Baba Ghanoush with Pickled Apple, Walnuts, and Paprika Oil

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This weekend I am co-running a pop-up restaurant in Amsterdam! It’s going to be so much fun, I’m so excited to introduce some new flavours and concepts to the people of Amsterdam. We will be serving an eleven course, plant-based feast, with a little seafood and Kangaroo meat thrown in. We want to celebrate the vegetables though, using locally sourced, seasonal produce and some Australian bush spices. I can’t wait to start cooking!

In the meantime, here is a recipe for the most delicious babganoush you will ever taste. A result of some eggplant growing old on my friends sideboard, he told me to use them for something before they went bad. My specialty! I love having the skill to be able to use anything and make it into something, nothing ever gets wasted!

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Recipe

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants

1/2 cup tahini

1 tsp salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 cloves garlic, finely grated

pinch chilli flakes, plus extra to serve

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 green apple

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup roasted walnuts

Handful coriander leaves

Toasted pita bread to serve

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Use a fork to pierce the eggplant all over a few times. Using metal tongs, hold them over an open flame for around 10 minutes, turning constantly, until the skin is charred. Place them in a baking dish and continue to cook for a further 20-30mins, until they are very soft and collapsed. (if you don’t have an open flame to char them first, you can do it under a grill or just cook them completely in the oven. You just won’t get the smoky flavour). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Add the tahini, salt, lemon juice, garlic, chilli flakes, cumin and some cracked pepper and using a fork, combine and mash the eggplant until a stringy paste forms. (you can also use a blender but I prefer to keep the texture of the eggplant, I find it goes a bit gluey when processed)

Peel and grate the apple. In a small bowl, combine the grated apple with the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Stir well and allow to sit for at least 10mins, stirring every so often.

Combine the olive oil and the paprika in a small bowl and stir well to combine.

To serve, place the eggplant mixture in a large shallow dish. Drain the apple from any excess liquid and place on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle with the walnuts, coriander leaves, and extra chilli flakes. Drizzle with the smoked paprika oil. Serve with some toasted bread and other mezze dishes if you wish.

 

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Spiced Eggplant with Savoy, Lentil and Pomegranate Salad

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It’s becoming more obvious everyday. I think I finally need to make the move, the one I planned to a couple of years ago but got sidetracked by other travels, it’s time to come and live in London for a while. It’s a weird thing, to want to come and live in one of the biggest and coldest cities I’ve ever been to, but I feel there is so much opportunity for me here, as well as one of my dearest friends, and, when it gets too cold, I’ll just shoot off down to Spain or Morocco and warm the cockles. Anyway, I’ve got a few more months here in Europe, I’m sure I’ll have more of an idea by the time we head back to Australia.

So, we finally got to catch up last night, my dear friend and I. The conversation did not have more than a two second gap in it for about five hours straight. I was so excited to cook for her and wanted to make something wholesome and delicious, but, as it is when travelling, I’m also restricted by the ingredients I can use. Luckily there were some spices in the cupboard here and I was able to find the rest of the ingredients in the endless Middle Eastern grocers lining the main street here. So much pita bread!

If large enough, the eggplants are sufficient on there own as a meal, but we ate them alongside some warmed pita bread, hummus and a quinoa salad. Find the recipe for my favourite creamy hummus here.

I adapted this recipe from Green Kitchen Stories, one of my favourite food blogs to turn to when I want some inspiration for a truly healthy and wholesome meal. I also made some little chocolate and almond cakes for dessert, completely sugar, dairy and gluten free. They were so delicious! Unfortunately we were too busy eating and talking to think to get any photos by the time dessert came around!

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Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 large eggplant

Olive oil

2 tbs garam masala

2 tbs curry powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

Salad

1 small savoy cabbage, finely sliced

400g can puy lentils, rinsed and drained well

Bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed

1 tbs olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbs maple syrup

salt and pepper

To serve, hummus, pita bread, quinoa salad (optional)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthways and use the tip of a knife to cut a criss cross pattern, about 1cm deep, into the flesh. Drizzle well with olive oil, using fingers to rub all over. Sprinkle with the spices, salt and pepper, and use fingers to rub spices into the cuts. Drizzle with more olive oil if they feel too dry. Place in the oven and cook, for about 45-50mins, or until flesh is dark on top and soft in the centre.

Meanwhile, for the salad, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch the cabbage, for 1min, drain and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain as much water out as possible. In a small jar, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper and shake well. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, lentils, parsley and dressing and toss to combine.

