Monday, January 23, 2012

Buddha’s Delight – Chinese New Years Day Dish

It is a tradition for people to refrain from eating meat on New Years Day in line with Buddhist practice, as a form of self purification, to counteract the effects of excessive meat eating during the year. It is also considered fortuitous for garnering good karma by refraining from eating anything that has been killed on New Years Day.

Buddha’s Delight is a vegetarian dish that my family always has on the first day of the New Year. Most people have this dish as you can include a wide selection of dried and fresh ingredients which symbolize luck and success, and it’s very easy to cook (the preparation of ingredients takes a while as you have to soak all the dried ingredients first but the actual cooking time is quite short).

This is a dish were every household has their own way of cooking it. Whilst this is supposed to be a vegetarian dish, it is not uncommon for oyster sauce to be used as a seasoning. The way that my family cooks this dish is not completely vegetarian as it contains fish sauce and oyster sauce. These two ingredients are pretty much added to every stir fry that we cook. Oysters symbolize good fortune and luck, so it can add to the goodwill of the dish even if it is not vegetarian. To make this dish completely vegetarian, you can use vegetarian oyster sauce which is a concentrate of mushroom flavours, usually from oyster or shiitake mushrooms.

Buddha’s Delight can contain up to 20 ingredients with each ingredient providing a symbolic meaning due to the way it looks or is pronounced. For example - bamboo shoots = wealth and new beginnings, cabbage = prosperity, noodles = longevity, black moss = wealth, shiitake mushrooms = opportunity, dried bean curd = blessings to the house, fried bean curd = gold, snowpeas = unity, carrots = good luck. So the more ingredients you add, the more symbolic the dish can become. But it’s good to keep it simple and have just a few ingredients so that the dish will have texture and subtle, delicate flavours. Be aware that each ingredient adds a flavour to the dish and if you add too many, I think that it just clouds it. I apply my principle of not bastardising a stir fry here.

My family always cook a big batch of Buddha’s Delight, enough to feed the whole family, plus some leftovers. It’s great to have the next day as the flavours are more developed. 

Buddha’s Delights

Serves - enough to for a family of 5 with some leftovers

Quantity - a wokful


•    1 Chinese cabbage, leaves washed and sliced into 5-6cm pieces
•    8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes till reconstituted, stalks discarded and sliced (reserve the soaking water)
•    3-4 dried bean curd sticks, break into 3-4cm pieces and soak in water for 15-20 minutes till softened
•    box of fried bean curd/tofu (box had 6 pieces which I sliced into 6ths)
•    3 garlic cloves, sliced
•    3-4 slices of ginger
•    1 cup of bamboo shoots (I used canned bamboo shoots)
•    1 cup of baby corn, each corn sliced in half
•    ½ cup of dried black fungus (wood ear mushrooms), soaked in water for 10-15 minutes till reconstituted and sliced
•    handful of dried bean thread noodles, soaked in water for 20 minutes till softened, drain thoroughly
•    ¼ cup of dried black moss (fat choy), washed, soaked in water for 5-10 minutes till softened, drain thoroughly
•    Optional - handful of oyster mushrooms

 Chinese cabbage
This is how you should slice the leaves of the Chinese cabbage.

Dried bean curd
Black moss aka fat choy

(I added in the seasonings as I was cooking and adjusted until I got the desired taste, measurements below are a guide)
•    2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce
•    3-4 tablespoons of oyster sauce
•    1-2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
•    1-2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
•    ½ teaspoons of sesame oil
•    pinch of sugar, salt and ground white pepper to taste


Heat up a wok, add in some oil and fry the garlic and ginger first until fragrant then add in shiitake mushrooms and fry until slightly brown (1-2 minutes). 

 Stir frying shittake with garlic and ginger

Add in the black fungus, baby corn, bamboo shoots and oyster mushrooms and stir fry together (1-2 minutes), add in a little of the soaking water from the shiitake mushrooms if it gets too dry. 

 Adding black fungus, baby corn, bamboo shoots and oyster mushrooms - everything looks golden yellow. Yellow symbolises good luck in Chinese.

