Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 17 - Vietnamese - Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Yes, I'm late. I'm sorry. Fitting blogging in around my life is harder than I anticipated. Uni's back, and I went away for the weekend - not making excuses... ok, maybe I'm making excuses. But, I'm blogging now!

This week's recipe came from delicious. Magazine, June 2007 edition - Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce. This is a great mid-week dinner recipe as it's nice and quick, cheap, and delicious. Although, and I'm not quite sure how, I did manage to create a lot of washing up with this recipe. I have a reputation for using the maximum number of dishes and utensils possible when cooking though, so don't let this put you off the recipe. I expect I'm the exception. And that's what dishwashers are for.

Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce - delicious. June 2007

1 tbs sunflower oil (or substitute peanut oil)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
125g brown sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs tamarind concentrate
4 chicken breast fillets with skin on
steamed pak choy and white rice to serve

Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat, add ginger and stir for one minute - watch it carefully as you don't want burnt ginger. The ginger flavour is really mild, so if you're looking for a ginger kick, double the amount. I will next time.

Add soy sauce and brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add fish sauce and tamarind concentrate, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes or until sauce thickens and is a dark caramel colour. I found it took no time at all to caramelise, but I think I had the stove up a little too high - it didn't seem to make a difference though. I still simmered it for the five minutes while I cooked the chicken.

Make three to four slashes in each chicken breast, about an inch apart so it depends on the size of your chicken breast, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and cook for two to three minutes until golden brown. Turn and cook for two minutes on the other side, then turn skin-side down once more.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the sauce and cook chicken, basting, for a further five minutes or until cooked through. Serve with white rice and steamed pak choy, drizzled with the sauce.

Tip: Donna Hay (Modern Classics Book 1) taught me how to cook rice perfectly - To serve 4, put 1 1/2 cup long grain rice, 2 1/2 cups water in a pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until funnels form in the rice and the liquid is absorbed. Set aside for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve. Ignore the instructions on the pack and follow these - you'll have perfect rice every time.

There you go, that's something by Kate.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Double Post Monday part 2! The Cookbook Challenge - Weeks 15 & 16

The weather has been frightful in Melbourne this weekend. You can see photos on The Age website here. Check out photo 37. There's a car under there. I saw it with about a foot to go. Funnily enough, I didn't end up going that way after all. 

Luckily we escaped with only minimal storm damage, unlike many other people as you can see from those photos. And the poor SES, they will have been working hard to help people, giving up their long weekend.

Well, this all meant perfect soup weather. Marie Claire's Kitchen produced a recipe for miso broth with somen noodles, shiitake and pumpkin.

Yep, more pumpkin - I don't know why I always have left over pumpkin...

Yet again, I didn't quite follow the recipe, and went with what I had in the pantry. instant soup mix, and soba noodles instead of somen. I think it still looks the same. And it tasted great!

Miso broth with somen noodles, shiitake and pumpkin
serves two

the cheat's (Kate's) version of Marie Claire's. 

3 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 sachets of instant miso soup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
150g pumpkin - 2 cm cubes
100 g soba noodles
2 spring onions sliced diagonally

Cover the mushrooms with 250ml hot water and soak for about half an hour. Remove, reserving the liquid, and finely slice the mushrooms.

Put the mushrooms, miso soup powder, soy sauce, pumpkin, reserved mushroom liquid and 500ml water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. 

I love these asymmetrical bowls I picked up in Garrards. 
They're perfect for soup
Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles in rapidly boiling water for approximately four minutes, drain and divide among two bowls.

I was disappointed these cooked so quickly. I loved watching them swirling around the pot!

Spoon the soup over the noodles and sprinkle the spring onions over the top.

There you go, that's something by Kate.

Double Post Monday! The Cookbook Challenge - Weeks 15 & 16

So, I log in today to post Week 16 (noodles) of the cookbook challenge. Turns out I hadn't posted week 15 despite what my, apparently faulty, memory was telling me.

So today's posts are Week 15 - Muffins - Pumpkin and Cinnamon Muffins - Bill Granger's Feed Me Now, and Week 16 - Noodles - Miso Broth with Somen Noodles, Shiitake and Pumpkin - Marie Claire's Kitchen. 

