Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Xmas Trees

These gingerbread Christmas trees are both fun and easy to make, and, what's more, the kids will love them!
Hang them as part of decorations on your Xmas tree or give them away to friends and family as gifts :)

You can use any shaped cookie cutter you like to make these gingerbread cookies.

Makes 20


125g butter, at room temperature
½ cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
½ cup golden syrup
1 egg, separated
2¼ cups plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust
1 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
20 drops red liquid food colouring (adjust as required)
10 drops green liquid food colouring (adjust as required)
Smarties, to decorate

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 large baking trays.
  2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Sift over the flour, ginger, mixed spice and soda then use a large spoon to fold and combine. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat together the icing sugar and egg white until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 2 bowls (3:1 ratio). Add green colouring to the bowl with more icing and stir until combined. Add red colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  4. After 30 minutes, bring dough to room temperature, then divide in two. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a Xmas tree cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart to allow for spreading. Repeat with any excess dough.
  5. Bake in oven for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool. If you're making these as part of Christmas decorations, use a skewer to quickly make 5mm holes at the top of the warm biscuits to thread ribbon.
  6. When biscuits have cooled completely, place prepared icings in small plastic/snap-lock bags or disposable piping bags, pushing icing into a corner, then cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread trees to decorate. Finish with Smarties. Thread ribbon in holes if using as Xmas decoration.
  7. The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Decorating Tips

Allow biscuits to cool completely prior to decorating.

When you fill the bag with icing, use a spatula and be sure to fill it only halfway. It may help to fold the bag over a few times before filling it. Next, twist the end of the bag, removing any air bubbles and forcing the icing toward the tip. For most techniques, you’ll be holding the bag at a 45 or 90 degree angle. Your dominant hand exerts the pressure while your other hand simply guides the bag’s path on the biscuit.

If you accidentally over-bake your gingerbread cookies, place them in a sealed container layered with some fresh bread for a few hours to overnight (depends how hard your gingerbread are). The cookies will draw moisture from the bread making it nice and soft again. This trick also works if you have hard sugar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chicken Caesar Salad


2 chicken breast fillets
2 eggs
8 bacon rashers, rind removed, cut crossways into thin strips
2 baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed, dried
300ml Caesar salad dressing
40g Parmesan cheese, shaved

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest. Thinly slice across the grain. 
  2. Meanwhile, place the eggs in a small saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil, stirring often to create a whirlpool (to centre yolks). Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes (for medium boiled eggs). Drain and cool under cold running water. Peel and thinly slice.  
  3. Heat the frying pan over high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until crisp.
  4. Arrange the chicken, egg, croutons and lettuce on a serving platter. Drizzle with the Caesar salad dressing and sprinkle with bacon and shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chinese Green Beans


450g fresh green beans (washed and ends trimmed)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon corn flour
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
¼  teaspoon red chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Place beans in a bowl or dish. Put a steamer rack in the wok, add water to cover the rack. Bring the water to boil then place the dish on the rack. Cover wok and steam on high heat for 5 minutes. Then transfer to an ice bath immediately to stop the cooking process and to keep the beans crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the water, corn flour, soy sauce, brown sugar, red chilli flakes and sesame oil in a small jug. Drain the beans into a colander.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat, then add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add beans and stir fry for about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Pour the sauce mixture onto the beans and stir fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, ensuring beans are thoroughly coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chilli Fried Rice Noodles

Here's a simple Asian stir-fry recipe, that's on the spicy side! You might want to have a glass of water nearby when eating this dish :P


1kg fresh rice noodles
2 tablespoons oil
1-2 onions, sliced
4 small fresh red chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups bean sprouts, firmly packed
2 sticks celery, sliced
4 green shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons oil, extra
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce


  1. Heat oil in wok over medium high heat. Add oinons and stir fry until they are lightly browned.
  2. Add chilli, Chinese rice wine and garlic. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add bean sprouts, celery and shallots into wok. Stir-fry until vegetables are just tender, then remove them from the wok and onto a plate.
  4. Heat the extra oil in wok, add noodles and stir gently until heated through. Add the vegetable mixture and soy sauces, stir-fry until heated through and all ingredients are mixed together well.
Notes & Tips

Halve the amount of chilli in this dish if you prefer a milder and less spicy dish

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Pan Fried Salmon Cutlet with Tomatoes

    This is a very home style dish that my mum used to make. It's super easy to cook and pretty healthy also!


