Sunday, 11 August 2013

My take on Singapore Rice Noodles - Easy, quick and delicious dinners - part 1

My little brother has just started his first job out of uni and is enjoying that time in your life when you find yourself adjusting to 'adult' life following your comparatively relaxed uni days.That wonderful time when all you feel is tired and the weekend cannot come fast enough. Your evenings just seem to disappear and the last thing you feel like at the end of your working days is cooking dinner for the flatties. You long for those carefree uni days.

Further, it turns out, working folk want better food than back in your uni days. They have a bit more cash to spend and mince five days per week (on toast, bolognese, meatloaf, nachos and pie) just does not cut it anymore.

So, my brother asked for some quick and easy dinner ideas to add to his repertoire. He is a reasonable cook already, he cooked me a tasty chicken carbonara last time I was home. He just wanted a few more tasty meal ideas.

This is the first post for him and any others looking for quick and easy dinners, full of vege and deliciousness. My take on Singapore rice noodles. It might look like a lot of ingredients, but you literally whack everything in and cook it all up.

Stir fry vege (such as broccoli, carrots, carrots, onion, capsicum) - at least 1/2 cup per person chopped into bite-sized pieces
Chicken, prawns or pork, cut into thin slices - approx 100g per person, or more if you're a big meat eater
1/2 egg per person (round it up - 3 people = 2 eggs), beaten
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground garlic
1 tsp diced chilli
2 T soy sauce
2 T curry powder
1 T turmeric powder
1/2 cup chicken or vege stock (or water if you're desperate)
Fresh coriander
Vermicelli noodles (or thin rice noodles) - a handful per person

Boil the jug. Put the noodles in a bow and pour over the boiling water. Leave it for 5 mins and drain. Set aside.
Put some oil in a hot frypan, and quickly cook the eggs (like scrambled eggs). Remove and put aside.
Put a dash more oil in the pan and fry the garlic, ginger, chilli, curry powder and turmeric (probably only 1 min max). Before the spices burn, add the vege and quickly stir fry until almost cooked. If you have another frying pan and room, cook the meat. If not (like me), remove the vege, let the pan heat up and cook the meat in a little oil.
Put everything - noodles, eggs, vege, meat, stock and coriander back in the frying pan and quickly toss.

You're good to go! Dinner done, enjoy!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

How to shuck a scallop

OK, I know that scallop season is over. But, I didn't get around to doing this during summer so here it is now. Come 15 July the season will be open again down in Wellington anyway. That's only three months away, oh yea!

I love scallops. Like, seriously love them. Fried with butter and garlic. In a mornay. Seared with a creamed corn sauce. And always, always with a crispy glass of white wine on the side. Ah, bliss.

As well as eating them, I love collecting scallops, they are super fun to 'catch'. I say 'catch' because there is not a lot of catching going on, more 'picking up'. They sit nestled in the sand, hiding away. You need to be beady-eyed, searching them out.

Anyway, once you have your (legal) haul of scallops you need you get the little parcels of deliciousness out of their shells. Now, there are plenty of different ways to do this. Below is a step-by-step guide to doing it my way, or more correctly, the way my family does it. You might find that your uncle's neighbour's son does it differently, that's fine. There is no 'correct' way, but you want to make sure you end up with a nice neat scallop and you're not wasting any of the precious meat by leaving it on the shell. We find this way works well, but feel free to modify if another way suits you better.

You will need a blunt pairing knife, or a bread and butter knife and some sea water to rinse them (please, please ever don't rinse fresh seafood in fresh water unless you absolutely have to, it really does destroy the flavour).

First you will need to lie your scallops out belly-down so they open up. We leave them to open while we are rinsing our dive gear - by the time we are done they are good to go.

Hold the scallop in your hand, belly-down. You need to be pretty speedy on the first step, if you're too slow they will close up and you will have to set them aside and wait for them to open again.

Quickly slice the knife in under the belly, releasing the muscle from the shell. You want to make sure you get right under it so you don't leave any of the muscle on the shell.

Once the muscle is released, the whole thing will relax and you will be able to open the scallop right up.

This will leave you with the scallop on the flat side of the shell.

Cut the black belly of the scallop off.

You should now be able to pull the scallop away cleanly from the shell, leaving behind the 'gunk' that you don't want.

All done! Pop your scallop into a bowl of sea water while you are shucking the rest and give them a gentle swirl - this will make sure they are nice and clean. Drain on a paper towel and cook them up that day! Delicious!