Then add in all the cabbage and fry all together. Add in the rest of the soaking water from the shiitake mushrooms. At this point you can cover the wok with a lid to help the cabbage soften and cook or just continue stir frying until the cabbage softens (5-10 minutes). Throughout the cooking process, you can add a little more water (½ - 1 cup) if necessary, but not too much as the cabbage will release water. 

 Adding Chinese cabbage - don't worry if it looks like it will overflow as the cabbage will shrink as it cooks.

Then add in seasonings of fish sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and ground white pepper to taste. 

 Adding seasonings.

Add in the fried bean curd/tofu, stir everything together and simmer until tofu is heated through (5 minutes).

 Add in the bean thread noodles and black moss, stir fry all together until the noodles cook through and soak up the sauce (2 minutes). 

Optional - Thicken the sauce with some cornflour mixed with a little water, if necessary (ie: there is too much liquid). Generally you won’t need to thicken the sauce as the bean thread noodles will soak up the sauce.

Serve with steamed rice.

Oreo Cookies

The Sweet Adventures Blog Hop is the brainchild of Aussie bloggers Delicieux, The Hungry Australian, Dining With a Stud, The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader and 84th & 3rd. Every month there is a dessert theme for bloggers to participate in and this month is ‘Death by Chocolate’ hosted by The Hungry Australian.

To be honest, I generally bake relatively simple things. I think that one of the most satisfying things about baking is that you don’t have to outdo yourself to get a good outcome. A fancy chocolate dessert that has multiple layers and uses a number of different textures to construct it from a fine dining restaurant is always a real treat, but a good old fashioned brownie can also hit the spot. When chocolate came up as the Sweet Blog Hop Adventures theme for this month, the first couple of chocolate desserts that came across my mind and I’m sure crossed everyone’s mind were chocolate cake, cupcakes, brownies, mousse, pudding, slice... easy to make chocolate treats but deliciously satisfying, comforting foods.

Two weekends ago, The Kitchen Crusader and I made the trip down to Margaret River to visit our friend Nadia who works at Gabriel Chocolate. We stayed with Nadia and had access to her impressive selection of chocolate/dessert books. 

Flicking through her books to get some ideas, there were a lot of fancy things that I could have made but when I saw the recipe for Almost Oreos, I was sold. Oreos are a cookie that I love eating, I have never made them before and the recipe for it in Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Chocolate Recipes: The New Collection looked really good and not too hard to bake so I wanted to try it. Oreos make a good after dinner treat and you can never seem to eat too many of them. So this is my blog post for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop – "Death By Chocolate" this month.

Summer dessert – Vanilla ice cream with homemade Oreos crumbled over the top.

Homemade Oreos are great, everyone should try making them as it’s more chocolately and not as sweet, and instead of the sweet icing like cream filling, you get a lovely white ganache.


Makes about 20


For the cookie dough

•    140g plain flour
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    1 tablespoon cocoa powder
•    75g caster sugar
•    25g icing sugar
•    25g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
•    100g butter, softened/room temperature
•    1 large egg yolk
•    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
•    Optional  - to give the Oreos an extra chocolate hit, I ground some cocoa nibs that I bought from Gabriel Chocolate with a mortar and pestle and added them into the mix.

 Ground Cocoa Nibs

For the ganache filling
•    125g white chocolate, broken into pieces
•    40ml crème fraiche


Sift together the flour, salt and cocoa powder in a bowl (add in ground cocoa nibs if using). Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Set aside to cool.

Using an electric beater, cream together the butter, caster sugar and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Beat well to incorporate all the ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on a slow speed until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and shape into a cylinder shape about 15cm long. Roll the cylinder on the work surface to even it out and then wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1.5 hours. 

Tips: To get an even cylinder shape for the cookie dough - make sure that you twist the cling film tightly and take it out of the fridge at regular intervals (every half hour or so) and roll it on a table so that it doesn’t take on a flatten side where it has been resting.
When the dough has rested sufficiently (it should be quite hard), preheat oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap it and place it on a board. Using a sharp knife, slice the cylinder into thin rounds (2.5mm). Place the rounds on the baking sheet and bake for 11 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool on the sheets. You should get around 40 rounds from the dough.

