roast beef


Was at the supermarket to check out turkey for Christmas. Normally we get ready cooked but it’s too expensive and the size is no better than a large chicken. So I’m going to cook it myself this year. Not a huge selection: 10-12, 12-14 and 14-16 pounds. We have to clear space in the freezer before getting one. And I have to find a good stuffing recipe.

What I saw was a beef joint for roasting in the fresh meat section. Sell-by date today so discounted to 1/3rd its sticker price. I can’t remember the last time I made roast beef, may be 20 years ago in London. It’s only a small joint, just under 1kg, and off the bone. I had to double check the roasting time and after researching, decided to follow a mix of Leiths’ and Jamie’s methods.

The timing is from Prue: 20mins at 220ºC then 30mins at 170ºC for this 1kg joint. The vegetable trivet idea is from Jamie: place the seasoned joint on a bed of mirepoix to catch the drippings. I had space in the roasting tray so I cubed some potatoes to make roast spuds. During resting, I made the gravy directly in the pan from the mirepoix, drippings, added chicken stock and a glass of red wine. I didn’t strain off the veg, kept it in the gravy.

There’s a bit of chewy sinew that made carving slightly difficult but I was well pleased that I got it rare-medium rare. Good beef taste; it’ll last us 3 meals.

creamy scallop spinach pasta


Mum was out all day, she went out to lunch after mass, came back with shopping and met with her friends for dinner. I spent the day reading, didn’t even go out when mm texted and wondered if we should go out to enjoy the sunny weather. It was almost 3pm and we decided we should both just chill at home and get rested.

Leftovers for lunch but actually made dinner. For some odd reason I had a small carton of cream in the fridge. I made mushroom cream sauce the other day and there’s still around 2/3 carton that needs to be used. Made a rich sauce with lots of garlic, a little butter and about 150ml cream. Should be able to keep in a tight container for a few days. I spooned a little over the scallop and spinach pasta I was making for dinner which made the dish much more decadent. This is the type of dish that takes absolutely no time to make.

meatball pasta attempt


Today’s attempt at cooking was meatball pasta. Around 60:40 pork and beef mince, and I used the guardian’s method of substituting eggs with breadcrumbs soaked in milk as the binding agent. Supposed to keep meatballs lighter. Problem was, they were so light that some fell apart when I was browning them.

The sauce was canned tomato, tomato paste, fresh cherry tomato and sun-dried tomato. Enough tomato or what. Added chicken stock and lots and lots of herbs–basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. I think it was too tomato-y, it tasted primarily of tomato paste and I had to add sugar. Simmered for around 1hr.

I let the meatballs and bits of mince that were broken meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 20mins. Ended up with a pasta dish that was part ragu and part meatballs. I guess it’s all the same.

ribs, tomato, pepper, potato


One baking tin dinner tonight, an old favourite and a new preparation.

Went to the market and got boneless ribs. Marinaded with olive oil, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, paprika, garlic, liquid smoke, s&p for 1hr then slow roasted at 160ºC covered with foil for 1.5hrs.

Peppers stuffed with tomato is an old recipe from Delia’s Summer Collection. Halve and roast peppers around the one-hour to go mark, then add tomatoes when peppers are soft. I didn’t have anchovies so I used sun-dried tomatoes instead to compliment the fresh tomatoes and add saltiness. Soaked in hot water to soften then chopped and added with fresh tomatoes.

The potatoes were hasselback potatoes which were made by cutting the potato into thin slices, but not all the way through to the bottom. Seasoned with butter, rosemary and s&p. Added to the baking tin at around the one-hour to go mark.

Everything was ready at around the same time. I don’t think the picture did it justice, tasted much better than it looked.

slow cooked duck legs


Recipe from Mark Bittman at the NYT. He was writing this week on grubstreet about grilling duck legs too, although the only grill I have is the one at the top of my oven and isn’t the bbq grill he was talking about.

Anyway, the method we see people on cookery programs most of the time is confit duck legs. I don’t really want to waste a bottle of oil so this slow cooked method is better.

In a cold pan over medium heat start browning the duck legs, skin side down. In the meantime, prep carrots, celery and potatoes. The recipe has onions but I ran out so I used extra celery and 4 cloves of garlic. Added potatoes for a true one pot meal. I chopped the veg into larger chunks than the recipe to give more bite.

Once the duck skin has crisped up, turn over and brown the meat for a couple of minutes. Transfer to baking dish.

Pour out almost all the duck fat (I have an old peanut butter jar I use to keep my duck and bacon fat). Sauté the veg for about 10mins, transfer to baking dish with duck. Season with s&p, rosemary, thyme.

Heat chicken stock in pan to deglaze and bring to the boil. Pour into baking dish until most of duck legs are covered, making sure the skin isn’t covered. I didn’t have enough stock, it was perfectly fine to top up with boiling water.

Cook at 200ºC for 30mins, then turn oven down to 180ºC and continue cooking for around 1hr until duck is tender and most of the liquid has reduced.


Very, very good. There was just about enough sauce to cover the baking dish, and it had a nice intense flavour. The recipe says use homemade chicken stock and I agree, it makes all the difference. The duck was fork-tender and had lots of flavour.