My muffin choice was based on what was lying around - there was about 200g of pumpkin left over in the fridge, and those little packets of sultanas in the pantry. Everything else, I pretty much always have in stock. 

Given my previous history with baking, here, here and here, I decided that Bill's advice to use muffin papers was definitely something I should follow. 

With the recipe calling for 330g mashed pumpkin, and I only in possession of 200g pumpkin, I made two thirds of the recipe. Your kitchen scales and calculator are your most valuable assets when doing this, otherwise, how do you get two thirds of two eggs? Break two in, weigh them, and then remove one third of the weight. 

These were a little dry. I think it's because, even though I was very accurate with my two thirds measurements for everything, it was everything except the pumpkin, so there wasn't quite enough to make them moist. I think these would be fine if you actually use the proportions specified. 

Pumpkin and Cinnamon Muffins
makes 12
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
95g brown sugar
80ml buttermilk (you can substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and enough milk to make up 80ml - which I did)
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
80g unsalted butter, melted
330g mashed steamed pumpkin (about 360g uncooked weight)
70g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a 12 hole, 125ml muffin pan with papers.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. Bill specifies just adding the brown sugar after sifting the other ingredients, but I find it gets lumpy so I always sift it too.

Combine the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter in a bowl, then add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

This will look very, very dry. But don't worry, then add the mashed pumpkin and sultanas. It will add a lot of moisture.

Divide the mixture evenly into the muffin papers and bake for 20 minutes. 

These aren't very pumpkin-y. They are a sweet muffin, so don't go thinking because they're full of vegetables they'll be savoury. Definitely sweet. This is probably the first recipe I've made by Bill Granger that I wouldn't make again.
Anyway, that's something by Kate.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 14 - Japanese - Japanese Eggplant Slices

Like most of the challenge participants, I don't have a Japanese cookbook either, and a few indexes of a few books didn't yield a lot of options. I turned to Stephanie Alexander's, The Cook's Companion, given it's claim of the "complete book". It didn't let me down, and produced a recipe for Japanese Eggplant Slices.

I prepared this for my lunch on Saturday, and didn't offer to share it as I was sure the offer would be greeted with a resounding "blech!". According to him, eggplant is not your friend. 

 Look how friendly they are!

I'm not convinced this can stand alone as a dish, however it would make a great starter, or part of a Japanese style buffet. 

The steps are basic, and the ingredients minimal - if I hadn't followed the direction to salt and stand the eggplant slices it would have been really quick too. The technique requires you to spread the flavoured chicken paste on to the eggplant and fry it in a pan - I was amazed, but it stayed put! I was paranoid about flipping it over and splashing it everywhere, so it ended up a little overcooked.

I'd probably put ginger and spring onions into the chicken paste next time I make it, as well as sprinkled over the top, just for a little added flavour - some garlic wouldn't go astray either - mmm, stinky garlic, my favourite. It was a teriyaki style flavour, but I like my teriyaki garlicky.

Here's a tip for fresh ginger - freeze the whole knob, skin on, and grate however much you need straight from the freezer. I find there's not even a need to peel it, provided you've washed it before you've frozen it. I never use a whole knob before they go rotten, so this means I always have fresh ginger, with no waste.

As far as quantities go for this, I used half of the amount of eggplant specified for the chicken listed, I think if you don't do this it will be fairly bland. I like eggplant as much as the next girl, but with such a small amount of chicken suggested per slice you'd really be wasting your time and might as well just fry plain eggplant.

I'll give you the quantities I used.

Japanese Eggplant Slices - The Cook's Companion, Stephanie Alexander

100g chicken mince
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (or mirin seasoning)
fresh ginger, grated for sprinkling
1 spring onion, finely sliced for sprinkling
olive oil for frying
1 eggplant, sliced into 2cm thick rounds

Score the eggplant on one side, twice in each direction. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken, soy sauce and mirin in a food processor, until a paste forms, chicken breasts were on sale, so I threw in a whole breast, and minced it in the food processor. At this point I'd add in a chopped spring onion, some garlic and a bit of ginger.

At this point it doesn't look so delicious

Rinse and dry the eggplant rounds well.

Spread the chicken paste on the scored side of the eggplant, and fry, chicken side down, for about 3 minutes on medium heat in plenty of olive oil. Turn, and cook for a further 3 minutes on the other side. 

