Monday, September 28, 2009

Aromatic Spiced Lamb Cutlets with Couscous

This is a very quick and easy meal to prepare. I left out the fresh coriander in the couscous since hubby isn't a big fan of coriander.Bon appetit!

Serves 3-4


8 lamb cutlets, trimmed, about 400g in total
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
sprigs of fresh mint to garnish

Minted yoghurt sauce

¼ ½ cucumber
150g plain low-fat yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp bottled mint sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Apricot & Almond Couscous

200g couscous
100g dried apricots, chopped
500ml boiling vegetable stock
50g whole blanched almonds, toasted
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


    1. Preheat grill to high. Place the lamb cutlets in a shallow dish. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds briefly in a pestle and mortar to crack them, then mix with the lemon juice, garlic and oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the lamb cutlets, turn them over to coat both sides and set aside to marinate while you make the sauce.
    2. To make the mint sauce: cut the cucumber in half length ways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Grate the cucumber coarsely and drain off any excess water. Mix with the yogurt, garlic, mint sauce and fresh mint. Set aside.
    3. Place the lamb cutlets under the griller and grill for 10–12 minutes, turning once. The cutlets will be medium-rare; if you prefer them medium to well-done cook for 12–14 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, put the couscous and apricots in a large bowl and pour over the boiling stock. Stir well, then cover with a plate and set aside to soak for 5 minutes.
    5. Stir the almonds, chopped mint and coriander, lemon juice and oil into the couscous. Spoon the couscous onto plates, top each serving with 2 lamb cutlets and put a spoonful of the sauce on the side. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint and serve immediately.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kung Po Chicken

Kung Po chicken is a classic dish in Szechuan cuisine, originating in the Szechuan province of central-western China. This is a westernised version of kung po chicken, consisting of stir fried chicken instead of deep fried chicken, so it's healthier and lighter.


600g chicken thigh fillets, diced or sliced
2 tablespoons corn flour
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine
2 tablespoons peanut oil
10 small dried red chillies
2 tablespoons peanut oil extra
5 cm piece of ginger cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 pinch of Szechuan salt and pepper

  1. Combine chicken with corn flour and Shao Hsing wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Place oil and chillies in a cold wok and then turn heat to low. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until chillies begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove chillies and drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Leaving chilli-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to high and stir-fry half the chicken for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add extra oil to wok with remaining chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with ginger and reserved chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds.
  4. Add sugar and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir fry for 30 seconds. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and salt.

Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Honey & Balsamic Dressing


1 kg butternut pumpkin, deseeded, cut into 2 cm thick pieces
Olive oil cooking spray
¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
200g mixed salad leaves
Honey & Balsamic Dressing

¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 250C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place pumpkin in a single layer on tray. Spray with oil and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast pumpkin, turning once, for 25 minutes or until golden and tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until golden.
  3. Make honey and balsamic dressing: Combine honey, vinegar and oil in a jug. Microwave on high (100%) for 10 seconds or until honey is melted. Stir until well combined.
  4. Place salad leaves and pumpkin in a large bowl. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Drizzle with dressing. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve.

Chocolate Coated Bananas

The first time I ate a chocolate dipped banana was when I was on holidays in the Gold Coast this year. It was at the Warner Bros Movie World theme park. It was surprisingly nice, so I've been keen to try making it myself at home. The concept seemed simple enough. Anyways, the one that I ate in the Gold Coast was coated in chopped peanuts, but I've substituted it with hundreds and thousands instead. You could also coat the bananas in mini chocolate candies or toasted dessicated coconut. Whatever tickles your fancy :P

If you use ripe but firm bananas, you'll get a more creamier texture when you bite into them, much like an ice cream except less naughtier!

It's best to use paddle pop sticks or wooden chopsticks for holding the bananas as they're much stronger. I didn't have any available and used bamboo skewers, which still work but are not as stable when it comes to holding it in your hand.

Makes 4


4 medium bananas, peeled
200g dark chocolate melts
30g copha
½ cup hundreds & thousands, to decorate and/or
½ cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts, to decorate

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Insert a paddle pop stick into one end of each banana. Place onto baking tray. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  2. Place the chocolate and copha in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave uncovered on medium (50%) for 30 seconds then stir. Repeat process until chocolate mixture has melted. Alternatively, place chocolate and copha into a small, heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon for 5 minutes or until smooth.
  3. Place hundreds and thousands and nuts into separate plates.
  4. Remove bananas from freezer. Pour chocolate mixture into a tall glass until three-quarters full. Dip bananas, one at a time, into chocolate. Working quickly, dip each banana into the hundreds and thousands or nuts to coat.
  5. Serve immediately or return to freezer until required. Wrap bananas separately.

