Saturday, 22 December 2012


From time to time, there are moments when I reflect on how far I've come with my cooking in terms of general skill and confidence levels. Reading over my first posts from 6 months ago, I started GC really as a bit of laugh; mainly as a way to keep up my writing. But also because I thought it might be interesting to share my journey from amateur to domestic artiste. As such projects tend to fall by the wayside quickly, I'm genuinely suprised that I've managed to keep it up for this long...and how much I've learned along the way!

Anyway, consider this my first 'milestone' - tonight I made a very delicious soba noodle recipe that did not suck at all! I adore Japanese food but after some disastrous first attempts (one particularly ghastly fried rice that tasted like nothing but salt and soy sauce sticks in my mind - I knew the game was over when my boyfriend started searching for a tomato sauce bottle) I basically gave up. 

The tough part is balancing the delicate salty, sweet and sour flavours which make Japanese food so unique. My advice: find a credible recipe, follow it to an absolute tee, and you won't be disappointed. Instead of rice, I decided soba (buckwheat) noodles would make a nice change, and found a recipe for sesame-ginger soba noodles at Olives for Dinner.

So compared to OFD, my version looks a liiiiitle rough around the edges; but the most important part is that it wasn't too salty! What I loved was the light, fresh, gingery taste and that it can be served hot or cold. If you prefer things a little spicier, mix through a teaspoon of wasabi paste before serving.

Sesame - Ginger Soba Noodles (a la Olives for Dinner)
- 1 serving of soba noodles
- 2-3 sliced spring onions
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 1/2 teasopoon of rice wine vinegar
- Steamed/raw vegetables of your choice (I used cucumber strips and pickled ginger)

Heat the sesame oil in a pan over low heat. Saute the spring onions for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. When it has sizzled for about a minute, add the mirin then reduce heat back down to low. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, bring plenty of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles for 4 minutes. When they're ready, strain and toss the sauce through the noodles.

Not complete without a liberal sprinkling of furikake (Japanese rice seasoning).

Thursday, 13 December 2012


When I win Lotto, I've decided that I'm opening up my own salad bar in the CBD. Watch your back Sumo Salad..

- Half a butternut pumpkin
- Baby spinach leaves
- Toasted walnuts (or pine nuts if you prefer)
- 50g raisins
- 100g feta (Danish or Greek)
- 1/4 spanish onion, chopped

For the dressing: A drizzle of olive oil, two teaspoons of dijon mustard and two tablespoons of honey (plus salt and pepper to season). Mix together well with a fork.

Peel and chop the pumpkin into small chunks. Boil for 5-7 minutes in a medium sized saucepan, until tender but not mushy. Drain and once cool, combine the remaining salad ingredients.



Due to an incredibly hectic schedule at this point in the year I've found it almost impossible to get in some blog time. I also went through some interesting issues with my laptop, which decided to get amnesia and wipe its own memory clean :( (lucky I'd already backed up my holiday photos) Still, now things have settled a little and I have a somewhat fixed computer, no more excuses! This is a Greek inspired plate which photographed beautifully and tasted even better. In the process I learned to execute a sweet new trick- how to candy (or is it candify?) walnuts.

- 1 brown onion, chopped
- 400g chicken mince
- 2 teaspooons harissa paste (a Middle Eastern chilli/spice blend, available at most gourmet/specialty stores)
- 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Melted butter and lemon juice, to baste
- You'll also need some wooden skewers on hand

- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup raw brown sugar
- Baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 chopped red onion
- 1 red capsicum, cut into strips

- 200g natural unflavoured yogurt, mixed with 2 teaspoons of chopped mint

For the koftas (can be prepared early and left in the fridge until you're ready to grill):
First, soak your skewers in water so they won't burn later on. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic together until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Place the chicken mince a large bowl, then add in the garlic/onion mix. Season with salt and pepper, then add the harissa and cumin.
Next, start shaping small handfuls of the mixture into walnut sized balls. It's vital here to err on the side of caution and make them a tad smaller (as opposed to football sized) because you want them to grill nicely all the way through. Thread the balls onto a skewer.
Heat oil in a grill plan until very hot, then cook the skewered koftas for about 10 minutes, turning them over at intervals. Once they're golden brown, baste with the melted butter and lemon juice and continue to grill for another 5 minutes or so.

For the salad:

Candied walnuts are absurdly simple, provided you're confident to work quickly with boiling sugar. First I break the walnuts up into smaller pieces and toast in the oven until done (check every few minutes to ensure they don't burn). The ratio is approximately 1/2 cup nuts to 1/4 cup of sugar, so if you want to make more then just double up the quantities. Pour the sugar into a medium sized saucepan with a thick bottom. Cook sugar on a medium heat, stirring continously until it's melted completely and amber coloured. When it hits this point, add in the toasted nuts. Stir vigorously to coat them, then once they're completely coated, tip the contents of the saucepan onto a pre-prepared tray linked with baking paper. The sugar will start to cool rapidly and harden. The final touch is a sprinkling of sea salt which lends a great salted caramel flavour.

The rest of the salad is very easy. Drizzle olive oil over the capsicum strips and roast in the oven on 180 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, until soft. Combine in a large salad bowl with the baby spinach, onion and garnish with the candied walnuts.

Serve up the salad, koftas, with yogurt dressing and cous cous.