Carob-Tahini Spread (liquid amazingness)

Carob-tahini spread, or known by its other name, liquid amazingness, is one of the things that I Would Not Have Tried without prompting from a review site or friend. I first tried it in a lebanese brunch place somewhere in Melbourne, where before tasting it, I bellyached about paying $7 for bread with spread on it.

Having tried it, I dreamt about this stuff until the day I recreated it and kept it in a jar in my cupboard, so I’d have it premixed ready for amazingness cravings at any time of the day.

Don’t even try to tell me about peanut butter-jam/jelly. I laugh in your inexperienced face (which was also my inexperienced face a couple of weeks ago, though my poison of choice is peanut butter with kraft cheese slices. Then the obsession took over).

You must try liquid amazingness. It is really easy to make. Please try. You will be surprised. You might binge and eat nothing else except bread dipped in liquid amazingness for breakfast for a whole week or two *cough cough*

Also I’m certain it’s kinda healthy… I hope given the quantities I’ve been eating

Photo 22-12-2013 11 45 23

Carob Tahini Spread, otherwise known as Liquid Amazingness

1 tablesp carob molasses
2 tablesp tahini
Some bread

  1. Mix the carob and tahini. Spread thickly on a slice of bread. Put it in your face hole. Swoon.

Christmas leftovers: Eggnog Panettone french toast

When people think of Christmas leftovers, I suspect there is always an image of leftover turkey and baked potatoes, etc.

However, I don’t really eat those things over Christmas. If you knew what I had for Christmas dinner, you’d understand why there are no leftovers of any sort.

A hint: it’s called Crabsmas in my house. And our mascot is Father Crustaceous. Imagine a crab in a santa hat, if you will.

Apart from crabs and gingerbread, nothing is sacred. So, being in a Christmas-celebrating country for once, I took the opportunity to try a few things for the first time ever: namely supermarket eggnog and panettone.

Panettone is nice when it’s fancy, but I can’t say much for the supermarket version. Cardboard is a word that comes to mind. Also, eggnog – rather rich? Nice but I generally can’t drink more than half a cup of custard at a time.

All these things came together in a blast of inspiration one morning. Inspired by Father Crustaceous, and a disappointing brunch out the previous day, I exclaimed: “I shall make panettone eggnog french toast! I am a culinary pioneer!”

Photo 29-12-2013 10 54 26

Turns out that other people had thought of both panettone and eggnog french toast, separately and together. But whatever, I thought of it all on my ownsome first.

Eggnog Panettone French Toast 

2 eggs
~1 cup eggnog
1/2 a small panettone, cut into wedges

  1. Whisk the egg and eggnog together
  2. Dip the panettone slices in the eggnog until they are sopping wet
  3. Fry off in a hot grill pan, as you do for french toast

Attempts to find tasty cheaper pesto: rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

I really like pesto but let’s be honest, I can’t really stomach paying a lot for a huge bunch of basil + pine nuts on a regular basis. For something like seafood, perhaps I would be more willing to pay. But not really for a herb and a nut, no matter how nice they are.

Hence the search was on to create a tasty pesto which doesn’t break the bank. Enter rocket.

Hazelnuts were substituted for the pine nuts, though I’m sure almonds and walnuts would be nice too, depending on what you can get cheaply at the time.

Cheese was removed because.. err well I ran out that day. You can put the cheese back in if you like but it masks the flavour of the garlic and hazelnuts a bit. Also depending on where you live, it might be costly too. Shavings of parmesan would probably be appreciated though.

Maybe my point is just that you can sub out basil for any green, and pine nuts for any nut, and cheese for something a bit pungent like garlic.

Or maybe I have no point and I just like garlic. That might be it too ūüôā

Pretty green

Rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

Inspired by a pasta sauce a friend had at Crown Melbourne. Credit to the Kitchn for the idea of using rocket. 

A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
4-5 cloves of garlic
A big bunch of rocket
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to taste.

  1. Blend the garlic and hazelnut into chunks.
  2. Fry the garlic-hazelnut mix with a little salt in some olive oil until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Return the contents of the pan (including oil) to the blender and blend in the rocket. If the mixture is a little dry, add more olive oil.
  4. Taste, add salt, pepper and chilli flakes as needed.

Attempting to copy Mrs. Yeti’s Kichidi

I first learnt of kichidi while eating at Mrs Y.’s table. I can’t believe I never knew of this before!