Notes & Tips

Copha is a solidified form of coconut oil. It can be found in the refrigerated section of most Australian supermarkets, near where the butter is kept.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Watermelon Sorbet

It's Spring at the moment and the days are now getting warmer, so beat the heat with this refreshing sorbet. It's also low in fat!

The sugar syrup in this recipe can be adjusted depending on how sweet your watermelon is. The more naturally sweet the fruit, the less sugar syrup will be required for the recipe.

If you have an ice cream maker, you can just set and forget... but for those of us that don't have the luxury of owning one, there are a few steps involved in making this sorbet. But, it'll all be worth it in the end :)

You can omit the egg whites if you want, especially if you can't resist eating your sorbet once you take it out of the freezer :) Adding the egg whites gives your sorbet a nice light texture. If you don't add the egg whites, the sorbet will just taste 'icier'.

Serves 4


500ml (2 cups) water
1 cup caster sugar
1.2kg seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped
2 egg whites, lightly whisked


  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, place watermelon in the jug of a blender and blend until pureed. Strain puree through a fine sieve into a jug, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have about 600ml of watermelon juice).
  3. Add cooled sugar syrup to watermelon juice and stir until well combined. Pour into an airtight container or a 3cm-deep, 20cm x 30cm (base) lamington pan. Cover and place in the freezer for 4 -5 hours or until almost set.
  4. Roughly break up the sorbet with a metal spoon and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Process briefly until sorbet is smooth and has a soft, icy texture.
  5. Return sorbet to container/lamington pan and place in the freezer for a further 4 hours or until firm. Remove from the freezer and repeat step 4. Return sorbet to the container/lamington pan and place in the freezer for a further 5 hours or until firm.
  6. Place the sorbet and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and process until sorbet is pale and smooth. Return to the container/lamington pan and place in the freezer for a further 4 hours or until almost firm. Scoop into serving glasses or bowls or cones and serve immediately.

Chiffon Cake Base

A chiffon cake is a very light, sponge type of cake. It is typically served accompanied with flavourful sauces or other accompaniments, such as chocolate or fruit fillings.

Click here for my Mango Mousse cake recipe.
Click here for my Chinese Chestnut Sponge recipe.
Click here for my White Chocolate Strawberry Mousse cake recipe.


4 eggs (at room temperature), separated
1/4 tsp salt
50g caster sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
75ml warm corn oil
110ml warm water
150g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar, sifted
75g caster sugar, extra, sifted


  1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and line a 20cm spring form cake pan.
  2. Whip egg whites in a clean mixing bowl until big bubbles are formed. Add in the cream of tartar and whip until white in colour. Add in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time and whip until egg whites are stiff.
  3. Place egg yolks, salt, caster sugar & vanilla essence in a large mixing bowl and mix well with an electric hand mixer.
  4. Pour warmed oil into yolk mixture.
  5. Stir warm water into yolk mixture.
  6. Sieve plain flour and baking powder together and fold it gently into yolk mixture using a large metal spoon.
  7. Pour 1/2 egg white mixture into yolk mixture and fold until combined.
  8. Fold remaining yolk mixture into the remaining egg white mixture.
  9. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Invert cake onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Then cut cooled cake into 2 layers.
Notes & Tips

Don't open the oven door while your cake is baking, otherwise it can flop in the centre. When your cake is cooked, it will come away from the sides of the pan, and spring back when touched lightly in the centre.

Substitute corn oil with vegetable oil if none available

    Mango Mousse Cake

    I made this mango mousse cake as a surprise for my dad's birthday.
    You'll need around 5 ripe medium sized mangoes for this recipe.
    Click here for my chiffon cake base recipe.


    1x Chiffon cake base, cut into 2 even layers
    300ml Thickened cream
    3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
    300g Mango, pureed (remove 2 tbsp for swirl effect)
    200g Mango, cut into 2cm cubes
    15g gelatine powder
    100ml thickened cream, extra
    1 tbs icing sugar, extra

    1. Dissolve gelatine in 50ml hot water. Keep warm for use later.
    2. Add icing sugar to cream, then whip until stiff.
    3. Add gelatine solution into mango puree and mix well.
    4. Add mango gelatine mixture into whipped cream and combine well.
    5. Line the inner circumferance of a spring form cake pan with plastic cake tape (or clear cellophane cut to size if none available).
    6. Put 1 layer of cake onto cake pan and top it with mango mousse filling. Add in the mango cubes and top it with some mousse just enough to cover the mango cubes.
    7. Put on the other cake layer and pour all the mousse over it.
    8. To create the swirl effect on top of cake, drop one teaspoon of mango puree on the cake surface and swirl the puree with a toothpick. I put 1 teaspoon on the middle of the cake and the rest at clock position of 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10.
    9. Whip the extra cream and extra icing sugar in a clean mixing bowl, then pipe some rosettes around the cake to decorate.
    10. Chill cake for at least 4 hours (best overnight) before serving.

