Sunday, February 28, 2010

Honeycomb Banana Muffins

I had a very, very ripe banana sitting in my fruit bowl today. Not content with just throwing it out, I've used it to make some yummy and very naughty muffins. As you can see in the photo below, there are only 11 muffins. That's because hubby couldn't wait for me to ice them all and helped himself to one soon after they came out of the oven!



Makes 12

Ingredients

2 cups self-raising flour
75g caster sugar
2 x 50g Nestle Violet Crumble bars, coarsely chopped
90g butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly whisked
 cup buttermilk
¼ cup honey
2/3 cup mashed ripe banana

Icing
½  cup icing sugar
25g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp honey
½  tbs milk

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line twelve 80ml (1/3-cup) capacity muffin pans with paper cases.
  2. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in three-quarters of the Violet Crumble. Make a well in the centre. Add the butter, eggs, buttermilk, honey and banana, and stir until just combined.
  3. Divide the mixture among the lined pans. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Set aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the icing, use an electric beater to beat the icing sugar, butter, honey and milk in a small bowl until pale and creamy.
  5. Spread the icing over the muffins. Top with the remaining Violet Crumble to serve.
 Notes & Tips

If you have a really sweet tooth, you can double the amount of ingredients for the icing or add more sugar into the muffins.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Smoked Salmon with Creamy Asparagus and Zucchini Sauce

Here's another easy to make mid week dinner


Serves 4

Ingredients

400g penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small leek or onion, thinly sliced
1 large zucchini, peeled to form ribbons
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 5cm lengths
375ml light evaporated milk or 400ml light thickened cream
¼ cup chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon rind
Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
150g-200g smoked salmon slices, torn into pieces, to serve

Method
  1. Cook penne in a large saucepan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions or until al dente. Drain, return to pan and cover to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add leek and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add zucchini, asparagus, cream, dill and lemon rind. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sauce has thickened slightly.
  3. Stir the smoked salmon through the zucchini mixture and cook for another minute.
  4. To serve, divide pasta between serving bowls and top with salmon mixture. Serve with salad.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thai Prawn & Pumpkin Curry

Recipe adapted from Super Food Ideas magazine, May 2008 edition, page 37

Serves 4

Ingredients

Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
400g butternut pumpkin, peeled, cut into 3cm pieces
1 tablespoon fish sauce
270ml can light coconut milk
1 long red chilli (or 2 Birdseye chilli), deseeded, thinly sliced
¾ cup cold water
800g medium green king prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact
100g green beans, trimmed, cut into 4cm lengths
1 small broccoli, cut into florets, steamed or microwaved
steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer, in a large roasting pan. Spray some olive oil and toss to coat. Bake in oven for approx. 8 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is softened. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  3. Add pumpkin, fish sauce, coconut milk, half the chilli and cold water. Simmer for a few minutes or until pumpkin is just tender and sauce has thickened slightly.
  4. Add prawns, broccoli and beans. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until prawns are cooked through and beans tender. Top with remaining chilli. Serve with rice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kouzina Greco

Hubby and I went out to dinner last Saturday night to celebrate Valentine's day. Hubby let me decide the cuisine and I for some reason had a craving to eat Mediterranean food, in particular Greek food. So I set about looking for a Greek restaurant that was available for us to have dinner. A few places that I wanted to go to were booked out but there was a booking available at Kouzina Greco so we decided to dine here.

Kouzina Greco strikes me as simple and unpretentious. I found the staff friendly and welcoming on our arrival, and I enjoyed eating in the relaxing, laid back atmosphere. It's the perfect place for a romantic dinner or catching up with a group of friends!


Saturday night in bustling Parramatta on Valentine's Day was cold and raining. But walking into Kouzina Greco was warm and inviting. Hubby and I couldn't wait to eat some authentic and comforting Greek food!

Cabbage rolls (cabbage leaves filled with mince and rice with avgolemoni sauce) $16

For entree we ordered the cabbage rolls and prawn saganaki. My first impression when the cabbage rolls were presented to me were, that's way too big for an entree! If I hadn't been sharing it with hubby, I think I would've been full on just entree itself! Having said that, the entree was delicious. The cabbage rolls had minced meat and rice rolled inside a cabbage leaf and it was served with a lemony sauce.