To serve, place the eggplants on a large serving platter, scatter the salad over the tops and sprinkle with the pomegranate. Serve with sides such as hummus, pita bread and quinoa salad. Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Turkish Lahmacun. Spiced Lentil Flatbreads with Garlic Yoghurt and Pickles.

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I made this dish whilst we were back in Germany, staying with a friend who loves food and loves to eat. It was perfect for me! I had access to her awesome little kitchen the whole time we were there and I had the best time preparing breakfasts, snacks, afternoon teas and dinners for all of us, which, in turn, resulted in lots of lovely hours, sitting around, chatting, eating and drinking. Bliss!

Germany is renowned for it’s Doner Kebabs and there are many (MANY) turkish restaurants. It got me thinking about a dish I had seen, a kind of turkish pizza. I mentioned it to our friend and she said, yes, it’s called Lahmucan, but, she had never been able to try it because it is only ever made with lamb mince and she is a vegetarian. So, I decided to try and make a meatless version of Lahmucan. And, boy did I nail it! The dough was amazingly soft and beautiful to work with, and turned out perfect when baked. The topping was spicy and tasty, especially with a drizzle of lemon and the garlic yoghurt, and the freshness of the parsley and pickles. You have to give this a try!

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Recipe

Ingredients

Dough
7g sachet of yeast
1 egg
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch salt
Olive oil
Spiced Lentil Sauce
Olive oil
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g swiss brown or button mushrooms, roughly chopped
400g can brown lentils, rinsed and well drained
1 brown onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp sumac
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
Yoghurt Sauce
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 tbs lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Pickled Radishes
Bunch radishes, thinly sliced on a mandolin
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
To Serve
20g walnuts, roughly chopped
Bunch of parsley, leaves finely chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced on a mandolin
Lemon wedges
Pickled peppers

Method

For the dough, combine the yeast with 1/3 cup warm water and allow to stand for 10mins, until bubbles have formed on top.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the olive oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Add the egg mixture and the yeast mixture to the flour. Stir briefly, until just combined. Cover with a towel and rest for 10mins.
Use olive oil to lightly oil a clean work surface and your hands. Turn dough out onto work surface and knead for 10secs, gently pushing it away form yourself and folding it back over. Return to the bowl and cover with the towel. Leave to rest for 15mins. Repeat this process twice more at 15min intervals. After the last kneading, cover again and leave to rise for an hour.
After an hour, divide the dough into four equal portions. Dust a clean work surface with flour and line two large baking trays with baking paper. With a rolling pin, roll the portions out into 30cm by 20cm rectangles (or whatever shape you manage). Place on the trays and cover with tea towels. Leave to rise for another 45mins.
Meanwhile, make the spiced lentil sauce.
Add the walnuts, the lentils, the mushrooms and some salt to a large food processor. Using the pulse action, process until just finely chopped, try not to turn it into a paste. In a large frying pan, over medium high heat, add a tbs of olive oil and add the lentil mixture. Cook, stirring, for about 10mins. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same pan, add another tbs of olive oil. Cook the onion, stirring, over medium heat, for 5 mins or until soft. Add the garlic and the chilli and cook, stirring, for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, sugar, and some salt and pepper. Bring to the simmer, turn heat to low, and cook, stirring often, for about 10mins, or until thick and fragrant. Add the lentil mixture and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the yoghurt with the garlic, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to combine. Leave in the fridge until needed.
In a medium bowl, combine the radishes with the vinegar, sugar and some salt. Using your hands, massage the radishes with the vinegar. Allow to sit, stirring every so often, for at least 30mins before serving (you can also make these up to 1 day ahead, stored in the fridge).
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Drizzle the 4 dough rectangles with a little olive oil. Spread with the lentil sauce, leaving about 2cm around the edges. Place in the oven and cook, for about 45mins, or until lentil sauce is dry on top and the edges of the dough are nice and golden brown.
To serve, top with the pickled radishes, sliced onion, parsley, walnuts, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of the yoghurt and the pickled peppers on the side. (I like to just put everything in the middle of the table and let people top their own)
Enjoy!









Peanut Sambal (Sambal Kacang), Tomato Sambal (Sambal Tomat), and Eggplant in Chilli Sauce (Terong Balado)

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Bali. I’m going to keep this short, because otherwise, I could be writing all day about this amazing country. It is a truly beautiful place. Not just the land itself but the people that make it so. They are peaceful, generous and kind beyond words. I hope I can take a little of their calm and humble beauty away within myself when we leave.

