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Road trip!!!!

Random Trees Picture

 

We are OFF on a road trip soon! And at the moment, we are busy preparing, planning, packing in anticipation for it! We have a very special guest in our little sister visiting us and joining us on this road trip from sunny (as opposed to our thunder-stormy Perth) Malaysia…of which…we are EXTREMELY EXCITED!!

Those who know me well will know I get a thrill from organizing, especially things like road trips and holidays! And yes, I did use the word “thrill”!! I love it when everything comes together in an Excel sheet when everything just makes sense, and all the information you need is in one location (*THRILL!*).

We are planning to do a lot of driving, sightseeing and also a lot of cooking! We’re trying not to eat out too much in this trip and keeping our costs low – so obviously that would come with a lot of planning. We had to know what was available in those towns, whether we needed to bring anything from home, what we wanted to eat, how much we needed to pack etc – do you see the amount of information that one needs to collate?!?! Maybe one day, when I feel generous, I will share my holiday excel sheet :)

So, I’m looking forward to sharing our journeys with you and hopefully we would have many yummy meals to share as well. Because it’s a road trip, our meals planned are pretty simple, which is what you need really – cooking with the basics and spending the rest of your time enjoying nature and the many things that God has blessed us with, especially time with family!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Holidays

 

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Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals: Tray Baked Chicken and Squashed Potatoes

Jamie's 30 Minute Meal - Tray baked chicken with squashed potatoes

Ever since we started menu planning, Jamie’s 30 minutes meals has been tested and tried almost once a month. Like we said in our last post, Jamie has a way of fast-tracking cooking and preparation times that IF (and that’s a very big IF!) we knew what we were doing, we just might sneak in within the 30 minute timeframe. Having said that, we weren’t too ambitious this time, and our goal was to make a delicious meal for the masses. Masses meaning 5. heh.

So we chose the Tray Baked Chicken and Squashed Potatoes (without the accompanied Creamed Spinach or Strawberry Slushie). Few reasons why we didn’t make the rest of it – we go by the principle of using up what’s in the fridge rather than buying new things, and secondly like what we learn from all cooking shows, we try and use seasonal produce! Strawberries weren’t in season at that time, so we were stuck with…well, no strawberries. It did look really good in the book though!!

If you are familiar with Jamie Oliver’s cooking, he’s often the king of “agar-ration”, by that I mean he’s a huge estimator. He loves using terms like “pinch”, “dollop”, “splash” – totally metric terms obviously! But that’s the whole thing about cooking – which is great! So these ingredients are not from the book but more of by “feel” and “look” – you just have to keep tasting!!

INGREDIENTS:

Potatoes
3-4 large potatoes (that are good for baked potatoes)
3-4 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic

Jamie Oliver 30 min meal - Squashed Potatoes

Start with the potatoes (especially when this takes the longest). Put some water in a pot and sprinkle with some salt. Then wash and prep the potatoes thoroughly and cut them in half length ways before placing them into the water. Boil them for about 12-15 minutes or until they are cooked through. When they are cooked, just leave them to dry for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, get a pan ready and coat it with a layer of olive oil. Start by placing the rosemary and bay leaves into the pan, and put the potatoes on top of the herbs (make sure they are flat and not topped on one another), then sprinkle in some salt (always season!!) and crush the cloves of garlic and add them in as well.

Then comes the fun part – with a smaller pan or any flat apparatus really – press it down hard on the potatoes so that they burst and spread out across the pan. If the potatoes are cooked well, this should be done easily enough. Leave them in the pan for 3 minutes then turn over to the other side.

Chicken
4-5 chicken breasts (skin on or off entirely up to you!)
4 rashers of bacon
Pinch of dried oregano
Couple of tsp of sweet paprika
1 tbsp (roughly) of butter
1 lemon
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
2-3 sprigs of rosemary

Jamie's 30 Min Meals - Tray Baked Chicken

With the chicken, the seasoning (dried oregano, salt, pepper and paprika) were added to the chicken along with olive oil. Then, it was basically pan fried and browned.

When the chicken juices start to flow, place them onto a roasting tray with the lemon (quartered) and the cherry tomatoes. Make sure to pour in all the juices into the pan!!

Then, lay out the bacon onto the chicken. Coat the sprigs of rosemary in the juices under heat and then place them in the roasting tray as well.

