Friday, 23 March 2012

Food memories

When we were back in Adelaide recently for Womad we also caught up with family.

We have lived away from family for a long time.

All of us kids have moved around the place.

Whenever we get together it usually involves a meal to celebrate.

All of my siblings are great cooks.

We grew up with food that was about celebrating.

And so it still goes.....

It doesn't have to be and isn't always complicated.

In fact sometimes it is food at it's most simple.

It's pared back gloriousness.

It is about the people that it brings together.

I have always loved that.

I hope I always will.

Yes food is what sustains us.....sustains our physical growth & survival.

But the survival of the soul is just as important non?

I love that it is the occasion that helps you remember a dish.

A food memory.

On this trip back to Adelaide my sister cooked lunch for us.

It was totally delicious & so beautiful to share it with her gorgeous family.

I had no idea she was creating such deliciousness behind the scenes.

It was all done before our family arrive to spend the day with hers.

Brought out to the table effortlessly at lunchtime as cousins & siblings sat to eat together.

My kids LOVED it.


We all LOVED it.

I vowed to try it when we got home.

My sister & I shared emails about the recipe so that I could cook it again, only for me to discover that I have had that recipe for years without ever noticing.

I'm glad though because now it will always remind me of that day and of her.

A very happy food memory.

N.B: This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery.

TeoChew cuisine originates from the Chaoshan region in the most North Eastern region of the Guangdong province of China.  It's focus is on braising, steaming & poaching.  My favourite Chilli oil is from this region.
If you have been afraid to handle duck thinking it is too hard or tricky- this is a great starting dish. It is relatively simple with AMAZING results.
It can easily be made a day ahead (in fact you may find it beneficial to do this for flavour & ease) and re-heated.
You can use duck pieces if you wish but I used a whole duck. It won't matter either way- in fact you may find it easier to use smaller pieces. But do use duck with bones (it will give you far superior flavour) such as Maryland pieces.

  • 1 whole duck
  • 1 teaspoon of my salt & pepper mix (recipe here)
  • 1 teaspoon heat tolerant oil (I used Rice Bran oil)
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 6 whole spring onions
  • 2 cups Chinese Rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons Dark soy
  • 1 tablespoon Light soy (light soy while being lighter in colour is FAR higher in salt content)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 8-10 slices of fresh ginger
  • 600ml water
Trim duck of any excess fat.

Pat duck dry with kitchen paper.

Rub the duck generously with the Salt & Pepper mix.

Put the oil into a non stick pan & heat to high.

Place the duck in the pan skin side down. 

It may be a good idea to place a splatter cover over the pan.

Let duck sear & colour- there is no need to turn or move the duck.  Don't be afraid to let it sit for about 5 minutes or until you see a nice brown colour.

This process also helps render off the fat of the duck & gives the duck a gorgeous colour.

Remove and set aside.

Now place all other ingredients at the bottom of a large pot (except the water).

Place the duck on top and add water.

Cover & simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Turn the duck pieces and simmer covered for another 45 minutes.

Now remove the cover and turn the heat to medium for about 7 minutes.

Turn the duck again and cook for another 7 minutes.

Remove duck carefully & put on a plate to cool.

Strain the broth.

Cut the duck into portions.

If you are cooking ahead of time let the broth cool - then place in fridge.
The remaining fat will solidify & allow you to easily remove before re-heating.

Re-heat the duck by placing the pieces in a pan with the duck broth and bring it back to heat.

Serve with steamed Rice and a little of the broth poured over the top.

I served it with my Sichuan Shredded Potatoes on the side- recipe here

Place the broth at the table so more can be added!

Loving Bonnie "Prince" Billy's new album...this song is from it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Womad 2012

A couple of weeks ago our family travelled back to Adelaide.

Hubby and I left there together nearly 25 years ago.

Womad wasn't an event that had started when we lived there.  I am not really sure how long it has been going but I think it is well over 10 years.
Every year amazing acts from all over the world come to Adelaide for this 4 day event.

As dedicated music lovers I have often wondered about our family going.
And then I have visions of us herding our many boys in amongst the crowds and the romantic vision I have disappears with the jolting thud of the reality of being a mother to 5 enthusiastic young people who have a tendency to .......well shall we say 'wander'.

