Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Mee Krob

First had this sweet salty sticky Thai number in Sydney in 1989. Took a few years for me to find it on a Brisbane menu but eventually it popped up. About 10 years ago, I pledged to make my own. It is a delicious dish, works as a side or a meal, and I loved its complexity, hence I wanted to cook it. 

Of course, as things go - and what with the divorce, and being a single mum, and changing jobs, and buying a new house, and getting married again - it's taken me 10 years to get around to it. But I did, and it was fun. Tasted pretty good too.

The secret, which is the secret with all this speedy cooking process of Asian foods, is to have every single ingredient chopped or whatever, lined up in bowls, ready to go. What you don't want is to have to slow the heat to chop your shallot and then try and coax the heat back.

The other secret (sorry, I forgot to mention there were two) is get the oil in your wok frighteningly hot before you do the noodles. I didn't have it quite hot enough, don't think I was that brave so my noodles weren't as crispy as I'd like. So you be brave. 

(Top right pic is mine, bottom left is someone else's.)


Serves 4-6 as a side (so if it's a main, you do the math)

1 firm tofu cake (just get it from Woolies)
Freakin' heaps of peanut oil
125g dried rice vermicelli noodles
50g palm sugar (you can use brown sugar if you want, but I'd rather you didn't)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
150g pork mince
8-10 green prawns, shelled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground chilli (more if you want)
2 tablespoons lime juice

to serve: fresh coriander leaves, bean sprouts, more chopped spring onions


Get your wok out. Mine is an electric one that sits on the bench and it's huge. Ergo it's perfect.

Heat a bit of oil in the bottom. Get your tofu out of the plastic, dry it off with paper towels, then cut it into 1cm cubes. In batches, fry it up, then when it's golden, drain on paper towels.

Pour literally a third of your bottle of oil into the wok. Maybe more. I know, scary, but if you only do it once a year, it's ok.

Now turn that sucker up as high as you can without setting your house on fire. Don't be afraid. Consider removing the batteries from your smoke alarm for this process.

When it looks sinister and hot, like the sort of hot oil that King Henry VIII would have thrown someone in if they looked sideways at Anne Boleyn, then add your noodles in batches. If you've ever cooked pappadams in hot oil, it's sort of the same process. When they puff up, about 30 seconds, whip them over to the other side for a few seconds, then drain on paper towels. Turn your wok off.

Pop the palm sugar (it should come in cubes, like an ice cube tray) into a mortar and pestle and pound it into a paste.

Put the vinegar, fish sauce and sugar into a small saucepan on a low heat and dissolve. You can keep it there (on the low heat) until you need it.

OK - here we go. Time to build.

Take most of the oil out of wok (stick it in an empty Dolmio jar and put that in your bin - we can talk about why you even use Dolmio in anther blog), then get it hot again. Saute the garlic and shallots for a minute or so, then chuck in the prawns and pork mince. Sprinkle on the chilli (you be the judge) and stir a bit more.

Get your vinegar/sugar thing off the stove and pour it in the wok, then add the lime juice. Have some fun working with the flavours to get it to your liking. (Also, what I did was add tap water to the vinegar/sugar saucepan and put it back on the stove on a low heat, to stop the sugar from setting. When I had more time, I boiled it up then threw it all down the sink. Don't tell Greenpeace.)

When you're happy with flavours, break up the noodles and add them to the wok syrup thing and mix. Then add the tofu.

And you're done!

When it is all piping hot, dish into bowls and top with that other stuff I've listed up top. You can serve with chicken, a curry or on its own. You may also just eat it straight from the wok. Mad if you don't.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

We had a bit of a big one last night. You know that saying, "you never need that last glass of wine"? It's true. Really though, it's more like the last three glasses, but anyway...

This morning called for a sleep-in, some Panadol and eggs. These were pretty good, so I thought I'd whack the recipe up before I head back to bed with a cup of tea and the papers. 

Enjoy your weekend, wherever you are xo 


Serves 4 (or 2 if you're super hungry/hungover)

1 tablespoon or so of butter
8 stalks asparagus, woody bottoms removed, sliced longways
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 eggs
A splash of milk (or cream, if you're game)
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
200g smoked salmon, chopped
Toast, to serve


Heat the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the asparagus and cook until just tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk with the milk/cream. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper and add to the pan with the asparagus. Turn the heat down to low and use a wooden spoon to constantly stir and scrape the eggs until they begin to form soft curds.

Just as they are starting to firm up, stir in the goat cheese and get it off the heat. Eggs keep cooking even after you've turned the heat off so don't wait too long.

