Pork San Choy Bau

Wraps have become a popular alternative to sandwiches in the past few years. Supermarkets and cafés offer a wide range and they make a satisfying and healthy lunch.

Start by spreading the wrap with homemade or bought mayonnaise or hummus, then put some protein such as cheese, ham, cold roast chicken, canned tuna or hard-boiled egg in a line down the middle, then whatever else you can find in the fridge – chutney, olives, cucumber, grated carrot, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, a few nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever made the same one twice.

This quick and tasty Chinese recipe uses lettuce cups instead of wraps and is perfect for a mid-week dinner or informal entertaining. Eat them with your fingers – which is a bit messy but the way they’re intended to be eaten – or with a knife and fork. Instead of lettuce cups you could serve the filling in ordinary bread wraps.

2 tsp vegetable oil
500g minced pork
1 chopped onion or 3 shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 220g can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Chinese cooking wine or sherry
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
To serve:
1 iceberg lettuce, separated into cups
2 Tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 shredded spring onions

In a large frying pan heat the oil then add the pork, onion and garlic and stir fry for about 10 minutes over moderately high heat, until onions are soft and pork is broken up and starting to brown. Add ginger and water chestnuts and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until sauce has thickened and starting to caramelise.

Serve pork in the lettuce cups garnished with toasted sesame seeds and spring onions. The outside leaves of the lettuce are too large to use for this recipe, so keep them for another meal and use the smaller ones.

Serves 4

Variations:

  • Use beef or chicken mince instead of pork
  • Use Hoisin sauce instead of Oyster Sauce
  • If you don’t have any water chestnuts, leave them out

 

 

Japanese Raw Fish Salad

We went to a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok last month which served delicious, light and very reasonably-priced food. I ordered a raw fish salad, which was a generous main course size and cost around $10. It was so delicious we went back, I ordered it again and decided to recreate it when we got back.

This is a recipe for people who like raw fish. Buy very fresh, sashimi quality and discard any fibrous, stringy bits as you cut it up. While the idea of fake crab stick is an anathema to many people, that’s what they used in Bangkok and I was pleasantly surprised. It added a touch of sweetness to the flavour combination. If preferred substitute cooked crab or leave it out and use a bit more fish.

The salad was topped with about two tablespoons of salmon caviar. These salty little delicacies explode in your mouth and really make the dish. They must be much cheaper in Thailand than they are in Australia where they retail for over $30 for a 100g jar. In this country there’s no way you could be so generous with the caviar and only charge $10 for the dish. You can buy red fake caviar in most supermarkets for a fraction of the cost, but it’s not the same thing and to be avoided.

About 8-10 cups small salad leaves
350 firm white fish, cut into fat matchsticks
350 salmon, cut into fat matchsticks
200g crab sticks, cut into fine julienne
Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
Juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco or hot chilli sauce, to taste
Garnish:
1 small jar salmon caviar

Arrange salad leaves on 4 large or 8 small plates. Arrange the fish and crab sticks on top in layers.

Mix all ingredients for sauce. Drizzle over the salads and garnish with the salmon caviar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

These rice paper rolls make a refreshing aperitif or light dinner.  There’s no cooking involved making them the perfect choice for a hot summer’s evening when everyone is feeling lazy, even the cook.

The rolls can be made up to three hours ahead and kept in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, so they don’t dry out. Vary the ingredients according to what you have on hand.

100g vermicelli noodles
350g cooked prawns, cut in halves horizontally
½ cup each coarsely chopped coriander and Vietnamese or ordinary mint
1 Lebanese cucumber or half a telegraph cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 rice paper wrappers (approx)
Dipping Sauce:
1 clove garlic, peeled
30g palm sugar or brown sugar
4 Tbs lime or lemon juice
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
To garnish:
Vietnamese mint or ordinary mint

Place vermicelli in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Stand for 2-4 minutes or until tender, then drain well. Use scissors to roughly cut the vermicelli into shorter lengths then place them in a bowl with the prawns, mint, cucumber and spring onion. Season to taste.

For the dipping sauce, pound garlic and sugar to a paste in a mortar and pestle then mix in the remaining ingredients. If preferred, instead of making the dipping sauce serve the rolls with store bought Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Fill a bowl with hot water. Working with one rice wrapper at a time, submerge in water to soften for about 20 seconds, then place on a damp tea towel. Spoon some of the prawn filling down the centre, fold in the ends, then roll up tightly to form a cylinder. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with a damp tea towel. When you have made them all serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, up to 3 hours.