Once we had more than 2 children and couldn't do the 'You have him & I'll have him' type thing we gave up on those sorts of outdoor events.

Our kids were born without a rope limit.

I see some children who lovingly sit next to their parents and can't help but feel a little envious at how much easier it would have been for us if it had been the same in our family.

Well ours would run ......and keep running.
Without looking back.
Not until the last child did I get one that kind of sits still & kind of stays close.

SO...... we have waited....waited till they are a bit older and we feel a bit more able to handle the huge effort that it takes to attend something like this.

It still isn't quite the pop your picnic blanket down and sit still all day type affair. was so fantastic.

There was enormous amounts of room everywhere, several stages and lots of friendly places for a rambunctious lot to roam & play safely.

We started with coffee & ice-cream. Necessary.
We found some gorgeous silk flags to sit under.
.....and watch the main stage.
We got to see the British Uke orchestra....something Mr11 (above) was particularly excited about.  They played the most amazing rendition of 'Life on Mars' - a fave ol' Bowie track of mine.
We blew bubbles.
We were reunited with very special friends from far away & played like it was yesterday that we last saw each other.
We parked ourselves in the gigantic ancient pines on top of the hill and listened to First Aid Kit sing their melifluous tunes.
We rested happily full of laughter & beautiful music.
And then we watched as the children played into the late afternoon light jumping and making fun out of nothing but a hoop and each others company.

 We went home a very happy family that day.
And I know that our kids will never forget that day........I love days like that.
Days you know have been etched into the memories of your family.
May this be the beginning of many many music concerts shared with our crew.
We'll be buying tickets for next year.......and the year after that.
Do you want to come too?

Some days I have a real craving for S & P Tofu.
It feels like a decadent pick me up.
Tofu is a relatively new love in my life.
I used to think it was a bit....well......bland.
Not now.
I LOVE it!!!
I love the Fried Tofu puffs in Laksa (recipe here), I love silken tofu in my Miso soup, I like firm tofu in my stir fries and I LOVE it with edamame (recipe here).
Tofu is incredibly nutritious and choc full of Calcium.
I use the Salt & Pepper mix that I have blogged before (recipe here).
  • 1 small packet firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup potato flour (this is what will give you the gorgeous crispy exterior- you will find it at your Asian grocer)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons S & P spice mix
  • 1 spring onion, sliced fine
  • 1 red chilli, sliced fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons oil (choose a high heat tolerant oil for this such as Rice Bran oil)

Cut the tofu into cubes (about 3x3cm).
Rest on some paper towel to help remove some of the moisture.

In a small bowl add the Potato flour and 1 tablespoon of the S & P spice mix (reserve the rest for sprinkling on the cooked tofu).

Heat the sesame oil in a small fry pan to high. Immediately add the spring onion, chilli & garlic. It should sizzle immediately.
Stir continuously for a minute and remove from the pan.
Set aside.

Coat each cube of tofu in the flour & spice mix.

In a non stick pan large heat the oil to a medium high heat.
Place each cube of tofu into the pan carefully making sure not to overcrowd. 
Turn after 3 minutes or so and let brown on the other side.
Remove and dust with remaining spice mix and sprinkle with the Spring Onion, Chilli & garlic oil.


Todays track is from Big Bill Broonzy. It is a song my hubby has been playing to me on his guitar for many many years. These are the dudes that modern music came from. They still amaze me with their skill. I never tire of it. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

What really happens at our dinner table.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had some of the loveliest things happen.

Shared with beautiful peeps.

I had a lovely lunch at my place with 3 special gals.

It was the bestest.

Pip wrote about it here.

I also had a fellow blogger (Suz) write about how a post of mine has helped create a positive change in her life.

She had come across it as I was conversing with another mum about her previously adventurous eaters' new 'Fussy' stage.  She had asked my advice.

My advice was to 'Give up worrying about it & serve Weetbix' ...well actually I advised Porridge as I know this little lovely has a special love for Oats.

This was an online conversation on Twitter (do you use Twitter? I do - you can find me here.).

She had read the post (which explains my position & experience in more detail) I had linked my other friend to and she wrote about how it had helped her here.

I cried & cried when I read it.

Who would have ever guessed that something I wrote could so profoundly affect someone in such a positive way.

Well at least I NEVER did.

It filled me up.

