Sunday, 30 October 2011

Years go by.....

Another year has swept by.

Soon to celebrate my birthday I am left reflecting....

Flooded with thoughts.

Yesterday I sat in a moment.

Struck by the beauty.

The beauty of what I live with.

Five beautiful beings.

One beautiful husband.

I am so lucky.

So lucky to have what I do.

Laksa is one of those dishes that when you have for the first time it CHANGES your life. Opens your tastebuds to a whole new culinary adventure.
I LOVE it.  One of my fave comfort foods.
It takes me me back when Hubby & I were first going out and we would head to our fave little Asian restaurant- where we were such regulars that the owner would just nod his head knowing exactly what we had come for.
Here we are nearly 24 years later and I am still having Laksa with my best friend. We both LOVE it.  Most of the time I make it at home as it's super tricky to get out with our lot. 
It is another dish that changes according to what  I have available.  The basic mix is the same & then you add what you like.  Different every time.
It seems complicated when you see the list but it keeps in the fridge (or you could freeze single portions in zip-lock bags).
Last week someone opened my eyes to adding large chunks of Chargrilled Eggplant- oh me oh my- why have I never had that??!!! My fave veg and in laksa! I am so adding it next time!

(Makes about 600ml of Laksa paste.)

  • 4 tblspoon Belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seeds (roasted & ground)
  • 125g fresh lemongrass (2 stems) finely sliced
  • 90g galangal or ginger
  • 50g red chillies (about 4)
  • 150g shallots (about 4)
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 100g Macadamia nuts
  • 2 cups of Canola oil
 Blend in a food processor till the ingredients are a fine paste. Add a little water if you need to.
Spoon into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge.  Or put individual portions (you need about 8tspoons to make Laksa for 4) into the freezer in small ziplock bags.

  • 2 1/2 cups of Coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons Chiu Chow chilli oil
  • 2  1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 4 teaspoons of fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoons lime juice
  • 300g egg noodles
  • 150g rice vermicelli
  • 12 fried tofu puffs 
  • 150g char siu (recipe here or buy some at your local Chinese BBQ restaurant)
  • 150g chicken, cut into strips
  • a handful of fresh coriander
  • a handful of vietnamese mint
  • 2 small chillies sliced finely
  • 4 teaspoon fried shallots (available at Asian grocer)
  • 4 lime wedges
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves sliced super fine
  • 200g bean sprouts (washed well) 
N.B. You can add whatever meat, seafood or veg you like. Mix up your favourites.  If it is raw meat/seafood or veg that needs to be cooked add it just after you have fried off the paste and follow the recipe from there. 
Prepare noodles according to the instructions and keep warm while you prepare the soup.
In a large pan put 8 teaspoons of laksa paste and fry on a medium heat till fragrant ( I don't add any more oil as there is plenty in the paste already)- about 5 minutes.  Add the shredded kaffir lime & the chilli oil (optional) now.
Add chicken (and stir through- it doesn't need to cook fully as it will cook in the soup).
Add chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer & cook for 10 minutes. 
Add tofu puffs and let warm through. 

In each bowl serve equal portions of noodles and then add a large handful of washed bean sprouts.
Ladle soup to cover and add meat and tofu puffs to each serve.
Sprinkle very generously with fresh herbs and fried shallots.
Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over.

Sooooo good! 

Todays song...a fave of both mine & hubby's:

Monday, 24 October 2011

Navigating change

Navigating change is so hard.

So much harder when you are delving into the unknown.

In our heads we roll around ideas of how things might go.

How we might deal with things as they present themselves.

It helps us prepare for things.

Helps us build resolve.

Build courage.

But life doesn't always follow a plan.

And sometimes what we have in mind isn't really how it turns out.

I have always been pretty good at being able to be spontaneous.

I've been able to deal with change really really well.

It used to be easy.

Now it's hard.

Last year a huge event blew everything I had always known out of the water.

It changed me.

It changed everything I knew.

Now I feel afraid.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of the unknown.

I have been learning to accept that this is ok.

A natural course for someone in my situation.

I have been trying very hard to go easy on myself.

To do what is good for me.

