Saturday, 30 November 2013

odds and ends: a glimpse of my everyday cooking: noodles, soups and stews

Here's a lazy end-of-the-month post where I share with you the sort of things I cook regularly: noodles, soups and stews. For an indolent cook, these are easy, fuss-free dishes that don't take up much time or effort at all. I whip up meals like these ones in all sorts of variations all the time without jotting down any measurements, but I'll give you a quick tour anyway, and perhaps you'll be inspired to make something similar!

I love a good ramen. If my memory serves me correctly (ha! Iron Chef reference!), this is a vegetarian miso ramen I made with organic ramen noodles, bits and pieces of vegetables from the fridge, and free-range eggs. Gotta love the umami taste, and those wobbly, creamy orange yolks.

Vegetarian ramen.

This is a quick stew I made some months ago, using leftovers from a roast pork dinner. I added some tomato and onion to the roast pork and root vegetables, along with some water, cooked it for a bit until the flavours married, then threw in some coriander leaves.

Leftover roast stew.

A wondrous work lunchbox creation: blanched rice vermicelli noodles, fresh beansprouts, raw cashews, and a boiled egg. I sloshed in some lemon juice and soy sauce, then sprinkled on mint leaves, sliced red chilli, white pepper and salt. When I wanted to eat, I poured in some freshly boiled water from the kitchen kettle, let it sit in the container with the lid on for a few minutes, and voila! A gentle, soothing, vegetarian Asian vermicelli soup to enjoy at my desk. I really should do this more often, I was a very happy girl that day.

Just-add-hot-water vermicelli lunchbox.

Last but not necessarily least, I bought some organic Koshihikari rice recently, a Japanese short-grain variety. I paired it with pork, cauliflower, broccoli, lamb's lettuce, fatty pork, and miso to make sort of a rice stew, or soup.

Miso rice soup.

What are the types of dishes that make up part of your everyday life?

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

baked miso eggplant, or nasu dengaku my non-traditional way

Baked miso eggplant.

I've recently gotten into making my own baked miso-glazed eggplant (nasu dengaku, a popular Japanese dish). Along the way, I've added my little touches. My version of nasu dengaku is not quite traditional, but I really like it. Many recipes I've seen cook the miso glaze prior to brushing it on the eggplant, but being lazy, I've devised a miso glaze that skips the cooking step - no extra saucepans to wash, hurrah! Now, more about this miso glaze: Instead of sugar, I used honey. (For a vegan option, try maple syrup instead.) I also added two exciting ingredients - Chinese black rice vinegar, for its complex character; and ground dried chilli, for a cheeky hint of spiciness. I like using eggplants that are not too narrow (so that it's more satisfying to dig in), but also not too voluptuous (so that it cooks easily for the much-sought-after melt-in-the-mouth texture).

The results are some beautifully dark roasted eggplants which are sweet, savoury, soft and silky. Simon and I both adore this. Whenever I cook this at his place, I make sure we buy at least two eggplants, so we get a whole one, or two halves, each. Even then, he still likes to tease by naughtily, greedily asking me if all the eggplants are for him. I chastise him but I secretly love it - while still making sure I get my fair share.

Roasted eggplants with miso glaze. These may look almost burnt, but I can assure you it was actually perfection.

baked miso eggplant, or nasu dengaku my non-traditional way

Part 1 (the eggplants):
2 eggplants (about 300g each / 2/3lb each)
a pinch of salt and a dash of oil, to brush before roasting

Part 2 (the miso glaze):
2 tablespoons miso (choose a gluten-free version if you have such a dietary requirement)
1/2 tablespoon honey (or, for a vegan substitute, maple syrup)
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon black rice vinegar, aka zhenjiang / chinkiang vinegar
1/2 tablespoon rice wine (e.g. mirin, sake, shaoxing)
1/8 teaspoon dried chilli condiment (e.g. red pepper powder, chilli flakes, shichimi)

Part 3 (the garnish):
toasted sesame seeds, shredded nori, or thinly sliced fresh spring onions to garnish (optional)


