Monday, May 28, 2012

Chicken Pad Kra Pao!

Yes, I'm doing it - 2 posts in as many days!! "What is this?!" you may ask? Well, I think I'm on a bit of a roll :)

And, I figured that there's no point putting-off this post till later because I'll have to write about my Breakfast Club Outing Numero Tres soon, and I can't have this in the way!

Oh and also, I'm a little bit VERY kinda proud about how my pad kra pao turned out! It tasted pretty authentic too if I do say so myself. See, I'm actually 1/16th Thai (my great-great grandma was Thai), so maybe it's the teeny bit of Thai blood in me that made me so naturally good at producing this dish... *coughselfpraisecough*

The reason why I chose to make this dish was because I have sweet basil growing in my little herb corner. True, it's sweet basil and not Thai basil, but hey, as they say: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade! My herb corner gave me sweet basil, so I made pad kra pao with sweet basil. True story. I was a little worried that the flavour of the basil wouldn't be strong enough to cut through the fish sauce and chilli, but I was pleasantly surprised.

So here's what I did:

Pad Kra Pao (Minced Chicken Stir-fried with Basil)
  • Minced chicken (surprise!) - I used one breast and one thigh, so roughly 350g
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced (or diced)
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely (I like it a little spicy, so I left some seeds in...)
    **Warning** DON'T scratch/rub your eyes, nose, or any other body part after slicing the chilli... even if you've washed your hands, it will still sting. I learned the hard way. Not fun.
  • A few sprigs of basil, should be Thai basil, but I used sweet basil (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 2 stalks of spring onion, sliced finely - not traditionally included in the dish, but I had some leftover so I just threw it in (literally)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of light soy sauce (depends on how salty you like your food to be)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for frying
  • Pinch of pepper (I didn't add any pepper in this version, but I will next time!)
So to start, just heat the oil up in a frying pan and, over a medium fire, fry the garlic, onion and chilli until fragrant and browning (not burning!).

Then add the minced chicken, fish sauce and soy sauce and stir vigorously (at this point, my arm started to ache...), once the chicken is cooked (i.e. it doesn't look like raw meat), add the spring onions and basil and keep stirring until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates. MOST of the liquid, not all of it. About 4/5 of the liquid should evaporate, in my opinion.

Then just serve it with some steamed jasmine rice and a fried egg! :) You can also make this dish with minced pork. But I prefer chicken.


Peace out (homies).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Indian-style Deep-fried Eggplant

So I was craving some home-style deep-fried eggplant like my mom used to make. Being in Melbourne, far away from anyone who could/would make it for me, I endeavoured to make some myself :)

I loveeee lebanese eggplants - bought some from Woolies a few days back. Yummay! I also happened to have some spring onion shoots and half an onion rolling around the vege compartment in my fridge. Perfect :) My mom never used spring onions in her version, but I figured that I might as well throw them in to add some colour and extra flavour to the dish.

So about 30 minutes later (I'm still quite slow in the kitchen!), my eggplant dish was finally ready. Taste test: It tasted pretty darn good! (Phew) I ate is with steamed rice, but it should taste pretty good with any type of bread or couscous as well. And it will be a really good side dish to be served with lamb curry (or lamb kebabs, or lamb anything!). Lamb and eggplant seem to go so well together!

Indian-style Deep-fried Eggplant
  • 2 Lebanese eggplants, halved lengthwise and finely sliced (2-3mm thick)
  • 1/2 large red onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of spring onions, sliced in 5mm bits
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced however you like (I like chunky pieces)
  • 5-6 dried red chillies
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli powder (omit or reduce as you like)
  • Salt - used to soak the eggplants in before frying
  • Oil for deep-frying
First, I soaked the sliced eggplant in a bowl of water with about 1 tablespoon of salt in it - this prevents the eggplant from discolouring and also makes the eggplants less bitter. I left it to soak for about 20 minutes while I sliced my onion, spring onions and garlic.

Then I drained the water from the eggplant bowl and threw in the cumin, turmeric and chilli powder and gave the concoction a good mix to coat each piece as evenly as possible.

Got my oil heated up in a wok - it needs to be really hot or you'll get soggy, oily eggplant pieces. I test if the oil is hot enough by 'sacrificing' a piece of eggplant - if it sizzles vigorously when dropped into the oil, it means the oil is hot enough. (Deep-frying for dummies :p)

Deep-fry the eggplant in batches (note: overcrowded wok = soggy eggplant) and set it aside - you know it's fried when it turns a golden brown.

In a separate frying pan over a medium fire, with a teeny bit of oil, I fried the dried chilli and curry leaves till fragrant (about 30 seconds), then threw in the garlic and onion and fried them for 3-5 minutes until soft and just turning a nice golden colour.

I then threw in the spring onions and fried the mixture a little bit more (about 2 minutes), and added the eggplant back into the mixture. Stir for a few more minutes, and voila! The dish is ready :)

And then the best part - serve and EAT!

