Ceviche with Avocado and Mango Salsa and Tortilla Chips (and my entry into a competition to win a foodie adventure to Sri Lanka)

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Since starting this blog a couple of years ago, I’m quite surpised at how far I’ve come, and how much I have learnt, all through the process of trial and error. I always strive for something better, new ideas, and inspiration. I don’t have a studio, or special lights, or a set of props, each place I cook in I use what is available to me, look for the best natural light and battle it out with the flies. Being on the road has been very beneficial, as I am constantly meeting new people, discovering new produce and being introduced to new opportunities. I’ve come to realise that there is no point in planning or worrying too much about what the future holds, or whether I am making the right decisions. Everything folds out the way it is meant to. And luckily enough for me, lately, it’s been folding out pretty nicely.
Opportunities have been popping up left, right and centre, from being part of the upcoming annual Darwin Banana Festival this weekend, where I have been hired as a ‘banana stylist’, to writing recipes and styling shots for a new Australian foodie mag, and, to the point of this blog post; my entry into a competition to win a trip to discover and document, the food, culture and experience of Sri Lanka.
I’m so grateful to all of my supporting friends, who are constantly letting me know of little competitions and advertisements they see on social media, that they think I might be interested in. I would have missed half of them, including this competition, if it wasn’t for them. It’s such a lovely feeling, getting older, and realising how lucky I am to have these beautiful, supportive, creative and genuine people in my life.
Regardless of whether I win a position in the Sri Lanka trip, it’s been a fantastic experience completing the entry. As with each blog post I do, I try to push myself for a new angle, and this one really got me out of my comfort zone. If you told me ten years ago that I would have the confidence to ask a bunch of near strangers (except you Mel), to sit on the beach and share a meal while I take photos of them, I would have said, no way! But, despite the very unfortunately times spurt of rain, everything went perfectly and we had a great time, not to mention the delicious food! It gives me confidence, and makes me excited, to know that, unlike my first trip overseas five years ago (where I was too shy), I will be able to photograph more and speak to the locals more about their traditions, culture, recipes, ingredients, etc.
I’ve included my short essays here that were part of the application. It was so hard to stay within the word limits!
Also, if you have a spare couple of minutes and would like to nominate my blog in the upcoming Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards, it would be hugely appreciated, if you think it deserves a nomination that is! http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate

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Competition entry essays:

The Story Behind the recipe.

After a month in central Columbia, I was full to the brim with carbohydrate laden meals of rice, beans, potatoes, bread and meat. Thank goodness for the obligatory bowl of Aji on every table at even the smallest of roadside eateries, I drenched all my meals in this delicious homemade chilli salsa. I was itching to get to the coast.
So, with one last bowl of steaming, chicken feet soup at the bus station, we were on our way to Quito and then to a tiny coastal town called Canoa. We knew nothing about the place apart from the fact that it was a small surf town, famous for it’s slow paced, relaxed vibe.
After a rough overnight bus trip from Quito, we were finally approaching the coast. Morning rituals were getting underway, people riding to work, roadside stalls selling delicious treats and smiling school kids jumping on and off our bus.
We were exhausted, and starving, by the time we arrived in the main street of Canoa (a dirt road running the length of the beach). The beach was lined with little food shacks, shaded by Coco-Cola and Pilsner tarps. Each had a blackboard touting Ceviche, which we knew very little about. As far as I knew, maybe, it was some form of raw fish dish. But, as we had experienced so far on our trip, anything could be eaten at breakfast time, and we were too hungry to care. So, we picked one shack at random and sat down at the plastic table on the sand. Without having to order anything, we were brought two bowls of ceviche and some fried plantain. With a squeeze of fresh lime, and a tad of hesitation, we dug in. WOW! What a fresh and flavoursome bowl of food we had in front of us. The fish so soft and the lime so tangy, paired with a kick from some chilli sauce and the crunchy plantain chips. What a dish!
After that, we ate it at least twice a day for the week that we were there, but, as hard as we tried, we just couldn’t find that one shack where we had eaten our first. It was like it had disappeared, and no other could match it.

