Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Unblogged Files: January

Hey hey y'all! Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a regular series: "The Unblogged Files".  I'll be posting recent food pics and experiences that I haven't blogged: things that I'm excited to share, but that don't quite need a whole post.  I find that I take so many pics on my iPhone that they sometimes don't make it to my Twitter or Facebook pages, let alone the blog!  I also had lots of fun making my 2011 Blog Round Up post, and I thought that the format would be a good way of keeping track of what I've been up to.  The key distinction is that my 2011 round-up post was a round up of my 2011 blog posts themselves, whereas "The Unblogged Files" will contain random things I haven't blogged.  Still with me?

I've obviously been inspired by Agnes' fab This Week in Brief series, which I really enjoy reading, but I haven't decided how regularly I'll be doing this.  Every month?  Every week?  Every fortnight?  I'm not working at the moment so I've got a bit of extra time to cook, take daytrips, visit cafes and restaurants, and blog.  At the rate I'm going I could probably justify a weekly post!  (If not a daily one, hehe!)  But I'm sure the food adventures will slow down once I'm back to work, so I won't set myself any strict timeframes.  I reckon I'll just be doing one of these posts whenever my phone starts looking a bit full and the mood strikes me!

And speaking of which... for today's post I'll be sharing foodie adventures from January!  I've been pretty busy, food-wise, this month, so it's gonna be a long one! Grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair.

My January started, as I'm sure many of yours did, with a renewed enthusiasm for healthy eating.  But of course, eating healthy around here doesn't mean a monotonous diet of rice cakes and sad little tins of tuna.  Above all, I want my meals to be joyful.  And when I want joyful, healthy food, my first stop is Ottolenghi!

Clockwise from top left: Mushroom ragout with poached egg; multi-vegetable paella, marinated eggplant with tahini, soba with mango and eggplant 
These recipes all come from Plenty, except for the marinated eggplant, which comes from Yotam's first cookbook.  (I've linked the recipes above for your eating and cooking pleasure).  The standout here was the soba noodles with eggplant - such an unusual combination but so wonderful, especially with the little bursts of chilli, onion, and fresh herbs.


"Salmon and soba" is a pretty standard combo for me when I want healthy, nourishing food.  On the left we have Nigella's cold soba salad (Forever Summer), combined with her mirin-glazed salmon (Nigella Express).  On the right, we have two recipes from Bill's Everyday Asian - miso eggplant, and glazed salmon - with plain soba.  I have two comments on the Bill Granger thing: first, I am So Glad that he has started using apostrophes!  Secondly, I generally have issues with following Asian recipes from non-Asian chefs (and don't get me started on the generic focus of the book, when "Asian" isn't actually a style of food, but a huge variety of cultures, people and food traditions, thank-you very much!)  However, sweeping generalizations aside, both eggplant and salmon were delicious!  I love that the miso eggplant is a super-easy homespun version of nasu dengaku.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a 2-day trip to the Yarra Valley, visiting restaurants, breweries and food producers.  (Disclosure: it was a complimentary media trip to help promote the region).  We had the best time, and I can't wait to blog about it - especially the deeply fabulous accommodation! - but right now I wanted to show these awesome veggies we bought at the Yarra Valley Gateway Estate.


Look how shiny they are!  Because they were "imperfect", they were being sold for only $10 a tray!  What a bargain.

And thus begun my first foray into preserving - once back home, we roasted up the capsicums...

 ...and also made a rather tasty eggplant and capsicum chutney.  Both roast capsicums and the chutney made cute little gifts!  (And the chutney is especially good with curries or with strong, bitey cheeses).

For the first time in a long time, this month I went to Yum Cha!  A group of my friends had organised a day at paintball, which was far too adventurous for my delicate (AKA lazy) nature.  So those of us who weren't up for paintballing had a little yum cha instead, at Imperial Kingdom in Glen Waverley.  It was super-yum, especially the hot flaky tan taats (egg tarts)!

I also took a drive to Mornington with my cousin and some friends.  Being too cold for our planned day of beach swimming, we instead picked strawberries at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, and visited the Main Ridge Dairy, which specialises in goats cheeses.

Whilst there were some nice cheeses on the platter, (the Caprino, a goats cheese made in a similar style to Parmesan, was my favourite), at $38 it was very expensive.  We couldn't help but compare this to the very generous cheese platter we'd enjoyed at the Yarra Valley Dairy the week before.  Oh well!

