Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

A few years ago I attended an eight week career development session with a group of very talented and ambitious ladies from work. There was a lot of coaching on how to communicate effectively and change your approach depending on who you were talking to and self-confidence building exercises (One of them was that we had to come up with a one or two liner for when we came face to face with the company’s CEO in the elevator – which never actually happened!).

In one of the final sessions we were asked to reflect on our goals and aspirations for the rest of the year and we all went around the room to share. Some of the ladies talked about aspiring for a promotion within a few months, other talked about how they had been so focussed on their career for the last few years that they wanted to make sure they also had time for their families. The lady beside me had her turn come up and she said she wanted to get healthy and lose 5 kilos… My turn was up and I said that my goal was that I would like to make a transition in to doing a different role at work, given I had been doing the same thing for a few years already.

That’s what I said…

In reality – I was thinking about how I wish my fingers were nimble enough to pleat dumplings like the har gao you could find in the dim sum restaurants. Yes, my definition of success was to be a dim sum master!

A few months later, I moved companies, and moved roles and in career terms, I’ve never looked back…

Occasionally, (like last weekend) I’ll make an attempt at perfecting the pleats – but they never turn out right. Instead, I settled for making little dumpling balls filled with prawns and scallops. The filling (yum!) more than made up for the lack of pleating skills and the dough still came out translucent and delicious.

Alas, my dream to be a dim sum master seems to be more elusive than ever.

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

For the dough

  • 150 grams wheat starch
  • 85 grams tapioca flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 265 ml boiling water
  • 10 g lard or shortening
  1. In a bowl mix the wheat starch, tapioca flour and salt together. Slowly add the boiling water and then the lard. Using a pair of chopsticks, mix the dough until you form a ball of dough. Place the dough on your work space and start to knead (careful as it will be very warm). Knead for around 10 to 15 minutes. The dough will also be quite sticky, so you can use a pasta scrapper to help remove the dough from your work surface. Cut it into four equal pieces and place these in a plastic sandwich bag to rest.
  2. Take one of the pieces and roll it into a log around 20 cm long. Cut this into 8 equal parts place the pieces, except for the one you are going to work with back into the sandwhich bag.
  3. Get two sheets of plastic (you can use another sandwich bag, cut in half for it, alternatively, use two pieces of baking paper) and lightly oil the bags. Put the piece of dough in the middle of the two bags (or baking paper) and press down on the dough with the palm of your hand to flatten. Then take a rolling pin and roll out the dough until around 5 cm in diameter. Alternatively, use a tortilla wrapper to flatten the dough.
  4. Place a spoonful of the prawn and scallop mixture in the middle of the dough then pinch the ends together to seal and so you form a little dumpling ball.

For the prawn and scallop filling

  • 150 grams raw scallops, chopped
  • 250 grams peeled, deveined
  • 30 grams bamboo shoots, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons spring onions, white part only, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil plus more for serving
  • XO Sauce to serve
  • pinch of salt and white pepper to taste
  1. Finely chop the scallop and prawns and place in a bowl with the bamboo shoots, tapioca starch, egg white, oyster sauce, sugar, spring onions, sesame oil and salt and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, mix the scallop and prawn mixture well and cover with some cling wrap. Allow to marinate at least an hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Use the prawn mixture as per instructions above.
  4. Steam the dumplings for six minutes over high heat.
  5. Serve immediately with a mixture of XO Sauce, soy sauce, and a dash of sesame oil.

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Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi

I used to work with a guy whose name I couldn’t pronounce. For months, I managed to avoid calling him by his first name until one day I was in a teleconference call and someone suggested that I introduce everyone. So around I went, introducing each one of them until I reached “Paraic” and I was like “uhm, how do you pronounce your name again?” Turns out it was an Irish name and pronounced something like “Pho-rac” (to date, I’m still not 100% sure).

I told my other officemate about it and he said he also didn’t know how to pronounce his name. In fact, for months he used to refer to Paraic as “the finance guy”.

