Monday, 31 August 2015

chickpea salad with spiced yoghurt dressing

Chickpea salad with spiced yogurt dressing.

Another day, another simple salad. The spiced yoghurt dressing is the star of the show here, pulling the chickpeas and salad leaves together in a happy embrace of flavours. Add other vegetables if you wish, as well as nuts and herbs - but even without the embellishments, this salad stands on its own, thanks to the delightfully smoky, tangy dressing.

chickpea salad with spiced yoghurt dressing
(serves 1 as a light and healthy meal, 2 as a very light meal, 3-4 as a side dish)

1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
2 handfuls baby spinach
2 handfuls mixed salad leaves
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (more)
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, and add them to a large salad bowl, along with the baby spinach and  mixed salad leaves.
Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl to make a salad dressing. Taste the dressing, and add more seasonings to suit your preferences, if necessary.
Pour the dressing into the salad bowl, and toss until well-combined.

Optional suggested additions: cauliflower, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, mint, oregano. Remember to either swap out some of the chickpeas and greens or make more dressing if you're adding extra ingredients.

Tuck in and enjoy the smoky flavours of this spiced yogurt chickpea salad.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

cinnamon apple steel-cut oatmeal with raisins

Cinnamon apple oatmeal with raisins.

I have only recently gotten into steel-cut oats. It takes longer to cook compared to rolled oats, quick oats and instant oats, but the substantial, al dente texture is really rather lovely. I'm not going to say that it rocks my world or anything extreme like that, but it's a quietly pleasurable experience that, for me, is worth the extra cooking time.

I'm not breaking any new ground here by combining oatmeal with apple, cinnamon and raisins. But hey, it's a classic combination for a good reason. Feel free to make a bigger batch of this cinnamon-apple-raisin oatmeal, and keep the leftovers covered in the fridge, where it should be good for at least 3 days. Warm individual portions up in the microwave for a quick breakfast on subsequent mornings. Too easy!

cinnamon apple oatmeal with raisins
(makes 2 - 3 servings)


1 tablespoon butter
1 apple, diced
3 tablespoons sultanas / golden raisins
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup oats
2 + 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the apple, sultanas/raisins, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir the mixture for about 2 minutes, then add the oats and water. Bring it to boil, and then reduce the heat.
Let the oats simmer, uncovered, for 15 - 20 minutes.
Pour in the milk, and cook the oats for another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add more dark brown sugar and spices, as well as a pinch of salt, if you wish. You can also use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.

Note:
Alternatively, cook the apple-raisin mixture for a bit longer until the apples are perfectly tender. Retrieve the apple-raisin mixture from the saucepan, and set it aside in a bowl before proceeding with the other steps. Add the apple-raisin mixture to the oatmeal just before serving. This method works to retain more flavour and texture in the apple pieces.

Cinnamon apple and raisin oatmeal.

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Sunday, 9 August 2015

sweet red bean soup

Sweet red bean soup, a simple Asian dessert.

Just a short and sweet one today! This is an easy red bean soup dessert that I've enjoyed since I was a child. Keep it simple using just red beans, sugar and water, or add an extra dimension with a piece of citrus peel or a knotted pandan leaf. This is very much the kind of recipe that you adjust to suit your taste, so don't be afraid to go with the flow.

sweet red bean soup / adzuki bean dessert soup
(serves 4)


1 cup red beans / adzuki beans
1 piece of fresh mandarin peel or dried tangerine peel (optional)
1/4 cup Chinese yellow rock sugar / raw sugar / light brown sugar
1 pinch of salt (optional)

Soak the red beans overnight with just enough water to completely immerse them.
The next day, drain off the water, rinse the beans well, and place them in a saucepan with 5 cups of water.
Bring the water to boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Add the mandarin peel or tangerine peel, if using. Let the beans simmer, partially covered, for about 40 minutes or until the beans are tender.
Remove citrus peel, and add the sugar and salt. Continue to cook the beans for another 20 minutes or until the texture of the beans is to your liking, adding more water if necessary. If you like, you can also mash or blend a portion of the soup for a thicker, richer consistency.
Serve the red bean soup warm, or chill it in the fridge. I quite like storing it in the fridge - it thickens up a little bit more, and seems to taste better the day after.

