Sunday, February 28, 2010

Indian-inspired potato and mustard seed curry

I had a craving for a potato curry that was flavoured with mustard seed and coconut milk, and cooked in the slow cooker. I found this recipe and modified it to my taste and cooking method.

Here's what I ended up making. It was delicious! Very easy with minimal preparation time, and extremely cheap to cook.

1.5kg potatoes, cleaned and diced into large chunks
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs black mustard seeds
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs crushed ginger
red chilli, to taste (I used 1.5 very hot small chillies)
2 tsp turmeric
12 curry leaves
8 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
400mL coconut milk

Heat vegetable oil in a frypan over medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and fry until they start to pop.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric and fry while stirring for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
In a large slow cooker (mine is 5L), add the coconut milk, tomatoes and curry leaves.
Add the mustard seed mixture and stir well.
Add the potatoes, and enough water to only just cover the potatoes, and mix.
Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are done. This will vary depending on the type of potatoes, how small they were diced and the cooking ability of your slow cooker, but it took me about 3 hours on high.
If the sauce needs thickening, combine 1 tbs cornflour with 1/4 cup cold water and add to the curry.
Garnish with coriander if you have some (sadly I didn't!).

I served this with home-made roti. They turned out ok but weren't brilliant, so I will work on the recipe, and post once I'm happy with it!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Magners Pear Cider

My new pub favourite!


I went off beer a couple of years ago and cider has neatly replaced it as my refreshing drink of choice. There are some pretty average ciders out there, but there's just as many really interesting ciders, you just need to hunt them down (and pay a bit of a premium).

Pear cider can be hard to find here in Hobart. I love St Helier's, and now Magners have recently released their pear cider in Australia. It's great - not quite as smooth as St Helier's, but still completely drinkable!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Smily Kitchen, Liverpool St

This place has only recently opened on Liverpool St, opposite KFC. In previous incarnations were Steve's Kebabs and then Yumi, which sold an somewhat odd combination of kebabs and Japanese food.

I checked the place out this week with a couple of friends and we sampled a few dishes from their cooked-to-order menu. They also offer bain-marie Chinese food and sushi, but I totally recommend cooked-to-order dishes based on how fantastic our food was!

Steamed pork with chinese mushroom dumplings ($7.80). Fantastic - although they are very slightly on the doughy side, they have the most flavoursome dumpling filling I've ever tasted. Also on offer are pork and chinese cabbage dumplings, and fried versions of both flavours (which cost a couple of dollars more).


I had the special - spicy squid and a can of soft drink ($14). Again, this was fantastic - the squid was perfectly cooked and not the slightest bit greasy. Thoroughly enjoyable.


Mapo tofu ($11ish). The menu image shows this dish in a hotpot, but it was served on a plate as below. Nonetheless it was thoroughly enjoyed!


Satay chicken noodles ($10ish). A huge plate of noodles with a tasty sauce and perfectly cooked chicken.


I'll definitely be back to try more dishes, particularly the soups as the weather starts to cool.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 14: Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes)

The theme for week 14 was Japanese, and I decided to make okonomiyaki, which is something I've wanted to try cooking for ages. I was reminded of this when flicking through my magazines (I couldn't find any Japanese recipes that I wanted to cook in the cookbooks I have!), and although the recipe is inspired by one of the magazines, what I ended up cooking was a mish-mash of that recipe, others found on and cooking with dog! (seriously, watch the video - it's great!).

It's a bit hard to make authentic okonomiyaki without going on a serious treasure hunt for ingredients, so I have best adapted this to what we have available here. The recipe I created is below, and I was pretty happy with it for a first attempt - the pancakes were mighty tasty! I will however modify the recipe in the future - it was just a tad too floury. I'll use a bit less flour and a bit more water for the same amount of filling ingredients.

This quantity serves 3-4.

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 small potato
2 eggs
1/4 small cabbage, shredded
2/3 cup rehydrated shiitake mushrooms
150g cooked prawns, diced
2 spring onions, finely diced
2 rashers bacon, rind and most of the fat removed, cut into strips
Okonomiyaki sauce (bbq sauce is an ok substitute, which I used)
Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie brand is pretty much the tastiest mayo ever!)

Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Very finely grate the potato into a paste and add to the bowl.
Into a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whisk with 1 3/4 cups of water.
Pour the eggs into the larger bowl and fold until only just combined.
Add the cabbage, mushrooms, prawns and spring onions (reserving a small amount of onions for garnish), and again gently fold until only just combined.
Preheat a non-stick griddle or frypan to a medium-high heat.
Dollop 1/3 of the mixture (or as much as is sensible for the size of griddle/frypan you have) and flatten to about 2cm thick, shaping into a circle.
Cook until golden brown (this took a bit under 10 minutes on my George Foreman).
Place slices of bacon on the top of the pancake, and then smear a small amount of batter (without chunky filler pieces) on the bacon.
Flip the pancake and cook until golden again.
Serve on a plate, bacon side up. Top with sauce, mayonnaise and garnish with spring onions.

The batter, pre-cooking:


On the griddle, with bacon added:




Monday, February 22, 2010

Cold Rock!

Seeing this sign in North Hobart makes me very happy!


There's also a sign for Pretzel World as well, but who needs pretzels when you can have icecream? :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

White chocolate fairy cakes

This recipe was found by a friend on (thanks J!). It's possibly now my favourite cupcake recipe to make - you can't beat the white chocolate chunks!

I made a batch recently in mini muffin tins - this size made about 50 cakes and took about 14 minutes to bake. They were decorated with some tasty lolly fish that were given to me as a present - thanks S!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rhubarb and cinnamon muffins

I spotted this recipe in the local paper, and modified it a bit. It was a great recipe to find - the rhubarb is cooked in the muffin, so no extra steps are required to precook the rhubarb, which is handy.

A tip when making muffins or cupcakes: spray the muffin tray with cooking oil, then line each hole with 2 muffin cases. Once cooked the muffins will come out of the tray easily, and you can discard the somewhat oily outer case.

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
200mL milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups sliced rhubarb (1cm slices)

1/2 tsp cinnamon, combined with
1 tbs sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ºC and grease and line a muffin tray.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar and mix well.
In another bowl combine the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.
Add one bowl to the other and add the rhubarb.
Combine the ingredients until it all just comes together, being careful not to over-mix.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.
Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and bake for 17 minutes.
Remove from the tin and serve warm.


They have a great texture and a lovely zingy taste!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Cornelian Bay Boat House

The Cornelian Bay Boat House is a restaurant with a hole-in-the-wall takeaway.

I love their chowder, and it's excellent value at $6.50!
It comes with some very good dill bread.


Lots of fishy bits!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 13: Pasta with unpestoed pesto

With Valentine's Day this week, it was only fitting that the theme was love! I chose a recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat that used fresh basil. This recipe suited the theme in 3 ways: my partner J loves pasta, the basil from my garden was grown with love, and I used some heart-shaped pasta that I found in a shop in Germany last year!


Like many of Nigella's recipes in this book, the recipe is given in a story-telling style, rather than numbered steps. I've included the recipe in a shorter style below.

Pasta (linguine recommended)
Olive oil
Several whole, peeled garlic cloves
A mound of fresh basil leaves
A handful of pine nuts
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta.
While pasta is cooking, toast some pine nuts in a frypan.
Once pine nuts are toasted, remove to a bowl and add olive oil and garlic cloves to the frypan.
Cook over gentle heat until the garlic colours.
Discard the cloves and remove pan from the heat.
Hand shred the basil.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to a heated bowl.
Toss with the olive oil.
Mix through some parmesan cheese, then the pine nuts and basil.
Serve and top with a little more cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste.

This pasta was really easy and tasty, I'll make it again as long as my basil keeps growing! The garlic oil is wonderfully subtle and the Parmesan cheese brings a creamy saltiness. Yum!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 12: Mini meringues

The theme for this week is eggs, and I decided to do meringues from a compilation of my nanna's recipes, called 'Irene's Favourites'. This was put together in her memory by a craft group at her church, and cooking from it is a nice way to remember her.

I've never made meringues (or anything similar) before. It was easier than I thought - apart from beating the egg whites by hand! I tried using my old-school Tupperware piping set to make interesting patterns but to no avail - either my egg whites or mix were too sloppy, or the piping tips too small (does anyone know?). So I ended up just experimenting with shapes instead.

I made a half batch of the recipe.

4 eggs whites
8 oz sugar (I used caster)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in sugar, vanilla and vinegar.
Place spoonfuls onto an oven paper-lined tray and cook in slow oven (I used 130ºC) for 45 minutes. Note that the original recipe specified 1 1/4 hours, but for the size of meringues I made 30 minutes would have been sufficient!
Decorate with cream and sprinkles if desired.

