May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
Its been two and a half months since we moved to Darwin. In that time, I have started making a basket out of scrap material collected over my 29 years, made huge amounts of pickled cucumbers, watched far to many murder mysteries, tried to commit myself to balancing on my head at least once a day, finally got a job, and consumed large quantities of pho. AND pho could just so happen to be the very best thing that has happened to me since I arrived. A traditional Vietnamese soup, it’s so easy to make, and so so tasty.
As I have learnt, there are a few things you need to consider when making pho. The first is your stock. I always recommend people make their own stock out of organic meat, rather than buying it from the store. Not just because it tastes so much better but because homemade stock is very very good for you.
For pho, I have made and used stock from chicken, beef and fish. All work well, just adding a slightly different flavour. Just remember that fish stock can be quite strong, so adjust the quantities as needed.
The next thing you need to consider is the herbs you garnish your pho with. My favourite by far is Thai basil, but you can also use coriander, mint and traditional basil or combinations of each.
How to make stock
To make stock, I usually use the leftover bones and carcass from the previous nights roast dinner (about 1 – 2 kg). If I haven’t had a roast in a while, I will sometimes use 4 chicken drumsticks instead. I will place them in a large pot with one or two bay leaves and a good pinch of salt. Some people add vegetable scraps too and you can if you want. This is then covered with water, (about 4 – 6 litres) and brought to the boil before leaving to simmer for 3 – 4 hours, skimming the scum as needed. This can then be frozen into serve size portions (say two cups each) and used when needed. It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for 3 – 4 months.
Pho (serves 4)
For the broth
4 cups stock
4 cups water
4 star anise
1 – 2 cinnamon quills
1 inch piece of ginger cut in half
1 onion cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic peeled
1/3 cup fish sauce
375 g flat rice noodles
Roughly 300 g organic beef very thinly sliced
2 limes cut into quarters
A bunch of fresh Thai basil
About 200 g beansprouts
2 fresh chillies cut into strips
Chilli sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Additional fish sauce
Place, stock, water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic and fish sauce in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and allow to simmer for around 30 minutes.
In the meantime, cook rice noodles as per package suggestions, and arrange limes, basil, bean sprouts, chilli and sauces on a serving plate in the middle of your table.
Divide the cooked noodles into 4 bowls. Place the raw beef strips on top and cover with steaming hot broth. The hot broth will cook the meat as it makes its way to the table. Allow people to add the additional ingredients in the centre of your table, as per their liking.
March 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
Our new life is settling into itself. A bed has been made out of scrap wood from the recycling centre, a portable oven found in our land lords shed, a table, two chairs, a fridge and no job!… yet.
There is something rather fragile and strange about things when they are just beginning. A humble recipe of uncertainty, insecurity, space to be reflective, waiting, letting go, anticipation, and in this case, much time left to watch the rain. And boy does it rain, heavy thunder on our roof.
The first thing I felt like cooking when I arrived in Darwin were these Oatcakes – probably for their comforting nature. They are halfway between a cracker and a biscuit being both salty and sweet, they are incredible with cheese and even better with a sip of red wine when there is something to celebrate. I found the recipe at Molly Wizenberg’s very enjoyable and always inspiring blog Orangette. Apart from her recipes and beautiful photos, I think what I enjoy most is the honesty in her writing and the courage this takes.
Rather than re-write her recipe I am just going to send you over to her website which you can do by clicking here.
December 12, 2012 § 5 Comments
I have always taken on a rather flippant character in the kitchen and I have always been very hopeless at following recipes. It’s a bit like an uncontrollable desire to not do as I am told. But I think this also comes from being an impatient kind of person – I can never be bothered to measure things properly, I can’t stand all those different sized measuring spoons, and never seem to be able to find the measuring cup in our chaotic and unruly cupboards. I’m also impatient enough to forget that it is this very nature that is the reason for unruly cupboards in the first place. Things get thrown on shelves with doors slammed and a quick prayer that nothing will come tumbling out when displaced by the new object that has descended upon its turf.
I admire those people, who don’t seem to notice the things that slow them down, those that can measure flour down to the milligram, who level a cup with the scrape of a knife, who follow a recipe methodically.
The recipe below for beef rendang is one I first ate at my friend and colleague Noel’s house. Noel and his wife Jenny are amazing cooks. The recipe came out of an old and battered book, with pages yellowing and crinkled at the sides. They picked it up when they were in Indonesia, perhaps more than 30 years ago, and they have been cooking out of it ever since. It is very much my kind of recipe – humorously vague with a few Indonesian words for ingredients thrown in here and there. It leaves much to the imagination. But it is also an absolutely beautiful recipe. The meat becomes lovely and tender with hours spent cooking and the flavours are rich and creamy.