Funny isn’t it, comfort food takes similar forms and evokes similar feelings despite which cuisine it originates from. I think an ill version of me would be just as happy eating kichidi as Chinese porridge. Well maybe say, 80% as happy. That’s still pretty close. A healthy me would also be happy because both taste pretty good. I happily ate mine with accompanying dishes while at Mrs Y’s, when I recreated this at home I was too hungry and ate it straight from the pot. Shh.

As much as I’d like to say this is Mrs Y’s original recipe, it isn’t. This is because she appears to make it very fast and when I tried to watch her one time I lost track.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Kichidi

Adapted from Padhu’s Kitchen, changing a few ingredients and the rice:dhal ratio.¬†

I’ve also made this recipe with loads of ingredients missing and it still tasted pretty nice – I’ve marked those that I’ve tried it without. I’d suggest you don’t try making it so bare bones that all of the stuff is left out at the same time though

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup dhal – I used the orange dhal
2 cups water РI used 1:2 for each of the rice and dhal so check what your rice and dhal packet says 

1 teasp mustard seeds – without is okay
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/4 teasp whole black pepper (or just black pepper if you don’t have it whole)
A few curry leaves Рwithout is okay
A pinch of hing (asafoetida) Рwithout is okay

1 onion, chopped
2 dried chillies – technically you should use one green chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 a thumb of ginger, chopped
1 tomato, chopped – original recipe doesn’t have this, but it is a nice option if you want it

1/4 teasp turmeric powder Рwithout is okay
1 teasp chilli powder
1/2 teasp coriander powder Рwithout is okay
1/4 teasp garam masala

Other utensils: pressure cooker or a lot of patience.

  1. Fry the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil over medium heat, until they start to dance. Then, add in the black pepper, curry leaves, and hing (if using). Give it a bit of a stir until it smells nice.
  2. Add the onion, cook until it goes a bit transparant and soft.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, and dry/fresh chilli. Fry until fragrant. Add tomato and cook until soft if using.
  4. Add all the powders, give it a quick stir for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the rice and dhal, and fry it until coated with oil. Add some salt to taste.
  6. Add the water, and close the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 9 minutes. ¬†If you don’t a pressure cooker, close the lid on your pot and be prepared to wait around 20 minutes. Taste and salt as needed.

After that you can garnish with fried onions, or coriander, or a top-up garnish (see the original author’s link). I didn’t do any of these because I was already happy with the taste ūüôā

More Indian food that I have destroyed: Baingan Bharta (and corrupted BB pasta)

I love Indian food (the authentic spicy type). Lets get that out there and make it clear.

But for some reason I don’t seem to have the same level of horror when I corrupt Indian food versus when I corrupt Chinese food. I seem perfectly happy to make “Indian pasta” but if feel like a total weirdo if someone tells me that a certain dish is “Chinese / Thai inspired” but is actually western. No, I don’t have an explanation. Yes, I am really very sorry.

With that in mind I was debating whether or not to post this recipe.

See, I have found that authentic baingan bharta tastes really good over pasta with a shake of parmesan cheese. This was a discovery made when trying to figure out what to do with my leftovers.

Please don’t judge me. The below is a recipe for a proper baingan bharta. If you want to corrupt it by putting it over pasta, at least do it with the leftovers rather than the fresh food. That way my conscience will remain clear.

Baingain BhartaCorrupted pasta version

Baingan Bharta (Roasted eggplant ..curry? Not really curry)

Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe

2 medium sized eggplants
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 teasp  ginger, chopped
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/2 teasp garam masala
1/2 teasp chilli powder
Salt to taste

Note: I’m really lazy and didn’t skin my eggplants, if you are a proper maker of Indian food and not-lazy then you should remove the skin of your eggplant before mashing it into the tomato mixture in the pan.

  1. Turn your oven (200-220 degrees C) or grill. Prick the eggplants all over and rub with a little oil, then leave them roasting for half an hour to 40 minutes. You might need to turn them halfway.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan. Over medium heat, fry the cumin seeds until they dance a little. Add the onion, and fry until the onion goes soft. Then add the ginger and green chilli, and fry for a bit longer until that’s cooked too.
  3. Add the tomato and continue frying until the tomato softens.
  4. Chop up the eggplant (I don’t bother skinning it), and throw the whole thing in the pan. Stir and mash until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, and salt to taste. Cook a little longer so spices incorporate, then you’re done!

Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food ¬†after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.

Ode to pie

Everyone likes pie. Do you like pie? I like pie.