The other name I can never get my head around is the guy from River Cottage. As much as I love that show, I always call him “Hugh something-something”. This evening I tested my husband (who claims he is also a massive fan of the show).

“What’s the name of the guy from River Cottage?” I asked him.

“Google it.” He said.

“No, just tell me!” I said.

“Hugh Whitley?… or Whitely? … or Fernley?” He guessed.

I burst out laughing. Turns out he was just as bad as I was.

This is one of those recipes where I am totally unsure of how to pronounce the ingredients. Kataifi? Ajvar? Don’t even ask me to try. All I know is that the combination is delicious! The inspiration was from a dinner I had a few weeks ago at Efendy in Balmain. The Ajvar is a Serbian relish made with roasted capsicums, roasted eggplants and some chili. It’s a delicious accompaniment to the prawns and it’s also amazing with fresh sourdough bread topped with goat’s cheese.

The herbs come from my newly planted edible balcony, but more on that another time.

Oh, and for the record – the River Cottage guy? His name is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi with Ajvar Sauce

Serves 6

  • 12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 100 grams kataifi pastry, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
  • 50 grams butter, melted
  • zest of one orange or mandarin and 1 tablespoon of it’s juice
  • Ajvar sauce (I used Mama’s Brand) to serve
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210c. Mix the orange/mandarin zest and juice with the melted butter and pour over the kataifi pastry.
  2. Line a tray with foil and spray with some olive oil.
  3. Carefully spread around 2 tablespoons of the pastry on a wooden board and place a prawn on one side of the pastry and roll the pastry over the prawn to cover.
  4. Lay the prawn carefully on the lined tray and repeat with the remaining prawns.
  5. Place the prawns in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, turning halfway until the prawns are golden.
  6. Serve with ajvar sauce.

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Chilli Crab Pasta

Chilli Crab Pasta

My sister once asked me to babysit her son, my two year old nephew. Somehow, I had this impression that she would only be gone a few minutes, 30 at most, little did I know that she would take advantage of that window of freedom and was gone for over two hours.

The first half hour was easy – I sat him infront of the computer and we spent the time watching Mickey Mouse Club House. After awhile he started asking for his Mum (I was secretly wishing she was around too!)… I was in a bit of a dilemma as I wanted to start with my homemade pasta but I also had to babysit. So I asked him if he wanted to help me make some pasta, expecting that this would pre-occupy him for at least a few minutes. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

My two year old nephew was a natural! In fact, I was so impressed that I took a video of him working with the dough, laminating it through the pasta machine, flouring the sheets and so on. We ended up spending a good hour making the pasta and I was so sure that it would turn out perfectly and that no one would believe that he had made it all by himself (with some supervision of course)… so I decided to video the experience. Just in case he gets to be a rockstar chef one day, I’ll have proof that I gave him his first pasta making lesson.

If you’d like to watch him, the clip is below. Apologies for the lousy editing – I clearly cook better than I do make a video!

Anyway, the recipe I’m sharing today is one where fresh angel hair pasta is best used. A few weeks ago we took a friend to the Hunter Valley and had lunch at one of the restaurants there, Roberts. This was my by far my favourite dish and the fact that I didn’t order it (I only managed a taste from my husband), meant that I had to try and copy it at home. I’ve always known that crab, garlic and chilli go well together, but the addition of lemon zest was a brilliant idea!

Angel Hair Pasta with Crab, Chilli and Lemon

serves 2

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 30 grams butter
  • 2 large red chillis (leave the seeds and pith on for a spicier sauce)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 250 grams fresh crab meat
  • 200 grams fresh angel hair pasta
  • Zest of one lemon
  • salt to taste
  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta, if using fresh, around 1 minute, if dry, follow package instructions.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauce pan. Add the chillis and garlic and saute for a few minutes over a low heat until fragrant, around 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the crab meat and lemon zest. Season to taste and toss in the pasta. If the pasta seems a bit dry, add some of the pasta water to the sauce (around 50 to 100 ml)

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Trissalicious then

When I was growing up, my idea of beauty was to have long healthy hair. It must have been a case of wanting what I didn’t have because for as long as I can remember, I grew up with short hair. When I asked my Mom if I could grow out my hair, she said that it would look messy and be hard to manage. I still remember one day, (I still had short hair at this time), out of nowhere I found ONE strand of shoulder length hair out of my boyish hairstyle. I had no idea where it came from but I recall just stroking that one strand of hair for the whole day. “If only the rest of my hair would catch up!”, I thought. You can’t imagine my disappointment when at the end of the day, that one strand finally fell (maybe from over touching?)

