Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Importance of our Family and our Pets

Lockie and Kali
This hasn't been the best of weeks.

We all have those weeks which we wish would end quickly and we could start again. I am generally a fairly optimistic and outgoing person I think,  but sometimes events happen which make you retreat into yourself, and just focus on your family, your home, and what is really essential.

Last Sunday started with some variety of stomach virus which laid me really low, and and left me after all of the action had settled down a couple of days later, only wanting soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers to eat, such a time honoured comforting classic with an upset stomach, and sweet mandarins for dessert. Does anyone else remember having soft boiled eggs and soldiers when they were growing up? Such a treat. I still haven't had a cup of coffee since the weekend, only cups of black tea, and this is definitely an indicator for a foodie that all is not well in the eating department. I even cancelled Tuesday Mahjong, and the delicious cake I had planned to bake. Sad but true.

However, that aside, yesterday we received the awful news that our beautiful Grand dog, Kali, one of our son's two Border Collie dogs in the Perth Hills, was badly injured. She escaped early yesterday morning before dawn from their property, decided to go for a long walk or probably a run in Kali's case being a Border Collie, and was badly injured but still managed to make it home and climb up on her chair at the front of the house and wait to be found. She survived 7 hours of surgery late yesterday and last night and now is still  sedated at the vet's surgery. Thankfully, there is no internal bleeding or organ damage but she has hundreds of stitches and staples across her chest, two teeth extracted, and her left leg has been repaired as much as possible but may require more surgery.

Our beautiful Kali

Needless to say, everyone is very shaken up and upset over Kali including me as we have spent a lot of time with the dogs and they are very much part of the family. Thankfully her brother Lockie, a chocolate and white border collie,  didn't decide to go along for the excursion as well. He is a lot more sedate in nature. However Kali is a beautiful and very affectionate dog, and normally very streetwise and obedient when we take her out walking. The vet thinks she has been hit by a car which explains her injuries.

When these things happen just out of the blue for no reason, it is certainly a wake up call for everyone, and often involves a lot of soul searching as to why it  happened. Family pets are an integral part of the family, but are also very perceptive to any issues surrounding them. They are animals though, and prone to impulsive behaviour when least expected. Who knows what Kali went looking for in the early hours, as they are locked up during the night and had only just been let out of the house.
Happy times walking with the dogs in the country after little Hugo was born
Anyway I won't dwell any further on this, and hopefully she will be able go home tomorrow to lots of spoiling and attention.

Anyone reading this, who has pets knows that  having them is mostly very rewarding, however the unexpected is bound to happen sometimes, and sometimes there are tears.

So consequently, I have done next to no cooking this week, despite my best laid plans, had intended to do a lot more blogging but haven't, have done some cleaning and washing and a little gardening but that is all. However it doesn't matter does it? All the rest can wait. The most important thing is to give support to my family where it is needed and be available to help if necessary.

Take care everyone and I hope your week is going well. To my friends who are reading this, I will try and catch up soon.

Best wishes

Pauline x




Friday, 26 May 2017

Coconut and Lime Ceviche as a starter or canape, from the kitchen of Pinetrees Lodge on Lord Howe Island




Coconut and Lime Ceviche

Ceviche is typically made from very fresh raw fish which is "cooked" or cured in citrus juices such as lime or lemon. With other ingredients added such as fresh herbs and spices, it is a delicious, light and zingy starter for any meal. We used a very fresh fillet of Kingfish, about 500g, trimmed and cut into 1 cm cubes. The fillet needs to be at least 1 cm thick. However any firm white-fleshed fish could be used. With this recipe, the actual cooking of the fish is the easy part, as the acidulant in the lime juice  “cooks the raw fish”.

Go straight to the recipe here

It is important to save your energy for finding a really good seafood distributor as the freshness of the fish is the secret to the success of this dish. According to Alasdair Nicolson, the talented Executive Chef at Pinetrees Lodge on Lord Howe Island, the safest way to ensure the freshest  fish is to buy a whole fish and fillet it yourself, or go fishing as he often likes to do in the pristine waters around Lord Howe Island. Or ask your seafood supplier to fillet it for you after you have selected your fish. Filleting a whole fish requires some experience and a very sharp knife.

