Monday, October 31, 2011

Atlantic Salmon with Dill, Chilli and Soy

One of my absolute favourite foods in the world is Atlantic Salmon. Give it to me smoked, cured, roasted, grilled, poached, raw in sushi--- I adore it! It is my staple 'healthy' food. I know I can eat it when on a health kick because its high in all the 'good' fats but not the bad fats, yet it is so delicious that it actually feels as though you are eating a treat food.

Now usually I scope out the seafood section of Coles or Safeway and grab it when its almost at its use by date, 2 fillets for 8 bucks or whatnot then put it in the freezer until we need it. But today, I had two beautiful big fillets of Salmon ($14) from a seafood wholesaler in Essendon, and I knew I had to do something good with them. (On a side note, this salmon was phenomonal compared to the packet stuff from Safeway or Coles... there was no comparison, you could tell the difference in quality- if only I could afford it everyday!)

I encountered a problem at first, because I had Dill in my fridge, which is pretty much Salmon's bff (best friend forever for those of you who aren't exposed to the ''catch phrases" of the youth of today like I am on a daily basis). But then I had a hankering for an Asian style sauce served over some brown rice. I was faced with the culinary question of- can Dill be 'Asian-ised'? Some quick googling came across a couple of bloggers who had posted recipes that combined dill and soy, so I decided to experiment with my own recipe.

The result was pretty damn yum, so I thought I would share it with you!

Atlantic Salmon with Dill, Chilli and Soy
(Excuse the amateur photography!)

Serves 2
2 decent size salmon fillets, skin removed
Large handful of dill, chopped
1/2 large red chilli, seeds removed, chopped
3 stalks of spring onion, chopped
2 teaspoons of garlic
1 cup of soy sauce
Tablespoon of lime juice
Tablespoon of honey
Brown Rice and steamed vegies of your choice (to serve)
*** I cook my brown rice in chicken stock to give it a little more flavour!

In a bowl combine the dill, chilli, spring onion, garlic, soy, lime juice and honey. Mix until combined. In a large flat baking dish, lay out the salmon fillets and spoon over the marinade. Leave the excess marinade in the bottom for the fish to poach in. Cook for 20 minutes on 180 degrees.

Serve atop brown rice and spoon the excess marinade over the top--- more if you love soy sauce, less if you just like a taste of it like my boyfriend does... and he complained that his dish was 'too soy-saucey' but still nice.

Salmon is just such a versatile and easy dish to cook- you can chuck in the frypan, the oven, on the BBQ... lovely with a simple squeeze of lemon or amazing with an Asian marinade, you can pretty much do anything with it!!! And, no need to feel guilty, even though as you eat it you may just feel like you are cheating!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday afternoon High Tea (Zucchini Slice Recipe)

A lovely girlfriend of mine held a ladies high tea at her house this Sunday afternoon, a chance to meet new people, sip champagne and eat some really yummy afternoon tea goodies--- sausage rolls, zucchini slice, biscuits, chocolate mousse tarts, little caramel tarts, dips and biccies, pastries, fruit platter. A very enjoyable afternoon indeed.

Seeing as I love cooking so much, as you can imagine I umm-ed and aah-ed over what to contribute to this High Tea spread. I always find it difficult to cook for people I don't know. I love chilli, but I know a lot of people don't... I love little mini pancakes with smoked salmon but I know a lot of people don't love smoked salmon or seafood in general. I should probably also admit right now that my weakness is baking and sweets. I make an awesome apple crumble, and a great chocolate mousse... but ask me to bake a great cake or slice or muffins and its very hit and miss. So, for these reasons I decided to make something I can never resist at afternoon tea or lunch-time- a good old zucchini slice--- except I put my own modern spin on it. Nothing like taking a classic and making it your own!

