Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Syrian Chicken –w- Ginger Lemon & Saffron

Hi folks,  it has been a while since my last post, but you know how easy it is to get bogged down in life from time to time. This is a recipe originally published by Karen Martini & passed to me by my foodie friend Jan Smith. Of course I have dabbled with the original recipe, but hey, it's all about personal taste & food should be ever evolving, right? It has everything I love about food from the middle east – it is redolent with spices, ginger, honey, dried fruit, saffron & a touch of chilli. Please don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients as your efforts will be greatly rewarded with a meal that your friends and family will love. This recipe will serve 4 people with rice or couscous.


2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
8 organic/free range chicken drumsticks
100 mls olive oil
1 brown onion thickly sliced
2.5 cm fresh ginger, julienned
5 cloves garlic peeled and bruised with the back of a knife
2 small red chillies split or finely chopped if you prefer
2 tomatoes roughly chopped
2 pinches saffron
½ tsp cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme
1 lemon juiced & zest finely grated
3 tbsp honey
100g currants
chicken stock
!/2 bunch coriander leaves
cooked couscous or rice, to serve


Pre heat oven to 180c.

Combine salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric in a large plastic bag.  Add chicken pieces and shake to coat.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onions, ginger, garlic and chillies to pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.

Return chicken to pan and add lemon juice and zest, honey, currants & stock to just cover chicken. Cover with a lid and cook in oven for 30-40 mins until chicken is tender & cooked through. Remove from oven, take chicken out and boil sauce

Until it is slightly reduced. Return chicken to sauce & stir in coriander. Serve with couscous or rice.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stir-fry Beef -w- Asparagus & Mushrooms


600gms beef (rump or fillet) - thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh asparagus - trimmed & sliced in 3 on the diagonal
2 cups fresh mushrooms – shitake, swiss brown or button- quartered
4 cloves garlic – finely sliced
½ red capsicum - sliced into strips
½ brown onion - halved & sliced thinly lengthwise
2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled & cut in a fine julienne
3 small hot chillis finely chopped
3-4 Tbs peanut oil

Marinade for Beef

1 Tbs light soy sauce
1 Tbs shaohsing rice wine
11/2 Tsp sesame oil
11/2 Tsp cornflour


11/2 Tsp cornflour mixed in a little water
11/2 Tbs dark soy sauce
11/2 Tbs oyster sauce
11/2 Tsp sugar
¼ cup chicken stock or water
¼ cup water


Mix the beef & the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, set aside for half an hour.

For the sauce, mix together the water & the cornflour in a small bowl & set aside. Combine the remaining sauce ingredients (except the ¼ cup water) in another bowl & mix well.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a pre heated wok & stir-fry the beef in batches over high heat for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned but not cooked through adding more oil if necessary. Remove to a bowl & set aside.

Wipe the wok. Heat another tablespoon of oil, stir-fry the mushrooms & add to the beef. Now stir-fry the onion, garlic, chilli, capsicum & ginger for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus toss with the other vegetables & pour ¼ cup water down the sides of the wok. Cover the wok with its lid & cook rapidly for 2 minutes.

Return the beef & mushrooms to the wok, combining the beef & vegetables together. Stir in the sauce, add the cornflour & water mixture & cook until it is slightly thickened & lightly coats the ingredients.

Serve with plain steamed jasmine rice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I was first introduced to the delights of home made roti at a dinner party by my good friends, Annie & Franco from The Byron Bay Coffee Co.  On that occasion Annie made coconut roti to accompany a Thai style soup. I was so taken by them that I started to do a few experiments of my own & came up with the following recipe, which has now become a firm favourite in my household.  Once you make your own roti you too will become addicted, just like me.  I served these roti with a Beef Vindaloo, steamed Basmati Rice, Cucumber & Yoghurt Raita & Green Mango Chutney. This recipe will make 8 roti.


2 cups of plain or whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbs sunflower/peanut oil
½ to ¾ cup of warm water
½ sachet of dried yeast (3.5gms)
extra flour for dusting


Activate the yeast in the warm water until foaming. In a large mixing bowl add the salt & oil to the flour & rub through with your fingertips until incorporated. Make a well in the centre of the flour & gradually add the water/yeast mixture using your fingers & mix well until you have a soft & pliable dough. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth & elastic (5 to 10 mins). Cover with a slightly damp cloth and set aside in a warm place to prove for 1 hour.
Punch the dough down, lightly knead again then divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into golf ball size rounds & place on a tray & cover with the damp cloth & let rest for another 20 minutes or so. Take 1 ball of dough at a time and flatten it into a round disk using your palms. Dust your work area and rolling pin with a little bit of flour to prevent sticking. Gently roll the flattened ball into a circle approximately 15cms in diameter, making sure the roti is thin & of even thickness.
Heat a large heavy based griddle/frying pan on medium heat, spray with cooking oil and carefully place a roti in the pan. After a minute or so bubbles will appear & the underside will be lightly golden, turn the roti & cook the other side. Repeat until all roti are cooked. Serve immediately with your favourite curry or dips. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Spicy Black Bean Prawn & Squid

Here's a quick & easy stir fry I would like to share with you.  It takes no time at all to pull together but has great depth of flavour & will be sure to impress your family & friends. I can't remember where I originally sourced the recipe but I believe it was inspired by the wonderful Neil Perry.  This quantity will serve four with plain steamed rice & some braised bok choy.


