Kung pao chicken

cashews and cookbookSimply stir-fries, 144pp.
by the Reader’s Digest kitchens
Reader’s Digest, Ultimo New South Wales, 2007
Cooking on page 32–33

This is one of five books I own from the Australian kitchens of the Reader’s Digest. co enough, three of the five have page 32s that feature recipes using chicken.

Chapters in this book cover poultry, fish and seafood, beef and other meats, and vegetables, tofu and mushrooms. There are also recipes for rice, noodles, sauces and pastes that can be used with stir-fries.

Pages 32–33 have a traditional Chinese recipe. It’s made healthier by stir-frying rather than deep-frying the chicken.

Kung pao chicken

Kung pao chicken

500 g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons peanut or rice bran oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 dried chillies, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon crushed sichuan peppercorns
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup (50 g) cashew nuts or peanut, toasted
steamed rice, to serve

2 teaspoons salt-reduced soy sauce
2 teaspoons shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)

marinating chicken chillies and spring onions cooking chillies and spring onionsMethod
To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a shallow non-metallic bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken, in two batches if necessary, and cook for 5 minutes, or until just golden. Remove to a plate.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok, add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the chillies, sichuan pepper and the white part of the spring onions and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and sugar in a small bowl, then add to the chilli mixture in the wok and stir well. Add the chicken and stir-fry for about 2 minutes to heat through. Stir in the spring onion greens and cashew nuts. Remove from the heat, divide among serving bowls and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4.

Instead of chicken thighs, use prawns or scallops. You can also add any of your favourite vegetables, such as red capsicum (bell pepper), green beans, sugarsnap peas or snow peas.

Simply stir-friesHow it played out
I’m a seasoned chilli eater, and can stand a lot of heat. But for this recipe, I thought eight chillies plus the sichuan peppercorns were over the top. As a consequence, I used only four chillies and the full amount of sichuan peppercorns, which was more than enough.

I had three chicken breasts on hand and marinated them for almost an hour. I always have shaoxing rice wine on hand, so have never needed to substitute dry sherry. Cooking was so fast (I used peanut oil) . It took about 15 minutes in all. The cashews added a nice crunch.

Delicious and so quick to make. Especially liked that I didn’t have to deep-fry the chicken pieces. It’s a cooking technique that I rarely use.

I also liked the fact that, as with most stir-fry recipes, different protein and vegetables can be used. I’m adding this to my collection of go-to recipes for busy days.

We’ve had some wonderful Chinese meals on our travels. Here’s a blog post about one on those of those meals in Kashgar in far west China.

Kung pao chicken, rice and asparagus

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Lime and strawberry kisses

Honey and yogurtBowls of goodness: vibrant vegetarian recipes full of nourishment, 192pp.
by Nina Olsson
Kyle Books, London, 2017
Cooking on page 32

Nina Olsson is Swedish by birth, but she has been inspired by home cooking and ingredients from around the world.

Her mix of recipes are vegetarian, and often vegan and gluten-free. Many are based on her popular blog—Nourish Atelier.

I bought this secondhand at my favourite bookstore, Canty’s in Fyshwick. It’s worth following their Facebook page. They often share clever posts.

Page 32 is a breakfast dish, although I think it works for a dessert too.

Lime and strawberry kisses

Lime and strawberry kisses

250g strawberries, halved
juice of 1 lime
400g Greek yogurt or soygurt
2 tablespoons runny honey
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Vanilla, honey and cinnamonMethod
Fill a bowl with the strawberries and pour over the lime juice. In another bowl, mix the yogurt with the honey, salt and vanilla with a spoon. Divide the yogurt between serving bowls and top with the strawberries. Drizzle some honey over the strawberries and sprinkle a little cinnamon. Serve with extra lime pieces on the side. Serves 4.

Bowls of GoodnessHow it played out
As usual, I made half a batch for the two of us. I followed all the ingredients (using Greek yogurt) and instructions. Also used the divine Tinlin honey that was given to us by the family of one of our daughter’s friends. Yummo!

Given that it was a breakfast recipe, I served it over some lovely crunchy cereal bites.

Oh what a breakfast. I’ll definitely make this often when strawberries are cheap or in season. But as I said earlier, I think it would be great for a dessert too.

