Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spicy Braised Eggplant with Pork Mince

An aunt brought a jar of XO sauce with dried scallops from Singapore. I love XO sauce, and it is hard to find a good one that isn't laden with monosodium glutamate (MSG). The sauce she brought did not contain any of the nasty stuff, which is great! When I opened the jar, it sure was filled with yummy dried scallops... and the first thing that came to mind was: What shall I cook it with?!

The result was this. I also used a dutch oven to braise the eggplant, it seemed to work better with retaining the natural skin colour of the eggplant. I didn't have to deep fry any of the eggplant in the end, trying to be more health conscious!

We only used a heaped teaspoon of XO sauce for braising 4 large eggplants. In addition to the sauce, we added chives, some dried shrimp and birdseye seed chilies to add more dimensions to the dish.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Busy as a Bee

It has a busy month here at Nutty Foodie and also in my home!

After a Christmas spent with family and just completely obsessed with making ice cream, we managed to take some time off to spend in Daylesford spa country. We have always liked Daylesford... It's a beautiful little town with heaps of spa and massage services. Every time we go, it is a must that the cottage we rent has a Jacuzzi, and this time was no exception!

It is amazing how being away from the hustle and bustle of the city actually makes one so productive! The husband got so much studying done, and I got so much writing done! All offline writing, that is... We didn't have much internet reception on our mobiles at all! We did at least 3km of hiking and walking every day, which was great, we don't get to enjoy nature very often!

While in Daylesford I also whipped up some pretty amazing food (in my husband's humble opinion). I gotta say that I really did enjoy my dessert pizza and kebab!

After returning from Daylesford, life was pretty much back to normal, and work had to start on Monday! The holidays just fly by too fast! 

Then we had our first ever Chinese food cooking class at the Laverton Community Hub on the 17th Jan. Before the event I was such a nervous wreck that I couldn't sleep, but luckily things turned out alright. We did have a few hiccups on the day, but nothing we couldn't recover from. We were so humbled by the support that our participants showed us, and shall continue to perfect our craft and the format of our cooking classes. 

The dishes we made in the class were dong po rou, kung po chicken, peanut lotus soup, a traditional vegetarian dish and red bean dessert soup. 

We are organising more classes in February and March! So excited about the upcoming events, and we sure hope that we will be able to get more publicity this time. We are working hard at making sure that our events get on events listing websites in Melbourne. Our classes are, after all, community events that won't be possible without the community getting involved. 

We will be doing a very special class during the Chinese New Year period, where we will be teaching our participants how to make some traditional festive dishes! It's going to be a hands on class as well, laced with plenty of cultural back stories that would help the class understand reasons behind some traditions that would otherwise make no sense. It would definitely be an eye-opener :) 

Here are the links to our events!

Chinese New Year Cooking Class - Brunswick

Creating Delicious Chinese Food - Brunswick 

Chinese New Year Cooking Class - Laverton 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Preparing For A Summery Christmas!

Christmas and summer might not go hand in hand in the northern hemisphere, but down under it does! That's the best part of it all...when you have Christmas in summer, you don't have to worry about snowstorms or being stuck in an airport because your flight has been cancelled due to a snowstorm.

We do, however, need to worry about staying hydrated and having loads of sunscreen, and also what movie to catch at the Moonlight Cinema at the botanical gardens! So far we have secured tickets to Benedict Cumberbatch's "The Imitation Game", woot woot!

We also need to worry about keeping ourselves cool in summer, and we have gotten that down pat.

ü Evaporative cooler. So far it has been helping us sleep in on 31°C days!
ü Ice cream maker. First batch of ice cream coming up!

ü Huge-ass fan
ü All sorts of fancy teas to make ice tea with
ü Bath bombs and bubble bath bars
ü Getaway to spa country

As for the festive decorations, we decided to just get a mini tabletop Christmas tree. I'm not even sure if we will put lights on it... but what we are sure of is that it will be overflowing with Lindt chocolate balls! Here's our tree with half the Lindt balls gone...just couldn't resist!

My gardening craze started late this year, but nevertheless, I now have a succulent terranium :) 

More photos of ice cream to come!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stir Fried Pig Skin with Chicken & Spring Onions

I have always loved fish maw. The texture appeals to me because it absorbs all the juices from a soup or gravy, and when I bite into it, the flavours just explode in my mouth.  Once, when I was a kid, I had a soup that contained fish maw; or so I thought. Turned out that it was pig skin that had been crackled (deep fried til the rind crackles) and soaked in water, the same way fish maw is prepared.

