Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bolognese sauce

This bolognese sauce is very easy to make, freezer friendly and can be used in other recipes. I like to add grated carrot into my bolognese sauce and occasionally 1 grated zucchini to increase the vegetable content of this dish.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
750g lean beef mince
140g carton tomato paste
1 cup thick Italian tomato pasta sauce (passata)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar (adjust to taste)

  1. Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. 
  2. Add mince. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until browned. 
  3. Add tomato paste, pasta sauce, stock, wine, oregano, nutmeg, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well. 
  4. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes or until thick. Season with salt, pepper and sugar if required. Serve with favourite pasta.

    Pork Hokkien Noodles

    Healthy and tasty stir fry that's really easy to whip up!


    Pork marinade:
    2 tsp corn flour
    2 tsp sesame oil
    2 tsp soy sauce
    2 tsp Chinese rice wine

    400g pork fillet
    450g pkt fresh hokkien noodles
    1 tbs oil
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    1 red onion, cut into wedges
    500g pkt frozen stir-fry vegetables, thawed
    1 tbs oyster sauce
    2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
    1 tbs soy sauce
    1 tbs light soy sauce
    1 tbs honey

    1. Slice pork into thin strips. Place into a small bowl together with the cornflour, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. Mix together well, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking. Be careful to not let the pork marinate for more than an hour.
    2. Place noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After 2-3 minutes, separate with a fork and drain.
    3. Place a large wok over a medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and onion. Cook for 2 minutes. Add pork and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Put onto a plate and set aside.
    4. Combine the sauces and honey in a jug then pour into the wok. Bring to the boil then add vegetables. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
    5. Return the pork to the wok and toss through the noodles to heat up. Place into bowls and serve.
    Notes & Tips

    Frozen vegetables have been picked at the peak of their ripeness, and immediately flash frozen. As a result, all of the minerals and vitamins are locked in, ready for your benefit. This means that in some cases, frozen vegetables might be more nutritious than vegetables purchased from the produce aisle which have been sitting for weeks.

      Sunday, January 24, 2010

      Apricot Chicken


      ½ cup plain flour
      800g chicken thigh fillets, diced into large chunks
      2-3 tablespoons olive oil
      1 brown onion, peeled, cut into thin wedges
      2 garlic cloves, crushed
      1½ tablespoon Moroccan seasoning blend
      405ml can apricot nectar
      410g tinned apricot halves
      pinch of ground chilli 
      1 cup coucous
      1 cup chicken stock
      Salt and pepper
      Parsley leaves, to garnish

      1. Place flour, salt and pepper into a shallow dish. Lightly coat chicken pieces in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
      2. Heat 1-2 tablespoon oil in a deep, large, heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, in batches, for 2 to 3 minutes each side or until golden all over. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken and oil. 
      3. Remove any sediment in the pan prior to adding the remaining oil. Then add onion and garlic to frying pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle Moroccan seasoning and ground chilli over onion and stir until well combined.
      4. Stir in apricot nectar. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Return chicken to frying pan and coat with the sauce. Add the apricots, then cook covered for a further 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.
      5. Meanwhile, place chicken stock into saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Stir and pour couscous. Cover and allow to stand for 3-5 minutes.
      6. Stir with a fork to separate grains. Spoon couscous onto plates. Spoon over chicken and sauce, garnish with some parsley. Serve hot and enjoy :)

      Saturday, January 23, 2010

      Tamarind Chicken Wings

      Tamarind is the fruit contained in the hanging pods of the tamarind tree, Tamarindus indica. The pods themselves are between 10-15cm (4-6 inches) long and cinnamon-brown coloured with a fuzzy coating. The pulp from inside the pods has a sour yet sweet flavour, kinda like a cross between a date and an apricot.

      You can eat Tamarind on its own or you can use the pulp to make sauces and chutneys. I particularly enjoy eating a Vietnamese dish called tamarind sauce with mud crab (cua rang me). Wanting to replicate the tamarind sauce from this dish in my own home, I've experimented with a few different recipes and have come up with my own recipe below...