My twist on Zucchini Slice

5 eggs
1 cup self raising flour, sifted
1 zucchini, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
5 thin slices of proscuitto chopped or shredded into bite-size pieces
1 chilli, seeds removed, chopped finely
teaspoon crushed garlic
1/4 cup of olive oil
spray oil, to cook
1 cup grated vintage cheddar cheese
handful of crumbled danish fetta
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
In a frypan, lightly saute the garlic and onion until soft. Add the chilli and proscuitto and saute for three minutes or until softened. Set aside.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the flour. Beat until combined (with an electric mixer). Add the grated zucchini, cheese, and onion/proscuitto/chilli mix. Crumble feta over the mixture and add a pinch of salt and pepper or to taste. Add olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. I sometimes add a dash of milk here if the mix is too thick.
Pour into a large lamington tray lined with baking paper 
Cook for about 20 minutes or until browned on top.
Serve either warm or cold.

Such a great and easy dish to cook when entertaining, and this modern spin really gives it a little more zing. Not that there is anything wrong with the original! Enjoy.

L x

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Family Affair...

Today I thought I would share with you my theory as to where I got my cooking/food obsession, and that is the good old family do's that I have been attending ever since I was a young'en. The women in our family are notorious for being able to polish off as much or if not more than the blokes, and we are damn proud of it. And, thus, we have all been blessed with some pretty awesome cooking skills.

A typical family get together for a birthday or celebration very rarely happens at a restaurant, unless it is on a weeknight or there is a particular restaurant one of us loves. For as long as I remember our family has spent many a Sunday afternoon celebrating one birthday or another with a kind of 'pot luck' lunch or dinner where everyone brings a dish. Today was one of those days, celebrating my older cousins birthday.

Over the years the dishes have changed from the standard lasagne or bolognaise, casseroles, fried rice etc as our palates have moved more into the 'gourmet' genre. (That said, I would give anything to have fried rice at our gatherings now as my Nan used to make the very very best fried rice and to have that, and her, at our family gatherings again means I would give up all the gourmet food in the world!)

Todays spread was particularly good, with arancini balls, stuffed mushrooms, sausage rolls, pastry pinwheels, gourmet pizza, gnocchi bolognaise, marinated chicken wings and lamb rogan-josh. I guess I don't really need to discuss how sick I feel right now after consuming such a wonderful array of foods ;)

I think there's something really special about these celebrations, as we all bring a dish to share with those that we love, and the get togethers seem much longer than a restaurant visit, and really, probably cheaper. Plus there is the joy that is LEFT OVERS also. It is a wonderful tradition that I hope to carry on when I have kids one day- and lets face it, I am going to groom them to be such Masterchef Juniors that they'll probably be contributing to the spread before they can even ride a bike ;)

Anyway, I thought today I would share with you the recipe I made today for Lamb Rogan-Josh with chickpeas which everyone seemed to enjoy... I have to admit that it is 'inspired' by Jamie Oliver's vegie rogan-josh recipe.

Lamb Rogan-Josh with chickpeas
Feeds 4-5 with rice

500 grams 'heart smart' diced lamb
4 tablespoons Pataks Rogan-Josh paste
1/4 of a cauliflower, chopped in medium pieces
one onion, sliced
large handful chopped pumpkin (small cubes)
can of chickpeas
250 grams natural yogurt (I used low fat- this is a great substitute for cream or coconut milk, and makes the whole dish a lot better for you!)
bunch of fresh coriander
large handful baby spinach
dash of oil

In a large pot, frypan or I used a tagine pan, heat the oil and add the sliced onion and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. Saute until the onion softens, then add the lamb and the four tablespoons of rogan-josh paste. (Try 2-3 if you like your Indian food more on the mild side, or more if you like it very spicy... I'm a medium girl). Mix so that the lamb is covered in the paste and cook for five minutes or until the lamb is browned. Then add cauliflower pieces, pumpkin pieces, can of chickpeas (including the liquid, this makes up the sauce) and about half a bunch of coriander, shredded. Simmer for about 30 minutes or longer if you have the time. If it seems to be getting too dry, add some water. Just before serving, mix in spinach leaves and the yogurt. Garnish with the rest of the coriander and serve with rice and naan bread. Yummo!
*** More yogurt will make it less spicy, and a nice addition is a can of tomatoes when you add the vegies. It makes it a little bit richer and saucier.

