Saturday, July 26, 2014

Recipe: Reuben Sandwiches

Reuben sandwiches are one of those classic American dishes that I'd not encountered until I moved to the US. The combination of flavours doesn't sound like it should be good but it is! This is now one of my go to comfort meals.

Reuben Sandwiches

2 slices rye bread
1 tbspn Dijon Mustard OR 1 tbspn Russian Dressing
2 slices Pastrami or Corned Beef
1 slice Swiss cheese
1/2 cup sauerkraut 
1 tbspn butter


  • In this picture I've used sourdough but traditionally a marbled rye bread is used. Any good quality bread will do but you want something dense enough to hold up to the pickled strong ingredients
  • In a pan heat the sauerkraut and the pastrami until warm
  • Russian Dressing is a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup and other ingredients either this or Dijon Mustard can be used. Supposedly the choice of the two is an East/West coast variation 
  • Spread your condiment on the bread slices - I opt for Mustard
  • Cut the warm pastrami to size and place on the bread, then layer the cheese and the sauerkraut
  • Close the sandwich and then butter the outside of the bread
  • Grill the sandwich either in a skillet or using a panini press 
  • Serve with sweet American soda like Root Beer, Dr Pepper or Coca Cola

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience Resort, Mexico

One of the advantages of the United States is the vast number of tourist destinations within affordable travel range and so we took a week's vacation to Cancun Mexico and tripped about the Riviera Maya and Yucatan.

As it was toward's the end of the high season we got a killer deal on Orbitz for a week at the Sandos resort, an all inclusive holiday destination. This means all you can eat food and drink; a concept that Americans seem to love on vacation but for me this was my first time at such a place.

I thought you might be interested in what you get at such a resort. They had 3 major restaurants - Seasons - a set menu molecular gastronomy affair, Zango's - the main restaurant and buffet, Gaijin - an unfortunately named teppanyaki restaurant.

They also include all you can drink cocktails, coffee time pastries, as well as bistro snacks by the pool and limited room service menu. Going during off season meant that we got a suite and all the food and beverage packages for less than $200USD per night. Prices in Cancun are similar to the US so don't expect to be able to eat off resort cheaply unless you track down small venues that the resort staff and locals eat at.

Please excuse some of the shadowing on the pictures I have a new camera which is proving difficult on macro shots.


Rob Roy

Miami Vice


High Tea


Assorted breads baked in house 

Shrimp "ceviche" ravioli with chipotle emulsion

Yellow corn "cappucino" with coconut foam and truffle parfum

Roasted duck breast with passion fruit spheric and sweet sensations salad

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

Zango's Mexican Fiesta night


Sweets and desserts

Festive setting at sun down


Theatrics from the Teppanyaki chef

Fried rice

Miso with seasonal vegetables

Garlic chicken teppanyaki

Fried ice cream

So what was my experience of the food and drink at Sandos? For the price eating in was very economical, snacks, beers and cocktails by the pool would easily have run us $100 a day. Like many facilities designed for Americans I find the customer service to be variable depending on how nice you are to the staff and whether you tip. $1 a drink is a standard US tip and ensured that we got regular service and kind offers of refills or dish suggestions. I found that customers that were rude or needy to the staff were treated in kind. I have found reviews online of such resorts to be peppered with US tourists expecting to be waited on hand and foot without a single word of kindness to their servers. 

For foodies the quality was 'acceptable' but not amazing and given that we were there for a week it got a bit stale in choice. Still I would happily recommend the experience to others going to Mexico especially given the very limited number of smaller hotels and resorts in the Cancun area. If you include the cost of nights at the bar, breakfasts and dinners it was almost impossible to match the price. I would probably advise going out a night or two for local food. The breakfasts were amazing so fill up in the morning, spend the day site seeing and come home for a hearty dinner before relaxing in your room. 

Be prepared to change seats if you encounter large wedding parties. The all you can drink service and beautiful beach setting make this a common destination for weddings. We weren't the only couple on a romantic holiday to run away from loud groups invading the dining rooms and bars late at night. 

Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience Resort, Mexico

All you can eat and drink beach resort
Good for groups and romantic vacations - not family friendly

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Recipe: Blueberry Yoghurt Pancakes

Brunch is a much loved meal in our house and weekends are all about taking the time for special morning meals. The yoghurt in this dish adds a tangy note that sets off the blueberries well but also makes a hearty meal without additional fat. 