Adzuki bean dessert soup.

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Thursday, 30 July 2015

early winter eats and explorations in Sydney, 2015

A yellow hut/shack at Watson's Bay.

We spent the entire month of June in Sydney, and it was glorious. While Simon went to work, I did my freelance work back at the apartment, reveling in the persona of a digital nomad. We were frugal on the weekdays, and I would happily collect groceries and cook dinner from Monday to Friday. On the weekends, we caught the bus and the ferry to various locations, and relished all that Sydney had to offer while still being mindful of our spending, being not-very-rich freelancers and all.

On our first weekend, we actually walked all the way from the eastern suburbs to the city. It took us about two hours, but we stopped by Mr. Crackles along the way and gleefully refueled ourselves with the crispy pork nacho fries. The sauce was perhaps just a touch saltier than I would like, but the warm, tender and crunchy pork was a revelatory match for the fries.

Crispy pork nacho fries at Mr. Crackles in Darlinghurst, Sydney ($12).

Stumbling upon Tenkomori Ramen House one evening, we were quickly drawn in by the cheap prices. Ramen and rice dishes for under $10 per bowl? Yes please! I chose the black garlic ramen in a tonkotsu broth. Again, this was a tad salty for my taste, but I enjoyed the smoky flavour of the black garlic oil. In retrospect, I should also have added some toppings or side dishes to make the ramen more substantial and interesting.

Black garlic ramen in tonkotsu broth at Tenkomori Ramen House ($6.50 regular, $7.90 large, with no additions).

We went out late one morning to grab brunch, but when I saw that The Stomping Grounds had wagyu steak on the lunch menu for an extremely reasonable price, I decided to forgo eggs in favour of beef. I wasn't sorry. I have been disappointed so many times by cheap wagyu that turned out to be tough and chewy, but the wagyu I received here boasted a gentle, buttery texture, and it was so delightful that I was willing to forgive the slightly decrepit cauliflower amongst the vegetables on the side.

Wagyu steak at The Stomping Grounds cafe in Maroubra ($15 - or thereabouts).

On another evening, we were lured by the cheap noodle soups at Mrs. Chan's Kitchen. The tom yum noodle soup here isn't as complex as others I've had, but it served its purpose well on a cool winter night. And it was so incredibly affordable!

Tom yum noodle soup at Mrs. Chan's Kitchen in Sydney ($6 or thereabouts).

We also had Thai food at Dixon House Food Court. I was quite impressed with the fried fish meal that Simon ordered. It was quite the bargain, as it came with an apple salad and a side of rice for around $12. The fish could be fresher, but for the price, it was decent, and I was charmed by the splendidly spicy apple salad. We ordered sugar cane juice from another stall to go with it. Gotta love Asian food courts.

Fried fish with apple salad and rice at Dixon House Food Court in Sydney ($12 or thereabouts).

It wasn't just about the eating, of course. The weather was excellent for a great portion of our stay, and we strolled everywhere. We briefly considered watching Jurassic World at IMAX, but the ticket prices (I think it was $33.50 per adult) scared us away. The IMAX screen here is the largest in the world, so perhaps it would have been worth it, but still...

Anyway, we went on the ferry instead. The Sydney Opera House looked very pretty from this angle.

Cruising by the Sydney Opera House on a fine winter's day.

We walked around Watson's Bay...

A handsome ocean cliff at Watson's Bay.

And took too many pictures of this pelican.

A pelican grooming itself at Watson's Bay.

On the last weekend of June, Maroubra beach embraced us with its shimmering sapphire waters, friendly dogs and laid-back vibe.

I wanted to linger, but eventually, we had to leave. Bye bye, Sydney. I'm sure we'll meet again soon.

Maroubra Beach on a lovely sunny winter's day.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl

Coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl (with a hint of mandarin).

I wasn't expecting to find persimmons in the thick of winter. But there they were, at the farmers' market, at $3 a kilogram. And these were seedless persimmons! I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

The persimmons were delicious on their own, and the more I allowed them to ripen on the counter, the sweeter they tasted. There is really no need to embellish the persimmons any further when they are gloriously, perfectly ripe, but one morning, I decided to make a full breakfast meal out of them by adding them to yoghurt and sprinkling them with toasted shredded coconut.

