Mexican Monday

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Quinoa SaladQuinoa Close Up

Recently I went through my folder of recipe clippings, saved from various sources over the years. I often save recipes that look great but I’m truly hopeless at getting around to making them.

I decided to change this pattern and made a Quinoa Salad recipe from Mamasita in Melbourne out of a Delicious magazine from a few years ago. I made a few additions to improve it and I have to say, it’s really yum. Great as a side dish or use it with some beef mince to stuff a burrito. Delish.

4 corn cobs with husks
1 cup (200g) quinoa
3 cups baby spinach
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
2 long red chillies, deseeded, chopped
1 red capsicum, roasted, deseeded, peeled and chopped
250g feta cheese
toasted pepitas for garnish

Pico de gallo dressing
¼ telegraph cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
½ bunch coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 tbsp chopped dill
juice of 3 limes
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook corn in husks for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and allow to cool, then remove and discard husks. Using a sharp knife, slice off corn kernels and set aside.

Meanwhile, place quinoa in a pan with 600ml water over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Cool.

For the dressing, combine ingredients in a bowl, then season to taste.

Toss corn, quinoa, spinach, coriander, chilli, capsicum and feta with the dressing. Sprinkle over the pepitas and serve.

Serves 8

Wombok Salad with Marinated Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

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Wombok SaladWombok Salad CU

Lunch today was a simple salad and some seared Snapper. The salad was surprisingly tasty considering how easy it was. I based it on a Karen Martini recipe I found in the paper a few years ago.

60ml extra virgin olive oil
60 ml light soy sauce
4cm piece of ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely grated
2 pinches raw sugar
1 pinch salt flakes
1 pinch white pepper
juice ½ lime
1 green chilli, finely sliced
250g Swiss brown mushrooms, finely sliced
½ wombok (Chinese cabbage)
4 radishes, finely sliced
½ bunch basil
3 sprigs dill
5 sprigs mint
20g roasted cashew nuts

To make the dressing combine oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and lime in a jar and shake to create an emulsion. Add the chilli and shake again.

Add dressing to the sliced mushrooms and let marinate for 5 minutes or so.

Separate wombok leaves, trim and lay on a platter. Top with the mushroom mixture but don’t put all the dressing on the lettuce as it will make it soggy (and anyway, you don’t really want all that oil). Instead I just lift the mushrooms out of the dressing with clean hands and place on the wombok leaves. You still get a splash or two of dressing around the place. Then, scatter over the sliced radishes. Wash the herbs and tear them over your salad letting the leaves fall where they may. Roughly chop the cashews and scatter them in the same way.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Crispy Skinned Salmon with Avocado and Green Bean Salad

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SalmonSalmon Close Up

I love healthy food that’s tasty, quick and easy to prepare. This Bill Granger recipe ticks all the boxes. It made a filling yet light lunch today right after my spin class.

2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut into quarters lengthways and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 punnet yellow teardrop tomatoes, halved (I used regular cherry instead.)
1 small green capsicum, diced
200g green beans, trimmed, blanched and cut into 2cm lengths
1 small red onion, sliced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 red chilli, seeds removed and diced
1 tsp finely grated ginger
sea salt and black pepper
4 x 150g salmon fillets, skin on

Place cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, capsicum, beans and onion in a bowl and set aside.

For dressing, whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, chilli and ginger. Season to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss together very gently. Set salad aside.

Meanwhile, season salmon liberally with salt and pepper. Heat extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat.

Add fish fillets, skin side down, and cook for 3 minutes or until skin is crisp. Turn fish over and cook for 1 minute for rare. Keep it on the heat a little longer for medium or well done.

Serve salmon with the avocado and green bean salad.

My first ever kale chips

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My first ever kale chips

It was only a matter of time until I tried to make some of these. As it was my first go I made sure the recipe was a simple one, I gave them a quick spray with canola oil and slow baked at 90°C for about an hour. Once out of the oven a sprinkling of salt was all they needed. Many thanks to my friend Belinda for giving me the kale fresh from her garden.

A taste of Melbourne

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Chicken HeroChin ChinChicken Close Up

As an expat Aussie I love collecting souvenirs whenever I go home, but not the typical boomerangs and kangaroo scrotum money bags that the non-Australian tourists take away with them. I make a B-line for cook books from my favourite restaurants so I can taste the flavours of home when ever I miss them.

This time around I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of “Chin Chin. The Book.” It’s really hard to come by, you can only get it from their website, in person at the restaurant or from The Essential Ingredient in Prahran. International orders have to be specially requested via telephone which seems a bit too hard to me. So, to help all of you taste what it’s like to dine at the iconic Melbourne restaurant I’m going to publish the first meal I’ve cooked out of it. And, in keeping with my routine of doing some form of exercise every day, I went for a 45 minute jog before indulging. Not that I needed to work up an appetite, it tasted great.

