Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Year Old

On this day a year ago I created this food blog. One year later I have posted 103 entries and have had over 7600 pageviews.


When I started this blog I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with it. I enjoyed reading other peoples food blogs so I though why not start my own as a way to record recipes that I cooked and share them. The best feedback that I have received has been when friends tell me that they have been inspired to cook some of the recipes on my blog.



I had no idea who or how many people actually read my blog but a few months ago blogspot install a stats feature and it was nice to know that I have had quite a few hits. According to my blogspot stats, the majority of the people who read my blog are from Australia, followed closely by America, and the 5 most viewed pages are - 


Paella and Spanish Flavour
Confusion of Fusion Food – Vietnamese Spaghetti Bolognese 
Canh Chua – Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup 
Xintiandi on Francis Street 
Comfort Food #2 – Rice Congee and Pressure Cooking 


In May I tried to start another food blog called Stuff Foodies Like. Between May and June I blogged 14 points and then sort of plateaued….I came to the realisation that food blogging takes a lot of my time and it’s a lot of work trying to keep up two but in 2011 I will try to update Stuff Foodies Like a bit more.



In July I went on a holiday to Japan for 3 weeks, during our trip I took photos of almost every meal we had. I think that over 70% of my photos from Japan were of food. When I got back home I tried to organise all my photos into blog entries, here are some of my favourites –


Nara temples and local cuisine 
Okada, Chicken, Ocean and Mountain (best meal in Japan!) 
Weddings, parties, anything… 
Western inspired concoctions 
Useful signage 


(All my Japan blog posts can be found under the ‘Other’ tab)



When I first started blogging, a friend recommended that I create a twitter account and use it as a way to promote my blog. I was pretty adverse to this idea at first. I already had a defunct myspace account and a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Did I really need to become sucked into another social networking vortex? I didn’t really ‘get’ twitter either. After a long while I came around to the idea of twitter and in August I started a twitter account http://twitter.com/blueapocalypse so that whenever I blogged I could tweet it too. My blog stats reveal that Twitter drives a lot of traffic to my blog. Twitter has also been a great way to connect with other Perth food bloggers and find out the latest food news as I follow many chefs and food publications.


In November 2010, I got a bit more serious and bought my own domain name www.blueapocalypse.com


(If you want to know why I am called the Blue Apocalypse. Read the 'About Me' section.)


As well as posting recipes I have tried to incorporate some of my other interests into food blogging. I studied politics and economics and wanted to somehow include some economic and political ideas into food and cooking. From time to time I have found a way to make it work, I have also incorporated some scientific theories.


Donkey voting and burgers 
Occam’s Razor and Pasta 
The law of diminishing marginal utility and umami 
Chaos Theory and macarons 
The Harm principle and Pho service 



I studied game theory at uni and have been trying to think of ways to incorporate it into my food blogging. Maybe this year I will find my Nash equilibrium.


Looking back over the past year I can’t believe how much I have kept up with this blog. Food blogging has become a part of my life, I have become one of those annoying people that take pictures of food all the time… “No you can’t eat anything until I have taken a picture of it.”


If you are reading Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse, thanks :)


All I ever really wanted was an opportunity to tell people to stop bastardising stir fries





Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cauliflower puree, seared scallops with prawn oil, sauteed minced prawns with garlic and butter

There are aren't many dishes that I can call my own creation. Most of the dishes that I cook are ones that I have learnt from my parents or I try cooking a lot of the classic dishes (who know the ones that everyone should have in their cooking repertoire) like quiche, lamb ragout, chilli con carne, paella etc. etc.  


This is a dish that I can call my own creation. Well the recipes for the puree and prawn oil I derived from various recipes off the net, the idea for the sauce I came up with and the composition of all the elements together was my own conception. 


The inspiration for this dish came about because I wanted to make a puree. A puree is very simple to make, it’s just cooked food, usually vegetables or legumes that has been blended and sieved to achieve the consistency of a soft creamy paste or thick liquid. But I have never made a puree before…well not the kind that you use as a condiment or sauce for a dish to accompany meat or seafood. I have made vegetable soups that require blending and mashed potatoes which have a similar preparation and consistency as a puree. 


