Sunday, 28 October 2012

pan-fried jerusalem artichokes / sunchokes, bratkartoffeln style

there's almost a cosmic quality in this shot of the jerusalem artichokes, don't you think?

I live in a two-bedroom apartment. I rent. I share. Over the past few years, I've had people from different walks of life come in and out of this cosy apartment, while I remain.

When I came across Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes, sunroots, earth apples or topinambours) sometime ago, I thought about what I could do with them, and one of the first things that popped into my mind was to emulate the German dish, Bratkartoffeln, which I experienced for the first time, thanks to my Bavarian housemate, Max, back in 2009. Bratkartoffeln's star ingredient is the humble potato, of course, but I had a feeling that Jerusalem artichokes, with a similar taste profile, would be a brilliant swap... and it was.

So here's my recipe for pan-fried Jerusalem artichokes, loosely based on that delicious, delicious Bratkartoffeln.

sunchokes or jerusalem artichokes, cooked bratkartoffeln style. oh yeah!

pan-fried jerusalem artichokes, bratkartoffeln style
(serves 2)

450g jerusalem artichokes / sunchokes (1 lb)
1 tablespoon oil
120g bacon (4 ounces, or approximately 4 slices) - may be omitted to make this vegetarian or vegan-friendly
1 onion (150g / 1/3 pound)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Peel Jerusalem artichokes, then cut into slices of approximately 0.5cm / 1/5 inch thick.
Warm up some oil over medium heat. Fry bacon and onion together for 5 minutes. Add garlic and Jerusalem artichokes and fry for about 10 minutes, depending on how you like the texture of your Jerusalem artichokes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you're using bacon, additional salt is probably not required.

Serving suggestions:
If you're going with the Bratkartoffeln way, toss through some chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (also known as continental or Italian parsley). As I didn't have any parsley, I decided to serve my pan-fried Jerusalem artichokes on a bed of mixed fresh salad leaves (mostly baby spinach) with a dollop of unsweetened natural yoghurt. I imagine sour cream or goat cheese would also be great, or you can give it a dash of lemon juice or sumac for a dairy-free, vegan option if you like a bit of acidity.

this sunchoke bratkartoffeln can be a satisfying meal in itself.

Simon devoured his in, like, two minutes - just goes to show how you can't go wrong with the awesomeness of Bratkartoffeln. I wasn't too far behind.

Oh, and if I've now got you pondering the idea of using Jerusalem artichokes - you can find them in the markets around wintertime, give or take a little (I got mine weeks ago, which was, by then, towards the end of their Australian season, but Northern Hemisphere friends should be seeing them emerge right about now). Here are our thoughts on their taste and texture. When raw, their fresh crispness remind me of water chestnuts, while Simon likens them to a fusion of apple-potato, and they can go well in a salad. When cooked, like in this pan-fried dish, they develop a starchier quality, venturing into comfort food territory. They're good either way with their gentle flavour, experiment and see what you like!

P.S. Another photo, basically the first one in this post, but cropped to highlight one of the Jerusalem artichokes, which Simon reckon looks like a wombat. By golly, it does!

you have to love a root vegetable that looks like a wombat.

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Sunday, 21 October 2012

sydney food adventures!
hong ha, bourke st bakery, kura kura, n2 extreme gelato and niji sushi bar

I'm back in Melbourne!

And I'm loving it... except I do miss my interstate adventures in Sydney and Canberra, and that glorious, glorious holiday feeling where work and responsibilities are so, so far away. Gosh. That is a wonderful feeling, I'll tell you that.

Oh, well. At least I can try to re-live my time away with this post, right? And it has the bonus effect of fulfilling my blogging duties as well. Yes!

I'll have to somewhat skip the wedding and baby part of the trip, at least in the pictorial sense, because all those photos are in Simon's camera, though they might eventually make their way to this blog. But I can tell you that the wedding in Sydney was fantastic - the bride and groom both looked incredibly gorgeous and blissful AND they even did a thrilling Gangnam Style performance with their friends! By the end of the night, young and old were kicking up their heels on the dance floor. The celebratory mood was infectious. Also, my sister's baby? CUTE. And definitely a handful. It was lovely to catch up with my sister again and see the baby for the first time. Are we all grown up now or what! I didn't end up entertaining myself much with food during my short time in Canberra, but hey, there'll be a next time, for sure.