We are lucky that we can get duck breast and leg fairly inexpensively, perhaps because the locals don’t know how to cook them. It’s frozen and definitely not gressingham duck we get in the UK, but with the right cooking method, is one of our staples. Easy to make too. Total cooking time around 2hrs, but mostly unattended.

braised pork rib tips


The small supermarket is having a chain-wide 30% off sale on all items until Monday. The aisles, usually choc-a-bloc with boxes and goods, are already clear and some shelves are almost empty. There are also more people than usual.

I bought wine, water, noodles, cheese, ice cream and saw rib tips at a low, low price. Easy to cook, just stew in the vacuum pot overnight with mirepoix, chicken stock and a glass of red wine. Had half a lemon left over from cooking salmon, added that. Some sweetcorn, added that too at the end.

Served with bulgar wheat. First time cooking bulgar wheat (though not first time eating), I think I like it better than couscous. Same cooking method: simmer in water till absorbed, turn off the heat and sit for 5-10mins.

What’s great about the rib tips, aside from tenderness from braising, is that there are lots of soft bone, or cartilage, in with the meat. It’s the white tube-like nub at the tip of the bone, it doesn’t have much flavour and is chewy and crunchy. It’s one of those food items like offal or fish cheek, that are revered by people in the know but most lay people will spit it out.

flounder spinach rollups


I bought a couple of packets of flounder filets at the supermarket. Mum and I aren’t very good at fish with bones so I prefer to stick with salmon or white fish filets. This is the first time I tried cooking flounder. The first batch, I pan-fried them but it wasn’t successful. The filets were too fragile and difficult to keep whole. Plus I couldn’t find much flavour to them.

For the second batch I decided to roll them up and bake them. It was dead easy. Cooked some spinach, rolled in filets, secure with toothpick. Baked in 180ºC oven for 15mins. I served them with hollandaise sauce which shamefully I have to admit came from a packet. I can make my own, but we had the packet so it’s best to use it up before it expires.

Since I was turning the oven on, I made sweet potatoes too. I’m so much happier with the rollups than the pan-fried version. I’m sure I can cook the rollups in a pan, either pan-fry them or poach them. Oven seems the best though, to keep them whole.

thai coconut curry

Mum visited a farm expo with her friends and came back with galangal. I’d only recently started cooking with more ginger so I was like, I have to learn a new recipe.

Googling ‘galangal recipe’ gave lots of examples such as curry, soup, satay. It’s used in several iconic southeast Asian dishes: beef rendang, penang laksa and tom kha gai. Kha is the Thai word for galangal.


There are plenty of Thai, Indonesian, SE Asian stores around. Two already at the market. The nice lady there helped me gather all the other ingredients for a Thai curry in addition to the galangal: lemongrass, thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, chili, fresh lime. I already have coconut milk. I didn’t really follow any particular recipe or measurements.

3 chicken leg, skinned and deboned, cut into pieces
1 cauliflower, cut into pieces
about 2 tbsp galangal, finely grated
3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 handful keffir lime leaves, sliced
1 handful thai basil, reserve some for decoration
3 cloves garlic
half a red onion
1 small chili
1 can coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
chicken stock
small block rock sugar
fish sauce


Mise en place took a good half an hour. The chicken and cauliflower had to be cut into bite-sized pieces. All the herbs and spices were chopped or grated. I decided to use only one small chili because mum can’t eat food that is too spicy.

Brown the chicken, remove from heat. Sautée garlic, onion galangal and lemongrass until onion and garlic are soft. Add rest of herbs and spices. Return chicken to pan, add cauliflower and rest of ingredients. Season with salt, pepper, fish sauce.


Simmer for about 1hr. The cauliflower got a bit soft and some of it melted, but I didn’t mind.


Serve with rice. I added a couple more slices of chili to my plate, it was just spicy enough to feel the heat. Very coconut-y and tasty. I think leaving in the fridge overnight will improve the flavour.

Other ingredients that will work: potato, carrot, pork, fish, tofu. For a low carb version, make cauliflower rice instead of normal rice.

I had galangal, chili and thai basil left over. They all went into the freezer. The galangal directly; the chili after washing and drying; and the thai basil after blanching in hot water for 2 seconds then drying.

spaghetti meatballs


This is the first time I made spaghetti with meatballs. All right, actually it’s capellini because that’s what we had. Combined minced beef and minced pork (around 60:40, but that’s because it’s what I have) with 1 egg, some flour and seasoning.

Sautéed some garlic and onion in a pan, added the meatballs to brown. Added water, tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, herbs, s&p and simmered for about 45mins. Could do with longer, had to turn the heat up towards the end to reduce the sauce.

Pretty good. Definitely tasted homemade, better than spag bol.

steamed egg with pork mince


Tried my hand at making steamed egg with minced pork. The ultimate comfort food. Goes very well with plain rice and supposedly one of those dishes that are easy to make yet hard to master.

Steamed the pork first, seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and I chopped a few dried mushrooms in with the mixture. Poured in the egg and water mixture and steamed for 10mins.