Put the roasting tray under the grill and cook for about 12-15 minutes.

And then it’s just a matter of putting together a side of vegetables (in our case it was blanched buk choy) to form a perfectly balanced meal! Hmm, not if you don’t count dessert as a balanced diet that is! The chicken was good because it was not too dry and the bacon added a different texture and taste to it. I thought the idea of the squashed potatoes were ingenious although they might have been around for centuries, and I just didn’t know about it!! So all in all, another satisfied meal from Jamie’s book, but still well and above the 30 minute mark. I was telling Sammy that we might have to do these recipes again and again so that we know exactly what are were doing and that would probably shorten our um-ing and ah-ing and referring back to the book. And practice makes perfect…RIGHT??

Until next time…..!

Jamie Oliver 30 minute meal - Tray Baked Chicken and Squashed Potato - Side buk choy

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Cookbooks, Western

 

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Procrastination 101

THIS is why the blog has been neglected for awhile :) it’s still food related right???

 In my *humble* opinion, this teaches you SO much about your little herb gardens or vegetable gardens that you have because it taught me:

1) How to use the sun effectively (to build a garden to kill zombies)

2) How to get the best of your vegetables (to effectively kill all kinds of zombies)

3) To think about using different kinds of vegetables (to kill different types of zombies)

4) How to protect your garden from pests (like zombies)

5) To plant your vegetables strategically (to eliminate all forms of zombies!!)

 

Educational right?? Totally!!

Plants vs Zombies Printscreen

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Random

 

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A Birthday Wrapped up in a Pseudo Red Velvet Cake :)

It was Sammy’s birthday (few weeks ago!)!! She turned a quarter of a century old and it was definitely time to celebrate!

We started off the celebrations in the weekend with her special request of a red velvet birthday cake. All well and good – if only I knew what went into a red velvet cake! Colouring? Dye? Few vegetables mixed together? So here I am a novice, armed with Dr.Google searching for the easist red-velvet cake recipe that I could find.

BUT who knew that a red cake can be so complicated? From research, many bloggers argue about what is and what isn’t a red velvet cake and different people put different things to make the cake red – most people (including the recipe found in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook) use red colouring to make the cake red, which technically would be the easier option, but was told, not the tastiest option.

Which way to go was confirmed when Miss Sammy said that she wanted a red velvet cake au naturale (I know, how picky right?!?!). So I throw away that thought of red dye in my sponge and start the research for red velvet cake from scratch, pressing all the ‘x’s on my tabs for those that had red dyes in their recipe.

From the recipes and some blog posts that we have found, it looks like it depends on the acidity of the cake that produces that red colour. Too little acidity, and the cake will turn to ‘purple satin’ or dark brown (almost chocolatey like) – so the key to create and maintain that red colour is…use the reddest natural vegetable/fruit you can find, and maintain the acidity in the cake. YUP! sounds easy enough…RIGHT?

Because I had no experience baking a red velvet cake, I used the recipe from Sophistimum (thank you! It was an awesome recipe! And yours looked MUCH better!) pretty much word for word, except for the natural cocoa which I didn’t have, but I have read that it is crucial that you use natural instead of dutch-processed cocoa because that maintains the acidity in the cake. Hence the result of my rich, dark PURPLE cake. I have to find this natural cocoa! But the result was so GOOD, so moist and so rich, and for those who don’t like beetroot, you can hardly taste it in the cake. I would definitely try this again, and this time with natural cocoa (because I found where I can buy it – Koko Black!). Next time, it will be called High Class Red Velvet Cake…

Natural Red Velvet Cake - No Colouring

Red Velvet Cake (Adapted from Sophistimum)

2 large beetroots (enough for 1 1/2 cups puree)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
230g unsalted butter, softened
250g of cream cheese, softened slightly
2 cups castor sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons natural (not dark or dutch processed) cocoa powder

