Sunday, April 29, 2007


I’ll be away for a week, doing family stuff. Posting will depend on sources some speedy wireless spot for free. Though this is not a holiday and sadly food is not expected to be the highlight.

In the meantime – there has been more fresh curry paste making. It is ridiculously easy and yields such a sense of achievement. More soups with vegetables and beans. Variations on Kedgeree. Am I in a bit of a slump here? Would booking a winter holiday somewhere in Asia with delicious food and the possibility of a day in a cooking school be a good idea to refresh this blog? How does Bali sound to you?

What do you do when you feel you are flagging in the kitchen?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

McKeith’s balls

The day had arrived. It had been an age since I first said “I must make those smoked tofu and kidney bean burgers!”. I checked off the ingredients – all present and correct.

Doing my best to follow a real recipe I reached for the “You are what you eat cookbook” and flicked to an earmarked page. Did I follow Dr McKeith’s recipe to the letter? This is a close representation but as always I made a few twists and turns to put my stamp on it. A food processor is an essential piece of kitchen gadgetry for this one, don’t even think about using a mortar and pestle!

Smoked tofu burgers

Heat the oven to 200c.

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
2/3 – 1 cup of your favourite nuts and/or seeds (I used almond and pistachio)
1 carrot, grated
1 can organic kidney beans, well rinsed
200 gm smoked tofu, roughly cubed
1 “small bunch” of parsley (I used half a large bunch), chopped
2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder (the wonderful imported Marigold, if you can’t get extremely good, not too salty vegetable stock powder, maybe use a dash of tamari instead)
2-3 tsp roasted sesame oil

Start at the top of the list by giving the onions a blast in the food processor, then add garlic and nuts. Throw in the carrot and give it 1-2 pulses, then the beans - enough to break them down a bit without turning them into mush. Now add the tofu, parsley and bouillon powder. Whiz it about til the ingredients have blended without being totally smooth. (McKeiths way is to throw all ingredients in at once and process for 7-8 minutes – that seemed excessive to me, especially as the tofu I was using already had a creamy consistency.)

Now taste the mixture. At this point I added a touch of sesame oii. Does it need anything else? The mixture should hold together well, so you can form balls easily.

Cover a tray with baking paper. Now form your burgers (or balls if you’d prefer little bite sized cocktail numbers). I made 11 medium sized burgers but its up to you what size and thickness you make. These took about 20 minutes at 200c to turn a nut brown colour, larger versions might take longer.

Once cooked the burgers were on the soft side but held together ok. They were neither crispy or chewy. If you want a more robust burger add cooked brown rice or substitute it for the kidney beans. I had flash backs to making tofu balls in my shared house days!

For nostalgia’s sake – heres a basic template for making tofu balls

Tofu balls

I always made these by hand, which is a very sensual process, but a short whiz in the food processor would speed it up if you prefer.

Equal quantaties plain tofu and cooked brown rice (brown has a nuttiness and a texture that white doesn’t have so don’t substitute). The vegetables as above (carrot, onion, parsley) are optional. A slurp of tamari (soy sauce) and a little sesame oil. Roll into balls, up to the size of a tennis ball (this will take longer to bake) and roll in sesame seeds. Bake in a moderate oven.

These go well with peanut sauce!

If you liked these recipes: try my nut roast.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007


I've trawled back through hundreds of posts and added nifty little tags. These will no doubt evolve more over time but for now they offer a few handy short cuts. If you only want to read posts with recipes, then that the tag you click. Cuisine is broken down a little more - dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free (I will retro tag more of these), salads, eggs etc. Of course you could still use the drop down boxes on the right to search for recipes. "Favourites" are just that - mine and yours, updating hits from most searched dishes. You never know what you will find there.

If there are tags you'd like me to add to make searching this blog easier for you, let me know.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

a simple little fish dish

Kitchen hand made a casual mention about things he likes to do with root vegetables in a recent post. Tucked away in a prelude for a recipe for Swedes was a throw away remark about a nice dish involving parsnips and fish. I’d run my eyes over it before a trip to the market on Thursday, aware we had one vital ingredient - the remains of a good bottle of white wine too good to be discarded, so I hastily added parsnips and some fillets of fish to the shopping list.

His original recipe used carrots, but was open to the inclusion any root vegetables. As usual I made a few twists and turns. From his couple of lines, I’ll attempt to fashion a recipe. Maybe your interpretation will be even better!

Braised vegetables with snapper

Heat the oven to 200-220c. Layer the vegetables in a casserole dish, or use a deep baking tray and cover with foil.

1-2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced longways
1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced in rings
1-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
Some white wine and vegetable stock (or water) – about enough to cover the first layer of vegetables
Season with a little sea salt and black pepper

Cover and bake til the vegetables are almost cooked (20-40 minutes depending on the amount of vegetables, how thick they are cut and the heat of your oven).

