Wednesday, 28 December 2011

pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy

I am not very good at drinking... alcohol, that is. A wild night, for me, is about two drinks.

Three, if I'm really living life on the edge.

Because there is such a fine and sudden line between a pleasant tipsiness and regrettable discomfort, the drunken state so sought after by many is not really something I pursue. I don't drink to get wasted. I drink for the sexy, intriguing flavours that dance on my tongue. I drink to bring that little bit of warmth to the body and soul. And then I stop drinking, and hope for the best.

This elegant little cocktail I made recently fits the bill. I brought her with me to a party last week. I think she upstaged me... she was cool, graceful, sensuous, flirtatious. A contrast to yours truly - clumsy, awkward, spaced-out, introverted...

Nevertheless. She made me look good. Because I was her Maker.

So make this for your friends, and bask in the praise they heap upon you.

Pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy with a hint of herbs. It's like Slurpee for adults... only better.

Recipe notes:

If you don't have pre-frozen cucumber and raspberries in the freezer, don't despair. This tastes just as pretty without the icy slushy factor. In fact, you can even make this drink ahead of time and just chill it in the fridge in an airtight flask until required - I did this and I swear the flavours developed further and turned out even tastier. Simply proceed with fresh cucumber and raspberries. Blend as per instructions. Just before serving, shake the mixture vigorously with a handful of ice cubes until cold, then strain out the ice cubes and serve.

If you don't have Pimm's No.1 at hand, feel free to substitute with gin, vodka or any other spirit or liqueur that goes well with fruity drinks - preferably one that is not too overpowering, to allow all the subtle flavours of the cocktail come through. Or make it a mocktail by omitting alcohol altogether.

pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy with a hint of herbs
(serves 2)

1 lebanese cucumber - approx. 100g, peeled, roughly sliced and frozen (1 cup)
60g raspberries, frozen (1/2 cup)
60ml rosemary, mint & ginger syrup (1/4 cup) - see accompanying recipe
45ml Pimm's No. 1 (1 shot)

Whiz all ingredients together in a blender until it reaches a smooth slushy consistency. Pour into glasses and serve.

rosemary syrup with a hint of mint and ginger

2 cups water
2/3 cup raw sugar
6 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs mint
2.5 cm / 1 inch ginger, thinly sliced

Bring all ingredients to boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to cool for another 10 minutes. Strain and store in a sterilised bottle. I sterilise my bottles by washing them thoroughly and then letting them sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

A cocktail packed with fruits, with a hint of herbs... sinful or healthy, you decide!

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Sunday, 18 December 2011

green tea mochi, raspberry compote, lime yoghurt

December... the festive month. Are you a Christmas person?

I don't really regard myself as a Christmas person... I don't go to church, I don't go on a gift-giving frenzy, and I don't tend to go out of my way to eat traditional Christmas dishes - but I do enjoy the festive spirit, and the cheer in the air, at this time of the year.

I like that my colleagues and I have Christmas stockings hanging in our cubicle pods, and we leave candies, chocolates and cookies for each other, just as a token of appreciation, and just because it's Christmas.

I like the pretty decorations and the carols. These are not things I do, but to those of you who make the effort, thank you. You make my days brighter.

And I didn't know whether I would have my parents and my boyfriend with me in Melbourne for the holiday season this year, but it turns out I will most likely be spending Christmas with all of them, together. I like that very, very much.

I'm a lucky, sappy girl, am I not? Perhaps I'm a Christmas person after all.

green tea mochi, raspberry compote, lime yoghurt.

Whether you're a Christmas person or not, though, I'm hoping you'll like this dessert I whipped up recently.

For my just-in-time-for-Christmas recipe post, I wanted to create something natural (no artificial colours!) and delicious with those classic Christmas hues - a little green, a little red, a little white. I succeeded with this little dessert, and I am happy to be able to share it with you here.

I'll tell you a few things about this dessert.

1. It's probably one of the easiest things you can make consisting of green, red and white, while still adhering to the must-be-natural-and-delicious rule.

2. The combination of sweet-and-tart raspberry compote and luscious lime-infused Greek yoghurt is so, so lick-off-the-plate-worthy.

3. Cute little gluten-free green mochi dumplings are full of win. My round ones are fashioned with a nod to the upcoming Chinese winter solstice / Dongzhi festival (冬至) celebrations - this is when my family traditionally eats glutinous rice balls / tangyuan (汤圆).

4. Feel free to multiply the recipe so you can share it with loved ones. It's what I hope to do, now that I've ascertained that this dessert concept can be transferred successfully to reality...

just before cooking: green tea mochi balls, or tang yuan - glutinous rice dumplings made with matcha.

raspberry compote, green tea mochi, lime yoghurt
(serves 1 - 2)

You can make all these separate components hours ahead and keep in the fridge, then put them all together when ready to serve.

for the raspberry compote:

1 cup raspberries (125g), fresh or frozen
1/2 tablespoon raw sugar

Bring raspberries and sugar to boil in a saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, for 5 - 10 minutes until sweet and syrupy.

for the green tea mochi / tang yuan / glutinous rice balls:

1/4 cup glutinous rice flour + more for flouring/dusting
1 tablespoon fine sugar (I used raw sugar here, too)
3/4 teaspoon matcha (powdered green tea)