    Notes & Tips

    You can omit the swirl effect and just decorate the cake with sliced mangoes

    Trim the chiffon cake to be smaller than the springform pan. This way the mousse will cover the whole cake when you pour it into the cake tin and you don't need to cream the cake.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Donna Hay's Lime & Lemongrass Salmon Cakes

    This is a really simple dish to create but a really impressive one to serve. Just make sure to check that all the bones from your salmon fillet are removed. You wouldn't want to choke on them or spit them out whilst you're eating this dish. Now that certainly would not be impressive!

    Recipe adapted from Donna Hay No Time to Cook, page 78

    Serves 2


    ¼ cup whole-egg mayonnaise
    1 teaspoons wasabi
    ½ teaspoon lime juice
    2 x180g salmon fillets, cut into 1 cm cubes
    2 tablespoons rice flour
    1 egg white
    1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
    1 stalk lemon-grass, finely chopped
    3 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
    1 long red chilli, seeded and chopped
    sea salt and cracked black pepper
    vegetable oil, for shallow frying
    lime wedges and salad greens, to serve

    1. Place mayonnaise, wasabi and lime juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
    2. Place salmon, rice flour, egg white, lime rind, lemongrass, lime leaves, chilli, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine. Shape mixture into 4 patties.
    3. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil to the pan, add patties and cook for 4 minutes each side or until cooked through.
    4. Serve with lime wedges, salad greens and the lime and wasabi mayonnaise.

    Potato Noodles with Vegetables/Japchae

    I, for some reason really enjoy eating noodles, maybe it's cause I'm Asian or maybe it's just the fact that there are so many varieties and so many different ways of cooking them. This noodle dish is one of my favourites and is great if you want a light but filling meal :)

    Note: If you don't like cloud ear fungus, you can substitute it with sliced Chinese mushrooms instead

    Serves 4


    300g dried potato starch noodles
    10g dried cloud ear fungus (becomes 50g once rehydrated)
    ¼ cup sesame oil
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    4 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
    2 spring onions, finely chopped
    2 spring onions, extra, cut into 4cm pieces
    1 carrot, cut into 5cm matchsticks
    1 bunch baby bok choy, roughly chopped
    ¼ cup shoshoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
    2 tablespoons mirin
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1-2 tablespoons sesame seed and seaweed sprinkle

    1. Pour boiling water over the fungus and soak for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and chop roughly.
    2. Meanwhile, cook the dried potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes or until the noodles are translucent. Drain and then rinse thoroughly under cold running water until the noodles are cold. (Thoroughly rinsing the noodles will remove any excess starch). Use kitchen scissors to roughly chop the noodles into lengths of about 15 cm, to make the noodles easier to eat with chopsticks.
    3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil with the vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based pan or wok. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion to the pan and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring regularly. Add the carrot sticks and stir fry for 1 minute.
    4. Add the cooled noodles, extra spring onion, baby bok choy, remaining sesame oil, shoshoyu, mirin and sugar. Toss well to coat the noodles with the sauce. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
    5. Add the drained fungus, cover the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the sesame seed and seaweed sprinkle. Serve immediately.
    Tips & Notes:
    • Potato strach noodles are sometimes called Korean vermicelli.
    • Cloud-ear fungus is a delicately flavoured dried mushroom- when rehydrated in hot water it triples in size. Substitute with dried shiitake mushrooms if unavailable.
    • Japanese soy sauce is lighter and sweeter than Chinese soy sauce.
    • All the ingredients mentioned above are available from Asian food specialty stores.

    Banana Bread

    If you need a recipe to use up bananas, then you can't go past banana bread! This recipe yields a nice cafe style slice that's half the price you would pay at the local cafe :)


    1¾ cup plain flour
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
    ½ tsp salt
    ⅔ firmly packed cup dark brown sugar
    100g walnuts, chopped
    3 large over-ripe bananas
    2 large eggs, lightly whisked
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    100g unsalted butter, melted, cooled

    1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Lightly grease an 11cm x 22cm loaf pan and line base and 2 long sides with a sheet of baking paper, leaving 2cm overhanging.
    2. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl with the brown sugar, then add the nuts.
    3. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher, then stir in the eggs, vanilla extract and cooled melted butter. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they're just combined- don't over mix.
    4. Scrape cake batter into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the loaf in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into 8-10 slices.
    Notes & Tips

    This banana bread will keep in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days, or frozen in individual slices for up to 1 month.

