

200g feta

250g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

4 spring onions, finely sliced

200g or so grated cheddar cheese

 

2 mangoes, diced into small cubes

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 large mild chilli, finely chopped

½ bunch basil, finely chopped

1 lime, juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

pinch of salt

 

8-10 flour tortillas

 

First of all you want to start making the “whipped feta”, which essentially is combining cream cheese and feta with a hand held blender in a bowl of some sort until smooth. Got it? Great. Now set it aside while you get on with the rest. Just don’t put it in the fridge, because we want it to be nice and spreadable for later.

Now, combine the mango, shallot, chilli, basil, lime juice, olive oil and salt in a bowl.  Easy as eh? Now you’re ready to roll. Place a flour tortilla on a flat surface such as a chopping board and spread over ¼ or a little less of the whipped feta. Sprinkle over some of the sliced spring onions and top off with a bit of cheddar. Place another tortilla on top and transfer to a large fry pan. Gently heat on one side until it goes golden and crispy, then turn and do the same thing there. Remove from the pan and continue with the rest. Slice the quesadillas into triangles and serve with the salsa.

 

Rosewater and Mint Lemonade

rosewater and mint lemonade

Yeah, it’s hot. Listen, this isn’t really what I signed up for when I decided to move to Melbourne. It was more the European autumns and the dry climate that enticed me. But hey, we’ve got aircon in our living room, so there’s no point in bitching anyway.

Before you go and drown yourself in H2O, may I suggest a more delicious way to go? I came across this refreshing and utterly delicious beverage in Brunswick Heads, up there in the tropical New South Wales, at a Middle Eastern café called Yami’s. The food is beautiful and fresh, plates of crispy falafel served with creamy hummus, parsley and tomato salad and warm pita bread. The lemonade though, that’s the reason I go back.

more lemonade

Rosewater and Mint Lemonade

Makes about 350ml of syrup

3-4 lemons, depending on size, to make 200ml lemon juice

175g sugar

2 Tbsp rosewater

¼ bunch mint, leaves torn, to serve

ice

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the rosewater. Transfer to a glass jar, screw the top on and let it chill in the fridge. This syrup will keep for a couple of weeks, just so you know. So depending on if you’re serving a crowd or just yourself, you’ll have to adjust the amounts. As I’m a solitary lemonade drinker most of the time, here are the amounts I use: In a 250ml – sized teacup (to me, everything tastes better in teacups), combine 3 Tbsp syrup and two torn mint leaves. Chuck in a couple of ice cubes and top up with water. Proscht.

I know what you’re thinking. Laura, this drink does not contain any alcohol. What’s wrong. Darling, don’t you worry, I’ve been going over this in my head for a few weeks now. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m certain it would taste quite delightful with some gin or perhaps even vodka. I’ll give it a go when things get a bit milder. But honestly – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – it’s too hot for spirits.

Rösti

brunch rösti

I feel like I owe you something pretty. And I think this image pretty much fulfills the absence of pretty pretty well, yeah?

Listen I don’t want to go on about my Swiss heritage and about how obsessively frequent we like to eat rösti (we don’t), but I would like to say this. Rösti is awesome, and it makes the world a better place. I’m particularly partial to the smaller, bite – sized version, not only because of its visual appeal, but also because of the crunchy exterior to inner softness –ratio. And because they look incredibly cute with stuff stacked on top of them, for brunch or indeed some shmancy themed dinner party. Just recently a friend of mine was so kind as to give me a couple of his quails’ eggs. As a result, these decadent brunch röstis came to be.

Brunch Rösti

Makes 12

2 medium potatoes

1 leek (250g), sliced into 2cm rounds

2 heaped Tbsp butter

80ml crème fraîche or sour cream

1 Tbsp seeded mustard or to taste

salt

6 quail’s eggs

a few sprigs flowering thyme, or some other tiny herb you like

cracked black pepper

You’ve got to start making these a little in advance, because you’ve got to boil the potatoes and make the leek confit first.

Pierce the potatoes with a knife all around to speed up the cooking process, then place them in a saucepan and top with water from a recently boiled kettle. Cook until soft, then drain. Cool.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat and spread the rounds of leek out so the bottom is covered. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt.  Cover with a lid and on the smallest flame possible, let the leek simmer in the buttery goodness until soft. Stir as seldom as possible, because you want the leek to keep its shape. Once it’s done, remove from the heat and transfer to a jar. You know what you’ve just made? Leek confit. Pretty nifty, eh? This will keep for a week or so in the fridge. But I honestly don’t know who would wait that long.

Get your potatoes and grate them. Don’t bother with removing the skin, it’ll come off while you’re grating it. Divide the potato into 12 portions and shape into rounds. Heat a large fry pan with the bottom covered with olive oil and add the potato rösti. You might have to do this in batches okay? Don’t move them too early or they’ll fall apart. Once they’re golden on one side, flip them to get the other side done. Line a plate with some paper and transfer the rösti onto it to cool.

Next, combine your crème fraîche with the mustard and season with some salt, then set aside while you boil the quail’s eggs. I usually place them in the bottom of a pan and pour over some boiling water to cover them, then set the timer. The egg in the picture was in there for 3 ½ minutes, but I reckon 2 ½ would probably be even better, for a still slightly gooey yolk. When done, pour off the water and top with cold tap water. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and slice them in half.

Now, assembly time. Start with one rösti, top with a dollop of crème fraîche, leek and half an egg. Get your pretty herbs out and sprinkle that and a bit of cracked pepper on top. Repeat with the rest, then eat.

Just looking back over the recipe, it looks incredibly long, doesn’t it. It’s not complicated though. I just thought I’d throw in some extra detail there, just in case you forgot how to boil a potato or peel an egg. I just care about you kitten, that’s all.

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