Poor John and I have been travelling in West Africa since February. Hope you can drop by my travel blog.

strawberries and lime

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Potato soup Zagorje style (Zagorska juba od krumpira)

peeled potatoesCroatian cuisine the modern way, 191pp.
by staff from the Centre for Research and Improvement of Diet
Podravka Food Industry, Koprivnica, 1993
Cooking on page 32

Croatia is on my must-see list. But until I get the chance to visit, I’m enjoying this cookbook, purchased at Canty’s Bookshop. Staff at the Centre for Research and Improvement of Diet must have had a fascinating time researching, testing and compiling the recipes for this book. The introduction also explains some of the differences and specialities in regional Croatian cooking.

Chapters cover cold and hot hors-d’oeuvres, soups, roasts, fish dishes, desserts and cakes, and a collection of national dishes.

Page 32 has a soup recipe that calls for Vegeta (a stock powder) and smetana (a kind of sour cream).

Croatian potato soup

Potato soup Zagorje style (Zagorska juba od krumpira)

700 g (1.5 lb) potatoes
50 g (2 oz) margarine
50 g (2 oz) smoked bacon
50 g (2 oz) onion
2 cloves garlic
200 ml (8 fl oz) smetana (sour cream)
1 tablespoon Vegeta
marjoram, bay leaf
parsley, vinegar
salt and pepper
sweet red paprika
1 litre water

ham, butter, onion, garlic cooking potato soupMethod
Peel and cube potatoes. Finely slice the bacon. Chop onion, garlic and parsley.

Heat the margarine and sauté the slice bacon and onion, sprinkle with sweet rd paprika and add prepared potatoes, Vegeta, marjoram, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Dust with flour, stir well and add an appropriate amount of water. Boil gently until potatoes are soft. Then purée the soup, add the smetana, chopped parsley and garlic, vinegar to taste. Bring briefly to the boil and serve.

Suggestion: This soup would be more full bodied if fried croutons and/or sliced frankfurters are added.

How it played out
I made this mostly as written using mashing potatoes, butter instead of margarine, and sour cream instead of smetana. For the ingredients noted without measurements, I used 1/2 teaspoon of Italian herbs (was out of marjoram), 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and 2 teaspoons of flour. I used Vegeta and added 20 grinds of black pepper, but no extra salt. I suspect Vegeta has quite a bit of salt in it.

Croatian cuisine cookbook

This made a nice thick, delicious soup. If you want it thinner, add more than 1 litre of water. I liked the idea to add croutons or frankfurters, but I didn’t have either on hand.

What a great introduction to Croatian cuisine. I’m likely to make this often. The best thing was that it tasted great hot, cold and at room temperature. Definitely a soup for all seasons.

Poor John and I have been travelling in West Africa since February. We’ve recently returned home. If you have a moment, please check out some of our adventures on my travel blog.

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Crispy skin salmon with citrus

Salsa ingredients Relish 2010: great food for a good cause, 146pp.
various contributors
The Rotary Club of St Kilda, Victoria, 2009
Cooking on page 32

I have a soft spot for Rotary Clubs around the world. Back in the mid-1970s, I won a Rotary scholarship (terminology has changed but then it was called a Paul Harris Fellowship) to study for my masters degree at the University of Cairo in Egypt. It changed my life completely. For starters, Poor John and I met in Cairo.

Since then I have been a guest speaker at Rotary Clubs throughout the world. The most memorable being in Khartoum in The Sudan, where they announced that I was the first woman to ever attend one of their meetings and the first Paul Harris scholarship winner they had seen in nine years.

The Rotary Club of St Kilda (a suburb of Melbourne Victoria) produces the Relish cookbooks to support various charities. Proceeds from this edition went to the meals program at Sacred Heart Mission and PolioPlus. Recipes have been contributed by chefs, cooks, cafés and restaurant. Page 32 has been presented by Borsch, Vodka and Tears.

Baked salmon with salsa

Crispy skin salmon with citrus

4 medium-size floury potatoes (such as russet)
50g butter
50ml cream
salt and pepper

a little vegetable oil
4 x 200g salmon fillets, with skin
salt and pepper

potatoes boiling salad ingredients salmon bakingSalsa
24 black olives
24 green olives
1 punnet (250g) halved cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp shredded basil
2 small bullet chillies, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 bulb fennel, cored and finely sliced
1 cup mixed rocket (arugula) and spinach

1/2 medium ruby grapefruit, peeled and sliced into 4 discs
1 medium lemon, peeled and sliced into 4 discs
1 lime, peeled and sliced into 4 discs

Preheat the oven to 210°C.