      1 kg chicken mid wings
      Approx 6 tbsp tapioca starch (substitute with rice flour, if unavailable)


      1 tsp salt
      1 tbsp sugar
      ½ tsp pepper
      1 tsp chicken stock powder
      1 tsp sesame oil
      1 tsp oyster sauce
      2 tbsp tamarind puree


      2 tbsp tamarind puree
      2 tbsp oil
      1 garlic clove, minced
      1 tsp annatto seed (optional)
      4 tbsp sugar
      1 tsp chicken stock powder
      1 tsp salt
      1 tsp pepper
      1 tsp soy sauce
      1 tsp oyster sauce
      2 tsp tapioca starch dissolved in 2 tbsp water

      1 fresh chilli, sliced
      chopped fresh coriander to garnish


      Wash the chicken wings and dry with paper towel. Prick them with a fork to allow marinade to penetrate. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and pour over. Mix well and leave for one hour or overnight for a better result.

      Heat some cooking oil over medium high heat. Dredge the marinated chicken wings with tapioca flour. Fry the wings until they become golden. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

      Combine the tamarind puree, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce and tapioca flour mix into a mixing bowl and set aside. Put 2 tsp oil into another pan. Add the annatto seed and garlic and fry until the garlic is golden. Pour tamarind mixture into pan, mix well and adjust seasoning to suit.

      Pour sauce over the chicken. Serve and garnish with coriander and chilli if desired. Eat while it is still hot.

      Notes & Tips

      You can substitute the chicken wings for prawns (approx. 12 pcs)

      Annatto (achiote) is a red seed with a mild earthy flavour. It is used in cooking for both colour and flavour. They are available for purchase in Filipino or Latin American grocery stores.

      For a low fat version of this recipe you can bake the chicken wings and still achieve a nice crispy texture. The secret is actually in the flour! I find that using tapioca flour to coat the chicken instead of plain flour or corn flour makes it really crispy and crunchy. You'll also need a really hot oven to ensure the skin will be nice and golden.

      Method for baking:

      Preheat oven to 220°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and lightly spray with oil. Dredge the marinated chicken wings with tapioca flour. Place onto prepared baking trays in a single layer with a little space between the wings. Spray chicken with oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and cooked through. Turn chicken once in the oven half way through cooking.

      Tuesday, January 19, 2010

      Stir Fried Vegetables

      This is a Malaysian style vegetable stir-fry. It's super easy to make and you'll enjoy eating it even if you're not a vegetarian!


      1 brown onion, sliced
      1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 2.5cm pieces
      125g green beans, cut into 2.5cm pieces
      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      1 carrot, peeled & sliced
      2 teaspoons turmeric
      2 cloves garlic, crushed
      2 tablespoons white vinegar
      2 tablespoons sugar
      1 ripe mango, sliced
      ¾ cup vegetable or chicken stock
      1 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped


      1. Heat oil in wok over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and carrot, stir-fry until lightly browned.
      2. Add turmeric, vinegar and sugar, stir-fry for 1 minute.
      3. Add mango, cucumber, beans and vegetable stock. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. 
      4. Sprinkle peanuts over vegetables, serve with rice.

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010

      Green Tea Tiramisu

      This blog post is actually written in retrospect since I had forgotten to take a photo of this cake. Thankfully my brother-in-law had taken a photo and sent me a copy so that I could post it on my blog :)

      I made this dessert for a Xmas dinner party with my parents and hubby's family. I was originally going to make Tiramisu for dessert since my mother-in-law is a fan of it and I thought it'd be a good way to earn some extra brownie points, hahaha :P

      I changed my mind however since I tend to make my tiramisu with a very strong coffee and mascarpone cheese flavour, and my mother-in-law enjoys a more softer Asian version of tiramisu that can be found in Asian bakeries such as Bread Top. So as I was flicking through some Asian cookbooks for some inspiration, I came across a recipe for Green Tea Tiramisu. Intrigued by the idea of replacing coffee with green tea, I did a trial prior to the Xmas party and thoroughly enjoyed it! So, here's my version of this Italian dessert with an Asian twist! It's a "Tea-ramisu" :)

      Note: I prefer a much stronger green tea flavour, but if you prefer a more subtle flavour, then use less green tea powder in the following recipe. Also use room temperature eggs for this recipe


      2 cups brewed green tea, cooled
      1 packet of 250g lady fingers biscuits/ sponge fingers

