Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crispy Snapper over Hot & Sour Broth

With all of this 'winter weather' lately - that term has a much different meaning in Australia than in the North America - I was beginning to feel like I was coming down with a bit of cold.  Not really in the mood for a chicken noodle soup fix, I decided to make a hot and sour soup, which is known to be a remedy for the common cold.  I went with some pretty classic Thai flavors to acheive that balance of sweet, spicy, and sour. 

To  make this tasty cold medicine into a full meal, I served a fillet of crispy skin snapper over the broth and added some rice vermicelli noodles for a bit of substance.  I threw some mung beans sprouts into the broth to add a crunch and a bit more nutrition and added a garnish of fresh herbs to brighten up the dish.

I must say, I was very pleased with the result and this it was DEFINITELY the best tasting cold medicine I've ever had!  Make sure to taste your broth to ensure you've balanced the flavors nicely.  With a beautiful broth as a base, you can really add any vegetables, herbs, etc. and will have a lovely outcome.  Throw in some tomatoes, enoki mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, whatever you want! 

Crispy Snapper over Hot & Sour Broth


4 snapper fillets, skin on
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
4 cups chicken stock
2 Thai chillies
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, sliced
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp palm sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp mung bean sprouts
4 oz. vermicelli rice noodles

1 tbsp mint, sliced
1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tbsp basil, sliced and lightly fried


1. In pot or large saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer.  Slice the chillies in half lengthways, and add to sock with the garlic, ginger, lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime juice, and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to package instructions.

3. Taste and adjust the stock as necessary.  Strain and return to the pan, keeping warm.

4. Score the snapper skin and season the fish with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a pan over high heat, but not smoking.  Cook the fish skin side down for about 4 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Weigh the fish down with another pan while it cooks to prevent it from curling.  Turn over and cook for another minute.

5. Stir onions and sprouts into the broth. 

6. To serve, place a mound of noodles into the bowl.  Spoon broth around, and place fish on top.  Add a bit of lime juice to the herbs and mound on top of the fish.

Even if your cold doesn't go away, at least you just had an amazing meal!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns

I cannot get enough Thai food, I absolutely love it!  If there was one word that I would use to describe this cuisine, it would be harmonious.  Thai cooking is based on blending the five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot.  It's often lightly prepared but achieves a perfect balance of these flavors in each dish or in the overall meal. 

When cooking Thai food at home, your most valuable tools are your tastebuds.  I am constantly tasting to ensure that I achieve that perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, hot, and sometimes bitter.  Too sour?  Need more of kick?  Not sweet enough?  Below are a few ingredients that I find key when I am trying to balance out my dish:

         - Sweet - palm sugar, honey, fruit
         - Salty - fish sauce, soy sauce
         - Sour - lemon, lime, sour fruits
         - Hot - fresh chilli, dried chilli, pepper
         - Bitter - raw leaves, bitter fruits
         - Fresh herbs and aromatics are also key - cilantro, lemon grass, Thai basil, mint, ginger, galangal, garlic, to name a few...

Green papaya salad is a very popular dish in Thailand and it's one of my favorites as well.  I would make it more often but it's not always easy to find green, unripe papayas.  You cannot substitute a ripe papaya as both the texture and flavor will not suit the dish.  Unripe papayas have a very mild flavor but absorb flavors well.  Healthy and packed with flavor, this dinner didn't stand a chance!  I added some grilled prawns to add a bit more substance.  Needless to say, there were just a few lonely fish heads left on my plate...

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns


12 large king prawns, deveined, head and tail on
1 chilli, minced
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Green Papaya Salad:
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp coarse salt, more as needed
2 chillies, chopped
2 tbsp dried shrimp
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 green, unripe papaya, shredded or finely julienned
1 cups bean sprouts
3 green onions, sliced diagonally into thin strips
1/2 cup Thai basil, large leaves sliced into strips
1/4 cup coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed (I left these out as my fiancé claims he’s allergic)


1. Combine ingredients for marinade and marinate the prawns while you make the salad.

2. Pound garlic, salt and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add dried shrimp and sugar and pound into a coarse paste. Mix with lime juice and fish sauce.

3. Gently bruise the papaya, combine with the sprouts, onions, and herbs, and toss with the dressing.

4. Make sure to taste test to ensure the flavors are balanced. Not sweet enough - add a little honey. Not salty enough- add a little more fish sauce. Too sweet or salty - add more lime juice. Need a bit more a kick – add some minced chilli.

6. Grill the prawns for 3 minutes on each side until just cooked through.

7. Sprinkle the salad with peanuts and arrange the prawns on top.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

Or as the true saying goes, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

While not wildly popular in the United States, I have come to LOVE Sticky Date Pudding, an Aussie favorite.  Pudding actually refers to something quite different in the US than most of the rest of the world.  In the UK and it's Commonwealth countries, pudding refers to a combination of flour and other ingredients, and may be sweet or savory.  The name is also used loosely for desserts in general.  In the United States, pudding typically referes to a a sweet milk-based dessert with a creamy consistency.  Very different.  I've come to find a lot of those things since living in Australia.