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees celcius. Cut up the beetroot into large chunks and then place them on a roasting tray and pour in a cup of water. Then, roast the beetroot for about an hour until cooked through and soft, then take it out to let it cool.
  2. Meanwhile, line the bases and sides of 3 cake pans with baking paper and set aside.
  3. When the beetroot has cooled down, blend and puree the beetroot along with the lemon juice and vinegar in your handy food processor until you have a lovely puree of beetroot (yummm – some members in my family will beg to differ!)
  4. Preheat your oven again to 180 degrees celcius. In your mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, and then add in the sugar until the batter is well combined.
  5. Add the eggs in one at a time into the batter, just incorporating the egg into the batter before adding another one in. Then mix in the vanilla essence.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder). Then add the dry ingredients in the beetroot batter and fold until well combined.
  7. Then, divide the cake batter equally into the 3 prepared pans. We used measuring cups to help us divide them up equally, but you don’t have to be so OCD like us!
  8. Then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (you’d know when you put in a toothpick or skewer through the middle of the cake and it comes out clean). Then invert them onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 packets cream cheese, at room temperature
230g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Using a whisk attachment, combine all of the above into the bowl of your mixer and mix until fluffy, smooth and enough to be spreadable.

Decorations

Decorations were simple for Sammy’s cake – all I did was buy boxed marzipan (from one of the shelves off Coles) and red dye. Then I infused the marzipan with the red dye until the desired colour (remember to use gloves when doing this, or you get blood on your hands!! sorry, bad joke). And then I rolled it out and used flower cutters to cut out the outer layer and a nozzle tip to make the round, circular middle. Then decorate it around the cake as desired! My inspiration came from…believe it or not Bakery Story (iphone game!).

 
 

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Chi Restaurant, Victoria Park

It’s been awhile since we found the time to make something special, or cook for that matter! I’ve been in and out of Perth again in the last weekend, so that threw any inclinations to cook or bake out of the window! Our routine has also been a bit topsy turvy lately and my poor hubby had to fend for himself because there was no one to cook for him!

Anyhow, it explains why we’ve been eating out a lot!

Chi Restaurant is another one of those restaurants which we frequent, especially when we’re in the area and in the mood for EasyWay Bubble Tea. We decided to go to Chi after a game of squash, and also because we have a few vouchers to use there. Yes, the asians in us are out in full force that week, trying desperately to use up the Entertainment Book Vouchers!

Just a note to remember to book ahead with Chi (especially at night), because they few times that we tried going there without a booking, we had to be turned away. Having said that, we were quite surprised when we did make a booking for lunch for 1pm on a Saturday, the restaurant was quite empty.

There were 7 of us that day, and we were quite hungry after that game so we ordered 5 dishes. There’s a formula that we used to use to work out how many dishes to order in a Chinese Restaurant that would be enough to share around the table, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was! But this is a little snapshot of our orders…and I had no complaints about any of them – they tasted great.

Our orders:

1. Spinach with Century Egg and Salted Fish

Spinach with Salted Fish and Century Egg Chi Restaurant Victoria Park

2. Golden Spicy Pork Ribs

Golden Spicy Pork Ribs (Chi Restaurant Victoria Park)

4. Combination Seafood with Tofu Hotpot

Our token hotpot dish – we always tend to order these when we dine in chinese restaurants – maybe because of the asian in us who will try to combine as many things as possible in one dish, therefore making it more value for money! In this hotpot we have servings of seafood, tofu and seasonal vegetables, all cooked in a tasty sauce which you can eat with rice alone..

Seafood Combination Hotpot Chi Restaurant Victoria Park

5. Chilli Pepper Tofu

The whole chilli pepper ordering craze for us, I think, started here in Perth – I don’t think I have ever ordered anything back home that is chilli pepper! It’s yummy though and I think you can’t go wrong with chilli pepper anything – chicken, pork, squid! Crunchy, salty, slightly spicy on the outside and juicy on the inside – mark of a good chilli pepper dish..yumm

Chilli Pepper Tofu Chi Restaurant, Victoria Park

5. Steamed Herbal Chicken

Oops..I think I forgot to take this dish! But anyway, when we first ordered this dish, we thought that it would come in a form of a “paper bag” where the chicken will be cooked. But it was steamed chicken with a herbal sauce (which was quite nice) – the chicken was cooked well and it was tender..just the way I like it!

Overall, our experiences at Chi Restaurant have always been positive (unlike its’ Perth City counterpart which I hear has closed down). The waitstaff have been friendly and the food has always been prompt and delicious and with our vouchers in hand, we will be sure to come back for more!

Chi on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Perth Eateries, Victoria Park

 

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Katsudon: Japanese takeaway at home

Wow! It’s been a while hasn’t it! This blog has seems to have taken a backseat in the midst of our busy busy lives!

