Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hangover Orecchiette

I was feeling slightly delicate today after a big night out last night, and I wanted to make a bowl of Keema from Nigella Lawson's Feast. Keema is an Indian spicy mixture of minced lamb and peas, which is apparently perfect for the day after the night before. Sadly though, my parents wanted to have leftovers for dinner, so I couldn't justify going out and buying the lamb for it. This, you see, would have just created more leftovers, thus exacerbating the problem.

So, I made this. I have fallen in love with frozen peas, and wanted to use them in a pasta dish. I also vaguely recall Giorgio Locatelli having an orecchiette dish with anchovies and green vegetables, and thus thought they would go well together. We also have some very nearly overripe tomatoes sitting on the kitchen bench...

Hangover Orecchiette



Put water for the pasta on the boil. When it's boiling, add salt and cook 100g orecchiette according to packet instructions.

Add some oil to a frying pan, add a small crushed garlic clove, a little bit of chopped onion and three large anchovies. Stir it around until the onion is soft and the anchovies have become mush. Add a finely chopped birdseye chilli (keep the seeds), a diced tomato and a couple of handfuls of frozen peas. Stir over medium heat until the peas are cooked and the tomato has gone mushy. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Stir to combine and serve with pecorino cheese shavings.

Serves 1

Now I know Italians don't serve cheese with fish, but this is my dish, and my hangover, dammit! It's good, it works! The heat of the chilli, the sharpness of the anchovies and cheese, and the bite of the pasta (it's better more al dente than normal, in my opinion) all work together really well. Similar to (I imagine) the Keema, this pasta is a reviving hangover cure in a bowl.

Which celebrity chef are you?

Class Act



You're a glamorous Nigella in the kitchen. You like your food and your cooking to be sensuous. As far as you're concerned, eating should be all about slurping and unbridled pleasure. In the kitchen, you're mildly disorganized and you like it that way. So, pour yourself a martini and get into that pinny. You know you look sexy in it.

Which Celebrity Chef are You?

Now, did you really expect anything different?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Whatcha been up to lately?

Oh dear, this blog’s been looking a bit neglected lately. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been cooking or eating, but simply that I’ve been too busy to blog all the time. So here is a collection of small things that I have been making and eating recently, which are too small to warrant a whole post, but which I love too much not to share.


Wholemeal soft dinner rolls with Vegemite and Butter (Feast)

These bread rolls are easy to make and absolutely delicious straight out of the oven with unsalted butter, vegemite and jam (although not all together). The thing about them though, is that they never get finished and I always end up chucking a couple of mouldy ones out after a few days. Maybe I should save them for when we have lots of people around.


Lemon salad (Forever Summer)

The recipe for this salad is in Forever Summer, and is called “Cold Roast Beef with Lemon Salad”. I love the festively red and yellow flecks of chilli and lemon throughout the leaves. And because we didn’t have any roast beef, I followed Nigella’s suggestion of serving it with steak. It’s quick, it’s healthy and very very good.


White chocolate and raspberry souffle (not mine, unfortunately!)

Last week I went to a dinner party in Glen Waverley, and the dessert they served was a very impressive white chocolate and raspberry soufflé. It rose, it was very sweet, and the raspberries inside were HOT!


Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad (Forever Summer)

I made this salad, again from Forever Summer, because we had a watermelon sitting around from Chinese New Year and I wanted to use it up. It is such a fabulous combination; in fact, I prefer it to the ordinary Greek salad (and even Nigella’s “Ultimate Greek Salad”).


Chilled Pea and Mint Soup with salad, ricotta on Turkish bread and roast capsicum (Forever Summer)

This is a yummy soup. I had this summery lunch on Tuesday when my friend Frances came over. It's very quick to make, provided you have frozen peas in the freezer (and I always have frozen peas in my freezer). I also had a bunch of mint lying around threatening to die on me, so this was a good way to use them. It's delicious warm, and nice chilled as well. I think it's a good thing to have sitting in the fridge for healthy snacking. Look how green it is, it MUST be good for you!


Soba noodles with poached chicken, spinach and mushrooms (adapted from Bill Granger's bills food)

I wanted to make something healthy, and we had chicken breasts in the fridge. Bill's recipe teams the soba and fragrant poached chicken (fragrant thanks to the addition of spices in the cooking liquid) with snow pea shoots and radish. Unfortuantely, I had neither at home so I used Chinese mushrooms and frozen spinach, which is another addiction of mine. Also, I didn't use garlic in the dressing to spoon over the chicken, as I was afraid of acrid garlic-breath. Instead we sprinkled over nanami togarashi (Japanese chilli pepper) to add vibrant colour and lift the flavour. My family loved it.

Dad: hopefully... Is there any more of the green vegetable??