Far too cutesy pie beads

Pie is not really a thing that one can say no to. And today, in the silence of the still morning, amongst the clackings of my keyboard, I suddenly decided: I want pie.

Why? Does pie need a why? One can never deny the pie.

* end of self indulgent poorly written rhyming *

Pre-caramelised leek Post-caramelised leek

Also, I work from home at present and so I can do these odd things like make pie in the middle of the day. Of course, that means I am back here at the computer working at midnight. Very clever. The sacrifices we make for pie, sigh. (Pie? Sigh? Geddit? snigger snigger)

Hello pie!

Caramelised Leek and Feta Pie with Zaatar Crust

I had leeks in the fridge so cobbled something together. I didn’t like the pie crust I used, and will update the recipe when I find one that I do like.

3 leeks
2 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1 tablesp sugar
Approx 1/2 cup feta, cut into small cubes
3 eggs
150ml milk
Black pepper

1 portion of your favourite savoury pie dough + 1 tablespoon zaatar

  1. When you make your pie dough, add the zaatar to the flour and then continue to prepare the pie crust as per normal. 
  2. Slice the leeks so they are approx 3cm long each. Stand them all up in a frying pan. Pour over a little oil and fry them standing up that way for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
  3. Slosh the vinegar into the pan, and wait for a couple of minutes so it drys a little. Then sprinkle in the salt.
  4. If you want, gently flip all the little leek cylinders upside down, so both sides char. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of chopsticks, in my opinion
  5. When cooked (and the pie crust is ready to be filled), arrange in the pie crust and place cubes of feta between the bits of leek.
  6. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Pour over the leeks into the pie crust.
  7. Bake for around 15-20 minutes until browned. Use the same temperature as required by your pie crust.

The Scrooge’s Brunch: Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast, with Pomegranate Seeds et al.

Hello hello, and welcome to The Scrooge’s Brunch.

The aim of the game is to have a sublime and divine (and other posh words) brunch, without having to spend upwards of $20 (AUD!!) for a single plate of wholesome, tasty, real (i.e., recognisable components) food.

The good thing about wholesome “real” food is that it isn’t so hugely extraordinarily hard to figure out what went into the meal. If you can figure out what went in and approximately how to make it, then technically, a Melbourne style brunch should be within your grasp every weekend (twice!). And by you, I mean me, because I have unfortunately been seduced by Melbourne cafe culture, and eat brunch out far too often.

Inspiring stuff, no? I’ll at least attempt to plate everything in a nice cafe-ish way. And I’ll obviously only try to recreate dishes that I thought kicked some serious coffee cup.

Also, I promise not to ask any of cafes in question about how they make their food. That’s cheating, plus they will probably look at me weirdly/hipster snub me. The point of the exercise is independent recreation at home, not the copying ¬†of a cafe recipe to a T.

First up is a variation on the infamous Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast. I decided to start with a relatively easy one.

The original:

The original

The Scrooge’s Brunch:¬†

Pomegranate thievery!I overmixed a littletwo orders of avo-feta sourdough coming up!

Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast, with Pomegranate Seeds + Other Fun Stuff

Fresh and crunchy and yum, this is a refreshing and satisfying brunch for relatively little effort. 

1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup feta – I used about half the amount of feta to avocado, it isn’t an exact science here
1/2 cup cooked, drained, cooled chickpeas
2 Р3 radishes
1/2 a pomegranate
1/4 cup toasted pistachios – I used cashews because I didn’t have pistachios
1/8 cup fresh coriander leaves

Loaf of sourdough

  1. Ingredient preparation:
    • Avocado: peel and chop roughly in cubes, at least 1.5 cm long
    • Feta: crumble
    • Chickpeas: if tinned, drain, rinse, and set aside. If you cook them yourself you need a bit more prep time – use a water ratio of 1:4, and stick them in a slow cooker for 2-3 hours the night before. Drain, and leave to cool in the fridge overnight. If you pop the little skins off the texture will be better, do this by gently rubbing them against each other in a metal sieve.
    • Radishes: clean and slice into little sticks that look like toothpicks. Mine as pictured are a little thick.
    • Pomegranate: as carefully as possible, extract all the little pretty seeds.
    • Nuts: toast your nuts briefly and allow to cool
    • Sourdough bread: toast this!
  2. Now, in a big bowl, gently mix all the toppings together. You don’t want to mash it. As you can see above, I mixed a little too enthusiastically.
  3. Just before serving, artfully (yeah right) scoop it onto the toasted bread. Hooray, you saved $20!

