Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chinese Sausage, Shiitake Mushroom and Chicken Rice Claypot

This is the perfect one pot meal – you get rice, meat and veggies all in the one pot. No need for any other sides or accompaniments.

Cooking in a claypot results in succulent meat and the rice at the bottom of the clay pot will form a dark crusty layer that will impart a smokey flavour which permeates through the rest of the ingredients.  It’s similar to the ‘socarrat’ part of a paella. The meat on top will cook through delicately from the steam that comes through the rice and its juices and the marinade will filter throughout the rice making it very flavoursome. I love how the rice absorbs all the flavours of the ingredients which are added to the clay pot, especially the sweet smoked porky aroma of the lap cheong (preserved Chinese sausage).

(Crust of rice at the bottom of the clay pot)


•    2 Chinese sausages, sliced
•    2 chicken thighs, chopped into bite sized pieces
•    few stems and leaves of bok choy or gai lan
•    3 - 4 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water until reconstituted and sliced
•    2 cups of rice and 3 - 3 ½  cups of chicken stock

•    2 tablespoons oyster sauce
•    1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
•    1 tablespoon light soy sauce
•    2 crushed garlic cloves
•    2-3 sprig spring onions, use the bottom third and finely chop
•    1 teaspoon cornflour
•    2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
•    1 tablespoon grated ginger
•    2-3 teaspoons of brown sugar
•    few drops of sesame oil
•    salt and pepper to taste


Mix the chicken and sausages in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and refrigerate for an hour. 

Wash the rice and put it in a cold claypot with chicken stock and heat up over a medium heat with the lid on. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer, then leave the rice to cook for around 10 minutes (the rice should be nearly cooked, around 70% done with little holes in the flat surface).

 Spread the chicken and Chinese sausage mixture, and shiitake mushrooms all over the top of the rice, and put the lid back on. Continue to cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed. Add in the vegetable stems and steam for 2 minutes, then add in the leaves and steam for one more minute. 

Here's another claypot recipe:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oat and cheesecake slice

Here I combine my two favourite things - buttery and crumbly oatmeal crust, and baked cheesecake. 

I made an oat and date slice a while ago and I really liked the oatmeal crust which encompassed the date mixture. I wondered what else I could layer the oatmeal crust with – what about cheesecake?

Using parts of two different recipes – the oatmeal crust from the Joy of Baking date squares recipe and cheesecake component of the brownie cheesecake recipe from the Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery cookbook I baked this oat and cheesecake slice.

I was happy with how the slice turned out especially the cheesecake part. I am partial to a really good baked cheesecake and the cheesecake in the middle of the slice was just the way that I like it.


Oatmeal Crust
•    2 cups (200g) oats
•    1 cup (130g) flour
•    ¾ cup (160g) light brown sugar
•    ½ baking soda
•    ¼ salt
•    ¼ ground cinnamon
•    1 cup (225g) cold unsalted butter, cut into little cubes

Cheesecake Mix
•    250g ricotta cheese
•    100g cream cheese
•    4 tablespoons caster sugar
•    splash of vanilla extract
•    2 eggs
•    50g double cream
•    2 tablespoons plain flour, sifted


Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a 8 inch x 8 inch pan with greaseproof paper.

Mix all the ingredients for the cheesecake together in the following order: the cheeses, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, cream and flour. Make sure there are no lumps in the mixture. Set aside.

In the bowl of food processor, place the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. 

Press firmly 2/3 of the oatmeal mixture into the base of the prepared baking pan. Spread the cheesecake mixture evenly over the oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly over the top. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. 

Once the squares have cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or until firm enough to cut easily into squares.

These will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to a week. Can also be frozen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) and Miso Soup

Onigiri is a Japanese rice ball, often formed into a triangular shape and can be found in most convenience stores in Japan with various fillings and flavours.

