Wednesday, 31 January 2007

What's old is new (to you)

I've decided to include some older musings from my travels overseas. I've back-dated the entries so that they can be viewed in the context of the time that they were written. Now that I am a wise and worldly 32, I can see with some perspective the naivety of my 20-something commentary ☺

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Luscious Laksa

What better way to start an Australian food blog than with a classic Malaysian noodle soup? The original bones of the recipe (quantities of paste, stock, coconut milk and seasonings) came from a recipe in the Sunday Age about 10 years ago. I'll admit that, when done from scratch, this recipe takes time. In fact, I myself have not made a Laksa since giving birth 15 months ago. However, I feel that this recipe's fabulousness warrants the honour of first recipe posted. Since the first time I made this version, I haven't been able to order Laksa in a restaurant, for the simple fact that nothing tastes as good. I am not kidding. It is a special occasion, major wow-factor production. It also looks divine in the dish. Thou shalt appreciate and revel in the wondrous Laksa.

If you can't be bothered making your own paste (it takes three hours even if you don't, so I would go for the packet stuff), there are a couple of very respectable brands available in the supermarket.


3 tablespoons Laksa paste
1 tablespoon chilli sambal (sambal oelik)
500 - 600ml coconut milk
1 litre of chicken stock
25 ml fresh lime juice
30 ml fish sauce
12 large green prawns
500g hokkien noodles
150g green beans (round), washed and cut in half lengthways
2 red birdseye chillies, finely chopped
12 fish balls
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
2 tbspns Vietnamese mint leaves
shallots (1 -2)
100g bean shoots
1 pack of fried bean curd

Preparing the ingredients:

Prawns & stock

1. Shell and devein the prawns. leaving the tails intact. Keep the heads and shells for stock. Refrigerate until required.
2. Bring about 1 litre of chicken stock to the boil.
3. Fry off the prawns head in a bit of oil, until they turn pink.
4. Put the heads into the stock, lower heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

Vegies etc.

1. Wash and prepare beans, bean shoots and herbs.
2. Wash and finely chop the chillies.
3. Finely slice the shallots. Fry over low heat with a little oil until golden.
4. Simmer fish balls in a small pot of water for several minutes. Set aside.
5. Slice the beans curd and arrange evenly in bowls.
6. Finally, strain the fish heads from the stock and set aside. You will need to bring the stock to the simmer again later, so leave it in the pot.

Making the Soup:

1. Infuse the sambal, laksa paste and the coconut milk in a large pot or wok. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
2. Add the simmering prawn stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a further 8 minutes.
3. Add the beans and simmer for 5 minutes (or until cooked to your liking).
4. Add lime juice and fish sauce, taste and adjust if necessary. If it’s too tangy, add a tiny bit more fish sauce. If it tastes a bit bitter, add more lime juice.
5. Put the prawns in the soup and simmer for 2 minutes until prawns turn pink.
6. Add the noodles and fish balls. The noodles should soften and warm through.
7. Distribute prawns, beans, noodles and fish balls evenly in bowls. Pour about 2 ladlefuls of soup into each bowl.
8. Put a small handful of bean shoots over soup. Sprinkle on herbs, chilli and shallots.
9. Serve to an adoring audience.

Serves 4

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Monday, 29 January 2007

The big bang

It wasn't long ago that I discovered the world of blogging. A slow starter, I know. I mean, I'm not completely unsavvy. I had heard of blogs. Even see a few of them ( "some of my best friends..." etc). Needless to say, it did not take me long to decide that I wanted one of my very own. Much better than a pony. Of course, it took me a long time to decide what it would be called, what it might be about, how I might like to write... and a million other procrastinations designed by my clever little subconscious to help prevent me from actually achieving anything. Ever.

Then, two days ago, in a semi-drunken haze, it came to me. I was cleaning up the debris following a rather rowdy dinner party (more on that later) and a question came to me. Why do I love my kitchen? The answer is that I don't, really. Not the physical kitchen, anyway. It's got nasty, early 90s decor; think mossy green laminex bench tops and beech veneer cabinetry, plus the most awful Copperart-esque rangehood you have ever laid eyes upon. There isn't enough room for my fridge, which has to be housed in a doorway, and there is a cream 'tile boarder' (I guess that's what they're called) depicting joyful (unfortunately I think they are actually smiling) bluebirds nestled amongst prolific pink buds. Despite these obvious flaws, I find myself passing an awful lot of time in there (I have to admit that I spend a fair bit of time daydreaming about the elusive Tattslotto renovation). My kitchen table is large, and always covered in cookbooks, food magazines, shopping lists, toys picked up off the floor and notes we leave for one another. It is often surrounded by friends, nursing cups of tea, with heavy heads (or hearts) obsessing over the banalities of day to day life. Meals are savoured, the proverbial bread is broken and the wine is drunk. At the risk of sounding like a sentimental tosser, if home if where the heart is, then the kitchen is beat. It's where the action happens.

So that's what this blog is about. A lot about my passion, food and drink, but a fair bit about the conversations that happen while we prepare and consume it. I hope there will be something here for you to savour.