Saturday, December 14, 2013

Returning to an Old Project

I started this blog in early university. Back then I like cooking, loved eating and wrote posts as creative procrastination/social media whoreing. Oh yes, 19 year old me certainly valued "likes" and blog traffic. After all, I was doing a BA so there was plenty of time to spare between lecture, tutorial readings and the occasional assignment.

As my uni life got more intense (read: I did an honours year) I ran out of time to start/finish/post articles.  I was still cooking, but between hours in the library, attending 21st and then spending hours hungover in the library there was little time for blogging.

Now times have changed. It has been a year since I graduated and left the comforts of university life, moved out of my childhood home and have packed and unpacked my collection of things in three countries in one year. I still love cooking, eating and talking about food. However, how I cook and what I cook has changed.

Firstly as my kitchen is vastly different. In Hawaii, where I now live, I am far away from the beautiful Miele appliances and marble counter tops of my parents kitchen. I am also, luckily, far away from the singe wok burner and no oven of my previous tiny kitchen in Beijing where the food was 80% poisonous or polluted. I now have much less bench space and a 1960's electric coil stove, but the air and water are clean.

Secondly, everything I cook is now on my budget. The great thing about growing up, moving away and living on your own is freedom. However, freedom costs money. In fact, freedom cost surprisingly more than you anticipate. Therefore, while I still cook great food and love to entertain, I am now aware that I perhaps don't need the french hand churned butter for that pastry at $12 a block when there is perfectly good normal butter next to it and maybe not everything needs to be purchased from Whole Foods.  While Hawaii is a beautiful place to live, the islands are not very self sustainable. Almost everything is flown in from one destination or another which also assist in jacking up the cost of living in paradise.

Thirdly, how I eat has changed. I no longer have a whole wednesday afternoon to hand make pasta. Or a Saturday to plan and make dinner for the family. I now mostly either cook for myself or only one or two other people if I have a guest in town or friends over for dinner. While I do love spending a Saturday or Sunday at the farmers markets and in the kitchen I have come to realise that having either something pre-prepared, or having the right ingredients in the kitchen to make something healthy and easy during the week is really important. To prevent a post long day at work dinner of wine and tim tams on the couch in front of the TV planning definitely is needed. That just reminded me, I have a half gnawed at Aero bar in the fridge somewhere.... Any way, organisation and planning is important.

This third point leads me to what I was really wanting to talk about. How this blog is going to change. Sorry, guys (you know who you are) the writing will still lean toward the self gratifying and mildly painful but the content is taking a shift. Purely to make it easier on myself I will simply be documenting what I make, what I like to eat and occasionally reviewing places. While this will also from time to time include big events, dinner parties or travel food writing expect more mid week meals and things you can make ahead.

So read, enjoy and maybe make something if it looks tasty enough. Now go do that pile of washing you have been neglecting or ring home to your parents to say hi.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Recipe 1: White Christmas


. I love making Christmas food whether it is baking traditional ginger bread, glazing monstrous 11kg hams or just banging out something chocolate centric. It is the food which really makes Christmas for me, the smells of candied fruit, mixed spice, baked ham and dark rum are just so perfect.

Personally I am not a massive fan of White Christmas or rocky road.  However, my sisters both love it so I had to make it for them. It is really simple and there are so many ways you can make it different from the conventional super sweet versions. It looks festive and is very cute as a  present in a glass jar.

 Here is how I make it:

Ingredients
- 750 g High quality white chocolate
- 200g Turkish delight chopped into 2cm peices
- 100g Pistachios
- 75g Dried Cranberries or marasichio cherries
- 100g Good quality traditional white marshmallows choped into 2cm peices
- 80g toasted shaved coconut

I would recommend that you visit the nut shop at James St markets you will find all kind of tasty bits and pieces to put in them. Make sure that there is plenty of colour variety.  I just stuck to the traditional red, white and green for mine.

Then all you need to do line a brownie tin with baking paper. Toast the coconut in a dry pan. Then chop up your chocolate, and melt it slowly over a double boiler until smooth. Then add the rest of your ingredients to the white chocolate, mix well and put into the pan. Make sure you smooth it right to the edges and fill in the corners so that it is all flat. Then, cover with gladwrap and put it into the fridge until it sets (2hrs). Turn it out onto a chopping board and with a hot dry knife cut into equal squares. Ideally these shouldn't be any bigger than two bites in size. These will need to remain in the fridge, the tropics and chocolate don't really get along all to well. 

Coffee


I fear that I may have become a coffee hipster. After getting an BArts last year and completing my honours this year, I suppose it really was just a matter of time.

I find myself looking online for cold drip siphons, wondering if I need one. Frighteningly, my own feed back has pointed to yes, that purchasing one is totally rational and that I would definitely use it. I don't need kitchen bench space when I could have cold drip.

