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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sambal Goreng Ikan

Having received a bunch of fresh red chilies, my mind turns immediately frantic for an Indonesian recipe that would serve these fiery fruits the respect they deserve. This is Sambal Goreng Ikan - 'sambal' is a condiment (usually chili-based in Indonesia) 'goreng' means fried (as this sambal is), and 'ikan' means fish. Hence this dish is fish with some fried chilis (and some) - definitely not for the weak of heart.

This would also go well with a handful of 'stinky beans' or pete (peh-teh).

To make the sambal good for 2 hungry people :

5 red chilies
an inch of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
7 shallots
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar, if you don't have palm sugar)
1 whole tomato, quartered
1 tablespoon Kecap Manis - dark sweet Indonesian soy sauce
salt, to taste
1/3 cup water

fish : use any white fish that you would like

The fish used for this dish was flake, for its nice white flesh and its good for frying, which was step 1 for this recipe.

Wash fish and pat dry. If using whole fish, make sure to clean well inside out (i.e. remove innards).

Heat oil of choice and shallow fry (or deep fry - up to you) fish until well done. Set aside.

Chop 3 out of the 5 chilis and mix together with garlic, ginger in a mortar and bash away into a coarse paste.

The remaining 2 chilis get chopped into small pieces (discard the white membrance and seeds, if you prefer lesser heat) and set aside.

Heat up a little bit of oil and stir fry the paste for around 3 minutes. Add salt, sliced chili, tomatoes, water, sugar and kecap manis. Mix well. Toss in the fish and cook for another couple of minutes. Serve hot hot hot with hot rice.

The palm sugar has a deep flaver almost resembling mocha to some extent. This type of palm sugar is made from the sap of coconut. It neutralizes some of the heat from the chilies, together with the sweetness of the dark soy Kecap Manis.

SpiceStop : Berbere

Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix. The basic ingredients are chilies, cardamom, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, ajwain, nutmeg, ginger and nutmeg - the proportions I presume depend on who's making it!

This berbere is made of :

12 dried chilies
9 cardamom pods, bruised
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
9 cloves
1 tsp allspice berries
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp salt

Dry roast ingredients except for nutmeg and ginger, until fragrant - around 2minutes in medium heat. Let cool, then tip into a spice grinder, blitz until it becomes a fine powder, then mix in the nutmeg and ginger. Store in an airtight container (or use immediately!)

[ For great Ethiopian dishes, try The Abyssinian at Kensington. If you don't feel like eating with your hands and sharing your food, you may want to think twice though. ]

Bacon and Cheese Muffins

This weekend's theme was 'chili', and one of the by-products of this theme was to get rid of the bacon as well, and the savory muffins were conceived.

This is an adaptation of the Bacon and Cheese Muffins from the baking bible, but spiced up a bit more!

To make 12 yummy, bacon-y, spicy muffins you would need:

1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups wheat bran (fiber is good for you!)
1/4 cup (or less) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon golden syrup
7 bacon rashers, cooked and chopped
1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you have)
pinch of ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 200C. Prepare muffin tins.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in bran, sugar, bacon, pepper, chili and cheese, and make that typical well in the center.

bran is one of the richest sources of fiber! mix it in to balance the cholesterol from the bacon! :)

Combine buttermilk, olive oil, egg and golden syrup. Pour this mixture on to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Fill muffin tins up to three quarters full, sprinkle some more crushed chili on top, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot, with tomato sauce and mustard! Yum.

X marks the spot!

Good for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a midnight fix!

Irish Soda Farl

A quick and easy bread that would really fill you up in no time. This recipe is based on my own rendition of a soda bread, but instead of baking the dough, it is griddled in an oil-less heavy pan and served with lashings of Kerrygold. "Farl" is from the Gaelic word "fardel" meaning "four parts".

1 cup wholewheat flour
1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
buttermilk (around 1 cup)

Mix dry ingredients together, then pour buttermilk and mix until dough comes together into a smooth mass.
Pat into a circle around 1 cm thick.

Cut dough into 4 portions, and dry fry in a non stick pan (or sprinkle some flour in the pan to prevent from sticking). Each side would take approximately 4-6 minutes. Cook till its nice and golden brown.