Anyhow, as of late, especially in these chilly months, Sticky Date Pudding is my dessert of choice.  I've ordered it, or some version of it, while we were out to eat a few times recently.  I knew this was one I had to learn how to make at home.  Maybe next I will try to conquer the Sticky Date Soufflé with crème anglaise that we tried the other night.  Phew, baby steps. 

I decided to consult Australia's latest obsession, Masterchef.  They had a great basic recipe for individual puddings served with almond praline and butterscotch sauce, yum.  I surfed around a bit and looked at a few more recipes.  Luckily, they all essentially used the same techniques - break down the dates, mix the wet ingredients, add the date mixture, fold in the flour, bake, and top with a caramel or butterscotch sauce.  Easy enough.  Using these basic steps, I came up with my own version.  I must say, the results were fantastic!  The cake was perfectly moist and relatively light.  As it absorbed the butterscotch sauce, it became very rich and sweet.  The quantity of Butterscotch Sauce is probably a bit too much for this recipe, but ensures that you have some leftover for drizzling over vanilla ice cream!  Do try this at home.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce


1/2 lb dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted

Butterscotch sauce:
1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line the base of a springform cake pan.

2. Bring dates and water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add baking soda and remove from heat.  Stir for a couple of minutes and set aside, stirring occasionally. 

3. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Stir through the date mixture.  Fold in flour until well combined.

5. Spoon into cake pan.  Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened and set aside.  Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.  

7. Serve drizzled with butterscotch sauce.   

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pan-fried Snapper with Caramelized Lemons

This fish has the perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness.  In one bit you get the crisp skin followed by the juicy fish that's finished off with that tangy, syrupy glaze.  To die for!

This fish is beautiful over a handful of lightly dressed greens.  All you need to finish this dish is a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc that still has a bit sweetness to offset the heat of the glaze.

Pan-fried Snapper with Caramelized Lemons


4- 3 oz. skin-on Snapper fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Caramelized Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
3 lemons, 2 thinly sliced into rings and 1 juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 red chilli, minced
1 pinch salt


1. For lemon glaze, Combine sugar and water together in a small saucepan and lightly boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer and add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until desired glaze consistency.  Set aside to infuse while you cook the fish.

2. Score fish diagonally 1/2 inch apart.   Heat oil in nonstick pan until very hot, just before, but not smoking.  Season fish and add to pan skin side down.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until skin is golden and crispy.  Flip over, cook for one more minute.

3. Serve fish drizzled with lemon ginger glaze and garnished with caramelized lemons.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spinach Stuffed Veal Rolls

Veal is the very tender meat from a young calf.  As it is very lean, you must take care to ensure that it does not become tough.  It is important to keep the meat moist as it cooks and make sure that you do not overcook it.  If cooked properly, it should have a smooth but firm texture with a very delicate flavor.

This recipe resulted from some veggies that I needed to use up and a few pantry staples.  The flavors complemented each other beautifully without overpowering the veal.  I will definitely be experimenting with dish again!

Spinach Stuffed Veal Rolls


3 tbsp raisins
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz fresh spinach
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb veal breast, pounded thin
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Soak raisins in hot water for 15 minutes and finely chop. 
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pan over medium.  Add half of the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes.  Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted.  Squeeze any excess liquid off using a sieve.  Chop and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3. Lay veal flat and season with salt and pepper.  Cover with spinach mixture.  Scatter raisins and pine nuts on top.  Roll the lamb tightly encasing the filling.  Secure in several places with kitchen twine.

4. In a dutch oven or large pot, heat remaining oil over medium high.  Brown the meat and all sides and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining onion, celery, and carrot and cook for 5 minutes.  Increase the heat and add the wine to deglaze.  Continue cooking until nearly all of the wine has cooked off.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Return the veal to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

5. Remove the veal, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile increase heat to reduce the sauce.  Remove the twine and slice the veal into rounds. Serve immediately spooned with the pan sauce.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Easy & Healthy Snacks

Being that I'm working from home these days, I often find myself grazing a bit throughout the day as opposed  to eating a proper breakfast and lunch.  I love quick, healthy, and easy dishes that I can whip up and snack on over the next couple of days.  I try to combine most of the food groups in these type dishes so I can get the energy and nourishment that I need without much effort.  It's also a plus when they taste good :)  Enjoy one of my go-to 'snacks'!

Tuna, Parsley, and Potato Salad


1 pound gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tins of canned tuna, drained and flaked
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
12 1/2  tbsp parsley, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp french mustard
salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and rinse briefly with cold water.

2. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, parsley, and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3.  Gently combine potatoes, tuna, and tomatoes.  Add dressing and again, gently combine.  Serve at room temperature or chilled over greens.


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