Archive for the ‘dips & snacks’ Category

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Vine & cheese…

December 4, 2013

vine-haloumiOn the weekend, along with another crack at the char-grilled octopus (a big hit with the punters, it turns out, specially served with aioli) I revisited this old Karen Martini recipe for haloumi and roasted garlic wrapped in a vine leaf and served with peach.

I just put a slice of peach on each piece, stuck a toothpick through each one and then handed a platter around at an afternoon of drinks and snacks in the back yard. It was another hit, so keep it in mind if you need a slightly unusual plate of morsels some time. I did everything but the cooking ahead of time and then it was just a matter of slinging them in the frypan for a few minutes. Worth it, I reckon.

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The China syndrome …

November 29, 2010

Inspired by our Chinese sojourn a few weeks ago, I tried this Dong Do Pork featured on Poh’s Kitchen recently. I cannot tell you how good it is, and how simple. I cooked it for two hours, several hours ahead of serving time, and just left it in the cooking pot on  the cool stove-top.

Then just before serving I cranked the heat back up to warm the sauce as we carved the meat, although ‘carved’ is the wrong word really – more like ‘nudged’ and it fell apart with great lusciousness!

I doubled the sauce quantity as at first my pork belly piece seemed to sit a bit too high out of the liquid – possibly my pot was too big – but again, it worked perfectly once the liquid was doubled. Next time I’d tone down the sugar a little, but that could be just my own preference.

I did sear the meat skin-side first as per the recipe, and although as you can see my scoring and cross-hatching of skin wasn’t nearly as elegant or intricate as Poh’s, it did the job of rendering away some of the fat just fine.

Everyone who ate it loved it, and the meat itself was utterly melt-in-the-mouth. Good free-range pork no doubt helped matters.

I urge you to try it – you’ll love it.

Alongside the pork I served a little sesame cucumber salad.

One of the biggest surprises to me about Chinese food in Shanghai (and elsewhere during our previous trip) was how brilliantly and how often the Chinese use cucumber as a side dish or snack before the meal. This cucumber salad, replicated from here, is a slightly Westernised version – and it’s very good. Light and zingy and fresh, perfect accompaniment to the richness of the pork.

Cucumber salad to accompany Poh’s Dong Do Pork

  • 5 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste
1. Halve the cucumbers lengthwise, remove the seeds and then halve again crosswise and cut into batons.
2. Place the cucumber strips in a colander and sprinkle the salt over. Let the cucumbers sit for  about 30 minutes, weighed down if you can, to allow some of the water content to leach out.
3. To make the dressing, combine all remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Lay  the cucumber batons in a dish and pour the dressing over. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours; serve cold as a side dish with the pork and some rice.
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On the street: Shanghai snacks

November 10, 2010

The best thing about Shanghai for us was just strolling the streets, and clapping eyes on a new kind of street food stall every day. Lots of snack foods are sold from carts and barrows, and others from shops with windows into the street. Gives new meaning to the term ‘fast food’ – while there are lots of regrettable imports (think Subway and Domino’s Pizza, for sobbing out loud), these stalls are extremely popular with Shanghai locals and lots of anglos too. The several kinds of breakfast pancake were our particular faves as we strolled in the early morning to check out the 7am park life (thousands of people doing their own thing – from tai chi to fan dancing to shuttlecock, parks are a blur of colour and movement in China in the mornings).  Here are a few of our favourite street food things …. if you click on the photo you’ll get a larger version and a wee description. And hopefully if Hamish manages to drop in he might tell us more about these morsels he gets to try every day, the lucky devil.

Next post, hopefully some street food video!

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The Vine Intervention, pt 1

February 19, 2010

Till now, my appreciation of Vitis vinifera has been limited to a lifelong (and let’s admit it, rather passionate) love affair with the grape. I’ve admired the leaves from afar – on the plant – but cooking with them has never appealed. I know everybody loves dolmades, for example, but their vineleaf wrapping has always been way too slimy for my liking. Frankly I’ve found eating dolmades too often to feel like popping a big fat slug in the mouth. So the idea of using those vine leaves packed in oil – ugh.

But joy of joys, these reservations are in the past, because this week I have discovered the joy of cooking with fresh vine leaves, and there ain’t no turning back. I love them. And now I’m plotting to somehow grow a vine here, for our own supply.