Serve while hot.. (although it's quite good the day after as well!)

butter or jam... and some coffee would be best accompaniments!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kuya's Dinuguan

This is a Filipino dish called Dinuguan - a stew made with pork and pig's blood, vinegar and chili. The name is from the word "dugo" meaning "blood", and this savory dish is best paired with a steamed rice cake called puto - but it won't go wrong with rice of course!

The following may not be for the faint of heart.

Kuya's Dinuguan ("kuya" is 'older brother')

1 kilo of pork, cubed
2 packs of blood jelly (750g per pack)

pig's blood from the asian butcher
(shown on the right with a stray piece of onion hehe)

half a head of garlic, minced
1 big onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 long chilies (red ones were used for this, but typically the green ones are preferred)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the blood - since the blood is packed in the container it would have the consistency of jelly. Mash it with your hands until it has almost gone back to its liquid state. This may gross some people out though! Cover and set aside.

In a big pot, saute garlic and onion in oil until soft and the onions translucent. Dump pork cubes, stir and let simmer until the meat is tender and has changed its color (about 20 minutes). Add the pork's blood. Add the chilis and let simmer further. When the meat and blood are fully cooked, add the vinegar and season to taste.

saute - simmer - serve

Serve while hot!

This dish would have been the soup version of Europe's black pudding (shown here from a previous recipe). The brain would say that something black in color would not be very palatable.... At least for Filipinos, this dish is proof that a dish should not be judged by its color! :)

Liquid Bar

A random restaurant was chosen for pre-Cirque de Soleil din dins, and the lucky venue was Liquid Bar at New Quay, Docklands. With Spanish food on the menu, a selection of tapas just had to be ordered. Baby octopus, saffron rice cakes, spanish sausage and mussels were the picks of the night. None were disappointing but not overly unforgettable. Service was at hand all the time and the ambiance good for a bunch of chatty people. Check out their site.

anyway, the best part was having a glimpse of sunlight in Docklands
...on a weekday
...just a couple of minutes before the sun set!

On another note, the circus was excellent. If you've had memories of circus in your childhood (circa 80's and early 90's) this one is definitely an upgrade!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Potato Gnocchi

Having snatched a 5kg bag of potatoes for $1 (yes!! nice small washed good potatoes!) at Knox City, what can you expect but have a couple of potato-based recipes!

I have not made gnocchi ever, so perhaps it's a good way to start.

As always there were heaps and tons of different ways to make gnocchi. I ended up with just doing the very basic, and crossed my fingers that upon cooking them the little parcels of what's supposed to be a light mass of potato goodness would not disintegrate before my very eyes.

There was a suggestion to make it with egg if venturing for the first time. This would hold the mixture together. Thought I'd be brave and go eggless!

And made a small batch only just in case something went awry!

Makes an entree size good for 2

6 small potatoes
1/4 cup plain unbleached flour

Place 6 small potatoes into a pot, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil. When done, remove from pot but save the potato water.

Peel the potatoes (while they're still warm enough to handle!) and mash until lumps are gone (the preference is to use a ricer or a french grater... but in the absence of both i used a fork).

manual mashing
don't overmash though!

Sprinkle half of the flour to the mashed potatoes and with nimble fingers, slowly incorporate and knead lightly. I did not end up using the entire 1/4 cup of flour - you wouldn't want too much flour otherwise it would make the gnocchi heavy and tough. Roll into logs around 1.5-2 cm thick and cut into 2cm long pieces. Dust with some more flour.

looking rough and rugged, aren't they?! technique now... finesse later. hehe.

Roll a gnocchi over the tines of a lightly-floured fork (I found this to be slightly tricky because too much pressure and you basically squish your gnocchi!) . Gently press with the index finger or thumb underneath to form a dent in the back of each one, and fork marks on the other side. The textured surface will aid in making sauces cling on to the gnocchi.

When done, boil the potato water again and add the gnocchi until it rises. Serve with your favorite pesto or sauce.

shown here with veal mince, finished with a glug of extra virgin olive oil

Banana and Buttermilk Bread

As a kid I would eat an entire bunch of cavendish bananas all by myself. Still love them now, especially when they take a different form, like bread, for instance.

