Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tandoori Lamb with Sweet Onion Rice

For me there's something about lamb. Maybe it's because we only had it infrequently when growing up. Maybe it's because when you cook it right you get a meat that's incredibly tender. Maybe it's because it adds such a depth of flavour to a meal all buy itself. Whatever it is some of my favourite dishes are lamb ones. This dish is something we eat all the time. It's a big winner with both of us both for the flavour and for the ease with which it comes together. The tandoori coupled with the spiced rice mix together during cooking to make a blending of sweet and spice which is fantastic. And it all comes together in the time it takes to cook the rice, awesome.

Tandoori Lamb with Sweet Onion Rice
Adapted from Donna Hay's No Time to Cook
Serves 4

400gr lamb forequarter roast (cubed)
2 medium brown onions (cut into wedges)
5 cloves garlic (sliced)
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken stock
3 tsp tandoori paste
1 green capsicum (diced)
1/4 tsp extra cumin
1/4 tsp extra garam masala

In a saucepan heat 1 tbsp canola oil over a medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and fry for 1 minute, add cumin and garam masala and cook for 30 seconds mixing well. Add rice and cook for a further minute. Add chicken stock, bring to boil and then cover and simmer on low.

Meanwhile add lamb and tandoori paste to a non stick fry pan. Stir well to coat and then fry over a high heat for 2 minutes. Add lamb to rice. Cook until all water has been absorbed. Remove saucepan from heat and leave to rest covered. Meanwhile place capsicum and extra spices in non stick fry pan. Stir well to coat and then cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add capsicum to rice and lamb and stir through. Serve.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stir fried soba with green beans

This is not a complicated meal. It's about as time consuming as it is complicated. This is the sort of meal that I make in less than 15 minutes for a really quick lunch comprised of what I have in the cupboard. This meal uses only one pot, yay for less cleaning.

This is also by no means a traditional dish. It's some kind of weird Japanese and Chinese mix which is really not either. I'm just going to say it now, I love soba, traditional soba served cold with soba sauce and a sprinkling of seaweed and sesame seeds. I remember the first time I had it was from a food van in small provincial town in Japan. I was 16 and staying with a host family and struggling through conversations with some really rudimentary Japanese. But there's something about food that's universal and I'll always remember sitting together and getting to know these people over cold soba and being told to slurp louder. In summer I'll make myself a big bowl and slurp away, Japanese style.

This is not that dish but it gives me a new way to enjoy soba, when it's colder and I feel more like something warming. 

Stir Fried Soba with Green Beans
Serves 1

1 serve soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
1 garlic clove (diced)
1 tsp diced ginger
1 handful green beans (chopped)
1 1/2 tsp dark soy
3 tsp light soy
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add soba and simmer uncovered for 5 mins or until cooked. Meanwhile chop the garlic, ginger and beans. Combine the sauces, chilli powder and black pepper. Strain noodles and rinse with cold water. 

In the same pot you cooked the noodles in, fry the onion and garlic in 1 tsp canola oil. When the garlic begins to brown add the beans and cook for a further minute. Add the soba and the sauce mix and stir through. Cook for 30 seconds and then serve. I had mine with a bowl of miso.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spicy Chicken with Quinoa Patties

Until a couple of weeks ago I had never made quinoa. I'd read a lot about it and seen it on some of my favourite blogs but hadn't gotten around to trying it out myself. I'm always a little skeptical of trendy grains, you hear lots of people talking about this or that grain that you must eat and I always wonder if they are actually going to taste good enough to be worth the extra effort of finding them and often the extra money to buy them over say rice or cous cous. My boyfriend and I are trying to eat healthier, better proportioned meals though so when I saw this recipe from Joy the Baker it reminded me that I should give quinoa a go despite my skepticism. I was thinking that if the woman who created these things of delicious evil could get behind it then so could I. 