This new affair began when Mr & Ms Melba offered me some leaves from their gorgeously lush and laden vine, and mentioned a turkish vine leaf ‘pie’ Ms M had made. I had to check that out. And then the stars aligned, with Karen Martini’s incredible looking vine leaf recipes in last week’s Sun Herald.  Both these dishes are the business. I urge you to pluck a big handful of leaves next time you are in the vicinity of a vine, and try them. One other great thing about the leaves is, as I discovered by leaving a sealed plastic bag full of them in the fridge and then forgetting them for a whole two weeks, that they keep incredibly well. When I opened the bag it was as if they were picked minutes before. Amazing.

This post I’ll share the Karen Martini recipe, which I now understand is a variation on a traditional Greek dish (JMo, if you’re out there, can you confirm?), but was a revelation to me.  Next time, the pie.

Now the recipe below used packaged vine leaves, but was perfect with fresh. The only preparation I did was soak the leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and press dry in a tea towel, and cut out the hard stalk. We used nectarines in place of peach and it was delicious. Having never heard of saba, I used vin cotto as suggested. Di-vine.

Karen Martini’s vine-leaf wrapped haloumi with peach

1 large bulb garlic

olive oil

1 packet haloumi cheese, sliced into 8 pieces

8 vine leaves (rinsed, if packet, or fresh prepared as above)

2 ripe peaches (or nectarines), cut into wedges

1/2 lemon, juiced

3 tbsp saba, a grape must reduction (or vin cotto, or balsamic vinegar)

1. Cut the top off the garlic bulb, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or till soft. Allow to cool.

2. Smear each haloumi slice with the roasted garlic, then wrap tightly in a vine leaf.

3.  Heat 80ml olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook haloumi for 1 minute each side, till the cheese starts to melt, but not burning the leaf.

4. Arrange on a plate, scatter with the nectarine or peach and drizzle with the lemon juice and vin cotto / saba .

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Loaves and fishes: my list of miracle foods

December 15, 2009

Okay, I know Christmas isn’t strictly related to that particular miracle (reminds me of the time my heathen brother-in-law demanded of my mother what the hell Easter eggs had to do with Jesus being born in Bethlehem anyway…), but one of the things I really like Christmas & New Year holidays is the tendency toward spontaneous and sprawly gatherings over food.

You know the kind of thing, two people for lunch turns into ten, and an instant party ensues. But to make that kind of thing fun it’s gotta be stress free – so here’s my list of good stuff you can pull out at the last second for lunch or picknicky dinner, or take to a friend’s place to blast off their Christmas stress.

Some are old summer holiday faves, and some gleaned from these pages this year. Most of this stuff can be bought in advance and shoved in the fridge, freezer or pantry to pull our for miracle-working when requried…

  • Oysters – of course! Buy them unopened a few days before Christmas and keep in a bucket with a wet towel over them in a cool place – they keep for a couple of weeks.
  • Glazed ham – leftovers, for weeks. Mmmmm.
  • Chutneys & pickles – years ago the Empress introduced me to the killer recipe for Christine Manfield’s eggplant pickle.
  • Smoked salmon – or Virginia & Nigella’s cured salmon! – w creme fraiche and/or salmon roe & sourdough
  • Smoked trout –  keep a couple in the freezer and pull them out any old time
  • Cooked prawns, green salad, mayonnaise
  • Bread – keep a supply of sourdough in the freezer
  • Green salad, nicely dressed with good oil & vinegar
  • Chickpeas – of course! Chuck em in a bowl with bottled roasted capsicum & marinated feta or labneh, or try these ideas
  • Baba ganoush & Steph’s beetroot dip – plus packets and packets of rice crackers
  • Quinoa salad or citrus couscous (make a huge batch – both of these keep forever)
  • Lots of luscious, ripe avocado – buy a heap of those rock hard ones now to have softies on hand for later.
  • Lots and lots and lots of ripe tomatoes
  • Devils on horseback – everybody loves them! And you can keep sealed pancetta & pitted prunes on hand for months…
  • A couple of fillets of salmon in the freezer and a couple of spuds can yield a heap of salmon patties for a crowd.
  • Peas! I am never without a huge bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Actually there will be a new post on peas coming shortly…
  • Eggs – chuck a few halved, hard-boiled eggs in a green salad with some chunks of fresh, cured or smoked salmon and you have a delicious twist on nicoise.
  • Labneh – mmmm.
  • Quiche – if you have frozen shortcrust pastry in the freezer, a quiche takes about fifteen minutes to throw together and another twenty to cook. Fast and fab.