That isn't always easy for the people close to me who aren't used to this new me.

But it is hardest of all for me....I don't know this new me very well either.

I am learning to say no.

That has never been easy for me to do.

But navigating change is not easy.

I just need to trust myself and believe it is ok.

And that it will be ok.

It will.



I make this quite often for lunch.
I love the slippery silkenness of Tofu.
I know lots of people don't like it.  Only one of my kids really loves it.  He loves it when I make this, we devour it together!
It is SUPER quick and I always have tofu in the cupboard.   I eat it as is. 
SO yummy!  it is my sort of comfort food.

  • 1 pack of silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons Sesame oil
  • 1 red chilli (or a teaspoon of chilli oil)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • a 2cm chunk of ginger, sliced into extra fine strips
  • 1 stem of spring onion - sliced finely
  • some freshly chopped coriander
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Slice tofu into large chunks in a shallow bowl.  Add spring onion, chilli, coriander & soy sauce on top of tofu.

In a small pan heat sesame oil till hot and add garlic & ginger and immediately take off of heat and pour over the tofu.

It will sizzle and the perfume of the flavours will envelop you!

Eat immediately.

Today's track is another duet featuring Willy Mason. After listening to Lianne La Havas all week I re-visited Willy mason's music. I love it.  This time he is singing with the very lovely Isobel Campbell (she sang with Belle & Sebastian for a while but she is also a cellist.)
It is such a lovely track...hope you enjoy:

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Every week I spend hours & hours listening to and seeking out new music.

I love it.

It fills my soul.

Gives me solace when I am sad.

Raises my spirits.

It makes me smile.

It makes me cry.

It makes me laugh.

It helps me cook.

I get super excited when I discover something great.

It is something I love to share.

Like my cooking.

That is why I set out my posts here like that.

A recipe.

A song.

And I love that I know others that love to share too.

Very often what I post is not necessarily new discoveries but old favourites.

Or tracks the kids have been putting on. 

This week I am posting a new track.

A track that I CAN NOT stop listening to.

I love it when a song gets in your bloodstream.

This is one of those......

An artist's name I hadn't heard before (Lianne La Havas),  in a duet with one I do (Willie Mason).

I hope you like it as much as I do.

Her new EP was playing while I cooked this dinner..... and it's playing while I write today's post!

This recipe is surprisingly easy & super quick (the marinating time is the longest).  It uses a spice mix that I always have in my cupboard.  I make it myself.  It doesn't take very much time & you end up with quite a bit.  If you store it in your pantry in an airtight container you can use it for lots of things. I love to use it for Salt 'n' Pepper tofu- a lunch special I make for myself fairly regularly.  The fragrance of this spice mix is too divine for words!
If you don't want to use Quail- it would be equally delicious with chicken or duck!
The spice mix comes from Martin Boetz's cook book for his LONGRAIN restaurant.  It ALWAYS reminds me of some VERY VERY special friends in Sydney (you know who you are! x)...we may or may not have had WAY too many Caprioskas there was NECESSARY!

(makes 1 1/2 cups)
  •  50g szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tblspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 piece of cassia bark
  • 5 small red chillies
  • 100g sea salt. 
DRY Roast spices (this means DO NOT add ANY OIL) in heavy based pan till you are smelling the heady & delicious fragrance- about 2-3 minutes. Let cool and grind till fine. 
Store in an air tight container. (It will keep for several months)

500g Quail Breast
2 tablespoons Salt'n'Pepper spice mix
3 tablespoons dark soy
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon (3 cloves) garlic crushed

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.  
Work through well so that the Quail is well coated.
Set aside for at least 2 hours to marinate- or overnight if you have time.

Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high.
Place the breast skin side down and fry (I did not add any extra oil) for approx 3 minutes. Turn and fry for no more than  a minute.  
Remove and place n a plate.
Let sit for 5 minutes.
Then slice into large bite size slices (I sliced each Quail breast into 3)

1 lebanese cucumber- peeled into fine strips (use a veegatable peeler)
1 carrot- finely julienned
a handful of vietnamese mint
a handful of regular mint
a handful of coriander
2 cups of bean sprouts (make sure they are rinsed)

In a large bowl mix all of the salad ingredients well.
Sprinkle generously with Nuoc Cham (click here for recipe).  You can omit the chilli if you want to serve it to kids.
I did and added fresh chilli to ours.