I decided to try making a cauliflower puree and have it with seared scallops.  I love eating seared scallops. Scallops don’t need much else to make them taste good so cauliflower is a good complement as it has a delicate taste and absorbs flavor well but will not add a lot of extra flavour. I wanted another little sauce to accompany the cauliflower puree and scallops so I thought to make some prawn oil to drizzle over the top. Only the prawn shells are used to make the prawn oil, so I minced the prawn meat to sauté in the prawn oil with a little crushed garlic, finished off with some butter!




Cauliflower Puree


½ head cauliflower, cut into florets
around ½ cup milk
125g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1 teaspoon salt

Place the cauliflower in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Place the cauliflower and milk in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the cauliflower is soft. 


Remove from the heat, then add 1 teaspoon of salt and the butter and stir until well combined.


Blend in a blender/food processor until smooth. 


Prawn oil


200ml olive oil
Prawn heads and shells (from about 16 prawns)
30g diced fennel
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon tomato paste


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan, add prawn heads and shells, fennel and bay leaf. Cook stirring occasionally until the prawn heads/shells are cooked (crush the heads/shells to extract flavour) and fennel is soft. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the remaining olive oil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids. 




Pan Seared Scallops


Note: scallops must be very dry and the pan has to be very hot in order to get a good sear. 


Rinse the scallops and place them in a single layer on paper towels and cover with another layer of paper towels, press lightly on the scallops to remove any moisture. Remove the scallops from the paper towels and season with some salt and pepper. 


Heat a frying pan over med-high heat, add in some oil and swirl around. Gently place the scallops in the pan and allow the scallops to cook undisturbed for at 1½ -2 minutes until seared/well browned on one side and then turn over and sear the other side. Remove the cooked scallops from the pan and place on paper towels. 


Prawn Sauce (with sauteed minced prawns, crushed garlic and butter)


Heat a few tablespoons of the prawn oil in a small frying pan, add in 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic and ½ cup of finely diced/minced prawns. When the prawns are cooked, add a knob of butter into the pan and swirl around until it melts. Season with a little salt and pepper. 


To Serve


Put a dollop of cauliflower puree on a plate and place a seared scallop on top. Spoon a few bits of the fried prawns/crushed garlic on top of the scallop and drizzle some of the prawn oil in top. Garnish with herbs (I used some coriander).




All the different elements went together really well, I found it delicious! I should have blended the puree a little more and then passed it through a sieve so that I would get a much smoother texture. The prawn oil should have been just a drizzle but I almost drowned the scallops and puree…got a bit carried away with my photo taking and liked the contrast of the orange and white a bit too much and kept adding more prawn oil!


This is one of my favourite things about cooking, the capacity for creativity and experimentation, to come up with a dish, see it through to the end and consume the results. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vietnamese Pork Egg Omelette

I had some leftover pork mince and remembered that my grandfather used to make pork omelettes all the time. 


Both my parents worked when I was going to school so I would stay with my grandparents afterschool until my parents finished work. My grandparents lived around the corner with my aunty. I always looked forward to school finishing because I knew that when my grandparents would have treats waiting for me. One of my favourite treats was my grandfather’s pork omelettes. I would consume it on its own or with leftover rice.




I haven’t eaten this dish since primary school days and my grandfather has passed away. Digging back into my childhood memories I tried to recreate this simple homemade dish as best as I could. I was happy with the result, it’s a tasty little snack.


Ingredients


300g mince pork
2 sprigs spring onion, finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
½ tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour
pinch salt and white pepper


Method


Combine the mince pork, spring onion, garlic, fish sauce, cornflour, salt and white pepper in a bowl. Pour the eggs over the pork and mix together. 




Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and add spoonfuls of the pork mixture into the pan. Let the mixture cook without disturbing for 2-3 minutes, when the edges turn brown, turnover and cook until nicely brown and golden on both sides.







Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mushroom Risoni

Continuing with my stance on cooking risoni instead of risotto I came across a recipe by Ian Parmenter on the ABC website for mushroom risoni which is a bit of a faux-risotto.


I love a good mushroom risotto so I wasn’t so sure about cooking mushroom risoni because I felt that it had too much to live up to, but it turned out to be delicious. The risoni worked well within the mix, while you get a soft creamy consistency with risotto, you get a more al dente risoni which provided a bit more texture to the whole dish. I adapted the recipe a little to give it more bursts of flavour - I cooked the risoni in chicken stock rather than just boiling it in water and sauted the mushrooms with thyme. I love thyme, it’s one of my favourite herbs to cook with and I love the smell of it.

Ingredients

•    250g risoni
•    2 cups stock
•    2 shallots, diced
•    2 cloves crushed garlic
•    ~300g mushrooms, sliced (10g reconstituted porcini mushrooms plus a mix of button and swiss brown mushrooms)
•    1 tablespoon olive oil
•    1 tablespoon butter
•    1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
•    pinch of salt and pepper
•    grating of nutmeg
•    150-200ml cream
•    50g parmesan, plus extra for serving
•    150g baby spinach leaves
•    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Method

In a saucepan, bring to boil the stock and add in a pinch of salt. Add the risoni to the stock and cook for 8-10 minutes until all the liquid has gone and the risoni is al dente, stirring regularly to prevent the risoni sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the shallots and fry for a few minutes until the shallots have softened, then add in the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add in all the mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring continuously so that the mushrooms cook evenly. Add in thyme, grating of nutmeg, pinch of salt and pepper, cook for 1-2 minutes.

Pour in the cream and reduce a little for a few minutes. Stir in the cooked risoni and parmesan. Mix well until the parmesan has melted. Then add the spinach leaves and stir to combine.

Serve topped with parsley and parmesan.



Monday, January 3, 2011

Almond and Pistachio Biscotti

The name biscotti is derived from 'bis' meaning twice in Italian and 'cotto' meaning baked or cooked. 


Biscotti are twice baked biscuits.




I baked some biscotti as a treat to bring to a Christmas gathering with my friends. I added pistachios so there would be bits of green to give it a bit of a Christmas theme. A few people commented that they wanted to have the biscotti with a good coffee. Being a very dry biscuit, it’s good for dunking in a coffee.


(Recipe adapted from biscotti recipes from Joy of Baking)


Ingredients


2/3 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup unsalted pistachios kernels, toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cup flour
finely grated zest of 1 lemon


Method


To toast almonds and pistachios – preheat oven to 180C. Toast for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and coarsely chop. Set aside. The flavour of the nuts intensifies when toasted. I love taking out of the oven freshly toasted nuts, the smell is wonderful and you can really taste the difference.


Beat sugar and eggs with electric mixer in a bowl until thick and pale, around 4-5 minutes. Then beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.



In a separate bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and mix until combined. Fold in the almonds and pistachios. 




On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and lightly knead until dough is smooth. Divide the mixture in half and form into two logs by rolling the roll into a cylinder shape and then patting it down (flour your hands as you shape the logs as the dough can be sticky). Transfer the logs onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. 




Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C until light brown and firm to touch. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.




Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut into 1.5cm slices. Reduce the oven to 160C. Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet and bake for a second time to draw out the moisture to produce a toasted, crisp and dry biscuit. Bake for 7-10 minutes, then turn slices over and bake for another 7-10 minutes. 




Remove from oven and cool. As the biscotti have been baked twice, they become very dry and can be stored for a long time. The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.




The amount of time for the second baking depends on how you like your biscotti, the longer you bake the biscotti, the more crisp and crunchier they will be. They will be drier and also have a longer shelf life.


Some recipes use butter or oil which may give it a bit more flavour but the biscotti will be a bit softer and not keep as long. Traditional recipes just use eggs to bind the ingredients together.