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Eton Mess

Eton Mess

In my sophomore year of high school I met two girls who would soon become my best friends.  At first glance, it was an unlikely friendship.  One of them was a champion equestrienne who also made it to class president, and the other was a self described tomboy because she said she loved sports and rock music, except that everyone else thought she was a was a heartthrob.  And then there was me.  Truth be told, I felt very boring beside them – no hobby to keep me busy, I had no inclination to excel at school and had no string of admirers in the background.   But despite all this, somehow, we just clicked.  We’d take turns having sleep overs at each others houses, chatting until all hours of the morning about boyfriends (theirs) and heartbreaks (also theirs).  We also talked about what we were going to do and where we were going to be “ten years from now” (we all wanted to be lawyers) as we gorged on junk food until we felt sick.  We called ourselves PT&T, the first initials of our names.

One of the things we always agreed on was that we would make sure to go to the same University when we graduated.  Which, for one reason or another, never happened.  In fact, we all went to different schools and all took different courses. After University, I went to work for a bank, one of them continued her passion of horse jumping (and yes, eventually made it to the Olympics!), and the other one continued to break hearts and became a TV personality.

Despite the lack of contact, we were still always fiercely loyal and protective of each other.  I remember once when I started dating my now husband, he told me that the “P” of PT&T had told a friend of his that “he’d better make sure to treat Trissa well, otherwise, she would come looking for him”…. and, when it really mattered (like my wedding), we would still be there for each other (they were my bridesmaids).

Sadly, years have passed since I last saw them both.  Once in awhile, we text or email each other a birthday or Christmas greeting… but we’re all living on different continents and have gone on to do totally different things… as I said – it was an unlikely friendship.

But I’m still hopeful that one day we’ll have a PT&T reunion – and I know when we do – the conversation will pick up as if we were back in one of our houses, having another one of those sleepovers where there really is no sleeping – just lots of talking and making up for lost time… and of course, still gorging on the junk food.

The more I think about it – the more I realize that blogging is a little bit like an old friendship.  You may have noticed the long absence lately – and how rude of me to be gone for so long without a word or explanation.  But I know, you’ll forgive me and allow me to pick up where I left off.

Eton Mess

Eton Mess

Eton Mess

For the Eton Mess
The inspiration for this Eton Mess comes from a recent dinner at District Dining which is Chef Warren Turnbull’s rendition of this classic dessert.

  • 3 egg whites
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 250 ml cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 50 grams icing sugar
  • 250 grams strawberries, quartered
  • Raspberry Sorbet (recipe follows)
  • Edible Flowers
  • Fresh or frozen Raspberries (for topping)
  1. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan forced). Beat the egg whites together with the cream of tartar in a bowl until frothy and then gradually add the sugar until stiff peaks.
  2. Spread the egg whites on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks and then gradually add the icing sugar and vanilla seeds, making sure not to overwhip the cream.
  4. Add the strawberries to the cream and gently fold in.
  5. To assemble, crumble the cooled meringue over the strawberries and cream and top with some raspberry sorbet, edible flowers and fresh raspberries.

For the Raspberry Sorbet

    This recipe is done on the thermomix. Feel free to use your own recipe or store bought if necessary.

  • 75 grams caster sugar
  • 150 grams frozen raspberries
  • 1 egg white
  1. Place the sugar into the TM bowl and mill for 10 seconds on speed 9
  2. Add the raspberries followed by the 350 grams of ice and egg white. Slowly turn the speed dial to speed 10.
  3. Use the spatula to assist in the incorporation of the raspberries with the ice.

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How to make your own kogi dog

How to make your own kogi dog

I love Sydney.  I really do.  But I just wish we had decent food trucks roaming around the city.  I’ve been reading about how gourmet food trucks have taken over in cities like New York, L.A., and San Francisco and how they let their customers know their latest locations via twitter or facebook… and feel a twinge of envy.  All we have is Mr Whippy.

From dumplings in New York,  boeuf bourguignon in San Francisco, and chicken adobo in L.A., these trucks are changing the foodie landscape in major U.S. cities…. I am surprised they haven’t caught on in Sydney… yet.  Food trucks would be the perfect answer to the city’s  exorbitant cost of rent and real estate.