Place well tossed salad on plate and place Quail on top.
I served it with Jasmine Rice as my kids are super hungry at the moment but it would be delicious just as a salad on it's own.

Here's the track that I talked of....'No room for Doubt' by Lianne La Havas with Willie Mason:

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Over the last little while I have been lamenting on how I seem to have lost my ability to read as I used to.

I love books- I have written about it before here and here. 

I look at cook books a lot.  But I have stopped reading other forms of literature.

And I am missing it.

I spend a lot of time as a stay at home mum looking on the internet, conversing with  my buddies on twitter & facebook.  I love that- it gives me a sense of community. It is great to chat with other people who share similarites with me- like cooking, raising kids, making stuff, thinking about know...the important stuff.

I love that i can come and go as I please.  Take a little bit here, give a little bit there.

Being a stay at home mum is a pretty challenging job.

My long time readers know how much I love it.

I love it A LOT!

Each and every day I am thankful that I can do it.

I don't enjoy my job everyday but I am thankful that I am doing what I do.

Conversing online makes it less of a solitary exercise.  I can feed my brain a little.

And I have met some truly lovely people- people that I would not have met otherwise.  These people have helped me through some particularly hard times over the last year.

But lately I have been thinking of how I can find a better balance.

How I can switch off from my electronic world and get my head back into books again.

I have an ever growing pile of books on my bedside table that has toppled and spills across the floor.

My tendency after a very tiring day doing my job is to head over to the internet to see what all my buddies are looking at,  reading short snippets here & there.  Stuff that is important & stuff that is well written.....but not BOOKS.

I have been reading cookbooks to cook with- of course.   I have several bookshelves filled with them.  Here's one of them.
One of the other reasons I love cookbooks is because they give me a peek into the world of the culture that the food has come from; stories of the people & histories of nations.

I don't want to feel like I have to read.

But I do want to read because I feel like is the desire that I crave.

In the back of my head I am thinking of a plan to help me.

Those people that know me know my resistance to making a plan.  I think I am a bit averse as I don't like to fail.


But maybe it's time I learnt to plan......... and learnt to accept failure.

I have started to make To Do lists- but my rule is they have to have things on them that are not housework jobs but things that are good for me....this one includes something about reading. I set the bar pretty low in the reading stakes.....but in my super busy days I have to keep it realistic too.

I always tell my kids failure is natural part of the learning how come I find it so hard to practice that in my world?

I have some ideas swimming around to help me out.

I'm thinking of getting some other people to join me.

I don't like doing stuff's fun to share!

Do you have the same trouble?

I would love to know how you overcame your reading block- if you did?

This recipe comes from Claudia Roden's book ARABESQUE- a taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon.
I love her recipes and this book was about her revisiting the countries she had first written about in the 1960's (opening up their cuisine to many of us for the first time) to see how their cuisine & culture had changed since that time.  I have a very well thumbed original copy of her Middle Eastern cookery in one of my cookbook shelves.  I have very quickly fallen in love with this book also.
I made this dish last week and had a request to blog the recipe.
I fell in love with the story & had to cook it.  I also have a deep love for Eggplant- and so do my kids so I was keen to try this.
The name of the dish means "Her Majesty's delight".  The story is that it was served to the wife of Napoleon III - Empress Eugenie in 1869 when she was entertained by Sultan Abdul AzizThe Empress was so taken with the pale,creamy aubergine sauce that she requested the recipe.  The Sultan's cook refused however, explaining that he could not pass on the recipe as "He only cooked with his eyes and nose."

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tblspoons Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 kg boned Organic lamb leg or shoulder, chopped into medium chunks
  • 500g tomatoes (tinned is fine- use chopped ones)
  • 1 tspn sugar
  • 1 clove garlic (not in Claudia's recipe but I CANNOT cook without it!)
  • S & P
  • 3 large eggplants (aubergine)
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tblspoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • good grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 50g Gruyere cheese (or other good quality cheese).
Fry the onion until soft in EVOO. Add garlic and fry for a minute or so.
Add the diced lamb and cook till lightly brown.
Add tomatoes, S & P and sugar.
Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on.
Check every now & then to make sure it does not dry out. Add water if it does.
Remove the lid for the last half hour and let sauce reduce.