I find myself extolling the virtues of pour over coffee to anyone who listens. On my pre-Christmas regime I was limited on one cup of coffee a day, so it had to be really good. I now go to Campos for their sharper darker tanniny, cold drip,  Jamie's for a smoother doppio and then Bunker if I happen to be nearby.

During semester Saint Lucy's knew that myself and my friend took out macchiato short and long respectively  However I am now done with milk.

At home I now grind my fresh beans with and antique coffee mill which my grandmother left me, its about the ritual and experience. Especially when you only get one coffee a day. I think I will get one of those Aerocoffee things. Or maybe, now that uni is over I just have too much time on my hands.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Harajuku Gyoza

Photo from Harajuku Gyoza website

Harajuku Gyoza has been open since the start of the year. Last week was my first opportunity to try out one of Brisbane"s latest contenders on the dumpling scene.

I dont know why it has taken me so long to finally eat at HG, when it was first under construction I would look over at the cute little gyoza illuminated at the front with great expectations of what would be inside.
Around 8.30 last week with boyfriend, sister and sister's boyfriend in tow I finally made it there for a late meal.

So, what's it like? Well, to be honest, its good. I mean not fantastic, crazy, amazing just - good. HG does what it promises, dumplings and beer. And they do an okay job of it, cold Japanese beer (possibly brewed in Australia) and some decent dumplings at a decent price.

Perhaps I am being unfair on their dumplings, it just to me, they lacked impact.  My last encounter with dumplings was in Manhattan's China Town at a fantastic hole in the wall called Prosperity Dumplings so perhaps my dumpling expectations arriving at HG was a little too high.

As far as design and marketing goes, HG as done a pretty good job of providing Brisbane with something which is new, but somehow stereotypical enough that it seems familiar. There are cute signs up such as "door heavy like sumo" (which I always read in the most appalling Iron Chef style accent in my head), the melamine plates have interesting "Harajuku style" photos printed on them and the music changes from your average K-pop to what I can only describe as Japanese death metal sporadically. The whole thing has been put together pretty well, I was not blown away by the experience, but I understood what they where trying for. Also the staff, while clearly not professional wait staff, are cheerful, enthusiastic and try pretty hard to get things right. I am not sure how well I would cope if I had to dance every time someone ordered sake and I don't know if they appreciated our orgami with the paper menues which we left as a goodbye present.

What we ate:

- Agadashi tofu
- Chicken Karage


- Pork gyoza - both steamed and grilled
- Chicken gyoza - grilled
- Prawn gyoza - grilled
- Duck gyoza - grilled

- Banana and Nutella gyoza

Personally, the two stand outs were the duck gyoza and the tofu, however the boys also liked the pork. All the gyoza are pretty plain and lack any kind of discernible kick or flavour element; the chicken was very nondescript. The duck at least tasted like duck, it had a little bit more depth than the pork, however none were knock your socks off brilliant. With the prawn gyoza I was expecting minced prawn meat with maybe some ginger or at least a little soy and spring onion. In reality, the gyoza was a average prawn in a gyoza wrapper, grilled. For the most expensive dumpling on the menu, it was a bit of a let down.

The tofu, tasted like a pretty decent agadashi tofu, again not mind blowing, but I happen to be a fan of this fried tofu in soup style dish so I enjoyed it. The karage was okay, certainly not the worst version of this dish I have ever had. It was what you would expect, some fired bits of chicken with calorific Japanese mayo. My sister's boyfriend is a fan, and enjoy it.

The boyfriend ordered the banana and nutella gyoza as a dessert. It was basic, almost "drunk after a party cooking" style food. Mashed banana and nutella inside a fried gyoza with some commercial grade vanilla icecream. I have never been a fan of hot banana, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Although I guess most people like the hot cold combo of something hot, fried and chocolaty with vanilla icecream, so it is pretty hard to go wrong.
Oh and we also drank kirin, which tasted like kirin.

All in all, it was an enjoyable dinner. Maybe it was the lovely company I was with, or perhaps because we arrived their starving. I wouldn't like you to believe that the food is bad - its just not amazing, and not worth the blogger hype. Would I eat their again? If I was hungry, in the mood for dumplings and in the valley, then yes. That being said I would probably just walk a few more block and go to the Brunswick Social for pork buns.


Banana and Nutella Gyoza (photo from HG's website)

Harajuku Gyoza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Food Sites I Love: Cook Suck

 The creator of this "meal" has titled it "best girl friend ever"- somehow I doubt this


A month or so ago I stumbling around the internet looking of ways to avoid working on my thesis when I found Cook Suck. 


This bitchy and hilarious gem describes itself as "Reviews of meals that people upload on their Facebook or blog and are proud of for some reason". 

