Sunday, November 8, 2015

Recipe: Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers (Low carb, gluten & dairy free)

Sometimes cooking for my team at work can be hard since we all have so many dietary restrictions. This was a great answer for the low carb and gluten free diners. Chimichurri adds a freshness that lifts even fatty beef and it pairs wonderfully with the sweet roasted peppers. I've prepared this dish with a beef roast but it works just as well with grilled flank steak or rib eye - use the meat that fits your budget. 

Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers 

1 bunch flat leaf parsley
6 - 8 cloves garlic
3⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon diced red onion
salt and pepper to taste

300g beef per person


  • Cut the cheeks off your peppers and deseed
  • Place on a foil covered baking tray and grill at 260C (500F) fairly close to the heat on a high shelf
  • The skin of the peppers will begin to blacken and bubble - this is intended and we want as much of the skin as possible to blacken
  • 8 - 12 minutes should be enough depending on the heat and freshness of your peppers
  • For best effect use 2 - 3 colours of peppers for contrast

  • As soon as the peppers are out of the oven wrap them in the foil you used to bake on. 
  • Wrapping the peppers in foil contains the moisture and steam and this will make removing the skin easy

  • Leave for 10 minutes then unwrap and scrape off the blackened skin with a fork. Your nude pepper cheeks should look a little something like this

  • Cut into small strips and leave to cool 

  • Set your oven to 180C (350F) if you are roasting beef
  • For steak wait until the peppers and sauce are made before grilling

  • For roast beef turn into a baking tray fat side up, liberally coat in salt and pepper and score the fat, roast while we prepare the sauce Bake at 180C (350F) for around an hour

  • To prepare the chimichurri you may want to use an electric chopper since you will need to finely dice all the ingredients. Make sure to only use the pulse setting to avoid liquifying your herbs
  • Feel free to do this by hand using a chef's knife if you have good knife skills or you prefer a courser sauce
  • Dice the onion and add to a bowl
  • Finely chop the garlic and parsley together
  • Add the vinegar, oil and citrus juice then stir
  • Taste and then season with salt and pepper
  • If you wish to soften the sharpness of the dish you may add more oil and a small amount of Stevia or brown sugar (1/4 teaspoon should be enough)
  • Slice the beef into slices then layer with chimichurri sauce and roasted peppers
  • Serve with a fresh green salad

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Recipe: Sugar Free Marzipan (Easy, Low Carb & Gluten Free)

Marzipan and marzipan cookies are a favourite holiday treat of mine. Had I known how easy Marzipan was to make I'd have started doing this years ago.

Sugar Free Marzipan

2.5 cups Almond Meal
1 cup Swerve or erythritol
2 egg whites
1/2 tspn Pure Almond Extract
1 tspn Rosewater (optional)


  • Using an electronic food processor or mixer add the almond meal and Swerve

  • Alternative sweeteners like Splenda or Stevia can be used but Swerve is the best for taste and carb value in confectionery. 
  • Swerve does have carbs but as a sugar alcohol it does not affect blood sugar and can be discounted from the net carb values. 
  • Pulse the dry ingredients until a fine powder is formed

  • Separate your eggs and put the yolks asside - these will not be used in the recipe and should be used in another dish

  • Add the egg whites, Almond extract and Rosewater if using then pulse until a crumbly dough is formed
  • Knead on a clean non stick surface - if required dust with a small amount of almond meal to prevent sticking. 

  • Once properly kneaded a slightly sticky but smooth dough should be formed
  • You can use marzipan in cookies, cakes and pastries but they also make beautiful cake decorations or sweets on their own

  • Here I'll show you how I prepared these giftable marzipans using a Mooncake mold but any cookie cutter or pastry plunger cutter works perfectly
  • Traditional mooncake molds look like large wooden paddles that you press cakes and pastries into to form presentation shapes for Mid Autumn Festival in Chinese communities, they can be fiddly to get cakes out of. 
  • Modern day plunger molds are perfect for forming marzipan and other thick pastries and cost less than $20 for a set. They can be bought online direct from China or via domestic US online stores like Amazon