Combine glutinous rice flour, raw sugar and matcha in a bowl.
Boil some water and add the hot water very, very gradually to the dry ingredients, stopping once it reaches a kneadable consistency. You'll probably end up using less than 2 tablespoons of water. If you overdo it, you'll just have to make up for it by adding more of the dry ingredients again to the mix.
Prepare your hands and your working surface with a dusting of glutinous rice flour.
The final green tea dough should be soft and smooth. When you work with the dough, it shouldn't be so dry that it's cracking apart, and it shouldn't be so moist that it's leaving sticky bits in your hands.
Pull off small pieces of the dough and roll into little marble-sized balls.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil, then throw in the green tea mochi balls one by one in rapid succession.
Scoop them up with a strainer when they start floating up to the top.
Carefully plonk them down onto a surface coated with more glutinous rice flour (with a bit of icing sugar if you like it sweet), and roll them around until they are lightly covered and no longer sticky. Gently brush off excess flour.

for the lime yoghurt:

1 teaspoon lime juice, and a pinch of zest if you have an organic lime
1 teaspoon honey - or a light, casual drizzle
1 cup Greek yoghurt

Whisk lime and honey into Greek yoghurt till well-combined.

to assemble:

Spoon Greek yoghurt onto a plate or into a bowl. Top with raspberry compote and green tea mochi balls. Voila, you have your very own red, green and white Christmas treat!

lime yoghurt, raspberry compote, green tea mochi.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

summer treasure hunting... a suburban harvest

Hello, everyone. How's your December been so far?

Mine's been busy, in a mixed-up sort of way. Work's been hectic. My parents are visiting.

The former is not so great. The latter is pretty freakin' awesome.

My parents have been staying at my uncle and aunt's place out in the southeastern suburbs, and on the weekend, I hopped on a tram so I could join them for a couple of days.

It's like a different world out there.

I'm used to my little apartment, and the hustle and bustle of inner city life. Whenever I visit my uncle and aunt, however, I'm transported to a quiet neighbourhood. Laid-back. Spacious. Peaceful.

And there's a garden. Oh yes. I do so miss having a garden, and my aunt has got a rather fabulous one. Forget about flowers... this garden is full of food. Just the way I like it.

Friday morning, I languidly wander off to the patio deck, walk down the stairs, and lo and behold, there's lettuce, so bright and verdant. We enjoyed those gorgeous lettuce leaves in a salad that very night.

Lettuce, you're looking good.

And just next to the leafy lettuce, the green beans sway, looking nice and crunchy.

Green beans, you're not too shabby, either.

I get distracted and wander off to another corner. Here we have tomato plants, and they're coming along nicely. Most of them are still green, but I spied this reddish beauty. I hope to sample one soon!

Oh tomato, you'll be mine one day.

There's also a tiny capsicum plant with tiny green capsicums. Very cute.

Baby capsicums, I look forward to you flourishing into handsome young men.

Mum and Dad have been raving about the zucchinis from the garden. I soon found the zucchini fruits, complete with zucchini flowers, growing out from the base of the plants!

Ah, zucchini, you're such a tease.

At this point Dad enthusiastically comes over and leads me off to the potato plants. "Let's see if we can dig up some potatoes!"

And so we did.

One of them had already sprouted, so we re-planted it.

Diddly dee, potatoes!

Then, together, we discovered these green-and-purple chillies.

I'd like to get to know you better, pretty chillies.

And not too far away, the strawberry plants, sitting pretty in a rectangular box of soil, where I found this young strawberry, blushing a pale pink.

You're destined for great things, my little strawberry. Yes you are.

Saturday afternoon, my aunt picks a few of the ripened strawberries. They look small and awkward; the colours are fairly subdued. But the taste... oh my. I can't remember the last time I had such perfectly sweet strawberries. They are beautiful, and I am so in love.

A strawberry in the hand is worth two in the bush...

And that's not all... but I think I'll leave the rest for another day! I'm sorry if the writing in this post seems a little choppy and unhinged - I put it together in a hurry. Hopefully the pictorial tour of the lovely produce makes up for it - and if you like what you see, I'll be back with more!

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Monday, 5 December 2011

balsamic thyme mushroom & potato fry-up

I like to make myself a good brunch on Fridays.

You see, I don't work on Fridays. I'm all relaxed... I potter around the kitchen, and I really get in touch with my ingredients.

I'll take the time to breathe in the scent of thyme.

I'll lick a bit of balsamic reduction off my fingers.

There are certainly plenty of things for which I can be thankful on Fridays.

balsamic thyme mushroom & potato fry-up.

This pan-fried mushroom and potato dish with shallot, thyme and balsamic vinegar... it's one of those things. It's vegan, but the mushrooms provide a meaty component to the dish, and it's gluten-free, but the potato satisfies those carb cravings. The shallots are deliciously charred, the thyme fragrant, the balsamic vinegar sweetly acidic.

Hearty, yet not too heavy. Robust, yet still quite gentle. My kind of brunch.

some of the ingredients...

pan-fried mushrooms and potatoes with shallot, thyme and balsamic vinegar

2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 French shallot (60g), thinly sliced
1 medium potato (150g), thinly sliced
10 small-to-medium button mushrooms (150g), sliced in half
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat up a couple tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and fry the garlic, shallot and potatoes.
When the potatoes start to char a little around the edges, put in mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and thyme leaves. Slosh in an extra tablespoon of olive oil, too, and even a little bit of water, if the pan looks too dry.
Stir-fry until mushrooms soften, then season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add an extra dash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh thyme.
Try this with toast... perhaps with a gently cooked egg encasing a perfectly runny yolk. And it doesn't just have to be for brunch or breakfast, of course. It would also make a great side with your other main meals!

pan-fried mushrooms and potatoes with shallot, thyme and balsamic vinegar.

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