New Years Eve
January began with a quiet evening among friends, with blini, pizza bites, haloumi salad, ratatouille, and an Aussie barbecue, welcoming the new year. Do you like the view from our borrowed party pad? 🙂
January is a time to restock after the Christmas holidays. Saturday morning, I went to the Eveleigh Markets followed by Paddy’s Markets in Chinatown. Here is part of the morning’s bounty. And, if you want a peek into other people’s kitchens, please visit the “In My Kitchen” posts hosted by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
January is a time to dive into cookbooks (that I bought, ie, non-sponsored), three in particular.
To start, Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor. I didn’t need 20 new ingredients and trips to 5 speciality stores to get started. Shallots, turmeric, coriander, fish sauce, supplemented by a few easy-to-make pantry staples (from ingredients available even in good supermarkets in Sydney) resulted in clean yet complex flavours.
We’ve had golden egg curry (excuse the photos from early blogging days…), tamarind and pumpkin curry and travellers eggplant curry. In this heat wave-y weather, we’ve been dipping into salads – coming soon to a blog near you. I’ll come back to this book again and again.
People who follow The Garum Factory probably also know that Jody Adams and Ken Rivard published a book, In the Hands of a Chef. I recently got a copy, and have been immersed in Jody’s friendly and instructive voice. The approach to food seems to be just how I would like to cook and eat all the time. It serves as a reminder that, on some weekends or when we have friends over, I can take time to make my own stock, get people into the kitchen, make it fun, and focus on fresh seasonal food.
I’ve made the ‘jewel-like’ goat cheese terrine, but didn’t get photos (sorry Jody & Ken). Oliver’s chicken stew is next. To make up for my omission, here’s one from Ken himself – click on the image for their panelles recipe:
Then, I found a copy of Gay Bilson’s Plenty: Digressions on Food. More a memoir and a food history of Sydney than a recipe book, it takes the reader through memories of Gay and Tony Bilson’s restaurants – iconic restaurants of their times, preparing food, the people, the meals. And tucked between the pages, like leaves from Gay’s notebook, are recipes from meals they have served, from chefs who worked in their restaurant.
This line from the cover of the book describes it so well, I won’t try for my own: “Gay Bilson’s writing is in turn cerebral and sensuous, analytical and celebratory, purposeful and playfully digressive.” I’m carrying this book to work, so I can read a few pages during lunch hour. It takes me away from the CBD and reminds me that dinner can be a simple yet pleasurable experience.
Mindful eating, a steamed egg custard
And finally (phew!), I read the challenge from Stéphane of My French Heaven to eat mindfully – to eat something with minimum cooking or seasoning, to appreciate it for what it is. Since it was a challenge for ‘real foodies’, how could I say no?
I made steamed egg custard. A recipe from (southern?) China, the simplest version has eggs, water, a touch of salt and pepper: the egg mixture is steamed – gently! – until it just sets.
Simple, yet hard to make just so. Too much stirring, the custard will have bubbles. Too much heat, the custard will seize up and become tough, meaty in texture. Wrong bowls, or too much egg mixture, the outside will overcook before the centre sets. Too much heat, the custard surface will become pockmarked. My first attempt positively puffed up, souffle-like – and might have made Julia Child proud – alas.
But get this right, you’ll be rewarded with the silkiest, softest, almost-buttery custard. It just wants to slip past your tongue, and feels like eating nothing at all. The simple version is all about the eggs. Invest in good organic eggs – ones with a thick shell and a bright orange-reddish yolk, from hens scratching for worms in open spaces – and you will have chicken soup for the southern Chinese soul.
Here’s the basic recipe. Give this a go. If you make souffle, congratulate yourself on conquering a French culinary feat and eat it mindfully anyway.
Steamed egg custard
(similar recipes all over the interwebs)
4 free range eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
To serve and garnish
light soy sauce and sesame oil, optional
thinly sliced spring onion, white/light green part only
toasted and ground black sesame
1. In a large bowl, stir eggs, water, salt and pepper together until well blended. Pour into a measuring jug (this makes it easier to divide into equal portions), straining the mixture through a fine sieve to get rid of large bubbles.
2. Pour mixture into two or four bowls. The bowls should be heavy-ish and heat proof, such as Chinese ceramic bowls or pyrex. If there are floating bubbles, consider using a skewer or toothpick to prick them.
3. Boil water in a large saucepan or wok, set a steamer into the saucepan or in the wok. Reduce heat so the water is bubbling gently. Place bowls into steamer, cover and steam for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your bowl.
4. The custard is done when it is just set and only have a slightly wobbly (but solid) centre. A skewer inserted should also come out clean with no liquid clinging. (You may need to do a couple of test runs before figuring out the optimal water temperature and steaming time for the bowls you are using. It took me 3 attempts to get an ok result.)
5. Remove bowls, let cool slightly, garnish and serve.
Tagged: Burma, chinese, cookbooks, Digression on Food, eating mindfully, Eveleigh, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, Gay Bilson, IMK, In my kitchen, In the Hands of a Chef, Jody Adams, Ken Rivard, markets, mindfulness, My French Heaven, Naomi Duguid, New Years Eve, Paddy's, Plenty, Rivers of Flavour, steamed egg custard, The Garum Factory