I have a small oven which can only fit one baking tray at a time, so I sliced enough rounds of the dough to fill one tray and refrigerated the dough while I baked that tray. Then I would take out the dough and slice enough to fill another tray and bake. I refrigerated the dough between baking the trays so that the dough keeps its shape (ps. Perth it's quite hot at the moment, we have a week coming up of 37-40 degrees so if your kitchen isn’t as warm as mine it would not be necessary to refrigerate the dough all the time).

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache filling. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl of barely simmering water. Take the bowl off the heat and leave to slightly cool for 2-3 minutes, then stir in and incorporate the crème fraiche. Allow to cool for around 15 minutes at room temperature.

Melting the white chocolate
Stirring in the crème fraiche into the melted white chocolate

Turn half the cookies upside down and put a teaspoon of ganache in the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press gently together so that the ganache spreads until you can see it around the sides. Put the assembled cookies on a tray and refrigerate for around 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set. Then store the Oreos in the fridge in a sealed container.

Lessons learned: You shouldn’t put the cookies on top of each other to set as the weight of the ones on top squash the bottom ones which can result in the ganache spilling out over the sides. …opps…

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gabriel Chocolate - Margaret River, Yallingup (single origin chocolate)

The Margaret River Chocolate Company is one of the most visited sites in Margaret River, but if you want to know what chocolate should taste like, in its purest form, you must visit Gabriel Chocolate. Fellow Perth food blogger, The Kitchen Crusader, and I visited Gabriel Chocolate last weekend. The road trip to Margaret River was sparked by this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme which is Death by Chocolate. Our friend Nadia works at Gabriel Chocolate and told us to come down and check out some single origin chocolate. 

Gabriel Chocolate recently opened up in Margaret River on the corner of Caves road and Quininup road, Yallingup and offers single origin – bean to bar chocolate. Single origin chocolate is chocolate which has used cocoa beans to create it from a single source. This can be a single estate or plantation, but in most instances a single region. Cocoa beans, like coffee and wine, differs from region to region according to the environment it is grown in, where factors such as the soil, climate effects like the rainfall and humidity add characteristics to the cocoa beans resulting in chocolate that has a unique flavour profile.

That’s not to say that all single origin chocolate will be good, it depends on the chocolate maker and the integrity that they put into the process of sourcing and making the chocolate. Gabriel Chocolate is a small family fun business, Gabriel (the owner) and his wife have had a long term fascination with chocolate and Gabriel Chocolate has been 5 years in the making. They have traveled the world to source the best chocolate and they wanted to show people that there is so much more to chocolate than what people think by keeping it single origin. You get a really down to earth vibe about this place and a feeling that they are really serious about their chocolate, especially in the way that they have designed the place and display their chocolate, it’s all about the chocolate and showing off it’s unique characteristics. 

On the wall near the entrance is a huge map of the world showing the wide variety of cocoa beans that can be found in the world with each colour representing the outside of the cocoa pods. I was amazed to learn that so many different kinds of cocoa beans existed. Gabriel Chocolate currently provides 6 different varieties but they are hoping to expand their selection down the track.

Tasting all the chocolate, takes your taste buds on a fascinating journey as you eat chocolate made from cocoa beans from all over the world. Some really interesting flavours will come through in the chocolate that you would have never imagined. It’s fun to evaluate and detect the subtle characteristics of each chocolate, the experience is a lot like tasting wine. There are little sample trays of chocolate and it’s best to get one of the staff to guide you through the tasting process, as they can provide some background on where the cocoa beans came from and start you with the known and familiar territory of milk and dark chocolate, and then bring out the more interesting tasting chocolates. You can also get a behind the scenes tour to see how the chocolate is made. I am a fan of dark chocolate and I generally get 70% as I find that anything above that can be a bit too bitter for me as a general eating chocolate. Gabriel offers Chuao (beans from Venezuela) with 80% cacao, although it has a high % of cacao it was not very bitter at all and very smooth tasting as a result of the high quality of the beans that are used to produce it. The Nacional (beans from Ecuador) tasted like a cherry ripe but there was no cherries added to the chocolate, this was just the natural taste that was coming through the cacao beans. The Sambirano (beans from Madagascar) had citrus notes in the chocolate. The most surprising was the Java (beans from Criollo) which had quite a long finish on the palate, and smoky flavours could be detected in the chocolate such as tobacco and spices like paprika.