Portion control: makes enough for 4 regular portions or 2-3 “Melbourne brunch” portions

Do aheads: you can do the chickpeas, radishes, pomegranate, and nuts ahead. Then just toast the bread and mix everything up with the feta, avocado, and coriander before brunch.

Verdict: 70% likeness, because I swapped the pistachios for cashews. I’m also pretty convinced they candied their pistachios, Bigfoot claims otherwise – this dispute requires another brunch visit to settle it. Also, my radish slices were too thick.

A note on attribution: I have left the name of the cafe in question off the post, as I thought it was better not to¬†publically¬†identify how to make specific dishes at specific cafes (even though this is a re-creation rather than the actual recipe) – though in my view, a huge part of Melbourne brunch culture is the cafe atmosphere, for which, of course, there is no recipe. If this isn’t correct attribution, please let me know and I’ll happily fix it.¬†

Eggplant-zilla

This is the weirdest looking, largest eggplant I’ve ever seen. I bought it for that reason alone.

The world trembles beneath her feet

Having bought it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with so much eggplant. Initially I considered eggplant parmagiana, but the thought of breadcrumbing and frying the eggplant slices individually was a bit overwhelming.

So, lasagne it is. I didn’t manage to use all the eggplant in the end. It was too much, too much.

..Help?

Please excuse my bao-lo fa-ke sweaterDon't hog the parmesan topping, not sociable at all

Eggplant Lasagne

You can do this with pretty much any vegetable, I did one with pumpkin and baby spinach a few days later. Quick-cooking vegetables like spinach don’t need pre-grilling.¬†

1/2 a humongous eggplant, cut to 1cm thick slices – equivalent to 1-2 large eggplants
1.5 – 2 cups tomato sauce – I used this, but any tomato-pasta-sauce is fine.
Lasagne strips Рamount depends how big your baking dish is, I used  6 strips.
Cheese strips / grated for layering – again, depends on the size of your dish and how much you liked cheese. I used about 150g of colby cheddar, cut into thin strips. Mozzarella would probably be nice.
1/4 cup (or less) Grated parmesan to top

  1. Slice and grill your eggplant. Easiest is to do this in an oven / toaster oven РI stuck mine on an oiled tray in the toaster oven for 20 minutes at 220 degrees C. 
  2. Time to start layering – get out your oven dish, and start by pouring in about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Spread it around well.
  3. Then add a layer of lasagne strips. Break them to get them to fit if you need to.
  4. Then, another layer of tomato sauce – spread it over the pasta until it is all covered thinly.
  5. Then, a layer of grilled eggplant. Distribute your eggplant so you have enough for at least 2-3 layers.
  6. Then, add a layer of cheese. I just sprinkled strips sparingly across my eggplant, but I don’t like loads of cheese inside mine. Use more if you do.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6.
  8. Now, if you have space in your dish height-wise, repeat steps 3-5 again. If not, then just layer up what you do have, and make sure you end with a layer of lasagne strips.
  9. Now, pour on what is left of your tomato sauce, and scatter the parmasan cheese on top.
  10. Look down the sides of your baking dish. Is there sauce everywhere, or does it look dry? If it is dry, gently pour a 1/4 cup of water down the side of the dish, without disturbing the lasagne structure. This is to help the lasagne noodles cook.
  11. Stick the whole thing back in the toaster oven / oven for 20-30 minutes on 220 degrees C. If it starts to burn, cover with foil.
  12. To test if it is cooked, try sticking a fork in it – if you feel no resistance from the pasta, it’s done!

The Humble Tomato

I didn’t really want to write about tomato sauce, I want to write about eggplant lasagne. Which is more awesome than I imagined, and I have snacked on it three times between lunch and dinner. It tastes good cold. My next post will be about eggplant lasagne.

I am writing about tomato sauce because Bigfoot pestered me into writing about it.

I figure: tomato sauce, who wants to read about tomato sauce. If you’re interested in tomato sauce, you probably already know how to make it and don’t need to hear my ramblings. Especially since I don’t have a proper recipe for you. If you aren’t interested in tomato sauce, you probably bought it from the supermarket last time you wanted it. In the form of tomato paste, or possibly Prego. No shaming here – in my memory Prego tastes pretty decent.

My point being, if you don’t feel like it’s worth the hassle, then to you it probably isn’t.

Why do I make my own tomato sauce then? And why always with fresh tomatoes?