Many thanks to my brother for his expert demonstration :-)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fruit Bread French Toast

In the final installment of my Easter weekend breakfast bonanza, I present Fruit Bread French Toast with caramalised bananas! Yes, it's as delicious as it sounds.

This is basically the sweet version of your traditional French Toast. Fruity, sweet, tasty.

Come next Easter, you could totally do this with hot cross buns. I'd flatten them a bit, just with your hand, and then just follow the directions below.

I slathered my french toast with maple syrup (the real stuff, not the imitation - it's a bit more expensive, but totally worth it) and topped it with whipped cream cheese. If whipped cream is your thing, a dollop of whipped cream would also be fantastic.

To make this mouth-watering breakfast for two you will need:

4 slices fruit bread toast (I use Vogels gluten free)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons milk
2 bananas, sliced (on a diagonal is pretty)

Beat the eggs, cinnamon and milk together, make sure it's well mixed.

Heat about a teaspoon of butter in a non-stick frypan over a gentle heat (you don't want the butter to burn).

Quickly dunk your bread in this mixture (you have to be quick here, push it into the egg mixture for about 2 seconds max), flip and dunk the other side and then hold it above the egg to let it drain well.

Pop it in the hot frypan and fry until brown and the egg is set. Flip and cook the other side. Remove from the heat, add some more butter and crank up the heat. Fry the banana slices until caramalised and soft - it won't take very long so watch it closely.

Serve up your Fruit Bread French Toast with lashings of maple syrup and your bananas.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mexican Eggs

My eggs with chorizo, capsicum and tomato was another part of my Easter breakfast bonanza - a delicious, decadent breakfast every day of Easter, yum. This was actually day one. And it was a good start.

I have called this Mexican eggs as the flavours remind me of Mexican-inspired food. I have never been to Mexico (although I hope to one day) so I have no idea how authentic this is. But Mexican eggs is easy to remember, so there you go. 

This is super easy to make, and pretty quick too. It's a fabulous weekend breakfast as you can afford to be super lazy. It's not one of those recipes you need to watch like a hawk - not something you want to be doing blurry-eyed first thing on the weekend! Weekends are for relaxing and unwinding and de-stressing. This will do the trick. 

I don't eat onions, but if you do I would totally recommend adding them to this dish. But, you don't have to. I didn't and it was still delicious. I cooked us two eggs each because we were feeling greedy. If you served this with toast, you could easily have one egg per person for a filling breakfast. 

You need:
1 large capsicum, sliced thinly
2-4 cloves of garlic crushed (depending on how much you love garlic)
1 stick of chorizo, sliced
1 tsp paprika
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4 eggs
salt and pepper
olive oil   

Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and turn your oven on to grill at a high heat (about 200 degrees). 

Put the chorizo, capsicums and garlic (and onions if you're using them) in the frying pan and cook until the capsicums are soft. Add the paprika, tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about five minutes. 

Make four dents in the capsicum mixture and crack an egg into each one. Cook for two minutes and then pop under the grill for another two to three minutes until the eggs are just cooked. You still want the yolks runny when you serve it (unless you don't like runny yolks - by all means cook the eggs to your liking). 

Serve immediately - yum! Enjoy your weekend, sit back and relax. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies (gluten free)

I love peanut butter. Seriously love it. I'm pretty sure just about everything tastes better with peanut butter. Well, perhaps I am exaggerating a little... But only a little. Cookies definitely taste better with peanut butter!

Here is my recipe for delicious peanut butter Nutella cookies. The best thing is they have no flour! If you want more of a peanut butter kick, replace the Nutella with peanut butter. Yum!

1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth - you choose)
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup of caster sugar
1 egg

Preheat you oven to 170 degrees and line a tray with baking paper. Beat everything together until well mixed. Drop spoonfuls onto the tray (the mixture will be quite sticky), make sure you don't place them too close. Bake for 10 minutes for a chewy cookie, 12-15 minutes for a crunchy cookie.

If you're a chocolate fan, chocolate chips added to the batter would be delicious. But, they are pretty good just as they are!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Pavlova Stack with Boozy Berry Sauce

We had a delicious lamb roast cooked for us for our Easter Sunday lunch, with carrots and potatoes from the garden. Spoilt! It was so, so yummy. I was responsible for dessert to conclude this delicious lunch. It was a hard act to follow! You can't beat a good roast. 

I was browsing my latest copy of Food magazine, and spied a recipe for a Meringue Stack and decided that would be a tasty end to our meal. I decided to make a berry sauce to go with it. It was a special occasion, so decided the addition of a little booze wouldn't go amiss. 