Until next time,
L x

Friday, October 21, 2011


Last night our party of four successfully managed to achieve my goal of eating amazing food on a budget, thanks to a friend who recommended this amazing establishment.

Palookaville's belief is that too many restaurants waste food by having serving sizes that are much too large, and too much filler food. The statistics on their website (check it out- about the amount of food America wastes every day are simply astounding. So comes their motto- you pay less, because they only give you what you can eat. In addition to this, kind of like their name, they offer an eclectic, quirky menu with lots of Asian influences (which I loved, of course) in a funky, pub-like setting. The restaurant is ambient, with cool tunes playing, but despite the huge amount of people it seats we could still hear our conversations.

It is really easy to work out the bill at Palookaville, as every meal is a flat $14, bar the steak which is $16. You order your meals and your drinks at the bar, which would make it a fab situation for a big group as working out a big bill is always confusing, especially if you failed Maths like me.

Our party of four started with the trio of dips and the Moroccan lamb cigars. Both were enjoyable, but the cinnamon sprinkled filo cigars stuffed with yummy lamb mince served with a mint yogurt definitely stood out more than the dips. Our mains were thoroughly enjoyable. Bestie ordered fish and chips, which I would usually not salvitate over, but hers looked fab with a crunchy rice batter and real hand cut chips and Asian salad (which I picked at considering she doesn't eat salad... a perk of our friendship ;) )

Her man ordered the same as me, and we were both impressed with a generous serving of Pork Belly (I told you I just can't say no to it) cooked in a rich Masterstock with bok choy and rice. The pork was a great balance between the chewy rind/crackling and melt in your mouth pork meat.

 My boy couldn't go past the chicken parma, which was a more fashionable version of the normal parmy with pancetta, parmesan and yummy hand cut chips. He raved about the quality of his favourite pub meal, although did admit the serving size didn't satisfy him- mind you, he had knocked off work at 3.30 and hit the pub, so probably needed something more to soak up all that beer!

I, of course, after such a cheap meal, couldn't say no to dessert! The raspberry pavlova with white chocolate was divine, the tartness of the raspberry really complimenting with sweet meringue. My only criticism would be that the cream to meringue ratio was waaaaay off, and I had to spoon lots of the cream off before eating. Still very enjoyable though.

Overall, it was very satisfying to find a funky restaurant that caters to all tastes and budgets. Our friendship group seem to always be saving for rent, houses, holidays etc so its a great find to have somewhere virtually anyone could eat for a swift $20! Especially when the food is the standard of Palookaville. Try it!
L x

<a href=" alt="Palookaville on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;width:130px;height:36px" /></a> Palookaville on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Balinese Culinary Adventures

I decided to write about the foodie adventures I had whilst on holiday in Bali this month. Mum and I went on a 'girls' trip, and I had to feel a little bit sorry for her as I dragged her from place to place checking out all of the restaurants I had read about on Tripadvisor etc. All in all though, we had a fabulous time eating and drinking our way around Bali, spending five days in Seminyak and five days in Ubud. Read on for more details and reviews on the restaurants and bars I loved whilst over there.

ULTIMO, Seminyak
This just has to come first! What an amazing place to eat! We ate here 3 times and could not get enough of the delicious Italian food eaten in a candlelit garden in the balmy heat. It was just magnificant. This is such a busy restaurant, and we were always asked to sit at the bar whilst we waited for a table to become free. However, the service is so impeccable at Ultimo that we were seated within 10-15 mins all three times. The service is attentive and polite without being overbearing, probably the best service I saw in the whole of Bali.