Not quite as silky and smooth as it can be. The egg was overdone on the outside but undercooked in the middle. Apparently both the heat and egg:water ratio are important. I used 1:1 egg and water (measured in measuring cup) but next time will try 1:1.5. And use low heat.

seared salmon sushi

Today it’s my day to teenager-sit my niece. Had a quick lunch with sis and went back to her place. Made lunch for my niece (pasta with tomato sauce and cheese) which she wolved down, it was good to see her eating.

She has taekwondo on fridays. We were very lucky to get a taxi quickly, although the traffic was horrendous due to an accident. She normally has one hour of lesson and the second hour she helps her teacher to teach younger kids. I followed sis’ routine while I waited for her: went to m&s to get snacks and drinks; the japanese supermarket to get sushi and waited at the bookstore until for a text. Grabbed a taxi, picked her up outside the library building and headed home.

Dinner was sushi, mainly salmon. They’ve been searing the salmon using a blowtorch so I tried the method out too. It’s so much fun. I tried to use the part of the flame just above the blue flame where it’s supposed to be hottest, but not always successful. That, and I had the blowtorch in one hand and the iphone in the other, hehehe.


Tasted very good. Sis says gis normally only eats about 4 pieces; she polished off a good 6 pieces, plus a piece of scallop sushi and half the portion of okra I bought as the veg component of the meal.

I used to have a blowtorch, when I wanted to try making crème brûlée. Never got round to doing it though. May be I’ll get another blowtorch and do some searing. Sis used safety goggles, I suppose I should have too, I still have mine from the lab.



I just felt like it, so I went to the supermarket and bought a packet of sausages. The batter is a standard pancake / yorkshire pudding mix.

150g flour
2 eggs
450ml milk

Make a hole in the flour, add the eggs and milk and whisk until no lumps. Add s&p and herbs, I used thyme.

Heat oven to 200ºC, roast the sausages in 2tbsp oil for 5-10mins. Pour the batter into the baking tray and bake until golden, around 40mins.

I think the tray was too large so the batter was too spread out, making it a bit burnt at the bottom. In retrospect I should have bought two packets of sausages; or used a smaller baking tray.

Seasoning was nice. Crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. And sausages.

duck breast with roast potatoes and okra


Duck breast is easy to prepare, just need a little patience. Pat dry the duck and score the skin, then season. In a cold pan, place skin side down and turn the gas to medium. Let the fat render for 6-7mins, basting the meat and removing excess fat.

The potatoes had already been parboiled and in the oven. As soon as the duck fat started rendering, add a tablespoon or two to the potatoes for flavour.

Finish the duck in the oven, when the potatoes are almost done.

We had okra in the fridge so I fried them in the same pan as the duck.

15hr slow cooked lamb flap


I saw diced lamb flap at the supermarket the other day. Lamb flap is belly, or sometimes called breast. It’s not a cut of meat I see very often—lamb comes in leg, shank or shoulder, occasionally neck fillet. Looks very much like any other belly cut—layers of meat and fat with some bones. Cheaper than shank and looks perfect for braising.

I used the standard braising method and ingredients. Brown the meat, remove. Sweat mirepoix in browning juices, return meat to pan. Add chopped tomatoes, red wine and seasoning. I splashed out and got fresh rosemary this time.

Instead of braising for 3hrs in the oven, I used my dad’s thermal pot. This is a device that is made up of an inner cooking pot and an outer insulated container. The idea is a vacuum is created around the cooking pot, keeping it hot and the food slow cooking for a long time. Apart from the initial heating no other energy source is needed. A good video demo by one of the manufacturers showing how to cook lamb shanks:

I brought everything to a rolling boil for 20mins. Then it was simply a matter of leaving the stew overnight, total around 15hrs. It was still hot when I took it out, apparently the food can be kept at around 60˚C for 12hrs. I returned it to the hob, brought it to boiling for about 10mins to reduce the gravy a little. Cooking in a sealed device meant no evaporation.

Served the braised lamb flap with grilled okra and rosemary flatbread. Everything homemade and economical. Success all round. 

#56 new recipe: chicken ballotine


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in cooking history is Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names, Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice


Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

#52: new recipe — roast belly pork

roastbellypork01 roastbellypork03

Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

bacon egg pancake stack

bacon egg pancake stack

Mum and I saw this in the newspaper, about some restaurant café that was serving a bacon and egg pancake stack. The article made it out to be some newfangled thing, to combine savoury and sweet. The saying about the frog at the bottom of the well comes to mind. Anyway, we decided we should try our own version. Cheated and used pancake mix that she has in the cupboard, and some weird ham-like bacon she had in the freezer. She wanted scrambled eggs, so the fried egg topper I had in mind had to be adjusted. I know I could have made scrambled for her plate and fried for mine, but couldn’t be arsed. Threw in some blueberries because we have 8 punnets in the fridge.