About me and why I should be chosen for the gig.

After years of studying art, architecture and teaching, feeling lost and unfulfilled, I finally saved enough money to travel overseas. I started with the Americas, backpacking and having my mind blown by the amazing traditions, landscapes, and people. It was on this trip, whilst working in a bar on the beach in a small fishing village in Peru (famous for it’s amazing tuna), that I came to the realisation that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was cook. To never stop discovering ingredients, recipes and methods from all over the world, to cook meals that bring people together and make time stand still for a little while, whilst we all enjoy the fruits of the land and the labour of the people who love to cook with them.
Upon returning to Aus I was lucky enough to gain a position in a small cafe, that, over the two years that I helped to run the kitchen, has now turned into one of the most well known cafes in the Hunter.
With only a short stint in Europe in those two years, I decided that it was time to really hit the road. I sold most of what I owned, and have been travelling through Australia in a 4WD ever since, with an overseas ticket booked for April.
My foodblog has been an amazing creative outlet for me also. Something that has been forcing me to learn and discover new things about food and cooking, almost daily. Every meal I create, and every photo shoot I do, creates a new challenge for me. I never do the same thing twice. Discovery is my passion!

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Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Ceviche
1kg white, firm fleshed fish, I used Robinson Bream
Juice from about 5 limes
1 cup coconut cream
1 tsp caster sugar
1 long red chilli, finley diced
Handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
Salsa
2 ripe but still firm avocados
1 large mango
1 long red chilli
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs olive oil
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (or plantain chips if you can get them), lime wedges, sliced chilli, chilli sauce, and salad leaves, to serve

Method
Make sure there are no bones in the fish. Slice fish into pieces about 3cm long and 5mm thick and place in a large, non-reactive bowl. In another bowl place the lime juice, coconut cream, caster sugar, chilli, and coriander. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Add to the bowl with the fish and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but no longer than 10 hours.
When nearly ready to serve dice the avocados and mango into 5mm pieces. Combine in a bowl with the other salsa ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado too much.
Serve ceviche with the salsa, tortilla chips, lime wedges, chilli, chilli sauce and salad leaves.
Enjoy!

Pink Snapper Ceviche with Butter Bean Salad and Corn Chips

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I feel so lucky right now, all of my hard work over the last couple of years is definitely paying off. I am writing this post from my camping chair, under palm trees, next to the ocean, sipping a glass of wine and enjoying this delicious ceviche.

I have wanted to write a recipe for ceviche ever since I started this blog over a year ago. It was one of my most memorable and favourite meals during my time in South America. The first time I tried it was in Ecuador, in a tiny beach town that I can’t even recall the name of right now. The beach was lined with tiny huts, each selling ceviche and beer. We didn’t know which would be the best, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting it to be very nice anyway, I was new to the culinary world and didn’t like the sound of fish ‘cooked’ in lime juice. Little did I know….

So, we sat down at the nearest hut, in white plastic chairs branded with coca cola signs and plastic tables covered with bright, floral, plastic tablecloths. One thing I was happy about straight away was the familiar bowl of Aji in the middle of the table; at least I knew if the meal tasted bad I could cover it in chilli salsa.

A young, round, solemn faced ecuadorian girl took our orders, and was back five mins later with bowls of ceviche served with extra limes and fried plantain chips (YES!)

I was still hesitant, but dove in. Wow, what a surprise! Delicious, melt in the mouth pieces of fish in a tangy, perfectly seasoned juice that I finished every sip of once the fish was gone. (Peruvians call this liquid, ‘Leche de Tigre’, Tiger’s Milk, and it is said to be very good at curing a hangover)

My version here is quite simple, as I was lucky enough to score some freshly caught local Pink Snapper and I didn’t want to hide its flavour with too many others. All countries in South America make their ceviche differently. Peru is the most famous for theirs, which is generally made with lime juice, chillies, red onion, coriander and salt and pepper; and is usually only cured for about 10 mins before it is eaten. But I preferred the Ecuadorian ceviche, with it’s punchy lime flavour and the way that they leave it for longer so that the fish is fully cooked.