Now, back to those food adventures.

After all the wedding stuff, Simon and I chilled out the next day with friends. For brunch, we met up with my friend Em, and we went to Hong Ha for takeaway Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi). There is quite a bit of hype surrounding this place, particularly their chilli chicken rolls, so that was what I got.

the famous chilli chicken roll from Hong Ha, Mascot.

The buns here are pretty great - the exterior is delightfully crisp, then descends easily into an equally delightful fluffiness. The fillings tasted fresh, savoury, and yes, spicy when you bite into those chillies. I was happy with my choice. Simon and Em went the pork route, which, according to Simon, was alright, though not remarkable. Overall, even if they may possibly be a tiny bit overrated, for an easy $5, I find the rolls here to be splendid value for money.

Hong Ha on Urbanspoon


After enjoying our brunch in the park, we walked to the nearby Bourke St Bakery in Alexandria. I've heard so much about Bourke St Bakery and was truly looking forward to it. Em, who is no stranger to their offerings, got her favourite, the chocolate tart, while the ginger brûlée tart caught my eye.

ginger brûlée tart from Bourke St Bakery, Alexandria.

I thoroughly enjoyed my tart. The dense yet flaky pastry somehow felt simultaneously wholesome and sinful. The custard was smooth and sensual, with beautiful caramelisation on top. I washed it down with a refreshing house-made lemonade, and wished I could fit in more of those scrumptious-looking bakery goodies.

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon


Satiated with sugary joy, we parted ways with Em after she kindly gave us a lift into the city centre. We wandered around a bit, and as evening fell we met up with Simon's friends from his university days at Kura Kura for a cheap and cheerful Japanese dinner. My aburi sushi was okay; it did the job but didn't really excite my taste buds. I snuck a bite of Simon's dish - hearty, succulent pork belly and spinach on rice - and preferred his choice to mine. Either way, the food here may not be groundbreaking but at prices of around the $10 mark for most dishes, it's good and satisfying.

pork and spinach on rice at Kura Kura Japanese Casual Dining, Chinatown.

Kura Kura Japanese Casual Dining on Urbanspoon


For dessert, we ventured to N2 Extreme Gelato for what is basically made-to-order gelati conjured up on the spot with the help of liquid nitrogen. This is something you'd want to approach with caution, particularly with some recent news of a cocktail mishap in England, but N2 assures that they have strict safety procedures and the liquid nitrogen is fully evaporised before they serve their icy treats. I've got to say, it does look cool, both literally and figuratively speaking.

where the magic happens... at N2 Extreme Gelato, Chinatown.

N2 is big on quality ingredients and gleeful flavour experimentation. That night, I opted for Confused Cereal, which is inspired and approved by the well-known Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. It's creamy, dense and filling - a cute twist on a favourite childhood breakfast, perhaps a tad on the sweeter side for me but might be just right for others. Simon had the sleek and sophisticated guava sorbet with mint, which tasted super fresh and fruity, if not quite minty enough. The other flavours such as the banana and peanut crumble, the miso caramel with peanuts, and the sour cream chocolate, etc., all sounded extremely intriguing but sadly I could not make room for more.

my confused cereal ice cream and simon's guava sorbet from N2 Extreme Gelato.

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon


My last day in Sydney was shaping up to be an uneventful one. But then one of my cousins, Daniel, offered to take me out for dinner. Simon and one of my aunts (who flew all the way over from Malaysia for said wedding) was invited too. Hurrah! He suggested a new-ish Japanese restaurant in Kingsford, Niji Sushi Bar.

Daniel and my aunt both went for chicken teriyaki, which was simple but very nicely done. Simon and I weren't too hungry so we ordered just a couple of small dishes to share. The maguro taru taru - diced tuna and avocado with chilli paste, onion tate, black caviar roe, barley miso dressing, and lotus root chips - was excellent. The sweet heat of the chilli jam against the cool, dewy tuna, the crunchy chips, and the dressing that pulled everything together... loved it. The grilled wagyu beef with amayaki sauce, however, took ages to arrive, and when it finally did, it was a little disappointing. It lacked that luscious fattiness, and was somewhat chewy. I've actually found this to be the case with quite a few of my wagyu steak samplings in Australia now. Simon didn't seem to mind it though.

maguro taru taru at Niji Sushi Bar, Kingsford.