Breakfast for dinner, yum. Next time I’ll try to find American-styled crispy bacon, and fry the egg. I’ll also use rings, or my tiny 4” frying pan, so the pancakes are the same size. There might be a next time, because we have a jar of maple syrup now.

braised lamb shank


This is my standard stew recipe. Brown the meat, remove. Deglaze pan with mirepoix and cooking liquid. Add canned tomato, put meat back, season, cover, cook in oven at 160-180°C for 3 hours. Remove lid/foil about 30mins from the end. It’s pretty foolproof.

The meat this time was lamb shank, and nowadays I’m chef-y enough to trim the ends to expose the bone. The cooking liquid was a dark beer my dad found in the cupboard. I like Guinness and ales and dark beers but this one was actually too harsh to drink. As a braising liquid, it worked well, giving the sauce an intensity without bitterness that was different to wine.

I took some cous cous from home, intending to serve with the shanks but mum wanted mashed potatoes. Cous cous next time.

braised beef cheeks


We saw someone make braised beef cheeks on an Australian cookery show recently, and wanted to try. It’s a cheaper cut but because there’s only 2 cheeks per animal, not as easy to get as we thought, Mum had to ask the butcher at the market to reserve them for her. They are HUGE when they came out of the packet, I didn’t weigh them but each felt at least 500g, more because there were lots of trimmings. Took me a good half an hour to trim the 2 cheeks, the trimmings were tough and the meat itself also quite tough. I cut them into large chunks.

Usual braising method. Browned the meat, remove from pan. Added mirepoix, tomato paste and returned the meat to the pan. Added 1/3rd bottle of red wine (picked a strong Melbec this time, it was on sale 2-for-1) and because we didn’t have stock, just water. Seasoned, brought back to the boil and braised in oven at 160°C for 3hrs.

By the end of the cooking, even the tough tendon and fat from the trimmings were soft and edible. I originally kept them in the pan for flavour, so it was a bonus to have more to serve. Two cheeks could easily serve 6-8 people. We had them with roast potatoes and salad. In terms of taste, the cheeks had a nice beefy flavour. In terms of texture, a bit like brisket.

lamb and whisky

lambrack03 lambwhisky02

The lamb racks turned out pretty well. I had two batches. The first batch roasted in mm’s oven at 200°C, but hers is a small countertop oven and I didn’t notice that we had it on grill only. Once we turned both top and bottom elements on, it only took 10mins more to get to rare, by that time they’ve been cooking for about 30mins. The second batch I seared first then put in my oven at 180°C for 20mins. I can control it better with my own equipment. Then again, I also burned my palm on the handle of the pan.

We had a leisurely lunch with the lamb, and mm made a couple of nice salads — chili marinaded cucumber and sesame oil flavoured bean sprouts. And then we got started with our whisky flight. Mainly Japanese whisky and mostly pure malt blends:

  • Nikka from the barrel — Mr Murray described it as an unspecified malt; came in a cute perfume bottle like bottle; clean and sweet
  • Nikka Pure Malt Red — fruity and quite light
  • NIkka Pure Malt Black — sweet and big, quite like a Speyside
  • Nikka Pure Malt White — slightly smoky, with its Yoichi content, need to drink this very slowly
  • Yamazaki 12 — pleasant, typical Yamazaki
  • Macallan 12 — as a contrast to the Yamazaki, very typical, bigger than Japanese
  • Yoichi — I think this was either 10 or 12, slightly peaty
  • Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 — great value for money, easy daily drinking
  • Kavalan Bourbon cask (from Taiwan) — I remembered it as bering really good, but it tasted a bit rough compared with the others

Only a small sip of each, the total we each had was probably just a double. The Pure Malts were quite good, and each had its own character. The Nikka from the barrel was the real surprise. With a higher alcohol content of 58.6% it was sweet and smooth and very easy to drink. No wonder I tend to prefer cask strength whiskies.

p.s. There are different types of whisky blends. What is referred here as pure malt is a blended malt, ie a blend made from single malts only. It’s also known as vatted or sometimes all malt. Not to be confused with generic blends which includes whiskies made with other type of grains; or even grain alcohol itself.

french trimmed lamb chops


Going to mm’s place tomorrow. After some discussion, she requested lamb. I went to the frozen meat supplier and got a rack of lamb, 7-8 ribs. The supplier cut them in half at my request but otherwise the rack was not prepared. This is an interesting shop, they supply hotels and restaurants; the shop is lined on all sides by huge freezers with ominous looking steel doors like giant cadaver lockers. Good prices though, almost wholesale.