Serve sprinkled with grated ginger and chopped spring onion.

There you go. That's something by Kate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 13 - Love - Molten Chocolate Puddings

Love is.... serving chocolate pudding just the way he likes it - to his desk while he plays Battlefield on the computer on Valentine's Day.

Love is.... serving it undercooked because that's the way he likes it, despite the fact it will photograph badly for the blog.

Love is.... making a recipe that's from a book I've already used for the cookbook challenge, and a recipe I've made before, because he "loves chocolate pudding even more than chocolate mousse" - this was a big call from someone who rarely orders dessert, but if he does it's chocolate mousse. 

I came across this recipe when I was making Spicy Chicken Thighs from Bill Granger's Every Day for Week 10 of the challenge.  

Love is.... having made this recipe five times since Week 10 of the challenge, and it's only Week 13 now.

Ok, you get the point. This is why I chose this recipe for our love theme. And I stuck a white chocolate heart on it for bonus points - but didn't serve him that one, since he doesn't like white chocolate. See how much I love him?

This is a simple, molten centred pudding that I haven't had fail yet. The first time I made it, following Bill's cooking time instructions (10 minutes) it was only just firm and held its shape, you could probably cook it for 10 1/2 - 11 minutes and still have a gooey middle, but I cook it for 9 1/2 to get it the way he likes it. I like it either way, but tend to leave mine in the oven for the 30 seconds it takes me to plate his up, just for a little more cake, and a little less batter. I also always wish I'd made enough for two each!

Here's one I prepared earlier - about 11 minutes in the oven - I also didn't have it on the middle shelf, and it was a little too close to the bottom element, as you can see from the "robust" colouring.

Molten Chocolate Puddings - Bill Granger's Every Day
Serves two 
(but doubles well, just use four ramekins as they won't cook well as two larger puddings)

50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
50g dark chocolate, chopped
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon plain flour

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Butter two 250ml ovenproof ramekins and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in the microwave on 50%. While the chocolate is melting use and electric whisk to beat the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and thick.

 Isn't that cute? I have no idea how the shadow is trying to create a heart, but it's very suitable for Valentine's Day

Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture, sift in the flour and gently fold in. Spoon into the ramekins and bake for 10 minutes. Serve either in the ramekins or turned out onto serving plates.

There you go. That's something by Kate. Happy Valentine's Day!

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 12 - Eggs - Strawberry Vacherin

I'm late, I know. I'm sorry. No excuses, I just didn't have time. Don't ask me what I was doing, I have no idea how I had no time this week, I'm not convinced I was actually doing anything, sometimes it just happens that way, that you're busiest when you're not. I always fit more in when I'm busy than when I'm free.

And, the recipe I chose this week was a bit of a production. I had ten egg whites in the freezer which I needed to stop adding to and start using (I have a weakness for carbonara pasta) so I knew my egg recipe needed to involve egg whites rather than whole eggs. Plus, I had a bunch of ingredients that I wanted to start using up, rather than adding more specialty ingredients to my baking pantry - I can't believe how lucky I am to have a dedicated pantry for these things!

When I came across the Strawberry Vacherin in delicious. magazine from May 2002, it was perfect. The only thing I had to purchase was strawberries for decoration. 

With flagrant disregard for food safety I took six egg whites out of the freezer (I freeze them in pairs in bags) before I went to work in the morning and left them on the bench so they'd be room temperature and ready for action when I got home. Turns out food safety was not to be my downfall..... I got a voicemail message about 4.30pm - "did you have eggs or something in plastic bags out? There's goo all over the floor. I'm running late for the cricket, I cleaned it off the carpet, but not the tiles, don't slip". That'll teach me.

Cats. I love them, but apparently the bench is their favourite playing surface when I'm not home. The bags of egg whites had been redistributed across the lounge and kitchen floors, and bitten into so that they'd all oozed out. The little buggers hadn't even tried to eat any of it, it seems they were just interested in making mess. 

Once I'd cleaned that up on my return home, the remaining four egg whites were removed from the freezer, and defrosted very carefully in the microwave. At least I'd achieved my goal of using up the egg whites in the freezer! In fact, I now have an egg yolk in my freezer, since I had to use an extra egg white. 