I overflowed out of my eyeballs.

I felt that as a blogger I could hang up my to speak.

I also had a mum stop me at the stupidmarket to tell me I revolutionised dinnertime at her house.

She has started to serve weetbix when the kids start a fuss.

She had asked me....pleaded with me months ago about how I manage dinner at my place and stay sane.

I pointed her to this same post.

She wasn't a mum I saw regularly.

And I hadn't seen her since we had that conversation.

It was so lovely to hear that for her the mealtime stress has changed in such a positive way.

What was the most interesting of all was that she said that her children seem to have become less resistant to meals too.

As parents of little kids I reckon the stress can be split in half between sleep stress and eating stress.

We seem to judge ALL of our success on either or both of these things.

We seem to have this dark cloud that hovers over us that is dinner or bedtime.

I imagine too that when people see my pictures that I post of the dinners I make here or on my Facebook page or on Instagram (you can find me there at: gourmetgirlfriend)
that lots of people imagine my 5 kids sitting up at the table eating EVERYTHING I serve.

It ain't like that!

I don't want people thinking that.

My little 3 are still pretty unadventurous and will have things like toasties or eggs or speedy noodle dishes, the kinds of recipes that I write about in Tiny & Little magazine.  Meals for their age.  Simple, good quality, nutritious food.

The dishes you see here are really the ones I make for me & Hubs & the big 2 (age 11 &13).
The Big 2 were difficult as younger children too but are now willing & able to eat EVERYTHING that is served.
They don't love everything but they do try- and are expected to.
The Weetbix fallback is still there if they are not in love with what gets served.
Respecting the cook is still an expectation. A nod to the effort is gratefully received (and EXPECTED) but I certainly will not force them to eat food they don't like.  I respect their choice and their different palates.

I cook these delicious meals because I WANT to, because I LOVE to, because it gives ME joy- the preparing but most of all the SHARING.

I don't do it because I think it makes me a better person or a better mother.

Yes I DO feel strongly about my children being educated about food ethics & I DO want them to have a healthy attitude towards food & I DO want them to have an understanding of the provenance of their food & I DO want them to appreciate the effort that goes into cooking a meal & I DO expect the mealtime to be a time of enjoyment & fun & of sharing ......but I DON'T expect them to eat the same as me.  I just don't.

What really happens is that I often serve a meal for the littlies that is different to mine.

What really happen is that it is not gourmet EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

What happens is I REALLY serve ice cream for dinner sometimes. YES. REALLY.

What happens is I get upset too that my kids don't always like what I cook.

What happens is I now focus on the dinner table being a joyful place to be.  Not necessarily a gourmet place to EAT.  There is a BIG difference.

What happens is that we have candles- even when it is Weetbix all round.

What happens is we have music playing.

My message is that NO mother on this planet is to be judged to be a better mother because of the dinner she cooked.

At then end of the day it everything else about LOVE.

Not dinner.

I'm so happy the cold is coming back.
Mostly because I can bring out my stripey tights but also because it is PIE weather!
I made this recipe up years and years ago & have been loving it ever since.  Several of my besties also love it and I know they cook it at theirs too. Happiness making.
When my eldest came home from camp last night I was all ready to make Hainan Chicken rice as I know it is a real fave of his but he surprised me by asking for my Chicken pie.
I was happy to oblige! I LOVE it too and there was a crispness in the air asking for it!
I couldn't believe I hadn't put it up on my here it is!

  • 750g Organic chicken thigh fillets, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green peppercorns (you can use pink and u can reduce the number if you think it might be a bit much but i LOVE the tangy crunch and surprisingly so do my kids!)
  • 8 sage leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 3 rashers bacon, diced
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 1 egg (to brush pastry)

Preheat oven to 180C.
Heat a nonstick pan to a medium/high heat.
Add bacon and fry till brown, add Garlic and stir for a minute.
Add sage and peppercorns.

Raise heat to High.
Add chicken and brown.

Dust flour over the ingredients and stir for a minute or so to cook the flour.
Add Zucchini.
Now add the chicken stock and stir till thickened.

POur mix into an ovenproof dish and top with the Puff pastry.
Make a little hole to allow steam to escape.
I HAVE to make some sort of picture on top of the pie.
I find it NECESSARY & of course it tastes better!
Brush with egg wash and pop in oven for 30 minutes or until brown.