(My 7-11 purchases in Japan)

When I travel, eating is one of the most important experiences – taking in the food culture of a country, trying out new foods not available at home, finding the best places to eat and eating authentic food (because nothing is more authentic than eating Japanese food in Japan, getting served by Japanese people and communicating your order in broken Japanglish). Traveling is also an excuse to eat more than your average three meals a day. But eating is amongst a whole bunch of other realities of traveling – figuring out the transport system, trying to take in as many of the sights and attractions the city has to offer, shopping (aka buying tacky souvenirs), conversing with the locals, avoiding scams/being assaulted and getting your bag snatched, sleeping, respecting the local culture/customs/etiquette, meeting other travellers, adjusting to different time zones every few days as you travel between cities… When you are traveling, sometimes you only have time for a quick snack in between getting up and hopping on your next train to your next destination (umm….temple #32).

Onigiri became a daily snack for me while I was traveling around Japan. I found it amazing how the onigiri was packaged with the nori stored separately from the rice so that the nori would remain crisp. It took some practice to know how to eat one properly.

See video here -

I have found that onigiri is quite easy to make at home and fun too when you realize that the rice is kind of like play dough and the possibilities for shaping your rice are endless.


•    cooked plain hot sushi rice
•    nori (seaweed)
•    Onigiri fillings (anything can be mixed into the rice as long as it’s not too moist or oily which will make the rice grains fall apart)
-    tuna (canned) seasoned with pepper and mixed with mayonnaise
-    white and black sesame seeds
-    furikake (Japanese mixed savoury flakes)


I made two different type of onigiri. The onigiri needs made while the rice is hot so it will stick together and be easier to shape. 

Onigiri with furikake

I followed the instructions on the back of the furikake packet to make onigiri. I can't read Japanese but the pictures were pretty self explanatory. 

Transfer hot sushi rice into a bowl and add in some furikake. I didn’t know how much furikake to put in so I just added in a little at a time and mixed it all together, and tasted until I thought that the flavours were right. Make sure that you taste as you go and don’t add in too much in the one go as the furikake can make the onigiri quite salty. 

An easy way to shape onigiri which I learnt from the food blog Just Hungry is to use a small bowl/tea cup and plastic wrap.

Line the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that’s big enough to hang well over the sides. Press the plastic wrap into the bowl.

Add some furikake rice mix into the bowl (the amount added depends on how big you want the balls to be). Gather up the ends of the plastic wrap and twist and squeeze, pushing out any excess air. Twist tightly to form a ball shape, pressing the rice grains to make them stick together.  

Untwist the plastic wrap and your onigiri is done! You can continue to reuse the plastic wrap for the rest of the rice.

Triangle shaped onigiri filled with tuna

Line the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that’s big enough to hang well over the sides. Press the plastic wrap into the bowl.

Sprinkle the inside of the bowl with a little water and shake out the excess into the sink. Sprinkle the inside of the wetted, plastic lined bowl with a little salt and shake out any excess salt.

Fill the bowl with hot sushi rice. Poke a hole in the middle of the rice, about halfway down in depth. Add in some tuna and lightly press the rice over the filling. 

Gather up the ends of the plastic wrap and twist and squeeze, pushing out any excess air. 
To make the triangle shape, form a L shape with one hand and make three corners on the ball. Use the other hand to turn the ball and squeeze, turn, squeeze and turn until you get the desired triangle shape. 

Wrap the triangle onigiri with a piece of nori just as you are about to eat it so that the nori remains crisp.

When I was in Japan last year I bought a fish and car egg shaper. I have used it to shape boiled eggs with varying degrees of success, it’s quite difficult to get the egg to replicate the mould. 

I thought it would be cool to try using these moulds to make onigiri. 

This is how the fish turned out. I used some black sesame seeds for an eye and white sesame seeds for scales.

I don’t think that the car turned out as well as the fish as it was hard to get all the imprints.

To accompany the onigiri I made some miso soup.

Recipe for Miso Soup


Dashi Stock
•    3 cups water
•    10cm square piece kombu (dried kelp)
•    10-15g/3-4 T of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
Miso Soup
•    2 tablespoon miso paste (mix of 1 ½ tablespoon white miso and ½ red miso or to taste)
•    ½ a block tofu, cut into 1.5cm cubes
•    5g dried wakame
•    finely chopped spring onion for garnish


Dashi Stock

Using scissors, make a few snips into the kombu to help release the flavours. Place water and kombu in a saucepan and soak for at least 30 minutes (the kombu will soften and expand).

Place the pan over medium heat and slowly bring to the boil. Just before it reaches boiling point, remove the kombu and discard. Add the katsuobushi to the pot, boil for 30 seconds. Turn the heat off and let steep for 5 minutes.