I first heard of Roy Choi, chef and owner of Kogi BBQ,  from an article in the Australian Gourmet Traveller.  Intrigued, I did a little more research – turns out he’s been around for sometime – earning a degree at the Culinary Institute of America and working  at Le Bernardin in New York.   However he is most known for his gourmet food truck serving Korean/Mexican fusion food such as kimchi quesadillas, Korean short ribs on tacos and of course, the famous Kogi Dog.

I was, to be honest, a little taken aback when I read the ingredient list for the kogi dog.  Kimchi?  Cabbage? Cheese? Sesame mayonnaise?  I decided it would “not work” and went on to other recipes.  Weeks went by…

I could not stop thinking about the kogi dog.

So I gave in… one Saturday morning and bought myself a jar of kimchi and took the plunge… and did not regret it one bit.

If you aren’t  lucky enough to live in L.A. and have access to one of the Kogi Travelling Food Trucks,  then do try making this at home.  A hot dog sandwich with an Asian inspired coleslaw and the spicy pickled flavour of the kimchi really does work.  So while I wait for Sydney to have its own food trucks serving gourmet food, I’ll help myself to another one of these kogi dogs!

Kogi Dog

Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine, Serves 8

  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 cup kimchi, drained and patted dry
  • 8 hot dog buns, split
  • 8 all beef hot dogs
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded romaine
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cilantro
  • sriracha sauce, for drizzling
  1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, scallion and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. In a mortar, pound the sesame seeds until crushed and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise and season with salt.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the kimchi and cook over high heat until browned all over, 3 minutes.
  3. Light a grill. Brush the insides of the buns with oil and grill over moderately high heat, cut side down, until crisp, 20 seconds. Turn and grill for 20 seconds longer. Spread the cut sides with the sesame mayonnaise.
  4. Grill the hot dogs over moderately high heat until nicely charred all over, 3 minutes. Tuck the hot dogs into the buns with the kimchi and cheddar. Top with the cabbage salad, romaine, onion and cilantro sprigs. Drizzle a little Sriracha on top and serve.

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Chinese Roast Pork Belly

Chinese Roast Pork Belly

I once challenged my husband (then boyfriend) to a food contest. We were planning a dinner and I told him that we both should come up with our own menu and get my Mom to judge which was better. He had very simple tastes (then) and I since I would pour over food magazines during my spare time – it was a no brainer who would win. I can’t even remember what his menu was (nor could I remember mine) – but I do remember how excited he seemed and how serious he was taking the challenge. I took one look at his “entry” and in a moment of kindness I decided that I would let him win. I liked that he tried hard and was I excited to see him passionate about food (for once). When he wasn’t looking I snuck to where my Mom was and told her that we were having a competition on who could make a better menu and whatever happened – to please say that he had a better menu.

I regret doing this now.

He has never let me forget that he won the menu challenge. No matter how many times I tell him it was rigged, he insists that he won.

To this day we have these menu competitions. The last one was about a month ago when we had dinner at Duke’s Bistro in Darlinghurst.  One dish we shared were these slow cooked beef ribs with mustard sauce, daikon and some shiso served with mandarin pancakes – like how you would serve peking duck. We both loved the idea of the pancakes and thought wrapping something other than peking duck was genius.  “Can you come up with something better?”  He asked.

“Challenge accepted.”  I told him.

On pieces of paper we wrote what we thought would go best with the pancakes…

Can you guess whose idea the roast pork belly was?

Chinese Roast Pork Belly

Chinese Roast Pork Belly

Easy Crispy Chinese Roast Pork Belly

This is the first part of two. The dish is served with some Mandarin pancakes, spring onions, and cucumbers. I’ve used sriracha sauce although a spicy Chinese mustard sauce would also work well. The secret to the crispy skin is to make sure it is completely dry before roasting. To ensure the meat is moist, roasting over a pan of water does the trick. I’ll post the Mandarin Pancake recipe next.