I wanted to french trim them, like I see on tv. Not 100% clean off the bone at the ends, but not too bad for a first effort. They will marinade in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper and a bit of worcester sauce overnight before roasting in the oven. I generally don’t add salt in marinades but I do add a few drops of worcester sauce especially to meat.

bavette steak


Having defrosted the freezer, and with mm coming on Friday, I needed to replenish my food supply. Went to Whole Foods to get balsamic vinegar and veal rib roast, then saw bavette steak on special. 350g for only £3-ish. I’d never cooked bavette steak before, and a little online research reveals that it’s also known as flank or flap steak. Marinated it overnight with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Fast grilling to ensure it stays medium rare, rested for 10mins. Nice flavour. Even at this doneness, it’s not exactly soft and a tiny bit tough, but I’d definitely buy it again.

roasted quail


I like shopping at Waitrose because they have more unusual stuff. Yesterday I saw prepared guinea fowl and quail. I haven’t had small game birds for a while so I bought the quail to try. They are already trussed up ready for the oven. Season and roast for 25mins at 190°C, basting a couple of times, and they are ready. They are quite small, so 2 of them, especially on a running day. Great to eat with fingers. Very tasty, succulent and not dry at all.

sunday duck


It seems that all I eat nowadays is steak and duck. (Well, there’s the soup weekday evenings and chicken or salmon for lunch, but I digress.) I bought 4 duck breasts at Tesco’s yesterday, and even though I have a huge pot of lamb stew in the oven, it’s duck for dinner again. Yummy. These are very nicely pink and served with delicious duck fat potatoes (fat from last week), roasted celeriac and savoy cabbage.

fresh seabass


seabassfresh seabassfilet

I bought a couple of fresh seabass when I was at Brixton market yesterday. The fishmonger cleaned them, but left them whole. I debated whether to cook them whole or to filet them and decided that I really don’t like eating any fish that still has bones. I have a fish knife, and I know how to take the skin off, but I’d never really tried fileting before. It wasn’t too difficult, although there was more wastage than I would have liked. I even managed to get rid of the pin bones, luckily it’s a fish that doesn’t have bones that are too small or fiddly.

Pan frying took about 1 minute each side. I served it with the vegetarian caviar I got a while ago, sauteéd prawns, scampi, roasted baby potatoes and asparagus. It was a running day, so I had a cider with it too.

venison with little gem lettuce


And now back to the regular food porn series. I got this venison steak for £5 at M&S on Friday. Pan fried for about 6mins so it’s still very rare. Deglazed the pan with butter and served with sautéed little gem lettuce. Took all of 10mins. Drinking it with a beaujolais nouveau I got last week. I’ll never get on Masterchef until I learn more about artistic presentation, but I cook pretty well, I think.

poached chicken


This is a very simple, healthy, no oil recipe from elise. It keeps the juices intact so the meat doesn’t get dry, and even people who don’t like chicken breasts should like it.

Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise, season with s&p, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Wrap up tightly in cling film (American: plastic wrap), tie the ends in a double knot — using the type that is microwavable. Alternatively, wrap in parchment paper or foil then plastic for people who don’t like plastic touching their food.

Bring a pot of water to boil and turn the heat off. Place the wrapped chicken in the hot water, cover and allow to slowly cook for 20-30mins, depending on the thickness of the chicken. It’s just like sous-vide, only no need for expensive equipment. Remove and serve with a nice salad and sauce. I used an apple & chilli jam although pesto, gravy, even ketchup will be good.

veal chops with red wine reduction


Free range veal chop from the real food festival a few weeks ago. I lightly browned it and then finished cooking in the oven. Meanwhile I made the sauce. I don’t normally make separate sauce or gravy, although I know the principle — the sauce makes the dish. It’s too much bother for one portion. I find it’s often enough to just have s&p plus the juices from the de-glazed pan (okay, I use flavoured salt and flavoured pepper so there are about 10 different ingredients in my s&p, that’s the secret).

This time, inspired by Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s recipe, I made a reduction from red wine, garlic and thyme. It tasted too sharp and vinegary so I added a drop of honey and a teaspoon of apple & chili jam. It was just right, lifted the whole dish to another level. I might have to invest in one of those very small saucepans to make sauces.

roast lamb

roastlamb01 roastlamb02

We bought this really nice boneless lamb shoulder roll last week and i made it for mm this weekend. The joint was 700g, or 1.5 pounds. The cooking time was recommended at 25mins per 500g, plus 25mins for medium. I reduced the additional 25 to 15mins so it was nice and pink. Roasted it with garlic and rosemary plus a whole garlic and brussel sprouts. The new potatoes were boiled. While it was resting, I made a small amount of gravy with potato water and a bit of stock cube — had to improvise, don’t have a ready supply of homemade stock here.

Had mulled wine that we didn’t drink over christmas, so I warmed it up and we had it with the lamb dinner. Kind of a perfect meal to bring in the new year, right?

pasta with squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese


There are still some summer squash left at farmer’s markets. I got green and yellow pattypans and small yellow courgettes. Two new recipes, the first one is rigatoni with summer squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese, from the kitchn.

  • cook and drain pasta, keep a little of the cooking water
  • fry up the bacon and cut into pieces, drain on kitchen towel
  • pour out all but a little of the bacon fat, sweat garlic
  • add courgettes and cook till done
  • add pasta to pan, season
  • add fresh basil
  • turn heat off, crumble goat’s cheese over
  • add a splash of pasta water to make a creamy sauce

My bacon was in bite sized pieces, unlike the recipe which used it as topping. I wanted to eat that bacon! I used rigatoni, I think a smaller and more delicate pasta would have made the dish prettier. But no complaints. It tasted wonderful. I made this on Saturday, for carb loading for the 20-miler on Sunday. I had TWO helpings.

pan fried venison tenderloin


They were cooking elk on chopped, which reminded me that I had a delicious venison tenderloin. Car’s cousin gave it to me, her husband hunted and they had lots of venison in their freezer. All I did was pan fried it with some fresh thyme, and kept it very rare, almost undercooked. It wasn’t gamey at all, delicate and tasty. Served it with rocket and cherry tomatoes.