So those are the little things that I've been making and eating over the past 10 days or so. And by the way, since Wednesday I have been cooking a lot because my fantastic gay uncle-slash-godfather is visiting us from Malaysia for two weeks... in the style of true Malaysian hospitality, we're fattening him up something chronic! I haven't been taking photos of all the food, because it's stuff I've made and blogged before. I think I'll just present a list of dishes at the end of his trip here...

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rosewater

I've just discovered rosewater, and I love it! I've got lots of recipes for it, and I know that Nigella loves it - loads of the desserts in Forever Summer have flower waters in them. But I had always been reluctant to try them, because the mere thought of flower water summons to mind ideas of incredibly sweet, over-perfumed soapy tasting desserts which I must have tried in my childhood, and absolutely hated. And I would have hated to buy a whole bottle of the stuff, only to use it once and have it sit untouched in the pantry for all eternity.

On Monday, I went to Aix Creperie, a tiny bolthole of a cafe in a lane in the city, and noticed on the menu "Mango Crepe with Rosewater Yogurt". At only $6.80, (and probably a bit healthier than all the chocolatey, creamy, sugary alternatives) I thought I may as well try it, to see if a bottle of rosewater would be a worthwhile investment. Unfortunately, they were out of mangoes. However, they also had "Mixed Berry Crepe with Rosewater Yogurt", so I went for that. And it was really delicious! The rosewater flavour was subtly present, but not overpowering, and really complemented the tartness of the berries. It added a new level of flavour to the dish.

So this morning, Mum and I made a trip down to Nuts R' Us, a nearby Iranian store. We picked up rosewater, orange flower water, pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, pomegranate molasses and saffron. What a wonderful store!

And by coincidence, later on today, I had another rosewater experience! Mum, my brother, my godfather from Penang and I all went down to Brunswick street for a bite to eat, and we came across Trampoline, a really lovely gelati store, which has its own chocolate fountain! (I know, droolness!) Well, when it comes to me and gelati, resistance is futile, so I had a cup with three flavours - blood orange, lime and lychee sorbet and "love" flavour.

"If love was an ice-cream, it would taste like roses!"

So basically it was rosewater flavoured ice-cream, adorned with little heart shaped chocolates... It was so beautiful! In taste AND appearance. Now I would like to give it a go making it at home...

I can't wait to start using rosewater in my cooking!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Granola Muffins

I made muffins for breakfast this morning. These are (again) from the Breakfast chapter in Nigella's Feast. She actually suggests using store-bought granola in the muffins for ease, but I always have huge quantities of homemade granola at home (also from the Breakfast chapter in Feast), so why not?

I also followed Nigella's ease-making suggestion of measuring out the ingredients the night before, so that when I woke up, all I had to do was turn on the oven, lightly mix the ingredients together and bake them.


Granola Muffins

They have a heavenly aroma, the cinnamon in the granola wafting through the house as they bake. They're soft on the bottom, crunchy on the top and thoroughly delicious.

Mmmm.... These muffins "with their buttermilk-lightened crumb and dried fruit and nut filling, are just what you want your morning muffin to be".


My Granola muffin with a cup of coffee

Before making these, I had fretted and worried about how we were going to finish them (the recipe makes 12), and asked around for advice on freezing and defrosting baked goods. Hah. How unnecessary. We had two each this morning, I had one for afternoon tea and Mum had one for supper. So there are two left, and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll be eaten before they have a chance to go stale.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Linguine with Chilli, Crab and Watercress (Forever Summer)

I've made this once before, and it turned out allright... but having recently seen Nigella make it on Forever Summer (the TV program), I was inspired to give it another go.

You mix garlic, salt, chillies, oil, crab and lemon in a pestle and mortar, and toss it through cooked linguine, before adding watercress and chopped parsley. We didn't have enough crab (just one tin), so I chucked in a tin of delicious Sirena tuna as well. By the way, this is the most fabulous tinned tuna, and has now become the only one I will eat willingly. Also, watercress is difficult to find at supermarkets, so I used rocket. I thought it would be suitable as they both have a peppery taste. I was right.


Linguine with Chilli, Crab, Tuna and Rocket (adapted from Forever Summer)

I apologise for the presentation of this dish - we devoured half of it before I realised that I hadn't taken a photo! And it is really delicious. I ate it for lunch, and again for dinner. I would have eaten it for supper that night (straight after the Scissor Sisters' concert!), but it was already finished, sadly.

The lemon zest gives it the freshest taste - summer in a bowl! I think the last time I made it I must have been too lazy to zest the lemon, and also I probably skimped on the oil. For shame, for shame. It makes all the difference!