This simple persimmon yoghurt bowl looks pleasing to the eye, and it did a fine job of satiating my hunger, too - it fueled me for a few hours before I started to feel peckish again. I think I'm going to have to make yoghurt bowls for breakfast more often from now on!

Persimmon yoghurt bowl with toasted shredded coconut, a healthy breakfast dish.

coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl (serves 1) 

1 ripe persimmon
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mandarin juice (or tangerine, tangelo or orange juice)
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
a pinch of chopped fresh rosemary, mint or thyme (optional)

Combine the yogurt with honey and mandarin juice in a bowl. Add more honey or mandarin juice if you like.
Gently toast shredded coconut in a pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until most of the coconut is golden brown.
Peel the persimmon, and cut the flesh into small cubes.Top the yogurt with the diced persimmon and the toasted coconut.
Drizzle on a bit more honey and mandarin juice along with a tiny sprinkling of herbs, if you wish.

Enjoy this coconut persimmon yoghurt breakfast bowl...

A simple textural delight with creamy yoghurt, tender persimmons, and crunchy coconut.

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Monday, 13 July 2015

chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars

Go on, try these chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars.

It seems that I never leave empty-handed whenever I visit my sister. I snuck in a side trip to Canberra on my recent jaunt in Sydney, and this time around, she gave me a bag of organic multi-puffs - a light and airy gluten-free mix of puffed brown rice, puffed buckwheat and puffed sorghum.

A mix of puffed buckwheat, puffed brown rice and puffed sorghum.

I came to the logical conclusion of using the puffed multigrains to make no-bake cereal bars. I toasted the puffs and tossed them merrily through a thick chocolate honey tahini sauce, and then I packed the concoction into a dish and let it set overnight as I slept. In the morning, I cut the cereal block into squares, and Simon and I gobbled down these treats in all their sticky, chewy glory. It was all gone by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, it still appears as if I'd barely made a dent in that bag of multi-puffs. I'll definitely make more of these puffed cereal squares again, and experiment with different flavours, but what else can I do with my multi-puffs? Feel free to give me your suggestions!

I wouldn't dare say that these tahini chocolate honey cereal bars are super healthy, but they're quite wholesome.

chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars

3 cups puffed cereal (e.g. buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth)
1/4 cup chopped or crumbed walnuts (or other nuts)
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lightly toast the puffed grains and the walnuts in a large saucepan, and then pour them into a 20cm/8-inch square baking dish or baking pan.
In the same saucepan, stir together the tahini, honey, cocoa powder and salt over low heat. When the cocoa powder is well-incorporated and the mixture is warm, return the puffed grains and walnuts into the pan. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients, and then scrape the mixture into the baking dish. (For ease of removal, grease the baking dish beforehand, or line it with parchment paper or foil.)
Press the mixture into the dish. Allow it to cool completely before covering the dish, and leave the mixture alone for several hours before cutting it into squares or rectangles.

Note:
- If the room temperature is warm, keep these cereal bars in the fridge.

Adjustments to try:
- Add 1 - 2 more tablespoons of cocoa powder for a richer chocolatey taste, or omit all cocoa powder entirely to highlight the taste of the tahini.
- Use brown rice syrup instead of honey to make it vegan and not as sweet (this should also help bring out the taste of the chocolate, as rice syrup is much milder than honey.)
- Create a nuttier bar by reducing the amount of puffed cereal and increasing the amount of nuts. Just make sure that the combined volume of the puffed cereal and nuts adds up to 3 and 1/4 cups in the end.
- You can also use puffed wheat or puffed spelt, as long as you're not following a gluten-free diet.

Chewy chocolate honey tahini cereal bars for everyone!

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

10-minute fish salad with chilli, tomatoes, lemon, wilted greens

This quick and easy fish salad takes about 10 minutes to make!