Blueberry yoghurt pancakes

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup yoghurt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup milk or almond milk
2 eggs
1 tspn vanilla
Oil for frying


  • Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar
  • In a small bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla, then add the milk
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the flour, stir until a batter is formed
  • Add the yoghurt and stir until incorporated into the batter
  • Fold the blueberries carefully into the batter 
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add oil to the pan
  • Using a ladle or jug (pitcher) pour a pool of batter the size of your palm into the pan
  • Once bubbles appear in the pancake then flip carefully so as to not break the blueberries
  • Serve with your favourite pancake toppings like maple syrup, powdered sugar and lemon or more yoghurt and blueberries (as pictured)
  • Makes 6 pancakes

Monday, June 30, 2014

Recipe: Oatmeal & Craisin cookies

Cookies are a fast and furious way to make a sweet treat out of cheap cupboard staples. Whether you have guests coming, children in need of a snack or just have a craving for a good book and a cup of tea these cookies are a spicy and delicious morsel. 

Oatmeal & Craisin Cookies

250g (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
3 eggs
1 tspn vanilla
1 tpsn baking soda
2 tspns cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)


  • Preheat the oven to 190C (375F) and line 2 cookie sheets with baking paper
  • Soften the butter and add to a large mixing bowl, cream the butter using an electric hand mixer
  • Slowly add both types of sugar and cream with the butter until smooth
  • Beat in the eggs 1 at a time and then add the vanilla
  • Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda into the bowl and mix into the batter
  • Chop the Craisins and pecans into pieces and add to the batter, mixing thoroughly
  • Using a tablespoon measure spoonfuls of batter into the hand and roll into balls, place around 5cm apart on the cookie sheet
  • Flatten the balls into a cookie shape using a fork and place the tray into the oven
  • Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned
  • Let the cookies cool on the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire cookie rack
  • If you have the willpower let cool completely before storing in a cookie jar or tin or try not to burn your fingers as you eat them warm
  • Budget busting? Switch the pecans and cranberries for cheaper ingredients like raisins, peanuts or chocolate chips
  • Lighten the calories by using light margarine in place of butter, Splenda in place of sugar and reduced sugar Craisins

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Recipe: Banh Mi with fresh pickled onions

We try to have a leftovers night regularly in my house to make sure that we clear out the fridge and don't waste food. Rather than just eating the same dish again I prefer to turn it into something new. This week I had Vietnamese ingredients from our Bun Cha and also leftovers from a Sunday roast so Banh Mi was just what the doctor ordered!

Pickled Onions

1 red onion
1 cup white or rice vinegar
2 tbpsn salt
2 tbspn sugar

  • Start by making the pickled onions, you can also pickle the cucumber this way if you like a more sour vegetable mix
  • Chop the onions into rounds or half moon shapes and add to a bowl
  • Sprinkle the salt and sugar on the onions
  • Add the vinegar, enough to cover the onions
  • Mix with a spoon and leave for 20 mins before preparing the sandwiches
  • The colour from the onions may leave a faint pink colour in the liquid, this is normal
  • Drain off the pickling liquid and then use for sandwiches, salads or Mexican food

Banh Mi

1 baguette
2 tbpsns liver pate
1 bird's eye chilli or 1 tbspn Schiracha sauce
1 tbspn mayonnaise
4 slices roasted meat or cold cuts (chicken, pork or beef all work well)
1 carrot
2 tbspn pickled onions
8-10 slices of cucumber
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

  • Ingredient amounts are for 1 sandwich, multiply by the number of guests
  • I regularly make my own chicken liver pate but any commercial pate or Liverwurst can suffice
  • Prepare the ingredients before collating the sandwich - slice the cucumber, julienne the carrots, de-stem the herbs, slice the meats, pickle the onions and set asside all the spread ingredients

  • Cut the roll in half, spread one side with the pate and the other side with the mayonnaise; if you are allergic to eggs use butter. If using Schiracha spread on top of the mayonnaise
  • Over the pate place your cold meats, for this sandwich I used a mix of leftover roast beef and cold cut Black Forest pork

  • Spread the vegetables (cucumber, carrot, pickled onion and chilis) over both sides of the sandwich
  • Stuff with coriander and mint and serve! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Recipe: Bun cha - Vietnamese pork patties with herb salad

This is a labour intensive dish but absolutely delicious on a hot Summer's day.

