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Archive for October, 2009

From David Thompson’s Thai Street Food

 

Annoyingly excellent...

 

If I were going to be mugged on the way home to dinner and had a choice of one cookbook to use as a weapon, Thai Street Food would be up there on the list. Sure, it’s massive and unwieldy but if you got your body weight behind it I reckon a good swing at your attacker’s head would stand you in good stead. The spine is solid and chunky for some follow-up beating and I’m sure the pretty ribbon marker could be used for strangulation or just to leave your initial, Zorro-style, on your attacker’s prone corpse. (I hope you all appreciate that my attacker is now dead, as opposed to just unconscious or fleeing in terror. Never get between a hungry Beck and her dinner). However, operating on the assumption that this book was not actually designed as a weapon for slightly crazed food-lovers, I tried out a recipe. 

This recipe was one of the few that caught my attention; my view of the book generally is that it has too many photos, not enough recipes. Coffee table cookbooks are just not my thing; actually, they really annoy me. Either it’s a book of pretty pictures which just sits there to be cooed over or it’s a cookbook with pages splattered with oil and stuck together from soy sauce spillage. Make up your mind! I know Thai Street Food is supposed to be an evocative travelogue as well as a cookbook, but all I really want are some excellent recipes which are doable for the home cook. And I have to say that not many of the dishes in here really got me interested. But this one did, mainly because I’ve always wanted to know how to cook those delectable, slightly charred and crispy flat rice noodles that you often get with kway teow. So even though I’d rather have less liquid in my noodle dishes, I wanted to give this a go and see if the technique outlined works. 

And even though I don’t appreciate the book generally, I have to admit that this was truly excellent. Resigned Husband is not a fan of noodles in liquid or soup, but we couldn’t get enough of this. The rice noodle technique worked beautifully, leading to great texture and an inherent smokiness in the dish. Bugger. There’s nothing worse than being prepared to pan something, only to find out that its so good you can’t wait to make it again. Curse you David Thompson – you and your excellent noodly ways! (more…)

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Claypot Chicken Rice

Pleasure in a claypot...

This favourite weeknight dinner of ours comes from Christine Manfield’s Fire. While my personal opinion* of this book generally is not very positive (I like a cookbook I would want to actually cook from, not just something that looks pretty and fluffy and in which a single recipe would require my entire shopping budget, not to mention borderline unattainable ingredients eg Barbary duck, Iberian ham, Siurana olive oil etc), this recipe is truly excellent. Once you’ve got the marinade done, it’s a snap and was an instant winner in our home. XO sauce is available at any Asian grocers – and the Vietnamese grocer in Mitcham on Maroondah Hwy sells an excellent home made variety on their front counter which is just brilliant.

*personal opinion = just that. There are many people out there who I’m sure love this book and that’s fine – I’m just not a coffee table cookbook kind of gal. Me practical. Sorry. (more…)

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Every 3 weeks I cook mains at our local soup kitchen for 20-30 people. This comes with some challenges, most notably that I have no access to any cooking facilities whatsoever – so everything has to be pre-prepped and able to be cooked or reheated on site very quickly. I’ve found that noodle stir fries are a winner with all our guests and they make me happy too; they’re healthy and delicious and give me a chance to throw some new flavours at people who may not otherwise experience them. All ingredients and sauces are prepared the night before, sectioned into containers ready to cook in my electric wok the next day. Like this: Obviously with any of my SK (soup kitchen) meals, any spice component has to be turned right down or cut out to cater for everyone’s tastes; this recipe would normally have plenty of chilli thrown in with the garlic & ginger et al at the start. I just offered some of of my home made chilli oil on the side. It’s based on Terese’s recipe #96159 over at Recipezaar.

(more…)

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As I don’t already own enough cookbooks on dim sum, I naturally had to purchase the rather delectable-looking Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen. On the surface this is a cookbook after my own heart – the photos are dribble-worthy without being over styled, the recipes look instantly doable and there are neat illustrations on the art of dumpling folding. Plus Andrea makes no bones about the fact that dumplings do not need to look amazing in order to taste amazing! Yay! However, the proof of an excellent cookbook is not the prettiness or lack thereof (to wit: the most amazing and revered Fuchsia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cookery) but the finished product of the recipes, so on with the show! (more…)

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Home made chilli oil

This is one of the most indispensable items in my pantry – I use it so often in my Chinese cooking, not to mention that it’s really ace tossed through just about anything to give it a bit of a ‘kick’. Use as much or as little as you like, just remember that more sediment = more heat!

Chilli Oil

1 cup oil – preferably peanut, but lets be honest: vegetable works fine

50gm chilli flakes

  1. Pour oil into small saucepan and place over high heat. Once it’s just started smoking, remove from heat and leave to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whack the chilli flakes into a glass jar. After the oil has sat for 10 minutes, carefully pour it into the jar. It’ll sizzle like mad and then calm down. Give it a stir with a chopstick and leave it to cool completely. You can use it immediately, but it does improve with time.

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Fat Duck Boy’s take on the Italian classic is an 8 hour marathon – and that’s not including prep time. It’s a recipe that appears to seriously polarize cooks out there in web world, as many seem to read the vast ingredients list, shriek that it’s not traditional (no kidding) and go on to say how terrible slash pointless it must therefore be. I could only find a few reviews from people who’ve actually made it, and they all seem to be fairly positive. I say it looks weird, crazy, time-consuming and strangely enticing so I have dedicated my Saturday to making it. As someone who swears by Chinese chilli-garlic paste in their usual Bolognese, I don’t think I’m in any position to be throwing traditionalist stones from my nice little transparent house anyway. (more…)

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