Fold in the smoked salmon and spoon over hot buttery toast. Eat, then go back to bed.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Salmon and leek jalousie

No, it's not a typo, so put your grammar hat way. You say it "jah-uh-see". It's French, doh, and it's usually sweet but this one isn't. Google also says that it means a blind or shutter with angled slats, and as the picture attests, it's certainly got some slat action!

I don't even attempt to make my own pastry and I won't judge if you don't either. But I do use a really good quality one, like Careme. It's not cheap, and I get it from the Clayfield Markets and it's worth it. 


Butter (Lurpak being my favourite)
1 leek, washed and finely sliced
1-2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup of milk (Maleny Dairy being my favourite)
½ cup grated tasty or vintage cheese (yes it is ok to buy it already grated)
500g salmon (buy the hot smoked one from your fishmonger, yes I've banged on about this before)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg white, beaten


Preheat your oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Melt a good knob of butter (or two if you're up to it) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the flour and cook for one minute, while stirring. It will make a sort of roux.

You know what to do next... stir in the milk slowly and keep bloody stirring. Some people say it should boil but I'm not one of them. When it thickens, add the cheese.

Let the whole thing cool then add your salmon and shallots. Easy! Horray for one saucepan.

OK, now to the pastry. You need a rectangle shape, and you need one piece to be bigger than the other, because one is the base and the other is the top so it needs to be bigger to go over the gorgeous filling. I won't give you measurements, you can look at your own pieces of pastry and work it out.

But you will need to cut some shallow slits about 2cm apart on the top piece, leaving a 2cm border all they way around the edge.

Now for the fun bit. Pop the smaller piece of pastry on the baking paper tray. Heap on that gorgeous mixture, without sticking your finger in it too much, leaving a 3cm border around the edge.

Brush the border with the egg white then whack the top piece on, press the edges together and brush the top with more egg white.

Bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until it's all puffed and golden.

Serve with a tomato, rocket and avocado salad, perhaps sprinkled with a few toasted pepitas. Oh, and a hefty ice cold glass of NZ Sav Blanc.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Muesli blinis

Those of you who I see all the time will know that Alan and I have been quite dedicated to losing a bit of weight this year, as well as getting a bit fitter. It's been a no-brainer exercise (pun intended). We simply to eat and drink less (and seriously, you don't need wine seven nights a week) and work with a personal trainer to develop some fitness. 

And the results are speaking for themselves. I'm down two sizes in clothes, and three for Alan. Good thing we never threw out our "thin" clothes so no need to hold our pants up with rope! One of the things I did, though, is instead of putting aside my love affair with creation in the kitchen, I just stopped making things that needed creme fraiche and coconut cream and lots of oil. I bought some Weight Watchers recipe books (don't laugh, they are pretty good), cut out processed carbs like pasta and bread, and I bow down before the God of the Nutribullet each morning.

The reason I'm telling you all this, is that I'm still going to post gorgeous recipes that no doubt have a high fat content but who cares because they're so bloody good and it won't kill you as long as you don't eat it everyday. But I'm also going to post some of the low-fat delights I've found along this journey. 

This one comes from the "I Quit Sugar" site. Great canapes for your dinner party. Just take care that you do the right thing after you've cooked them. Smothering them in sour cream is fantastic, but the wiser option might be slices of smoked salmon with that gorgeous salty black caviar stuff from Holland House that you get in Woolies for $5 a jar. 


1 cup muesli (I use Carmen's or that organic stuff you get at the Farmers Market)
1 cup Greek yoghurt (no need to go low-fat here)
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste


Using a food processor, grind the muesli to a course flour like consistency.

Pour into a bowl and combine with Greek yoghurt, eggs and salt and pepper.

Drop a tablespoon of batter onto a non stick pan until small bubbles appear, turn to briefly cook the other side. You may want to give your pan a quick spray of oil.

Other topping options are ham and avocado, or cottage cheese and tomato slices.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Salmon fishcakes

Way back in the 1970s, when my Anglican mother insisted we have fish on Fridays, she’d wheel these out for dinner. My brothers and I awarded her salmon fish cakes the highest of insults by drowning them in tomato sauce. She made them with mashed potatoes, as this recipe calls for, but oddly she also served them with mashed potatoes. She had economy of effort on her mind, clearly. Even though she called them salmon fish cakes, she made them with tinned tuna. Go figure. 

These are one of the simplest meals to make, the hardest part being the peeling of the potatoes. So get your husband to do that. And don’t use tinned tuna if you can help it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but shout yourself some proper hot smoked salmon. Flake it up and add it, and you’ll be a convert. And thanks to Jamie Oliver and Woolies at North Lakes for this recipe.


Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g frozen peas (fresh if you have the energy; I rarely do)
600g potatoes (4-5 if you prefer to count)
Knob of butter
Fresh chives
350g or thereabouts of salmon or tuna (hot smoked from your fishmonger or good-quality tins)
1 lemon
1 tablespoon plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 large egg
Olive oil


Put a saucepan of water on to boil, peel the potatoes then cook them with a pinch of salt until tender. Add the frozen peas to the last few minutes. Mash with a knob of butter. Leave to cool. I’m not going to bore you with details on how to cook potatoes. Believe me.

Finely chop the chives and add them to a mixing bowl.

Flake the salmon, or drain it if using canned and add to the chives.

Zest the lemon and add it to the bowl along with the flour.

Crack the egg and add it to the salmon and season with pepper.

Once cool, tip the potatoes and peas in with salmon and mix really well.

Sprinkle a little flour over a clean work surface. Use your hands to shape the salmon mixture into calls, about 2cm thick. Put them on a plate and dust with flour.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the fishcakes for 3-4 minutes each side, until crisp and golden. Remember, everything is already cooked, so you’re now just heating it and putting that fabulous crisp on it. 

Serve the fishcakes with some seasonal green veg or a fresh green salad and lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Consider doubling the quantity and having leftovers for breakfast. Topped with a fried egg. Yum!  

Sunday, 7 September 2014

New Zealand wine

My husband and I were in Los Angeles earlier this year. My previous trips to the States had left me somewhat lacklustre over their acclaimed Napa Valley wines. They seemed too new, too tart, too much like metho. 

So I was hesitant when I picked up the wine list at the bar in our hotel, the Loews. And blow me down if NZ's Brancott Estate Sav Blanc wasn't up there as #1 on the list. A bottle of this fine wine please sir, I heralded to the barman, who quite rightly did his best to sway me towards Napa. He didn't succeed. 

I can't really remember what I used to drink before I discovered the easy delights of NZ Sav Blanc. Perhaps it was chardonnay, maybe it was scotch? All I know is that the NZ one rarely fails in delivery and joy. And there's so many to choose from! 

So being in NZ again is a chance to try the wines that are not as easy to get at home. Although with an iPad and wi-fi you can get anything. Let me rephrase and say that here are a few I've tried and really enjoyed. Because I've tried more than a few... 

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc

I'm not a wine connoisseur, I'm not trained to identify notes and palettes and lingering something or the other.

But what I can tell you is that this one is a cracker with some cheese and toasted rye bread, or some deep-fried calamari with home-made tartare sauce.

Perfect for that late afternoon sitting around having a chat and a snack. While you overlook Wellington Harbour.

Lake Challice Sauvignon Blanc

Had this at lunch time, with a seafood penne and caprese salad.

It was delightful. Had to have a second glass. Without wanting to sound like an all-out wanker, it matched the food perfectly. Almost too good to be true.

It was pouring with rain, some gale force wind was howling about the place. We were ensconced in an Italian cucina right on the bay, watching the water being whipped about while we commiserated with those outside and sipped our fabulous wine.

Could possibly go back there tomorrow for another glass.

Nevis Bluff Pinot Noir

Stumbled on this one on our way to dinner on Friday night. We were booked somewhere down in fabulous Courtenay Place but saw this adorable bar, no bigger than a hallway, crammed with tiny tables overflowing with candles. We grabbed the last remaining seats and asked for a recommendation. This cheeky pinot was what we got. Mind you, it came at $16 a glass but it was so good we stayed for a second.

I'm trying to remember if we got to dinner...??

So there's my top three. Not sure if any of them have been tried and tested on anyone but me. Not sure if they get any gongs in any parts of the world. Wine is totally subjective. It is also about diversifying and developing your tastes.

Because never forget, I asked for Asti Riccadonna to be served at my first wedding in 1986. I'd like to think I've come a fair way since then... 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Mushroom, kumara and bacon fritters

We're in New Zealand at the moment and embracing this country's love affair with sweet potato - or the more NZ appropriate kumara. We've got fries and toppings and mash and all manner of variances. Even gnocchi. Good thing we love it. Sweet potato is very good for you. It rates as one of the most nutritious of all vegetables, is a good source of antioxidants and is pretty much fat-free. Enough of the lecture. Let me give you a recipe that I haven't cooked myself but came across when I was doing some kumara browsing. Says it serves four. I'll let you be the judge of that.