It feels fantastic to be travelling again, I learn so much about myself and appreciate my home and my family more with each place I visit. It is so easy to get caught up in the bubble at home, of working and socialising and buying things. I love to be so free and happy with the people  I am with and what I can carry on my back.

So far, the food here is so amazing that I can’t quite remember anything else I would rather eat. I’ve been enjoying a mostly vegan diet and I’m not missing dairy a single bit. I have eaten a small amount of seafood, but look forward to more of that once we go to the smaller islands. We have mostly been eating in the Warungs, small restaurants that serve local dishes for an amazingly low price. I’m so impressed with the amount of different vegetarian meals they offer, and I’m in love with the tempeh here. I’d like to learn how to make it. There are many cooking classes on offer but I think I prefer to experiment on my own with what I have tried and what I have asked people so far. I think everyone makes their own versions of these dishes anyway, without ever having a set recipe.

I got up early yesterday and went to the local markets to buy the ingredients I needed for these dishes that I had tried the day before at a friends’ house. The market had everything I needed, I didn’t need to buy a single thing from the grocery store except for some oil. This fact made me feel I was on the right track. So, here are my versions of some delicious Balinese dishes! May there be many more to come!

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Recipe

Tomato Chili Sambal (Sambal Tomat)

Ingredients

3 tbs peanut oil
5 long red chillies, roughly chopped
6 red cayenne chillies, or birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
10 golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs raw sugar

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chillies, shallots, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 5 mins, add some water if it gets too dry. Transfer mixture to a mortar and pestle and add the fish sauce, pepper, salt and sugar and grind until a chunky consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
You can use it straight away or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavour will change after a while. I like to let it sit for a few hours before using. Serve at room temperature.

Peanut Samabl 

Ingredients

2 tbs peanut oil
150g roasted peanuts
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
3 red cayenne chillies, or birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 golden shallots, peeled, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted, desiccated coconut
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
200ml water

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the peanuts, chillies, garlic, shallots, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 3 mins. Transfer mixture to a mortar and pestle and add the coconut, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper and grind to a thick paste, adding the water as you go.
You can use it straight away or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavour will change after a while. I like to let it sit for a few hours before using. Serve at room temperature.

Eggplant in Chilli Sauce (Terong Balado)

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

4-5 long eggplants
8 tbs peanut oil
2 tbs tamarind pulp, dissolved in 2 cups warm water
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
3 red cayenne/birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
10 golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tbs raw sugar

Method

Prepare a large bowl with cold, salted water. Cut the eggplants into 5cm pieces, putting them in the water as you go. Leave them in the water while you prepare the paste.
For the paste, heat 1tbs of the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for about 2mins. Transfer to a mortar and pestle with the salt and sugar, and grind to a smooth paste.
Add the remaining 7 tbs of the oil to a clean pan, over medium high heat. Add the drained eggplant and cook, stirring, for about 5mins, or until starting to soften, but not falling apart. Remove the eggplant from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard the remaining oil.
Return the eggplant to the pan, along with the chilli paste and the tamarind water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring, for 3mins, or until thickened slightly and eggplant is fully cooked.
Serve.

Crunchy Nut Fish with Wasabi Mayo and Veggie Chips

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This is a funky recipe, shown to me by an awesome guy we have been staying with, it’s not often I’ll take a shortcut like this when preparing food, but I thought this little trick was too good not to share. I’ve heard of using crushed salt and vinegar chips as a crumb for fish, but never had I seen this before! Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are the star here, they lend a subtle sweetness and perfect crunch to the outside of the deliciously soft fish. I didn’t actually know what I was eating at the time, until I later asked him what he had used in the crumbs, I was shocked! I asked if he wouldn’t mind me using his idea and sharing it on my blog. And at the time I had all intentions of making my own crunchy nut crumb, but then I thought, hey, why change something that already rocks! So, for the first time in my life I bought a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, of which Benny has been enjoying the leftovers of for breakfast the last couple of days!!

We shared this meal with some friends down at the beach, trying to make the most of our last week in Darwin. Now that we are about to leave I’m ashamed of myself that we haven’t had way more sunset beach picnics. Time flies by so fast, it’s scary. One good thing about having a life like we do at the moment is that we really do live each day to the next without ever really knowing what might happen next, but the days still seem to melt away….

