Salmon with Ginger and Sweet Chilli Sauce

This recipe is so easy, I have never bothered to include it in this blog.

I’m going to do so today, for two reasons. Firstly it’s a favourite in our house, so I make it at least once a fortnight and sometimes once a week. Secondly, if I serve it to guests they invariably ask for the recipe.

2 portions salmon, skin on or off
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (see note below)
1 Tbs Thai sweet chilli sauce
Lemon to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper.

Pat the salmon fillets dry and arrange on the tray. Mix ginger and chilli sauce and spread evenly over the tops of the salmon. Bake for 8-10 minutes. We like our salmon pink in the middle. If liked, cook longer.

Serve garnished with lemon, with an Asian Coleslaw or steamed green vegetable.

Serves 2

Note: Peel half a kilo or more of fresh ginger, then chop very finely in food processor. Freeze in ice cube trays, pressing down to fill. When frozen, tip into a ziplock bag or container and freeze. Just take out one cube at a time. Perfect for stir-fries and marinades.

Salmon with Green Mango Salad

You can’t buy green mangoes in the two local supermarkets I frequent. When I go to a Middle Eastern shop a bit further afield which sells them I always buy a few when they are in season. Green mangoes are a particular variety, smaller and thinner than the sweet ones. If you can’t find green mangoes, buy some very underripe ordinary ones. You don’t want soft mushy flesh, it needs to have a bite to it.

This salad is perfect without the salmon as part of a buffet. If you don’t like things too hot, leave out the chilli or use less.

Tamari is gluten-free, so it’s a good option for celiacs.

3 Tbs fish sauce
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
1 or 2 Tbs brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, to taste
2 tsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
¼ cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes
2-3 firm green mangoes
2-3 cups beansprouts
½ cup coarsely chopped coriander
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
¼ cup peanuts or coarsely chopped cashews
4 salmon pieces
2 Tbs finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 Tbs tamari or sweet chilli sauce

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.

Place coconut in a dry frying pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until light golden. Cool. In the same pan stir fry the nuts until starting to colour ,then cool.

Peel the mangoes, cut the flesh into thin slices, then cut these into long thin julienne strips. I used a vegetable peeler to make the strips you can see in the photo. Place in a large bowl with the beansprouts, fresh herbs (saving a few of each to garnish), spring onions and half the coconut. Add enough dressing to moisten, then tip onto a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved herbs and coconut and sprinkle with the nuts.

Meanwhile, arrange salmon pieces on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix ginger with tamari or sweet chilli sauce and spread over the top of each piece of salmon. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked to your liking. I like it pink in the middle, but if you like it well done cook for 15 minutes.

Serve the salmon with the salad on the side.

Serves 4

Steamed Bok Choy with Bacon and Onion Vinaigrette

I found a recipe in a French cookbook for a warm bacon and onion vinaigrette and decided it would probably go well with some bok choy I had in the fridge. It did. A true fusion recipe where East meets West.

3 or 4 whole bok choy or baby pak choy
200g bacon, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 Tbs cider, red wine or white wine vinegar
2-4 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Run the cold tap over the bok choy, separating the leaves a bit, so you remove any soil, but leaving them whole. Trim the ends if necessary then steam until just tender. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange one on each serving plate.

Meanwhile cook the bacon in a non-stick frying pan, stirring. As the bacon starts to release the fat, add the onion and continue to cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion has softened and the bacon is crispy. Add the vinegar and cook for a minute or two, until it’s almost evaporated, then add enough olive oil till the dressing looks right.

Spoon dressing over the bok choys, garnish with salt flakes and black pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 3-4

Chicken Chow Mein

Back in the 1980s I bought a copy of the Women’s Weekly’s Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook and worked my way through it. I was a young mother of three kids at the time and my only experience with Chinese food prior to that was buying takeaway.

I still have that book, dog eared and spattered from many years of use, with comments and amendments jotted here and there. The recipe for Chicken Chow Mein is served on a bed of crispy fried noodles and includes pork. I’ve adapted it to use the precooked Asian noodles sold in most supermarkets these days – preferably Chow Mein, but Hokkien or Singapore noodles will do – as they are healthier than anything deep fried. I also leave out the pork and just use chicken and prawns.

