Wombok Salad with Marinated Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

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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.

I tawt I taw a turtle

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I diiiiid, I diiiiiid see a turtle. Quite a few actually.

One of the many delights of Hamilton Island is grabbing a snorkel at low tide and swimming around until you meet a turtle, usually feeding on the reef. They say that once a turtle has identified a feeding site it will remain in the area for the rest of its life. And, considering their lifespan, that could be for the next 100 years.

These were some of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. It was such a special experience that I hope I get to enjoy again sometime. And on the fitness front, what better motivation to snorkel for a few hundred meters every day than to have a turtle by your side while you’re doing it?

Crispy Skinned Salmon with Avocado and Green Bean Salad

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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.

A taste of Melbourne

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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.

One last look at 2013.

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My first post of 2014 is about my last run of 2013.

Over the break my partner Alex and I visited Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Passage, Queensland. Initially we went there to take in the beauty beneath the water, of the Great Barrier Reef, but the views on land were just as inspiring. This view, from the top of One Tree Hill, is one of the most celebrated on the island however, after tackling the 82 meter elevation to get there my breath was already taken. But, thanks to the power of photography, I can enjoy it forever without having to go through that again. 🙂

Summer’s here.

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It’s quite early in the season to go for a swim in New Zealand, but on Sunday that’s just what we did. It was only nippy for the first few minutes and then the water took on a beautiful warmth. Very uncharacteristic for the Kiwi summer where we usually have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy water as warm. After a great afternoon in the ocean, we spent the evening eating fish, chicken and salad while the sun set. #perfectweekend

 

Work off your Christmas Party with this.

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Work off your Christmas Party with this.

My trainer Maree can be brutal at times. Today, 8 girls innocently turned up to their Friday workout, unaware of what lay ahead. The 100 Club.

It’s a club she makes us all join and consists of having to do 100 reps of 10 different exercises. Sometimes we’re allowed to do 5 sets of 20 reps of each exercise, but no such luck today. If we wanted a break/recovery at any stage we were allowed to do a shuttle run. I did a couple of shuttle runs during the thrusters, iron cross and burpees sets, though it was more like a shuttle stagger by the end.

Maree said she hoped it would make up for any sins we’d committed that week. I don’t see how it couldn’t, we were too exhausted to even speak to each other by the end of it.

Here are some demos if you’d like to join the club.
Shuttle Run http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_u2eqjgdwk
High 5 with a friend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RllVGQOiSLg
Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmI9x_5aFdc
Dead Lift http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_GnXm7LbI
Box Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxldG9FX4j4
Medicine Ball Slams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBClepn-jY
Full Sit Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWAhptFi_ns
Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8/watch?v=WJR3JTtmPTw
Alternating Lunges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCpu8IhLvBg
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29

Love thy neighbour… and thy neighbour’s garden.

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A couple of weeks ago I visited a few open gardens as part of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. All were inspiring but the last two were especially so and not just for visual reasons. The owners of these neighbouring gardens were able to work together to utilise their joint resources and create the backyards of their dreams.

As with many blocks in Auckland these two rest on the side of a hill. The upper needed to get rid of soil and the lower needed to add some. It can be an expensive process moving soil in and out but these two avoided that by moving soil from the upper garden to the lower and sharing the cost between them. They also used the same landscape designer and, considering their good relationship, left a little pathway through some of the larger plantings so they can pop next door whenever they like.

When so many neighbours don’t speak or get along, it was lovely to see two that were able to create spaces more beautiful than if they’d worked alone. They managed to keep their own individual style but create a harmonious environment that reflected their good relationship. It was by far the most inspiring thing I saw that day and that’s really saying something.

Silverbeet, Zucchini and Herb Omelette with Manuka Smoked Eggs

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It was perfect weather for the Taste of Auckland festival over the weekend. My friends and I had a great day deciding which restaurant’s food we were going to try next. So much so we needed a lie down by the end of it.

On one of our walks around the various stalls we came across some manuka smoked eggs. I had tried these a couple of years ago but have found them really hard to get hold of since. Naturally, I bought 2 boxes and started using them immediately.

As they’re cold smoked you can use them as you would a normal egg to add a subtle manuka flavour to your egg repertoire. And for me, they’re like a little part of the festival I can enjoy even after it’s over.

The following recipe is adapted from a Neil Perry Frittata I saw in the Herald a few years ago.

Ingredients
2 manuka smoked eggs, lightly beaten (or regular if you can’t find them)
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and pepper
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
3-4 silverbeet leaves, sliced into ribbons
pecorino or parmesan or a bit of both

Method
Whisk the eggs, then add the parsley, chives, salt and pepper. I like to let the eggs come to room temperature before I cook them. While that’s happening, cook the zucchini slices in a pan with a spray of canola oil to prevent sticking. Remove when they’re lightly golden and set aside.

Then, spray the pan with canola oil again and add the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Stir until fragrant then add the silverbeet. Keep stirring until it has wilted to your liking.

Spray an omelette pan with canola oil and add the egg mix. Gently pull the edges of the egg away from the sides as it cooks and redistribute the raw egg around the pan until it begins to set.

Quickly place a few of the zucchini slices and some of the silverbeet over the eggs and wait for the mixture to set. This won’t take long at all. Grate a little pecorino or parmesan (or both) over the top and a little black pepper if you like too.

You will have left over zucchini and silverbeet but that’s the way I like it. It’s great to have some in the fridge so you can easily whip up another when you get home from the gym.

A Yummy and Healthy Snack. It’s Possible.

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I’m always looking for healthy snacks as the immediate options are so lacklustre. Carrot stick anyone? So, I was really thrilled when I found Karen Martini’s recipe for roasted beetroot, cinnamon and pomegranate dip. It was really easy to create a low-fat version and whether you eat it on the recommended flat bread or a rice cracker it tastes fab. A word of warning though, don’t wear a white t-shirt when you make it.

Ingredients
900g medium beetroot, washed well, trimmed and cut in sixths
Extra-virgin olive oil (I just used a spray.)
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
300g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1%fat greek, tasted great.)
100ml pomegranate molasses
100g feta
2 handfuls pomegranate seeds
1 handful mint leaves

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.
2. Place the beetroot pieces into a roasting dish, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, add the cinnamon and allspice and toss through to evenly coat. Add a splash of water to the dish, cover with baking paper and foil and roast for one hour.
3. After an hour, remove the paper and foil and bake for about another 15 minutes. The beetroot should be tender and starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled, puree the beetroot with the chilli powder until smooth. Add the yoghurt and pomegranate molasses and process until combined. Adjust the seasoning, then spread on to a serving plate, crumble over some feta, sprinkle a little cinnamon, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and mint and serve with flat bread.

Makes a large batch, I made half this quantity.