In any case, when I was old enough to decide that my Mom couldn’t stop me from growing my hair, I vowed never to cut it. Through the years, I would break that vow and each and every time, I would regret it. I always felt that I looked too much like a boy and my roundish face wasn’t suited for short hair.

So what changed? A few years ago I read somewhere about a program to donate hair so that wigs could be created for cancer patients. You see, when I was six, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was given six months to live. One of the first things that entered her mind was that if she died, she hoped that my Dad would marry one of her unmarried sisters so that he would someone to take care of him. That’s the kind of person she has always been – thinking about others before herself. My Mom was also refused to let cancer beat her. She was so tough that she would even drive herself to chemo sessions! One time I asked her, what was the hardest part of cancer. She said it wasn’t the chemo, nor was it that she had a mastectomy. She said it was losing all her hair. Many years later, my Mom is thankfully still alive and kicking… oops, make that, alive and dancing!

I also remember my mother in law who unfortunately passed away from cancer a year ago. She was also another generous person who when I asked how she was doing she would always say to please take care of her son (my husband). She had battled with the disease for a few years and over time we noticed that less and less she felt like going out and socializing. I think part of it was because she had also lost her hair and was self conscious of this.

For a girl, losing one’s hair can be a confronting experience. It can make you lose your self esteem.

As much as I loved having long hair, I wanted more to be able to do one little act to tell everyone who may be suffering from cancer and losing their hair that there are people who care. I care. It’s also my small way of acknowledging and supporting people like my Mom and Mom in law who have had cancer. I’ll be the first to admit, there were times, in particular when I saw the hairdresser’s scissors, that I wanted to chicken out. But, I hope by my writing about this, there are others who are inspired to show they care and donate their hair.

Pantene have a program called Beautiful Lengths that provide free real hair wigs to women who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. At a minimum hair must be 20 cm long and cannot be dyed, bleached or chemically treated. More information can be found on their website.

So this is me today, and I’m simply loving my new look. This is one time I’ve had no regrets about having short hair.

Trissalicious now

Trissalicious now

Short recipe for this post. My husband and I have been experimenting on a spicy scallop recipe on the back of a new recipe book I purchased a few weeks ago called Hashi. The original recipe requires you to make your own mayonnaise and serve the spicy scallops atop a bed of rice. I’ve adapted the recipe for a much more simple, yet delicious approach.

Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

Serves 6

  • 150 grams fresh scallop meat
  • 100 grams Japanese mayonnaise (kewpie)
  • 15 grams chili sauce (i.e. lee kum kee garlic chili sauce or ling ham)
  • 1/2 nori sheet, cut into little pieces
  • 2 tablespoons flying fish roe
  1. Spray the scallop shells with a little cooking oil. Cut the scallop meat into 1 cm sized pieces (usually quartering them will be enough) and lay them on top of the scallop shells.
  2. Mix the Japanese mayonnaise and chili sauce together and set aside. Top the scallops with a few nori pieces and some of the flying fish roe.
  3. Spread some of the Japanese mayo mixture over the scallops and either grill the scallops in the oven or blow torch the scallops until the mayonnaise turns golden brown.
Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

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Arroz Negro (Paella with Squid Ink)

Arroz Negro (Paella with Squid Ink)

My new TV obsession is The Newsroom, an HBO drama that depicts behind the scenes events of an American Cable News company. I’m hooked on the dialogue and have grown fond of the characters (well, most of them anyway). I think however, what appeals to me most, is how everyone in the team seems to be committed to reinvent cable television news. At the end of the fourth episode entitled “I’ll Try to Fix You”, the news anchor, Will McAvoy is meant to choose between running with an unconfirmed news report that all other channels have called, or wait until the news has been verified. He chooses, despite being pressured from upper management, to wait, which was actually the better thing to do since the report was proved false.