The chocolate is made from scratch on site, where all the cocoa beans are hand sorted, roasted, winnowed, conched and tempered. The chocolate is made in small batches and each batch is limited to 250 bars. On the back of the block of chocolate, a description is provided, similar to what you would find on the label of a wine bottle, which details the characteristics of the chocolate. As single origin beans are used, every time a batch of chocolate is made, the resulting flavour differs from the previous batch. Just like how the flavour profile of wine varies from year to year, depending on the quality of the grapes harvested, a wine bottled in 2010 tastes different from wine bottled in 2011. It was amazing to taste all the different chocolates and pick out their individual nuances, and to know that each batch of chocolate will be an original experience.

All the different chocolates are presented on their own podium, they can be bought in simple square blocks, some have nuts and spices scattered over the top. You can also buy cocoa nibs and soap 

Chocolate soap - cocoa butter is very good for your skin.

Gabriel Chocolate also has a café where you can order tea, coffee (they use 5 Senses) and hot chocolate. There is a small selection of baked chocolate goods made fresh everyday on site as well as ice cream.

Gabriel Chocolate has special hot chocolate making machines. 

 Look at all the lovely layers of the hot chocolate, it tastes as good as it looks.

Chocolate Mousse Cake
Don’t be fooled by the cakey appearance of this chocolate mousse cake, it’s texture is smooth, velvety and so soft that you feel as though you are just eating mousse.

 Chocolate fudge with pistachios and cherries – a perfect combination!

As single origin chocolate is used in the baked goods, they all have a really refined taste. Nadia told us that Gabriel’s Rio Caribe (beans from Venezuela) 72% dark chocolate is the best chocolate to use in cooking.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Icecream

I was very impressed by the flavours of the ice cream at Gabriel’s. What I loved about it was that it was rich, creamy and full of flavour. It was very indulgent! I had the hazelnut caramel ice cream and The Kitchen Crusader had peanut butter chocolate. There were little chunks of caramel throughout my hazelnut caramel ice cream, and I had a taste of the peanut butter chocolate ice cream and found the peanut butter flavour in the ice cream very pure. We were told that they make all the flavourings in the ice cream from scratch on site (the peanut butter was made in a Thermomix).

Gabriel Chocolate has redefined what chocolate is to me, it was my first exposure to single origin chocolate. It made me appreciate the depth and complexity that can be found in the taste of chocolate. The flavour compounds found in dark chocolate actually exceeds those of red wine. Chocolate is one of the most complex compounds in the world with over 1,500 identified flavour components, while wine has around 500. I like the respect that Gabriel has given to chocolate by making it from scratch using single origin cocoa beans so that people can discover the array of complex flavours that chocolate offers. Unlike the general mass produced chocolate that you can buy, which is made from a blend of cocoa beans and generally over sweetened, contains flavourings and addictives, and when it comes to flavour - quantity, uniformity and consistency is valued over character, quality and diversity. As far as I am aware, Gabriel Chocolate is the only place in Western Australia at the moment that produces single origin chocolate. But it’s not just chocolate that tastes “different for different’s sake”, all the chocolate tastes amazing, you can tell that the best quality cocoa beans are used.

I highly recommend that people check out Gabriel Chocolate when they are down in Margaret River, everyone should have the single origin experience.

Gabriel Chocolate ( is open 7 days, 10am to 5pm.
Address: Corner of Caves Road and Quininup road, Yallingup.
Phone: (08) 9756 6689
You can also follow Gabriel Chocolate on twitter @GabrielChocMR
Gabriel Chocolate on Urbanspoon