Alasdair Nicolson, demonstrating how to fillet a Kingfish

We enjoyed a great week over at Lord Howe Island, and as it was Food and Wine Week, there were cooking classes each day, wine tastings before dinner each night, and lots of exercise and sightseeing during the day. I'd like to share this cooking class with you, as  I think the Ceviche was one of the stand out dishes of the whole week, served as a canape one evening, with another variation of ingredients as a starter on the dinner menu, and we enjoyed lots of sampling when this dish was assembled. Alasdair is a very generous with sharing his expansive knowledge, and is very unpresuming at the same time. One of the really nice things about staying at Pinetrees was the availability and friendliness of the Chefs and staff. Ben, who is the talented and very approachable Restaurant Manager, and his staff, enjoyed imparting their knowledge of each dish served to us, and proudly promoted that all of the fresh herbs and edible flowers, such as basil, coriander, and nasturtiums which appeared on our plates came from the Pinetree's herb and vegetable gardens. Being on an island can be challenging, and means that restaurants need to be as self sufficient as possible. Whilst a lot of food served in restaurants around the world now reflects global trends,  and can be quite similar, the food at Pinetrees seems to imbed the values of the island into it's cuisine, combining the ability to be flexible,  and sustainable at the same time. 

Ingredients for  the Dressing for Ceviche crushed in a Mortar and pestle

1/2 bunch of Coriander and roots, washed and finely chopped
1 stalk of lemon grass
1 Clove of garlic
4 Kaffir Lime Leaves, finely chopped
2 chopped chillies, finely chopped ( not the hot variety)
Pound the above ingredients in a Mortar and Pestle or mince finely in a food processor

Cooking marinade

2 tablespoons of Nampla Fish sauce (or any other good brand)
Juice of 2 limes
(Fish Sauce and Lime juice needs to be balanced. i.e. same quantity of each, depending on how juicy the limes are)
Little bit of sugar, according to your taste
Kara brand Coconut Cream


Mix the Fish Sauce with the Lime juice and add the other finely crushed fresh ingredients to it to make the Sauce which will cook the fish.

Add the Sauce to the raw cubed cubed fish in a bowl just before eating. The fish shouldn’t be left to marinate too long in this mixture as it will cook the fish.

 Then add about 2 tablespoons of Kara Coconut Cream to the fish mixture. This particular brand won’t separate as some Coconut Cream does when mixed with citrus juices and curry pastes. (This brand is also very good when making ice-cream)


Decorate your Ceviche with peanuts and black and white sesame seeds, and garnish to finish with sprigs of fresh mint and coriander.

An aerial view from Kim's Lookout, which was a steep 1200 metre climb to the top

Lord Howe Island is well known for it's Kingfish, which was on the Dinner menu each night but always presented in a very different and delicious way. It is caught sustainably by the local fishermen as the Chefs tell them each day how many fish are required, and only that number are caught and delivered. In 1982, Lord Howe was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Property, in recognition of it's beauty and biodiversity, and it's significance to the planet. The pristine beaches and oceans continue to survive, because of a very effective recycling model on the island, and an active army of anti-plastic warriors.

Below are photos taken on the shoreline of  beautiful Ned's Beach, where fish wait to be fed, not caught.




Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoyed a brief visit to Lord Howe Island.