Pavlova Stack

5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon water
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees. Line three oven trays with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on each sheet of paper (flip this upside down so the pen is on the underside). Now check your oven, make sure you can fit three trays in there! 

Place the egg whites and salt in a bowl and whisk with an electric beater until they reach soft peaks. Continue to beat and add the sugar a spoonful at a time. The meringue will be thick and glossy. Mix in the cornflour and water. 

Divide between the three trays and spread the mixture into a disk into the edges of the circle. Bake them for 90 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them to cool completely. 

To assemble, layer the meringue disks with cream. I added lemon curd to may layers, but chocolate or even the berry sauce would be delicious. 

Boozy Berry Sauce  

1/2 cup berry jam (I used my homemade boysenberry jam and some raspberry jam)
2 tablespoons booze or orange juice (I used brandy and port)
1 tablespoon water

Gently heat everything in a pot until you have a gorgeous syrupy sauce. Add more water (or booze!) if you want it a bit more runny.  


Sunday, 31 March 2013

Corn Fritters (gluten free)

I love long weekends. I particularly love extra long weekends! I also love breakfast. During my working week breakfast is fast and dirty as I fly out the door to make it to the train on time. Toast, perhaps a smoothie if I am feeling particularly energetic. (My favourite smoothie - one banana, a handful each of frozen berries and spinach, and about half a cup of coconut water or enough to make it a consistency you're happy with. Delicious!)

So long weekends give me the opportunity to indulge in breakfast. And this long Easter weekend, indulge I did. 

I started with corn fritters. I love corn fritters. I read an article by a well-known chef the other day who said that you wouldn't really serve corn fritters to adults, they are really a dish for children. Hmm, well this adult disagrees. So it seems do all the cafes that serve corn fritters! 

One of the brilliant things is the variety of condiments you can serve with corn fritters! As kids we always, always had corn fritters with Worcestershire sauce. That's what my parents did, so that's what we did. Worcestershire  is a delicious accompaniment, something about the salty, tangy zing it adds. But, so many other things also work, right down to good old tomato sauce. My favourites are a spicy chilli sauce, fruity chutney and plum sauce. 

So, here is my recipe for gluten free corn fritters. If you don't want or need them gluten free, just substitute the flour for regular flour. 

1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 eggs, separated
1/2 - 3/4 cup gluten free flour (I used a mixture of tapioca flour, corn flour and corn starch) 
1 tsp gluten free baking powder 
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until they are stiff. Put the egg yolks, corn and baking powder in another bowl and mix. While you are stirring the corn mixture, gradually add the milk and flour to make a thick batter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir through half the egg whites until well mixed, then add the remaining egg whites. You should end up with a smooth, pourable batter. 

Heat oil in a frying pan on a gentle heat and cook spoonfuls of the mixture until the fritters are golden brown, flip and cook until golden on the other side. Don't let the pan get too hot, you want to make sure the mixture cooks right through. 

Serve with you favourite sauce, sit back, relax and enjoy the long weekend! 


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Quick and easy dinners

You know those nights when you need something nourishing quick - either you can't be bothered or you're coming or going from the gym or a meeting. You need dinner and you need it fast. This week I had two of those nights. I had the added issue that we have not been shopping for a while so our cupboards are looking rather bare. Here are two of my quick and easy dinners.

First, my Throw it all in the pot pasta. The title says it all and I make this quite often. Whatever I can dredge up from the bottom of my fridge's vege drawer goes in. Pasta like this can be a bit boring, so it's important to make sure it has a flavour punch. I did this by whizzing up a quick pesto - I use basil, cashews, chilli, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. If you can't be bothered making pesto, other flavour punches can simply be added by using chilli, garlic and lots of fresh herbs such as parsley.

So, to make the pasta I got my frying pan going with some oil and fried some chilli and garlic. In went mushrooms, corn, peas and broccoli heads. To speed up the cooking time I threw the broccoli stalks in with my boiling pasta. When the pasta was done, I simply drained the whole lot and threw it in with the rest of the veges. I had some leftover chicken, so in that went too. I mixed the whole lot together with most of the pesto and some of the pasta cooking water to make it a bit saucy. I topped it off with some pesto and, in true Jamie Oliver style, "olive oil drizzled from a height". Done.  