Now for the food...
Pizza- amazing! Thin, crispy bases with (minimal) toppings that were so fresh. I cannot stand a pizza that is 'over-topped' and this was just the right amount of topping and sauce to still be about to savour the doughy taste of the base.
Eggplant Stack- This does have an Italian name on the menu, but I can't remember it. Juicy eggplant slices stacked with melted, oozy mozzerella, basil and a tomato sauce. Just beautiful. I have managed to replicate it at home using lightly crumbed and fried slices of eggplant with a romano tomato sauce, tomato and mozzerella.
Gnocchi- There is only one gnocchi on the menu, and it is to die for. Large, soft pieces of gnocchi that have almost been char-grilled or fried, served on a bed of zucchini puree and topped with one juicy big prawn. We had this twice also. What a unique and scrumptious twist on a gnocchi dish!

Raspberry Panna Cotta- What more can I say? The sweetness of the panna cotta is balanced with the tartness of the raspberries. A perfect finish to the meal.
** I should probably mention that we ate 3 courses with drinks every time we ate at Ultimo, and did not pay more than $30 AU! Bargain.

SATE BALI, Seminyak
This was a gorgeous little restaurant that is hidden away in Seminyak on JL Laksmana or 'Eat Street', but towards the Ku De Ta end. I doubt it has any problems with its patronage though, as Lonely Planet gives it a good write-up and word of mouth would do it some big favours. We were flicking through the menu out the front when a young Australian family said to us, "You won't regret it!", and we were sold.
We ate the Seminyak set menu, which featured a range of traditional Balinese food. Now, Balinese food is actually harder for tourists to get their hands on than you would think in Seminyak. The restaurants are awesome, but many of them are Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican etc. There are plenty of little road-side Warungs that obviously feature traditional food, but it is questionable whether eating at one would have you on the toilet for the rest of your trip!! So, Sate Bali was an excellent way to try some traditional Balinese dishes.
The food was beautiful, very Thai-esque but with its own unique flavours. We had chicken satay (the peanut sauce kind), sate (the BBQ kind), sweet sticky pork, duck in banana leaf, chicken curry, beef rendang and some spicy vegetables... oh, and rice of course. The food was a great balance between sweet, salty and spicy and the serves very generous. The dessert platter was something else, featuring pandan pancakes, coconut banana, caramel banana, fruit kebabs and black rice pudding- what a feast! All for $18ish AU a head.

KU DE TA, SeminyakNow this isn't really a culinary adventure, more of a drinking adventure.
I think everyone who visits Seminyak will have been told by someone that they must go to Ku De Ta. I second that. Walking into the large, open air, beachside restaurant/bar, you feel as though you have all of a sudden gained celebrity status. It is the kind of place that in my normal life in Melbourne, I'd probably need my name on a guest list to visit ;) Imagine the waves crashing along a shore that is scattered with surfers, hawkers etc, chilled tunes playing, huge sun lounges, an amazing cocktail list... and, if you come at the right time, a sunset that is worth the hiked drink prices. We arrived at 4.30ish, and it was already too late to get a sunbed but the chair and table we spent the afternoon in was comfortable enough. By 5pm or so, even the grass was full of people ready to watch the sun go down in style.
Costly? Well, yes. We paid (I am ashamed to say) about $60 AU for a huge jug of sangria that included fresh fruit, white wine, apple liquor and actual frozen apples (awesome idea?!) It gave us four drinks each and lasted us the entire sunset, so was worthwhile, but expensive for Asia!