      Green Tea Mascarpone Mixture

      3 egg yolks
      3 egg whites
      ½ cup sugar, sifted
      250g mascarpone cheese, softened
      1 cup cream
      1 teaspoon orange flavoured liquer (e.g Cointreau)
      3 ½ tsp green tea powder

      1. Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. 
      2. Beat egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl with electric beaters until pale and thick.
      3. In another bowl, beat the mascapone cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the green tea powder 1 tsp at a time, adjusting according to your taste. Mix together well.
      4. Fold the mascarpone into the egg yolk mixture.
      5. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add orange flavoured liquer, if using.
      6. Fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream until well blended. Then add egg whites and fold gently until blended.
      7. Dip each ladyfinger/spongefinger into the brewed tea (don't let them sit in the tea too long or you'll get super soggy ladyfingers, just a second or two, until they get a little soft).
      8. Layer them on the bottom of a rectangular glass dish or 20cm springform cake pan.
      9. Spread 1/3 of the mascarpone cream mixture on top, and repeat layers until finished (I had 3 ladyfinger layers and 3 mascarpone layers). The top layer should be the mascarpone cream layer.
      10. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or preferably overnight to let it set well. Overnight is best as this also allows all the flavours to be absorbed.
      11. Decorate cake as desired when it is set. You can dust some green tea powder before serving or garnish the tiramisu with strawberries and chocolate triangles as I have done.
      To make the striped chocolate collar:

      You'll need:

      75g-100g dark chocolate melts
      60g white chocolate melts
      cake decorating comb or fork
      cake tape or baking paper

      Measure the height of the cake (approx 2.5 inches) and cut a long rectangular strip out of baking paper (length of the strip is the circumferance of the cake + 2 cm extra).

      Lay the baking paper strip on a flat surface and spread a thin and even layer of melted dark chocolate over the entire sufrace using a spatula. Drag a cake decorating comb or a fork through the chocolate. Set at room temperature.

      Melt the white chocolate and spread over the dark chocolate. Spread firmly to fill all the gaps. Leave until just set- you want the chocolate strip to be firm yet malleable. If the chocolate cracks when bent, it is set too hard.

      Wrap the paper around cake, chocolate side in (this is the REALLY messy bit!). Hold paper strip in place for a couple of minutes until the strip holds itself onto the cake. Seal the ends.

      Put the cake into the fridge until the chocolate collar is set, approx. 30 minutes.

      When set, carefully peel away the paper (it should come away very easily). Refrigerate the cake until ready to be served.

      Notes & Tips

      A cake decorating 'comb' is a flat plastic tool with teeth on each end. Combs are available from specialty kitchen or cake decorating shops.

      Friday, January 8, 2010

      Din Tai Fung

      I was in the city with my mum today and I wanted to have lunch at the legendary Taipei-based global chain, Din Tai Fung, for some mouth watering dumplings. We deliberately arrive early, mindful of its reputation for busy queues. We walk straight into the restaurant just before noon. There are no queues yet but a row of wooden chairs in the open-air atrium make it clear there will be.

      Walking into Din Tai Fung, you can’t help but take note of the glass-walled kitchen by the entrance where you can peep in to see masked and gowned dumpling makers swiftly pinching, twisting and diligently creating dumplings to painstaking precision.

      There’s also a sense of feeling like you’re a VIP when you enter the restaurant. I think about 7 wait staff greeted my mum and I with a hello and bow as we were being escorted to our table. I thought it was a little over the top and had to contain myself from laughing out loud.

      As I sit down at my table, I look around and see a large, bustling room with a feature wall of bamboo steamers and artful arrangements of ceramic spoons and bowls. There’s also a bar with young men in masks taking care of drinks. As the waiters and waitresses walk by, they kinda remind me of flight stewards and air hostesses. They're all young and attractive with perfectly groomed hair and gleaming smiles, wearing well ironed, crisp uniforms complete with name tags and ear pieces.

      The menu is beautifully presented to us encased inside a bamboo cover and we gaze at the pretty pictures inside, taking note of the dishes with a thumbs-up icon which marks it as a chef’s recommendation. We decide to have the Din Tai Fung Vegetarian Delight, Pork and Prawn Dumpling Soup, Pork and Vegetable Dumpling Soup and of course the famed Xiao Long Bao!!!