Strain dashi stock through a fine sieve. Do not squeeze out the flakes, as this will make the stock cloudy and very fishy.

Miso Soup

Soak the wakame in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat dashi stock in a pan and dissolve miso in a cup of the stock and pour back into remaining stock in the pan, making sure the stock does not boil after the miso is added (if the miso boils, the flavour will be altered).

Add tofu and wakame and heat through gently.

Serve the miso soup in a bowl, garnished with finely chopped spring onions.

You can read about my Japanese travel adventures and food endeavours here (under the Other tab)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Whilst I enjoy cooking and probably spend a lot more time cooking then most people, it is time consuming, and after coming home from work I am can be tired and not always in the mood to cook. My weeknight meals are generally quite simple and don’t take long to prepare.

I always like to have a few meals in the freezer for those nights when I can’t be bothered cooking at all but I can still be happy with the knowledge that I have something delicious waiting for me to warm up in the freezer.

On Sundays, it’s my “what can I cook in bulk today?” so that I have dinner sorted for the next 2 nights when the workweek starts again, some leftovers for work and maybe some to freeze for a rainy day.

But there aren’t many dishes that I can enjoy eating for a few nights in a row, and eating again and again. I get sick of it. It’s the law of diminishing marginal utility – the more times that I consume a dish in a row, there will be a decline in the satisfaction that I get from it.

Something that I love eating, and can eat again and again is spaghetti bolognese. It’s a hearty meal. This time I tried making a big pot of meatballs with tomato sauce for something a bit different, it’s pretty much bolognese in meatball form.

To make these meatballs I adapted recipes from Exclusively Food and Gourmet Traveller. The result was flavoursome meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. 

Ingredients for meatballs (makes about 38 balls)
•    extra virgin olive oil
•    350g pork mince
•    350g beef mince
•    ~125g bacon, rind removed, finely diced (about 3 slices of bacon)
•    2-3 shallots (~1/2 cup), finely diced
•    3 cloves garlic, finely diced
•    100g parmesan, grated
•    1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (1-2 slices of bread, crusts removed and crumbed in food processor)
•    100ml milk
•    1 egg yolk
•    1 tablespoon chopped parsley
•    1 tablespoon chopped oregano
•    1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
•    1 teaspoon chopped thyme
•    ½ -1 teaspoon fennel seeds, roasted and ground
•    grating of nutmeg (~1/4 teaspoon)
•    salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for tomato sauce
•    extra virgin olive oil
•    1 tablespoon butter
•    2-3 shallots (~1/2 cup), finely diced
•    3 cloves garlic, finely diced
•    ½ cup red wine
•    700g bottle of tomato passata
•    400g can Italian whole peeled tomatoes
•    2 cups chicken stock
•    2 teaspoons brown sugar
•    2 bay leaves
•    2 sprigs thyme
•    salt and pepper to taste


Preparing meatballs  - Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened (5-7minutes). Then add in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for another minute. Set aside to cool.

Steep the bread crumbs in milk for about 5 minutes, then squeeze the excess liquid from the bread. Mash the breadcrumbs and milk with a fork to a smooth paste.

Combine the pork and beef mince, bacon, herbs, egg yolk, cooked shallot, breadcrumbs, fennel, nutmeg, parmesan thoroughly together in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Roll the mixture into balls in your hands until they start to feel elastic and cover them lightly with flour.

I placed the meatballs on trays and refrigerated them while I made the sauce.

(NB: You can test the seasoning and flavourings of the meatballs by rolling a little flat cake of the mixture and frying it in oil until cooked and taste. Then you can adjust the seasonings and flavourings to desired taste)

Making the tomato sauce - Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large heavy based pot over medium heat, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened (5-7minutes). Then add in the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by a third (2-4 minutes). Add in can of whole peeled tomatoes, passata, bay leaves, thyme, chicken stock and sugar, and bring to boil. Use a spoon to break up the whole tomatoes. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 190C.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the meatballs in batches and fry for a few minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown (don’t need to worry about fully cooking through the meatballs as they will cook further in the sauce later). Add the meatballs into the pot of tomato sauce, cover with a lid, transfer to oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is rich and thick, about 1 hour.