  • Roll out your marzipan to the desired thickness, remember this is a heavy sweet due to the nut content so 1cm (~1/2 inch) is more than enough
  • Press the outside of the mold flat to your board and then plunge the decorative pattern into the marzipan, hold for around 2 seconds and then lift the plunger and remove the marzipan
  • You may need to push the plunger back down and carefully peel the marzipan off the design, particularly for intricate patterns
  • Place in an air tight container and refrigerate until consumption
  • If desired dip into 100% cocoa chocolate which has been tempered, but these are delicious on their own
  • Makes around 18 1 inch square confections - each serving is 96 calories, 8.3g fat and 1.1g net carb

Thursday, October 1, 2015

St George's Market, Belfast Northern Ireland

For better or worse I travel regularly for work but there's usually a chance to steal a little time to see the country side wherever I am. For me tourism always has a food component and while I was visiting Belfast I discovered a thriving market in the center of the city. 

Built in the 19th century the market has that distinct Victorian look of community buildings in the United Kingdom but word is that the site was the location of the central Belfast market as far back as the 1600s. Named the best indoor market in the UK in 2014 this is a great stop for the food tourist to Northern Ireland.

Open every weekend the market is a lively shopping mecca thrumming with tourists and locals buying fresh ingredients and eating lunch. On Saturdays the market offers local food and crafts as well as live music, making it a great stop during a day out in Belfast. On Sunday the emphasis is more on local Crafts - making it a good stop for souvenirs but less lunching options. 

There are a number of competing Hop On Hop Off bus tours in Belfast all of which stop conveniently outside the market. Be warned though at lunch time these buses are packed to the brim with hungry site seers who pour in to the market 100 at a time. For the best choice of goods and to avoid the crowds try going to the market early while tourists are still off seeing the Titanic Museum. Make sure to get to the market before 3pm as vendors will be clearing out and the market closing between 3-4pm.

The open warehouse style market makes it easy for vendors to load in and load out and provides large open seating areas to enjoy a warm snack. It reminds me of Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia with stall owners hawking their wares and a happy bustle of commerce. 

As well as the standard Green Grocer fare - fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat there are a number of fantastic specialty stalls and global specialties. 

Local farmers and producers sell small batch items like jams, chutneys pickles and cakes. My pick of the Irish baked goods has to be the slices though - buttery rich jam, fruit and nut slices abound and all are delicious. This is a country that obviously relishes in morning and afternoon teas. 

Innumerate bakers offer fresh loaves, for a taste of the local stuff try the Irish Soda Bread - delicious with hot warm soups and stews. Regular European migrants and recently resurging economies mean that there are many Italian and French bakery options. Some of the bakers also offer fresh sandwiches and pressed paninis. 

Hot food stalls offer international snack foods like pies, pasties, crepes, paella and curries. 

Irish beef is definitely worth stopping for - tasty and grass fed I've never eaten so many good burgers as I did in Ireland beating out the US at their own game. 

The market is also a great place to pick up spices and hard to find ingredients. Wagyu beef, fresh seafood, exotic spices and more are fantastic for the cook or the foodie in your life. 

There's wifi in the markets as well as a few stalls selling battery packs and sim cards which also makes it a convenient stop for travellers. If you get sick of the crowds there's a brasserie that overlooks the market and a great little pub across the road. 

All in all a great stop with lively community and excellent food. 

St George's Market

East Bridge St
Belfast BT1 3NQ

Indoor food and craft market with live music
Great for tourists

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recipe: Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Who doesn't love red velvet cake? I see it more as a vehicle for eating cream cheese frosting but the moist dense buttermilk cake is a real hit and stays fresh for several days in the fridge.

