Category Archives: Kitchen discoveries

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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When cheese pastry meets pineapple jam meets dumplings

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14 February is a super-happy day. It’s the 15th day of the Chinese new year (based on the lunar calendar), and Valentines day. It’s an all-red, all-pink, all-red lantern and tanyuan, all-roses, teddy bears and glitter, kind of day.

Even though it’s way past midnight here, so I’ve kind of missed the boat, this post is for the 15th day of the Chinese new year and Valentine’s Day and Angie’s Fiesta Friday.

Last year, I cooked a CNY feast for, oh, lots of people. It involved, among many, many other things, Beggars Chicken: whole chicken stuffed with savoury delicacies and covered in a clay shell and baked. It was epic.

This year, reeling from Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Australia Day, etcetc, we had a quiet Chinese new year’s eve dinner. To make up for that, I’ve been inventing silly names for everyday dishes. Like Lucky Fortune Golden Dragon bolognese, or Year of the Golden Pig shakshuka (Year of the Golden Pig was 2007, it’s still Mr Gander’s favourite-named year).

It was during this mad, faux-festive period that the cheese pastry pineapple jam dumpling was born.

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Yam (no churn) ice cream–yes, yam!

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“What’s this?”
“Yam ice cream”
“Yam?”
“Yes”
“You mean, like, yam?”
“Yes”
“As in, real yam?”
“Yes”


“What’s in it?”
“Well, there’s yam…”

This was the conversation at dinner last night with Mr Gander’s cousin. Thankfully the conversation for the rest of the evening was more erudite.

It was an evening of mildly experimental dishes – being cousin-in-law and a good friend, I could expose him to my wilder flights of fancy without (too much) repercussion. Other close friends have come to expect a menu of surprises whenever they come around. As in, ‘miso surprise!’, ‘stuff with plums’, or, ‘so I wondered what would happen if I did this…’

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The evening started with a gorgeous savoury plum tart, with mascarpone, mille-feuille puff pastry, and a plum-Chinkiang*-coconut-sugar drizzle (because we ran out of balsamic vinegar, but actually was so good I want to make it again). Then, gnudi – made with a mixture of ricotta and goats milk fetta – in a parmesan-enriched broth and a swirl of fresh pesto.

* Chinkiang vinegar: a black vinegar made from glutinous rice. Good quality mature Chingkiang has a complex flavour somewhat like balsamic vinegar.

And then, yam ice cream.

Some time in late January, I got the ice cream making bug. I saw ice creams with goat cheese and honey and pear swirls, popcorn and salted caramel, lamington (on Australia Day). I looked for pure, creamy, black-flecked vanilla, and gelato that was like pure dark chocolate except colder and more ephemeral. Australia was going through a heat wave, people were flocking to the beach, and my mind was buzzing with ice creamy possibilities.

There was a slight snag: we don’t have an ice cream maker. This was a kitchen gadget I never could justify buying. So I began to look for no-churn ice cream recipes.

Many of the no-churn recipes use condensed milk: I think the idea is with enough sugar and fat, the mixture would freeze without forming large ice crystals. But condensed milk has quite a strong flavour, so I needed equally strong or distinctive flavours to counter it. (I also found other varieties of no churn ice cream using different ingredients, some of them are at the end of the post after the recipe)

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It must be Australia Day: not-quite-poutine meets vegemite

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Update (26 Jan): added link to this month’s “Cheese please!” challenge, hosted by Fromage Homage. Check out the post about tasting Colin, the home-made cheddar.

I’ve resurfaced! Mid-January was a time of mysterious illnesses (caught from work colleagues who caught it from exotic holiday locations), early bedtimes and absence from the blogosphere. Thankfully the exotic bugs have departed, and I’ve picked up the camera again.

Just in time for Australia Day. And what could be more Australian than vegemite? (If you like the sound of golden toasted cheddar on polenta chips with just enough vegemite to add a salty kick, read on, this is a post for you.)

Vegemite

The black, unctuous, salty, umami-laden yeast extract spread that seems to be a practical joke for everyone else, and a Masterchef ingredient for us.

The taste of the stuff seeps into the memories of old time Aussie kids, as does the ditty that can rouse a hipster crowd to a sing-along:

“We’re happy little Vegemites / As bright as bright can be. /
We all enjoy our vegemite, / for breakfast lunch and tea. […]”

Even growing up in a migrant family, I ended up eating and loving the stuff. When we were travelling through Copacabana, Bolivia, a couple of years ago, we met another group of Australians. They had packed a family-sized tube of vegemite and were having it on toast at the breakfast table. And suddenly I had such a fierce hankering for vegemite, that I asked them if I could have some.

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‘Poutine’

In October 2013, vegemite turned 90. With that in mind, I thought about making something involving vegemite for Australia Day. Somehow we ended up with a riff on poutine – a poutine in concept rather than execution.

The idea developed like this, in a Smeagol-vs-Gollum style interior dialogue:

think vegemite –>
mmm cheese –>
ok think vegemite –>
cheesy polenta chips –>
ok, let’s think vegemite –>
Cheesybite! (vegemite and cheese spread) –>
eww Cheesybite –>
I’ve got it, polenta chips with vegemite and cheese –>
erm, you serious? –>
with vegemite gravy and cheese! –>
with polenta chips? –>
sure, it’ll be like poutine, except with polenta chips, and vegemite gravy –>
*looks dubious, but goes with the flow*

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