While the drama ensues, Coldplay’s song Fix You starts playing in the background and I’ll be the first to admit a few tears were shed which I was furiously trying to hide from my husband.

The episode made me think about how there is always hope and, if we wanted to, it’s never too late to re-invent ourselves.

It also made me think about some of the older dishes that I’ve made on this blog. A while back I made a paella with squid ink called Paella Negra. It’s been a long time since I made it and while I remember the dish tasting delicious, the picture never did the dish justice.

So here is the new and improved version of Paella Negra. This recipe comes from Frank Camorra of Movida Restaurant in Melbourne. Here is: Paella Negra 2.0.

Arroz Negro (Paella with Squid Ink)

Paella Negra (Paella with Squid Ink)

Arroz Negro (Paella with Squid Ink)

Serves 6 to 8
Recipe from Frank Camorra

  • 5 vine-ripened tomatoes, scored
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • 500 grams squid, cleaned and cut into 2.5 cm squares
  • 12 pieces prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 grams squid ink (available from delicatessens)
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 400 grams bomba rice
  • 1.2 litres hot fish stock
  1. Blanch the tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water until the skin starts to blister, around 30 seconds, then place in a bowl of iced water to refresh. Peel and dice the tomatoes, then set aside.
  2. Heat 50 ml of the olive oil in a 30-34 cm paella pan over high heat. Add the squid and the prawns and cook for about a minute on each side, making sure to season. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the olive oil along with the onion and the garlic. Cook over low heat until translucent, around 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes over low heat. Now, add the white wine and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and add the rice. Cook the rice for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Now, pour in the hot stock and mix well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium immediately and add the squid on top of the rice (save a few pieces for topping). Cook the rice for 10 minutes. The rice should have now expanded a little so reduce the heat back to low if the flame doesn’t cover the base of the pan. Move the pan around during cooking to allow the paella to cook evenly for 10 minutes.
  5. Before removing from the stove, add the prawns and the some of the saved squid and cook on high for about 1 minute to help form a crust on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

On another note, I’m about to undergo a change myself! I’m so excited to let you know I’ve signed up for Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Campaign. The campaign is to donate real hair to make wigs for women undergoing cancer treatment. National Haircut Week is from 12 to 18 November. If you are interested to learn more about this campaign, please click here.

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Seafood "Risotto" - without rice!

Seafood "Risotto" - without rice!

The truth is, haven’t we all done something crazy just for a good meal?

Sometimes, I have these ideas about food go beyond that, so much so that they are admittedly pushing the verge of deranged and demented.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing about soil.

I seriously need to get four potatoes and two kilos of soil… and some hessian sacks… All because I’ve been dreaming about making Ben Shewry’s Potato Dish which is cooked for 8 hours in a Maori hangi.  To prevent receiving that “Are you out of your mind?!”  look from my husband, I’ve been debating how to get his buy in.

Should I go with the “bad news/good news”  tactic.  “I need to buy two kilos of soil to cook four potatoes…. but not to worry, I don’t need a hangi like the original recipe… I can just cook it in our oven.”

Or maybe the multipurpose excuse.  “If we get the two kilos of soil, then once I’m done using it for the cooking, we can use it to bury the holes the dogs have dug in the garden!”

Once in a while, I get away with the “Just trust me…. it’ll be worth it.” argument.

Take this weekend for instance.  I had been wanting to make Marque Restaurants’s Risotto of Local Calamari, Prawns & Broth for quite some time but was too lazy to drive.  When I tried to get my husband to take me,  he questioned why we had travel to another suburb when I could have as easily picked up the seafood at the local fish monger.

“Not the same!” I told him.  The quality and variety of seafood was incomparable.  “Seafood is seafood.” he said.