(Would've loved to add some mustard seeds - about 1 teaspoon - to the dish, but alas, I had run out!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Elceed(s) Expectations :)

Is the title too much of a fail at wordplay??

Well, it's going to have to do because I can't seem to think of anything better at this point in time. Meh.

So Elceed opened just a few months ago, and I stumbled upon photos of its food on my Facebook newsfeed (I know what you're thinking - no, I wasn't stalking!). And it was put on my list of breakfast places to check out. Yes, I have a list for that. I also have a list for anything else that lists can be made for. I love lists. It makes my scattered and constantly confuddled mind a bit less so.

So I did get a chance to check it out (hooray!), and I loved it! This place, like Mixed Business, also has a cosy little backyard eating area with lots of potted plants and wooden tables and stools. It is more spacious than the backyard at Mixed Business, but has a similar vibe. I was really happy that we had the chance to sit there. The place was fairly quiet for a Saturday afternoon... which was a bit of a pity because it is a really nice cafe! So naturally, it should have more patrons... *hint hint*.

The food was very good - well-presented (passes the initial "needs to look like something you'd actually want to eat" test), each dish had a very good mix of components that contrasted and balanced well with each other, and (most importantly) the flavours and cooking methods were well executed (e.g. the grilled haloumi, candied prosciutto, poached eggs).

I had the Meredith goat's cheese with mushrooms, rocket and candied prosciutto on toast. This is a dish that I would highly recommend - that candied prosciutto - oh man. Delicate thin slices of prosciutto, candied to perfection with just the right amount of fat marbled through. It was practically singing out to me from the paddle it was served on (think Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma). Every bite made a soft crunching sound, the texture of which contrasted so well with the creamy goat's cheese and the soft, juicy mushrooms.

The other dishes sampled were the poached eggs (which JWT - the Matt Preston of poached eggs - pronounced to be perfectly poached) with spinach, yoghurt and dukkah on toast; the poached eggs with grilled haloumi and bacon on sourdough; and the upside down apricot and mandarin teacake served with clotted cream. I lurved the teacake - it was moist, and soft, the pieces of apricot and mandarin on top were sweet and tangy, and that clotted cream on the side was the cherry on top of the cake, so to speak.

And of course, I ordered myself a chai latte. Seriously, I've been having random and uncontrolled cravings for chai latte over the past few days. Damn female hormones.. On that note, I'm not entirely convinced that this beverage should even be called a chai latte because it literally translates to be "tea milk" (chai means tea in Hindi, and latte means milk in Italian)... ?? And then there's the obvious fact that it's a term that is an amalgamation of 2 completely different languages. Catch my drift?

But anyway, back to my chai latte/spiced tea with milk thing:

I'm pretty sure that I actually squealed out loud in amusement and delight when my chai tea was served, not exactly because I was that excited about the tea (there's only so much you can do with the drink), but because the teapot that it was served in was sooo quirky!! It looked like something from a chemistry lab that had been modified to vaguely resemble a teapot - a beaker with a lid and a spout, little bits of coiled metal in it (to strain the tea), and a handle that is effectively a spring bent into a hyperbolic curve! An endearing combo of cute and geeky. *Squee* The engineer in me found it very appealing and worthy of further examination and appreciation.

Seriously, the place is worth checking out. Now, don't all go at once - I think part of its charm is also the fact that it isn't packed and hectic like most other Melbournian brunch spots. It's the kind of place that, on a good day, you could sit at the back, in the sun, amidst the hanging flower pots, with your favourite book, while you sip your tea/coffee and lazily consume (or devour) your meal of choice.

Elceed on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 17, 2012

White Chocolate and Almond Fudge

So I've just been to the gym (actually 3 hours ago), and I swear that I can still feel an ample amount of endorphins coursing through my veins. Either that, or I'm just feeling super happy for no particular reason... (Yes, I thought so too - the former is the most likely explanation :p)

While I'm in the mood, I figured that I might as well share what I whipped up last week after being inspired by an episode of Masterchef.

I came across the recipe for white chocolate and almond fudge on a friend's blog, Bake Cook Eat, and had been meaning to try it ever since I'd read the recipe. This was my first attempt at making fudge. I was unable to identify the "softball" stage that Sam talks about in her post... But my fudge did set very well in the end :)

Evaporated milk, sugar and butter. Mmmm... :)

Next on my list is to make a dark chocolate and almond fudge, when I find the time... I think the bitterness of the dark chocolate will offset the sweetness of all that sugar very well.

P.S. I think the endorphins are wearing off... starting to feel sleepy..

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breakfast Club Meeting - Numero Dos @ Mixed Business, Queens Parade, Clifton Hill

So it turns out that I have a combo of a congested nose, sore throat and an ear infection. Score.