Well, it’s back now! And we have another yummy recipe from Adam Liaw’s book, Two Asian Kitchens to share. Since buying this book, we’ve been interested to try the Japanese dishes. We have quite a few good Jap food places we frequent, but we have only made sushi at home.. yup.. thats as far as our Japanese cuisine repertoire goes. But since starting to cook some dishes from the book, we realise its not too difficult, just need to have some basic japanese ingredients kept in the pantry: mirin, rice vinegar, mentsuyu and dashi stock powder, and we’re set!

This time around we tried the Katsudon – it is typically a pork cutlet, deep-fried, and topped with egg served on top of a bed (or bowl, if you must be pedantic) of rice. Japanese takeaway restaurants here have versions of it done with chicken, which you can do as well, basically the same process i guess. But be warned, to serve a few people (we save some for lunch the next day as well), you will use up a mother-load of eggs!!

Katsudon (from Two Asian Kitchens, Adam Liaw)
(the recipe serves 2, but increase amount as you need, much of asian cooking is about estimation
anyway! :P)

75g Plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 thick pork cutlets*
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil (for deep frying)
250ml mentsuyu (soy sauce used for soba/udon/dipping tempura – tastes lighter than chinese soy sauce)
1/2 small brown onion
3 eggs, extra
steamed rice for the meat to sit on

* Pork cutlets were quite expensive, so we used forequarter chops and removed the bones, not sure how it affects the overall dish, but i figured, they were for frying, why waste a good cut *shrug*. Here’s the meat we used. the chops were huge and we had enough for 3 meals!!

Pork chops

First, mix the flour and salt together. Dip the cutlet in the seasoned flour, then the egg mixture, then into the flour again, and into the egg again, then into the Panko bread crumbs. This is so there is a thick coating on the cutlet, so it remains juicy, even though its deep fried. (Can you see why you might go through your whole tray of eggs now?)

Katsudon pork cutlet crumbing

Panko crumbs

As per the directions: Apply LIBERALLY and fry! more panko = more crunchy goodness :)

Deep fry them in a wok with really hot oil until its golden brown or cooked through. Because some of the pieces were quite thick, We chucked them into the oven to let them cook thoroughly.

Katsudon fried pork cutlet

After all the cutlets are fried, heat up a fry pan and add the onions and fry them till they are softened. Then add the mentsuyu. (this forms the gravy that will make the dish less dry.. just the way we like it! :) ) When this is done, add the pork cutlets that have been sliced up into the pan, then add the other 3 (or however many you need) lightly beaten eggs to the mixture in the pan. Let the eggs cook until they are just set.

Katsudon pork cutlet and egg

onion mixture (right) and pork cutlet & egg mixture (left).. got a bit jumbled there!

Spoon as much rice as you can (or would like to) consume into a bowl, and lift the pork out of the pan and set it on top of the rice.You can garnish it with some greens. The book suggested snow pea sprouts, but we didn’t have any. We served it with a side salad instead, with a sesame oil, soy and vinegar dressing. Yumm-o!

Japanese Pork Katsudon

Be warned that your home may smell like a japanese takeaway after this! Ours smelt like one for a few days after!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Cookbooks, Japanese

 

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Questions for Google

Unless you just crawled out of a rock, you would have known that Google has pretty much become a verb. If you don’t know how to make something, don’t know what that word means, don’t know what the difference is between two things – you just Google it!

Eversince starting this blog, I’ve seen questions or search items that people have been asking Google that has inevitably led to this blog. I feel like I have a personal obligation to answer these questions since somehow Google has pinged them to this blog, and I know that some of the answers just cannot be found here (not yet anyway!).

So, I’d thought that I would start this new series, where I try and answer these questions in the hope that the next time someone else with the same question comes here, they will know exactly what the answer is…

(Who am I kidding…I just wanted to share all the funny search terms that I’ve found :))

So Questions-for-Google of the month of May 2011…

Q: Can you just have puff pastry on it’s own?

A: Er….last time I checked…YES! In fact its the best thing ever :)
Try it, and you won’t turn back!
But please er…put it in the oven first.
If in doubt, google “how to eat puff pastry on its own”

Teehee…stay tuned for next month’s Questions for Google!

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Random

 

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