“Trust me. ” I told him.

The result of that unwavering trust is this Seafood Risotto which has been adapted from one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney, Marque.  The recipe is a truly a wonderful surprise.  You think you are having a bowl of creamy rice but it is finely cut squid and a creamy cauliflower puree that gives the dish that risotto like texture.  We had recently gone there for dinner and I was sad to find out that the dish wasn’t offered on the menu anymore.  Which of course, led to the weekend quest to find the best possible seafood in Sydney and come up with my own version.

And so what to do about the two kilos of soil for the potatoes?

I guess the other option is to just write about it in this blog and let him find out the same time as everybody else.

Seafood "Risotto" with scampi, pippies and squid (but no rice!)

Seafood "Risotto" with scampi, pippies and squid (but no rice!)


Seafood “Risotto”

Serves 4
This recipe was adapted from Marque Restaurant

For the “Risotto”

  • 400 grams squid, cleaned and skinned
  • 4 scampi plus 4 large prawns (or 8 large prawns), peeled, deveined and head and shells reserved
  • handful of pippies
  • 1/4 cauliflower
  • 270 ml milk
  • 1 medium leek, diced
  • 100 grams butter
  • Prawn Broth (recipe follows)
  • Basil leaves
  1. Place the squid in the freezer for an hour to make it easier to cut. When ready, finely dice the body until they are almost the size of grains of rice. Reserve the tentacles for plating. Set the diced squid aside until ready to use.
  2. Break the cauliflower up into florets, place in a sauce pan with the milk and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Allow the cauliflower to simmer until soft, around 40 minutes, making sure that the milk does not spill over.
  4. Strain half the milk from the cauliflower and using a hand blender, puree the cauliflower until smooth. You may need to add some of the reserved milk to make the puree smoother.
  5. Heat half the butter in a large pan. Add the prawns/scampi and cook until golden, remove and keep in a warm place. Add the squid tentacles and pippies cook until the shells open and the squid is cooked through. Again, keep in a warm place until ready to serve.
  6. Add the remaining butter and the leeks and saute until soft, around 5 minutes over a low/medium heat.
  7. Add the cut up squid and around 6 to 8 heaping tablespoons of the cauliflower puree. The idea is to achieve that creamy look of a risotto.
  8. To plate, put the squid risotto on a plate, top with the seafood, basil leaves and some of the prawn broth.

For the prawn broth

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • reserved head and shells of the scampi/prawns
  1. Saute the carrot, onion and garlic around 5 minutes. Add the reserved heads and shells and saute another three minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the head and shells to extract as much flavour as possible.
  2. Add the chicken stock and allow to simmer around 30 minutes. Strain and the stock and place back in a sauce pan and allow to reduce until half the quantity is left (you will only need about 2 to 3 tablespoons each serve).
  3. Before serving, froth the prawn broth with a hand blender.

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Seafood Kare Kare

Seafood Kare Kare

It’s embarrassing how, being a founding member of Kulinarya Cooking Club, I’ve neglected our monthly challenges. The one thing about taking an extended leave from blogging is losing the discipline to do every other thing that comes with blogging. Testing recipes, trying to make a dish you KNOW that tastes delicious, actually LOOK delicious, taking pictures, and then there’s the writing! It can be very intimidating.

Let me tell you what else seemed very intimidating. Making kare kare. This is a traditional Filipino dish made with a peanut gravy, thickened with rice. It is usually made with oxtail, tripe, and vegetables. To me, this dish was the ultimate in cold weather comfort food. When we moved to Australia I thought the recipe for this dish was to open a pack of Mamasita Kare Kare Mix. This dish was my achilles heel. Surely, there was no way I could make this from scratch.  Was there?

Which brings me back to Kulinarya Cooking Club. The goal of KCC was not only to promote Filipino food, but also challenge ourselves to learn new dishes with the support of our group. This month’s challenge was to make a Filipino dish but put with a healthy twist.