To make this :
150g softened butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas (around 3-4 pieces )
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
pinch of salt
sea salt, ground cinnamon and brown sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease a loaf tin and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mashed banana, vanilla extract and buttermilk.

(that's actually a manual mixer!)

Sift dry ingredients on another bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the batter and mix until smooth.

Pour into prepared tin. Sprinkle sea salt, cinnamon and brown sugar on top (this was a personal touch, and not included in the Baking Bible, where this was based).

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool in tin before turning on to a wire rack.

Serve with coffee for a nice brekky, or with afternoon tea.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mt. Baw Baw - Walhalla - Warragul

Mt. Baw Baw is an alpine resort just 2.5 hours away from Melbourne. And yes it's not yet winter, but the road trip is way too good to pass on a nice lazy weekend. Besides, there were reports of snow fall for the past few days and the webcams showed thick layers of snow all over the place.

(ed : Never mind that the snow tarted to melt yesterday, it wasn't going to be a show stopper. Check out the snowcams here. So now that you have been forewarned please don't ask why there are more streaks of green than layers of white in the photos below!).

Getting there (scenic route)

From Maroondah Hwy [route 34] continue to Lilydale
Turn right at Warburton Hwy [B380] and head for Yarra Junction
At Yarra Junction turn right for Powelltown/Noojee [C425]
After Noojee take [C426] to Mt. Baw Baw
You won't miss the road signs

The white season officially begins in June (I think). The misty morning was promising and the scenic route is definitely worth it - you won't even notice the time.

(they left some snow for the benefit of this shutterbug)

From the resort, drive about 45 minutes away through to the South face road to find the the historic township of Walhalla. It once thrived of the gold mining business and now the population has dwindled a fair bit. There is no mobile phone coverage, lots of great places to sit down with your picnic hamper... or if preferred, take one of the ghost trips or train rides.

this commemorates where the magic all began

and the wall that still stands near the rugged slopes where the gold was first discovered

A side trip to the oldest, biggest winery (and an award winning one) in South Gippsland - Wild Dog Winery.

love the colors of the earth

Saturday, May 9, 2009


In times like this, the shutterbug longs for a better camera!


is a Spanish stuffed pastry. It comes from the word empanar meaning 'to wrap in bread'. This recipe was based on a recipe from the cookbook Mexican Cantina Cooking bought on sale from Borders :)

The empanada (otherwise known as a turnover) can be made with various options for the filling : chicken, beef, vegetables, cheese, or even fruit for a dessert empanada. The filling for this particular empanada is made of leftover sausages, minced so as to resemble minced meat, and cooked with minced potatoes and carrots.

To make the pastry :
200ml water
80g butter
1 egg
pinch of salt
350g plain flour (I used 200g plain flour, 150g wholewheat flour)


Put flour in a mixing bowl and set aside. Heat water with salt and butter, until butter has melted. Pour onto flour, mix until all liquid is absorbed. Add egg and stir thoroughly. Dust your worktop and knead dough until elastic. Put pastry back onto bowl, cover with tea towel and let rest for around 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling:
12 cooked leftover small sausages (chipolatas, in this instance), minced (or diced if you want it chunky)
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, minced
1 carrot, cut into small cubes
1 potato, cut into small cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into small cubes
fresh oregano, minced
2 chillies, minced
salt and pepper to taste (or a splash of soy sauce)
cooking oil (vegetable/oil/corn oil)

Heat pan and add oil. Saute garlic, onions, chilies, tomato until tomatoes have wilted and onion is translucent. Add celery, potatoes and carrots, stir until vegetables have softened. Add sausages and season, let cook for around 5-10 minutes, or until you know that the flavors have nicely combined. Throw in fresh oregano when almost done. Let cool.

While filling is cooling, get dough and divide into 12 pieces. Roll into thin rounds.

Place a couple of heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center of the dough and fold dough into a semi circle.

place filling

fold other half on top of the other, creating a semi circle

fold by fingers, or fork it!

You can either fold the sides of the dough to seal it, or use a fork to seal edges. Brush with egg wash, and bake in 180C for around 25minutes. (don't forget you can also fry it if preferred!)

Serve with tomato sauce and mustard. You can use whatever meat or minced meat instead of the leftover sausages - this time around it was just a necessity to make something more exciting out of the snags!

Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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