  • 600 grams pork belly
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon five spice powder
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  1. Score the pork belly lengthways (or ask your butcher to score the skin for you). Place the pork belly skin side up, on a plate and on top of the kitchen sink. Boil around three cups of water and pour this over the pork belly. Pat the pork belly dry and place on a plate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the paste by mixing the salt, five spice, garlic and caster sugar – using a mortar and pestle or food processor until the mixture resembles a rich dark brown paste.
  3. Once the pork is ready, place this on a chopping board, skin side down, and cut through the flesh, making sure not to cut through the skin. You will need to rub the spice paste all over the flesh, including the crevices and sides. Make sure not to rub any paste on the skin.
  4. Place the pork belly on a rack and place this back into the refrigerator to allow the skin to dry, at least four hours, or overnight.
  5. To cook the meat, remove the pork belly from the refrigerator. Bring the oven to 220 c (fan forced). Fill a deep baking tray around half way with water and place a wire rack over this. This will keep the pork flesh moist while the skin crisps up. Place the tray and rack in the oven and put the pork belly (skin side up) on top of the rack. Roast the pork for 20 minutes at this temperature and then drop the temperature to 180 c for 30 minutes. Finally, take the temperature up to 230 c for 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and rest for around 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and serve with Mandarin pancakes.
Chinese Roast Pork Belly and Mandarin Pancakes

Chinese Roast Pork Belly and Mandarin Pancakes

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Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

A work colleague once asked me if I order in restaurants the same way that I order coffee.  I thought his comment was pretty funny, especially since the weekend before my husband had said I was a waiter’s worst nightmare.

“What do you mean?” I asked my husband.

“Well, you like to change everything in the dish.  You want to order the steamed fish but have them fry it instead, and have the sauce on the side instead of pouring it over the fish – and if it comes with potatoes, you want rice instead!”  He said.

Surely he was exaggerating!

But I did have to concede to my work colleague that being finicky with my coffee never earned me any brownie points with the baristas.  One day I’m having a cappuccino with one sugar then the next I’m having it with one and a half sugars.  Then I learned that you get more milk with a latte so I switched to that (with one sugar).  Then I went off coffee and started having chai lattes – then soy chai lattes, then I missed my coffees and got back on to the lattes – but I wanted a weak latte, one and a half sugars and chocolate sprinkles on top…. oh and extra creamy.

And then I switched to tea – but that’s a whole different story altogether!

(more…)

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Onion Spanakopita (Braised Onion Pie)

Onion Spanakopita (Braised Onion Pie)

“Why can’t you help out more with the housework?”  I screamed at my husband early on Saturday.

I must have shocked him at six in the morning but I was tired and grumpy and the dogs were whimpering for a walk and I wanted him, for once, to take care of it.

“Where is this coming from?” he asked.  “I’m always walking the dogs, cooking and washing and YOU need to do your share!”  I told him.

Now, I know that arguing with your husband at six a.m. isn’t the best of ideas and no arguments get resolved so early in the morning, but I wouldn’t back down.  So back and forth we went about who was going to walk the dogs and why I thought he wasn’t “sharing the burden” (yes, those were my words) and how he thought I was crazy for bringing this up so early in the morning and after twenty minutes we never really got to any resolution.

Instead of dwelling on our fight, I decided to take my mind off things and bake this beautiful Braised Onion Pie which I saw from the cookbook of Gary Mehigan and George Colombaris called “Your Place or Mine”  The recipe is George’s take on his Mum’s Spanakopita, a Greek pie made with spinach and feta.  Instead of the spinach, George makes onions the star of this dish.  The dish is made with caramelized onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, ricotta and a beautiful crumbly Greek feta.

Onion Spanakopita

Onion Spanakopita

A word of caution, there is a lot of onions to go through with this dish.  I normally refrigerate my onions prior to slicing them which, at least for me, helps to prevent my crying while I slice them.  But on that morning, there were lots of tears.

It was worth it though.  I started cooking at 10:00 am and at 10:30 my husband took the dogs for a walk.  At 11:30 he came back and watered the plants…. at 12 noon he took the trash out.

Something was going on.  Could it be the smell of the sweet caramelized onions making him sorry?  Was he trying to make amends so he could have some lunch?

As we sat down for lunch I asked him why he was being so nice.

“I knew you were upset, I saw you crying and wanted to make it up to you.” he said.

Crying? Should I admit that it was the onions?