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups Plain (all purpose) flour
1 1/2 cups Caster (bakers) sugar
1 tspn baking soda
1 tspn fine salt
1 tspn cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups Canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 tbspn red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 tspn white or white wine vinegar
1 tspn vanilla extract
oil / butter for the cake tin
Maraschino cherries for decorating

Cream Cheese frosting:

500g (2 packets) Cream cheese
4 cups Icing (Confectioners) sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (equivalent to 2 sticks)
2 tspn lemon juice


  • Preheat your oven to 180C (350F)
  • Oil a large cake tin or two layer tins and then dust with flour
  • In a large jug or bowl beat the eggs and then add the other liquid ingredients - buttermilk, oil, food colouring, vinegar and vanilla

  • Into a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and cocoa
  • Into a mixer on low alternate the dry and wet ingredients - 1 cup at a time
  • Mix on a medium speed until well combined
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and then smooth the top with a spatula
  • Place the tin into the middle of the oven and cook for 30 -35 mins until the middle springs back
  • If you are dividing the mixture between two tins then rotate the tins after 15 mins
  • Once cooked move the cake to a cooling rack
  • After 10 mins remove the cake from the tin and turn back onto the cooling rack
  • Once the cake is cooled (and not before!) make the frosting, if you premake the frosting it will lose its consistency and if you try to frost a warm cake it will melt
  • Cut the cake in half and leave open to ensure it is cool on the inside while you prepare the frosting
  • De-stem and cut your Maraschino cherries in half, leave soaking on paper towel to remove as much of the syrup before you decorate the cake. Syrupy cherries will leak red food colouring onto your beautiful cake and ruin the look of the frosting.
  • Let the cream cheese and butter reach room temperature so that they are easy to mix
  • Place in a stand mixer and cream the butter until it is pale in colour 
  • Add the cream cheese, you may want to add this one half brick at a time
  • Then add the icing sugar 1 cup at a time on low (so you don't spray fine sugar all over the kitchen!)
  • Once all the cream cheese is incorporated add the lemon juice - or if you prefer you can use vanilla instead but I find lemon brings out the tang of the buttermilk in the cake
  • Leave the icing on a medium speed for 4-5 minutes, this will make it light and fluffy and should increase the size of the frosting by about 50%
  • Transfer the bottom half of  your cake to a stand or platter and cover the layer with frosting, around 1/2 - 1 cup should provide a thick central layer of frosting
  • Carefully place the top half of your cake over the bottom
  • Frost all over the top and sides of the cake - use a cake spatula and a turning decorator if you have them
  • Once frosted add your drained Maraschino cherries and any birthday candles or candy decorations

Monday, September 14, 2015

Yamadaya Ramen, Japantown San Francisco

Regular readers of my blog know how much I love ramen and particularly tonkotsu ramen - a milky pork broth made with lots of collagen. So when I found out there was a tonkotsu specialty restaurant mere blocks from my house I got very excited. 

We were not disappointed on arrival, this is the best and most authentic ramen joint in San Francisco today. Most ramen places in the Bay Area have either great soup or great noodles but not both. Yamadaya is the restaurant that is the exception to prove the rule. A simple Japanese style menu with a handful of options and multiple additions focuses on high quality but simple comfort food fare. Yamadaya has become our "go to" ramen restaurant and we've eaten repeatedly since finding it. Given our Japantown location this is a real sign - with all the choice of noodle restaurants this is where we choose repeatedly.

The secret to the gooey thick soup is printed on the wall - masses of pork bones are boiled down for their collagen for 20 hours to produce delicious fatty goodness. 

The decor is simple with wooden booths and shared tables very reminiscent of Osaka hole in the wall eateries. 

Yona Yona Ale $9USD

Yamadaya features a range of imported and craft beers on tap and in bottles / cans. Standard fare like Sapporo and Kirin are available but also this Yona Yona Ale, Ebisu, Koshihikari Eichigo and more. The beers are rotated on a regular basis so look for something new each time. Be careful to watch the price tag of the beers since rarer options like this beer are hefty in price. Mass imports like Sapporo are much more affordable. 

Torii karaage $6.95USD

Appetizers like this fried chicken dish are cheap and good quality. Good quality meat is used, the oil is fresh and the dishes come out piping hot. Healthier fare like Miso Soup ($2USD) and Edamame ($2.95USD) are also available and all go great with a beer. 