This month I decided to make kare kare from scratch. From the number of Filipino cookbooks I had, I noticed the common theme was the use of rice and peanuts to flavour the stew. As mentioned earlier, this dish is commonly made with oxtail, so my healthy twist was to use seafood instead. Oxtail, when simmered for a number of hours, provides the richness to the stew, something not available when using seafood, so instead, I’ve added some coconut milk for that added richness.

This dish was inspired by a meal I had during my last trip to the Philippines. We ate in a home called Bale Dutung, owned by Claude Tayag and his wife Mary Anne.  I also later found out that Anthony Bourdain had eaten at Claude’s place when he did a feature on Filipino food.  We had ten (at least that’s when I gave up from delicious food overload!) dishes that day and this was one of my favourites.  Claude had let it slip during out conversation that the kare kare was made with coconut milk and it does add that extra lucious dimension to the dish.

Ice Cream Cart from Bale Dutung

Ice Cream Cart from Bale Dutung

So here is my (late) contribution to Kulinarya Cooking Club.  Seafood Kare Kare, served with a steamed bowl of rice and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).  I realized that it wasn’t that difficult to make kare kare from scratch, and, I was really really pleased with how well it came out.  Plus, it definitely taste mush better than any Mamasita mix.

After I proudly told my sister I had made the kare kare without a mix, she asked me whether I had also made the bagoong from scratch.

Ha!… Let’s start with baby steps…

Kare Kare from Bale Dutung

Kare Kare from Bale Dutung

Seafood Kare Kare (Philippine Seafood, Peanut and Coconut Stew)

serves 8

  • 100 grams uncooked rice
  • 200 grams raw peanuts
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons annatto seeds
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter (optional)
  • 500 ml good quality coconut milk
  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch snake beans
  • 8 pieces lebanese eggplants
  • 2 bunches bok choy
  • 1 kilo prawns
  • 500 grams squid, cleaned
  • 1 kilo large mussels
  • salt and fish sauce to taste
  1. Make the stock, peel the prawns (reserve a few whole ones for presentation) and place the heads in a pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock and place in another container. Set aside.
  2. While the stock is simmering, place the rice in a pan and heat until the grains turn a golden brown, around 10 minutes. Place the rice in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Set aside.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 160c and place the peanuts in the oven and roast until golden, around 30 minutes. Place the peanuts in a food processor and process until it comes together in a paste. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a small pot and add the annatto seeds. After around 2 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the seeds to steep in the oil for around 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the seeds and heat 4 tablespoons of the oil again in the pot used to make the stock. Add the chopped onions and the garlic. Season with salt and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, around 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Add the ground peanuts and ground rice. Cook for around 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add the prawn stock, a little at a time. If the sauce is too thick, thin out with some water. Taste and adjust the seasoning with some fish sauce and the peanut butter if necessary.
  8. Place the sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Remove from blender and place back into the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning again if necessary.
  9. At this point, add the coconut milk, depending on how thick you want the stew to be.
  10. To make the vegetables, Heat the remaining oil and fry off the eggplants until nicely browned. For the rest of the vegetables, you can either place the vegetables in another pot of boiling water and serve on the side of the stew, alternatively, you can add the vegetables to the peanut stew.
  11. For the seafood, lightly score the squid and pan fry. Boil the mussels until they just open. Add the prawns, squid and mussels right before serving.
  12. Serve with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), calamansi and steaming rice.
Seafood Kare Kare

Seafood Kare Kare

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Homemade Prawn Balls

Homemade Prawn Balls

I think that at some point in time, most of us have openly defied our parents. When I was growing up I had friends who would skip school, or go out with boys their parents banned them from seeing. Some of them take up drinking and go out past their curfews.

Me? My form of rebellion was eating fish balls from the street vendors outside my school.

Because she worried that the stalls were not clean and the food was not sanitary, my Mom explicitly banned all of us from buying any food from the vendors who lined the streets outside the school walls. Every afternoon I would watch as my classmates would spend whatever was left of their daily allowance buying snacks from the vendors. Sometimes they would buy boiled peanuts or green mangoes… but I was always most envious when they’d buy the deep fried fish balls.

