Vietnamese beef salad
Spicy, salty, fragrant, tangy, this is an unfussy but incredibly flavoursome salad. Mint, lemongrass, thai basil, coriander and crunchy lettuce, most of the work is in the chopping. Recipe here.
I love wandering through asian supermarkets for inspiration and browsing the weird and wonderful ingredients they have. I recently came across liquid palm sugar, which comes in a convenient squeeze bottle and has more distinct caramel flavour. You can still use the rock form in this recipe, just break it up finely. A simple method is to place the palm sugar disc in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water and microwave briefly, about 30 seconds depending on your oven. Break up with a spoon.
Ingredients Serves 4
600 grams skinless chicken breasts
400ml tin coconut milk
1½ tablespoons liquid palm sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
½ small cucumber, finely diced
2 large handfuls mung bean sprouts
½ ripe mango, finely diced
2 fresh mild chillis, finely diced
½ cup loosely packed coriander or mint leaves
⅓ cup roughly chopped roasted cashews
12 large lettuce leaves, I used gem lettuce
Wrap the chicken breasts loosely in cling wrap and beat with a rolling pin or heavy pan to give an even thickness all over. In a large saucepan, combine the coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, turning once, be careful the mixture doesn't boil over. Remove from heat and cool for 10 mins. Slice thinly and reserve the sauce.
Combine the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
Rinse the lettuce leaves and shake dry or gently pat with a clean tea towel. Assemble the chicken and salad into the lettuce and sprinkle with cashews and dollops of the reserved sauce.
Possibly the most delicious thing you can do with a cauliflower, roasting brings out its creamy sweetness. Take yourself over the edge with this indulgent soup (the truffle oil is only for snobs).
Ingredients Serves 4
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pinch saffron
1 cup raw cashew nuts
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 cup toasted cashew nuts
fresh thyme Leaves
Preheat the oven to 220°c.
Spread the cauliflower on a large roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Generously grate the nutmeg over the cauliflower and season with salt. Cut 3mm off the tip of each garlic clove and brush with oil. Wrap the cloves in a bunch in foil and place on the tray with the cauliflower. Roast both for 40 minutes or until the cauliflower has browned. Set aside to cool.
Soup: Soak the saffron in the stock for 20 minutes. Place the cashew nuts in a food processor and blend on a high setting until you get a smooth paste. Place 2 layers of cheesecloth or fine-meshed fabric over a bowl and strain the cashew liquid, squeezing the cloth thoroughly. Set the nut liquid aside and discard the nut pulp.
When the cauliflower and garlic are cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin into a food processor and blend with the cauliflower and saffron stock in batches. Add the blended mixture to a saucepan set over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir through the herbs and nut milk and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve topped with toasted cashews, fresh thyme and truffle oil.
My office is conveniently around the corner from what may be New Zealand's dumpling capital. Dominion Road in Auckland is a rich tapestry of Japanese, Cantonese, Thai, Indian, Turkish, Lebanese (anything, you name it) eateries, each one cheaper than the next. Between Balmoral and Eden Terrace in particular is a hotspot for all things plump and savoury with New Flavour, Barilla and Jolin Shanghai Restaurant dishing out dumplings in myriad flavours and styles. Pork and fennel commonly grace my lunchplate come payday each month.
Desperate for a little dumpling action at home, I took to making these vegetarian sweet/savoury beauties. The tarragon gives them a fresh take on that aniseed flavour so prevalent in Asian cooking. Find the sweetest baby peas you can. My dumpling folding lacks the finesse of the famed Dom Road eateries, but this video makes it look quite simple. You'll need a bamboo steamer to cook them; make sure to raise the steamer only a little over the surface of the water or they won't capture enough heat.
Ingredients Makes 32
1 package wonton or gow gee wrappers
2 cups frozen peas
200 grams ricotta, strained in cloth to remove excess water
20 tarragon leaves, stems reserved
1 stalk green onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Cook the peas in rapidly boiling salted water for 5 minutes or until green and tender. Drain and set aside. Mince the green onion and stripped tarragon stems to a paste, a mortar and pestle is ideal. Place the peas, ricotta, minced onion and tarragon, olive oil, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and blend to a paste. Mix the Parmesan and tarragon leaves through well.
Separate the wonton wrappers and lay them out on a clean work surface. Drop a teaspoon of filling into the centre of each wrapper. Be careful not to overfill them as they won't hold during steaming. Dab water around the edge of each wrapper and fold in half, pinching the centre closed first, working your way down the sides. Be sure to squeeze out any air. Pinch the corners up to the centre and stick with a dab of water. Arrange the dumplings in a steamer lined with baking paper. Set the steamer on a wire rack over a frying pan or wide saucepan of rapidly boiling water for 6 minutes or until the wrappers have become soft and translucent. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with chilli oil or dipping sauce.
Mix all ingredients together well.
Soy dipping sauce
1/2 light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or caster sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli oil (optional)
4 tablespoons sesame paste or tahini
4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons caster sugar
water or extra soy sauce to thin
Sweet and sour dipping sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons caster sugar
4 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
Wah Lee's is a dive of a store. I mean that in the nicest possible way of course, I love the place. It's an Asian emporium and an Auckland icon that has been nestled in its Hobson Street shop since 1904. You'll find colourful paper lanterns, bamboo steamers, dried spices, Chinese tea, exotic ingredients and all sorts of curios from the east - all of it crammed into the tiny store with little regard for order or aesthetics. It's a dig-n-dive for foodies. My last haul was a 44 cm wooden rolling pin, a packet of Israeli cous cous and a bulk bag of palm sugar, all for a steal.