Try it, try it. It's so easy, and seriously good. Just one note about linguine - it needs at least double the amount of cooking time stated on the packet. And you have to keep stirring it as you cook it (in plenty of salted boiling water), so that they don't clump together. Just keep checking it. Tricky... but so worth it...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

I made pancakes for the first time in years on Tuesday morning. These are from the Breakfast chapter in Feast. They are just ordinary pancakes with buttermilk instead of regular milk and a mashed banana thrown in. The addition of banana makes it light and fluffy, with a great aroma – but without an overpowering banana taste (you know, like in Banana Paddle Pops… ick!).

My dad leaves for work at 7:30am on Tuesdays, and because I wanted to use that ripe banana ASAP, I decided to wake up early and do them. I told dad to wake me up at 6:45. My dad, always the punctual one, was a bit eager...

Dad: Flicks light on Get up! It’s 6:30!

Rudely awoken from my sleep, I lazily reached for my mobile phone next to my bed to check the time. It was only 6:20!!! Grrr... But anyway, I got up and started mixing and frying. By the way, I'd measured everything out the night before, so just mixed everything together with my eyes closed and by the time I'd finished frying, I had woken up properly.

And we all sat down for breakfast together, even my brother. He woke up at this ungodly hour when Mum yelled "Sarah's making breakfast!" Hah.


Steaming pile of pancakes

Nigella suggests having them with honey and pumpkin seeds, a very nice combination. We also had ours with St. Dalfour jam (strawberry, citrus and so on). Breakfast bliss!


Banana Buttermilk Pancakes with honey and pumpkin seeds...

Pancake making has a special place in my heart, because they were the first things I ever learned how to cook, and I used to make them every weekend when I was 8. Ahh... memories!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Custard Cream Hearts

So it’s Valentine’s Day on Monday. And knowing me, of course I’m not celebrating it romantically (hah), but only culinarily. In the “Valentine’s Day” chapter of Feast, there are three sweet treat recipes – Love Buns, a Chocolate Raspberry Heart cake and Custard Cream Hearts. Given that I don’t think I need any more chocolate right this minute, and that I’m saving the Love Buns for a gay dinner party, I decided to make the Custard Cream Hearts.

In her description of the cookies, Nigella says that these custard creams have been “hitherto… only known in its packet form”, and that through baking them, you experience a Wildean thing, “reproducing artifice by more natural means”. I have had Arnott’s custard creams before, and loved them. However, after making these biscuits, I realised that they bear much more resemblance to those Yo-Yo biscuits that I used to bake as a little girl. So, for me, baking these was more a nostalgic trip rather than any sort of postmodern self-aware exercise in intellectualism…

Custard Creams are more British than Australian, so I suppose that if they were more popular in Australia I’d probably get the full Wildean experience upon baking these… maybe if I tried making Tim Tams or Mint Slices I’d get the right idea.

Anyhow, they’re just plain butter biscuits, made with the addition of custard powder, and sandwiched together with a custard-powdered buttercream. They’re crumbly, “frangible” and very very yummy! (With no bicarby fuzzy tongue taste… heh heh heh…) They're the first things I've made with my new Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen cookie cutters. And despite some negative feedback from other forum-members, I found the heart cutter a breeze to use!


Cookie halves cooling on rack


My Custard Cream Hearts (recipe in the background)

The recipe makes 14 biscuits (i.e. 28 single hearts sandwiched together), which is entirely appropriate for Valentine’s Day. HOWEVER, seeing as there are four in my family and two whole days to go… they might not last until then!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Year of the Cock #3: Let the leftovers commence...

On Chinese New Year's day, you're not supposed to do any cooking, which means that you just eat leftovers. There were some of the dishes we had at dinner (chicken curry and duck soup), plus a huge tub of pasta salad primavera which I'd made for a picnic concert thang, the boiled whole chicken and the almond cookies. We are still working our way through them.

On New Year's day, for pudding at lunch I had some almond cookies, on the side of a scoop of vanilla icecream with honey and toasted pinenuts. Such a dreamy combination.


Yes, it's out of focus. But it tasted so good!

Yesterday Dad also bought a couple of roast ducks to add to the soup, and to eat plain... there's still a lot left.

As delicious as all this food is, I can't wait for us to finish it so we can start cooking new things! Excluding breakfast, I've had that pasta salad five meals in a row!!

Year of the Cock #2: Baking for New Year

This year I took it upon myself to do a lot of New Year baking. Usually we just buy those incredibly delicious salty-sweet yam cookies, but I found a recipe for little almond cookies in Delicious magazine, and I thought that they would be a good alternative.

And as I have said previously, I wanted there to be a huge sense of fullness and abundance going through the house on the special day, so I did a LOT of baking on Monday - muesli, granola and these cookies. I was pooped! Also, we bought loads of fruits (peaches, oranges, lemons, lychees, a pomegranate...) and had them displayed around the kitchen. In my Living Kitchen Platter too!


Fruit in Living Kitchen platter

Here is a picture of the little almond cookies. The recipe says it will make about 40, I think, but I got 67 out of the mixture. I actually measured them individually with a teaspoon - so they were all exactly the same size. They were gorgeous, like little coins! Go symbolism!