Serve 2 or 3 rolls per person, with the dipping sauce and mint.

Makes about 10 rolls

Note: rice paper wrappers are sold in most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Gratin of Eggplant

I’ve had this recipe for decades, but haven’t made it for some time.

In the meantime I read somewhere that salting and draining eggplants to remove bitterness is a waste of time, so I don’t bother any more. Removing that stage from the recipe speeds things up.

To make it even quicker, use a jar of bought tomato passata instead of the tomato sauce.

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2-3 eggplants (aubergines) (about 800g)
olive oil
2 eggs
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion or half a large one, finely chopped
400g tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 (410g) can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp sugar
Topping:
4 Tbs Panko breadcrumbs (see note below)
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C. Slice eggplants  about 1 cm thick. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan until hot, then add eggplant slices a few at a time and cook on both sides until golden brown. Repeat with remaining slices adding more oil as necessary, but not too much as eggplants have a tendency to act like blotting paper. Drain eggplant slices on paper towels then arrange then overlapping in a shallow ovenproof dish, in one or two layers.

Beat eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over.  Bake for 20-30 mins or until the cream mixture has set. Pour over tomato sauce (see below) and spread evenly. Mix panko crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Bake for a further 15 mins or until browned. Serve with a salad.

Tomato sauce: while the eggplant slices are frying, start the tomato sauce. Heat oil in a frying pan and add onion. Cook gently, stirring, until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes then simmer for a few minutes until a chunky, thickish sauce has formed. Add salt, pepper and sugar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter or side dish

Note: Panko breadcrumbs are chunky, Japanese-style breadcrumbs sold in many supermarkets. Alternatively, just blitz a slice of stale bread in the food processor.

 

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

Don’t like anchovies? I have to admit I’m not mad about them either when they’re whole. But crushed into a sauce they add a unique depth of flavour which has been known to win over quite a few anchovy haters. A traditional Caesar Salad dressing wouldn’t be the same without them – but a lot of people wouldn’t even know they’re there.

I found this recipe on the New York Times recipe site which said “Just don’t mention the anchovies, tell people it’s pasta, cabbage and umami”.

This recipe is tasty on its own or as a side dish with grilled meat.

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

500g dry pasta such as penne
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs butter
4 anchovy fillets
½ cup coarse breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper. To taste
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes, or finely diced fresh chilli to taste
8 cups shredded cabbage
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a small frying pan and add half the garlic and the anchovies, mashing with a spatula until they dissolve into the butter. Add breadcrumbs and sage and cook, stirring, for about 2 mins or until golden brown. Turn off the heat and season with pepper.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add remaining garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring from time to time, for 15-20 mins or until it begins to caramelise. Mix with the pasta and breadcrumb mixture, saving some of the breadcrumbs to garnish. Check for salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining crumb mixture and the Parmesan.

Serves 4

 

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

Somewhere towards the end of January I get cravings for a curry. Something spicy and a complete contrast to the food we tend to eat over the holiday period, with ham or turkey as the centrepiece.

As a change from the usual roast lamb with mint sauce, try this Indian-style spicy roast lamb. Serve the lamb with vegetables or skip the vegetables and serve it in wraps. Good for casual entertaining or teenage kids, where you can let everyone fill their own.

When it’s first made the coriander chutney is bright green. I made mine ahead and the colour changed, so it’s not so pretty in the photo.

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

1 leg of lamb
Spicy Marinade:
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
Coriander Chutney:
1 cup coriander leaves, tightly packed
3 spring onions, sliced
1 long fresh green chilli, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 Tbs water, if needed
Garnish:
Coriander sprigs
Lemon wedges

Make slashes with a sharp knife all over the lamb. Place in a roasting pan. Place first 5 ingredients for Spicy Marinade in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until the spices smell fragrant. Place in a bowl, add remaining marinade ingredients and mix well. Spread all over the meat and rub in well. Leave lamb to marinate for a few hours at room temperature or loosely covered in the fridge overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cover lamb with foil and roast for an hour and a half. Remove foil and roast for a further 30 minutes or until done to your liking. Remove from the oven and leave to rest, loosely covered with foil, for about 15 minutes, then carve thinly.

Place all ingredients for Coriander Chutney in food processor and process till chunky-smooth, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Add water if it’s too thick.

Serve lamb garnished with with coriander sprigs and lemon wedges with vegetables of your choice and the chutney. Or serve it in warm wraps with the chutney and some extra plain yoghurt and maybe some shredded lettuce or rocket.