    1-2 salmon cutlets
    4 tomatoes
    3 tbs tomato sauce
    1 ½ tbs sweet chilli sauce
    ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp sugar
    3-4 shallots, sliced
    1-2 tbs oil


    1. In a bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and salt. Set aside
    2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook the fish for 3 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate.
    3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes, shallots and sauce to pan. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, until all ingredients are warmed through and tomatoes are coated with the sauce.
    4. Pour the tomatoes and sauce over the salmon cutlets. Serve hot with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Mango Lassi

    This Indian beverage is made with a delicious combination of mangoes, yogurt and a touch of mint. The perfect accompaniment to an Indian meal.

    Serves 2


    2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped (approx. 2 cups)
    1 cup natural yogurt
    3 tablespoons sugar (adjust to taste)
    Ice cubes (as needed)


    1. Blend the mangoes, yogurt, and sugar in the blender until smooth and creamy
    2. Add the ice cubes, if desired.
    3. Pour into glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve chilled.

    Notes & Tips

    The sugar can be adjusted to taste and it depends on the taste of the mangoes and yogurt.

    If fresh mangoes are not in season, you can use tinned Indian Alphonso mango puree. Replace the 2 ripe mangoes with 2 cups of mango puree in this recipe.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Tandoori Chicken

    Make sure to use spices bought from an Indian grocery store to obtain the true and authentic flavours of India!

    Note: The chicken can be substituted with lamb to make tandoori lamb :)

    Serves 4-6


    1 kg chicken pieces or fillets
    200g natural yoghurt
    1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated finely
    1 tbsp garlic, grated finely
    1-2 tbsp tandoori paste (Taj Mahal brand)
    2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
    2 tsp ground coriander
    1 tsp garam masala
    ½ tsp chilli powder
    ½ tsp turmeric powder
    Salt to taste
    Yoghurt mint sauce, to serve
    Roti or basmati rice, to serve

    Yoghurt Mint Sauce

    1 cup plain yoghurt
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
    1 tablespoon chopped mint
    1 teaspoon chilli powder


    1. Trim away any excess fat from chicken. Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork to allow the marinade to penetrate.
    2. In a bowl mix together the yoghurt, salt, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin, ground corinader, garam masala, turmeric and tandoori paste. Rub mixture into chicken, cover and refrigerate. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight for a better result.
    3. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. 
    4. Place chicken on rack over baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes or until chicken is tender. It is not necessary to turn the meat during cooking. 
    5. Cut into bite sized pieces if desired before serving with yoghurt mint sauce.

    For the Mint Sauce: Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

    Black Pepper Steak

    If you've ever wondered how to achieve that soft, tender meat that you get from your local Chinese restaurant at home, then wonder no more. The Chinese method of tenderising meat is to marinate thinly sliced meat for a couple of hours and to use ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) for each 500g of meat. I've used fillet steak for the following recipe, however you can use a cheaper cut of meat when using this form of marinating since it will tenderise the meat so much, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference! Great tip for home cooks especially when watching the budget :)


    750g beef eye fillet (in one piece)
    1-2 onions, sliced
    ½ teaspoon sesame oil
    2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shao Hsing wine)
    2 teaspoons sugar
    2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
    1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
    ½ tsp baking soda
    1-2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
    1-2 shallots, sliced


    1. Partly freeze steak, cut into thin slices. 
    2. Combine steak, onions, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, sugar, ginger, soy sauce and baking soda in bowl. Cover, marinate several hours or refrigerate overnight.
    3. Stir peppercorns through steak mixture.
    4. Barbecue steak and onions over high heat (or stir fry in wok) until steak is cooked as desired.
    5. Sprinkle shallots over beef. Serve with rice

    Chinese Cabbage Stir Fry

    Smell the wonderful aroma of the vegetables cooking in hot garlic oil as you stir fry this quick and easy Asian meal.