Or maybe wait for him to read this post… 🙂

Onion Spanakopita (Braised Onion Pie)

Onion Spanakopita (Braised Onion Pie)

Onion Spanakopita (Braised Onion Pie)

From Your Place or Mine? Gary Mehigan & George Calombaris

  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 400 grams firm ricotta cheese
  • 400 grams feta, crumbled
  • 18 sheets filo pastry
  • 200 ml butter
  • sea salt flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a heavy based sauce pan. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, picked thyme sprigs and bay leaves and cook out for around 5 minutes over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and cook the mixture gently until the onions are caramelized, this will take around 45 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently to prevent the onions from catching the bottom of the pan and burning.
  2. Allow the onion mixture to cool and remove the bay leaves. Mix in the ricotta and crumbled feta.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 170c fan-forced.
  4. Cut the sheets of filo to fit a baking tray (I used a baking tray measuring 30cm by 24 cm) and lay the sheets on top of some greaseproof or baking paper and then cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying and cracking. Take one sheet of filo and butter the bottom of the tray. Spread a layer of the filo and brush some butter to cover and then layer another sheet of filo and brush some more butter to cover. Repeat this with six more sheets, brushing some butter each time.
  5. Place half of the onion mixture on the filo sheets and spread evenly. Next, cover with three more buttered sheets of filo and then the remaining onion mixture. Finally, place another seven sheets of buttered filo (make sure you butter the last sheet).
  6. Bake the pie in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes and serve warm. If you are making the pie in advance, you can reheat the pie in a 180c oven for 15 minutes.

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Prawn Dumplings with XO Sauce

Prawn Dumplings with XO Sauce

A year ago I attempted to make har gow and failed miserably.  It might have been because I used wheat flour instead of wheat starch and the resulting dough was so sticky that I had to throw the “ball of glue” away.  The experience was enough to turn me away from trying to make them for a very long time.  That is until I had a monumental craving for these dumplings. Cravings so intense that I had har-gau for lunch, FIVE straight days.  I would go to one of the nearby yum cha places and order take-away.  By the third day it was not only getting expensive – it was also getting slightly embarrassing to arrive at the restaurant and have the waiter smile knowingly, and then signal the lady in the dumpling cart to bring the har gow for me.

By the fourth day I felt like an addict trying to hide a bad craving.  My husband called at 11:30 asking whether I wanted to have Japanese for lunch.  My heart being set on the dumplings,  “I can’t, I have an important meeting that I need to prepare for.” I told him.

By the fifth day I had to admit that things were getting out of hand and vowed to try my hand at making them again.

So here’s the result.  If you are thinking of having a go at making these crystal prawn dumplings, this is a great place to start.  This version of har gow is delicious – just like the ones in the yum cha place.

Here’s the thing – after having them for five days straight and then making them on my own on the sixth day, I’ve suddenly gotten over my craving.

My husband however, is a different story.

He can’t get enough of them.

(more…)

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Pancit Palabok - Noodles with Shrimp Gravy

Pancit Palabok - Noodles with Shrimp Gravy

Sometimes desperation drives us to do things we normally wouldn’t do in the right frame of mind.

A few months ago our bedroom door got stuck shut and I couldn’t enter the room.  I asked my husband to try and open the door but he couldn’t.

“What about using a screwdriver?”  I asked him.  After a few minutes of fiddling nothing happened. Now please understand that this happened on a Sunday afternoon and all I could think about was how my clothes were in the room and I would have nothing to wear to work the next day.

Desperate, I told my husband “I think you have to break the door down.”

So he backed up a few feet from the door… ran… straight INTO THE DOOR!  BANG!

Nothing happened.  We looked at each other and started laughing hysterically.

“Please try again!” I pleaded.  He happily obliged.  BANG!  This time, a small crack on the door.

“I have a feeling, the next one will take it down.” He said.

“Yes! Yes!  Please.” I replied.

And so he went, straight into the door and he finally managed to break the door down.

We were doubling over with laughter and to be honest, quite proud of ourselves for getting it open.

That is, until one of the people I mentioned this to came up with a very valid comment “Why didn’t you just call the locksmith?”

That’s desperation for you…

(more…)

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