Best wishes

Pauline


Thursday, 11 May 2017

How to make Japanese Gyoza Dumpling Delights with Dipping Sauces at home





Japanese Gyoza Dumplings

Gyoza is a Japanese dumpling meal which is easy to make in your own home, I know because we have made a few batches of them now, and collected a few useful tips along the way which I would like to share.  They are fun for the family to make together, extraordinarily delicious, and inexpensive on the budget. We have been smitten with them ever since friends in Perth cooked them for us for dinner one evening, and now we can't get enough of them. They are a very famous food in Japan, either for dinner or for eating out, but actually originated from China. The Japanese people discovered the art of making dumplings when they invaded China in the late 1930's and brought the idea back to Japan, or so the story goes. The Japanese dumpling is usually fried and then steamed, or as our friends cooked them, steamed and then fried. That is a personal choice, and we actually prefer them just steamed which is much faster, as when you are cooking them for the family or friends you will find yourself cooking more and more of them as they disappear before your eyes. I don't have a photo of any fried gyoza that we prepared, as they were gone before we could say itadakimasu, which is traditionally said in Japan before eating or receiving food.

We were talking about making Japanese Dumplings, and Mr. HRK who likes using different tools and cooking utensils in the kitchen as well as in his shed, went on a shopping mission with Shannon when she was home, and returned with a Dumpling Shape Maker from the House Kitchen shop. It has taken a little bit of practice to perfect the process, but it seals up the dumplings with the perfect shape, and crimps the dough edges perfectly. It is also versatile, as ravioli, pies, fruit pies, mini pizza bites and calzones can be made with it.

Shaping the Dumplings

We discovered that the Dumpling Maker works best if the cutting edge at the back is brought toward you first and the front piece is moved into the back piece, which then work together to cut the wonton wrapper perfectly, allowing the unwanted edge of the wrapper to be pulled off neatly. So a teaspoon of the prepared pork mince filling is placed in the middle of the square wonton wrapper, which is already positioned in the Dumpling Maker. The back and front pieces are brought together to cut and seal the wrapper. I didn't see the need to use water or egg white to seal the edges however if you are making them yourself without the help of a Dumpling Maker it is probably necessary for a good seal. We now have a team approach. I make the Pork Mince Filling and the sauces, and  Mr. HRK  shapes and cuts the dumplings. We then share steaming them in the basket over boiling water, and voila they are ready to eat.

Gyoza Dumpling Shape Maker. Waiting to be steamed.

This is my recipe for the Pork Mince Filling used in the dumplings:

Pork Mince Gyoza Filling Recipe

Ingredients:

500g pork mince
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
4 cm piece of fresh ginger root, finely grated
2 green onions finely chopped, or chopped chives
Finely chopped Coriander leaf and root if you like the taste. (The jury is out on whether or not to use coriander in Japanese dumplings. I love it but the Japanese purists probably don't use it. It's a personal preference.)
Some recipes also add finely chopped cabbage. We didn't in this recipe and didn't miss it at all.

1 packet of wonton wrappers (40)

Method:

If the weather is humid, it is best to cover the dumplings with glad wrap on a tray and keep in the fridg, or they can even be frozen for later.

Otherwise they can be prepared and left to stand on the kitchen bench on a well aired tray, for an hour or so before cooking.

We used a traditional Chinese cane steaming basket, lightly sprayed with cooking oil and cooked the dumplings a layer at a time ensuring they didn't come in contact with each other as they can get sticky. One side can then be fried before serving.

Serve as soon as possible after cooking.

Cooked gyozas ready for serving


Dipping Sauces:

It is nice to serve a few different dipping sauces with the gyoza.  The following one is a favourite that I used last time. We also served a small dish of Ponzu Sauce, which is a unique Japanese sauce combining the delicate flavours of citrus, vinegar, soy sauce and mirin, which was  a foodie gift from friends. It offered a nice contrast to the following sauce. Ideas for yoghurt based sauces are below.

Gyoza Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup low salt soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes (optional depending on your guests preference)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method:

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl and leave to sit for 15 minutes before serving. This will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 week. This recipe is based on one I found by Rebecca Friedman.

Our friends, Jamie and Lisa who first cooked these for us also gave me the following ideas for sauces. The yoghurt sauce is delicious.

 Yoghurt based dipping sauce, allowing for a fusion of flavours:
Yoghurt marbled with crushed garlic and possibly pesto, or any flavours that compliment the creaminess of the Yoghurt, such as Harissa or your favourite dips. It's fun to experiment with what you have on hand.