4 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g green king prawns, shelled, deveined and butterflied
6 small squid tubes halved & scored
1 tablespoon fermented black beans
1/2 a red onion, sliced
2 birdseye chillis, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 knob ginger, finely sliced
3 tablespoons diced red capsicum
3 tablespoons diced green capsicum
4 long green shallots, in 3cm lengths
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar
coriander leaves for garnish


Heat the oil in a wok until just smoking. Stir fry the prawns until they are just cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.
Add the black beans, onion, chilli, garlic, ginger and red and green capsicum and stir fry until fragrant. Add the shaoxing wine, soy, caster sugar and oyster sauce then add the squid, return the prawns to the wok and toss through being careful not to overcook the seafood.
Scatter with the coriander and finely sliced shallot. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red Braised Pork

Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork
Mao Shi Hong Shao Rou
From the book Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Red-braised pork is a dish that in Hunan is inseparably bound up with the memory of Chairman Mao: many restaurants call it “The Mao Family’s red-braised pork.” Mao Zedong loved it, and insisted his Hunanese chefs cook it for him in Beijing. It’s a robust concoction, best eaten with plain steamed rice and simple stir-fried vegetables; the sweet, aromatic chunks of meat are irresistible.
In Shaoshan, Mao’s home village, cooks traditionally leave the skin intact for maximum succulence, and cut the meat into rather large chunks, perhaps 1 1/2 inches long; I tend to make the pieces a little smaller. This recipe takes its color from caramelized sugar, which gives it a lovely reddish gloss, but many people just use dark soy sauce at home.
When I make this dish I up the spices because I love flavour – I use 3 star anise, about 6 dried red chiles, a whole cinnamon stick & I also garnish it with fresh coriander which is not traditional but for me makes the dish complete.

1lb (500gms) pork belly (skin optional)
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
Fresh ginger (a ¾-inch piece), skin left on and sliced
1 star anise
2 dried red chiles
A small piece of cassia bark or a small cinnamon stick
Light soy sauce
Scallion greens

Plunge the pork belly into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until partially cooked. Remove and, when cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized chunks.
Heat the oil and white sugar in a wok over a gentle flame until the sugar melts, then raise the heat and stir until the melted sugar turns a rich caramel brown. Add the pork and splash in the Shaoxing wine.
Add enough water to just cover the pork, along with the ginger, star anise, chiles, and cassia. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes.
Toward the end of the cooking time, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, and season with soy sauce, salt, and a little sugar to taste. Add the scallion greens just before serving.

Serves 4

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Food News

Hello people – do yourselves a favour, grab a pencil & put this date in your diary ‘6:00pm 1st October 2009’. Why? I hear you ask, well, ‘Why Not’. Those legendary kings of the kitchen, brothers Che & Jules Devlin of ‘Figtree’ & ‘Why Not’ fame are putting on a Chilean Night.

It is a three course menu with matching wines @ $45-00pp, bookings are essential as seats are limited. The wines will be matched with the food by expert David Stevens-Castro from Wines of Chile. All of this set against a backdrop of Art by Freya & Music by Omar.

The menu for the night is not on the 'Why Not' website just yet but it looks something like this:-

On Arrival Pisco Sours & Light Canapes

Entrée Ceviche w/ Avocado Puree
Wine Santa Rita, Sauvignon Blanc ‘07

Main Slow Roasted Bangalow Sweet Pork, Sweet Potato Fondant, Corn Salsa
Wine Gestos, Malbec ‘07

Dessert Chocolate Fondant, Exotic Fruit Salad w/ Honey Sabayon
Cheese Local Washed Rind served w/ Grapes & Crackers
Wine De Martino,Carmenere ’05


When: 6:00pm 1st October 2009
Where: ‘Why Not’ - 18 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Cost: $45-00 per person
Phone: (02) 66807994
Web: http:/www.whynotbyronbay.com.au

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hello World - Lunch at La Cucina di Vino

I have been deliberating for far too long about how to start this blog. It is all too easy to procrastinate, so I have decided to bite the bullet & sit down with a cheeky glass of shiraz to write about lunch today.

My BFF (Best Friend Forever) & I had some business & shopping to attend to today in Ballina & when it was all done & dusted had a need to recharge our batteries.

Instead of seeking out the usual cafe & pub lunch options we decided to check out the ‘Ramada Hotel’ & were delighted to find ‘La Cucina di Vino – Ristorante Italiano’.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the hotel with indoor & outdoor seating options. As it was such a lovely warm spring day we decided to join the other diners outside on the terrace, which has lovely views of the Richmond river & a small but pretty marina.

The restaurant is fully licensed with a choice of an a la carte or a ‘Credit Crunch Lunch’ menu. We chose the latter menu, which offers four choices of dishes at $10-00 each under three different categories of Café, Pizza or Pasta. The added bonus of ordering from this menu is you can have a glass of house white or red for just $5-00. The white wine today was a 2007 Swings & Roundabouts Chardonnay & the red was a 2007 West Cape Howe Tempranillo.

We decided to share an appetiser of a Margarita pizza from the Pizza menu, my BFF had the Veal Parmigiano from the Café Menu, while I Had the Chilli Squid Linguine w/ sea salt & basil from the Pasta menu.

The pizza had a thin & crispy crust with just the right amount of topping. The veal was accompanied by fries w/ a rocket & parmesan salad, which my BFF declared to be delicious. My pasta had perfectly cooked pieces of squid with just the right chilli hit that leaves your tongue tingling but not burning.

All of this with a large bottle of San Pellegrino and a coffee came to the modest amount of $52-00. It was such great value that we have already decided to go back & try some of the other dishes on offer next week.

Note to self – Take a camera to take pictures of the food!


La Cucina di Vino
Ramada Hotel & Suites
2 Martin Street
Ballina NSW 2478
Ph: (02) 6618 1195
Lunch Wednesday to Sunday, also open for dinner