This week while doing my groceries I came across a whole box of pig skin in the Asian grocery store. What amused me was that in English, the packaging called the product "fish maw", but in Chinese, it says "豬皮", which means pig skin. I was thinking to myself, this people are really doing what the Chinese say "掛羊頭,賣狗肉", which when translated literally means "hanging the head of a goat but selling dog meat" -- clearly a misrepresentation of the product they are selling. 

Anyway, the way to tell pigskin apart from fish maw is by the appearance of it. Fish maw is generally odd shaped and rounder by nature. Crackled pig skin is usually flat, and not round, usually cut out into large square or rectangular pieces. 

I had not had pig skin for years. So I bought 3 bags of it and started thinking of a simple combo for it. I always had pig skin in a soup but it was a warm day, not the kind of weather for soup. Instead I decided to just combine it with chicken breast slices, scallions and fry it in oyster sauce and a little soy sauce. 

Here is the easy recipe for it.

Ingredients (serves 2 to 3):
  • 1 packet pig skin, approximately 2 large pieces, soaked in warm water until it turns spongy and soft. Cut the soft pig skin into little bite size squares. 
  • 2 stalks scallion or spring onions, cut into long sections.
  • 230g sliced chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce, I prefer Lee Kum Kee
  • a dash of light soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 30 ml water
Heat the oil on high flame in a pan, pot or wok until it is hot, then stir fry the garlic until slightly golden and fragrant. Add in the chicken breast slices and stir fry until partially cooked, about 3 minutes. Add in the pig skin and continue stir frying for 2 minutes. Add in the oyster sauce, soy sauce and stir fry until evenly mixed and coated. At this point, the chicken and pig skin should be quite dry. Add the water and cover the pot to let the chicken stew for about 1 minute. Lift the lid of the pot or wok, add the scallions, and mix the contents around about 10 seconds, and cover again. After about a minute, lift the lid. The chicken should be cooked now and you can taste and add salt/white pepper to your taste. Turn the fire off and you are ready to enjoy this yummy dish!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fish with Ginger & Scallions

This was one of my favourite dishes while studying in university. When I started living away from home as a student, it meant eating less seafood because of my smaller budget. Back then, I also did not know much about cooking, and neither did I have the time for it.

So when I had a chance to splurge a little, I would order this dish with rice as a treat for myself -- it would be my dose of seafood for the fortnight!

Now... yes, yes, I'm all grown up, and a heck lot older, and I have learnt to make this dish myself. I do it my way though, not the "tze-cha uncle" ("uncle" who does hawker style stir-fry) way, and make my own marinade for this dish. I haven't gotten around to experiment baking the fish instead of deep frying it, but this will have to do for now. It's still yummy anyway!

What I used in my marinade was oyster sauce, a little sugar, chinese cooking wine, white pepper, salt and some sesame oil. I let it rest for about 30 minutes, and coated it with flour to deep fry. The deep fried fish was transferred to another bowl while I stir fried the ginger, garlic and scallions in the wok. Just before the scallions were done, I return the fish to the wok, give it a few stirs until it absorbs the flavours of the ginger and scallions.

This dish is served with steamed white rice. Time to dig in!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tomato Chili Chicken

When one is pressed for time, it helps to have a recipe that is easy and hassle-free. This chicken is as hassle-free as it can be, all you need it are some large zip lock bags and the simple but wonderful ingredients for the marinade.

If you have a large freezer, even better! You could buy the drumsticks in bulk (or any other part of a chicken that you like, such as wings, breast or even maryland fillets), marinate them in the ziplock bag, and freeze it for future use.

Ingredients for the marinade, makes 20 drumsticks:

  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder, reduce if you can't handle spicy food
  • 2 cups tomato puree, either fresh or from a can
  • 1 bulb garlic, finely chopped
  • Few dashes white pepper
  • 1/4 cup Chinese Shao Xing wine
  • 2 tsp Chin Kiang black vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • Salt and light soy sauce to taste
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
Mix the ingredients for the marinade together. Place drumsticks into the ziplock bags, then proceed to pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag and make those drumsticks dance with the marinade! Make sure all the drumsticks are well-coated with the marinade. Let it rest for approximately 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Line a roasting pan with aluminium foil. Place the drumsticks on a roasting rack over the pan and roast in the oven for approximately 18 to 20 minutes. The drumsticks should be golden and slightly charred on the top side. Turn the drumsticks over and roast for another 10 minutes, or until the second side is also golden and slightly charred. 

