Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Peking Duck Pancakes

After eating all the nice crispy legs and wings yesterday, we were left with two lovely cooked duck breasts. I had a huge craving for duck with pancakes, so dropped by the Oriental Supermarket on the way home to see if they had the right kind of pancakes. Sadly, they did not. So I picked up a kilo of rice flour and some Peking Duck sauce, and headed home to get cooking!

Googling for duck pancake recipes, I found that many chefs simply made French-style crepes, which I have indeed done before for this meal. But I really felt like the floury, slightly chewy, aromatic rice pancakes you get in Chinese restaurants. I found a great recipe on Youtube by VideoJug showing exactly how to make them at home, and since the whole process was new to me, I followed the recipe exactly. I was absolutely amazed at the results - a stack of wafer-thin rice pancakes, aromatic with sesame oil, ever so slightly caramelised in places and wonderfully soft and flexible. It did take an hour or so the first time, but I think I could make these a lot faster with some practice. I tried to speed things up by using the breadmaker but actually it didn't save any time as the dough was very sticky and got stuck in the paddle.

To go with, I stir-fried a couple of spring onions with a large bunch of pak choi (stalks for 1-2 minutes, then leaves with a splash of soy sauce). The duck we simply shredded; we deseeded and sliced a cucumber and chopped up some coriander. I don't like raw spring onion in my duck pancakes :)

I'll recap the pancake recipe here but the video is worth a watch for a nice clear demonstration. This makes enough for about 4-5 people, or 8 for a starter. We froze the extras.

My pancake-making set-up, with tea-towels temporarily folded
back to show the uncooked (left) and cooked (right) pancakes.
  • 300 g flour - I used half rice, half plain white (wheat)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 240 ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, combined
  • some flour for dusting

Mix the flour, sugar and water together until it forms a sticky dough. Generously sprinkle the dough with some flour, dust the work surface with more flour, and spoon the dough into the flour. Fold the dough and knead it for a few minutes. Don't be afraid to add more flour to the dough, if necessary, as it might still be too sticky. Continue to knead until the dough takes on a smooth, non sticky, elastic consistency. Finally, cover it with a clean, damp tea towel and set it aside for 30 minutes, to rest. (I only left it for 15 minutes and it was fine.)

The finished stack, with shredded duck, sliced cucumber,
chopped fresh coriander,  a ramekin of Peking duck sauce,
and bowls of stir-fried pak choi.
Uncover the dough and cut it in half. Rub the rolling pin with flour and roll one half into a thin sheet of about 1/2 cm in thickness. Repeat exactly the same process with the other piece. (I thought this sounded thick, but it's fine, you'll roll it again in a minute!)

Take one sheet and cut it into circles using a 7cm biscuit cutter or the rim of a large mug. Take off the excess pastry but do not discard. You can roll it again later. Now brush each circle with a little bit of oil. Place one disk on top of the other, with their oiled sides together, to create a pair and repeat exactly the same process with the other half of the dough. It's vital to cover with a damp tea towel to retain the moisture.

Re- flour the working surface. Take each pair and using your rolling pin, roll them out to make them paper thin. Repeat until all of the pairs are rolled flat. Then cover again to retain the moisture.

Place the frying pan onto a medium-high heat and allow it to get very hot. Do not add any oil. When the pan is hot enough, add a pancake. Let it cook for about 1.5 minutes, until it begins to look char-grilled and slightly inflated. Then turn it over and cook other side. Remove it from the pan and separate it into two pancakes. You may want to leave it for a minute or so as they are very hot. This method of cooking gives one slightly charred side, and a moist side. It also gives the pancakes more flavour and the dough is more elastic. Repeat with the rest of the pancakes. As soon as you remove a pancake from the pan, put it on top of the stack and keep the stack covered with a tea towel so it doesn't dry out.

Monday, 27 February 2012

BBQ Duck

Such a joy to come home and find that my wonderful husband has BBQd a whole duck, splitting it right down the breastbone so it cooked in just over an hour. Perfect roast potatoes (in a tray on the bbq, in duck fat, of course), steamed broc, and a couple spoonfuls of sweetly acidic stewed plums complemented the succulent fatty duck legs and wings.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sticky Spare Ribs with Watermelon Salad

Saturday we went out for a huge birthday lunch for my cousin at a lovely winery. I had a massive slab of pork belly, which was totally yum, and then a giant Bombe Alaska, sprinkled with popping candy, which made for a very cool multi-sensory dessert! One of the sides during the meal really shined for me - a simple salad of cubed watermelon, torn basil, and feta cheese. I replicated it at home; it was hard to guess the dressing but in the end I went for the juice of half a lemon, between two people, and that was exactly right. Just a tiny touch of acidity to balance the sweetness of the watermelon.