Little Almond Cookies (Jill Dupleix) - almond on the left, peanut on the right. I also did cashew ones.

I wouldn't say that the biscuits were especially good (even though my family and friends seemed to love them), but they were definitely compulsive. Just like Pringles - you know, "Once you pop, you can't stop" and all that. They're not crunchy, just chewy, and with a hint of spiciness thanks to a touch of both cinnamon and ginger.

Quotes:

Dad: After dinner Come on Daniel, have a cookie!
Daniel: I would, but I already had six today!

Kate: They've got this spicy taste in them that makes them really good.
Dad: Hor chia. Chinchia hor chia. (Tasty. Very tasty)

In all honesty, they're super fun to make... but not the best biscuits. If it were up to me, I wouldn't make them again. I miss the yam cookies!! I'd probably make these for my family next year and also buy a pack of yam cookies.

Year of the Cock #1: New Year's Eve Dinner

Chinese New Year was on Wednesday. Mum did all the cooking, and started on Sunday, because we had to offer food to our ancestors on that night. Including, amusingly, a whole boiled chicken - complete with head and feet - which she had never done before and which freaked her out immensely.

"Aiyo... the poor chicken couldn't fit in the pot! Its little head was bent so strange! Aiya! Don't want to cook chicken like that again!"

(Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the chicken and it has since been dismembered and partially eaten)...

Anyway, as tradition dictates, on new year's eve the whole family must eat dinner together. We have here our traditional Chinese New Year's eve feast (but every family and every region has its own unique traditions and customs). On the left, loh bak, kiam chye th'ng in the middle and curry chicken kapitan on the left. Plus a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Because we love it.



Loh Bak is traditionally made with minced pork, but seeing as I don't do pig, my mum makes it with minced chicken. What it is, is minced spiced meat, wrapped in soybean paper like a log, deep fried and sliced. You have it with tomato-chilli-sesame seed sauce and cucumbers. It's one of my favourites!

Kiam Chye Th'ng is duck soup with mustard greens, mushrooms and tomatoes. Again, this traditionally has pork bones in it as well, but we leave it out. I love the salty-sour taste of this soup. And as a bonus, it lasts for ages because you keep adding things to it and reboiling. (E.g. today we bought some roast duck and whacked it in with extra mushrooms.) Basically it lasts until all the mustard greens are used up, I guess.

And Curry Chicken Kapitan, a basic Malaysian chicken curry - just chicken and gravy, no potatoes or other vegetabley fandango. I can't remember exactly what the gravy has in it, but I figure that it's spices, chillies, onions and possibly a bit of coconut milk. But it's not one of those Thai-style coconutty curries. It has a very thick, concentrated gravy. This year mum followed Aunty Winnie's recipe and added kaffir lime leaves to the gravy... took it to a whole new level of tastiness. Mmm...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

More Living Kitchen Products have arrived!

On Monday, I received in the mail two more Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen products from Peters of Kensington - the cookie cutters and another 3 litre storage jar, this time in white.

I can't wait to use the cookie cutters. Making cookies (duh), decorating birthday cakes and so on. I could even write dirty words with them! Ooer! I've heard reports though that they're difficult to use... I'll just have to wait and see.

And in my mad rush of pre-Chinese New Year baking, I made lots of cereal. For general good luck and in the hope of prosperity throughout the year, I felt it was a good idea to keep all our jars (rice, cereal, fruit bowls etc) full to the brim. Luckily the white storage jar arrived before New Year so I could fill it!


Regular Granola in the left, Choc Granola in the right

They just look so cute sitting together!

Other Living Kitchen products posts:
My latest living kitchen acquisitions
Me and my salt pig

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Joy of Leftovers

I've never really been keen on leftovers. I think that it stems from my childhood, because my father never liked leftovers and was loath to eat them (which, thankfully, my mother very rarely 'forced' him or us to do), and of course I followed him.

Despite Nigella Lawson's unbridled enthusiasm for them, up until recently, I would always very carefully clingfilm and refrigerate any left over food, only to throw it out a week later after retrieving a smelly bowl of something mouldy and unrecognisable from the corner of the fridge (OK, so I'm exaggerating - but not a lot). So I never really understood her love of leftovers.

But what I ate for lunch today has turned me around once and for all. The past few days have been incredibly stressful - searching for concert tickets, baking up a storm for Chinese New Year and so on. Today, I came home from a hectic and rainy morning in the city to my warm and quiet home. In the fridge, there was a huge bowl of what I now call Tricolore Penna Alla Vodka (so called because I added white mozzarella and green basil to the red sauce), a meaty chicken carcass leftover from a Green Masala Roast Chicken, and some cherry tomatoes. So, I ripped the meat off the chicken, chucked it into the pasta, microwaved it until piping hot, stirred in the cherry tomatoes and very generously grated pecorino cheese into it. Then I retreated to my room, sat in bed and ate this big bowl of piping hot pasta and felt that all was right with the world.