    Almond Jelly

    This is a recipe for a popular dessert in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. It's very simple to make and a very refreshing snack to eat, particularly on warmer days.


    ½ cup caster sugar
    2 cups cold water
    1½ tablespoons powdered gelatine
    185ml can evaporated milk
    ½ teaspoon almond essence


    1. Place sugar and cold water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir for 4 to 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Sprinkle gelatine. Stir with a fork until gelatine has dissolved.
    2. Combine milk and almond essence in a bowl. Add sugar mixture, stirring, in a slow steady stream. Pour into a 3cm deep, 20cm x 30cm lamington pan. Cover. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.
    3. Run a palette knife around edge of pan. Invert pan onto a chopping board. Press base of pan to release jelly. Cut jelly into squares.
    4. Serve jelly with fruit salad.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Lemon Chicken

    This is a nice, cheap and easy mid-week meal to prepare. Enjoy :)


    2kg or 12 pieces chicken drumsticks (cut 2 slits on each side of the drumsticks to allow marinade to seep in)
    ¼ cup vegetable oil


    2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shao Xing wine)
    3 tbsp light soya sauce


    50g cornflour
    25g rice flour

    Lemon Sauce

    1½ cups water
    ½ cup lemon juice
    3½ tbsp brown sugar
    2½ tbsp honey
    2 tsp chicken stock granules or 1 chicken stock cube
    2 tbsp cornflour
    grated lemon zest from one lemon (or 1 tsp lemon essence)

    1. Marinate chicken with the soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine for at least 2 hours (best overnight) in a glass or ceramic dish. Turn the chicken occasionally to coat well in the marinade.
    2. Combine rice flour and corn flour onto a large plate and coat chicken with the flour combination. Set aside for 15 minutes.
    3. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, then add the vegetable oil.
    4. Pan fry the chicken until cooked and golden brown. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
    5. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add in all the lemon sauce ingredients and bring to the boil, then simmer gently, stirring frequently at all times (if lemon sauce is too thick, add a bit more water).
    6. Place chicken onto serving plate. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately with rice.
    Notes & Tips

    Rolling a lemon back and forth on your work surface will soften it and allow for more juices to be extracted. This is a good technique to remember before squeezing out the juice of any citrus fruit.

    To cook the chicken in the oven, coat chicken with self raising flour, place onto baking trays lined with baking paper, spray chicken with some olive oil then bake in a preheated oven (240°C) for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and cooked through. Turn once halfway during cooking.

    Lamb, Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Cottage Pies

    This recipe is a variation of the classic cottage pie. It's also freezer friendly so that you can have some now and some later :)

    In this recipe, I've suggested to roast the pumpkin but you could just steam the pumpkin until it is tender. Same applies for the sweet potato. This would hasten the cooking process considerably, particularly if you are time poor!

    Serves 4-6


    3 tbs olive oil
    1 brown onion, coarsely chopped
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    3 tsp ground coriander
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp ground chilli
    500g lamb mince
    1x400g can diced tomatoes
    125ml (1/2 cup) salt reduced chicken stock
    2 tbs tomato paste
    800g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, coarsely chopped
    400g sweet potato, peeled, coarsely chopped
    1 rosemary sprig
    1 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
    2 tbs pine nuts
    Salt & pepper to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer, in a large roasting pan. Drizzle over 2 tbs olive oil, season with some sea salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the rosemary sprig then bake in oven for 45 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
    2. Cook sweet potato in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain then add to pumpkin. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash sweet potato and pumpkin until almost smooth.
    3. Meanwhile, heat 1tbs olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon and chilli and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic.
    4. Increase heat to high. Add the mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in the tomatoes, stock and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt if needed.
    5. Divide the mince mixture among individual oven proof dishes or 1 large oven proof dish. Spoon the pumpkin & potato mix evenly over the mince mixture and use the back of spoon to spread. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese and pine nuts.
    6. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheddar is golden and the pine nuts toasted. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve with salad leaves.
    Notes & Tips

    Freezing tip: At the end of step 5, cover the dishes with lids. Alternatively, wrap in plastic wrap, then in foil or place into foil storage containers. Label, date and freeze the pies for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the portions in the fridge for 6-8 hours or until thawed. Preheat oven to 200C. Remove the lids or plastic wrap and foil. Continue from step 6.
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