Heat the oven to 180°C (360°F) fan-forced, or 200°C (390°F) conventional.
From the stem of the eggplant, slice down to cut each eggplant into halves of about the same size. Score each half with a criss-cross pattern, going as deep as you can without touching the skin at the bottom. This scoring step allows it to cook quicker and also makes it easier to scoop out to eat.
Brush, or rub in with your fingers, the cut side of the eggplant halves with a mix of salt and oil - a little should go a long way. Any neutral oil suitable for roasting is fine, I used rice bran oil.
Roast the eggplants in the oven, cut side up, for about 30 minutes. If your eggplants are very plump, you may need a bit longer. By the end of it, there should be some darkening on the surface of the eggplants, giving a toasted appearance.
While the eggplants are in the oven, prepare the miso glaze. Mix all the ingredients together until they're well-combined - and that's it!
When the eggplants are done roasting, retrieve from the oven and smooth on the miso glaze so that it evenly covers each of the cut surfaces. Then put the eggplants back into to the oven and bake for another 5 - 10 minutes, until the glaze starts to gently bubble.
Serve your not-so-traditional nasu dengaku on a plate. Add garnishes if you wish. Then, tuck in merrily with a spoon!

My not-so-traditional version of nasu dengaku.

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Friday, 15 November 2013

rustica sourdough, fitzroy: breads, cronuts, award-winning tart!

After stumbling upon Rustica Sourdough (402 Brunswick St, Fitzroy) many months ago, Simon and I quickly adopted it as our local bakery. I've posted about our happy discovery of their fig and fennel ficelle earlier this year, and ever since then we've continued to make more happy discoveries.

Take, for example, their roasted pumpkin bread, a supremely soft and fluffy semi-sourdough creation with plump and crunchy pumpkin seeds flanking the exterior.

Pumpkin bloomer, $6.20.

The sourdough rosemary and vine fruit loaf was quite small and expensive, but it was also incredibly generous with juicy raisins/sultanas. The fragrant, savoury touch of rosemary made it just that little bit more special and interesting.

Vine fruit and rosemary loaf, $6.75.

Then we have the cronuts (yes, you can find cronuts in Melbourne these days - yay!), which I would describe as doughnut-shaped flaky layered pastry. Despite their deep-fried nature, they felt pleasantly light on grease. I was impressed with the lemon curd cronut with its pretty balance of acidity and sweetness. The custard and jam cronut came second in terms of my preferences, but it was enjoyable too.

Lemon curd cronut, $4.20.

Jam and custard cronut, $4.20.

But if there is one thing with which I am absolutely and utterly in love, it is their passionfruit tart. I first purchased this thanks to a staff recommendation. It lived up to her exaltations, and then some. The passionfruit curd was beautifully intense, and together with the buttery shortcrust, this is a sexy treat that disappears fast. I was not surprised when it later took out a major award for Best Victorian Product at the 2013 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards.

The award-winning passionfruit tart, $5.90.

We've also visited Rustica Sourdough in the evening, once. They started serving fancy-rustic pastas and burgers for dinner in August, however it seems that they've now decided to scale back and just open weekend nights for nibbles and drinks. Oh well. We did quite enjoy it that one time!

Meanwhile, there are still so many lovely baked goods I'm yet to try. I'm thinking my next bite will be of one of their intriguing chocolate violet crumble tarts...

Rustica Sourdough Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Friday, 8 November 2013

the cutest little carrots, and edible carrot greens

Simon's housemate has a little garden in the balcony, which is sort of a learning process in itself with travails and triumphs.

Recently, there was some excitement as the first carrots of spring were harvested. They were small, skinny, but extremely full of crunch and flavour, with an almost spicy zing as we chomped into them.

Amongst them, we found some incredibly adorable, absolutely tiny carrots. I love their irregular shapes, too.

The cutest little carrots.

There was also an abundance of carrot tops, or carrot greens. The below picture shows only a fraction of the whole compilation.

The lopped-off carrot tops.

This then ignited a discussion as to whether carrot greens are edible. I had a feeling they were, and I thought I might even have seen recipes for carrot greens before, but just to be sure, I confirmed this with the good ol' internet.

I found this nicely written post by Garden Betty, which pretty much says, go forth and eat those carrot tops! Barring any unusual allergies or intolerances, they are fine for consumption.

I chewed on some raw carrot greens. They had a rough texture that encourages a good jaw workout, and they actually do taste quite similar to carrots - but in lieu of the bright sweetness, there is an earthy, herbaceous hint of bitterness instead.

Smoothie with carrot greens.

I can imagine carrot greens being quite versatile - so far I have added them into smoothies, soups, stews, congee, and stir-fries. These greens certainly have attitude, and a lot to offer.

Have you had carrot greens before? How do you like them?

A very carroty congee with carrots and carrot greens.

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