Tricolore Penne Alla Vodka

Plus...


Green Masala Roast Chicken

Equals...


Leftover heaven!

Monday, February 07, 2005

A fantasy dinner party...

Recently on the Nigella.com forum, someone posed the question: if you could choose 6 guests to invite to a dinner party, who would you choose?

And, if we're talking celebrities, and not "real" people (so not, unfortunately, my friends and family who live overseas), here is my list.

1. Nigella Lawson - She's totally my culinary hero. I know it might be a bit intimidating, but from her books and shows she doesn't seem to be the type who'd get all judgemental if the food wasn't perfect!

2. The Rock - Partly because he's super-cool, super-hot and a kickass wrestler. But mainly so that I could say "Hey! Can YOU smell what I'M cooking?" (Yes, I realise that I have a lame sense of humour).

3. Gwen Stefani - Just because she's so cool (style-icon status for me) - and I'd love to see her clothes up close!

4. Ben Elton - For intelligent conversation. I've been the hugest fan of his for the longest time - his books are fantastic, his stand-up is hilarious, and I really liked We Will Rock You.

5. Jake Shears - Because he's a great singer, a total spunk and a raging homosexual. I could make stuff like sticky burnt sausages, creamed spinach, chocolate-cherry cupcakes, spotted dick etc. Ooh... double entendres in culinary form!

6. David Bowie - Ditto the spunk factor. I've seen him live twice, and am totally in love with the man. And his music. And his image. Also, from interviews and concerts and stuff, he seems like a relaxed type of person, so that would help with the stress-factor.

Man, that's a great group of very cool people.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Soba Noodles Galore

On the request of some fellow forum members at Nigella.com, here are a bunch of soba recipes... Delicious.

Just one caveat - these recipes are all copied straight from various recipe books I have - and in general I think that 100g of soba per person is way too much, and leaves me well bloated (or with lots of leftovers)... I usually go for 75g per person as a main meal.

But anyway, cold soba noodles are absolutely fantastic eaten the next day for breakfast.

A previous post on Terry Durack's Soba, including information on the taste and health properties of soba noodles

The recipes:

Soba noodles with Salmon (Jill Dupleix's Old Food)
Chilled soba with oysters (Jill Dupleix's Old Food)
Terry Durack's chilled soba with prawns
Zaru Soba from Japanese Cookery

Happy cooking!

Soba noodles with Salmon (Jill Dupleix's Old Food)

"A light, clean, healthy bowl of soba noodles topped with grilled teriyaki salmon is the perfect supper dish, quick to do and easy to digest."

400g soba noodles
1 knob fresh ginger
4 small salmon fillets, skinned
1 bunch of spinach, washed and stemmed
4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

Dashi Broth
1.5 litres water
15g instant dashi powder
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs mirin

Teriyaki sauce (if you can find a bottle of teriyaki sauce, just use that)
2 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tbs sake
1 tbs mirin
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp peanut oil

To make teriyaki sauce, combine soy, sake, mirin, sugar and oil in a small pot and heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Heat water in a second pot, and add dashi powder, soy and mirin. Peel ginger, cut into cubes and crush in a garlic press until you have 1 tbs of ginger juice. Add juice to the broth and adjust flavourings to taste.

Fill a large pot three-quarters full with cold water and bring to a high boil. Add the noodles, separating them as they go in. Allow the water to return to the boil, then add a cup of cold water. Allow to return to the boil, then add a second cup of cold water. When the water boils once more, remove from the heat, drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, and drain again.

Brush salmon with teriyaki sauce and grill quickly, on an oiled grill, leaving the inside lightly pink. Bring broth to just below the boil. Add noodles for 30 seconds to heat through, then divied noodles between 4 warmed bowls. Dip spinach leaves briefly into the broth to wilt them, and divide among bowls.

Ladle hot broth into each bowl, and top noodles with grilled salmon. Scatter green onions on top and serve with chopsticks and spoons.

Serves 4

Chilled soba with Oysters (Jill Dupleix's Old Food)

This recipe, which is quite similar to Terry Durack's one, is light and tasty, and luxurious on a hot day.

2 cups water
2 tsp instant dashi powder
1 tbs mirin
1 tbs soy sauce
400g soba noodles
2 tsp dried wakame seaweed
2 spring onions
1 small cucumber
1 tsp sesame oil
12 freshly opened oysters, chilled
2 tbs Japanese pickled ginger

To make dressing, bring water to the boil, and add dashi powder, mirin and soy, stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Fill a large pot three-quarters full with cold water and bring to a high boil. Add the noodles, separating them as they go in. Allow the water to return to the boil, then add a cup of cold water. Allow to return to the boil, then add a second cup of cold water. When the water boils once more, remove from the heat, drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, drain again and chill.