A combination of Kecap Manus and Sweet Chilli Sauce, an easy option for a sauce if you are short on time is a favourite of Jamie and Lisas and was also really delicious.

Another edition. Lots and lots of gyozas for the family which will disappear very quickly
Thanks for visiting and I'd love to hear from you with any stories you have about eating gyoza. Have you eaten them or made them before and what is your favourite dipping sauce?

Best wishes

Pauline



Monday, 8 May 2017

Vietnamese Pulled Pork in the slow cooker, with Japanese Pickled Cucumber, Pickled Galangal, and Red Cabbage Asian Slaw


I'd like to share with you  my Vietnamese Pulled Pork recipe which we cooked a couple of nights ago and it was amazingly delicious, with the Char Sui Sauce being the secret ingredient. The flavours and textures of the Japanese Pickled Cucumber, the Pickled Ginger  and a Red Cabbage Asian slaw married perfectly with the flavours of the Pork and the sauce. Some sushi rice to soak up the fusion of flavours and we were transported to an exotic destination. We also made some Japanese dumplings for a starter and I will share that story with you soon.

Go straight to Vietnamese Pulled Pork recipe 
Go straight to Japanese Pickled Cucumber

I am feeling rather restless today as a nourishing and relaxing time with our daughter Shannon, at home, has come to an end for now. She is driving back to Far North Queensland, possibly a 10 hour drive depending on the extent of the roadworks and the number of trucks on the road. We will be on the phone every couple of hours today to check on her progress, as she has her phone set up in her car to be hands free. This is the first time she has driven this trip on her own, and I will feel a lot happier when I know she has arrived back safely. One of the hardest things about being a parent is knowing when to let your children fly their wings solo, even at 30 years of age. I was very tempted at one stage to drive back with her and then fly home, or at least accompany her to Bowen and then drive home. However she loves driving and seems confident to tackle the long trip alone with Nala her cat firmly positioned in the cat basket on the front seat. Anyway she has reached Bowen in record time and so far no road works or trucks, so far so good. I know she will feel a real sense of accomplishment when she arrives home safe and sound.

However she had a false start, when she realised she had left something important at home, so only half an hour down the road she had to turn around and come back for it. We just all laughed about it. Hasn't that happened to most people though at least once in their lives, when they have realised they have forgotten something important and have had to turn around and drive home to get it? It's surely not worth it though after half an hour on the road and can lead to divorce proceedings if pursued, LOL.

It has been a lovely couple of weeks though of cooking, baking, eating, outings, relaxing and watching a few TV show like Suits, laughing and just enjoying having her at home and seeing her wind down and start to relax. We also had her cat Nala to enjoy, and Nala settled in very well, and despite being very shy, investigated all of the clothes and linen cupboards if the doors were slightly open and ventured outside if the neighbouring dogs were quiet. Thankfully though she isn't a hunter so the bird life hasn't been in jeopardy, although the resident Peewees knew she was around and became quite aggressive.

So Shannon has gone home with a large box  full of frozen homemade meals and soups, her favourite being my Ham and Kale Soup. Chicken and vegetable soup,  chicken stock, curries, and leftovers from the Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage Slaw we made and various jars of pickled vegetables are all included. The aroma from the brandy in my Cherry fruit cake will probably waft though the car as well and smell like Christmas.  I think she is a chip off the old block and her Grandmother would be proud. This reminds me of when we used to visit my Mum in Rockhampton and we would always leave with lots of homemade biscuits and cakes and only a few survived to the end of the trip home, ha, ha.They were so delicious.