Having waited for so long to receive our final dish, we gave desserts a miss, and just concentrated on finishing up our delicious mocktails instead - mine was a yuzu lassi, made with yoghurt, yuzu juice and yuzu marmalade; Simon's was a concoction of apple, aloe vera, mint, tea syrup and lemon. Both were exquisitely invigorating. Thanks again for everything, Daniel!

mocktails at Niji - yuzu lassi and apple aloe.

Niji Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon


So that's it for my Sydney food highlights! It's a longer post than usual, but I hope you enjoyed reading it from the beginning till the end. I'll be back again soon, most likely, with a recipe!

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Friday, 12 October 2012

life and new chapters...

fresh apricots.

This is shaping up to be a year of new chapters in the lives of those close to me. Today, I'm going on a one-week interstate holiday. In the next few days, I'll be celebrating my cousin's wedding and embracing my sister's new baby.

In contrast, this has been a fairly stagnant year for me... but I feel that I am on the verge of a breakthrough.

The photos in this post were taken a long time ago. I never found a place for them, but I found it fitting to include them here today. The way the light falls upon the upward-reaching apricot leaves. A sweet potato that looks like it's inching forwards in search of a delicious destiny.

I have plans and wishes for the future. They are not coming together yet, but I can almost see them fall into place, piece by piece, gradually, over the next year or so. And I hope the results will be tasty and satisfying for the soul. I know it's a little cryptic at this point, but I will try to divulge more as I make progress. Promise!

But for now, off to Sydney and Canberra, to be with wonderful people, to chat, to laugh, to reminisce, to celebrate, and yes, to eat and to drink. I'll be back in about a week with pictures and stories - see you then.

sweet potato and thyme.

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Thursday, 4 October 2012

a chocolate avocado smoothie recipe

Hello, lovely people.

I write this as I feel pumped up, yet knackered.

This is a big, busy week. It's my capoeira group's annual festival, which means a whole week of fun, games, ass-kicking and exhaustion. And awesomeness. It's seven straight days of fast, furious activity, culminating in an after-party with samba and caipirinhas on Saturday, and a street roda on Sunday.

So as I write this, I'm halfway through. Between work and the extracurricular stuff, it's hard to keep up, and yet I feel so alive. So tired, yet so present, and, also, invariably, so hungry and so wishful that someone would just thrust a smoothie my way as we wrap up yet another workshop.

chocolate avocado thickshake - tastes better than it looks!

Like this chocolate avocado smoothie. This is pretty much the only avocado smoothie I make. It's inspired by the Indonesian avocado shake, jus alpukat, but instead of using condensed milk and chocolate syrup, I give it a more wholesome, and even more delicious twist (- well, I think so anyway, and Simon can't get enough of it, too). Just good old-fashioned milk, Dutch cocoa, and raw sugar, because that's how I roll... and we're ready to rock.

I like my smoothies cold and refreshing. If you're not in a hurry to make this (and I can totally understand if you are), pop the avocado in the fridge ahead of time - a few hours will do - so that it's all nice and chilled by the time you prep it.

And, let's face it, this is a smoothie recipe, so don't worry too much about exact measurements, they're here to serve as a loose guide. Make it more chocolatey, make it sweeter, make it icier... it's all up to you! You may also control the texture via the amount of milk you include, to make it thinner or thicker. My version here makes a pretty dense, creamy milkshake, kind of like a frappe or thickshake, but if you further reduce the amount, it'll turn out even thicker and richer, like a chocolate avocado mousse or pudding... excellent and intense.

a chocolate avocado smoothie recipe
(serves 2)

1 small avocado (approx. 150g / 1/3lb)
2 tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons raw sugar (or maple syrup, or honey dissolved in a little water)
1 teaspoon instant coffee or cacao nibs (optional)
1.5 cups cold milk (approx. 375ml) (substitute with almond milk/rice milk/oat milk/soy milk/coconut milk to make it vegan)
8 ice cubes

Cut avocado in half, then scoop out the flesh, discarding the seed and the skin.
Whiz avocado flesh along with the other ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and well-combined.
Pour into glasses and serve it whilst it's icy-cold.

yes, it looks a bit like a swamp. but it is, in fact, a very delicious chocolate avocado smoothie.

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