Serve meatballs and tomato sauce with pasta.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Truffle Honey Panna Cotta

Truffles are savoury but it doesn't mean that you can’t use them to make dessert.
My favourite dish at the Mundaring Truffle Festival was truffle ice cream. When I told my work colleagues about it, they scrunched up their faces and were like eww gross fungi and ice cream - how is that possible? With the rise of molecular gastronomy and the likes of Heston Blumenthal, it appears that nothing is impossible nowadays. The only limit is people’s willingness to try new/different things. I personally will eat anything and will try anything at least once.

When I was looking for truffle dessert recipes to cook, panna cotta appeared to be a popular choice. Panna cotta is an Italian expression and literally means ‘cooked cream’, it generally refers to a creamy, set dessert from the Northern Italian region of Piemonte. Cream? - well that ticks the box of things that go well with truffles.

I have made a sheep’s milk yoghurt and honey panna cotta before using a recipe from the Gourmet Traveller. I bought some truffle yoghurt from the Mundaring Truffle Festival and I thought I could substitute regular honey with truffle honey and make a truffle honey panna cotta.

The flavour and fragrance of the truffle honey is quite strong and it’s very interesting to compare fresh truffles with truffle products. Actually, there is no comparison, they are worlds apart. The flavour of fresh truffle is very delicate and complex. A lot of truffle products are not made from actual truffles, but are synthetically made and are often accused of being one-dimensional in flavour and a poor substitute. I had a friend tell me that he loves fresh truffles but tends to veer away from truffle products as he finds that it sort of tastes the way petroleum smells.  People often say that there is no such thing as “too much truffle” or “more is always better”. I think this expression only applies to fresh truffle, because the flavour of truffle products are quite intense and using too much can overwhelm the flavours of a dish. I learnt this while making my truffle honey panna cotta.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of honey so I did a direct substitution and used 2 tablespoons of truffle honey. It was amazing to see how strongly the flavour of the truffle honey came through. I served this truffle honey panna cotta to friends for a dinner party and some of them felt that the taste of the truffle honey was too much for their liking. I felt that the taste was ok but I had also been consuming a lot of truffle over the past week so like a drug addict, I was requiring larger doses to achieve a high. Next time I make this, I will use 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of truffle honey for a more delicate balance of flavours.

To cut through the richness of the cream and complement the savoury tones of the truffle. I grated some dark chocolate over the panna cotta. This was something that I thought of because the truffle ice cream that I had at the Mundaring Truffle Festival also contained some chocolate. The addition of the chocolate made a big difference to the taste, it was much better with the chocolate as it helped to round out all the flavours.   

The texture of panna cotta is generally custard-like, feels barely set and is silky smooth, the use of yoghurt in this recipe results a thicker texture but it still melts in your mouth.

Sheep’s milk yoghurt and truffle honey panna cotta
(adapted from Gourmet Traveller)


•    300ml pouring (whipping) cream
•    260g sheep’s milk yoghurt
•    2 tablespoons honey (recommended - 1 tablespoon of regular honey and 1 tablespoon of truffle honey but it depends on the intensity of your truffle honey so you can use 2 tablespoons of truffle honey if desired)
•    3 gelatine leaves (gold strength), softened in cold water
•    ½ vanilla bean (I only used half but I think you could use the whole vanilla bean)
•    optional – I also added in some gratings of fresh truffle


Heat the cream, scraped vanilla bean seeds and truffle gratings (if using) over a low heat to infuse. Turn off the heat and leave for 10-15 minutes for everything to continue infusing together.

The whisk cream and yoghurt in a large bowl until smooth, set aside. 

Bring honey to a simmer in a small saucepan. Squeeze excess water from gelatine, add gelatine to honey and stir to dissolve. Stir honey mixture through yoghurt mixture, then divide among dariole moulds (fits around six 125ml capacity dariole moulds).
Refrigerate until set (6 hours-overnight).

To remove the panna cotta from the moulds, dip each mould in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds, gently run a little knife around the inside edge, then turn out onto a plate and the panna cotta should slide out.

Sheep’s milk yoghurt and truffle honey panna cotta served with a drizzle of truffle honey.

Here are some of my other truffle recipes:
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