Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Japan and airplane food

This is my last post for a month because in July I will be on holiday in Japan traveling all over the place - Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Toyko! I have never been to Japan before so I can very excited and looking forward exploring this country, especially the food.

Some food related travels marked down in Japan include:
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum 
Kappabashi Market (famous for plastic food models and the place where chefs and restauranteurs go to shop - I hope to get some random kitchen gadgets)
Yokohama Chinatown (I want to check out the Chinatown in Japan and for once during the trip I will actually be able to converse with the locals in Chinese...I have not made much effort to learn Japanese although I expect a lot of people to come up to me and start talking to me in Japanese because I am Asian)
Daimaru Food Floor 
Nishiki Market 

I am also looking forward to airplane food. Airplane food doesn’t always taste great but it always makes me feel special with everything coming in little packages and getting minature sized products. It’s an experience and it means I am heading somewhere on a journey.
(Photo taken last year on the plane on my way to Melbourne)

Another holiday I have planned this year is a trip to Sydney in October when the Sydney International Food Festival is on. I have only really experienced about 24 hours of Sydney, I guess when Melbourne is next door the preference is to travel to Melbourne but this year I’m giving Sydney a chance to impress me and I will eat my way around town.

See you in August. I’ll blog about my Japan food endeavours then!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Find #1 - Cake Wrecks

As a food blogger I am always on the look out for new food blogs to read. 

I think I have found the best or worse (?) cake blog ever!

It's called "Cake Wrecks" and houses a collection of baking disasters - some are quite bizarre, some look like a work of art (note: remember art is subjective), some are hilarious and some are downright wrong.

Here are a few interesting ones to check out -

Monday, June 28, 2010

Twisted strips made from excess dough cuttings

What can you do with excess dough cuttings?

Everytime I make pastry dough I always have excess dough.

I used the excess dough cuttings from a roasted vegetable quiche and made some twisted pastry strips.

I made a savoury pastry dough for the quiche and I wanted to make the dough sweet so instead of using flour, I dusted my work surface and the excess dough with icing sugar, and rolled out the dough to 2-3mm thick.  Each time I rolled the dough, I dusted more icing sugar on it so that I was rolling the icing sugar into the dough and making the pastry sweet. Then I cut the dough into thin rectangle strips, dusted the strips with more icing sugar and twisted the strips.
(I am right handed but I am using my left hand to twist the pastry strip so I can take photos with my right hand)
I dusted the twisted strips with a little more icing sugar and put them on a baking tray and placed them in the fridge for 30 minutes. (Allowing adequate time for resting and chilling is important for making pastry – when you make a pastry case the chilling time helps to prevent cracking and shrinkage. I’m not sure if the resting time was needed for the twisted pastry strips but I put them in the fridge as I could see the pastry strips softening as they were sitting on the kitchen counter and I was afraid that they would loose their shape, chilling the twisted strips for 30 minutes hardened the dough and I think this helped it to retain its twisted shape when baked in the oven)
I baked the twisted strips for 10 minutes, took them out of the oven and brushed them with a little melted butter and sprinkled caster sugar over the twists as well as a little cinnamon powder. I baked the twists for another 5 minutes.
Now I have tasty little TV snacks.

Roasted Vegetable Quiche

On Sundays sometimes my friends and I get together at someone’s house for a potluck dinner, conversations and DVDs. We call this event “Sunday Club”. 

Around 70% of my friends are vegetarian so contributions to the potluck dinner are always vegetarian friendly.  My contribution to Sunday Club last night was a roasted vegetable quiche, we also had some cheese and crackers to start the night, creamy mushroom and leek soup, and chocolate mousse for desert. After dinnertimes we watched a DVD of clips from "Everything is Terrible” and we watched the worst music clip ever - “Room Service”!

It was my first time making a quiche, I read a few recipes and it looked pretty simple – pasty case + vegetables + egg, milk and cheese mixture, then bake. I didn’t follow a specific recipe, except for the quiche pastry case where I used a recipe from Food Safari and doubled the quantity as I had a larger pastry case. For the egg, milk and cheese mixture I found that most recipes used around 4 eggs to 1 cup of milk to around 170g of grated cheese and I used this as a guide and made everything else up as I went.

My quiche turned out pretty good.

250g cold butter, diced
2 eggs yolks
1 teaspoon salt
500g plain flour, sifted
rind from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons chilled water

(For a 10inch/26cm, 1.5 inch/4cm pastry case)

For something to make with excess dough cuttings - twisted pastry strips.

Place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the eggs, lemon rind, lemon juice, water (add the tablespoons of water in gradually until the mixture starts to cling together) and process until the mixture is combined and comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead gently until smooth. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175C. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick and line a pastry case. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and line with baking paper, fill with pie weights and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the pie weights and baking paper and bake for another 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

The pastry case for the quiche is done!

Quiche Filling
olive oil
red wine vinegar
1 carrot, chopped into chunks
2 small baby eggplants, chopped into chunks
2 red capsicums, cut into quarters
1 zucchini, chopped into chunks
6 mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1 teaspoon paprika
 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
4 eggs
1 cup cream
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
~ 150g grated cheddar cheese

Cut the capsicum into quarters and remove the seeds. Put the capsicum skins on a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes until the skin starts to brown. Remove from the oven, peel off the skin and chop the capsicum into chunks. 