Vietnamese Pulled Pork in the slow cooker with Char Sui Sauce




Ingredients:

2kg piece of skinless shoulder of pork
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised
3 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup char sui sauce (almost a full bottle)
1/2 cup rice wine or sushi vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 jar of pickled ginger  or you might like to make your own. Galangal is often available at Farmers Markets.
Here is my recipe for Pickled Galangal

 Method:
  1. Place chopped onion over the base of the slow cooker and place pork on top. 
  2. Add the Lemon grass
  3. Combine garlic, ginger, char sui sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. 
  4. Trim fat from the pork if necessary. Pour sauce over the pork and  cover the slow cooker. 
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  6. When cooking time has finished, remove the pork and keep it warm on a plate in a warm oven covered with alfoil.
  7. Skim excess fat from the sauce and and remove the lemon grass. If there is a lot of sauce which seems a bit thin it can be reduced down in a saucepan on the stove for 10 minutes if you have time.
  8. Remove meat from the oven and pull apart. It should be juicy and succulent.
  9. To serve, drizzle pork with the Char Sui sauce and serve more sauce in a jug on the table.
The pork can also be roasted in a covered baking dish at 110 deg. C for 8 hours. It is much easier though to use a slow cooker for this.


 Japanese Pickled Cucumber

1 large cucumber or 3 small ones
2 teaspoons salt

Pickling solution:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoons sesame seeds, white or black (I originally used 2 tablespoons which is pictured however I think I prefer less)

Wash the cucumbers and slice into thin rounds. To remove excess moisture, place the sliced cucumber in a bowl and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons of salt, and set aside for 5-10  minutes. Rinse off the salt with water in a colander, and drain the cucumbers thoroughly.

Combine all of the remaining  pickling solution ingredients in a bowl.

Place the pickled cucumber in a lidded container and leave it in the refrigerator if possible for 24 hours. They will be delicious to eat then, but they can be made a few days in advance by which time the flavours will have really developed.

Bye for now my friends and thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear from you and I hope you enjoy these recipes.

Best wishes

Pauline

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Surprise Party to Celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary with Family and Friends



It's been a lovely and busy weekend, the highlight being a surprise party on Saturday night at our home, organised by Shannon, to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Of course she had a few very talented co-conspirators who assisted with this achievement, but essentially she pulled off a real coup. I like to think that I am fairly perceptive and know what is going on around me. Well she can write the book now on how to pull off a real surprise. I've trained her well ha, ha. 

Everyone brought a delicious salad or nibbles and  Shannon bought some very tender steak so a BBQ was the perfect way to entertain on our patio, followed by Mud cake for dessert.

This magnificent chocolate Mud cake was baked and iced by the lovely Elise, who made it right through to the quarter-finals of Masterchef, collecting quite a fan base along the way, and is a good friend of Shannon's. It was 3 layers, with a chocolate ganache topping and layers joined with butter cream and salted caramel. Shannon decorated it with a beautiful posy of fresh flowers on the day of the party. Unfortunately there is no likelihood of my obtaining the recipe for this cake, Elise's secret weapon, but it was unbelievably rich and delicious. It was such an interesting phenomena that as all of our friends were eating it there was complete silence, almost a sign of reverence for the cake, which continued even after they had finished eating. Have you ever experienced that when your friends are eating something so good either at home or at a restaurant that everyone just goes quiet and savours the deliciousness of the meal?


Sparklers on a cake add to the festivity of the occasion. 



We had a 10 hour drive home from Cairns on Wednesday, and Shannon managed to conceal the cake in her car, packed in freezer blocks in a broccoli box along with an Anniversary gift from Neil, Shannon, Matthew and Myrtille, a beautiful patchwork quilt. Unfortunately Matthew and Myrtille couldn't be with us as we only left Western Australia a week ago, but they were here in spirit and called us on Saturday night and on Sunday.

Shannon's lovely Tonkinese cat, also came along for the ride and didn't let on about the secret either. I'll try to include a photo of Nala at some stage. Thanks to our friends who were available to help us celebrate, it was a memorable night and one to always remember. 

Over the next week whilst Shannon is home we will be going out more than usual  and having a great time, so blogging will not be as often or catching up with other peoples blogs. After she goes home though, there will be time for that. I am prepared to just drop most things and enjoy having her home.

Have a nice week and thanks for visiting my blog.

Best wishes

Pauline