Category Archives: Kitchen discoveries

A writing process blog frolic, and a favourites list

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Every once in a while, a writing challenge comes along and makes my ears prick up. WP’s “Writing 101” series is one of them – I’ve been doodling along in private, occasionally scrunching up my nose at what comes out of the keyboard (would a quill and parchment make me write more thoughtfully? Or a typewriter?).

Another is the writing process blog tour that’s sprung up around the blogosphere. The lovely Petra @ Food Eat Love nominated me to be part of the blog tour. Have you visited her blog? Go on, I’ll be waiting here when you come back. It’s filled with delicious recipes and gorgeous photos. Most of all, a love of food and cooking really shines through, and isn’t that kind of energy and passion what blogging is about?

So here I am, doing the Tour with a little twist at the end (you didn’t expect a “straight” blog tour, did you?)… The rules are basically to acknowledge the person who nominated you, answer four questions about my blog writing style and process, and then nominate others to continue the Tour de Blogs – read on for my take on these rules – which has a list! Possibly the first list on this blog!

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Also, here be unrelated photos of mushrooms – I found the bailin mushroom! Their firm, meaty texture have led people to use it as a vegetarian alternative to abalone. I think these are sold canned in some S-E Asian countries, but fresh ones are harder to find. A quick turn in rich chicken broth, a bed of garlic chives (barely wilted with a teensy bit of oil), bonito flakes and white sesame. And we had an impromptu star atop our daily rice.

Onto the Tour de Blog Writing Process:

 

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What am I working on?

Right at this moment, the Tour de Blog post! And this week, posts that can be scheduled to publish while I’m on holidays. Expect catch up travel photos, and a couple of easy peasy recipes.

Over time, the things I “work on” change according to the seasons and cookbooks and the bloggy universe. Sometimes, it is all about taming the Yeast Beast; or, it is about baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar vs granulated vs raw sugar. Summer is about that magical salad. During winter, it’s braises, anything with chilli, and that elusive perfect char siu.

What is constant is the idea that food is fun, unexpected, pretty, lumpen-ugly, frustrating, intriguing, but most of all fun. Cooking, baking, jam-making requires method, albeit leavened with a dose of madness. Madness? Call it madness or creativity or inspiration, or “je ne sais quoi”, it makes me want to pick up the camera and say “hey guys, look, I made stuff – !”

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Not quite World Cup: cashew & nutella candies

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There’s Brazil and World Cup fever in the air. Friends are flying over to Brazil to watch the matches, Brazil travel documentaries are all over the TV, and suddenly it’s all about those soups and snacks sold on Brazilian beaches.

Paçoca or pacoquinha is a peanut candy that is as Brazilian as you get. And no wonder, as it is supposed to taste a little like a Reese’s peanut cup! The peanut version of the candy was created during colonial Brazil, and the internet also tells me that there is a tradition of eating paçoca during lent or on Good Friday. As a bonus, because the candies are made using cassava / tapioca / manioc flour, these are also gluten free.

The basic ingredients are roasted peanuts, sugar, dulce de leche or condensed milk, and cassava or tapioca flour (though I’ve also seen recipes calling for biscuit crumbs or bread crumbs, which obviously may not be GF).

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I have wanted to make Brazilian peanut candies for a while. But, we never seem to have peanuts in the house, instead we are always overrun by cashews, almonds or walnuts. So, this candy had a makeover in the kitchen and emerged as not-quite-Brazilian cashew candies.

Roasted cashews replaced peanuts, nutella plus a spoonful of honey replaced dulce de leche, and we were ready to whiz and roll.

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Badass smoky chilli cheese beer bread

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Badass: seriously scary or seriously impressive. Words related to badass: epic, beast, Chuck Norris.

This bread doesn’t make me think of Chuck Norris. Though Chuck may like eating this bread* – a hefty, moist wholemeal affair, laced with parmesan and slathered in a spicy-smoky-sweet-salty sauce. There are browned crusty bits from the parmesan, and caramelised savoury bits from the smoky-chilli sauce. It’s not your average bread roll, this is chilli, smoky, cheesy, surprising goodness. And, you know, beer bread!

* Actually, I don’t know, what does Chuck Norris like to eat?

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After an eventful two weeks, this bread celebrated being back in the kitchen with time to play with food. It started with mild food poisoning, a few work dinners (ironically…), then a short trip to Singapore, baking cakes for friends who are moving away, and maybe taking on a new job at work (eeeeeep).

Crazy times, calls for crazy bread. Oui?