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Recipe

Ingredients
800g trevally (or other firm white fish), de-boned and cut into 10cm pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
2 tbs plain yoghurt
1 tsp hot english mustard
salt and pepper
300g crunchy nut cornflakes, finely crushed in a mortar and pestle or food processor
Coconut oil, for shallow frying
2 medium red rascal potatoes, skin left on, cut into thick chips
1 large, white skin, purple flesh, sweet potato, skin left on, cut into thick chips
2 beetroot, peeled, cut into thick chips
Olive oil
Lemon wedges and a simple green salad to serve, if desired
Wasabi Mayo
4 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
4 tbs plain yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 tsp wasabi paste

Method
For the fish, in a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard and salt and pepper. Add the fish and stir to coat. Cover and leave in the fridge for half an hour to marinate.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Prepare two baking trays with baking paper. In one large bowl, toss the potato and sweet potato with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto one tray. In the same bowl, toss the beetroot with some more olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto the other tray. (Keeping them separate will prevent the beetroot from staining the other vegetables).
Place in the oven and bake for 40-50mins or until golden and crunchy on the edges.
Meanwhile, for the wasabi mayo, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and use a whisk to thoroughly combine. Leave in the fridge until ready to serve.
To cook the fish, heat some coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan, over medium high heat. Place the crushed cornflakes in a bowl. Coat each piece of fish in the cornflakes, pressing into the fish firmly to coat.
Fry the fish pieces, about 2mins per side, until golden and crunchy. Drain on paper towel.
Serve the fish with a sprinkle of salt, the veggie chips, lemon wedges and wasabi mayo.
Enjoy!

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Palak Paneer (my version)

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See under the title of my blog it says, ‘food. experiences. experiments. recipes’… this was one of those experiments. So, please excuse this very unattractive curry. It may be the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen but man was it tasty!

The experiment part was the paneer, and although it wasn’t the first time I had made it, it was the first time I had used it in a curry. It is an incredibly easy cheese to make, but so far I had only used it in pies, and crumbled in salads. When I made this curry the paneer had only been setting in the fridge for a few hours, I think it would have had a better chance of staying in solid cubes if I had left it for twenty four hours, so that’s what I’ve suggested in this recipe. Alternatively you could use store bought paneer.

In the end, it was still really delicious, it just wasn’t the same as I’ve had it in Indian restaurants, but, that’s ok! I didn’t use the traditional spices and cream either, and I added chickpeas, so, maybe I shouldn’t really be calling it Palak Paneer, but, in the words of Kylie Kwong, it’s MY version of Palak Paneer. 😉

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Recipe

You will need to start this recipe the day before

Serves 4

Ingredients

Paneer

2L full cream milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Curry

300-350g spinach (I used a mixture of Brazilian and Baby Spinach)
2 long green chillies, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic (1 roughly chopped and 3 finely chopped)
1 Tbs fresh ginger, julienned, plus extra to serve
2 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 heaped tsp garam masala
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
300g Paneer, cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 cup plain yoghurt, plus extra to serve
salt and pepper
Cherry tomato, cucumber and parsley salad, lemon wedges, and brown rice, to serve

Method
To make the paneer, place the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring, until foamy and steaming. Do not bring to the boil.
Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. You should see the curds separating from the whey almost immediately. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for 15 mins.
Strain the curds and whey through a sieve lined with muslin or a couple of fresh chux cloths. Bring the corners together and twist to push the whey out of the curds. You can also press down on it to really get the liquid out. Unwrap and stir in the salt. Bring together the corners and twist again and press out the last of the whey. Set the sieve in a bowl, place a small plate on top of the paneer, along with a couple of cans of food as weights. The sieve must be clear of the bottom of the bowl to allow any more liquid to drip out from the paneer. Place in the fridge overnight to set.
For the curry, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice and water. Place the spinach in the boiling water, press down and cover with a lid. Remove from heat and let sit for 2mins. Strain the spinach and place in the ice water for 5mins.
Place the spinach in a blender, along with the 1 clove of roughly chopped garlic, the green chillies and the ginger. Blend until smooth (add a little water if necessary). Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they begin to splutter, about 3mins.
Add the bay leaves and the onion. Cook until golden, about 5 mins. Add the remaining 3 garlic cloves and the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes break down, about 3mins.
Add the turmeric, curry powder, garam masala and chickpeas. Cook, stirring, for about 3mins, or until fragrant.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach mixture. Heat, stirring, until nearly simmering. Add the yoghurt and stir through. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the paneer and very carefully stir through the sauce, being careful not to break it up too much. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 mins before serving.
Serve with the brown rice, the salad, lemon wedges, extra ginger, extra yoghurt and a nice cold beer.