For the puree- prick the eggplant with a pointed knife to prevent them bursting in the oven.
Place them on a large piece of foil on a baking tray and roast them in an oven preheated to 240C for about 45-55 minutes or until they feel very soft when you press them and the skins are wrinkled.
When cool enough to handle, peel and drop them into a strainer or colander with small holes to press out as much juice as possible.
Place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a fork. Set aside.

Make a bechamel sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan add the flour and stir over low heat for abut 2 minutes to cook flour.
Add milk & cook at a gentle heat while stirring to prevent lumps. Add salt and plenty of nutmeg. Cook for aobut 15 minutes or unitl the sauce has thickened.
Now add the eggplant and cheese. Stir through until cheese has melted.
Serve the meat stew in a shallow dish with the aubergine sauce all around.

I served it with a Basmati pilaf with brown lentils and a side of green beans with almonds.  When the sauce is all mixed through it is AMAZING!

and todays listening pleasure....

Monday, 10 October 2011

Silence in the house

School & kinder has gone back after a two week break.

My newly turned 3yo is in bed asleep.

There is a strange silence in the house.

One I haven't heard for two weeks......

I love having the chaotic sounds of the kids around.

I love not being woken by alarms.

I love looking over at the couch at the spray of children woven in amongst each other watching old fashioned cartoons to start the day.

I love taking our time over breakfast.

I love the weather of the September holidays.

Although this time the rain kept us inside for most of the first week.

But the sun came out & out came the Scrabble, Upwords & the play outside.

The recently turned 5yo is a self taught reader and was ever so happy to join in.

We all loved his starting words.

First this:

and then this (our favourite!):

The last Saturday before we went back to school we headed to our favourite beach.

A little hidden treasure of a place that we generally have to ourselves.


I love those days where you are sustained by nothing more than a packet of dry biscuits, a few sandy apples and the glorious sea air where time is forgotten.

It was the most magical day of our holidays.

All 5 were immediately involved in something.







It soothed me momentarily from the tug that I feel every holidays of trying to give all of my children- now at such varying levels of development- something to enjoy.

Here is a pictorial essay of some of the moments from that day that I will treasure.

Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mix.  The word apparently originates from the Arabic word for 'Pound"-as the mix of spices & nuts is pounded after being dry roasted.
I make my own mixes although it is relatively easy to come by in various shops now.
I love to make my own as I can depend on it's freshness and also mix up the flavours to my own taste.
The following recipe is the one for the latest batch I made. 
I used it alot over the holidays on my breakfast.  
It is also lovely sprinkled on Basmati rice to serve alongside tagines or other middle eastern foods. 
I was thinking the other day how lovely it would be on a pan-fried fillet of fish too, with a squeeze of lemon juice. YUM! I am going to do that this weekend I think!
Once you have made it store in an airtight container & it will keep for months.  I hope you will find yourself sprinkling it all over the place! It is sooooo delicious & super easy!

  • 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup of pistachios
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano ( I used my own dried Oregano from the garden- or substitute with the Greek dried )
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a good grind of WHITE pepper
Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
Add nuts and roast till fragrant and just turning brown.
Remove and set aside.
Add the spices & sesame seeds to the same pan and roast till fragrant.

Add the nuts to a mortar and pestle and pound till coarse- alternatively use a food processor and pulse till the mix is coarse.  Be careful not to overprocess.
Place nuts, sesame seeds, S & P and spice mix in an airtight jar and sprinkle generously!

As we were on holidays I lazed over breakfasts and used my Dukkah quite a few times.  
One of my fave brekky's was : Dukkah sprinkled geneorously on top of soft poached Organic eggs with a sprinkle of freshly chopped dill & a squeeze of Lime juice on toasted sourdough with lashings of avocado.  Good enough for any time of the day!

On holidays I feel in love with this track. I played it many times......