At the local butcher's, I picked up a short rack of spare ribs, which we BBQd for five minutes a side, and basted frequently with sweet barbecue sauce, until totally caramelised and sticky. Plain white rice was all we needed to complete the meal, cooked as usual in a 2:1 water:rice ratio. I'm glad we went for a 40k cycle ride or it would all have been a bit too decadent!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Red Pepper and Goat's Cheese Pizza

A quick end-of-week pizza using up some roasted red peppers and lovely crumbly sharp goats cheese. A handful of rocket on top and we're good to go!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

BBQd Lamb and Aubergines with Tahini Dressing

Another post-workout meal created by my lovely husband slaving over a hot BBQ! Simply lamb chops, sliced aubergine, and a corn on the cob BBQd to perfection, served with a sauce of 1 part tahini to 2 parts natural yoghurt, the last of the bread from yesterday, and a few leaves for colour. Way more than I could eat, even after Zumba :)


Looking back over the year, it's amazing how much has changed. I've married the love of my life, moved to the other side of the world, started a really exciting job and adapted to a whole new climate. Through all of this I've managed to keep updating this blog, just over once every two days, on average. Despite an abrupt reversal of seasons in July, I've managed to post probably 90% of my fallback classics, and written down tens of new recipes I would otherwise have forgotten about. I've really enjoyed writing down what I've learned, and being able to look back and see what mistakes I made has helped me improve each dish every time I make it.

I'm especially happy that I recorded our awesome Christmas food, which included loads of family classics and really captured how crazy we go over food during the holidays. The BBQ challenge week was also lots of fun -  restriction breeds creativity, and taking out some options actually leaves you thinking more about the ones remaining. BBQ itself is also pleasantly seasonal - I know that come "bitterly-cold mid-teens" of winter, I'll prefer the heat of the oven to stay indoors - so creating that challenge gave me another variation to look forward to next summer.

It's a good time to think about where I want to take this blog for the next year. On the subject of seasonality, I'd like to posit a challenge for next winter - learn more curries! Some friends of mine have this enormous Indian cookbook - I need to buy a copy and start learning :) Maybe it'll be fun to do a few 'regional Indian challenge weeks', and see how that goes. It'll also be really interesting to live in Australia during autumn. Summer's been wonderfully Mediterranean, with lots of cheap peppers, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes and stone fruits. I wonder if root crops are good in the autumn? Or maybe squashes?

I'd like to promise that I'll update the blog every day, but that won't happen simply because I don't cook every day! One thing I'm not sure about is whether to start including meals out. I'm not sure I want to because it doesn't show how you actually make the meal. But then, sometimes I have a really great meal that I want to look up, but I forget about it! Perhaps I should resolve to make more of an effort to order really exciting new things while I'm out, and then figure out how to cook them at home.

I'd like to improve my food photography. The main thing that's holding me back is the lighting. It's very dim in the evenings, and especially with the lack of daylight savings, I rarely cook quickly enough to be able to use the sunlight. Maybe that's something I can try to fix... I have a few ideas about lights I could put up or move around.

If any of my lovely 'followers' are reading this and want to see more of something, or less of something, or whatever, then feel free to reply and let me know. You're all such lurkers though, I won't feel offended if there are no replies :)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Peaches and Mozzarella Salad

This is a brilliant little meal if you want something sweet, light and refreshing in the evening. Just slice a few peaches, tear some lettuce leaves and a large ball of (fresh, buffalo) mozarella or a pot of bocconcini, and top wih a dressing of half lemon juice, half olive oil. Tonight I popped by the bakery to get some nice bread to go with, but found it wasn't all that fresh. So we toasted big hunks of it it in the oven for a few minutes, then buttered generously with olive oil spread. Totally tasty.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Mushroom and Spinach Pancakes with Goats Cheese

I was planning to make a mushroom and goats cheese pizza or calzone this week, but today I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was Pancake Day! It's not as celebrated here as in the UK - probably because cooking a stack of pancakes on a hot stove when it's 40C outside is not a smart move. It's unusually cool this summer - just 28C this evening - so it wasn't too hot to make pancakes instead.