Teishoku add on set - curry rice and salad $3.95USD

Order your ramen as a teishoku (meal set) and you can have a choice of small salad or rice and a small serving of a main dish like dumplings, curry, spicy tuna or karaage. 

Tonkotsu ramen $9.25USD

The 'standard' tonkotsu ramen at Yamadaya comes with half an egg, a slice of chashu roast pork and vegetables. Tokyo style soy tonkotsu and kotteri style with garlic oil can also be ordered as variants. 

All the tonkotsu dishes come with thin style Japanese wheat noodles common in tonkotsu. If you're looking for thick noodles similar to what you would get in a miso ramen order "thick type noodles" for an extra 50c. The money is worth it the thick noodles are chewy and delicious, just the right level of al dente. 

Cheese ramen $12.95USD

Plain tonkotsu broth and noodles are served with a mountain of shaved fresh parmesan cheese that melts into a gooey mess with the pork fat. I recommend adding a fizzy drink and some vegetables to cut through all that fat. Great as a comforting but slightly bland meal for the sick.

Spicy Tonkotsu $9.75USD

This is my go to meal when eating noodles and really hard to get past how excellent it is. Spicy tonkotsu (level 3 hot hot hot!) is served with a fermented chili miso paste, eggs and pork. 

I always add the thick noodles and if you're extra hungry add the Yamadaya Special to any dish with both chashu and kakuni (belly) pork, extra egg, seaweed and bamboo shoots. My only wish is that they would do this dish as a tsukemen (dipping noodles) since their only tsukemen has fish based broth which I think negates the point of going to a tonkotsu specialist.

Unlike many Japanese restaurants there is also a vegan and vegetarian option made with salt or soy milk. Bento boxes and donburi rice dishes are also available and suitable for children but I always recommend eating the house specialty so go for the noodles. 

Service is as you might expect in a high turn over Japanese restaurant, fast efficient service but minimal on English and niceties. The restaurant is wildly popular on Friday / Saturday nights and during Japantown / Filmore Street festivals, I recommend eating early (~5pm) to avoid waiting. Highly recommended, definitely our choice of the Japantown eateries. 

Ramen Yamadaya

1728 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Casual noodle eatery and tonkotsu ramen specialty restaurant

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ferry Building Food Market, San Francisco

We do love food markets and I've been making more of an attempt to visit them in various cities. I admit that I had not taken the time to go to the Ferry Building despite it being in my city primarily because of it's location at the Embarcadero - a busy and touristy area of town. Don't let that put you off though the markets are well worth a visit and the crowds are manageable if you go mid week or early morning on weekends. 

The San Francisco Ferry Building was converted into a food hall after the decline of ferry transport in the city and earthquake damage. Large renovations have been completed to bring the beaux arts building back to its former glory. 

I had heard it touted as a farmer's market but there's no flimsy marquees here, this is high end boutique eating from California creators like this Golden Gate meat company stall. The Ferry Building is one of the few places in the Bay Area that you can reliably get dedicated butchers and game meat. 

Drying hams and beef can be found on display at a number of butcher and charcuterie vendors. You can see the deliciousness forming over time. 

Prather Ranch Meat Co. is another specialty butcher featuring sustainable and humane meat, free of antibiotics and hormones common in the US.

Mariposa is the gluten free bakery that amazes my coeliac friends. This is no dull heavy brick style bread that some wheat free bakers produce but instead a huge range of bread, cookies and pastries that have the mouth feel and density of wheat based products. I don't know what their magic is but Mariposa makes for great gifts for those with dietary restrictions and always delights. 

This nut stall offers a huge arrange of raw and roasted nuts but also the most amazing natural nut products like additive free nut butters and brittles. Try the cinnamon almond brittle it's amazing. 

Finding good quality honey in the US can be hard and shockingly honey is often watered down with glucose or corn syrup. Beekind is the answer offering pure local honey from a variety of orchards and wildflowers.