I recently ate ceviche in a Mexican restaurant and they had also used some coconut milk which I thought was a great addition. So here, I’ve mixed all of the things that I like about all the different ceviches that I’ve tried. You can serve it in so many different ways; in lettuce cups as a canapé, on tostadas with guacamole as a party food, in a wrap for lunch, etc. The possibilities are endless and whats more is that you don’t need any electricity to do it!

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Recipe

Serves 1 as a main meal or 2 as a light meal

Ingredients

Ceviche

1 fillet of pink snapper, about 250g-300g, thinly sliced (or any other type of fresh fish)

Juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped, plus extra to serve

1/4 cup coconut milk

Big pinch of salt

Sliced red chilli to serve

Salad

400g can butter beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coriander leaves

1/2 an avocado, sliced

Drizzle of lemon oil and white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

To serve

Plain corn chips

Extra limes

Hot chilli sauce

Lettuce or cabbage leaves (to use as cups)

Method

In a non-reactive dish (glass is best), combine the fish, lime juice, coriander, coconut milk, and salt. Stir to combine, cover and refridgerate for 2-3hrs.

Meanwhile, combine all the salad ingredients.

To serve, top the ceviche with extra coriander and fresh chilli. Serve with the salad, corn chips, lettuce leaves, hot sauce and extra limes.

Enjoy!

Bbq Beef, Slaw and Pickle Rolls with Cruchy Onion Rings

DSC_0247DSC_0244DSC_0294I don’t have much to say about this other than it’s probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was Sunday, and I had a craving for something juicy and textural, full of flavour and possible to eat with one hand. My other hand seemed to be constantly occupied with something equally as delicious, but also cold and refreshing 😉

 

The slow cooked beef is the star here, and probably the easiest part. If you don’t want to eat it in a sandwich, it would be just as good on a plate with the coleslaw and some sweet potato chips.

 

These rolls are great for big groups as it allows the meat to go a long way between a lot of people, whilst still delivering maximum satisfaction. Trust me, your guests will be so impressed by this meat. To make your evening even easier, just put out all the ingredients on a table and allow your friends to assemble their own, I certainly did!

 

Oh, and make extra onion rings, they’ll disappear as fast as you can cook them.

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Recipe

Ingredients

Serves 8-10

Beef

!.5kg piece beef blade

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 long red chillies, finely chopped

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 cups tomato sauce

4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, crushed

2 tablespoons tobasco sauce

Onion Rings

8 brown onions

milk

rice flour

corn flour

canola oil

To Serve

2 long baguettes or 8 to 10 bread rolls

300g maasdem, jarlseberg or cheddar cheese

A simple coleslaw

Pickles

Spicy green tomato chutney, or your favourite tomato chutney

Method

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees celcius. (You could also do this in a slow cooker).

Combine garlic, chilli, sugar, sauces, vinegar, spices, salt and pepper and about a cup of water in a heavy based baking dish. Add the beef and turn to coat. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for about 4-5 hours, or until falling apart.

When ready, shred the meat with a fork and some tongs and toss through the sauce.

Meanwhile, make the onion rings. Peel onions and slice into rings about 1cm wide. Place in milk and allow to soak for a couple of hours. Combine rice flour and corn flour in a a bowl.

Heat oil in saucepan until hot enough for a cube of bread to turn golden in 30secs.

In batches, coat onion rings in flour mixture and carefully place in the oil. Fry until golden, drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.

To serve, fill rolls with beef, coleslaw, cheese, pickles, chutney and/or whatever you would like to add. Serve with the onion rings on the side or even wedge them into your roll if you like. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Achiote Spatchcock with Jalapeño Pesto, Spelt Tortillas, and a Chargrilled Corn and Mango Salad

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I’ve been meaning to try out the Annatto Seeds used in the Achiote paste since they were given to me by a good friend for my birthday in August.

