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. 
  • For a gluten free/low carb variation use Tamari or wheat free soy sauce
  • 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
  • Because there is no breading in this dish it is perfect for keto or gluten free eaters. 3g carbs (2g net) for 2 patties.

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. 
  • Splenda or Stevia work just as well for Keto; but this sauce will be odd if you omit all sweeteners. Sauce is around 1g carbs per 1/4 cup if using low carb sweeteners. 
  • 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. 
  • Omit the noodles and replace with lettuce or more herbs for a low carb variation. 
  • 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