Larb Gai
(Better known as Chicken Salad.)
10 white peppercorns
½ bunch coriander, roots washed, leaves picked
3-4 cloves garlic
2 scud chillies, plus extra chopped scuds to serve, optional
150g chicken or duck livers, optional (I left this out as offal is quite high in fat.)
2 tbsp rendered pork fat or vegetable oil (I just used a spray of Canola to keep the fat down.)
500g medium to coarse chicken mince. (They recommend having a high fat content but I went the opposite way and it still tasted great.)
juice of 2 limes
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp ground roast rice (Recipe to follow.)
1 stem lemongrass, pale part only, thinly sliced
½ tsp galangal powder (Recipe to follow. I used ground ginger as I couldn’t be bothered but, it’s there if you can be.)
2-3 shallots, thickly cut
2-3 apple eggplants, thickly cut, optional (As apple eggplants aren’t available in NZ, I used a regular eggplant and grilled it first.)
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, julienned

In a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns. Add the coriander root, garlic, scuds and a pinch of salt and pound together to a rough paste.

If you’re using the livers, trim them, put in a saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil to blanch quickly.

Heat the pork fat or oil in a hot wok, add the paste and fry until fragrant. Add the chicken mince and continue to cook. When the mince is almost done (about 2-3 minutes), add the liver, if using, and stir to combine.

Remove the wok from the heat, and put the cooked mince in a bowl. Season with lime juice, fish sauce and oyster sauce.

Add the ground roast rice, lemongrass and galangal powder and stir to combine thoroughly. Now add the shallots, apple eggplant, mint, coriander and lime leaves and toss to combine.

Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with the extra chopped scuds, if desired.

Serves 4

Ground Roast Rice
In pan, dry fry a cup of white glutinous rice with a couple of chopped kaffir lime leaves and some sliced lemongrass and shaved galangal. Keep stirring it the whole time so it doesn’t blacken on the bottom of the pan. When it starts to get a bit of colour and is nutty and fragrant, it’s done. Remove from heat and blitz to a powder in a food processor. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This is a great addition to salad, stir-fries and dressings.

Galangal Powder
Roughly chop a whole galangal root (or two) and blitz in a food processor. Thinly spread the paste on a baking paper-lined baking tray. In a low 70°C oven, completely dry the galangal (about 5-6 hours). When it’s cool, blitz again. Store in an airtight jar.

Lunch

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Lunch

Today’s lunch break was filled with a yoga class followed by Salmon in Banana Leaf.

As an Australian living in Auckland, I sometimes feel as though I’m missing out on the new tastes and experiences my friends enjoy across the ditch. So, I like making recipes from my favourite places to get a taste of home from time to time. This recipe is from the iconic Melbourne restaurant Chin Chin and is nothing short of amazing. The recipe appeared on the goodfood.com.au website ahead of the restaurant’s book release. The time required to make all the elements would normally relegate this to a weekend recipe but, I couldn’t wait that long. I did all the prep the night before so it only took 15 minutes to cook today. It also gave the salmon the chance to marinate overnight which they recommend.

I’m definitely going to serve this at my next dinner party, it’s that good. And, as I’ve got left over curry paste and chilli jam it’s going to be a breeze. Click on the pic for the recipe and you can serve it at yours too.

RIP Atkins

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RIP Atkins

A few years ago when I was trying to lose weight (unsuccessfully) a friend plainly said to me, “If you want to lose weight, stop eating.” Fast forward to a few years later and Michael Mosley of the BBC has finally caught on to my friend’s advice. I watched his documentary recently where he concluded by recommending we fast for two non-consecutive days a week. Mosley says it works “in a similar way to the feast and famine lifestyle of cavemen, it restricts calories and gives the body a chance to repair itself”. He lost 12kg, no longer has diabetes, reduced his cholesterol and no longer snores. Sounds great doesn’t it? Based on this I bought his book which contains some menus for the fasting days and I’m assuming more detail on the health benefits.

Lucky for me, I also happen to have a couple of friends who’ve been on this diet for the last 6 months. Their results have been a little different to Mosley’s. Both of them have always been in to fitness and exercise around 4 days a week at high-intensity, including on their fasting days before their meal. More than Mosley I suspect. They say they enjoy the diet but have only lost about 1.5 – 2kg each. Not much over 6 months. The reason for this is what they eat on their non-fasting days; whatever they like without a thought of the calories. Both have realised that if they want to lose weight they should probably cut back on those days as well. Not quite the hamburger eating scenario that was promoted in the documentary.

Fortunately weight loss is not a motivator for them (both look great) and now they’re in the routine they’re happy to continue with the hope that some of the other health benefits may flow through. Not that they have any problems there either but, they’re thinking of their future.

Apparently Mosley has now relaxed his diet regime as he was losing too much weight. Perhaps he should follow the one my friends are doing.

For more information on “The Fast Diet”, click on this link. http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/michael-mosleys-five-biggest-health-myths-20130920-2u3vb.html