Prawn Saganaki (Sizzling pot flamed with white wine, fresh tomato, feta cheese and shallots) $20

The prawn saganaki was also delicious. There was a wonderful aroma coming out of the sizzling pot when the waiter set this dish before us and the flavours of perfectly cooked prawns infused with wine and tomatoes bursting into our mouths as we savoured every mouthful.

Kleftiko (slow roasted lamb with fresh herbs, lemon, olive oil and roasted potatoes) $27

For main I chose the Kleftiko, a slow roasted lamb with fresh herbs, lemon, olive oil and roasted potatoes. This dish for me was the highlight of the night. The lamb was juicy, succulent and most importantly just fell right off the bone as I dug into it. The more I ate this lamb, the more I didn't want to share it with hubby :P

Lamb Souvlaki served with tzatziki and Greek pita bread and a finely diced salad of continental parsley, tomato and onion $27

Now, you can't go to a Greek restaurant without trying souvlaki and so hubby chose to get lamb souvlaki. (You could choose between lamb and chicken)

The meat had a nice barbecued flavour and was tender and juicy. There was also a generous serving of lamb- great for my carnivorous husband. He thoroughly enjoyed it :) The tzatziki was also nice with just the right amount of garlic. I don't like it when the garlic is overpowering.

Loukoumades (Honey puffs topped with icing sugar, cinnamon and honey) $12

Hubby was so full from entree and main that he couldn't squeeze in dessert. I on the other hand really wanted to try at least one Greek dessert off the menu, despite the fact that I too was very full! So in the end, we decided to get one dessert to share between the two of us. But trying to choose which dessert to share was a difficult task since there were a few I wanted to try including Creme Brulee (I know it's not Greek but I love creme brulee), Baklava ice cream and Milopita (baked pastry filled with caramelised apple and cinnamon with vanilla ice cream). In the end, we chose the Loukoumades, a traditional Greek dessert of honey puffs topped with icing sugar, cinnamon and honey. There was a 20 minutes waiting time for this dessert, but that suited us fine since we needed some time to digest.

20 minutes later, our loukoumades arrive and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't just a fried piece of dough- I had been expecting it to taste similar to a doughnut- but instead I got this light, airy, slightly sticky and chewy dough that had been drenched in honey.  The dough texture reminded me of the dim sum- ham sui gok (savoury fried mochi dumpling). The loukomades were quite nice and yummy and I was glad to have ended the evening with a satisfying Greek treat.

Overall, hubby and I had an enjoyable experience at Kouzina Greco. The courses were well staggered, food was fresh, flavourful and generous- we walked away feeling full and satisfied, in fact we struggled walking back to the car! The place was packed all night and bookings are a must on a Saturday night, so that speaks volumes in itself. The price was slightly more than what we would have expected to pay for the meal but hey, it was a special occasion, so what the heck?

Kouzina Greco on Urbanspoon

Rosetti's Cafe

Hubby and I came here on a Saturday night for a casual dinner. I liked the funky retro decor when I walked in, but the restaurant seemed really loud and noisy. Maybe it was the hard floor?


Bruschetta with Bocconcini $4.50

We kicked off the night with an entree to share- bruschetta with bocconcini. The bread was nicely toasted and the tomatoes well seasoned.

Char-grilled T Bone with BBQ mushrooms, served with garden salad and chips $21.50

For main, I ordered the char-grilled T bone steak since I was feeling like I was lacking some iron in my diet and I thought a big steak could help correct that. The T-Bone steak brought out to me was cooked to perfection- I asked for medium rare and that's exactly what I got. The chips were also nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The salad was fresh with just the right amount of dressing.

Grilled Atlantic Salmon Fillet $27.50

Hubby got the grilled Atlantic salmon fillet served on a bed of vegetables drizzled with a light honey and soy glaze. Strange flavours to find on your plate in an Italian restaurant... but the dish was nice, fish was just slightly overcooked.

Home Made Apple and Cinnamon Crepes served with ice cream and cream $17.50

For dessert, hubby and I chose the homemade apple and cinnamon crepes suggested on the specials board. The crepes were paper thin and the apples nicely poached. It was a yummy dessert to end the night and I left the restaurant feeling satisfied.

Will probably go back again to try their woodfired pizzas- apparently each style is named after a street in the surrounding suburb... interesting...