Essentially it is posts of poorly made foods accompanied by cutting remarks about both the food and their creators. Sounds mean? It is.

But really, we all have that friends who loves to post their "yummy dinner", "man feasts" or their endless batches of over iced cupcakes to Facebook - Cook Suck simply provides commentary in a far more entertaining fashion than I could articulate on how bad these photos really are.  

I guess my only problem with this website is that one day someone will submit one of my dishes to it… 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Tuckeria

Photo thanks to thethousands.com


Better Mexican is on the rise in Australia. Well when I say better Mexican I mean a step up from Montezuma's. However, Brisbane still has a long way to go until we get something anywhere near Melbourne's Mamasita's, but it is certainly an improvement from yesteryear's Coffee Club nachos.

Along with Guzman y Gomez, Tuckeria is one of the cheap, casual mission style taco/burrito joints which are popping up almost anywhere that people and alcohol can be found. After extensive research, mostly into taco and burrito quality, conducted by myself, my boyfriend and a handful of good friends Tuckeria was unanimously voted to be the best of the hip mexican establishments.

While there really isn't much in the way of atmosphere, you semi share tables with Grill'd next door, and they could probably look into better lighting options - the quality of food surpasses its swankier and larger cousin GyG over in the Emporium. The service is also informal but friendly and very patient when towards customers who take 20 minutes to sort our their burrito order (you know who you are).

So why so good?
Firstly they have hit the mark between price and quality and the ability to customise. See their menu here
Your basic burrito is around $11 and can be filled with:
- Carne Asada (grilled marinated strips of steak)
- Estofado de Carne (tender slow cooked beef)
- Pollo Asado (grilled marinated chicken)
- Carnitas ( slow cooked pulled pork)
- Chorizo ( a much milder version than the spanish version)
- Camarones (grilled marinated prawns with lime)
Plus, the usual additions of rice, beans, salady items and salsa.
If you are more interested in tacos. A pair of soft or hard tacos (made with white corn- thats right old el paso, at least some people do it properly) filled with the same fillings, salsa and lettuce comes in at $9.
They also offer Nachos in a few forms, Quesadillas, Enchiladas, Flautas and Tostadas (both I highly recommend) all between the $9-11 price point.
The price does climb once you start adding your guac, sour cream, special salsa (eg Pico del Gallo salsa) and extra meat or cheeses however if you like you Mexican a certain way they are always happy to oblige. There are also vegetarian and vegan options.

Salsa picante is always on the table if you want to turn up the heat/ sneak some into one of your friends taco for a special surprise.

Secondly the food. If you are going to Tuckeria for the first time, just get a burrito.
The tortilla wrapper is deliciously soft and thin and the filling is very generous. The meat ( I usually order pork) is moist and compliments the addition of beans (pinto/ black beans), mexican rice and salsa. Add what you like, I would suggest onion and coriander as well as a fewJalapenos and maybe some corn for sweetness.

Their burritos are incredibly filling, and I would consider them a joint lunch/dinner. However if you are seriously hungry/ hungover the hand cut tortilla chips (which are used in the nachos) with some guac would also go down a treat.
The mexican sodas are also worth trying just for the novelty. I really like the tamarind Jarritos.

I have noticed that they do a breakfast menu, as of yet I have not tried it. It does look like a pretty fantastic Sunday brunch option if Saturday night was a big one.

Forget the sombreros, maracas and poncho. Instead opt for an empty stomach and some good friends. Tuckeria is finally providing Brisbane with some decent, fun and casual mexican.


Tuckeria Fresh Mexican on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recipe: Pear Tarte Tatin



There is something comforting  and sweet about tarte tatins. Perhaps it is the craggily puff pastry or how the caramel drips down the sides or simply the warm fruit. Regardless of what it is, this has always been one of my favourite treats. This is desert is relatively quick and easy, especially considering how impressive it looks when you bravely turn it out from its pan. You are sure to win quite a few fans, and perhaps a heart or two... 


180 gm  
caster sugar
180 gm  
butter, cut into 8 pieces
2  
vanilla beans, halved lengthways
4  
ripe firm pears such as Packham, Williams or small beurre Bosc
1/2  
sheets butter puff pastry

pouring cream/ ice-cream  and pure icing sugar to serve



1
Pre-heat oven to 190C
2
Add sugar and butter to a large cast iron frying pan. Cook on a medium heat until a caramel begins to form. Then place halved vanilla bean in the centre in a cross. Place pears in pan, cover with puff pastry, trim into a circle and firmly tuck in edges.
3
Carefully baste pastry with caramel, then transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and puffed, basting pastry halfway through cooking (15-20 minutes).
4
Remove from oven, loosen edges with a knife, then carefully turn out onto a chopping board, cut into pieces, dust with icing sugar and serve hot with cream or ice-cream