Now lay some fillets of fish over the top. Cover and continue cooking. I used snapper and it took about 12 minutes.

Unlike Kitchen hand, I didn’t’ add any butter. The fish was perfectly steamed and fragrant. The Significant Eater, a man who generously seasons all that he cooks, was amazed at the flavours in such a simple dish. The sweetness of the vegetables, mixed with the wine and stock, made such delightful juice. It didn’t need any further herbs or spices.

Verdict: extremely healthy, easy and delicious. Of course you could always use this as an excuse to open a bottle of wine and sip while it cooks….

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

a week of pleasures

In the past week I have:

Seen fresh guavas being sold on a city street.

Participated in an excellent Spanish Sherry tasting.

Post above tasting, handed taxi money over to my visitor because I didn’t’ feel capable of driving her to her dinner date.

Eaten far too much: big breakfasts (Black Ruby, The Green Grocer), dinners at Cookie, Classic Thai, Shakahari.

Made a damn fine, restorative bean and vegetable soup between meals out

Tasted some delightful new wines (Hunters fume blanc from NZ at Cookie, another excellent kiwi sauv blanc at Jimmy Watsons)…note to self: good excuse to go back to find out what it was.

Handed over an arm and a leg for some organic produce at Macro. Almost $13 for a jar of Marigold Vegetable Bouillon really is worth it – there is no better commercial stock powder that I can find.

Discovered a great new organic supermarket (offshoot of IGA) in the city. A fantastic range of premade goodies, gluten free treats, biscuits that are healthy and taste good.

Wondered why New Zealand seems to produce so many delicious organic foods, with a population the size of Melbourne. Why can’t we at least match the range?

Bought new season persimmons from the market

Had trouble doing up my new jeans!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Though the recent holiday was light on chocolate (that was to come later, when the Significant Eater returned from Sydney with a huge box of favourites from Adora) and buns (I’d been eating them all week!) I still felt the need for something vegan and healthy before the weekend was over. Just being around so much sugar and flour made my body cry out for culinary balance

The brunch delight left me hankering for more of the same flavours and the following vegan delight unfolded

Fragrant vegetable and bean stew

In a pot I sautéed some cumin, chilli, garlic, onion and a nice big chunk of young ginger. The fridge held a good array of vegetables just waiting to be cooked, so in went some fennel bulb, carrots and zucchini bursting with organic goodness. For some good quality complex carbs I added a tin of kidney beans. To provide enough liquid so the vegetables could bubble away happily together I used the left over tomatoes from the eggs, about 2/3 of a can and the about a cup of good quality vegetable stock. I wanted the tomatoes to be a background flavour, rather than dominate the combo. For a salt hit I added a handful of green olives.

The stew simmered happily for about half an hour before I could no longer resisted the tempting aroma.

This is a simple template of flavours – add the vegetables and beans of your choice. As always the longer you cook them, the better it is. So make sure there are leftovers for lunch. If you prefer a soup, add more stock. Preparation took less than 10 minutes and the healthy factor is through the roof. What could be simpler?

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter eggs

A few days in my own space to muse on the meaning of life, catch up with friends, eat, drink and be merry. Home alone I tend to graze. Most mornings I have sat in the sun under the grapevine reading or writing, while leisurely plucking warm grapes from the vine for sustanence. After a while my tummy starts to rumble for something more substantial, so it has been a great time to play with brunch. Experimental cooking for one!

Some highlights:

Cross-cultural eggs

What country lies half way between Ireland and Mexico? I don’t know but I think I’ve just invented their national breakfast dish.

Scrub a potato (peel it if you really want but with organic spuds it’s a pity to waste the goodness). Cube and start shallow frying in olive oil in a fry pan.

Add some diced onion, a little bit of chilli (enough to warm rather than bite), cumin and a generous amount of garlic.

When the potato has softened, pour in enough crushed fresh or canned tomato to make it a little stew-like but not a soup. Season with salt and pepper. Add some green olives or fresh coriander if it takes your fancy.

Once the tomato has married all the flavours make an indentation or two in the delicious vegetable concoction and slip in some eggs to poach. Keep the heat on low and be patient. When the egg is set to your desired poaching consistency carefully plate up without breaking the yolk.

breakfast fish and chips

The potato for breakfast theme continues - this time a little more traditionally.

Thinly slice a potato or two and cook in one layer in a hot pan til crispy.

Scramble eggs your favourite way.

Take a few slices of the best quality smoked salmon you can afford.

Drain the potato on paper towels and assemble on the plate with the eggs and salmon. My favourite way to eat this is to put a piece of salmon on a crispy potato slice and top with a little of the creamy scrambled eggs and eat like a canapé.

Have a good holiday.

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