Saturday, 11 October 2014

A foodie in Japan... a photographic view of a week in the orient...

I just spent a  really delightful week in Japan, my first trip there ever.

The food was occasionally confronting, oddly named, but pretty much both cheap and delicious.  I am not going to give you restaurant reviews, but just a bit of a visual tour of what you might find in Japan...

 My first lunch.. gorgeous tempura
 and such a pretty soup - the autumn leaf is made of layers of beancurd skin apparently
Matcha and a sweet at the golden temple
 A home cooked meal - okonomiyaki (a sort of Japanese pancake with cabbage in it and topped with salted pork)
Japan's equivalent of lutfisk or balut - something that most other countries occupants find completely inedible.  Fermented soy beans, they smell outrageous and taste, sort of like vegemite gone off.. I was grateful for my hayfever blocked nose when I tried it!
 A sort of corn fritter on a stick... yummmmm
 cheap and cheerful bento box, still beautifully presented
 the "autumn feast" in a rather fancy restaurant... so much food!
Plastic food for sale in the plastic food shop!
 More plastic food
 Looks remarkably real some of it
 Some rather less so
and some uncannily real looking
Real food, a nice simple dinner
A speciality of Sendai - beef tongue. 
and at the coast, how can you go past fish and chips?  Well... .tempura fish and vegetables anyway. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Restaurant review: Canberra: Koochi Afghan cafe

Dear reader,

My penurous state has meant that I haven't been in a position to indulge myself fully in rediscovering the joys of the Canberran restaurant scene, however that does not mean I have been entirely stuck at home researching old recipes.

In fact, the other day I found a little gem that I thought I really had to share with you.

The Koochi Afghan cafe is in Gungahlin - yes I know for many of my Canberra readers, this is the equivalent of outer Mongolia, and I admit that I was not holding out a great deal of hope to find a decent meal.

But Koochi sparked my curiosity and I decided to give it a go.  

The restaurant was quiet (but so was the whole of the area at the time), with only a solo diner and a small family beside myself.  I was invited to sit anywhere, and settled myself down in a window seat.

The decor is all very modern, apart from the rather charming ceiling which has wooden beams and is hung with modified kerosine lamps.

I ordered a cup of tea and chose for my lunch Borrani Bonjon - described as pan-fried eggplant, topped with tomatoes, onions and drizzled with yoghurt and dried mint, served with rice. 

Now I do love a bit of well prepared aubergine, and as the dish was placed before me I had to admire the colour and presentation - a rich red, swirled with yoghurt.   They gave me the dish of aubergine, rice, a yoghurt based dip, and a fresh condiment that they called chutney - but you need to imagine something more like a light chilli dressing.

The scent of my dish was so tempting I took a bite immediately.  Oh my.  What a glorious balance of sweet and savoury and of delicate spices.  It was at that moment that I decided that I had to write this review.  That is why the photo I took (which I will post shortly) has a bite out of it.

I didn't quite get to the point of licking the plate, but I can promise you, there was not a morsel left of that dish.  The price of this memorable meal?  $12 for the dish itself - prices for meals range from 12 to 32 dollars, depending mostly on the meat factor. There is a 32 platter to share for two, which I would like to try next time.. 

Try it... go on, head out to outer Mongolia and let me know if you love it too!

Koochi Cafe
Gungahlin Marketplace

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Deepest Darkest Chocolate Fudge biscuits

Ok, I am about to share with you one of my most precious recipes. These amazingly rich, tasty and chewy biscuits (cookies for my US friends, so don't go thinking this is a scone recipe!) are seriously unbelievably good.  The recipe was given to me by my friend Jocelyn, for which I will thank her forever.

It is a rare recipe that uses this much chocolate without being too sweet. Cocoa, melted chocolate, chocolate chips, this recipe has it all, and the final result is truly special. 

One of the fun things too about this recipe is sharing the list of ingredients with friends... making a double batch particularly so, because then you can tell them that it contains 1.3 KILOS of chocolate chips. 

I think that one of the keys to this recipe is beating the butter and sugar by hand... I don't know why it is, but I do it by hand, and my version seems to come out better than those made by friends using a mixer. Proof that there are times in life, where it is best to do things the slow way.  If you are going to use a mixer, I advise beating on a slow speed.

Deepest Darkest Chocolate Fudge Biscuits (cookies)

214g plain flour
56g cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
227g milk chocolate broken into pieces
113g unsweetened chocolate broken up (a nice dark bittersweet will do)
340g soft light brown sugar
170g unsalted butter (take out of the fridge to soften)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

OPTIONAL - 680g plain chocolate chips. 