Soak wakame in a small bowl of warm water for 15 minutes where it will expand like crazy. Drain and set aside.

Finely cut spring onion greens on the diagonal and set aside. Peel cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut into thin slices, then again into matchstick lengths.

Toss cucumber, noodles, drained wakame and sesame oil together in a bowl,, and distribute among four Japanese bowls. Moisten each bowl with a spoonful or two of the dressing. Top with chilled oysters, 3 per bowl, moisten with a little remaining dressing, and scatter with onion greens.

Serve with Japanese pickled ginger.

Serves 4

Chilled Soba noodles with prawns (Terry Durack's recipe)

This was printed in Vogue Entertaining and Travel, Feb/March 2005, and has already become a staple in my household. Sometimes I leave out the prawns, and add sliced shiitake mushrooms on the top. You can also add grated or finely julienned carrot to the cucumber strips as they sit in their marinade for colour and taste.

A picture & review of the recipe

Dressing
2 tbs mirin
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar

Soba & Prawns
12 medium green prawns, unpeeled
½ medium cucumber, peeled
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp mirin
½ tsp salt
250g soba noodles
2 spring onions, green part only
½ sheet toasted nori

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, then cover and refrigerate.

To clean the prawns, insert a fine bamboo skewer through the back of each shell near the tail and hook out the intestinal tract. Cook in simmering, salted water for 3 minutes, drain and leave to cool.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and, with a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Finely slice lengthwise, then into matchstick strips. Toss the cucumber with the rice vinegar, mirin and salt and leave for 30 minutes.

Add the noodles to a large pot of boiling water. Bring the water back to the boil, then add a cup of cold water. Repeat this process at least twice more until the noodles are cooked. Drain and plunge them into iced water. Drain again and refrigerate. Finely cut the spring onion greens into 4cm lengths, then again into fine strips. Cut the nori into very fine filaments, about 8cm long, using scissors.To serve, toss the noodles in the dressing, drain and pile onto four serving plates. Toss the spring onion with the cucumber, drain and scatter over the noodles. Peel the prawns and arrange on top with a thatch of nori strips.

Serves 4 as an entree

Zaru-Soba (Japanese Cookery)

This is the traditional way of serving soba – cold noodles with a dipping sauce, and other condiments.

Ingredients

1½ cups hon dashi
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs mirin
1 ½ tbs sugar
4 portions dried soba (about 700g)
½ sheet dried nori seaweed
1/3 c spring onions
2 tsp wasabi paste

To make the dipping sauce, combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan and heat enough so that the sugar dissolves. Then chill the sauce.

Fill a large pot three-quarters full with cold water and bring to a high boil. Add the noodles, separating them as they go in. Allow the water to return to the boil, then add a cup of cold water. Allow to return to the boil, then add a second cup of cold water. When the water boils once more, remove from the heat, drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, drain again and chill. Serve on four plates or in small bamboo baskets.

Place the condiments – the spring onions and wasabi – in small separate dishes, and give each person a small bowl of dipping sauce. Crumble the nori over the mounds of noodles as a garnish. (If it’s not already toasted, then pass it over an open flame for about a minute to toast it). To eat, season the dipping sauce with condiments according to taste, and dip the noodles into the sauce.

Serves 4 generously

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Low-Carb Indian!

Green Masala Roast Chicken (Cooking like Mummyji)
Muttar Paneer (Feast)

A guy called James posted up this recipe for Green Masala Roast Chicken on Nigella.com... it sounded delicious, and different from the usual roast chicken recipes, so I just had to try it.

The chicken is steamed first, and then covered with a spicy-yoghurt paste, left to marinate for 30 minutes and then roasted in the oven.


Cooking like Mummyji's Green Masala Roast Chicken

It tastes really good, and my dad loved it. Absolutely loved it.

And I served it with yummy yummy Muttar Paneer (peas and cheese). I love paneer (Indian cottage cheese), and had never thought to cook this dish at home until I saw it in Nigella Lawson's Feast. She's right, it's so much better than restaurant food. (Apologies to the good folks at Aasiana, my favourite Indian restaurant!)


Muttar Paneer from Feast

Friday, February 04, 2005

White Chocolate and Pistachio Biscuits (How to be a Domestic Goddess)

I made these yesterday because I was incredibly depressed in the morning, and I thought that baking would cheer me up. By the time I started baking in the afternoon, I mistakenly thought that these were no longer commiseration-cookies, but celebration-cookies. Of course, this morning I discovered that they were, indeed, commiseration-cookies. But that does not detract, in any way, from their deliciousness.