#59(10) summer lasagna


I read about summer lasagna recipes at the kitchn. I never make lasagna because it takes too long and it’s too stodgy for me, but take out the baking and the heavy sauce and it’s a great version of a traditional dish. They had a few recipes, this one at framed was the closest to how I wanted it, and had the best picture.

Normally lasagna is made with ricotta but I didn’t have it, and besides I’m not a huge fan. I substituted mozzarella instead.

  • cook lasagna sheets in water until done — took longer than the packet said, then I realised the packet assume the sheets will be baked later; altogether around 15mins
  • sauté courgettes in garlic until soft — the pic doesn’t show it well, I had both green and yellow courgettes
  • once courgettes are almost done, toss cherry tomatoes into the pan to cook for a bit, then add red pesto
  • start building — vegetables, pasta, cheese, vegetable, pasta, cheese, vegetable
  • decorate with fresh basil, a drizzle of EVOO and fresh ground pepper

vegetarian burgers


I seem to have developed an obsession with vegetarian burgers recently. They’re so simple to prepare — microwave or grill — and go well with the rocket, pepper and cherry tomato combination I seem to have permanently in my fridge. I agree mostly with serious eat’s taste test, that commercial burgers are pretty much what you’d expect packaged food to taste like. The original flavours seem to be the best, and since I eat the burger plain without bread, the taste (or lack of) really comes through.

The natural next step for me is to make my own. This is based on 101 cookbook’s ultimate vegetarian burger recipe, with modifications. This is for 12 burgers.

  • blend 2 cans chickpeas with 4 eggs until smooth(ish)
  • season with rosemary, thyme, s&p
  • add half a tub alfafa sprouts and 2 chopped up portabello mushrooms
  • mix in about 250g breadcrumbs and leave for 5mins
  • shape into burgers and grill

A tad on the dry side, I’ll use less breadcrumbs next time. Other vegetables can be used, I like having mushroom. Heidi makes thicker burgers, split them in half and use as the bread equivalent. I might try that next time.

#59(9) rigatoni with broccoli rabe

broccorabe01 broccorabe02

A lively discussion was had when my post about broccoflower fed over to facebook. Among the topics discussed were canned asparagus and broccolini. Broccolini is known in the UK as tenderstem broccoli and was the featured ingredient in the 2008 bbc good food calendar. I’ve never seen it in any of my supermarkets or markets here, but I still decided to look for it this weekend.

Not surprised that I couldn’t find it. I did however find broccoli rabe (aka rapini) at Edgewater Produce (can always rely on them for fruits and vegs, and an overflowing shopping basket for around $20, that’s another post). A number of recipes online use it like broccoli, especially in a pasta dish. So that’s what I did. Sautéed it with garlic, threw in a few cherry tomatoes for colour and served it with rigatoni. Needed to carb up for a 10k practice run, so it was perfect.

It has more “green” flavour than broccoli, that’s true. I didn’t find it bitter, the trick when cooking is to teat it like any other stem-y veg you find at Asian wet markets — in terms of taste and appearance it’s more like gai lan or choy sum, so I added soy sauce and a bit of sugar in addition to the usual s&p. I’ll buy it again, for sure.

cooking weekend

eggpotatoskin02 muffinblueberry02

I went crazy with the cooking this weekend, and have ended up with way more food than one person can reasonably consume. Heck, a whole family. Recipes to be posted in due course but here’s what I made:

  • braised turkey leg from elise — turkey drumsticks, mirepoix, turkey stock, potato, carrot and parsnips for 3 hrs on the hob — a satisfying and economical stew for the winter
  • roasted brussels sprouts, elise again — roasted with olive oil, garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of salt — surprisingly irresistible, the outside leaves were crunchy and the inside wasn’t mushy like traditional boiled sprouts
  • eggs baked in potato skin, from kate in the kitchen — easy to make, if a little time consuming (potatoes take 1 hr to bake, eggs take 15mins to set) but so good! For a non-vegetarian version, sprinkle some bacon bits on top
  • mashed potato — from the potato flesh, see above. I made 3 baked potatoes so lots of mash, and also 6 of those baked egg skins
  • grilled chicken thigh — a whole pack of 8, for during the week
  • blueberry muffins — one of my standby recipes, from delia’s summer collection — i can never get the muffins to puff up like commercially made ones, but i’ve always loved these, and they are never too sweet

There’s also mushroom, rocket, spinach, yellow pepper, carrots and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, as well as honeycrisp apples and red bartlett pears. How much running do I have to do to eat all of that?!

braised beef short ribs


This is from simply recipes though to be honest it’s a standard braising recipe that I’ve used time and time again. The 2 new things are: short ribs, which I’ve never done before and reducing the sauce till it’s very thick.