    Serves 2


    4-5 cups Chinese cabbage, sliced into 1 inch lengths
    1 cup carrots, julienned or cut into thin strips
    3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    2 tbsp oyster sauce
    ½ tsp sugar
    ½ cup water
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    2 tbsp oil

    1. Pour oil into wok and heat it over high heat until it starts to smoke slightly.
    2. Put in the garlic and stir until slightly golden
    3. Put in the cabbage and carrot and hear the loud sizzle in your wok.
    4. Stir fry quickly for about 2 minutes.
    5. Add water, give the vegetables a good stir and cover the wok for about 2 minutes.
    6. Remove cover and put in the rest of the seasoning. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.
    Notes & Tips

    Vegetarians: Substitute oyster sauce with vegetarian oyster sauce 

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Udon Noodles

    December is a very busy time for most of us, so here's a very simple and easy dish to cook during the week. It's even got the colours of Christmas- red and green! Enjoy :)


    400g udon noodles
    225g minced pork
    ½ cup each of julienned green and red capsicum
    1 tbsp garlic, chopped
    2 tbsp oyster sauce
    1 tbsp light soy sauce
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
    salt and pepper, to taste
    sesame oil


    1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook the noodles for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring to separate the strands, until they are tender. 
    2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat then add the chopped garlic. Stir fry the garlic till fragrant then add the minced pork. Add the julienned peppers when pork is beginning to brown. Stir fry for a few minutes and mix together all ingredients.
    3. Drain the noodles and add in to the pork mince and capsicum mixture. Add in oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir-fry until noodles are heated through and adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
    4. Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Thai Beef Salad


    3 cloves garlic, minced
    4 coriander roots, finely chopped
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 tablespoons oil
    400-500g piece rump or sirloin steak
    125g-200g mixed salad leaves
    125g cherry tomatoes
    ½ small red onion, finely sliced
    fresh coriander and mint leaves, chopped


    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons lime juice
    1 tablespoon caster sugar or soft brown sugar
    1-2 red chillies, chopped
    1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped

    1. Combine the chopped garlic and coriander roots, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it to finely grind the mixture. Alternatively, blend the mixture well in a food processor or blender. Spread the mixture evenly over the steak.
    2. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy based frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the steak to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes each side, turning the steak once only during the cooking time. Remove the steak from the pan and allow to cool.
    3. Meanwhile, wash the salad leaves and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Arrange the prepared leaves on a serving plate and arrange the cherry tomatoes over the top with the sliced onions.
    4. Prepare dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
    5. Cut the cooled steak across the grain into thin strips and arrange over the salad leaves. Drizzle with the dressing and scatter the fresh mint leaves over the top. Serve immediately.

    Minted Pork & Mango Salad

    The weather has been pretty hot lately so I've been making lots of salads. This minted pork and mango salad is one of my favourites :)

    In this recipe I use mangoes but I have substituted them with ripe papaya when it hasn't been mango season and it still works for this recipe.


    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    500g lean pork mince
    60g canned water chestnuts, chopped
    2 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
    2 tbsp lime juice
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    60g bean sprouts
    3 green onions (shallots/scallions)
    4 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
    2 tbsp coriander, chopped
    freshly ground black pepper
    200g assorted lettuce leaves
    1-2 mangoes, peeled and sliced
    60g toasted hazelnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)


    1. Heat oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add pork, water chestnuts, and lemongrass and stir fry until pork is browned. Remove from wok and set aside to cool.
    2. Place pork mixture, lime juice, and fish sauce in a bowl and mix to combine. Add beansprouts, green onions, mint, coriander and black pepper to taste, and toss gently.
    3. Line a serving platter with lettuce leaves, then top with mangoes and pork mixture. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts or pecans.
    This salad can be prepared to the end of step 2 several hours in advance. Cover and keep at room temperature. If preparing more than 2 hours in advance store in the refrigerator and remove 30 minutes before you are ready to assemble and serve it.
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