I googled for a recipe to convert my pizza topping into crepe filling, and stumbled across a lovely blog, Closet Cooking, which appears to be run by a guy called Kevin, cooking in a kitchen the size of a closet. I remember those days well! I love using blog recipes because they're made by real people, with real ingredients, and usually around the time constraints of a real job and in a real kitchen. So you know that it's doable in a sensible amount of time, and you're not going to find that the whole thing depends on some obscure ingredient or kitchen implement. So I followed Kevin's excellent recipe for yummy vegetarian savoury filling for whole-wheat pancakes, and they were spot-on. I did change just a couple of things so I've reblogged the recipe with my changes. My only mistake was not tripling the batter so that I'd have to make sweet pancakes :)

For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 500g mushrooms
  • a few sprigs of thyme, stripped to their leaves
  • 250g frozen chopped spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 splash dry sherry, or splash white wine + 1tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 6 wholewheat crepes
  • 1 large handful goat cheese, crumbled

For the pancakes (makes 6):
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup plain white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Set your spinach defrosting (in the microwave or on the hob).

Whisk all the batter ingredients together to create the pancake batter and start making crepes. You'll probably find that the chaff of the wholewheat flour sinks to the bottom, so try to ladle up the lower layer occasionally, and add a little water toward the end if you find that the batter becomes too thick.

Drain the spinach well, in a sieve. Crush it a bit with your hands to get all the water out.

Finely chop the onion and gently fry until soft and turning golden, about 8 minutes. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Crush the garlic and add it, the butter, the mushrooms and the thyme to the onions, then sweat for a further 6-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have let out their liquid. Add the spinach and season well with pepper, and a little salt; warm through. Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan - it takes a couple of minutes.

Fold the crepes into little pockets and scoop in the filling, tucking in crumbled goats cheese as you go. Drizzle over the balsamic reduction and serve!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Dolsot Bibimbap (Korean Stone Pots)

While I was Zumba-ing, my most excellent husband-chef prepared all the bits for a delicious pair of dolsot bibimbaps. Tonight we had white rice, very rare, thinly sliced spiced beef from yesterday, stir-fried broccoli and carrots with a slosh of water-thinned soy sauce, and an innovation with the eggs! We've found that the clay pots we bought have less thermal capacity than the stone pots used in some restaurants, so entirely raw eggs don't go as crispy on the bottom of the pot as one would like. However it's completely unacceptable to overcook the yolk - raw yolk is one of life's great pleasures. So tonight we fried the white of the egg, then snipped it into strips, and popped the raw yolk on top of the hot pot at the last second, along with fried slivers of garlic. No kimchi tonight (the store was closed at 5pm; thanks, Perth!) but sweet chilli sauce was perfect with the soft rice, gooey yolk and spicy beef. Delish!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Spice-Rub Roast Beef and Corn Bread

Yesterday I went to the butcher and once again marveled at how cheap beef is! Well... when in Rome :) So I bought a huge (1kg) topside roasting piece for $12. Over last week we used the nice leafy bits of a bunch of coriander and the inside of a stick of lemongrass, so we had all the husky stemmy rooty bits left over. I thought they'd make a great base for a spice rub for the piece of beef, so I whizzed them up in a blender, along with a whole red chilli, a few tsp of whole coriander seeds, a slosh of soy sauce and a tbsp of vegetable oil. I rubbed the mixture all over the piece of meat and roasted it indirectly in the BBQ for 45 minutes - a little rarer than the packet instructions of 25 minutes per 500g.

To go with, I was tempted to make Sophie's pots again. But it's Sunday, and if I'm not going to innovate at the weekend, when else will I?? I poked around the cupboards for a bit until I spotted half a bag of corn bread mix - not a full add-water-and-go mix, just a nice combination of corn flour, white flour and corn meal. We'd used it in the bread maker before but I figured it would work well if I adapted a recipe I found online to use it instead. I also got to use these darling little non-stick baking tins my mum gave me at Xmas, so that we could each have our own tiny little loaf! Exquisite :) A couple leaves of lettuce and the meal was complete - and well within the spec of the BBQ challenge week rules, which I appear to have completely adopted on hot days!