It's 6.30pm - too early to go to sleep. So the next best thing I can do is *drum roll* *cue suspense music* write another blog post! :) The other thing I could do is finish reading "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"... but I'm already nearly at the end of the book, so I'm trying to read it as slowly as possible to make it last longer :p

Which leaves me in my present condition - all warm and snug under my awesome doona with my awesome new doona cover, sipping my green tea with lemon and lemongrass, and typing this post.

So anyway, enough with the random facts.

BC meeting numero dos (I like saying the number bit in Spanish coz it just sounds cooler... and slightly silly as well - a charming combination, kinda like me..). DS suggested that we check out Mixed Business in Clifton Hill. I had never heard of the place before and therefore wasn't really sure what to expect. Thus I had no expectations (just in case you didn't get that from the previous sentence).

So took a leisurely tram ride, the number 86 tram to Bundoora, down Smith Street and Queens Parade to Mixed Business. It was a gloomy day with no blue sky in sight, and quite cold too. But I had volunteered (images of the scene from The Hunger Games where Katniss Everdeen frantically yells "I volunteer!!" pop into my head as I type this) to go earlier to get us a table.

I was determined not to overshoot my stop, and ended up getting off one stop too early instead!! Epic fail - when am I ever going to get this right? But anyway, it was actually a good thing because I then had the chance to walk through the quaint shops and cafes that line the start of Queens Parade in a setting that is an intriguing combination of a little bit hipster, a little bit granny, and a little bit Modern Family. Well, at least that's my take on it :)

And so I walked, and walked, and walked a bit more... Past all the nice little shops, past some slightly dodgy-looking houses, past some nicer looking houses, past some abandoned shop lots (think eerie, broken windows)... And finally! After all that walking, like an inviting tropical island getaway in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, stood Mixed Business! Spilling out onto the five-foot way with benches and seats for those more inclined to enjoy the (at that time, non-existent) sunshine in all its bright, UV-filled glory.

So I had to wait about 25 minutes to get a table large enough for us 5 Breakfast Clubbers. But I didn't mind at all, because right next to Mixed Business, equally random in it's location, was a flower shop! A very quirky, artsy flower shop. And they sold very cool seedlings of fruits, vegetables and herbs that I happily rummaged through while waiting for a table, wishing that I could be fortunate enough to have a garden to plant them in.

So finally everyone arrived, except for EP who was a little late from his basketball session. We sat down, and I ordered myself a soy chai!! The others got all sorts of coffees...

The crowd was very interesting - there were the hipsters, the cheerful retirees, the lone guy with an interesting tattoo on his arm, the soccer mom with her 2 sons sitting at the counter right by the window, and there was us. The cafe also has a neat line of two-seater tables lining a little lane around the back, in a cute, unkempt and enduring garden. There was also a table for 4 nestled amongst the plants - I would have loved to sit there had we been fortunate enough to arrive at a time when the table was clearing. Next time!

The service was prompt and efficient. Simple, no fuss - just the way I like it to be.

Chai! Soy Chai :)
On to the food!

DS faced a very serious dilemma in choosing between the smoked salmon, pickled beetroot, dill & creme fraiche with poached eggs on toast and the gingerbread waffles with maple syrup, baked apple, vanilla bean ice cream and candied walnuts. But yours truly, the super problem-solving machine, suggested that she have the smoked salmon as her main meal, and we could all share the gingerbread waffles after. That way she would have the chance to try both and not have to worry about finding space in her stomach to finish 2 full-sized dishes. Yay!! Problem solved!


This time, we were more adventurous and ordered a different dish each. So DS had the smoked salmon dish mentioned above, I ordered the roast field mushrooms with goat's cheese, hazelnuts and greens on toast, BL had the minute fillet steak with smoked tomato sauce, mushroom, and greens with free range eggs on sourdough, MK had the avocado and house marinated fetta (with a poached egg on the side) on organic sourdough toast, and EP had the grilled pancetta, slow roast tomato and parmesan with free range poached eggs on sourdough toast.

Everyone really enjoyed their food - the bread was awesome, my mushroom dish was very yummy, and EP's pancetta looked like little crunchy strips of bliss. And then the pièce de résistance: The gingerbread waffles that came not only with maple syrup, but also baked apples (do I hear your tummy say YUM?), vanilla bean ice cream AND candied walnuts. Yes - it was all that we expected it to be, and more. It was a lovely construction of warm, golden-hued components, topped with a scoop of that delectable vanilla bean ice cream. I couldn't think of a better way to end our meal :)

And now, you can feast your eyes on the food. Enjoy! (P.S. I cropped some of my photos in a new and cool way...)


Smoked salmon heaven

Avocado n eggs.. Mmmm :)

Mush"vroom!" Mushroom, hazelnut and goat's cheese *sigh*

Artsy photo crop - grilled pancetta

To Die For - Gingerbread Waffles


Look at allllllll the space!

Mixed Business on Urbanspoon