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly until the potatoes slide off easily when you stick them with a knife. Strain the potatoes and, working quickly, peel off the skins. Process the potatoes in a food mill or mash them in a bowl. Add the butter, cream, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick or heavy cast-iron pan until it runs across the pan like water. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and lay them skin-side down in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. After 30 seconds, very gently roll a spatula from one end of the fillet to the other, being careful not to push down very hard. This helps the skin to cook evenly and become crispy. When the skin is brown and crispy, transfer the fillets to the oven, skin-side up, and allow  to just cook through (6–8 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine all the salsa ingredients in a saucepan and very gently warm through. Mix together the fennel and salad leaves.

lime, onion, basil, chilliPut a quarter of the mash in a quenelle (see How it played out) on one half of a plate. Lay a slice of each of the fruits down the other side. Place the fennel salad on top of the mash and lay the salmon, skin-side up, over the salad. Top with the warm salsa, allowing it to cascade down towards the citrus. Repeat for remaining fish. Finally, fill 4 glasses with a good quality clear vodka such as Siwucha and serve. Serves 4.

How it played out
Let’s get quenelle out of the way first. In this case it refers to the sort of torpedo-look you can get by shaping a soft ingredient with two spoons. I didn’t worry about doing that.

I scaled everything back by a quarter because I had three skin-on salmon fillets in the freezer that needed to be used. I followed the preparation instructions. Especially appreciated the advice to roll a spatula across the fillets to make the skin crisp up.

Relish cookbookI sort of followed the presentation instructions. That was because the photo in the cookbook showed the fillet skin-side down on the plate, the fruit unpeeled, the salsa served alongside the fish and no sign of the mash.

So I didn’t peel the fruit or shape a quenelle of mash. I did serve the salmon skin-side up and let the salsa cascade over it. We skipped the vodka too.

Every component of the meal was excellent. We especially loved the crispy skin and salsa—great flavours. Still chuckling though that the person who cooked the dish for the photographer didn’t check the presentation advice. I’ve seen this before with page 32 recipes—when the photo doesn’t match the instructions—but this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it.

Poor John and I have been travelling in West Africa since February. If you have a moment, please check out some of our adventures on my travel blog.

Crispy skin salmon with salsa

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Bacon butties

Bacon and tomatoesSimply British, 354pp.
by Sybil Kapoor
Penquin Books, London, 1998
Cooking on page 32

British food has had bad press for many years, but the cuisine has plenty of memorable dishes. Sybil Kapoor picks up on the fact that some cuisines are defined by their ingredients rather than their finished results.

This prompted her to write a cookbook that focused on ingredients that are most common in British cooking. Chapters are arranged alphabetically. They cover more than 30 ingredients, ranging from apples to elderflowers to kippers to lavender to pheasant to smoked haddock to watercress, and everything in between.

I was delighted to find that page 32 landed on bacon. I remember the first time I ever heard of bacon butties. It was in a kid’s story book.

Bacon butties

Bacon butties

4 soft baps (bread rolls)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 slices ball bacon
2 tomatoes or 4 free-range eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter for spreading

Warm the baps in the oven while you are preparing the ingredients. If you are making a fried egg and bacon sandwich, you might as well fry your bacon, otherwise you can choose between grilling and frying.
Heat the oil in your favourite frying pan. Once it is sizzling hot, add the bacon. As soon as the bacon begins to colour, turn it over and continue to cook until both sides are well coloured and the fat has become brittle and crispy.

Frying baconIn the meantime, slice the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Otherwise, stack the bacon to one side of the pan (or keep warm in the oven) and gently break your eggs into the frying pan. Fry according to your taste.

As soon as your rolls are warm, spread with butter. Break the bacon up and divide between the 4 baps before covering with tomato slices or fried eggs. Squidge each roll together, cut in two and serve with lots of hot coffee and a bottle of Tattinger (a French champagne).

How it played out
Baps? My British friends tell me they are rather like hamburger buns. I bought a packet of brioche buns that were perfect for the job.

Made half a batch of the recipe as written. Our bacon is rather different from what’s on offer in the UK and the USA. Ours is thicker and not streaked with fat. It doesn’t crisp up in quite the same way, but it’s still delicious.

Simply British cookbookWe love bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for lunch.  I spread the baps with some mayo instead of butter (mayo recipe here), and then added the bacon and tomatoes, as well as some lettuce and sliced red onion. We didn’t bother with the hot coffee or champagne.

Other than the brioche buns being a bit on the sweet side, this made a wonderful lunch. You can bet I’ll make this regularly, in fact I make something like this all the time.

Poor John and I are still travelling in West Africa. Internet is patchy and I am likely to take some time to reply to comments. Would love it if you can take the time to check out my travel blog.