Serve with Buttery Mash!

Here is a little sneak preview of new M.Ward. Can't wait for his new album. YAYNESS:

Monday, 5 March 2012

Food made by a village.

Soon we are heading down to Tasmania again for our annual Sauce making pilgrimage.

All the kids are excited.

So are we.

We have some very gorgeous friends down there we are looking forward to seeing.

Friends we love to share stuff with.

My kids love getting together and doing this.

It is such a great way for us all to make sure we see each other.

I wrote about last year's Sauciness here .

I love how it brings us together.

I love that in amongst our incredibly busy lives we put aside this weekend to make something together.

I love that everyone adds some value to what is being made.

I love that we are able to bottle something of the Summer season that is about to disappear for another year & in that bottle will be the memories too of that day that we spent together.

I love that we are surrounded by many, many more children than adults.

I love that they weave in and out during the busy cooking day all the while happily making the sounds of childhood.

I love that they will grow up with these memories forever in their soul.

I love that they will remember that making food together is one of the most heartwarming, fun & happy memories they will have.

I love that when they grow up the smell of the things they made will forever be etched in their memory and the smelling of the things we made will encourage those memories to flood back into their minds.

I love that my children are growing up with a healthy connection to food and an awareness of it's origins & are already keen cooks.

I love that they see that cooking can be such a fun thing to share with others.

I love that as the children grow up that they have a connection with this group of people.  I know that decades later this connection will never leave them.  Like it hasn't for me with the people that I made food & wine with as a child with my parents.  We still spin the stories of those happy memories together.

I love that we put aside our day to day life stresses to immerse ourselves in the soul warming activity of making something together that each and every time we use will remind us of that day that we spent together.

We have nearly finished last years stash of sauce.

I'm happy we will be replenishing our stores.

Bust most of all I am happy to be cooking with my village again.

I LOVE chilli.
TOTALLY love it.  Maybe even a bit addicted.  Did you know it was addictive?
I'm not sure how but yes it is!
This is a recipe that I have made up after years and years of buying it.
I have a pantry full of various types of chili sauces, jams & oils.
This would be a great thing to make together with other people.
I love that when things like this are slowly cooking it is NECESSARY to break open a bottle of red wine or drink copious amounts of coffee as you patiently wait for it to be cooked.
That is why it is best to make it with somebody else.
The company you have while you cook totally makes it taste better, Non?!
I add this to eggs, to avocado on toast, to noodle soup or on the side of my yummy Thai green curry- or on the day I made it I added it to a chicken & veg stir fry.  
SO good! I just added a couple of tablespoons of the jam and some extra fish sauce & sugar after I had stir fried the chicken & veg. Then added a squeeze of lime & the leaves of the bunch of coriander used in the Chilli Jam recipe.
Super easy, super yum! My kids LOVED it.

Makes about a cup (will last for about 2 months in the fridge)
  • 2 onions, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and roughly chopped
  • the roots & stems of 1 bunch of coriander
  • 1 tablespoon Belachan (sometimes called Trasi- see notes at end of recipe)
  • 15 whole red chillies ( I added the seeds too- remove if you don't want it to be so hot)
  • 2 dried red chillies (the lovely smoky ones)
  • 1 cup of palm (or use brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind 
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce


Add the onions, garlic, chillies, coriander root,
belachan & capsicum into a blender and BLITZ till a paste.
In a heavy pan add the oil and bring to medium temperature.
Add the paste.
Add the sugar and stir till melted.
Now add the tamarind & the fish sauce.
Turn down temp to low and simmer till reduced to a thick syrupy paste.
The colour should have darkened considerably too.
Pour into a sterilized jar and refrigerate.

NB: If you haven't heard of Belachan it is an ingredient used commonly in South East asian cooking. You can find it readily at good asian grocers. It has an odorific smell- but please don't be put off as it imparts the most glorious flavour to dishes!
Look for a packet like this.
I store mine in  zip-lock packet in the fridge. It keeps for years!

I am LOVING the new Lambchop album. Kurt Wagner just continues to write magnificent music. I love him. and did you know he has Basset hounds too?!!! OMG!!! Here's one of the tracks from the new album. (I have also just realised that my previous sauce making post from a year ago also featured a Lambchop song...)