Annatto seeds come from the Achiote tree that grow in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They are used for colouring food, similar to saffron, but also have a slight peppery, sweet and nutty flavour. Annatto is most commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines, mainly to make the Achiote paste used to marinate chicken. Natives would also use the seeds to make body paint and lipstick. Because of this the tree is sometimes referred to as the ‘Lipstick Tree’.

So, there’s a little info for you. Thanks wikipedia.

I made the Achiote paste by taking bits and pieces from a few different recipes on the internet. It would have been delicious as it was, used to marinate chicken or even pork, but I also wanted to use a few different types of chillies I’ve had in the cupboard for a while. Chipotle (which I’ve used quite a few times before) but also Mulato and Pasilla which I’ve never tried. They all have lovely deep but subtle differences and you can’t really go wrong by mixing them all together with the Achiote spices and some citrus. Really aromatic and delicious.

I have found a new appreciation for spatchcock in the last year. The flavour is surprisingly different to chicken and the texture is superior! So moist and luscious. Some might argue that they are too fiddly but trust me it is definitely worth it. And by butterflying and marinating them the flavours are able to penetrate right through the meat, resulting in soft, subtly flavoured meat close to the bone and a lovely  salty, crunchy skin.

I couldn’t make these spatchcocks without a few delicious things to go with it. I love eating like this. Every mouthful can be different and interesting. So much fun to share!

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The jalapeño pesto is really different, a good kick from the jalapeños and coriander with a lovely creaminess form the pine nuts.

The tortillas are delicious and so easy to make, the dough was beautiful to work with and the spelt flour gave them a lovely flavour. I decided o make wheat tortillas instead of corn because I simply find them more delicious! I also love watching them puff up as they are in the frying pan. I haven’t included the recipe here but it’s from Maricel E. Presilla’s Gran Cocina Latina. An amazing Latin American cookbook. I just replaced the wholemeal flour with spelt.

The chargrilled corn and mango salad is refreshing and vibrant with the mixture of textures from the crunchy grilled corn, the soft sweet mango, the buttery beans and a good kick from  the fresh chilli, not to mention the dressing! It could be a meal on it’s own and would also go well with spiced fish.

Now that I’m writing this all down I am excited to see how many different types of chillies have gone into one meal! Ah, how I love chillies.

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Achiote Spatchcock 

2 tsp annatto seeds

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp peppercorns

2 tsp allspice

2 tsp rock salt

4 tbsp water

4 cloves garlic

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 each dried pasilla and mulato chillies, re-hydrated in hot water, stalks and seeds removed

2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce with 1 tbsp of paste

1 tbsp sliced jalapeños

juice of 1 orange

juice of 2 limes

4 spatchcocks, butterflied

Crush dried spices in mortar and pestle.

Combine with rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Rub half the marinade all over the chicken and leave to marinate for 24 hours. (leftover marinade can be kept in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for a month or so).

To cook spatchcocks, use the grill element in the oven or a bbq. Cook for 10mins or so on the underside, turn, season the skin with a little extra salt and cook for around another 5 to 10 mins, or until cooked through and skin is nice and crispy. Rest, covered with foil, for 5 mins.

Serve with jalapeño pesto, corn and mango salad, tortillas and sour cream.

Jalapeño Pesto

1 1/2 cups coriander leaves and stalks

5 tbsp sliced jalapeños

1-2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp toasted pune nuts

juice of 2 limes

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine dry ingredients in food processor and process until finely chopped. Add wet ingredients and pulse until just combined so as not to make a puree.

Chargrilled Corn and Mango salad

2 cans butter beans drined and rinsed

4 cobs corn, cooked on a grill until blackened in places and tender and kernels removed

4 long red chillies, finely sliced

2 mangoes diced

1 bunch coriander

1 red capsicum, finely diced

2 baby cos lettuce

Dressing

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp each rock salt and peppercorns

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 1 lime

4 shallots finely chopped

1/4cup olive oil

For dressing, crush garlic with salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle.