  1. brown ribs (no oil needed, it’s already fat enough), remove from pan
  2. remove excess oil, sweat mirepoix until soft
  3. add 1 bottle wine, reduce to 1/3 original volume and almost syrupy
  4. return ribs to pan, add chicken stock until ribs are almost covered — recipe says veal or beef stock, neither of which I have
  5. braise at 180°C for 3hrs until meat is falling off bones
  6. leave overnight — normally it’d be in the fridge, I did one better and left it on my balcony with its 4” of snow
  7. remove fat layer (there’s a lot of it), reheat making sure ribs are well glazed

#58(9) new dish: mushroom asparagus bread pudding


I hadn’t given savoury bread puddings much thought, because of the whole carb thing. But I was looking for new vegetarian recipes and came across this at 101 cookbooks. And the more I read about it, the more sense it makes that it will be a nice, filling dish for main course or as a side dish.

I cut up about 2/3 of a round of sourdough bread into cubes. The bread needed to be stale, and mine had only been out for a day. So I took as much of the crusty part as possible. Instead of sourdough, I think any type of crusty, heavier-than-sliced-white bread will do.

I then added diced mushroom and asparagus. Ended up about half a punnet of mushrooms and about 12 stalks of asparagus. There really is no need to measure, but put in as much as the pan can fit.

The liquid was a mixture of 2 eggs plus 500ml milk and stock (about 2:1 ratio). The recipe talked about cups, which always confuses me. I used ‘normal’ milk, I think skim milk will be too thin. And because this was vegetarian week I used vegetable stock, any other time I would have used chicken stock.

I let the liquid soak into the bread for a bit, then baked at 200°C for 1 hr until the bread is golden brown. Let the pudding stand for 5-10mins before serving.

It’s good! I’ll definitely make it again. There are so many other vegetables that can be used — peppers, butternut squash, root vegetables.

#59(8) pasta with brie & cherry tomato


This is an old recipe revisited. I got this off an early Jamie Oliver series, may even have been the original Naked Chef. Now that’s memories.

It’s so easy to make, no cooking apart from the pasta. I used fettuccine rigate, which is like regular fettuccine except with ridges along the length of the noodle. Basically, cook the pasta, drain and add cubed brie and cherry tomatoes. I used a mixture of fresh and roasted tomatoes. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese. Season and drizzle with olive oil.

#58(8) new dish: oxtail braised in guinness


The idea is always the same: brown the protein, add vegetables, add liquid and cook slowly for 2-3hrs until the meat is tender. Serve over some sort of carb that can mop up the sauce.

I saw oxtail and I was so excited. It’s been a long time. I braised it with a bottle of guinness and several ice cubes of chicken stock. The vegetables were standard mirepoix plus canned tomato. I let the finished product sit in the fridge overnight so the extra fat can solidify to be scraped off.

This was served over potato and turnip mash.

#59(7) mushroom risotto


I’ve always thought risotto is difficult to make, at least perfect. I knew I’d have to try to make it one day, and with the mushrooms I bought at the farmer’s market early this week, it’s a good opportunity. This recipe is inspired by, no surprise, Elise, with modifications. And I didn’t measure.

  1. sauté mushrooms with butter, garlic and cream; set aside
  2. meanwhile, heat up a carton vegetable stock to simmering point
  3. melt butter in heavy pan, add arborio rice
  4. slowly, add stock one ladle at a time, stir until completely absorbed before adding next ladle
  5. when all liquid is absorbed and rice cooked, add mushroom mixture
  6. season, serve with shavings of pecorino (or parmesan)

The verdict — it was scrumptious!!! I can’t stop eating it. It’s like congee made with cream of mushroom soup. The cream and mushroom flavours really came through. And the rice wasn’t hard to make. All I needed to do was focus on what was going on in the pan and not multi-task. The actually cooking of the rice took about 20mins. Can’t wait till I make it again.

#59(6) new pasta: chicken cacciatore pasta


This recipe is from a book that is not a cookbook. It’s unusual to find recipes in hidden inside fiction, but that’s what Karin did with Making up for Lost Time, one of my favourite romances of hers. There are other recipes in there I will try, and I really really would like to have a copy of that From the Waterview cookbook that Jamie Onassis wrote.

This is a lighter version of the traditional chicken cacciatore, and like many traditional dishes each cook will do it differently. I diced the vegetables quite large, and kept the sauce thin. I froze the sauce after cooking, to add to the chicken when I was ready to make the dish.

For the cacciatore sauce:

3 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 red peppers, diced
8oz mushrooms, diced
large can plum tomato
oregano, basil

drain artichokes, keeping the liquid
cook carrots in artichoke juice until soft
add garlic, onions, celery, peppers and mushrooms and heat until cooked
add a little red wine to deglaze
add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 1 hour, adding water if too thick

The chicken was baked separately, adding the sauce about 15mins from the end. I served it with rigatoni, perfect for soaking up the sauce.