  • 1 ear of sweet corn on the cob
  • 1 cup of corn bread mix (or half and half white flour and corn meal)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven (or use an indirect heat on a BBQ) to 180-200C. BBQ, steam or grill the corn until tender - and if possible, singed and golden. Hold the cob vertically, using a corn-on-the-cob-holder or fork if you need, and use a sharp knife to strip off the kernels. Leave to cool while you make the batter. Mix all the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring and folding until the flour has just stopped appearing. Add the sweet corn kernels, stir, then scrape into two 2x4" baking tins, or one small loaf tin. (You could also double the recipe back up to the original, and use a 19" cake tin). Bake for 35-45 minutes (45-55 if you double the recipe). Serve with butter or margarine for spreading.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Deep-Fried Rice Vermicelli

Chicken and Lemongrass Patties

It takes longer to type this than to actually cook it. We simply blended a chicken breast with the tenderest parts of a lemongrass stick and half a slice of bread, made small patties, lightly oiled and BBQ'd them for a few minutes a side. A dressing of the juice of a lime, a few tbsp of sweet chilli sauce and a dash of soy sauce gave a pleasing sweet-sourness to drizzle for the patties and a dressing for a herby salad, and we rested the patties on a bed of deep-fried rice vermicelli, which I have made a little video of since I love making it so much!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Pasta Carbonara

Amazing. After a whole year blogging, I still haven't covered a recipe that I have always fallen back on when I can't think of anything else to eat. It's brilliant if you've been doing a bit of exercise, as it's basically a huge plate of carbs and protein, and it's also handy if you are running low on fresh vegetables, as traditionally it has none whatsoever! I also think of it as 'breakfast pasta', because of the eggs and bacon.

  • a hand's grip of straight pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon, or more if you like
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g of parmesan, finely grated
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • a few tbsp crème fraiche
Take enough straight pasta out of the packet that you are holding it all in one hand, like a staff, with your thumb and fingers just meeting. This should be enough for two people. (Smaller people have smaller hands so need less pasta!) Drop it into a pan of salted boiling water and cook until a minute before the packet instructions say.

Grill or fry the bacon until crispy, then chop into small slivers. Break the eggs into a bowl and fork through a little, then season with pepper. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pan over a low heat, adding in the eggs, bacon and half the parmesan. Stir occasionally until the eggs are cooked, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the good scruddly bits combined. Turn off the heat, add half of the parsley and the creme fraiche, stir through and serve, topped with the remaining parsley, parmesan and seasoned with black pepper.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Home-made Burgers with Toasted Foccacia

Simple burgers tonight: just fresh fine beef mince from the butcher's, pressed together to make flat patties and BBQ'd for four minutes a side, along with a whole white onion cut into rings and fried on the BBQ flat plate. We spread Romesco sauce over wodges of toasted focaccia, and the resulting burgers would not be amiss in a hotel bar, if only I could have pinned them with cocktail sticks :)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Potato, Feta and Rosemary Frittata

We used up some leftover BBQ'd potatoes in this classic, halving the usual recipe and serving with a salad of leaves, sundried tomatoes, and olives - the latter perhaps a tad salty considering the feta in the frittata.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Romesco Sauce

Saturday's an easy day for me to cook fish as I have time to cycle to the fishmonger, which lies in the opposite direction to the market where I do the vegetable & meat shopping. So after buying lots of great vegetables, including a bucket of tomatoes for $3, I headed over to the fishmonger thinking that I would get some fish that would go well with a recipe I found online for Romesco sauce. Luckily they had some red mullet fillets going quite cheaply, and they're awesome for the barbecue. Sophie's BBQd potatoes clicked into place as the best carb to go with, minus the garlic as the sauce is pretty strong. Perfect summer evening fare, before a trip into town to see Place des Anges flying live over the rooftops of Perth.

I slightly modified the sauce recipe because I don't like the taste of raw garlic, and I didn't have any hazelnuts. I'm also lazy and couldn't see the point of blanching the almonds. This made enough for about eight people, so we had a dollop each with dinner and have been eating the rest spread on bread and vegetables for lunch. Lovely!


  • 6 medium-size ripe tomatoes
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half crosswise 
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 or a whole red chilli, to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
  • 1 slice stale bread

Cut the tomatoes in half equatorially, and place cut-side up in a large roasting dish. Slice the head of garlic in half the same way, and place each half in the middle of the roasting dish, cut-side up, so they are surrounded by tomatoes and in the centre of the oven. Drizzle or brush generously with olive oil and roast for 70 minutes at 200C, until the tomatoes are very soft and going golden brown around the edges. If the garlic shows any sign of burning, put the halves back together. Leave the tomato and garlic to cool properly - at least half an hour.

While the oven is still hot, lay the almonds and chilli on a baking tray and pop them in for 7-8 minutes. Set a timer so they don't burn! Remove the chilli from the tray and soak in boiling water from the kettle for ten minutes.