      Our Din Tai Fung Vegetarian Delight is the first of the dishes to arrive. Piled neatly on a modern square plate, it is a mix of seaweed, tofu strips, bean sprouts and glass noodles drenched in sesame oil. The crunchy and chewy textures of this dish are balanced well and the flavours are nice and delicate.

      Din Tai Fung Vegetarian Delight (Chef's Recommendation)

      Our soup dumplings arrive shortly afterwards. I’m thoroughly impressed at the pastry engineering before my eyes. The dumpling dough is just the right thickness- thin enough to not be pasty and gluey, and just thick enough to not break and spill its contents before it hits your mouth. A bit disappointing that there are only 6 in each bowl cause I want to eat some more, they’re so delicious! Every mouthful is a stomach-pleasing revelation. The soup is also lovely- simple and warming.

      Pork and Prawn Dumpling on the spoon and 2 Pork and Vegetable dumplings in the bowl

      Next, our Xiao Long Bao arrives!!! Now, if there was one dumpling in the world that I love more than any other, it would have to be this one. I’d happily fill up on Xiao Long Bao anytime :)

      I feast my eyes on the dainty, thin-skinned, pleated parcels filled with a dollop of seasoned pork and a scoop of broth set before me. They bulge ominously, as though about to break but they’re surprisingly strong, never breaking during the steamer to spoon transfer. They only do so in my mouth and let loose an explosive combination of pork filling and rich steaming soup... It’s an intense hit of juiciness and meatiness at the same time. Absolutely sensational!

      If you’ve never had Xiao Long Bao before, it's one of those foods that you absolutely must try in your lifetime.

       Xiao Long Bao, 8 pieces (Chef's Recommendation)

       Xiao Long Bao dipped in vinegar and slivers of ginger (the recommended accompaniment to bring out the flavours of the dumpling).

      Chinese dumplings are a work of art. The skill in creating firm, elastic, transparent dough skins of the exact same size and thickness, which don’t tear or unravel, requires discipline and extreme quality control. Din Tai Fung makes such dumplings with precision in addition to great taste. Overall, I had a pleasant dining experience here. The wait staffs were well-mannered, not overly attentive and efficient with their service. The food here is a bit expensive, fortunately I had an Entertainment Book voucher that entitled me to 25% off the total bill but that said, I’m still looking forward to returning to all those lovely soup dumplings waiting to be slurped up and desserts still to try! 

      Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

      Wednesday, January 6, 2010

      Lamb and Potato in Lettuce Cups

      This is kinda like a sang chow bow where the meat is wrapped up in the lettuce. It's a very refreshing and light entree to eat, particularly in the Summer months.

      This dish can be cooked up to the stage of stirring in the cooked potato (step 8), the day before required. Reheat and add potato when ready to serve.

      Serves 4-6


      500g lamb mince
      6 large iceberg lettuce leaves
      8 dried Chinese mushrooms
      1 large potato, diced into small cubes
      ¾ cup oil
      1 large onion, diced into small cubes
      1 small red capsicum, diced into small cubes
      1 garlic clove, crushed
      1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
      2 teaspoons cornflour
      ½ cup water
      1 teaspoon sesame oil
      2 teaspoons soy sauce
      1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
      Salt, to taste


      1. Refresh lettuce leaves in iced water, drain, then trim them into cups of even size with kitchen scissors. Refrigerate until required.
      2. In a bowl, cover mushrooms with boiling water and stand for 1 hour. Drain, then remove and discard stems. Finely dice the mushroom caps into small cubes.
      3. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add potato cubes and fry until golden brown and just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
      4. Remove oil from wok, reserving 1 tablespoon. Reheat oil, then add lamb and stir fry over high heat until lamb is well browned all over.
      5. Add onion, red capsicum, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until onion is soft, then add mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute.
      6. Combine the cornflour, water, sesame oil and sauces in a separate bowl or jug and mix well.
      7. Pour the sauce into the wok and stir constantly over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
      8. Stir in potatoes, cook until heated through. Add salt to taste. Let mixture cool for a few minutes, then spoon into lettuce cups to serve.

