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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Cookbook Gifts for Christmas

Each year so many cook books get published. The three listed below are my favourite for this year.
I have so many in my collection, but these three are my go to at the moment. I have cooked so many recipes from each of them and so far loved them all.
The other wonderful and inspirational thing about them is, each of these chefs have a  food show on television which you all must watch. They are a culinary history and a great travel log.
Anyone interested in food, cooking and travel would be more than excited to receive one of these beautiful cookbooks for Christmas.


Another in the Ottolenghi collection, named after his London restaurant.  I have all of his books and love this as much as the others .Vegetables, meat dishes. amazing salads and pulses with a twist. From the Far East to the Middle East a wonderful collaboration of flavours. Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast is worth viewing as well.

Rick Steins India

The photography alone is enough to get the taste buds going. It is stunning. The recipes are  part of Ricks search for the perfect curry. However there are many full flavoured recipes that cover all facets of Indian food. The complexities of the various spice blends, help you to understand what makes all their dishes so different.
If you can watch Ricks Indian Odyssey it will also inspire you to try it all.

Shane Delias Moorish Spice Journey

This is the book of the television series on SBS. Shane goes to Morocco and Spain to search the moorish roots of food in the area, that goes back thousands of years.
Delicious, creative and truly inspirational. I have also really enjoyed his television series of Mediterranean Food on SBS.
If you are in Melbourne any time soon a visit to his restaurant Maha is a definite.

Thursday, 24 September 2015


A big change of heart for me. I have never been a cereal lover, always preferring a fruit or protein option. One of my friends daughter started making Granola and having tried it and thoroughly enjoying it I decided to give it a go.
Breakfast out has become the norm. Try to get in anywhere on a week end without booking and you will do it New York style wait in a queue. We had a great breakfast at Two Hands run by Aussies in Soho. You must try it if in NYC casual, the americans are going crazy over their simple delicious health menu.
You can enjoy all these delights at home. Why not ask a few friends around for brunch and give them some homemade granola, with beautiful yoghurt. Freshly squeezed juice, egg and bacon rolls or avocado toast sprinkled with a little chilli flakes and lemon. Eggs Benedict or acai bowls sprinkled with granola and fresh berries. ricotta toast with berries. The combinations are endless and half the price of a cafe. Of course it does involve a little bit of work but not nearly as busy as preparing for a dinner. Maybe a little champers to go with it....
I am sure there are many Granola recipes, bt this works for me and hasn't too much extra sugar.

1 kilo rolled oats
3/4 cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
3 tablespoons cinnamon
150 grams pumpkin seeds
250 grams roasted unsalted nuts my favourite is a cashew and almond mix but the choice is yours
250 grams dried fruit. I have used raisons or sultanas or cranberries.

Preheat oven to 160 C.
Place the oats in a large bowl and stir through very thoroughly the coconut oil, honey and cinnamon.
If you need to use your hands do so as the honey can tend to clump the oats into small balls. Stir through the pumpkin seeds.
Layer on a flat tray and place in the oven.  The amount will probably fill 3 trays .Turn and move the mixture every 10 minutes or so until slightly coloured. You can't leave the kitchen and must be attentive as it can burn easily.
This could take approx 1/2 hour depending on your ovens heat. If you want it to roast faster you can turn up the temperature, but be careful.
Remove and cool.
Add the nuts and dried fruit. Done
Store in a 3 litre sealed container.

Breakfast at Two Hands

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Corned Beef and The Reuben Sandwich

People of a certain age will remember corned beef dinners from their childhood. I don't ever remember loving that meal but I did love the corned beef sandwich the next day.
It was a relatively cheap cut of meat in the 60's and I think now its still inexpensive but as our culinary tastes have become more sophisticated the humble corned beef has been relegated to the back burner.
Well the other day I thought why can't this meat be better and set about doing a little more than the original recipe. If Kylie Kwong can make magic out of a piece of brisket.....
Delicious we all thought. I used it for Reuben sandwiches. Classically a Reuben has chunky quite dry bread which I don't love either, so we used fresh and toasted. I bought a red cabbage in a jar which is actually Dutch to replace the sauerkraut and made a mayonnaise. Not quite Katz's Deli in New York but pretty good none the less.