Although it's a bit of a funny colour, don't be put off because this next dish tastes amazing. This is my version of Tom Yum Soup.  Note I say my version, I have no idea what authentic Tom Yum Soup tastes like, but this does the trick for me. It's super quick, easy and only uses one pot!

You will need: ginger (chopped finely), lemongrass, a tomato, mushrooms, green veges, capsicum, Nam Prick Pao (a Thai chilli paste that you can pick up from an Asian grocery store), fish sauce, lemon juice, corriander and prawns.

Put 3 cups of water into a pot. Add a 2 teaspoons each of the ginger and lemongrass and bring to the boil. Add a chopped tomato, a handful of chopped mushrooms, some chopped beans (or whatever green veges you have), half a chopped capsicum and 4 tablespoons of Nam Prick Pao. Let that bubble away for about 10 minutes and then add a handful of rice vermicelli noodles. When the noodles are almost done, add about 200g of prawns. Boil until the prawns are cooked, or warmed through if they are precooked. Don't overcook your prawns! Remove from the heat and one tablespoon of fish sauce, some chopped corriander and the juice of a lemon.  
This will serve two for a hearty dinner. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Sticky date pudding with caramel rum sauce

My darling partner often has to watch as I whip up some baking and trot off somewhere with it (usually work), only to return with crumbs. So when I was musing about what I could bake on a relaxing Sunday afternoon and he suggested sticky date pudding, I couldn't disagree. I had a craving for caramel and wanted to experiment with making rum caramel. And what goes more perfectly with sticky date pudding than caramel sauce!

I have a gorgeous sticky date pudding recipe, it really is the best. Never fail, deliciously moist and moreish. It's one of those fantastic recipes that I have cut out of a newspaper many years ago and sellotaped into a recipe notebook. I return to it time and again.

I like making them as little individual cakes - using a giant muffin tin.

1 cup of pitted dates, chopped
1 cup hot water
50g butter
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs

Pop the dates and water into a microwave bowl and microwave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the butter and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into a bowl and stir in the brown sugar.

Add the eggs to the cooled date mixture and mix well. Fold in the dry mixture.

Pour into muffin tins or a 23cm cake tin and bake at 180 degrees for 25 minutes for the muffins or 30 minutes for the cake. Leave them to stand for 5 minutes or so before you turn them out - this helps them keep their shape. They are best served warm - they will heat beautifully in the microwave.

This time I made it as a cake, just cos.

I smothered it in rum caramel sauce, mmmm. I just made a simple caramel (a cheat's caramel, not a melt sugar and make sure you don't burn it caramel) and added a good slosh of rum. I love rum. There are tons of recipes online for easy caramel sauce, I would recommend on like this.

You could add sultanas to this recipe if they are your thing, just use a few less dates and make sure you soak them or you will end up with a dry cake.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013


I discovered today that 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Quinoa. I am amused that the UN has declared this, but there you go.

Anyway, Quinoa is amazing. However, not everyone knows what quinoa is, let alone how delicious it is. I need to fix that, everyone should be able to share in this deliciousness! As an added bonus quinoa is also ridiculously good for you! It's packed full of important nutrients (fiber, iron, calcium and protein) and gluten free. In my opinion, it can do no wrong!

You can buy it from the supermarket, or the bulk bins at Bin Inn and Common Sense Organics in Wellington also sells it. In the supermarket I usually find it either in the gluten free section, or the organic/'other' section. I think the supermarkets are still trying to find a real home for it.

Quinoa looks a bit like couscous, but the grains are a bit smaller, and a bit more uniformally round. It comes brown, red or black. Brown is much more common, and usually the cheapest I have found.

It is super easy to cook. You simply put two parts liquid (water or stock) to one part quinoa, bring it to the boil and then simmer. Done. As simple as that! I usually allow a 1/4 cup per person of dried qunioa. However I always cook more as it is perfect for lunch the next day.

Adding stock gives the quinoa flavour - like couscous, quinoa has very little flavour on its own, it's up to you to pack it full of tastiness.

This is a mixture of cooked red, black and brown quinoa.

With this lot I made a scrumptious salad for dinner the other night. I cooked the qunioa in chicken stock and then while it was still warm I added a whole bunch of chopped vege and herbs - fresh sweetcorn, beans, celery, capsicum, mint and parsley. I dressed my salad with lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Simple and delicious.

I served it still slightly warm, but it was still delicious for lunch two days later.

I seriously recommend you try quinoa. You won't regret it. My workmate just gave me a book of 365 days of qunioa, so I hope to be able to share more quinoa ideas with you shortly.