So I made up these patties from 101Cookbooks with some additions and subtractions according to what I had/could buy from the limited selection in supermarkets in the centre of Sydney. When it comes to healthy tasty food, Heidi from 101Cookbooks has it all worked out and this recipe baked up really nicely and was shared with many family friends. My boyfriend and Mum ate the leftovers and I'm told they gain a lot when served cold. This recipe made MANY patties.

This time I wanted to try some different flavours because I feel like quinoa can handle them. I went for a blend of some of my favourite flavours, fried onions and garlic with herbs and cheese is pretty much a staple around here. I paired them with a grilled chicken dish which I normally make to go into fajitas. It's mildly spicy with no burn and some soft garlicky flavours to accompany the chilli. It was delicious and I think I prefer this version of the patties. I'm sure there will be many more experiments to come.

Spicy Garlic Chicken with Quinoa Patties
Serves 4 (Quinoa adapted from 101Cookbooks)

Spicy Garlic Chicken

2 large chicken thighs (cut into strips)
6 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 - 1 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 lemon (juiced)
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients excepting the chicken into a paste. Marinate for 2 hours or more. Grill or BBQ.

Onion and Parmesan Quinoa Patties

1 cup quinoa
1 white onion (finely diced)
3 - 4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tbsp dried thyme 
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 eggs 
3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup bread crumbs

Place quinoa in a sauce pan with 1 2/3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and then simmer on low until quinoa is tender. Leave to cool.

Over a medium heat fry onion, add garlic, thyme and pepper when onion is translucent and cook until onion and garlic are beginning to brown. Leave to cool.

Beat eggs with milk and set aside. Add salt, parmesan and breadcrumbs to onion mixture and stir well to combine. Add quinoa and gently stir through making sure ingredients are well distributed. Pour over egg mixture and stir through. If the mixture is too dry, add a couple of tbsp of water to the mixture, you want it to be fairly moist. 

Preheat oven to 200C. Using damp hands form mixture into patties and place onto a baking tray covered with baking paper. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes turning after 20mins. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pork Mince & Green Bean Stirfry

We eat a lot of asian food, it's not that we don't like and appreciate other cuisine types it just ends up that way. Most days as a meal time approaches one of will ask 'Asian or Non?' Asian wins probably more than it's fair share.  It might be the quick prep and cooking times, the flavour packed dishes or the light feel that most dishes have, whatever the reason it has always been something I've cooked a lot of. Over time I've built up a fair repertoire of dishes from stir frys to currys, they've been adapted over time to suit growing skill and changing preferences. I'd guess that none of them are traditional in the slightest but adaptation is the fun of cooking.

The dish above is a fairly recent addition. I started messing around with it about mid way through last year and have been tweaking it since. It's inspired by a Sichuan dish of green beans with pork mince which I often find served as a side at Northern Chinese places where the mince plays more of a supporting role to the beans. I turned it into more of a stir fry by merging it with one of my favorite sauce mixes and increasing the amount of mince. The result is a dry stir fry which still has quite a high vegetable to meat quotient. It's also a new favourite for dinner.

Pork Mince & Green Bean Stirfry
Serves 4

250 grams pork mince
4 handfuls green beans (sliced into 2cm pieces)
4 lrg garlic cloves (sliced)
4 shallots (sliced)

1/2 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp dark soy
5 tsp light soy
4 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chilli powder

Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. In a wok, fry garlic and shallots until shallots are wilted and garlic is beginning to brown. Add pork mince, trying to break up the mince as much as possible, and fry until cooked through. Add sauce and bean and fry until sauce is completely absorbed and beans are cooked to your liking.

Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Starting over

So I did a small swatch of the lace pattern for the scarf and realised I was noticeably off. I'm a bit further along than in this picture, I've been knitting a row every now and then and sometimes a little more in the evening. It was a little painful to frog it all but I'm glad I did it. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Shallots

This recipe is so easy, its one of my favourites to whip up when I'm feeling lazy or in need of some healthy comfort food. It's inspired by Chinese Hai Nan Chicken, but in a version more accessible for home kitchens. The chicken is poached with the rice in chicken stock laced with garlic and ginger. The punch of flavours come from the sauce made from grated ginger, finely chopped shallots and sesame oil and a drizzle of soy sauce. Better yet you can pre-make and freeze the ginger, shallot sauce in an ice cube tray for an even easier weeknight meal.

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Shallots
Adapted from Dona Hay's No Time to Cook.
Serves 4


4 chicken thighs (cubed)
4 garlic cloves
6 slices ginger
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups chicken stock

Ginger and Shallot Sauce
2 shallots (I use the top 2/3rds sliced thinly and save the bottom third for stir frys later in the week)
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
1 pinch salt

8 tbsp good quality light soy sauce (I drizzle 1 - 2tbsp in each bowl start slow though and season to taste)

Place stock, whole garlic cloves and ginger slices in a saucepan and bring to boil. Turn heat down to low, add rice and cover. Cook for 5 mins and then add the chicken, cook for a further 20 - 30mins or until rice is cooked. Meanwhile make the sauce; slice the shallots and add them to the grated ginger, oils and salt, stir to combine.

Once rice is cooked remove ginger slices and stir thoroughly to mix through the garlic. Serve with ginger and shallot sauce and soy sauce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

The last month or so have been a small reprieve from the rainy weather which, apparently was the main feature of summer in Sydney this year. However today the rain is back and my day is looking very indoor bound, lots of reading, catching up on my blog roll, a bit of knitting and keeping the sick boyfriend company. So due to weather and temperamental stomachs, chicken noodle soup seemed like a pretty good lunch option.

Now I know that chicken noodle soup is nothing ground breaking, I have vivid childhood memories of chicken noodle soup from a packet with toast soldiers. My boyfriend always seems to have a can of chicken and pasta soup somewhere, as an easy back up to actual cooking. I'm sure none of this is uncommon. But while we were in Rome we were caught in a sleet storm and I came up with this soup recipe to keep us company that afternoon. It's dead easy and it will leave you wondering why you bothered with the tinned or packet stuff for all this time.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

10 + extra cups chicken stock (homemade, pre-made or even stock powder works fine)
1 bulb garlic
1/2 - 1 tsp ground black pepper
5 sprigs thyme
2 tsp chopped chives
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional but it adds quite a nice bite to the soup)
2/3 cup short pasta (any short pasta will do in Rome we used tiny tubes, today I used rissoni)

Feel free to add your own mix of herbs and spices, this recipe is really easy to tweak to suit your tastes.

Peel most of the skin off the whole garlic bulb. Chop the top off the bulb of garlic. I of course forgot to take a photo at this stage but if you want a pic of how it's meant to look pop on over to Smitten Kitchen and while you're there make sure you check out the rest of that recipe for Baked Potato Soup, it's fantastic.

Place the all ingredients except the pasta in a large sauce pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 hour adding some more stock half way through to make sure the quantities remain the same.

Remove the garlic bulb, any skin which has peeled off during cooking and the sprigs of thyme from the pot. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile press the cooked garlic out of its skin and mash into a paste. Add desired amount garlic paste to soup. We like our really garlicky but everyone's different. I add about 3/4 of the paste back into the soup.

Once pasta is done serve and enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Knitting Cotton Scarf

Sydney is having a lovely mild Autumn so far. Over the last week the temperature does seem to be dropping, especially in the mornings and evenings, and while it's not time to pull out the woollens yet I am feeling the need to add a couple of extra layers to my outfits. I found this ball and a half of Bendigo Woollen Mills 8ply cotton in the colour parchment when I raided Mum's stash just before I left Australia.

                               Photo Courtesy of klement1983                                Date Night by Nikol Lohr

I was thinking about making it into the lace short sleeve top above but this morning I was thinking about how nice a light, lace, cotton scarf would be right now and so impulsively cast on this.