They are super-sweet and tasty!

Beaten egg whites:


My awesome old-school piping set:


Eclectic shapes pre-cooking:




Trees on a plate!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Simple eats

A tasty weekend brunch made for me by J. Bacon, eggs, toast, snow peas, potato omelette, rocket and tomato, cooked on his George Foreman grill, a Christmas present.

simple breakfast

A dinner that took 5 minutes to prepare - oven fish and steamed vegetables. There's nothing to it, but it's nutritious and enjoyable after a long day at work.

simple dinner

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Marinated chicken with cabbage and sesame salad

A recent concoction that turned out to be rather tasty. Fast and easy to make, and quite healthy! I would have added some fresh snow peas to the salad if I'd had them handy, for a bit of colour.
The chicken marinade would also be nice with firm tofu, for the vegetarians out there!

Cabbage and sesame salad ingredients:

1 smallish Chinese cabbage (wombok), finely shredded
1 carrot, grated
2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted
100g raw unsalted peanuts, crushed
1 small red chilli, very finely diced
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp crushed ginger
1/2 tsp sugar

Combine the cabbage, carrot, sesame seeds and chilli in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix together.
Pour the second bowl into the first and mix well.


Marinated chicken tenderloins ingredients:

1/4 C kecap manis
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
dash of fish sauce
500g chicken tenderloins

Combine all marinade ingredients except the chicken.
Pour over the chicken and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Cook chicken on grill or bbq until just done.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Creative tea bags

A clever list of creative tea bags on

My favourite would have to be the origami one: it's so pretty!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 11: Crispy risotto of marinated prawns with parmesan cheese and black olive tartare

The theme for week 11 was mixed, and here's my recipe, 5 or so days late! Things have been a bit hectic lately.

This week I decided to attempt a 'fancy-pants' dish from Emmanuel Stroobant's Vine Dining: White. I purchased this book recently, and it's fascinating. Each recipe has a picture, but it's of all the individual components in a very artistic style, not of the completed dish. Many recipes use luxury ingredients, but there are plenty more with ingredients that are within easy reach.

I chose a risotto-based dish, as plenty of mixing/stirring is required to make risotto! Also, it has quite an interesting mix of ingredients.

I found the dish a little challenging. The basic risotto was easy, but frying into cakes wasn't - unfortunately, as the crispy bits of risotto that I did taste were delicious! I think it's easily overcome, but more about that later.

2 tbs butter
2 peeled and chopped shallots
250g risotto rice, washed and drained
700mL chicken stock
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbs olive oil

8 peeled and de-veined large prawns
1 tbs white miso (I forgot to buy this! So substituted with kecap manis to give a bit of colour and depth of flavour. It's not the same, I know, but was the best I could come up with!)
1 tbs mirin
1 tsp sugar

Black Olive Tartare
4 tbs pitted and diced black olives
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs chopped italian parsley
1 tsp chopped red chilli

2 tbs shaved parmesan
Rock salt

To cook risotto, heat butter and fry shallots in a pot.
Add rice and stir for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
Bring chicken stock to the boil and add slowly to the rice, ladle by ladle.
Stir constantly for 15 minutes until rice is cooked and al dente.
Finish with cheese and pepper.
Lay 30x60cm of aluminium foil on a bench, brush with butter and pour risotto on.
Roll up and leave on bench for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Use a sharp knife to slice through foil, resulting in risotto cakes (beware little shards of foil!).
Remove foil.
Heat oil in a non-stick pan and fry each side of the cake for 3 mins (this was really hard - mostly because I don't have anything non-stick - most of my cakes fell apart so I didn't cook them for as long as I should have! Non-stick seems to be crucial, also beware spitting oil).
Set aside.
Marinate prawns with combined miso/kecap manis, mirin and sugar.
Place prawns on a tray and cook at 220ºC for 2-5mins.
Combine black olive tartare ingredients.
Serve cakes with tartare and prawns.
Garnish with parmesan and salt and serve.

The end result was pretty good! A great range of textures with the crunchy risotto edges, firm prawns and soft risotto. The components were all subtly salty which worked together well. I don't know if I'll cook this exact dish again, but I've learned while cooking it, and will certainly use this as inspiration.