SARONG, Seminyak
I was insistent upon going to Sarong when I discovered that one of the chef's used to be involved with one of my favourite Melbourne Asian-fusion restaurants, Longrain. We had to try four days before we got a booking, which just shows how popular it is!
This restaurant is really beautiful, but quite expensive by Bali standards. The prices are probably similar to a mid-range restaurant in Melbourne, which is top range for Bali. The gold decor is just beautiful, and we sat in a cute little garden area with the gorgeous backdrop of the main restaurant behind us. The food here was good, but a lot of it I felt I could find at my local Thai restaurant- the curry and stir-fry we had for main especially. The entree of sticky pork belly however was AMAZING (and if you know me, you will know my obsession with pork belly... I know it is so so so bad for me, but it is such a decadent dish and I can't get enough of it). Generous chunks of pork with an even balance of soft meat and crunchy crackling in a gorgeous caramalised sauce.

We loved the day spent with this gorgeous little cooking school in Lobong. Named after the host family compound, you spend the day cooking and socialising in an open air kitchen in a beautiful family home. We learnt so much about the Balinese culture at this cooking school, not just the food. We even visited a local market with a guide, and also had the opportunity to witness a traditional religious offering to the Gods for the food we have cooked. The food itself was awesome and so fresh and vibrant- saute'd tempeh, BBQ'd marinated chicken, sate pork, vegetable salad, rice with sweet potato, tomato sambal. I am getting hungry just reminiscing about it ;)
The class size is small also, with a max of 12. We were lucky enough to be in a class of four, which was a great way to really interact with the hosts and the chef. The boy & I did a cooking class in Chiang Mai along with 23 other people, and it was not all that enjoyable competing with all of those other tourists for help and interaction. This was much more personal and intimate.
BU OKA, Ubud
This is the Bali most tourists are too scared to try- although, not too many considering the huge crowds this place draws every day for lunch. Bu Oka is famous for one dish- Suckling Pig or 'Babi Guling'. We were game enough to eat in this restaurant complete with the paper plates and roaming stray dogs begging for a feed. This is the kind of meal where a traveller may think "Hmm, there are a lot of people here, but am I going to get sick?", but then upon seeing and tasting the food think, "Meh! Who cares?!"
The Balinese style of Babi Guling involves roasting a whole pig with spices over a fire for about  4-6 hours. The end product? Soft, tender, melt in the mouth meat with a crackly, spicy crust. It is served 'easy up' (dumped on a plate with a side of rice), but tastes sooooo good.
And... we didn't get sick!

So, as you can see my adventures in Bali were filled with amazing foods. I should probably mention that I did do things other than eat and drink- such as snorkelling, lots of shopping, white water rafting and elephant riding, as well as many hours spent lying by the pool reading my book and trying (unsuccessfully) to get a tan!
I did also want to add to this post my personal views on Bali following some of the recent 'scandals' that have taken place there. I have heard a lot of people saying they would never go there after what has gone on. I spent a month in Vietnam and Thailand last year, and like in those places, I never once felt unsafe in Bali. Yes, it is very different to Australia. Yes, you will be hassled as you walk down the street. Yes, the laws are different. Yes, the police are known for being corrupt. BUT, why do you go on holiday to somewhere if you do not expect it to be different? If you are looking for a cosy, Australian holiday- go to QLD! Asia is a different country, we need to understand that and follow their rules, cultures and customs. There are way too many people who use Bali as a schoolies style stomping ground, and it is the Balinese people that suffer when these people are caught and reprimanded according the law of the country they ARE IN!!!

We stayed away from Kuta and Legian for the majority of our trip, apart from a few quick shopping trips. In Seminyak, we felt safe and secure and met some really lovely people. In Ubud, we felt even more safe and comfortable as its a beautiful country/rural town with some of the most helpful and friendly locals. I did not go 'clubbing' or got drunk in the clubs, or put myself into any kind of situation where i could be in danger or where I could accused of doing something wrong.

My advice would be to do your research before you go there (or to any part of Asia). My best friend was my Lonely Planet on all of my Asian adventures, so I was well aware of the laws, the dangers, the annoyances and the risks. And by following the advice of seasoned travellers, I managed to stay out of trouble and have a wonderful trip in a lovely (if commercialized) slice of Asian paradise that is only a frogs leap away from Australia.

Until next time...
L x