It's meant for 4ply bamboo yarn but with something like this I'm pretty certain that it won't matter in the end. I cast on less stitches than the pattern specified. I got a little way into it today but I'm not certain that the pattern is working properly. I think I may not have cast on the right number of stitches so I'm going to have to check that and then maybe frog the whole scarf and start again. Ah such is the ways of knitting. It still seems such a shame to rip out a whole days work, but it's better than always looking at a pattern repeat that's not working.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tanis Fibre Arts

So on my recent knitting kick I've run into quite a few independent yarn suppliers and pattern designers. I love to see small companies offering something to a market that they find is missing in an area that they love. By far one of my favourites that I've found is Tanis Fiber Arts. Just look at all of these fabulous colour ways all lovingly hand died out of there own home studio.
I haven't ordered anything from them yet, but this is more due to the fact that I still don't have a permanent address yet than anything else and as winter approaches here in Australia I can increasingly hear them calling to me.

I can just see the Heritage pretty Mallory knitted up in Tanis Fibre Arts Cobalt colour way. The more I look at it, the more perfect it seems.

If you haven't discovered them yet, now is the perfect time. They are having a fabulous giveaway of one of their Baby Shane Blanket Kits. So follow the link and check them out. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Starting Knitting

When I was a kid I learnt how to knit about once every 2 years. My Mum used to start me on a scarf with some of the left over yarn in her knitting stash. Every time I re-learnt I would do a little bit more on that same scarf until I got bored with it and moved on to some other craft activity. I never got past stocking stitch and that very scarf is still sitting somewhere in my old room half finished. The problem was that I never wore scarfs as a kid, and I hated scratchy yarn. The yarn that Mum gave me to use was mainly the leftovers of polyester yarn used to make some very beloved knitted toys but which was really terrible as yarn for clothing.

About 2 years ago, after a couple of years of really enjoying sewing, I thought I might try knitting again. I asked my mum to teach me for probably the 10th time in my life but I was adamant that I would learn on something more interesting than a scarf, something that I would wear, in a nice yarn. My justification was that if I made mistakes I could always pull it apart and start again. So I went online and looked for a free pattern that was simple enough and picked a pullover from DROPS.

The yarn I used was Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12 Ply in Natural Fleck. It's taken me about 2 years to gradually knit up this fairly basic pullover, mainly on plane trips over the past couple of years but what it finally did was get me into the knitting grove. I'm just blocking this jumper now so that I have it done for a big move to England towards the end of this month. I'm quite excited to have my first knitting project complete. 

I didn't stop there though. I'm a compulsive starter of things and always have to have more than one project on the go so when I came across this pattern,

in a short sleeved version and a sale on bamboo yarn I snapped up some lovely white bamboo yarn and started knitting this as well. Inexperience though is a bitch sometimes and I made a mistake working out how much yarn I needed when substituting in a different yarn, I was going purely off the weight not off the meterage, and so just after I finished all the pieces of the DROPS sweater I had to frog it and work out something different to do with the yarn. Ravelry is an absolutely fantastic resource, which doesn't seem to have a comparison in sewing, and it allows you to search available knitting patterns based on the type, quantity and size yarn that you have. I found this pattern which I thought would work really nicely for the bamboo yarn so I've started knitting it. It will be my first pattern with a lace pattern which makes it a little trickier than the other patterns I've done but that makes it more fun.

I'm also in the process of making a big, worm scarf for European winter from the Honey Cowl Pattern from Madelinetosh in a teal 8 ply easy wash merino yarn, Morris Empire. Now that I've made a few other things I feel like I can move back to a scarf now, funny what some distance can do.

So knitting has somewhat taken over my creative pursuits lately. I feel like the attraction is that I can knit on the couch while watching TV without a whole lot of thought or effort and I know that anything I don't finish before the end of the month I can take with me and knit on the plane.