And don't fret, tomorrow I'll do wine. NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Promise. 


700g mushrooms quartered
500g kumara, peeled and diced to one cm
250g bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons finely diced garlic
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
4 eggs
¾ cup plain flour
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
salt and black pepper to taste
cooking oil and butter


In a saucepan add diced kumara and cover with salted cold water and put over high heat. Bring to boil and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Strain and cool.

Bring another saucepan to the heat, add a little cooking oil, when hot, add bacon, onion, garlic and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes until the onion is soft before adding mushrooms. Cook for 20 minutes until cooking liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, cool then place in a bowl with kumara.

For the batter whisk the eggs and flour to a thick, smooth consistency. Pour over mushroom and kumara mix add chilli sauce and season. To cook heat up the griddle top of your bbq or your stove-top frypan.

Add a little oil and butter then spoon out the fritters. Cook until golden one side and turn. Keep warm until all are cooked.

Serve with poached eggs and Hollandaise. Or salad and salsa.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Oyster bay

My parents adored oysters. Any chance they could, they'd be ordering them by the dozen and savouring their fleshy saltiness. I used to regularly do a mock vomit when this happened. One day, when I was about 16, curiosity got the better of me, and I tried one. Never looked back. My husband doesn't eat them. This works well for us, because when we go to the Sheraton seafood buffet, we both get a plateful and I get to eat both, without looking like an oyster hog. 

Personal preference for me is natural, with a squeeze of lemon and a quick grind of black pepper. But when I feel like being a bit more posh, here's a few of my alternatives... 

Most important, is find a good-quality fishmonger, and be prepared to drive for a bit to get to a good one. Some of the supermarkets are upscaling and have a reasonable fresh seafood section. My venue of choice is Aussie Seafood House at Lawnton. 

Oysters with grapefruit and gin

Super easy. Cut up thin slivers of ruby grapefruit and place on the oyster. Spoon over half a teaspoon of gin. Top with a few finely chopped chives and black pepper.

Oysters with creme fraiche and salmon roe

In a bowl, mix together ½ cup creme fraiche or sour cream,
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives, 2 teaspoons horseradish, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top each oyster with a spoonful of this mixture. This makes up quite a bit so you'll easily have enough for a couple of dozen.

Top oysters with salmon roe (you can buy this at good quality delis or at your fishmonger). Serve with lemon wedges.

Oysters with soy dipping sauce

Mix together half a cup of soy sauce and mirin. Pour into tiny individual bowls and serve on the plate with the oysters. Delicate and super tasty.

Oysters with finger limes

Cut a Lebanese cucumber in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice finely. Mix together one tablespoon of caster sugar, one teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of rice vinegar. Add the cucumber to the bowl and leave for 30 minutes, then drain and squeeze out the excess moisture (I use paper towels).

Whiz up the cucumbers in a blender with a splash of olive oil until they're light and creamy then pop it in the fridge to get really cold.

Get two finger limes and roll them on your bench until the bits inside them loosen and feel a bit squishy. Cut in half cross-wise and gently squeeze out the little pearls.

Add a drop or two of mirin to each oyster, then top with cucumber mixture and finger lime pearls. It is almost mandatory that you serve this with champagne.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Lemon chicken

This is so easy, your cat could make it. This is so easy, even Miley Cyrus could pull it off. This is so easy, you could be a little bit pissed when you start cooking, and still churn out a winner. Ok, so you've got that it's easy? This is from my adored Bill Granger


2 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken breasts with skin
Vegetable oil, for shallow-frying
1 lemon, cut into wedges (keep the skin on)
3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
4 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
80 ml lemon juice
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
80 ml chicken stock
2 tablespoon soft brown sugar
2 teaspoon cornflour mixed with a little cold water

Serve with cooked rice and fresh parsley.


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Mix the flour, five-spice, salt and pepper on a large plate. Dust the chicken in the spiced flour.

Heat enough oil for shallow-frying in a large wok over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken breasts for 2-3 mins, or until the skin is crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, then put the chicken on a baking tray and bake for 6 mins, or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, drain all but 2tbsp of the oil from the wok and return to high heat. Add the lemon wedges and ginger and stir-fry for 2 mins.

Add the honey, rice wine and lemon juice and cook for 1 min, then add the soy sauce, chicken stock and sugar and simmer for 2 mins.

Add the cornflour mixture and simmer for 2 mins, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.

To serve, cut each chicken breast into five or six pieces and spoon some sauce over the top. Serve with rice and parsley. If you're feeling virtuous, steam some broccolini. But only if you're feeling virtuous.