Bacon butties

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Foil-roasted big beets with ricotta and mint

beetsMr Wilkinson’s favourite vegetables: a cookbook to celebrate the seasons, 290pp.
by Matt Wilkinson
Murdoch Books Australia, Millers Point NSW, 2012
Cooking on page 32

Melbourne chef Matt Wilkinson’s love of vegetables prompted him the write this book that features more than 20 of his favourites. As he says, ‘I build my dishes around vegetables in season because this is when they will be the cheapest, most readily available and, most importantly, taste the best.’

Vegetables are listed alphabetically—from Asparagus to Zucchini—with about 10 pages of recipes and commentary devoted to each.

He is owner and chef at Pope Joan, an East Brunswick eatery. He also sells a line of chutneys, pickles and sauces.

Roasted beets with ricotta

Foil-roasted big beets with ricotta and mint

4 beetroot (beets) (200 g/7 oz each), washed and trimmed
olive oil for drizzling
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
25 ml (3/4 fl oz) red wine vinegar
250 g (9 oz) fresh ricotta, crumbled
1 large pinch of mint leaves, torn

beet beets in foilMethod
Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7).

Cut 2 sheets of foil and lay them across each other to make a cross. Put the beetroot in the middle, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then wrap up the beetroot to completely seal. Repeat with remaining beetroot. Place on baking tray and roast for 1 hour. Insert a skewer through a bulb to test to see if they’re cooked.

Once done, carefully transfer onto a serving plate, unwrap, cut an X into the tops and push down like a jacket potato. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Just before serving, drizzle over the vinegar, top with the ricotta and mint and season with a little more salt and pepper. I suggest scooping the beetroot flesh out without eating the skin.

How it played out
I made this as written, using slightly smaller beets and rather more foil than I normally would. But the foil did contain all the colourful juices, so that was a good thing. The cooking time was a little shorter—about 50 minutes.

Mr Wilkinson's cookbookVerdict
We love beets and I don’t make them nearly often enough. This recipe is so straightforward, even if it uses a lot of foil. I especially liked the fact the beets didn’t need to be peeled, just washed and trimmed.

Poor John and I are currently travelling in West Africa. Internet is patchy and I am likely to take some time to reply to comments. Would love it if you can take the time to check out my travel blog.

beet with ricotta and mint

Posted in Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Soy-marinated steak

Marinating steaksOne pan roasts, 160pp.
by Molly Shuster
Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2017
Cooking on page 32

This book is all about getting people to realise that cooking at home isn’t all that hard and is well worth doing. The introduction spells out (and shows sketches of) the three basic roasting tins you’ll need to make any recipe in the book.

There are also a couple pages explaining diet in general, cooking techniques, use of herbs and spices, timings, and cooking for a crowd. There are also two pages of sensational sauces to use on one-pan roasts. Pity they weren’t on page 32. Let me know if you want me to share the recipes for garlic aioli, lemon caper sauce, chimichurrie or mustard sauce.

So on to page 32.

Soy-marinated steak

Soy-marinated steak

75ml soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small skirt steak (about 500g), cut in half
400g Chinese broccoli or regular broccoli, stems trimmed, cut into 1.5cm thick slices.

marinade ingredients soy marinade Method
Whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, spring onions and garlic. Keep one-third of this in a bowl to one side. Marinate steak in remaining dressing, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Position rack about 12cm from grill and preheat grill. Place steak and broccoli on a baking tray and drizzle with reserved dressing. Grill for 6 minutes or until steak and broccoli are slightly charred and steak is medium done. Let steak rest for a few minutes before serving. Serves 2.

How it played out
A few weeks before our travels began (see travel note below), I got a great deal on a largish sirloin steak (425 grams), so it was time to swoop on this recipe. Luckily, I found broccolini on special too—only $1.79 a bunch.

Made the recipe as written. Some people may think the amount of sesame oil was overkill, but it is a flavour I love, so I happily used all 2 tablespoons. After 6 minutes under the grill, I let the steak rest for about another 5 minutes. Served the steaks and broccolini with my homemade tabouli and a yellow split pea pureé.

One pan roastsVerdict
Everything about this recipe was delicious. The marinade’s flavours were perfect and so were the cooking times.

The meat wasn’t quite as tender as eye fillet cuts would have been, but it was tender enough and super succulent. You can be sure I’ll make this again.

Poor John and I have been travelling in West Africa since February. We havent seen a decent piece of beef in all that time. Here’s a post on my travel blog about the time we found a special on duck breasts in Kyrgyzstan.

Beef and broccolini

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