Piece of corned beef
15 cloves
10 peppercorns
1 chopped onion
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 whole orange squeezed of juice, use both skin and juice

Place the beef into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then empty and rinse all fat residue from the pot
Stud the beef with cloves. Add to a pot of fresh water with all of the ingredients.
Squeeze the  orange and add both to the pot.
Simmer gently for 3 hours.

Serve with a Russian Mayonnaise, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut or Red Cabbage and Pickled Gerkins

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons horseradish
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped onion

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dahl Rasam or Spicy Lentil Soup

I was inspired by a soup I had in India called Rasam This is a thin watery soup consumed as a digestion aid with a tamarind juice base. Not really what we know as soup. It is a southern Indian dish and is often made with tomato juice as well. Pepper is always included as tomatoes and peppers are abundant in southern India.
However when lentils are added it becomes Dahl Rasam richer and thicker. It was delicious.
Ottolenghi and Claudia Roden also have a version of Lentil Soup.
So with all that inspiration and a cold day I set about making my version. Don't worry if you don't like lentils this will amaze you. Most people don't believe it is lentils once the coconut milk is added.
I am sure Indians would not approve, but as we like to do in this country tweak a recipe to our taste.
If you don't have curry paste you can use red chillies

2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/1/2 tablespoons red curry paste ( I used Thai curry Paste )
1 tablespoon cumin
2 lemongrass stalks bashed slightly to real ease flavour
good pinch of turmeric
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
4 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons sugar
500 grams red lentils
400 mls coconut milk

Chop the onions and garlic and cook in a large pot with some canola or sunflower oil.  Cook on a low heat until the onion and garlic are very soft. Be careful not to burn it. Add the curry paste and cook for a further minute until very fragrant, stirring with the onion mix.

Add the lentils, lemongrass, ginger, mustard seeds to the pot with 1300 ml water.
Bring to the boil and turn down to a gentle simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft .
When cooled remove lemongrass stalks and puree with a hand held bamix or pour into a blender.
Return to the stove and add  the coconut milk with cumin, turmeric, lime juice and sugar . Add  approx 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir all through whilst heating.

If you would like a thicker soup add less coconut milk. If would like it hotter add more chilli.
I serve it garnished with chopped tomato and coriander and a swish of extra chilli sauce in the form of Sriracha Sauce. You can use you favourite chilli sauce, but this comes in a squeeze bottle and has a thin consistency. Enjoy !

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Lamb Korma

The winter weather has arrived with full force this year and the temperatures have been the coldest I can remember  in years.
One tends to think of  hearty dishes to warm you up. Casseroles, stews, braises, curries and roasts come to mind. My go to dish for winter is a Lamb Korma easy for me because I have been making it forever. The heat is determined by you, so it is a great dish for all the family. A little bit of India.
Yes you can buy a jar of curry paste at the supermarket but the ingredients are all readily available and the taste is far superior if made from scratch. Once you have the spices you can churn it out as a regular winter meal.
Better made the day before, easily transportable and adaptable for the freezer. Serve it with a delicious chutney, yoghurt and poppadoms.
You can buy lamb already diced, but I buy small half legs and cut them myself into cubes.

approx 11/2 kilos lamb diced
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon freshly chopped ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground coriander
raw almonds or cashews approx 1/2 cup
6 red chillies deseeded ( if you wish it be be not as hot add 2 at this point )
1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder ( again omit if you want it milder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons salt
1 cup yoghurt
3 tablespoons oil
handful of chopped coriander leaves

Cut the lamb into cubes removing all the fat.
Place the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies and nuts into the food processor. Blend and then add half a cup of water and blend again. Add all the spices. This is your curry paste and should be as smooth as possible
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the blender contents. Cook until aromatic a couple of minutes and the oil is separating. Add another  1/2 cup of water to the blender and wash out the remainder of the paste and add the water to the pot. Cook a little longer.
Add the lamb slowly, a bit at a time until the meat is coated with the spice mixture and fry until it changes colour.
Add the salt and yoghurt and mix in evenly. Cover  and turn down simmering for 1 hour or until lamb is cooked.
Stir through fresh coriander in the last 5 minutes saving some for a garnish. Serve with rice and all the condiments.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Markets of Chandi Chowk In Delhi

The storyteller ! Beautiful shop

Turban man is for the money the other serves, very serious business
but he only wanted to discuss the cricket !!