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The sauce features Korean red pepper paste, gochujang, which looks like a brilliant red version of miso. Sure, it’s spicy, but gochujang also has gorgeous sweet, salty, sour, umami flavours. Traditionally made by fermentation in large earthenware jars, the lingering, complex flavours develop as as hot chlli / pepper powder is fermented with glutinous rice, soy beans, salt and maybe some sweetener (honey, rice syrup).

While gochujang is traditionally used for soups, stews and rice cake dishes, it’s also used in ketchup and aioli, and jazzing up grilled cheese, tacos and quesadillas. So, I thought, why not use it in bread?

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An imagined pie, lost splendours and a Sicilian timballo (macaroni pie)

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Update: recipe added!!

Recently, work has been intense, crazy-good-intense, plus I have been cooking for friends: lingering, laughing, food-laden, wine-tinted dinners where people meet old friends and make new ones. All of which means I’m catching up on the blogosphere this weekend.

The good thing about cooking for a bunch of friendly guinea pigs friends is that I can foist “out there” dishes on them. And unlike a family Christmas lunch, I run less risk of offending the mother-in-law-of-cousin-in-law.

Dishes like a macaroni pie from the novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

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Like the Triumph of Gluttony, the idea of the pie has haunted my imagination since I read the book years ago:

“When three lackeys in green, gold and powder entered, each holding a great silver dish containing a towering macaroni pie, only four of the twenty at table avoided showing pleased surprise.

Good manners apart, though, the aspect of those monumental dishes of macaroni was worthy of the quivers of admiration they evoked. The burnished gold of the crusts, the fragrance of the sugar and cinnamon they exuded, were but preludes to the delights released from the interior when the knife broke the crust; first came a spice-laden haze, then chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, sliced ham, chicken and truffles in masses of piping hot, glistening macaroni to which the meat juice gave an exquisite hue of suede.”

Yes, another dish from a book, another Sicilian recipe. Must be something in the water there.

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A Sicilian cocktail party, a lost recipe, the triumph of gluttony

gluttony-01 This week, Liz and I are gatecrashing a Sicilian cocktail party! What is a Sicilian party without drinks and food? Liz brings Clam Casino (below left) and a gorgeous coloured negroni (below right); I went for sweets from Sicilian convents with the Triumph of Gluttony. liz-clams-casinoliz-negroni

To read about our partying hijinks and get the clam and cocktail recipes, please head over to Liz’s blog (where you will also find the Dr Who cocktail (squee), bread on a stick, N2O gas-leavened cakes, and more fun than you can poke a pogo stick at).

{Interlude … }

{ I’ll be here sipping a negroni when you come back }

gluttony-06gluttony-07gluttony-08 A triumphal idea As for the Triumph of Gluttony, this is not so much a recipe as a tumble of ideas, an attempt to turn words on a page into something real, sans star trek replicator. The moment I read about the Triumph of Gluttony in Mary Simeti Taylor’s book, Sicilian Food, a love affair was born. It was an unrequited love affair, because Ms Simeti Taylor said each convent had its secret recipes that were, or are likely to become, forgotten with the last generation of nuns. So, I did what any mildly obsessive home cook would do, and made my own. For anyone who’s had the real Triumph of Gluttony from Palermo convents, this ain’t it. But if you didn’t make it before the convent stopped selling them to the public, this is for you.

PS, it’s also for everyone at Angie’s Fiesta Friday bash, you should also visit my co-gatecrasher Liz’s blog for the full story!!

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Fiesta, Siesta, sprinkles, cake truffles!

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Sprinkles! Coconut! Chocolate! Ricotta! Accidental good stuff! Did I mention sprinkles?

It’s cake truffle time in Casa Gander when I make too many of these Turkish coffee brownie layer cakes:

Or these coconut-mango bundt-lettes from last Fiesta:

Or gluten-free chocolate layer cakes (one from the archives!):

Or other good things that haven’t made it onto the blog, like the most sensual banana cake. (I’m calling it cake, because something with so much butter, cream and sour cream really couldn’t hide under the misnomer ‘bread’.)

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It’s (not) easy being green: Burmese green mango salad

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It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.

This song could have been written for young mangoes, as they slowly grow on mango trees, nestled in the mango flowers (!), blending in with the leaves and other ordin’ry things.

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As we go into late summer, mangoes ripen, and take on the colours of red, or yellow or gold. They become such a luscious fruit, the essence of summer, humidity, sun, and heat like a warm blanket.

But each year, part of me looks back nostalgically on the green mangoes, appearing in the markets so briefly, like that moment between spring and summer. Green mangoes that are fresh and cool, rather than heady-tropical. As Kermit might have said:

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green’s the color of green mangoes.
And green can be crunchy and sweet-sour-like.*

* with apologies for the textual travesty

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This year’s green mango season, I made the green mango salad from Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

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