We're getting really good at making
these potatoes :)
When the tomatoes are cool, pick them up one half at a time, and pinch off the skins. (Eat them if you like, they're delicious!) Drop the rest of the tomato, seeds and all, into a food processor (off). Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their wrappings into the food processor, and discard all the papery skin. Add the salt, vinegar, almonds and soaked chilli, discarding the water. Add about half a cup of olive oil. Blend on medium for 40 seconds or so, then check the sauce - it should be starting to emulsify. If it is very runny, add some of the bread and continue to blend. It should be spoonable, not fluid, and coarse, rather than completely smooth.

Post-Deli Salad, Take 3

Maybe I should stop posting these, as they're totally dependent on whatever I pick up from the deli. But they're just such great weekend lunches, how can I resist? The artichokes and octopus are so rich that we don't need anything but the simplest salad vegetables to go with them.


  • two large, ripe tomatoes, halved and sliced
  • a few handfuls of fresh washed lettuce, torn
  • a generous handful of basil, torn
  • 5-6 marinaded artichoke hearts, cut in half
  • 50g marinaded octopus, sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 generous tsp dijon mustard

Put the salad ingredients in a bowl, shake the dressing ingredients in a jar, pour over and toss. Serve with fresh buttered bread.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Veggie Fritters, Tray-Baked Potatoes, and Roast Pepper & Tomato Salad

A last meal of leftovers before a festival tomorrow and then a flight to Canberra for me! We have a vegetarian feast: a pile of carrot&courgette fritters, a salad of cold roasted tomatoes, olives, bbq'd green peppers, leaves and mustardy dressing, with a little side of hot roasted potatoes and sour cream and sweet chilli sauce to dip them in. Lovely and relaxing - and easy tasty food for my poor husband, who is just starting to come down with my cold >.<

Friday, 3 February 2012

Take-away Sushi

I've had a long day and am still not 100% after a cold, so I drop by the local shopping centre, where there is a takeaway sushi place that closes around 6pm. Usually for the half an hour before closing, they sell boxes of sushi for less than half price, so I pop by and am fortunate to pick up a decent spread for just $10. We watch Spaceballs the Movie and veg out :)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Roast Tomatoes and Croutons with Cold Lamb

We're beginning to run down the fridge before I leave for Canberra, so we quarter and roast about a kilo of tomatoes with a big handful of oregano, marjoram and thyme  from our overgrown herb box. With some crispy croutons -- bread, cubed, tossed in olive oil and roasted in the still-hot oven for ten minutes -- the hot tomatoes perfectly complement cold lamb chops left over from yesterday, their acidity cutting through the fat of the lamb.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

BBQ'd Lamb 'Abritzi'

We're finishing off the last of the very-reasonably-priced lamb chops (we froze half for later) and I felt like giving a classic family recipe an Australian spin. We put some brown rice on, then cut the peppers into fat strips and BBQ'd them with the lamb chops. Quickly halved some olives and squeezed some lemon juice, ready to go over the peppers hot off the barbie. Wonderful! And even faster than the 'normal' version.

Stewed Plums

Whenever I buy plums, they're usually not ripe to start with, but as soon as my back is turned, they go mouldy. And unlike apples or pears, they don't go mouldy on the outside, but turn weird and brown on the inside, while maintaining the illusion of being perfectly delicious taut-skinned fruit on the outside. I love a perfectly-ripe plum but sometimes I feel like I waste two or three other plums in order to actually get that perfect ripeness. In a totally unrelated story, I love having fruit on my breakfast, but once strawberries go out of season I always feel bad buying them - plus they're really expensive.

Cooking plums this way solves both problems. I love it when that happens.

Home-made lemon yoghurt and stewed plums. A sprinkling
of granola and my breakfast is ready!

Get yourself a big bag of plums, when they're in season. If they're already perfectly ripe, don't bother with this - just eat and enjoy! But if they're hard and you're not sure whether you're going to have time to watch them like a hawk all week, get yourself a big saucepan and halve and de-stone them into it. Put a tablespoon of water in and give the saucepan a gentle shake, so that the bottom has a tiny about of liquid in it. Cover and bring to a simmer, turning every minute until the plums start to break down - then cook, turning every two minutes, until they are bright purple and tender, but not completely mashed. It's nice to still have big pieces of cooked plum in the mix. Decant into a pyrex bowl or tupperware (that you don't mind getting stained purple...) and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.