Rosetti's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Beef Nachos




Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g beef mince
300g can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 teaspoon Mexican chilli powder
35g sachet reduced-salt taco seasoning mix
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup water
½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
230g packet corn chips
1 cup grated tasty cheese
guacamole and sour cream, to serve

Guacamole
3 ripe avocados
2 tsp chopped coriander
Spanish onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
Juice of ½ lime
1 tsp salt

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion for 2 minutes, or until soft. Add mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until browned.
  2. Add kidney beans, chilli powder, seasoning, tomato paste and water. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until thick. Stir through coriander.
  3. Arrange corn chips on a heatproof plate. Top with mince. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until hot. Top with guacamole and sour cream. Serve.
To make guacomole:

Halve the avocados, remove the seed and using a spoon scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add coriander and a little onion. Mash together with a fork. Add tomato and lime juice and season with salt. Gently fold through.

Note:
Guacamole should be made just before serving. Returning the seed of the avocado to the mixture will help keep the guacamole green. 


Friday, February 19, 2010

Pear and Raspberry Coconut Bread

There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked goods in your home and I LOVE baking but I haven't been able to do it lately since I've just been so busy with work. So it wasn't of any surprise that I had an urge to bake something. So, one afternoon I decided to make this pear and raspberry coconut bread as it's an old favourite in our household. Sometimes when I make this loaf bread, I like to slice it up then wrap the slices up individually in cling wrap before placing them all inside a zip lock bag and freezing them. I then thaw the slices by heating it in the microwave and it tastes as good as when first baked. It's great for all those times I'm craving for a nice morning or afternoon tea but can't be bothered to actually make it from scratch.

The secret to a soft, moist loaf bread is to not over mix the batter. Always gently fold the dry ingredients over and stir softly. NEVER stir the batter more than 15 times; count each turn of the spoon around the bowl as one, two, and so on. It is okay to have some lumps in the batter. The object is not to rid the batter of the lumps, but to not over mix. Hence you would NEVER use a hand mixer! This same principle applies to making muffins.


Serves 8-10

Ingredients

200g can pears halves in fruit juice, drained
2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 cup dessicated coconut
½ cup caster sugar, sifted
270ml light coconut milk
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen raspberries

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 9cm x 22cm (base) loaf pan with non-stick baking paper. Cut the pear into 2cm pieces.
  2. Combine the flour, coconut and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk together the coconut milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients into the well and mix until just combined.
  3. Gently stir in the pears and frozen raspberries- make sure you don't over mix. Spoon into the pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Set aside for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  
Notes & Tips

Frozen raspberries: Raspberries are a health super-food. They boost metabolism and help protect against cancer and heart disease. You can enjoy frozen raspberries all year round.

Vanilla extract: This has a more concentrated flavour of premium vanilla beans. It has a lower alcohol content, which makes it ideal for high temperatures. If you don't have vanilla extract, then use 1 tsp vanilla essence in this recipe.

Light coconut milk: Coconut milk is a great non-dairy alternative. Choose the light version to cut back on fat.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roast Duck with Fruit Sauce

I haven't had to cook much these last couple of days since I had so much food left over in my fridge from Chinese New Year celebrations. It's a great time to feast for us Asians :)

This roast duck with fruit sauce was a dish that I made for new year's to bring over to my sister-in-law's place. It's quite simple to put together- all you have to do is buy the roast duck from a Chinese BBQ shop and then make the sauce to pour over the top of the duck. This dish is great to bring as a pot luck dish to any occasion, especially if you're a bit pressed for time. Happy Chinese New Year everyone!


Ingredients

1 whole roast duck, cut into pieces
2 oranges, cut into segments
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon water
425g can lychees in syrup, drained
225g can pineapple pieces in syrup, drained

Method
  1. Combine orange juice, honey, lemon juice, soy sauces, stock and blended cornflour and water in a small pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until sauce boils and thickens.
  2. Stir in lychees, pineapple and oranges when sauce has cooled slightly.
  3. Arrange chopped roast duck pieces on a platter. Pour the fruit sauce over the top when ready to be served.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chilli Lime Pork Ribs

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been quite busy with work lately and my uni holidays are almost over :(
So with less time on my hands now, I'm in search for recipes that are easy to whip up and tasty when reheated the next day. Here's one such recipe that fits the criteria :)