Okeydokes, that’s Santa’s (or Jesus’s?) list of magic expandable food for now – but you must have lots of things to add …

*Oh, and today’s Christmas Excess Antidote is courtesy of www.kiva.org– I absolutely love this site. At the click of a mouse you can provide a micro-loan (as little as $25) to someone in a developing country who’s making a go of things with very slim pickings indeed. I love it so much because your loan just keeps on giving – you can either get the money back (though what kind of a person …) or choose that it goes to someone else in the chain. Perfect!

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A new leaf – my miang goong

November 25, 2009

As I passed the excellent Fiji Market in King St, Newtown today (on the way home from the gym, that was – insert praise here), I remembered that’s where I’d seen the betel leaves used to make miang  kham, those little roll-up-and-stick-in-your-gob piles of Thai spicy goodness. So I popped in and snagged myself a pack of these fresh green heart-shaped lovelies (about 10 or 12 leaves for $2.50).

I have many times enjoyed the delectable Miang Goong at Thai Pothong described here but never attempted it myself till this evening. And I have to say, this is one of the zingiest new things I’ve tried in a long time. Tested these little babies not only on Senor but his two Wednesday piano students, adventurous primary-school gourmands Lulu and Riley and their caterer dad, and it got the thumbs up from all.

A quick Google search came up with a few recipes for Miang Khang (that’s without the goong – the prawns) and I chose this one to adapt.

The fiddly bit is the sauce – but I doubled the quantity of this one and had masses left over, now safely in the freezer for easy peasy quick Miang assembly for the next time or two.

My adaptation is here, but there must be lots of proper recipes about the place – I urge you to make this, because even though the sauce is fiddly, it’s much easier than you might think and very very good. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The detail in the devil

November 6, 2009

devilsWell friends, the party season is almost upon us. Oh hell, it’s upon us every week, let’s face it. I just said that as an excuse for talking about one of my favourite nibbles, the devil on horseback.

I had a big fad with these a couple of years ago, and then forgot about them until the amazing Jules served them at her place the other week, and now I’m all agog again at how good they are and have made them several times since.

For those whose parents never served these as snacks at classy ’70s progressive dinners (now there’s a whole other topic for a post …), or who have not otherwise discovered the delights of this little torpedo of salty sweetness, a devil on horseback is basically a prune wrapped in bacon, skewered with a toothpick and then grilled, barbecued or otherwise lightly frazzled.

Put like that, of course, it sounds – well, silly. But believe you me, Kimmy, we are talking seriously good finger food here.

The laziest, most cursory bit of online research reveals little about the ridiculous name, except that it’s a cheaper version of angels on horseback – a fresh oyster wrapped in bacon and then grilled (which I’ve never tried – sounds slippery, but really must give it a go), and this was apparently first documented in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1888, derived from the French dish anges à cheval. All of this explains nothing about horses and angels. I think the horse is the bacon, and the devil (being black, I suppose??? sheesh) is the prune. Go figure. Told you it was nuts.

Anyhoo – enough with the dodgy historical nomenclature, and on with the recipes.

Jules’ absolutely delicious version, and my copies pictured here, were the updated groovified kind made by your friend and mine Maggie Beer, and the recipe is here. Of course it involves verjuice, and orange zest, and rosemary. These are good, as the verjuice plumps up the prune and gives it a succulence it otherwise can lack, and the orange zest provides some zip in what can be a cloying sort of flavour combo. I did mine with some pancetta I had in the fridge, but Maggie says speck or bacon.

My other fave comes from Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery, and is a rather boofier version, direct from the seventies. If you are delicate about salt, stop here, turn around, and take refuge. But if like a true howtoshuckanoysterlover you feel the force strong within you, proceed!

1. First, take one blanched almond.

2. Wrap that little baby in an anchovy, and pop the swaddled nut into the hollow centre of a pitted prune.

3. Wrap in bacon, secure with toothpick and proceed to bung in the oven / stick on the barbecue / in a non-stick frypan, etc.

Repeat procedure for as long as you and your guests can take it. These are so rich and salty you can really only eat about two, although Senor has been known to clear a plate without once gasping for water. Jules and I have discussed possible variations; perhaps a caperberry in place of an anchovy? A teeny smidge of chilli?

Please do have an experimental go – and if you come up with your own variations, tell us all about it.

May the devilish force be with you.

*PS: I know I just said I wouldn’t be here for a bit, but just writing that got me all aquiver about the devils. Now I really am going to be gone for a week …