I also used some of the 1.2kg of Toblerone we were given for Christmas.

Ignore the missing Toblerones - they may have ended up in my belly

The recipe specified toasting and grinding whole almonds, but I already had almond meal, so I substituted it with no great dramas.

I would make this again (keeping in mind the proclivities of my cats) but I'd layer strawberries on the inside as well as on top, to counter the sweetness, and would halve (at least) the icing sugar in the cream. 

Strawberry Vacherin - delicious. May 2002

175g almond meal 
5 egg whites
225g caster sugar
110g melted butter, cooled
70g plain flour, sifted
300m thickened cream
150g pure icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g Toblerone chocolate
250g strawberries

I love it when I pour the exact amount first go - this time I managed it twice. Small joys.

Preheat your oven to 120 degrees. Cut three 20cm circles from non-stick baking paper, grease one side of each circle, and place greased side up on baking trays. The easiest way to do this is to trace around a 20cm cake tin, unless you have 20cm plates, in which case that would work too.

Beat together the egg whites and half the caster sugar, until stiff, then add the almond meal and remaining sugar and stir to combine.

Gently fold in the butter and flour (I almost forgot the butter and was wondering why the mixture seemed so dry, so it got a little more folding than it should have, but it was still ok).

Spread onto the baking paper circles to about 1cm thick, and bake for 50 minutes, then peel off the paper and set aside to cool.
I probably didn't really need to use the twins, but.....

Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract together until thick, and set aside.

Melt the Toblerone - delicious. recommend using a a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, but I used the microwave - be warned if using the microwave, Toblerone will hold its shape, but still be melted, so check it by stirring regularly.

Place one meringue circle on a plate, spread with half the Toblerone and top with a third of the cream. Place a meringue circle on top of that, spread with the remaining Toblerone, and half the remaining cream. Top with the last meringue circle, and the rest of the cream. Quarter the strawberries and arrange on top. Dust with icing sugar.

There you go, that's something by Kate.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 11 - Mixed - Lime and pistachio zucchini cake

"What are you putting zucchini in a cake for? That's s**t."

"I like it, so shut up."

This lime and pistachio zucchini cake never fails to provoke mixed reactions. People say they hate it - then they actually try it. While it's not to everyone's taste, I'm a fan. This is definitely a cake I find that girls like better than boys, so may be better suited to a girly afternoon tea, instead of a bbq dessert.

This recipe has actually come from my recipe journal, and is a recipe I copied at some point from my mother-in-law, who copied it from a friend of hers. Both on request after having been served the cake at dinner.

It's like a carrot and walnut cake, with the carrot and walnuts replaced with zucchini and pistachios. The zucchini doesn't really add much in the way of flavour, but does make for a really moist cake, and combined with the pistachios, it also makes it quite green on the inside!

I couldn't find shelled, unsalted pistachios (which would be ideal for making this cake) so I had to shell and chop them. You can't tell they're salted in the cake, but can tell with the ones on the top of the cake. I think it works with that sharp saltiness combining with the sweet buttery glaze I poured over the top.

Lime and pistachio zucchini cake

This cake will keep for about 5 days.

2 cups self raising flour - sifted
2 large or 3 medium zucchini - coarsely grated
Zest of 2 limes
3/4 cup vegetable oil
11/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup pistachio kernels - finely chopped
3/4 cup almond meal - sifted
2 tsp ground cardamom - sifted

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, fan forced. Butter and flour (I used desiccated coconut) a deep, fluted 22cm cake pan - a normal cake pan won't hold all of the mixture.
Yet it still stuck - I'm a doomed baker, I'm sure this won't happen to anyone else who tries to make this cake.

Whisk the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and zest in a large mixing bowl until they're well combined and the mixture thickens.

Add the pistachios, almond meal, flour, cardamom and zucchini and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. 

Looks more like risotto than cake mix

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from being inserted into the cake.

Stand the cake for 10 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool. You can either allow it to cool completely, and pour over the lime glaze (recipe to come)  for an icing like effect or pour it over while it's still warm so that it sinks right in to the cake. Alternatively a lime cream cheese icing would also be good with this cake if you like it rich. 