There are plenty of options for the tea lover like this stall from Heath Ceramics with a wide array of tea cups and pots as well as crockery. Or try the Imperial Tea Court for an Asian traditional tea house offering Chinese and Japanese teas in a formal setting. There's even a dim sum restaurant included for those who like their tea with a side of pork. 

A number of the bakery vendors like the Acme Bread Company sell sandwiches pre-made or on custom order and featuring the meat and cheeses of other vendors on display. This makes it a great option for a brunch or lunch outing. Be warned though there are only a couple of venues that have actual seating. Consider buying yourself a picnic and heading down to Pier 39 to watch San Francisco's infamous urban seal lions.

We decide to stop at Boccalone - a charcuterie store run by celebrity chef and Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino. This is a great stop for the cured meat fan or the foodie TV obsessive. You can buy cones of shaved cold meats - great for a low carb lunch option or buy yourself a pressed sandwich filled with melt in your mouth charcuterie.

Prosciutto cotto with provolone and whole grain mustard $8.50USD

Hot italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions $8.50USD

Of course my favourite offering has to be the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese shop. They offer a huge range of cheeses direct from Cowgirl and other local cheese producers from Marin and Sonoma Counties where goat's cheese is a speciality. They also have a small sandwich shop called Cowgirl Sidekick offering the fanciest grilled cheese one could imagine. 

Buy local artisan cheeses by the round or tub and take home plenty of sides like fresh pickles, jams and nuts to make the perfect cheeseboard dinner. 

They don't stop themselves at local cheeses though. European cheeses from Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and more are available as well as American cheeses from Wisconsin (which rival the European cheeses in taste and quality). 

All in all the Ferry Building is a fun day out if  you can handle the crowds or plan around them. Definitely take the chance to buy local organic produce to take home or to have a picnic around the northern tip of San Francisco with beautiful ocean views and the usual eclectic San Francisco Culture. 

San Francisco Ferry Building 

San Francisco Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94105

High end food market and boutique eateries

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Recipe: Hiyashi Chuka (Cold sesame ramen salad)

It's mid Summer here in San Francisco and the heat is turning everyone to cool salad dishes. One of my Seasonal favourites is this cold salad ramen dish. You can top it with just about any leftovers or vegetables you have in the fridge!

Hiyashi Chuka (Cold sesame ramen salad)

Noodle salad:

1 pack of fresh ramen noodles 
1 boiled egg
1/4 cup diced ham or chicken
1/4 cup julienne carrot
1/4 cup julienne cucumber
1/4 cup sweet corn
2 tbspn benishoga pickled red ginger


3 tbspn Japanese rice vinegar 
2 tbspn soy sauce 
2 tbspn sugar 
2 tspn sesame oil


  • Buy good quality fresh wheat ramen noodles at your local Asian supermarket like Sun noodles "instant ramen" style noodles will not do this justice
  • Follow the instructions on the noodle packet - generally boiling in water for 2 mins until al dente is enough
  • Pour your noodles into a strainer and rinse with cold water, this cools the noodles as well as removing the starch.

  • You can prepare the noodles early and cool in the fridge but if you do this you should sprinkle with a half tbspn of sesame oil and then shake the oil through the noodles so they do not stick together. 
  • In a small jar mix the dressing ingredients - vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. If you cannot find rice vinegar white vinegar  will work as a substitute

  • Dice your salad vegetables and cold meat and slice your egg
  • You can use whatever you have in the fridge - cold meat, vegetables and pickles. This combination of egg, meat, cucumber, corn, carrot and Japanese pickled ginger (benishoga) & eggplant (shibazuke) are classic.
  • For a vegetarian / vegan adaptation omit the meat and egg and replace with firm silken tofu and more veges. 
  • Lay the noodles into a shallow bowl and then arrange the salad ingredients on top - using contrasting colours adds to the effect
  • Serve the dressing on the side so that the diners can add at the last minute - this ensures the noodles stay chewy and the salad ingredients crisp and fresh
  • Serve with your favourite sushi and a cold drink!