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Tamarind and Lime Pickled Leader Prawns with Green Papaya and Rambutan Salad

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Talk about being pushed out of my comfort zone, this week I spoke on live to air radio about cooking, my blog, local produce, and how I work with it in each place I visit. It all happened within a couple of hours. A phone call from the station, asking me whether I’d like to do it and a few questions about myself and what I’ve been doing, then, to answering a phone call at 3.20pm and waiting for the music to finish and the presenter to introduce me. He was relaxed and friendly, and once my nerves calmed down, it was really fun and an awesome experience. What a funny day that was.
Anyway, the whole reason for the segment was to advertise a competition run by the ABC to find regional recipes from around Australia to include in a Cookbook celebrating Australian cuisine and local produce.
So here is my entry! The tropical produce up here in darwin is so beautiful, I can’t get enough! I’ve used the local Leader prawns from the trawlers down at Francis Bay, green papaya from my friends garden, and the rambutans, onion, ginger, chillies, mint and limes from the Rapid Creek Market. With the rest of the ingredients form the local Asian Grocer, I didn’t even need to visit a large supermarket. Which makes me very happy!
I’ve been wanting to try these local Leader prawns since I first saw them, they are so massive, three of them was more than enough for me. However, they are really delicious, with a beautiful texture, made even more special by pickling them in this delicious marinade. You could use any prawns in this recipe through, and it would also work with fish or squid, just omit the blanching part of the process.
This is my third green papaya salad recipe for the blog, obviously, it’s just too delicious. Along with the sweet rambutans, the crunchy coconut, the tangy prawns and the big beautiful edible rice bowl. This is such an exciting meal, that’s impressive whilst still being really simple and easy. I hope you give it a try!

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Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

500g raw Leader prawns, or other large prawns such as King or Tiger
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
Juice of 3 limes
3cm piece ginger, chopped into tiny matchsticks
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp tamarind puree
1 tsp fish sauce
salt and pepper
1 small papaya, julienned or grated
6 rambutans, peeled, quartered and de-seeded
1 small spanish onion, very finely sliced
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted coconut chips
2 rice cakes with sesame seeds

Method

Peel and de-vien the prawns, leaving the tails on for presentation if desired.
Combine the chilli, lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, sugar, tamarind, fish sauce and salt and pepper in a shallow, non-reactive dish.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop in the prawns and cook for 30secs, no longer. Strain and place in the dish with the marinade. Stir to combine and arrange so that all the prawns are submerged in the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for 6 hours.
When ready to serve, toss together the papaya, rambutans, onion, and mint.
Cook the rice cakes, one at a time, in the microwave, on high for 1min.
To serve, divide the salad between the rice cakes. Top with the prawns, some of the marinade (this acts as the dressing), and sprinkle with the coconut chips.
Enjoy!

 

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!

Oysters with Pickled Cucumber (and a note on how to make a ‘Japanese Slipper’)

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I understand the appeal of oysters, there is something wild and exciting about eating a creature like this, freshly shucked and still alive, smelling of the ocean as you tip it up to your lips…..

and then…
salty snot.

I’m sorry. I really am. I feel terrible that I can’t fully appreciate them yet. I’m getting there though. A friend recently introduced me to what she called the “Japanese Slipper”, consisting of soy, wasabi, pickled ginger and lime. I loved the flavour at first but it’s that creaminess towards the end that i’m still getting used too. Apparently this is the most sought after part!
So, after having the Japanese Slipper, and not totally hating it, I also tried a bit of a pickled cucumber dressing as well. The dressing is delicious and according to my guests, the oysters were as well.
After all, I love the ocean and appreciate everything that comes from it. I’m sure I will love oysters one day. I will never stop trying that’s for sure!
I haven’t included a recipe here for the Japanese Slipper oysters, but they are really easy, just mix some soy sauce and wasabi together, pour about a teaspoon on each oyster, top with some pickled ginger and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Note; they also pair nicely with an icy cold glass of Frangelico and Lime.

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Recipe

Makes 12

Ingredients

12 freshly shucked oysters
130g cucumber, de-seeded, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1/4 spanish onion, very finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbs coconut vinegar
1 tbs caster sugar
Pinch dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper

Method

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, except for the oysters. Stir well and leave to pickle in the fridge for at least an hour.
When ready to serve, place about a tbs of pickled cucumber dressing on each oyster. Serve with extra lime wedges, if desired.