Serves 4

Ingredients

2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon kecap manis
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.2kg pork spare ribs, cut into 5cm pieces
canola oil cooking spray


Method

  1. Combine chilli, lime rind, lime juice, kecap manis, sugar and garlic in a jug. Place pork in a large, shallow, glass or ceramic dish. Pour over chilli mixture. Turn pork to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 hours, if time permits.
  2. Spray a barbecue plate, chargrill or fry pan with oil. Heat over medium-high. Cook pork for 5 to 6 minutes each side or until browned and cook through. Transfer to a plate. Cover with foil. Stand for 5 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tomato & Egg Stir Fry

Tomato and egg stir fry is a popular and humble Chinese dish that is often served at home. My dad's version includes tomato sauce and sometimes a bit of sweet chilli sauce. I prefer to not add the tomato sauce and enjoy the natural flavours of the tomatoes instead. This dish is really simple, inexpensive to make and quite healthy. It's a delicious accompaniment to any Chinese meal.

Serves 2
Ingredients

4 large eggs
3-4 tomatoes (cut into thin wedges)
½ teaspoon salt
3 dashes white pepper powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons cooking oil
3 shallots, chopped

Method

Break the eggs into a bowl and use chopsticks to beat the eggs until they break thoroughly. Add salt, sesame oil, white pepper powder and lightly beat to blend well. Set aside.

Heat up a wok with 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Add the egg mixture into the wok, and use your spatula to spread the eggs. Keep stirring until the eggs form lumps. Gently break the lumps into smaller pieces. As soon as the eggs are cooked, dish out and set aside.

Clean the wok and heat it up again with 1 tablespoon cooking oil. Drop the tomato wedges into the wok and do a few quick stirs. Add sugar and water into the tomatoes. Cover it with the lid and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Transfer the eggs and chopped shallots into the tomatoes, stir-fry for 30 seconds or so, dish out and serve immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lotus Root Soup

One of the things I love most about my mum's cooking is that she makes very nice and tasty soups. Feeling a bit homesick, I decided to try and make a lotus root soup using a secret ingredient that my mum always adds to sweeten and flavour Chinese soup- dried honey dates. This secret ingredient sure didn't disappoint. The taste of pork ribs complimented the sweetness of these dried honey dates and the end result was a very light and refreshing soup that hubby and I just couldn't stop sipping.

Ingredients

1 strip lean pork ribs
1 lotus root (fresh or frozen)
2 dried honey dates
8-10 dried red dates
2 pieces dried squid
1 tbsp dried wolfberries (kai chee)
6 cups water
Salt to taste

Method
  1. Cut the pork ribs into short lengths, remove any visible fat and set aside.
  2. Peel off the skin of lotus root and cut into slices. 
  3. Bring a pot of water to boil and add in all the ingredients. 
  4. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until well cooked. Add salt to taste.

Easy Mango Pudding

This mango pudding is just so easy to make and so delicious to eat. Hence I used low fat evaporated milk in this recipe to make this dessert kinder to the hips!


Serves 4

Ingredients

1 packet 85g mango jelly crystals
250ml boiling water
200ml evaporated milk
1 ripe mango pureed (approx. 250ml)
¼ cup caster sugar

Method

  1. Pour the boiling water into a bowl. Stir in the jelly crystals making sure the crystals dissolve completely. Then add the caster sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Set bowl aside and let it cool.
  2. Add in the evaporated milk and pureed mango to the jelly. Mix well then spoon into jelly moulds or bowls. Cover and chill in the fridge until set, at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine- Morocco’s second most popular dish after couscous and considered to be the national dish.

A tagine is the Moroccan equivalent of a stew, usually fragrant with spices and often piquant with olives or preserved lemon. The name also refers to the earthenware dish with a conical-shaped lid that the dish is usually cooked in.

I don't own a tagine so for the following recipe I just used a large oven proof dish. You can also use a dutch oven or pressure cooker too.

This recipe takes some time to prepare and cook but it's worth the wait especially when you can smell the wonderful aroma of the chicken tagine fill your house as it is cooking!