Below I have written the recipe directly from the book, but with some added notes in honour of people who like things more precise, and in an attempt to be more like that myself. I hope you enjoy.
1 lb steak (I used 600g)
2 – 4 tsp chilli
1 scant tsp laos (galangal powder – I used fresh)
1 medium onion grated
1 small clove garlic crushed (I used 2)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
3 cups thick santan (coconut cream)
1 knob ginger (I used about 1 inch)
½ tsp turmeric
1- 2 stalk/piece lemon grass pounded (and chopped)
Asam (juice of half a lemon)
(I also added 2 small potatoes and a small sweet potato)
Cut the meat into serving size pieces and place in a wide saucepan (with hot oil – brown the meat).
Crush Ginger and add, with onion and garlic and other spices (stir until fragrant).
Add Santan (coconut cream).
(Add potatoes and sweet potato)
Bring quickly to the boil, stirring frequently to prevent catching until the oil comes out.
Continue the slow cooking until the oil is re-absorbed. This can take 2-3 hours told, even up to 8 hours (I cooked for about 2 hours, being impatient offcourse).
The dish should be completely dry when served (I think they mean thick here).
(Serve with rice)
Note: New potatoes, red beans (previously soaked over night), or pieces of young jackfruit, can be added to this dish when the santan has come to the boil.
Instead of beef – can use chicken, prawn, duck, liver, egg, goat, or kangaroo meat.
October 24, 2012 § 7 Comments
Well, I made it. I am on the other side of something quite big, something that has kept me rather distracted from myself and all the other things I have wanted to do for the past two years. I have finished my masters! And there is a very peaceful knowledge that time is now on my side. It belongs to me again. This is nice. Well very nice actually. Overwhelmingly fantastic!
So here I am with some space, to do something for myself, slowly and how ever I want to. Thats a lovely feeling.
The garden is caught between winter and summer and remains positively neglected and wild. But, this is not so bad, because I know that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Its wonderful to know I can now spend more time taming broad beans, if thats what I want to do. But perhaps more importantly, more time nourishing my wicked taste for very fine delicious things.
Smashed Broad Beans and Peas
2 cups fresh podded broad beans
1 cup fresh podded peas
a decent handful of fresh mint
a decent couple of splashes of olive oil
juice of one lemon
about 1/4 of a garlic clove crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the peas and beans in boiling water for no more than two minutes, drain and rinse in cold water immediately. Pull the outer skin of each podded broad bean – and puree all ingredients together.
Its that easy
Serve on toast with a poached egg and a smattering of finely grated pecorino.
April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
It was such a quiet morning this one. Everyone was still in bed. The mist hung around till late. The grass was wet and cold under my feet. I thought about the brown snake we had seen yesterday and I thought about my shoes but I did not want to break the morning by going back inside. There is a sameness to all the mornings here, this place that grew me up. The light follows the same cycles year in year out. I know this landscape like I know the lines on the palm of my hands. Painted behind my eyes.
February 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
On returning from India, I vowed to keep my pace slow, to let that country that had saturated my thoughts and body linger into my Melbourne life. But I knew it was stolen time when a week had passed and I still felt no hairs turn grey. I needed a strategy. I decided to make sure I do the things that make me happy. I would take a photo a day, I would draw more pictures, I would write more often in a book with thick cream paper – pages that allowed my thoughts to spill out and look comfortable there, all in a row. It didn’t matter for the words meanings, just the black on cream, the repetition making the messy letters look organised, thoughtful.
My photo a day has ended up being more like 3 photos every 3 days, often at night, just before bed, when I remember. But it doesn’t seem to matter, its a small piece of time out, like that quiet moment smokers have on the veranda. I haven’t noticed any more hairs turn grey. Here are some of them.
February 26, 2012 § 5 Comments
Im a little tired of late, and pulling my thoughts into words seems to get stuck somewhere far back in my brain, unable to reach the nerve endings of my fingers to type anything audable or useful. So I am keeping this simple… just the recipe and a few photos. I know it has been a bit of a trend of late – perhaps some quite moments when life slows down will solve this problem and my thoughts will be inspired to carry themselves to my limbs. Until then, here is a recipe for Harissa. I was dreaming of this all winter, waiting for capsicums to come into season, it is a delicious spicy sauce great on curries, fried tofu, burgers, lamb cutlets….
Recipe for Harissa
2 red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted
2 tsp coriander seeds roasted
5 small bullet chillies de seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp salt
100 ml oil
Roast the red capsicum in a hot oven until black. Place in a bowl with a plate on top in the fridge until it cools. Once cool, peel off the skin, remove seeds and finely dice.
In a hot saucepan toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Roughly crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding roasted capsicum, chillies, garlic and salt. Grind and pumice until smooth. Stir in the oil.
This will keep under a thin layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week.