Put the chopped carrot, eggplant and zucchini into a bowl – drizzle over some olive oil, add a dash of red wine vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast veges on a baking tray for 15 minutes. Put all the roasted vegetables into a bowl.
Melt butter in a frying pan, add shallots and fry for few minutes until the shallots have soften, then add in garlic and mushrooms and cook for 8 minutes. Then add in 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, pinch of salt and pepper, thyme and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
In a bowl add the eggs, mustard, pinch of salt and pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Whisk to combine, then add in the cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Stir in grated cheese.
Prepare quiche – 
Spoon some egg/cheese mixture on the bottom of the quiche pastry case.
Spoon roasted vegetables on top.
Add the sauteed mushrooms on top of roasted vegetables.
Pour remaining egg/cheese mixture on top.
Bake in oven at around 175C for about 40 minutes until set, when a knife inserted into the quiche comes out clean.

Tofu and Chinese Chive Buds Soup

Winter is soup time! Here is a simple hearty soup with a chicken and pork broth, cubes of soft tofu and some Chinese chive buds which have a garlickly lovely flavour.

200g lean pork shoulder, thinly sliced (marinate with 1 teaspoon fish sauce and some freshly ground pepper for 1 hour)
5 cups (1.25 litre) chicken stock
¼ teaspoon salt
¼  teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
small bunch of Chinese chive buds (around 100g), tough ends trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
200g soft tofu, cut into cubes

Pork marinated with fish sauce and pepper
Chinese Chive Buds

Combine the pork and chicken stock in a pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and skim the surface to remove the foam. Continue skimming until the foam ceases to rise. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. 
Stir in the salt, sugar and 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and simmer for another 5 minutes. 
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in tofu cubes and cook for 2 minutes, then add in the Chinese chive buds and wait for the soup to come to boil. Taste and check the seasoning, then remove from heat. 

Ladle into soup bowls.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Canh Chua – Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup

This is Canh Chua which literally translates into ‘Sour Soup’. It’s a tamarind flavoured soup with tomatoes, pineapple and prawns. It’s a soup that my mum would often cook at home and I have made it a few times myself following the recipe my mum gave me. I have found from flicking through recipe books and surfing the net that there are many variations of this soup and different recipes for cooking this soup. It’s interesting for me to find that a dish which I am so familiar with could be done differently by others whilst still maintaining the foundations of the soup and its distinctive taste.

I decided to make this soup the other day and experiment a bit. I used my mum’s recipe as a basis but I adapted and tweaked a few things to get a slightly different depth of flavour. 

I was really happy with how the soup turned out and I think that now I can make this soup better than my mum. I can’t wait to cook it for my family and show them what I have done. Ever since I started cooking I have been taking recipes that I have learnt from my parents and adapting/improving them. I enjoy putting a new taste to something old and showing my parents the growth in my cooking.

This soup epitomizes everything that is great about Vietnamese food. The use of fresh ingredients with a variety of different herbs and vegetables to provide different textures and flavours.  A balanced of taste of hot (from the chillies), sweet (from the pineapples) and sour (from the tamarind/lime).
1.25 litre of water (5 cups)
2 tablespoons of tamarind paste
12 prawns, shelled and deveined (reserve the prawn shells/heads to make the soup stock)
4 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
500g tomatoes (around 5 tomatoes), quartered
2 stalks elephant ear, peeled, sliced diagonally
100g orka (around half a dozen)
200g bean sprouts
2 slices fresh pineapple, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
½ cup saw tooth coriander, diced
½ cup rice paddy herb, extra for garnishing
2 ½ tablespoon fish sauce
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
lime wedges to serve

Elephant ear stalks have a spongey texture which absorbs all the flavours of the soup.
You have to peel off the outer layer of skin

Saw tooth coriander.
Rice paddy herb has a lemon/cumin flavour. I love the smell and taste of this herb.
I don’t really like chopping up a whole pineapple, it’s such a tedious job. One thing I do love is when you make that first chop into the pineapple and you are hit with the smell of fresh pineapple. It’s sweet as!
Here is my butchering of the pineapple. I think I did an ok job.


Soak 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste in ½ -1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes until the tamarind is soft and releases its essence. Force the tamarind through a fine sieve into a small bowl so you are just left with the liquid (discard the seeds and other solids).
In a pot, add in water, tomatoes, chillies and prawn shells/heads. Bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, skimming off any foam.
Turn off the heat and pick out the prawn shells/heads, and add in the pineapple pieces. (I added in the pineapple at this point rather than earlier on as I was simmering and developing the stock so that the pineapple flavour would be subtle and not too overpowering) Let the soup stock sit for 1-2 hours to for the flavours to settle and infuse. 

About 15 minutes before you want to serve the soup, bring it to boil and add seasoning to taste – around 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce, 1 ½ tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 3 ½ tablespoons of the tamarind liquid.

Then add in the orka, bean sprouts and elephant ears and cook for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are soft. (Note: Do not cover the pot with lid as the vegetables will go brown)
While the vegetables are cooking, fry the shallots and garlic in a small saucepan with vegetable oil until softened, golden and aromatic. Then add in the fried shallots and garlic into the soup pot (ladle in some soup into the saucepan, swirl around and add to soup to make sure that you get all of the shallots/garlic).

Add prawns into the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes (do not overcook the prawns as they will toughen).

Stir in saw tooth coriander and rice paddy herb. Taste and add more seasoning (tamarind liquid, fish sauce, sugar or salt) if necessary.
Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a little more rice paddy and squeeze a wedge of lime over the soup. (Even though the tamarind provides the sour tones to the soup, the fresh lime juice adds an extra hit of sourness which really rounds off the soup well, when you taste the soup before and after adding in the lime, you can definitely taste how the lime add a different dimension to the soup) 
I like to eat this soup with rice.