These are the discount-almost-off type of tomatoes

Err. Sentimental reasons. Sort of. Also, I like the taste.

When I was in university, the dining hall food was awful. And by awful I mean really quite bad. Except for certain days, like spaghetti day.

If, because you were ill / not hungry / overly fussy *embarrassed face*, you didn’t want to eat the dining hall food, then you were allowed to exchange your meal allocation for 4 fruits. For some reason, in this university, tomatoes were classified as a fruit along with bananas and apples. To give them credit, I did see people chomp into whole tomatoes after meals so perhaps it was a cultural thing.

4 tomatoes + garlic + pasta made for a much better dinner than what I used to find in the dining hall.

I didn’t have a pot of my own back then, and the one I did borrow was lidless. And for some reason I thought that tomato sauce needed to be stirred constantly to prevent it from burning. Probably an indication that I had the heat too high, but it was therapeutic none the less.

Since then, I’ve figured this cooking business out a little bit better. But for me, on a cold evening, comfort food (with minimal effort) doesn’t get much better than a simmering pot of fresh tomato sauce.

It's so hard to make tomato sauce look attractive

Note: I used loads of tomatoes because of $1 (for a big bag of) tomatoes. Yay tomatoes!

Basic Tomato Sauce

I use variations of this in most recipes requiring some sort of tomato base, unless it’s tomato paste to be mixed into a sauce or something. Then I’d probably just buy tomato paste.¬†

Basic:
4 medium sized tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic

Balsamic vinegar – for balancing. I’ve done this with white vinegar too, but be careful and use only a tiny bit as it tastes harsh.
Sugar – again, for balancing.
Olive oil

Optional: onion (up to 1/2 a small one), chilli (fresh or flakes), anchovies, various herbs, various other vegetables to flavour the sauce.

This looks long but it is really just a few steps: add garlic, add tomato, simmer, season, simmer. The rest is descriptive.

  1. Prep:
    Grab a pot with a lid, and put in a little olive oil. I use about a teaspoon. Leave the lid off, and let the oil heat over a medium-low flame. 
  2. Garlic:
    Crush your garlic and roughly chop it. As you finish chopping, add it to the pot. Stir a little and make sure it doesn’t burn.

    • At this point you can add your extras:
      • I almost always add 1/4 to 1/2 a sliced onion, depending on the size of the onion. I also usually add a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
      • I recently discovered anchovies, and sometimes add one or two small ones.
  3. Tomato:
    While the garlic + extras are cooking, chop your tomatoes. Roughly chopped is fine, they don’t need to be too small. I don’t bother blanching off the skins, as I like my sauce chunky anyway.
  4. Tomato:
    As the garlic turns golden and onions (if using) turn translucent, drop in the tomatoes. Note that garlic can burn quite quickly, but as long as you put in a couple of tomatoes before the garlic burns it’ll be fine. Apparently this has something to do with the liquid coming out of the tomato, and is called deglazing. Once all your tomatoes are in, cover the pot and crank up the heat to med-high. Make sure your lid fits well, if not you may need to add water later. If you want you can add other random vege to flavour the sauce here too – a grilled (charred) capsicum is nice, chopped roughly.
  5. Simmer:
    That’s it! Now leave it alone for 15 minutes. You don’t even have to stir, just make sure it doesn’t dry out – if so, turn down the heat a bit and add a little water.
  6. Season:
    By now your tomatoes are mushy and the beginnings of awesomeness are blossoming. Time to balance the flavour.

    • When I lived in UK / NL /and now Australia, I generally use/d very little seasoning – half a teaspoon of balsamic, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar or less. You can also add herbs, if you feel like it. Taste and adjust until it is to your liking. Also, a little salt helps if you like that (I usually don’t salt it much).
    • Sorry Malaysia and Singapore, I love your food but your tomatoes are sour. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong at the beginning. I generally use half to one teaspoon of balsamic, and up to a teaspoon of sugar, but don’t add it all at once, taste and adjust slowly.
  7. Simmer:
    Close the lid of the pot and keep cooking on medium for as long as you want. The longer you cook it for, the longer the humble tomato has to turn into the soothing balm that is good tomato sauce. Keep an eye on it in case it gets dry.
    If you turn the heat down to low, you can pretty much leave it alone while you figure out the rest of your food-related tasks. If it gets dry, add a little water. If you need it thicker, leave the lid off (e.g., if you use it for pizza sauce).