The fish balls were served on a barbecue stick and served a sweet and sour dipping sauce. Sometimes, I’d ask my friends for a bite which was always a mistake as it would make me want even more. Finally, one day the little rebel in me decided enough was enough. I decided to sneak out one afternoon with a friend to buy the fish balls. In fact, I bought three sticks and those five minutes it took me to finish eating them, was pure bliss.

When I saw these homemade prawn balls from Indochine Kitchen’s blog, it brought back memories of the days I’d sneak out to buy the fish balls. I had always wondered how to get that crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside texture from these deep fried balls made from seafood (whether it be prawns, fish or squid) and Jun’s recipe was simple enough to try.

Not only did making them take me back to that afternoon I snuck out to eat the forbidden fish balls, but these prawn balls were better – and so incredibly easy to make. In fact, I’ve made these twice already. The first time I made them plain similar to the recipe on Jun’s blog. The second time I added a bit more flavours like coriander, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Both version were definite crowd pleasers, especially with some sweet chili sauce.

Homemade Prawn Balls

Homemade Prawn Balls

Homemade Prawn Balls

Adapted from Indochine Kitchen

  • 500 grams prawn meat, veins removed
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 stalk spring (green) onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Oil for frying
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor and blend well.
  2. Take a rounded spoonful of the prawn mixture and shape it into a ball. It helps the shaping if you wet the spoon with cold water.
  3. Heat a wok or pan with oil for frying. When hot enough, gently drop the prawn balls in the oil and fry for around 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper before serving with some sweet chili sauce.

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Bechamel and Prawn Stuffed Mussels

Bechamel and Prawn Stuffed Mussels

Is it any surprise that my most favourite presents to give (and receive) during Christmas are cookbooks?  I consider myself a pretty good judge cookbook character.  For example, my brother who is a bachelor loves the four ingredients or less series and his idea of cooking is to buy a chicken, buy a packet of spices and chuck everything in the oven. For one of my sisters, I am always on the look out for cookbooks that have recipes that can be completed in thirty minutes or less.  She is so keen on saving time (in fairness to her, she does have a four month old baby), that we call her “Miss Shortcut”.

My Mom is getting a book I bought a few weeks back, Miguel Maestre’s first cookbook, Miguel’s Tapas.

Born in Murcia Spain, Miguel has worked in many celebrated restaurants including Bather’s Pavillion and Bilson’s in Sydney and even Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Roses, Spain. He has also been on a number of TV shows including the popular Boy’s Weekend.  Today Miguel owns two restaurants in Sydney, El Toro Loco and Argyle Bazar.

The cookbook is divided into seven sections based on the times of day the tapas are meant to be eaten. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, dessert, afternoon tea, dinner, and evening snacks. Hmmm… the Spanish seem to love their tapas anytime of the day!  There is also a section at the very end covering basics and sauces which includes among other things, a variety of stocks, flavoured oils and vinaigrettes.

Miguel has managed to strike a balance between the classic tapas such as the tortilla (potato omelette), paella and churros (his chocolate sauce is made with condensed milk!) and some tapas he gives a contemporary twist.  For instance, Wild Rice Popcorn and a Deconstructed Spanish Omelette inspired by his time at El Bulli.

I’ll be honest, the reason I’m giving my Mom this book isn’t so much that I want her to enjoy it (well, that’s part of it), but mainly because I want her to cook many of the dishes from it while she’s here for a visit.  Top of the list would be the Flamenca Eggs, Manchego Bread Rolls (inspired by the very popular Brazilian cheese bread), Salted Cod Croquettes, and Wagyu and Chorizo Meat Pie.  For dessert, I’m thinking she could make Bombe Alaska Fruit Skewers, Santiago’s Tart and Bread and Butter Pudding…

Like his TV shows, Miguel has a light hearted approach to cooking tapas.  As he shares his recipes, he also shares stories behind the recipes, in particular about his childhood growing up with a large family from where he got his love for cooking from.