      Monday, January 4, 2010

      Samurai Japanese Cafe

      Didn't feel like cooking last night so hubby and I went to Samurai Japanese Cafe in Balmain for dinner. I had learned of this restaurant whilst browsing some recipes online for wasabi ice cream. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the restaurant it was no longer on the menu :( I was so disappointed since I was so looking forward to trying such a unique flavour of ice cream!

      Overall, most of the food we ordered here was nice and good value for money. The food on the menu is mainly hearty almost home-style Japanese, with some sophisticated elements, but it's mainly comfort food.

      Service was efficient and staff were friendly.

      Antique-style prints of Japanese scenes decorate the walls of the restaurant whilst soft glowing lanterns shielded by pretty painted parasols gave it a funky feel with a warm welcome.

      For entree we had salmon sashimi, ebi gyoza and seafood okonomyaki. Salmon sashimi was beautifully presented to us on a bed of salad leaves and tasted wonderfully fresh.

      Salmon Sashimi $9.00

      A short time later our Ebi Gyoza arrives. These prawn dumplings were delicately wrapped in rice paper and each mouthful was tasty :)

      Ebi Gyoza $8.80

      Our Seafood Okonomiyaki arrives next and it's a round mayo and tangy Okonomiyaki sauce lattice patterned delight. Cutting it into quarters the texture is soft and crispy with plenty of prawns and fish. The taste is both tangy and creamy all at once.

      Seafood Okonomiyaki $11.50

      My favourite dish, the salmon tataki is next and it's delicious. A row of rectangular shaped salmon sashimi sits seared on the outside atop a bed of onions and covered in Samurai’s unique mayo miso sauce and scattered atop are deep fried noodle shards. The sauce on this dish is nice and the salmon is soft and the noodles crispy and the sauce liberally doused on it so that its flavour upon soft crispiness. Lovely!

      Salmon Tataki $17.00

      The next main to arrive is the Kakuni- stewed scotch fillet in ginger and soy, accompanied with wilted spinach. This dish was somewhat disappointing in that the meat was quite dry and I struggled to swallow the meat without the help of a few mouthfuls of water. Whilst the sauce was nice and flavoursome, I didn't like the fact that the meat wasn't smooth and melting in my mouth. Not to mention, the mains didn't arrive at the same time. This dish came out 10-15 minutes after the salmon tataki.

      Kakuni $14.00

      Desserts were next and the sake pear with green tea ice cream and red beans (blackboard dessert special) arrives looking gorgeous with a paper umbrella. Unforuntately, the sake pear was not particularly sake-ish, tasting more like an unspiked sweet simmered pear. It was still very light and refreshing as a dessert and a great way to end the night. The green tea ice cream was bursting full of green tea flavour and the red beans were candied with a sugar syrup.

      Sake Pear with Green Tea Ice Cream & Red Beans $7.00

      For dessert, hubby ordered tempura green tea ice cream drizzled with syrup. This Japanese version of the Chinese deep fried ice cream was somewhat of a let down. The tempura batter didn't taste very crispy and the ice cream inside the tempura batter had melted to the point that it was a pool of green liquid once the batter that encased it was broken through. Still prefer the Chinese style of deep frying an ice cream....

      Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream $4.50

      Samurai Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

      Saturday, January 2, 2010

      Chocolate Dipped Strawberries


      1 cup milk or dark chocolate melts
      1 cup white chocolate melts
      2 punnets (500g) strawberries

      Microwavable bowls x2
      Metal spoons
      Empty egg cartons
      Disposable piping bags

      1. Melt milk chocolate and white chocolate melts, in separate bowls, one at a time, in a microwave on medium for 30 seconds, stirring after each time until smooth.
      2. Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Thread strawberries onto skewers. Then dip half the strawberries in melted milk chocolate and half in white chocolate. Poke skewers into the egg cartons. When set, remove the strawberries from the skewers and place onto the tray.
      3. Place the remaining melted chocolate in separate disposable piping bags. Drizzle the opposite colour chocolate over the strawberries, allow to set and then serve.
      Note: Make the same day as serving, otherwise the juice from strawberries will soften chocolate.  

      Melting Chocolate
      If you don't have a microwave, you can melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Be careful that the base of the bowl does not touch the water. 
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