I have made this biscuits before, ages ago, and I recall them being nice, but unspectacular. I chose to reprise them simply because I had pistachios and white chocolate sitting around… In fact, initially I was thinking of making the Breakfast Biscotti again (because they’re lower in fat), and simply replacing the almonds and dark chocolate with pistachios and white chocolate. But my brother said to me, “Just make the biscuits! Don’t make things so complicated!” So off I went to make the fantastically sugary and buttery biscuits from the original recipe.

The cookie dough turns a fabulous shade of green, thanks to the addition of ground pistachios.


Wonderful nubbly green dough

They also spread out quite a bit on cooking, so there’s no need to squish them down too much. I think they’re better a bit thicker anyway. The recipe states that it will make “about 36” biscuits. Hah. I got 29. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with slightly larger biscuits. Largeness is a completely desirable quality in a biscuit.


Pre-cooked biscuits


Tray of biscuits cooling

They are absolutely delicious! Much better the second time around. (And I owe it all to my KitchenAid mixer and new oven… I think). I would describe their texture as akin to Mrs. Fields’ cookies – soft and chewy, with a slight crunch. And it would be easy to substitute other nuts and chocolates. White choc and macadamia! Pecan and dark chocolate! Peanut, milk chocolate and raisins! Oh the possibilities!

I feel quite guilty though, they’re so nice that my dad can’t stop eating them.
I remember the last time I felt depressed, my friend Nathan suggested that I bake and eat a whole chocolate cake. Tempting idea, but I restrained myself in the end. I have since discovered that biscuit baking is the ideal depression cure. The baking is fun, it smells great, and you can (theoretically) eat only one cookie, thus feeling comforted but not entirely guilt-ridden. As Nigella says, these cookies provide “elegance and comfort” in each bite. I had one delicious cookie and then scarpered sharpish to the gym.

Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf (Forever Summer)

This one’s an oldie but a goodie. It was one of the first dishes I made when I first bought Forever Summer (which was the first Nigella book I’d ever bought), and it was the first dish that was a complete and utter success with my family… it inspired such confidence in myself and in my ability to cook. I hadn’t made it for a while (you know, low carb diets and all), and having recently seen Nigella make it on TV, I thought it was time to give it another go.

The recipe serves six, generously. I thought we were going to have leftovers, but in the afternoon I decided to invite my friends Frances and Ed to join us for dinner.

The pilaf comprises bite-sized pieces of fried, marinated chicken meat, which are folded through basmati rice cooked in chicken stock (home-made too!) with pine nuts, almonds and cashews. Then you sprinkle chopped pistachios and parsley over for added taste and vibrant green. I also add sultanas to this dish, because I love the middle-eastern combination of sweet fruit in savoury dishes.


Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf – on my new Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen Serving Platter

It's a bit greener than you might expect - because I was very generous with the parsley and pistachios.


Half-demolished


The empty, speckled-egg of a platter (the speckles are parsley)

Yup. We finished it. Damn tasty.

And Frances brought over a poppyseed strudel for dessert. Yum. I would like to make Nigella's Honey Semifreddo for dessert the next time we have this, which will have to be when Uncle Cheok comes to stay... partly so he can try one of our favourite dishes, but mainly so we can share the calories.

I am Pistachio-Woman, hear me roar!

I've been doing a bit of cooking with pistachios over the past couple of days. They're great. I bought 250 grams from Nut King in Box Hill, even though all I needed was a handful for sprinkling over a pilaf. I just would have felt kinda guilty for going up to the shop (which hardly has any customers anyway) and asking for $2 worth of nuts.

Pistachios are expensive, 250 grams costs $7.50... but they're so good!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Nigella's Breakfasts

My most-used chapter in Feast would have to be the Breakfast chapter. (See my previous post on the magnificent Andy's Fairfield Granola).

It all started with the Granola. It’s delicious. It’s nutritious (I hope). Well, I know it's full of fibre! (Don't ask for proof, just trust me). And my family loves it.


Andy's Fairfield Granola 1

In fact, I’ve been home from Malaysia less than a month, and I’ve already made it three times! (And the chocolate variation three times as well).


Andy's Fairfield Granola 2


Andy's Fairfield Granola 3 in Living Kitchen Storage Jar

I’ve also done the chocolate and peanut variation of the granola, which is just as, if not more, delicious. My dad prefers this one because he loves peanuts. In the recipe, Nigella says that she never puts raisins in the chocolate version, but I chose to ignore that suggestion. Chocolate, peanuts and raisins are a match made in heaven. (And anyone who’s ever had the chocolate fruit & nut cookies from Ben’s Cookies will know exactly what I’m talking about).


Choc Granola 1

Another recipe in the Breakfast chapter is the wonderful Muesli, which, whilst not as immediately addictive as the granolas, is now absolutely necessary in my kitchen to be a light alternative to the granolas, and as a delicious cereal in its own right.


Various Nigella cereals on Kitchen Bench.