Serve with a sour cream/yogurt and chives dip. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coconut Lychee Sauce

Homemade, full of coconut goodness. Light, fluffy, so fragrant and mildly sweet and refreshing -- getting my food ready for summer!!!

SUMMER is ALMOST here!!! 

Teriyaki Chicken & Sushi

To be honest, I think I turned the Teriyaki chicken into a Chinese dish. If it weren't for the sake and mirin, you would've thought that this tasted like honey soy chicken even though there was absolutely no honey in it!

I followed a Nigella Lawson recipe for this teriyaki chicken -- I was a bit skeptical at first (getting a recipe for a Japanese dish from a British chef, sorry for being biased, Nigella!) but after looking at her ingredients I decided that she was spot on with her teriyaki, and used the recipe.

But still, I managed to almost turn it into a Chinese dish. Heh. I'm so Chinese that everything I make turns out Chinese, haha.

Here's a photo of the Teriyaki Chicken :)

So yesterday while I was having a walk I saw that House was having a massive sale! I bought my hard anodized Baccarat pressure cooker from them a year ago and it is the best addition to my kitchen I ever bought in the last year! I use my pressure cooker regularly for things from risottos to soups to curries and lamb shanks, you could say that it is a very well-used pot!

When House is on sale, it is definitely worth walking into the shop just to see what they have. I walked in and almost right at the door, this bamboo mini lazy susan made especially for sushi caught my eye. I did a double take when I saw the price tag.

$5!!! What?!!? $5?? For real? 

I didn't even need to think about it. I scooped it up and it was MINE, muahahaha. It comes with two pairs of bamboo chopsticks and a little saucer holder in the center. I was thinking to myself, even if I didn't use it for plating sushi, I could use it for dips, cheese, finger food -- oh my goodness it just occurred to me that I should go back to House and get more of them so I have a complete set of them for entertaining.

And then while I was walking around the store to check out other bargains and right before I was about to pay at the counter, I saw something sitting on a bottom shelf, a maki maker! Less than half price, usually $34.99, now $15! Sure, yes, you could say that I could have bought a bamboo roller which costs just $1.50 to roll my sushis, and I have used it a lot before, but I concur that I am just not that great at bamboo rolling sushi! The ends come out ugly, they either end up being too fat or too thin, and they just don't look that neat. So I thought about it for a minute, I contemplated, asked the right questions to the lady in the store, and decided to give it a go. $20 for my purchases, not too bad I'd say.

Which woman does not love a bargain? It's exhilarating to find one, and this bargain buy inspired me to make some sushi. However I did decide that I was going to freestyle this sushi. I was just going to put in whatever I wanted to put in, cook whatever leftovers I had in the fridge and use it in the sushi. I just had to get some other ingredients like the cucumber, avocados, sushi rice vinegar and king oyster mushrooms and I'm all set.

In the end I came up with a crumbed pork maki, honey soy chicken maki and tuna avocado maki. We made some vegetarian ones as well, with just avocado and mushrooms. Surprisingly the king oyster mushrooms went really well with flavours. I think I would starting using them in any sushi I make in the future.

Pictures below :)

That is enough food for now. Have a good weekend everyone!

Chocshew honey spread

Nutty Foodie is starting to develop some products of our own! At the moment it is at a completely experimental stage and no recipe is set in stone yet, but these are exciting times! And the experimenting is of course the fun and sometimes frustrating bit.

Last week (I know, last week... this is a late post), I decided to experiment with some cashew nuts. I made an amazing marinade for meats with honey, but I forgot to take pictures for that. Other than the marinade, we made this -- which we have now named Chocshew Honey Spread. It is basically a dark chocolate spread made with cashew nuts, which gives it a super creamy and warm texture. It has worked beautifully as a healthy addition to my plain Greek yogurt! So delicious. Goes well on bread as well, of course.

Here's a picture of it! The photo was taken using my HTC camera phone, and HTC phones do not ever get the lighting right. This was the best I could do with my phone!