Serves 4

Ingredients

Chermoula Marinade
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2cm piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
½ preserved lemon, lightly rinsed and thinly sliced
2 onions, chopped
½ birds eye chilli
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, stems and leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in a little water
½ cup olive oil
2 bay leaves, torn in half

4 chicken marylands or 1 whole chicken, size 10 or 12
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 large potatoes, cut into wedges
1 red onion, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
100g pitted green olives
8 large fresh medjool dates, halved and pitted
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 cup water
1 preserved lemon, cut into 6 segments
Couscous, to serve

Method

Marinade: Process all ingredients together in a food processor until finely chopped and thoroughly combined. Leave for 30 minutes before using. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

Wash and dry the chicken and remove backbone, wing tips and any excess fat. Cut into pieces. Prick chicken all over with a fork to allow marinade to penetrate. Rub all over with ½ of the chermoula marinade and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Combine the tomato and onion with a little more chermoula and spread into the base of the tajine (this will prevent the chicken from burning on the bottom).Arrange chicken pieces in the centre of the tajine on top of tomato mixture. Coat potato wedges with chermoula and arrange around chicken. Top with red onion slices, then tomato slices and olives and dates in between the potato wedges.

Mix chopped coriander with remaining chermoula and water. Pour over mixture. Decorate top with preserved lemon wedges.

Cover tajine with lid and cook on a very low gas heat for 45-60 minutes. Do not stir or lift the lid during the cooking process.

If using a large ovenproof dish, cover and place into a 200°C preheated oven and bake for 90 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve the Tajine directly to the table and impress your guests with a waft of fragrant steam when it’s time to serve.

To make cous cous:

Place 1 cup chicken stock into saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Stir and pour in 1 cup couscous. Cover and allow to stand for 3-5 minutes.

Stir with a fork to separate grains. Spoon couscous onto plates. Spoon over chicken and sauce. Serve hot and enjoy :)

Notes & Tips

Preserved lemons are conserved in salt, lemon juice and oil, and impart an extra tangy flavour to dishes. Buy them in sealed jars at delis and selected supermarkets.

A cheat's version of this recipe is to substitute 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind and 2 teaspoons lemon juice for the preserved lemon in this recipe.



Monday, February 1, 2010

Cashew Chicken

The key to a great Chinese stir-fried chicken dish is simple: smooth and tender chicken meat lightly coated with a sauce, stir-fried over HIGH heat using a wok to achieve the breath of wok. To make the chicken tender, many restaurants and Chinese chefs use BAKING SODA.

Baking soda serves two purposes:
  1. to rid the chicken of any potential foul chicken smell
  2. to tenderize the meat. 
SECRET TECHNIQUE: BAKING SODA is the secret weapon to make any meat–chicken, beef, pork–tender.

Once you try out this Cashew Chicken recipe, you will never go back to the gooey, sticky, starchy Cashew Chicken from your neighborhood Chinese joints again!


Ingredients:

Boneless and skinless chicken breast 700g (cut into small cubes)
½ cup cashew nuts
1 small green capsicum, cut into small square pieces
1 small red capsicum, cut into small square pieces
1 small onion, cut into small square pieces
225g tinned pineapple pieces in syrup, drained

Marinade:

1 tsp baking soda
2½ tsp corn flour
1½ tsp Chinese rice wine

Sauce:

1½ tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
½ cup water
1½ tsp sugar
1½ tsp Chinese rice wine
½ tsp sesame oil

Method

  1. Marinate the chicken meat with the baking soda for 20 minutes and then rinse the chicken thoroughly (make sure that the chicken is properly rinsed clean of the baking soda).
  2. Pat the chicken meat dry with paper towels and then marinate with the rest of the ingredients for 15 minutes.
  3. Mix the sauce together and set aside.
  4. Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over high heat and stir-fry the chicken meat until the color turns white or half-cooked. Dish out and set aside.
  5. Add another 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the wok and add in the ginger slices, capsicums and onion.
  6. Stir-fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the capsicum and add the chicken meat back in.
  7. Add in the sauce and coat all the ingredients with the sauce.
  8. Then add in the cashew nuts and pineapple pieces and stir continuously until the chicken meat is cooked through. Add salt to taste, dish out and serve the Cashew Chicken hot with steamed white rice.
Notes & Tips

If using chicken thigh fillets, it is not necessary to add baking soda to tenderise it as this cut of chicken retains its moisture during the cooking process, unlike chicken breast which can "dry out" when cooked.
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