So yes, this book’s going to my Mom for Christmas… unless of course… I decide to keep the book for myself…


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Basmati Risotto with Grilled Prawns

Basmati Risotto with Grilled Prawns (Tomislav Restaurant)

Is it persistence or stubbornness? Maybe both?

When I have an idea in my head, I’ll do whatever it takes to get it (all within legal means of course!) and I never back down from a dare.  Ever.

Every now and again these two traits can get me into trouble.  Like the time I confidently told my sister that I could get ourselves into the Qantas First Class lounge only to be evicted twenty minutes later as we were about to take a sip of our coffees (she never has forgiven me for that).

But more often than not, I try to channel these traits more noble pursuits.  Like finding a way to get a recipe for a dish I really enjoy, or getting a seat at a restaurant that is booked months in advance or experimenting with food or gadgets I’ve never used.

Introducing: Dare me…

This idea was born out of a conversation between me and my husband.   We were having dinner at Tomislav Restaurant the other night and I was blown away with the Basmati Risotto with Yamba Prawns.  “I wish there was a way to get my hands on this recipe.”  I told him.

“I dare you ask the chef for it.”  He said.  “You seem to get your hands on many of the recipes you like.” he added.  I wasn’t able to ask Chef Tomislav for the recipe that night (he had not yet arrived) but I managed to find the recipe anyway.  I made this dish twice in two days.  Yes, it was that good.  The first time I made it over the stove top, adding the chicken stock gradually as you would a regular risotto.  The next day I made the basmati risotto using the thermomix.  I’m pleased to report both techniques work as well as each other.

So here’s the first of hopefully a series of posts called : Dare me.

If you’re looking for a recipe that you really love – then dare me to find it for you. Just drop me an email or a comment at the end of this post and I’ll turn your craving into a fun challenge and get you that coveted recipe!

Tomislav’s Basmati Risotto with Prawns

  • 250 grams good quality Basmati Rice
  • 1000 to 1500 ml good quality hot chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 10 ml soy sauce
  • 40 grams acidulated butter (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone
  • Lemon Juice
  • Chopped Nori roll (1 sheet)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 200 grams prawns, chopped

Regular Method

  1. Place the butter in a wide surfaced pan and melt. Add the rice and toast for around 3 minutes until the butter is slightly browned and nutty. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the chicken stock (I only used 1000 ml but the recipe calls for 1500 ml) a little at a time and stir continuously for around 15 minutes. The rice will still have a little bite and remember that the dish will not be as creamy as a risotto using regular risotto rice.
  3. Once the rice is cooked, finish the dish by stirring in the soy sauce, acidulated butter, mascarpone, lemon juice, chopped nori roll and chives. Season with more salt and pepper if needed
  4. Grill the prawns and top the risotto with grilled prawns and grated lemon zest.

Using the Thermomix
FYI: I halved the recipe on the Thermomix

  1. Heat the butter at 100c on speed 3 for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and heat for 5 minutes using the butterfly attachment on reverse and speed soft.
  3. Add the stock (I added 500 ml for 125 grams rice but feel free to add more stock if necessary towards the end of the cooking time) and continue to cook (butterfly attachment, reverse, speed soft) for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the soy, acidulated butter, mascarpone, lemon juice, nori and chives and give it another stir for 5 or so seconds on reverse, speed soft.
  5. Top with grilled prawns and lemon zest and serve immediately.

Acidulated Butter

  • 100 grams unsalted butter
  • 50 grams basmati rice

In a pan, melt the butter and add the rice and cook until nutty brown flavour is released. Pass this through a sieve. Set aside.

  • 90 ml white wine
  • 90 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 100 grams butter

Combine the onion, white wine and white wine vinegar and heat in a pan and reduce until the pan is almost dry. Take this off the heat and whisk in the butter until the butter is emulsified. Pass through a sieve.

Mix both butters and leave to set in the fridge for around 8 hours. You will have enough for several batches and this lasts a few days in the fridge.

Stumble It!

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