A rickshaw ride into the ancient lanes of Chandi Chowk,  the biggest spice market in Asia was an amazing day for me. It appears to be chaos, but millions of traders have been doing business here every day, for centuries, purchasing, loading in and out and I am sure a lot of money changing hands.
A visual and sensual assault. So many spices and dried fruits, teas, rices, lentils and flours. The Indians are great story tellers and if it helps sell their wares,  why not ? Guaranteed to stop old age, make you fertile, help in pregnancy, help breast milk, stop aches and pains and on and on. You can buy tea that has been picked by the light of a silvery moon every seven years. I didn't fall for that one, but the guy selling me the tea, has been convincing people for years and he told me it works. Hilarious !
I tried some delicious food at such little cost. Paratha from the very ancient Paranthewali making paratha since the 1800's. A plate with dahl, coriander and mint chutney, a fruit chutney and a vegetable curry to have with our paratha for the cost of $1.00. Simply delicious !
The jalebis ,orange whirl of batter dipped in a sugar syrup. Samosas, from Japani Samosawala a 40 years old business. Lassis and mango ice cream, spicy chaat to take home, and amazing sweets. We had coffee at the Jain coffee house.
Most of these places are open every day. The old places are highly specialised and much loved. So enjoyable wandering the ancient lanes in a market like no other I have been.
In the afternoon we ventured to a Sikh Temple Kitchen or Langar where thousands of people  of every caste creed and colour are fed twice seven days a week .
It is run by volunteers who see this as part of their spiritual service.
Massive woks and cauldrons, are stirred with shovels and churn out tons and tons of dahl. Other
workers are making chapatis. I have never seen kitchens or cooking pots so huge and so clean.This wonderful service is done in a very orderly manner. People queue up outside and upon entering sit in orderly lines, are given a plate then served their meal. It takes no time to eat, as they leave the plates are passed back to the kitchen, the floors are swept and the next lot enter. I am sure this goes on in most major cities where a Sikh Temple is, but having not seen it I found quite spiritual and comforting amidst the chaos of Delhi.
Feeding the masses

Volunteers making the bread

Large woks of dahl

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Incredible India

After years of wanting to travel to India and having a non interested partner, our good friends and part of our travelling group suggested we go on a trip to Rajasthan with them. Whether the thought of company or I am game if you are, he relented and has turned out to be the most ardent fan.
What an amazing country. Culturally and historically mind blowing. Gastronomically absolutely delicious. We did stay in the stunning Oberoi Hotels which certainly added to the whole experience. Service at these hotels is outstanding and all done with a smile and a great sense of humour. The Indians love Aussies and don't miss a chance to have a chat about the cricket.
As for the food, not sure where to begin, so many memorable meals.
We dined in Indian Accent in Delhi, wow !  Set in  the New Friends Colony in the Manor Hotel in Delhi this restaurant is probably my favourite dining experience anywhere in a long time.
 The charming chef Manish Mehrotra has changed the Indian dining scene. Incredibly innovative fusion food. We were very happy for him to suggest dishes from the menu as I would have ordered everything
As we perused the menu we were given tiny blue cheese naan bread. If you are a lover of naan and blue cheese this little morsel sets the standard of the fare to follow.
Forget the Lamb Korma, we dined on Duck Kurchan Cornettos with Garlic Raita and Chilli Chutney
Pulled Pork Phulka Taco, Tandoori Bacon Prawns with Wasabi Malai Cream, Meetha Achaar Chilean Spareribs with Sundried Mango and Jalonji Seeds, Potato Sphere Chaat with with White Pea Ragda
to name a few. Absolutely amazing inventive cuisine, served by very professional wait staff, in a very warm stylish environment.
Duck Kurchan Cornettos

Meetha Achaar Chilean Spareribs Sun dried Mango and Kalonji Seed

Manish Mehrotra
Bukhara in the ITC Muraya was a meat extravaganza. Frequented by many famous people as told by the photos on the walls. Northern India and Rajistan is mainly vegetarian so obviously a great meat meal is quite sought after. The restaurant boasts the best dhal and the biggest naan bread.