Combine with remaining ingredients and check for seasoning.

Spread baby cos lettuce leaves on a platter. Combine other ingredients, reserving half the chilli and coriander, in a large bowl with dressing and gently mix to combine.

Spoon over the cos lettuce and top with reserved chilli and coriander.

Chipotle Prawns with Adobo Mayonnaise and Capsicum Salsa

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I haven’t always liked prawns. I remember the first prawn I ever ate. It was at one of my parents’ work christmas parties in some garage somewhere. As is mandatory at every Australian Christmas party, adorning the plastic tablecloth covered trestle tables, were huge platters of prawns with Thousand Island sauce, ready for fingers to get filthy dirty and smelly, peeling those little morsels of apparent deliciousness.

I thought they looked like the most disgusting things I could imagine. The way all the adults were ripping off the heads and then the rest of the shell and then just popping the whole thing into their mouths! My brother and I were horrified!

But Mum wouldn’t let us say we didn’t like something unless we tried it (which I’m grateful for now!) This was a tough one though, a special occasion I suppose. Mum actually bribed us with $2 each just to try a prawn! ($2 back in the 90’s could get you a serious amount of lollies at the newsagent!) So, I went first, after watching Mum rip the head and skin off this gross little worm looking thing, I closed my eyes and popped it into my mouth. It was gross! A yucky salty tough bit of stuff that I chewed as fast as I could and swallowed with watery eyes. Next was my brothers turn (he had to now, seeing as he copied everything I did, haha). I don’t think the prawn lasted more than half a second in his mouth before he spat it across the room! Classic.

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I think I was scarred by this experience and only ate another one about five years ago. It was at another christmas bash and I only ate it because I didn’t want to be rude. It wasn’t that bad but I’m still not a fan of eating prawns in this way.

Thankfully I have discovered that they are actually delicious if cooked in the right way! Think squid ink pasta with lemon and chilli prawns, or greek prawn saganaki with feta, or prawn tempura with soy dipping sauce. YUM! I’m getting hungry now!

Winter here in Newcastle this year has been very nice to us, I even lay out in the backyard on the weekend and got a bit of a tan! This type of weather has been getting me excited for this summer to come, now that we live in a house with a backyard! I can’t wait to fix up the garden and get a nice little herb garden happening. I also can’t wait to get some furniture out the back, so many warm night, outdoor dinners to look forward to!

This dish will be on high rotation this summer I think! It’s so quick and easy and delicious, I think it’s probably the best way I have ever eaten prawns! Very simple but so full of fresh and punchy flavours!  The Chipotle chillies in Adobo sauce are a star here, but if you can’t find them, use regular chillies and up the amount of smoked paprika.

You can serve these prawns with any of your favourite South American or Spanish types of sides. We have had them with soft tortillas, guacamole and salad, or rice, sweet potato chips and sour cream. You can’t really go wrong.

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Chipotle Prawns (original recipe)

Ingredients

1kg green prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact

3 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

zest of 1 lime

2 tbs lemon oil

salt and pepper

Capsicum salsa

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 small red capsicum, finely chopped

1 long red chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped

2 kumatos, de-seeded, finely chopped

1 bunch coriander, leaves and tender stalks finely chopped

2-3 limes juiced

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

To serve

Adobo mayonnaise (combine whole egg mayonnaise with some adobo sauce from the chillies as well as some salt and pepper, all to taste)

Tortilla chips (brush tortillas with lemon/ olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cut into wedges and bake until crisp)

Baby cos lettuce leaves

Method

If using wooden skewers soak in water until ready to use (at least and hour)

Combine prawns with remaining ingredients and leave to marinate for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, for the salsa, combine ingredients and leave in the fridge, stirring often to combine flavours.

Make tortilla chips (if using), and prepare lettuce leaves.

To cook prawns, thread from head end to tail end onto skewers. Pre-heat grill or bbq, cook prawns on high for 1-2 mins per side, or until cooked.

Serve immediately with sides.

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