 Sift flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt. Set aside.
Put plain and unsweetened chocolate pieces into a double boiler and heat for 12 - 15 minutes. Stir till smooth and keep at room temperature until needed. (You can microwave the chocolate instead, but be very careful not to over cook it)
Beat butter and sugar. Once creamed, add eggs, one at a time, beating into to the mixture. Add vanilla essence and beat. Add chocolate and beat. Add flour mixture and chocolate chips stirring until thoroughly combined.
For lovely big giant cookies, drop a tablespoon of mix per biscuit onto baking sheets (about 6-8 biscuits per sheet).   For more normal sized biscuits, a heaped teaspoon is about right. 
Bake on the top and middle rack of the oven at 170ÂșC for 15 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. Do keep an eye on the time, as the high sugar content means that they can burn very easily. 
Cool on sheets for 5-6 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. 

Sit back and enjoy one of the most sensational sweet experiences of your life.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Interesting new marinade

Last weekend I joined some friends for the weekend in a 17th century chateau in Burgundy (sorry I know I am boasting... I can't help myself!).

On the first night, we were cooking a BBQ for dinner.  My friend Christoph had bought some Bon Maman chestnut spread... he didn't quite know what it was when he bought it, but thought it might be interesting to try.

He and his girlfriend decided that it might be fun to use it as a sort of marinade on some chicken breasts they had bought for the BBQ.  I suggested that mixing it with grainy Dijon mustard might balance the sweetness, so Monika did just that; smeared the chicken with pretty close to even quantities of mustard and chestnut spread.

The chicken was cooked, and the marinade declared to be an unqualified success.  I thought I would post  it up here so that I would remember it, and maybe you could try it sometime.  It proves once more that the real key to exciting cooking is the willingness to just experiment, and try new things that you haven't tried before.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Guerilla cooking

I rented an apartment on the meditterranean for a week to study. The plus to this was that I was away from my normal space, and forced to study. The hard part was that being away from my kitchen, its tools and ingredients.

You don't realise what you have till its gone!

I arrived to find a kitchen that did have pots and a fry pan, a microwave, two hotplates (which I discovered through bitter trial and error have their numbering back to front), crockery and cutlery.

The glaring omissions were that it had no oven, sharp knives (a blunt paring knife and a twisted out of shape blunt peeler were in evidence), chopping board, storage containers, cooking tools such as slotted spoon, serving spoons, tongs, ladle.
Also no food.

Well, to give credit where it is due, there was a bottle of salt. So what to buy? I had no desire to buy a whole pile of foodstuffs and kitchen tools for someone else. I needed food for 5 days of staying in, so I needed variety, simplicity, and flexibility. And a sharp knife.

When I got to the supermarket I found some cheeses that had a cheeseboard included for free. 1 problem down. I found a little purple knife for 4 euros. Another problem down. A packet of "herbs de provence", some oil, pepper and I was just about at the end of the things I was willing to buy and donate to the apartment owner. Until I stumbled upon one of those sets of plastic containers... 14 containers for 3.90 euros. Yup I will have that.

I bought some meat, some bread, some vegetables... the usual stuff. I was set, vaguaries of my desires set aside.

Two days in and my second meal of pork chop, potato and sweet potato. The first time around it was burnt pork chop (see above comment on the stove) and mashed potato and sweet potato (pressed with a drinking glass then mashed with a fork). This time I had an onion to add to the excitement and had boiled the potato and sweet potato. But the dish cried out for a gravy. But... I had no flour, no stock... nothing to make it from!

I looked around. Ahah. There was the packet of french onion soup I had bought in case the predicted rainy day happened. There too was the "pompote" I got as part of my 'kids meal' at a cafe the day before (I usually find that a kids meal is actually more than enough food than we need and, limits in options aside, is very good value. 3.50 euros for a little hamburger patty, fries or vegetables, a drink and a dessert [the aforementioned pompote]). A pompote is a sort of apple mush in a squishy tube.

So I fried up my fresh onion, sprinkled on a tablespoon of the french onion soup mix and squeezed out a good dollop of the pompote. Gradually added some water and raised it to a simmer. What do you know? I had a very yummy gravy!

It just shows what you can do with a bit of imagination and willingess to experiment.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Apple and cinnamon cupcakes

2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vegetable oil
4 tsp baking powder
250g caster sugar
320g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 lightly beaten eggs
175ml buttermilk
2 peeled finely diced apples

Turn the oven to 175 degrees (350F). Line a cupcake tin with paper liners (this recipe makes 12 decent sized cupcakes)

In a bowl combine the sifted dry ingredients.

In a large bowl beat the liquid ingredients until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat until nearly combined. Stir in the apples - careful not to overmix!

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Top with brown sugar frosting. These keep for up to 2 days or freeze (without icing for up to 3 months).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Honey malt slice

This wickedly rich slice is based on a recipe from the Women's Weekly "biscuits and slices" recipe book.

340 grams of butter
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups malted milk powder
4 cups corn flakes
4 cups rice bubbles
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup desiccated coconut

1. Lightly grease and line 2 20x30cm baking trays. Take a sheet of baking paper and lay it along the pans, allowing the paper to extend beyond the edge of the pan.

2. Combine the malted milk powder, butter and honey in a saucepan. Stir on a low heat until the butter is melted. Pour over the dry ingredients, stir, then pour the mixture into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till set.