In the above picture, the regular granola is on top, the chocolate granola is on the bottom, there is regular granola without raisins in the smaller container, and muesli behind the other cereals. You can’t really see it, but don’t worry, it doesn't look that exciting. By the way, the regular granola without raisins tastes incomplete. In fact, halfway through my breakfast of raisin-free granola, I had to go to the kitchen and add a handful of raisins myself to make it palatable.


Look at me go! I am so deliriously happy eating the Granola that I look like a cartoon crab from the Italian Ministry of Tourism…

And on to the Breakfast Biscotti. These are so easy to make, and fun too. I made them for the first time on Saturday, and have since made two more batches (it’s Wednesday today). I think they’re a good, lower-fat alternative to chocolate chip cookies. And dark chocolate is good for you anyway, as are almonds. I used 70% and 85% cocoa Lindt dark chocolate bars, which I chopped up myself, because I didn’t have dark chocolate chips.

You form the dough into a log (I do two logs because it’s easier to make them the right size that way), bake it, then slice it and let the slices dry out in the oven to become biscotti.


Baked, pre-sliced biscotti log

They can be hard to slice into shape without a very sharp knife, so I think it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of chocolate. And following Allan’s advice, I sprinkled the pre-baked biscuits with water and castor sugar for a delicious crunch. They’re highly addictive, very yummy, and perfect with coffee for a light breakfast or as a snack any time of the day.


Breakfast Biscotti 1

I love the way they looked when stacked up in a jar, just like a game of Jenga.


Breakfast Biscotti in a jar.

Quotes:

Jess T’s mum: upon eating biscotti Mmmm…. Mmm… MMMMM! Give Jess the recipe. Now!!
Daniel: upon eating biscotti Absolutely brilliant.

The cereals are so delicious that we’ve practically stopped buying cereal altogether. And bread-consumption has decreased dramatically in our household. (I still feel kinda guilty about the half-eaten loaf of sourdough bread from the local boulangerie that has since become rock-hard and inedible… but not guilty enough to choose toast over homemade cereal!)

The other recipes in the breakfast chapter that I want to try are the Banana Buttermilk Pancakes, the Cheesecakelets (like pikelets), Granola Muffins (with my homemade granola, of course), the Banana Breakfast Ring and the Breakfast Biscuits. Ooh and the Ricotta Hotcakes from Forever Summer.

With such delicious breakfasts, it's easy to see why breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

My latest Living Kitchen acquisitions...

Look what arrived in the mail on Friday!


3L storage jar, serving platter, citrus juicer

Peters of Kensington had a 50% off special on Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen range, so I just had to go and order some!

All the products are "Dishwasher and Microwave Safe". Thank god, because I really, really want to microwave a citrus juicer. (Only joking). Besides, the platter is so enormous that it wouldn't fit in a microwave or a dishwasher, or even a sink. I think we're gonna have to hose it down instead...

The only other Living Kitchen product that I owned up to that point was a blue Salt Pig, which Dad bought from Myer at a slight discount. Myer, the sneaky buggers, always have the Living Kitchen range at full price, even during "sales". Hmmph.

Peters of Kensington was fantastic. The website was easy to use, and the products arrived in the mail quite promptly. I was so excited when the enormous package arrived, filled with styrofoam beans.

I've put Andy's Fairfield Granola in the storage jar (recipe from Feast) but now I need another one for the chocolate version of the granola! I was tossing up between a smaller blue one, or a white one in the same size. As cute as two blue ones would be (I've seen photos of them together in Allan's kitchen), I ended up going for the larger one due to the sheer volume of chocolate granola that we go through.

I think the sale's ending soon, so I ordered the storage jar and also some cookie cutters... can't wait...

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Aubergine and Mozzarella

This is the second thing I've made from Jamie's Dinners. And I'm happy to say, it was a success! I first made it on Saturday night for Mum & I, and it was so tasty that we decided to do it for the whole family tonight (Monday) plus my friend Adri.


Penne with Sweet Tomatoes, Aubergine and Mozzarella (First round)

Jamie says "It's one of those dishes that tastes like home - it's comfort food and it makes you feel good". So very true. You fry up some eggplant (aka aubergine) with onion and garlic, then simmer it tomato and basil. And it's finished off with some double cream and mozzarella, which you rip in at the last minute to make stringy strings of good cheesy goodness. (But actually, I think there was too much cheese the second time... making it a bit difficult to scoop).

Tonight when I made it, I made it with this funny freaky-ass eggplant.

I don't know what it is with the recipes in this book, but they make HUGE quantities! The amount I made tonight was supposed to serve 4 people, but the five of us (who have big appetites) just couldn't get through it. It was tasted beautiful, but we just could not eat another mouthful.

Next time I make this, I'll probably miss out on the cream and use half the amount of mozzarella (also to make it less fattening!)