Pork patties

500g (2lbs) ground lean pork
1 onion or 1 bunch of spring onions
1/4 bunch fresh mint
1/4 bunch fresh coriander
4 bird's eye chillis
2 carrots
2 eggs
1 sprig lemongrass
1 clove garlic
1 tbspn ginger
2 tbpsns soy sauce
1 tbspn Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc nam)

  • I prepare the vegetable/herb mixture using a food processor or electric vegetable chopper to save time
  • Grate or chop the carrots and onions and add to your mixer or a bowl
  • Separate out some of the herbs,  you will use the rest in the salad about 1/4 of each bunch will do, you should end up with about 1 cup of each once you have removed the stems and separated the leaves
  • Add diced garlic and ginger, mince the herbs and chili and add to the mix
  • If mixing by hand then whisk the eggs before adding to the vegetable mix, if using a machine you can add directly 
  • Add the liquid ingredients - soy and fish sauce. You should now have a quite liquid mix. 
  • Add to the minced pork and mix thoroughly to ensure that the herbs and egg are distributed throughout the meat
  • Take a generous spoon (a serving spoon or ice cream scoop size) of each and form into patties, I do this by rolling into a ball and then tossing between my hands. Place on a tray covered in plastic until you are ready to cook. 
  • This recipe should make enough for 4 people, as I often cook for 2 you can transfer 1 tray of meat patties to the freezer and once frozen store in a bag or box for another day
  • Grill or fry the pork patties until a firm texture is reached then serve on top of the dressed salad detailed below

Dressing (Nuoc Cham)

5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
1 large clove garlic
2 bird's eye chillis
1 spring onion

  • Depending on how cold you like your dressing you may wish to begin with this step before making the pork
  • Boil the water and add the sugar, stir until all the sugar is dissolved
  • Add the fish sauce, be sure to use Vietnamese Nuoc Mam and not Thai fish sauce which is much stronger and overpowering in this recipe
  • Add the lemon juice, if using fresh lemon juice strain the sauce to exclude all the pith
  • Dice the garlic and add to the sauce
  • Cut the spring onion and chilli into fine slices and add to the sauce
  • Chill and serve, this recipe is enough to make sauce for 2 servings, discard after 2 weeks if unused
  • The sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce for Summer rolls and other Vietnamese appetisers


1 cake of rice vermicelli
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh coriander
200g bean sprouts 
4 tbspns roasted peanuts
1/2 cucumber
1 carrot

  • The salad ingredients take some time to prepare; I suggest doing this before cooking the meat patties or they will cool too much before serving
  • Boil the vermicelli for 5 minutes in hot water and then transfer to a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove any rice starch from the noodles and to cool. 
  • Leave the noodles to cool and dry thoroughly before using in the salad. If you do this step first the noodles should be cool by the time you finish preparing the other salad ingredients.
  • Peel the carrots and julien, cut the cucumbers into strips
  • Pull the leaves of the herbs off the stems and set asside, you should use the rest of the bunch that you didn't  use in the meat preparation
  • Crush or dice the peanuts until to small crumbly pieces
  • In a noodle bowl layer the salad - or ask your guests to choose their own. 
  • I layer noodles, then vegetables, then herbs, pour dressing over, top with the meat and then crumble with peanuts
  • Serve with Summer rolls and a small dish of the dressing so that diners may dip their meat with each bite

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Sapporo-ya, San Francisco

The hunt for the ideal ramen place in San Francisco continues; having moved to Japantown some months ago we've been slowly hunting for the right combination of great soups and noodles.

Sapporo-ya is definitely a contender for my best ramen place in the area. Moving to San Francisco from Sydney means that I was amazed and disappointed how many mediocre noodle joints there are when San Francisco has a reputation as a city with good Asian food. In particular we had been craving and craving hand pulled noodles and failed to find them over and over again. Sapporo-ya finally hit home with the right chewy fresh morish noodles we were after. 

Hiyayakko (cold tofu appetiser) $4.50USD

The tofu here is good but bought in, but they serve it with plenty of sides. A great light alternative to dumplings.

Curry Ramen $14.50USD

This is the only place I've found in San Francisco so far that serves curry ramen - a salted ramen soup is topped with Japanese style beef and vegetable curry and micro greens. This is not overly hot but it is very filling so be warned! Great on a Wintery day

Soy Ramen $9.95USD

Lots of good additions here, vegetables, tofu and eggs. You can add additional toppings like corn, butter, pork and more for around $1 a topping.

Spicy Miso Chashu Ramen $13.95USD

Probably my favourite of their offerings the spicy miso soup is heart and delicious with a lot more substance than the other broths. It would have been better with more collagen but nonetheless is excellent and served with fantastic rolled roasted pork. 

The service can be a bit haphazard but no worse than any other noodle joint I've been too. The decor is a little quaint; reminds me of cheap eateries in the back alleys of Osaka. The miso broth is definitely the best here, I would have liked a chilli-sesame broth on the menu but all the soups have been decent and the noodles top notch. Unfortunately they hard boil their eggs which is a bit sad, but their bamboo is fresh and delicious so that makes up forit!


Casual noodle eatery, kitsch decor