Adding palm sugar to coconut milk is like putting the Thai in Thailand. Combine with chilli, mint and kaffir lime leaves and you will be transported to the tropics.
Ingredients Serves 4
400 grams skinless chicken fillets
400ml tin coconut milk
1½ tablespoons palm sugar, grated
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves
200 grams egg noodles
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cups shelled frozen edamame
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 fresh mild chillis, thinly sliced
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves
Wrap the chicken breast loosely in cling wrap and beat with a rolling pin or heavy pan to give them an even thickeness all over. Heat the coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves in a large saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer and add the chicken. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and stand for 10 mins. Slice thinly.
Cook the noodles or rice according to packet directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the edamame, cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the shallots and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until softened. Remove from the heat.
Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Top with sliced chicken, edamame, shallots and poaching liquid then scatter with mint and fresh chillis to serve.
1. This will change how you feel about curries. 2. I am attempting to read this cover to cover. How does saffron, preserved lemon and pea sound together? 3. I can get lost for hours in the spice section. 4. More triggers for my spice addiction - Spanish chicken and hot mezze hummus. 5. Seriously enlightening ideas on how to make those fundamental recipes like eggs and pasta perfect. Aki and Alex bring science to the table. 6. Endless inspiration for breakfast, dinner and lunch - especially lunches to take to work. 7. The first cookbook I ever bought, stock your pantry with the list from the intro and you will never be caught out with nothing to make again.
Dill, lemon, cream. That is all I need to say about this.
Ingredients Serves 4
1 ½ cups cream
1 ½ cups chicken stock
zest of 2 lemons, reserve the juice
¼ cup dill fronds
700 grams snapper fillets (or any firm white fish)
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
400 grams spaghetti
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups baby spinach
freshly ground salt and pepper to serve
Place the cream, stock, lemon zest and dill in a frying pan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Add the fish, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, turning once.
Place the spaghetti in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain. Steam the broccoli over boiling water until tender.
When the fish is just cooked, remove from the liquid and cover to keep warm. Stir in the lemon juice and parmesan and cook until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the spaghetti with the spinach, broccoli and lemon cream, then top with the fish. Sprinkle with extra parmesan and dill to serve.
Nothing sounds more smug over dinner than saying "those are fresh from my garden", but no one's scoffing is going to diminish the pleasure I get from lacing my meals with herbs. I love their freshness and fragrance, they transform simple ingredients into magic.
I grow mint, basil, oregano – and my favourite, dill. You can raise seeds easily enough in used takeaway coffee cups and egg cartons filled with seedling mix. Place on a sunny windowsill and keep them well moistened while they germinate. When your seedlings have grown to 5cm, you can transfer them to pots or a raised garden bed.
These might help your green fingers along.Photo: druszaj1, on Flickr
The colour of this dip makes all my friends go wow. It tastes divine. I have a few variations of beetroot dip in my repertoire, this one is a Moroccan inspired take on it for your next mezze-style dinner party.
Freshly ground spices make this even more incredible.
Ingredients Makes 2 cups
400 gram tin beetroot
1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini paste
5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander and ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and sweet smoked paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
Mint leaves to serve
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, scatter with mint leaves and serve with loosely torn Turkish bread.
I love dinner parties. There's nothing better than a convivial evening at a friend's house, it beats a sardine-packed Ponsonby bar any day.
Some hosts fuss and slave over three-hour roasts or high-maintenance risottos, but I hate only catching momentary glimpses of them between the kitchen and the table. Food doesn't have to be elaborate, just great ingredients you can throw together with hardly any any cooking. It's nicer to graze over small plates and keep the conversation flowing than to stuff your friends with a giant main course. Here's the menu for my next evening with friends:
Beetroot hummus, goats' cheese and roughly torn pieces of market-fresh bread
Tomato and pineapple salad with lime and mint
Tamari roasted almonds
My favourite curry (made the night before) topped with grated coconut, dukkah and loads of coriander
Warmed Turkish flat-bread
Plums and cherries drizzled with lemon and marscapone.
What is your favourite dinner party fare?
“There’s a popular, or at least widespread, cake recipe that pairs chocolate and beetroot. Its champions can hardly believe the lusciousness and chocolatiness of the combination. I couldn’t either, and having tried it I still don’t. Carrot works in cakes because it is sweet, floral and spicy, and the grated pieces create a lovely rickety-rough texture. In chocolate beetroot cake, the cocoa almost entirely overwhelms the beetroot flavour, leaving nothing but a hint of its earthiness, which makes the cake taste like a cheap chocolate cake that’s been dropped in a flowerbed. And the raw cake mixture was so unpleasant that no one wanted to scrape the bowl clean. Case closed, at least in my kitchen.”
From The Flavour Thesaurus, my current night-time squeeze. I love Niki Segnit's mix of witty, geeky, obsessive and sometimes cutting descriptions of pairings of 99 different ingredients. That makes me a nerd too.