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.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

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.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

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.

- 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!

Click here to read the rest of the post!

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.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

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.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

sydney! - opera house & vivid light festival 2015

The city of Sydney lights up during the Vivid Light Festival.

Surprise! We're in Sydney!

Just for a month, that is. Simon has work to do in the area, so I'm tagging along and playing housewife. Basically, I do laundry and make sure there's dinner upon his return to the apartment. It's not a bad life.

The Sydney Vivid Festival was in full swing as we arrived. We walked into the city one weekend and took in the sights. Vivid Sydney comprises Vivid Light, Vivid Music and Vivid Ideas. Our casual stroll that evening gave us a nice glimpse of the elements of the Vivid Light Festival.

A view of the harbour, with the lit-up buildings.

The buildings' lights are always changing...

And changing.

Sydney Opera House - cool aqua patterns.

Sydney Opera House - purple, red and yellow splotches.

Sydney Opera House - yellow anemones.

Sydney Opera House - glowing pink.

Sydney Opera House - turning bright yellow.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

Monday, 25 May 2015

easy tomato chilli garlic pasta

An easy pasta dish with fresh rigatoncini, tomatoes, garlic, chilli, herbs and parmesan.

I love going to the farmers' market, but I tend to stick to fruit and vegetable purchases when I visit. Recently, however, a fresh pasta vendor caught my attention as I was strolling past his stall. He was down to his last few containers of fresh pasta and he was willing to get rid of them quickly for a good offer. I bought two containers for five dollars, and opened up the one of them as soon as I got home to make a delicious fresh pasta lunch. I am not quite sure what this variety of pasta is, but it looks like it may be rigatoncini, a smaller version of rigatoni. Ridged, slightly curved, and with straight-cut ends. Lovely and rustic.

The idea for this rigatoncini recipe started with the basic ingredients of aglio e olio pasta - olive oil, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper. I embellished it with fresh tomatoes and dried mixed herbs, stretched the sauce further with cooked pasta water, then crowned the final dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Simple! To make it vegan, simply omit the Parmesan, or substitute it with vegan cheese or nutritional yeast instead. Also, feel free to use other types of pasta - other medium-sized ridged tubular pasta such as penne rigate or tortiglioni will work well, and spiral pasta such as fusilli or rotini should also be suitable.

You can easily modify this tomato chilli garlic pasta recipe to make a good vegan pasta dish, too.

easy tomato chilli garlic pasta
(serves 2 as a main)

350g / 12oz fresh pasta or 200g / 7oz dried pasta (ridged tubes and spirals work well in this recipe)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced (use less chilli and/or remove the seeds if you want it less spicy)
4 tomatoes, sliced into eighths
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until just slightly shy of al dente. Exact cooking times depend on the type of pasta used - different shapes and sizes have different cooking times, and fresh pasta cooks faster than dried pasta. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and halt the cooking process with cool running water, then drain again and set aside.

Warm up the olive oil in a pot or saucepan with low heat. Gently cook garlic and chilli in the olive oil for 2 - 3 minutes or until the garlic is soft and golden. Add tomatoes, dried herbs and the reserved pasta water. Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow it to bubble moderately for approximately 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender and disintegrating, and the liquid thickens to form a light sauce. It should not be too watery, but it is also not very thick. There should be just enough sauce to thinly coat all the pasta when you add it.

Turn up the heat and then add the cooked pasta along with salt and pepper. Stir the pasta through the sauce for about 30 seconds or until everything is warm. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if you like. Ladle the pasta into bowls and top with grated parmesan.

Fresh rigatoni with tomato, garlic, chilli and parmesan.

Click here to read the rest of the post!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

quick pear and lime jam

Quick and easy lime and pear jam.

Overripe pears, almost wasting away in their basket, were the inspiration for this pear and lime jam. I enjoy soft, ripe pears, but these pears had softened to such a degree that they were no longer appealing, even to me. I tried slicing one up and using it in a salad. The pear slices broke up as I tossed the salad, so fragile they were.

Zesty lime and pear jam. Deliciously tangy.

I gave one of the pears to a bandicoot who hopped into our garden, and he ate it with gusto, but I did not feel the same enthusiasm that our cute little marsupial visitor displayed.

Cute bandicoot eating an overripe pear.

So there the pears were, languishing away. On a whim, I chopped them up and threw them into the saucepan, drizzled lime juice all over the pieces, mashed them up with a fork, covered them in sugar, and cooked them into a translucent jam. The taste of the pear is subtle, perhaps almost unnoticeable, but it gently tempers the dominant lime flavour. The delicious sourness, along with the pretty bits of lime zest, make this jam creation feel like a milder, less intense form of marmalade.

The gentle pear softens the sharp acidity of the lime, but this jam still packs a sour hit.

quick pear and lime jam
(makes only a cute tiny portion - feel free to multiply the recipe)

2 overripe medium to large pears (Williams/Bartlett pears or any soft, creamy, overripe pear will work)
1 medium to large lime, or at least 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest or slightly more
1/4 - 1/3 cup granulated white or raw sugar

Peel and core the pears. Roughly chop the flesh and place the pieces in a saucepan.
Grate the zest of the lime. Set aside.
Thoroughly squeeze the juice from the lime into the saucepan. Using a fork, toss the pear chunks through the lime juice, then mash up the pear pieces. (This is why you need really soft, overripe pears for this recipe!) They do not need to be perfectly mashed; a little roughness can add interest to the texture of the jam.
Allow the mixture to bubble over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until it is thick and no longer runny. Test with a spoon by scooping up the jam - if it is done, it should form a glob that slowly slides off the spoon.
Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in lime zest. Since this is a tiny portion, you can just pour the jam into a small ramekin and allow it to cool completely. Cover securely with cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator. It can stay fresh for at least a week this way.
Feel free to multiply the recipe, and if you do, you may want to extend the life of the jam by keeping it in a sterilised glass jar with a secure lid.

Spread this marmalade-like jam on bread or toast... and enjoy!

Click here to read the rest of the post!