I am triumphant. This delicious dish takes, oh, I don't know... 10 minutes to prepare and cook, and it makes a lovely light one-pot meal for one. Despite the minimal list of ingredients, the flavours are excellent. Infuse some oil with chilli, cook the tomatoes to bring out their sweetness, and fry the fish until they are a lovely golden brown before deglazing the pan with a splash of lemon juice and tossing in some mixed salad leaves. Add salt and pepper, and you're done. Too easy!

A simple one-dish meal - fish salad with chilli, tomatoes, lemon and wilted greens.

10-minute quick fish salad with chilli, tomatoes, lemon and wilted greens

1 tablespoon oil (e.g. macadamia oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, etc.)
1.5cm / 1/2" red chilli, thinly sliced; or a pinch of red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
2 cocktail tomatoes, quartered; or 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
150 - 180g / 5 - 6oz white fish fillet, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon lemon juice, or juice from 1/8 of a lemon (adjust to taste)
1 handful mixed salad leaves
salt and black pepper, to taste

Select a pan that is big enough to fry all the fish in one go without having to overcrowd the pan.
Warm up the oil over medium-high heat, and swirl to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
Add chilli and tomatoes, fry 1 -2 minutes with tomatoes cut-side down to sear them well.
Add the bite-sized fish fillets, fry them for 1 - 2 minutes, and then flip them over and fry for another 1 - 2 minutes until they are a deep golden colour.
Turn off the heat, and immediately sprinkle lemon juice over the caramelized bits in the pan. Quickly scrape at the bits to dissolve them.
Stir in the mixed salad leaves, and toss everything together.
Season with salt and black pepper - I like lots of pepper for this salad.
Serve. I love this dish as a warm fish salad, but it should also be tasty served at room temperature.

*For even more flavour, add a small minced clove of garlic along with the chilli, and add a scattering of fresh herbs along with the mixed salad leaves.
** This fish salad can probably work well as a taco filling, too!

A lovely quick fish salad that easy to prepare, and delightful in its simplicity.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

quick & easy 5-ingredient kimchi miso udon noodle soup

Quick and easy 5-ingredient kimchi miso udon noodle soup.

Even though I'm all partnered up, I'm the kind of person who actually doesn't mind cooking for one. In fact, I love making noodle soup for one. It's just so uncomplicated. No need to worry about dividing the portions. I can eat my noodles straight from the saucepan, and cleaning up is a breeze. Happily, I still get the opportunity to cook for just myself every now and then, and when I do, I seize the chance to make myself a simple and delicious noodle soup.

This kimchi miso udon noodle soup is one of my latest creations. I love that the short list of ingredients is capable of producing so much flavour. If you ever feel tired or lazy but you're still in the mood for a home-cooked meal, try this one-pot five-ingredient noodle soup recipe that is quick and easy to make. The recipe is wonderfully versatile, too - feel free to adjust or even swap some of the ingredients to suit your taste.

Spicy, umami kimchi udon noodles in a miso broth.


quick & easy 5-ingredient kimchi miso udon noodle soup
(serves 1)

90g / 3oz dried udon noodles
50g / 2oz minced pork (or: minced chicken or cubed tofu)
1 small handful chopped Asian greens (or: mixed salad leaves)
6 pieces kimchi
1 tablespoon miso

Cook the noodles briefly in a saucepan of boiling water, just enough to release some starch from the noodles so that the water turns cloudy. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and drain again.
Pour 1 + 2/3 cups of water into the saucepan with the noodles. Bring the mixture to boil again, and add the minced meat. (Hold back if you're using tofu - add that only during the last minute of cooking.)
Allow the mixture to simmer until the noodles and the meat are done - or even just slightly underdone, as they will continue to cook in the hot broth. Stir in the greens, and remove the saucepan from heat.
Add the kimchi - you may chop them up into smaller pieces prior to adding them, if you wish, or leave them whole if you're lazy (like me).
Allow the noodle soup to cool slightly for a couple of minutes or so. Submerge the spoonful of miso just under the surface of the broth, and use a fork to gradually loosen up the miso and whisk it in. Taste and add more kimchi or miso, if you like, to make it spicier or saltier.

Quick, easy, five-ingredient udon noodle soup with pork, vegetables and kimchi in a miso broth.

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