Happy Diners

Biggest Naan
The Imperial was our hotel of choice on the return to Delhi. This hotel was built around 1930 and still holds that old world British colonial charm. We had the High Tea in the Atrium which was also a highlight.
The street food tour was amazing, my next blog
There are too many things to write about  tales of Maharajas Forts and Palaces. India is awash with colour and diversity and brings to mind images of valour, deep loyalties and revelry, murder and mayhem, ornate jewellery, stunning handicrafts, imposing architecture and landscapes. On to Varanasi and Agra, for my next instalment

Jama Masjid the largest Mosque in India constructed out of red sandstone and marble

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Dining in Ho Chi Minh

As the locals do, I also prefer to call this city Saigon. This is where we finished our journey.
Outside the hustle of the city away from masses of motorbikes we ventured to an organic farm, for our last cooking class.
A day on the Farm
It can't get any fresher than this

Attention in class

In the evening we dined in a very different venue.  The beautiful elegant Ly Club where you are amazingly also secluded from the masses of motorbikes and frenetic energy of the city
Saigon has become quite sophisticated and competes with other major Asian cities for some fabulous dining experiences.
I was appalled when meeting friends of one of my guests on the tour that they had dined at the American steak house near the hotel. They weren't sure where to go, so chose the easy option.
I soon put them straight and gave them a list of my favourite restaurants as a must do.
It is often the case when travelling, that one can end up in some terrible tourist trap, after hours of wandering around looking for somewhere to eat. Hotels, sightseeing and shopping are all organised and to me one of the most important experiences is forgotten.
 Mostly from laziness or on overload from organising the rest of the trip.
This oversight can ruin many dining experiences, both time wise and financially and taint your view of a city or country.
Make the time to check the dining scene wherever you go. You will be rewarded well for doing your homework.
My favourite restaurants in Saigon

Cuc Gach Quan

This gorgeous little casual restaurant is set in suburbia. You would never stumble across it walking around. It is colonial style, a purpose built restaurant designed to feel like a private home. The food is exceptionally good, the environment very stylish and the wine list surprisingly good. Vietnamese home cooking at its best served in a dining, living room space of timber and steel decorated with fabulous recycled items and interesting art work.
Inexpensive and a favourite of Brad and Angelina.

Com Nieu

Broken Rice literally the meaning of the name. Rice is served in a clay pot which is smashed at serving time, as a gimmick, but entertaining none the less. Braised pots of beautiful ribs and delicious seafood dishes all help to make this local restaurant a great dining spot. It is in District 3 about a 20 minute taxi ride out of the main area of District 1. Again not one you would stumble across and not one to miss.

Nam Pham

A beautiful restaurant in  renovated 4 story colonial villa. The decor is superb with marble floors, stone walls and polished wooden furniture all candle lit to provide an intimate atmosphere.
Asian fusion food brings it into the modern dining scene. The menu and wine list are extensive.
A little more expensive than some but worth it.
Another restaurant by the same group is Cham Charm. Banquet style food in a charming gallery setting.

Ly Club

Set in a neo French colonial garden setting, this restaurant is a sheer delight. The menu has a western influence, using local ingredients and spices. The presentation of the food is delightful.
Wines are a little expensive, but this is an upscale restaurant. The ambience of the garden with shimmering pools, bars and mood lighting adds to the glamour of the evening.

Off to India on the week end, so excited........ Stay tuned

Monday, 23 March 2015

Hue to Hoian

Banana benders

After arriving in the ancient city of Hue and exploring the citadel, we were ready to learn a little more
about their cooking style. The markets in this beautiful old city are superb. Locals buy everything here twice a day so all produce is in abundance and so fresh. Cooking utensils, serving bowls herbs and spices, also a bit of jewellery, footwear or sunnies for those who desire.
Starting the day with a little culture
We love the history of Hue and its predominately Chinese influence. Amazing Citadel and Royal Tomb. Food here is slightly different with emphasis on vegetables and seafood. On to the beachside Palm Gardens Resort in Hoian. The wonderful cooking school Morning Glory was our destination for our next class and we also enjoyed the ground floor street market style food.
Expert noodle maker

Fresh as
Birthday girls wear pink

Attention in class

Jardins Carambole for dinner.......... delicious
Birthdays are better in Vietnam, dining at the Les Jardins Carambole.
Dong si dong

Trying to convince us that this is yum........... spicy frog
Very happy with our dishes at Ancient Hue Cooking school
Perfect spring roll ... top of the class