In this (intermittently) warm weather, I've been enjoying a bit of cold drip coffee.  The first time I tried it, at Sensory Lab, I'd actually ordered it by mistake, thinking I had ordered iced pourover coffee.  (Whoops, was being a bit blur that day).  I actually really like the intense flavours - the Panama Finca Casa Ruiz from Sensory Lab had a treacly, almost licorice-like intensity, whilst the Cubana cold drip from Atomica had notes of tobacco.
Left: Sensory Lab
Right: Atomica

Right at the start of the month, we got a massive care package from Sandra's parents in Germany - check it out! Wow!  There were heaps of Maggi flavour packets, chocolates, candy and biscuits! 


My favourites are the Leibniz mini butter biscuits coated in chocolate.  Some of them got a bit melted on the way over here, so some of the biscuits stuck together... to make awesome GIANT biscuits! Hehe.

Ding ding ding... jackpot!

The influx of flavour packets reminded me that I really should use up the packets I bought on my last trip to Germany, and I promptly made some Brathendl.

I cut a chicken in half so it would look like a proper German Halbes Haenchen, then covered the two pieces it in the spice mix, and roasted it in the oven with a tray of chopped veggies on the shelf below.  You know, I wasn't expecting too much from the Maggi Brathendl packet but - OMG - it was absolutely, deliriously A-mazing!  I couldn't believe it - incredibly crispy, spicy skin encasing juicy, tender meat.  Half a chicken is meant to serve two, but it was so delicious I ate the entire half-chicken to myself.  I also gave up with the cutlery after the first few bites and ate it by hand.  So good!  I have one more packet in the pantry, and absolutely have to restock as soon as I possibly can!

And finally (yes, we're getting there), I just wanted to show the Reunion Dinner we had on Chinese New Year's eve.  


All the traditional Penang goodies, cooked by my parents.  Loh Bak, Chicken Curry, Kiam Chye Th'ng.  Love it!!  We eat pretty much the same thing every year, as evidenced by my blog posts from previous years (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010...).  We had a brief flirtation with Yee Sang in 2009, but I don't think it's really our thing.  Give me my Penang feast any time!

And speaking of which, I'm actually in Malaysia on a holiday right now, just got here yesterday morning!  I can't believe it's been seven years since my last trip!  I've got a lot of eating, shopping and spa treatments planned.  YAY!  I have totally been gorging on proper roti canai and Milo peng, and I'm looking forward to some really hot Hot 'n' Spicy chicken at KFC.  (You read that right, and I'm not ashamed!!)

Catch y'all on the flipside!

12 comments:

Jane said...

Enjoy your time in Malaysia! If you're in Penang and get a bit sick of roti canai, char koay teow and teh tarik (apparently it's possible) there's some lovely "Western" cafes you may like...Amelie, China House and La Boheme are all worth a visit from a foodie perspective.

Sarah said...

Hi Jane, thanks so much for the tip!!

Germaine said...

I'd completely forgotten your roots are in Penang! I now spend Chinese New Year in Penang too as I married someone whose family hails from there ;) Have you had any peanut pancakes (ban chien koay) yet? I am absolutely obsessed with that stuff, I have it for breakfast every day of CNY :)

Sarah said...

Not yet, but will have some when I get to Penang... Tomorrow! Very excited. :)

My Dad actually makes ban chang kueh at home so I get to have it all year round hehe

Lauren said...

From your occasional Australian-in-Germany reader, if you ever need more supplies, I'm happy to oblige in exchange for tim tams and caramello koalas!

Other than that, looks like an excellent month. (I miss Asian food - what passes for Chinese here is pretty iffy, apart from one restaurant in the next town, and as for Thai, Indian and anything else...) Oh, and I love those choco-leibniz biscuits. The size is dangerous, though. Far too easy to eat a whole packet!

hungryandfrozen said...

So much deliciousness! Enjoyed this round-up. I can't get enough of Ottolenghi, I really need to get hold of his first book.

Sarah said...

Hi Lauren, thanks for the offer!! Hehe, I could totally smash a packet of those biscuits too easily!!!

Sarah said...

Thanks Laura! Ottolenghi's great, isn't he? You simply *must* get his first book, I like it so much better than Plenty! There are some great meat/seafood recipes and a fabulous desserts and baking section!!

msihua said...

Yum! I think a lot of us have been inspired by Agnes's This Week in brief.. hahahaha

April said...

Great round up! All those meals look so healthy but delicious. I haven't made anything from Plenty yet - looks like I should start!

Sarah said...

Hehe yes! I love reading her weekly posts! :)

Sarah said...

Plenty is great, but his first book, "Ottolenghi", is even better! I love the salad recipes, the meat recipes and the decadent dessert chapter!