#58(6) new dish: roasted beetroot with balsamic chicken


This is a recipe from Donna Hay’s A New Cook. I’ve been looking for ways to use the beets I bought at the farmers market earlier this week. The beet greens recipe based on one from Elise Bauer.

marinade chicken in balsamic vinegar, garlic rub, s&p
scrub beets, keeping skin on, add olive oil, salt and bake at 180°C for around 40mins until soft enough for a knife to run through
about 15mins before the beets are cooked, brown chicken in a pan and add to the beet pan to finish in oven
wash beet greens thoroughly, remove tough stalks and chop roughly
dice 2 slices of bacon, fry in hot pan
add beet greens to bacon, add water, cover and simmer for 10mins until soft; season with worcester sauce and a little sugar
when everything is ready, peel beets, cut into wedges and serve

I bought a couple of bottles of wine, this is Old Moon old vine zinfandel.

#58(5) new dish: scallop, long bean & pepper stir fry


Interesting that wisebread just had an article about the bargains at the local Asian market. That’s exactly what I did, went to the Asian supermarket to get soy sauce and fishballs. I was so happy to see these long beans that I immediately got them, then thought about what i had at home. My fridge and pantry aren’t really that stocked up yet, but I had scallops in the freezer and I usually have bell peppers for salad.

Perhaps unexpected, I’m actually not very good at asian food. The basics of stir-frying I know, even though I hardly do it. Cook the meat first, until almost done then remove. Then cook the vegetables and return the meat at the end to heat through and season. This combination was simple and great. I served it on couscous cos, well, i felt like it. There’s this saying that good food must have colour, smell and taste and i think i achieved that.

#58(4) new dish: braised lamb shank with roasted root vegetable and couscous


This is a simply recipes recipe. I spotted lamb shanks at the supermarket, and decided that this cold weekend would be the perfect opportunity to make it. In steps:

  1. wash, trim lamb then season with s&p and coat lightly with flour
  2. brown in garlic and onion
  3. remove from pan, then add dice carrots and celery. optional is to add leeks, but i don’t like leeks

lambshank03 lambshank05

  1. return the lamb to the pot, add chicken stock, canned tomato and fresh rosemary
  2. simmer for 2.5-3hours until tender
  3. meanwhile dice carrots, parsnips and swede, toss in olive oil and season, roast for 1 hour

swede04 lambshank07

  1. make couscous according to packet instructions
  2. build the dish: couscous at the bottom
  3. then roasted vegetables
  4. stack with whole lamb shank
  5. drizzle sauce, then sprinkle pepper and rosemary

#59(5) new pasta: pan-seared scallops with rigatoni


This was really delicious using vegetables I have in the fridge. The scallops were frozen, in a perfect world I’d get fresh ones. Wash the scallop, driy them over paper towels and pan-fry them in olive oil. Just s&p as seasoning. It only takes a few minutes to get them medium — do NOT cook them completely.

In another pan, cook the rigatoni. When done, drain and add spinach which will cook in the heat of the pasta and pan.

Remove the scallops and quickly toss some yellow pepper pieces into the frying pan. Throw the pasta and spinach in with the peppers to remove the residue at the bottom of the pan. Add a teaspoon of red pesto for flavour.

Arrange the scallops on top of the pasta and veg, add a little black pepper to finish. I suppose a real chef will drizzle over some olive oil but i didn’t do that.

#59(4) new pasta: spaghetti with shrimp & simple tomato sauce


This was a quick dish I threw together cos I didn’t want to spend too much time prepping and cooking. I got the peeled shrimps from the supermarket. Fresh but packaged. Normally I’d go for the larger fresh (still swimming) prawns, cook a large batch and freeze them.

I sautéed the shrimps and set them aside. While the pasta was cooking I chopped up a couple of ripe tomatoes and reduced them till they were soft and just like a sauce.

When the pasta was ready, I tossed everything together.

Simple and quick. Not a jar of sauce in sight.

cooking 101: spaghetti bolognese


Anyone who doesn’t: a) like b) know how to make this dish should have to eat nothing but oatmeal for a month.

Made everything from scratch, no jars of sauce. Oh, okay, the tomatoes are canned chopped tomatoes. I like mushrooms in my spag bol, I suppose I should dice them finely so they are similar sized to the mince, but I like my mushroom visible and chunky.

#59(2) new pasta — penne with red pesto, tomatoes and olives


It all started with this week’s friday food fiesta topic, which was olives. It got me thinking how I can use olives to make a quick and simple dish. Aside from serving them on their own as tapas of course.

It was unbelievably easy to make with this. I had all the ingredients in my fridge. Tossed cooked penne in a generous dollop of red pesto, then added pitted kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes and the last of my jar of peppadew. Season, adding a little dried basil. An altogether sweet combination. Worth making again, just as soon as I get more peppadew.

#58(3) new dish — grilled balsamic chicken with limes


This is a Donna Hay recipe (though I don’t understand why she doesn’t take advantage of the internet and post some of her recipes on her website). Very simple and easy to make.

marinade chicken in balsamic vinegar, garlic, olive oil and pepper
place on grill
add limes to grill halfway through
serve on a bed of salad, i used a red salad of carrot, tomato, yellow pepper and sweetcorn

I had the leftovers cold today, as a grilled chicken salad and it was just as good.