Serves 8

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

This recipe Which came from a Coles supermarket magazine is quick, easy, tasty and healthy. What more could you want?

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

4 boneless, skinless, white fish fillets (about 150g each)
2 Tbs miso paste
3 Tbs orange or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
180g dried soba noodles
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2
150g snow peas, sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a large saucepan of water on to boil and turn the grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil, spray with oil and place the fish fillets on top. Mix miso paste, orange or lemon juice, honey and sauce sauce. Brush both sides of the fish with this mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place fish under the gril and cook for 8-10 mins or until cooked.

Meanwhile cook noodles for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and snow peas and cook for another 2 mins or until vegetables and noodles are cooked. Drain well and mix in half the remaining miso sauce. Divide noodles and vegetables among 4 serving plates. Arrange fish on top and spoon over remaining miso sauce. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onions.

Serves 4

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

This lovely summery salad was in a supermarket recipe hand out. I’ve made a few changes as I always do. Perfect for the warmer weather when mangoes are in season.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup boiling water
About six cups mixed salad leaves
1 mango, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
300g cooked, peeled prawns (weight after peeling)
100g feta or fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts or pecans
1 Tbs honey
Dressing:
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place onion in a small bowl. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well then leave to macerate for half an hour or more. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange salad leaves in a large shallow bowl or four individual serving plates. Use small leaves or break larger ones into bite sized pieces. Top with the mango, capsicum, tomatoes, prawns, feta or goat’s cheese and the drained onions. Place walnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Add honey, stir to coat, then arrange over the salad. If you do this ahead and let them get cold they will stick to the pan, so you will need to turn the heat back on briefly to loosen them. Drizzle salad with some of the dressing.

Serves 4

Variation: use peaches or nectarines instead of mangoes.

Warm Rocket and Caramelised Mushroom Salad

There seem to be a lot of lunches to attend at this time of year. After a substantial lunch it’s nice to make something light but tasty for supper.

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
About 400g fancy mushrooms (shitake, oyster, porcini) or ordinary mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups rocket (or baby kale) washed and spun dry
¼ cup dry sherry
100g fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
3-4 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
Dressing:
3 Tbs sherry vinegar (or another kind
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook shallots over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes or until starting to brown. Add sherry, season with salt and pepper then cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile shake dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Mix rocket with enough dressing to lightly coat and place in a large serving dish. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on top of the rocket and top with the cheese and the pine nuts if using – I didn’t in this photo.

Serves 4

Las Vegas Country Club Salad

The Las Vegas Strip in Clark County, Nevada USA is famous for its hotels and casinos, many of which have amazing architecture and lights.

But there’s more to Vegas than the Strip. Normal people live normal lives in the rest of the town. They go to work or school and rarely go to the touristy area. We recently visited two cousins who live in Las Vegas proper, where they both work as lawyers. It was great to catch up and to cross the nearby Grand Canyon off our bucket list. We splurged and went by helicopter and it was indeed an amazing experience.

Tom and Bob both live in houses located in the grounds of the Las Vegas Country Club and we stayed with Bob. Invited to the Club house for lunch on the day we arrived,  I chose this delicious, healthy salad which was so good I decided to try and replicate it on my return.

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Mesclun or small lettuce leaves
12 large slices of tomato
12 spears asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1-2 pita breads
Olive oil and grated Parmesan
Paprika
Chicken and Walnut Salad
2 cups cooked roast chicken, diced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Tuna and Celery Salad
2 cups canned tuna, drained
½ cup very finely diced celery
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg and Chive Salad

2 cups diced hard boiled eggs (about 5 or 6), diced
¼ cup snipped chives
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste

Make mayonnaise then make the three different salads by mixing all ingredients together. Use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Refrigerate till serving time.

Split pita breads in half horizontally, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some finely grated Parmesan. Cut into long pointy pieces then bake at 180°C for 10-15 mins or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Wash and trim asparagus and cook in boiling salted water for about 4 mins. Drain and cool. All of this can be done ahead. To serve, arrange salad leaves on four serving dishes – rectangular ones look good. Then place three tomato slices on each plate.

Find a small rounded bowl, ramekin or measuring cup which holds about half a cup. The diameter needs to be about the size of the tomato slices.

Spray with oil, fill with about a quarter of the mixture and pack down well. Tip out onto a tomato slice. Rinse, dry and re-oil then repeat with the other salads, so each serving has a mound of each. If preferred just dollop it on with a tablespoon.

Garnish plates with asparagus, hard boiled egg slices, a shake of paprika and a couple of pita toasts.

Serves 4