Lime glaze
60g butter
Juice from 1 lime
1 cup pure icing sugar - sifted
1/2 cup pistachios - chopped

Melt the butter with the lime juice over a low heat. Remove from the heat, add the icing sugar and stir to combine. Return to the heat and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat again, and stand for 15 minutes before pouring glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with the pistachios.

If you're more fastidious and less forgetful than me, place some baking paper under your cake rack before you glaze and decorate this cake. It will make a mess.

There you go. That's Something by Kate.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slow Fashion - The New Slow Cooking?

Ok, so this isn't a food related post. It's my blog and I'll digress if I want to. Slow fashion is a movement to attain style with a lighter environmental footprint. It's about quality over quantity and clothing made in ways that respects other people and the environment. As part of the Sustainable Living Festival there's going to be a Slow Fashion Parade on February 20th, at Fed Square in Melbourne, but prior to that there's a clothes swap in Carlton next week.

It's a great opportunity to upgrade your wardrobe, exchanging those things you no longer wear or, as foodies let's face it, those things that no longer fit!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who Won? And - The Cookbook Challenge - Week 10 - Cool - Spicy Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Cashew Salad

And the winners of the Bondi Chai giveaway are.....

Sarah from with her suggestion of a vanilla honey chai cupcake, with honey buttercream icing, and Agnes from who said she'd use the chai in a sweet baked ravoli with a chai & ricotta filling. Thanks guys, and congratulations. Email me your postal addresses to somethingbykate at, and you'll soon have some Bondi Chai winging its way to you. I hope you'll make your suggestions soon, and post them on your blogs so everyone gets to see!

I really didn't have time to do ice-cream this week - or post on time, I'm so sorry!!!! As much as I have been desperate to make a strawberry balsamic ice cream, without an ice cream maker, and being back at work meant it just was not going to happen.

Cool, cool, cool??? Cucumbers! Cool as!

Without this week's challenge, I may never have gotten around to making Bill Granger's Spicy Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Cashew Salad, and that would have been an absolute shame. This dish is awesome! Plate licking awesome, believe me, I saw Mr Something literally licking it clean. He also rarely comments on my cooking, unless he really doesn't want me to make something again, but two bites in, and compliments were flying. Definitely in the Repeat Recipe Rotation.

 I didn't follow Bill's recipe exactly, but I really think that's in the spirit of Bill! He's self-taught, and so casual, I think he wants people to just have a crack.

  • I didn't have any fish sauce, so I substituted a couple of ground up anchovies and soy sauce.
  • I didn't have any mint, so I used coriander - I think the coriander is a win, I won't be reverting to mint next time I make it.
  • I only had whole cashews and was feeling lazy so didn't crush them - it wasn't necessary. 
  • I used only a third of the amount of sugar that Bill recommended and it was still plenty sweet - it may be necessary to use more if you're using fish sauce and not soy, or love it sweet. 
  • I used half the chicken and salad amount but the whole sauce amount - it was perfect.
  • I went nuts with the lime juice.

The ingredients list below show Bill's quantities.

Spicy Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Cashew Salad
3 tablespoons fish sauce
freshly ground black pepper
3 crushed garlic cloves
2 large red chilled, finely minced
2 teaspoons of sugar
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons caster sugar
200g vermicelli noodles
2 cucumbers, halved and thinly sliced
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cashew nuts, crushed

My fish sauce substitute in the flavour shaker

Whisk the soy sauce, pepper, garlic, chillies and sugar in a bowl. Put the chicken in a separate bowl and pour over half the marinade, cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Fry the chicken in the vegetable oil over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on high. Bill suggests putting another frypan on top to make the chicken crisp, I used a plate, and it worked quite well.

Trust me, there's chicken under there.

While the chicken cooks, add lime juice and sugar to the marinade that wasn't added to the chicken, and stir until the sugar had dissolved to make a dressing.

Pour boiling water over the vermicelli and leave it for a minute or two until soft, drain and rinse under cold water. Mix with the cucumber, coriander, spring onions, cashews and dressing in a large bowl. Serve with the sliced chicken.

Since I was juicing a lime, I also zested it, and put the zest in a zip lock back in the freezer.

How much do I love my new microplane?

Is anyone else as big a slob as I am, ending up with food all over their books?

There you go. That's something by Kate.
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