450g lean chicken meat, cut into thin strips
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 tsp cornflour
450g ready to serve egg noodles (Chow Mein, Hokkien or Singapore)
4 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
350g peeled uncooked prawns, deveined
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red capsicum (pepper), cut into thin slices
1 large carrot, cut into julienne strips
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced diagonally
¼ white cabbage, shredded
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup water
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 chicken stock cubes (about 2 tsp stock powder)
1 Tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 tsp sugar

Mix chicken with soy sauce, dry sherry and cornflour. Stand for one hour while you prepare the vegetables. Pour boiling water over the noodles, stand for a few minutes, then drain.

In a wok or very large frying pan heat the oil and cook the ginger and garlic for one minute. Increase the heat and add the chicken and stir-fry for five minutes. Add the prawns, toss for a couple of minutes, then add all the vegetables (save a few spring onions for garnish) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the combined sauce ingredients and lastly the drained noodles. Toss for a couple of minutes, then serve garnished with the reserved spring onions. Serve with extra soy sauce or sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) drizzled on top, if liked. And if you’re wondering what you can see sprinkled on the front of the dish, it’s a good pinch of crushed chillies.

Serves 4

Tortang Talong

This Filipino eggplant omelette is delicious. In the Philippines they use long thin Asian-style eggplants which are not easy to find here. I used one medium to large globe eggplant to replace two long Asian ones and served one each.

With steamed rice and a salsa this makes a satisfying vegetarian main meal.

4 medium to large globe eggplants
olive oil
5 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Vegetable oil to fry the omelettes
1 avocado, diced
1 small cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup diced tomatoes (quartered if small, diced if large)
Small handful fresh coriander, chopped (optional)
1 small red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped (optional)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs white balsamic or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve:
Steamed rice
Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), ordinary soy sauce or fish sauce
Fresh coriander and thinly sliced green part of a spring onion

Brush or spray eggplants with a tiny bit of oil, then grill or barbecue until blackened and collapsed. Place in a dish and cover with a plastic bag. Leave until cool, then carefully peel off the skins and discard. Leave the stalks on as they are useful for picking up the eggplants to dip them into the egg mix. If necessary flatten the eggplants a bit with a fork – mine were already fairly flattened and I didn’t want to risk them falling apart.

Make salsa by mixing all ingredients together.

Beat eggs with a fork and add onion, garlic and season to taste. Using two non-stick frying pans, heat a little vegetable oil in each and cook two omelettes in each pan. Dip each eggplant in the egg mix, then place in the pan and cook over moderate heat. When all four are in the pans, spoon remaining egg and onion mix on top of each omelette. When crispy on one side, turn over and cook the other side.

Serve the omelettes with the salsa, steamed rice and kecap manis, soy sauce or fish sauce.

Serves 4


Quick Bang Bang Chicken Salad

The name Bang Bang is derived from the way the chicken is tenderised before cooking this recipe. Not something you have to worry about in this version. No doubt the original recipe also had you chasing the chook around the backyard and catching it, before you got to the bang bang bit.

After catching and tenderising your chicken, a traditional Sichuan recipe for Bang Bang Chicken Salad starts with cooking it whole. This is the quick version where instead you head to the supermarket. Perfect for those days when you have limited time to organise something tasty for dinner.

Buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket – actually I bought a half – then grab some beansprouts, cucumber, baby spinach, coriander and a lime. Hopefully you have all the ingredients for the dressing in your pantry.

½ a roast chicken (more or less)
2-3 cups beansprouts
2 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)
2 Tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 Tbs Tahini paste
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs vinegar (Chinese black if available, if not any will do)
4 Tbs vegetable oil
Pinch chilli flakes
To garnish:
3-4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
A handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
2 Tbs roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped
Good pinch chilli flakes or some fresh finely diced chilli

Shred the chicken and place in a bowl with the beansprouts and spring onions (if using). Whiz all the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor or blender. Add the dressing to the chicken – you may not need to use it all.

Line a serving dish with spinach leaves. Pile the chicken salad on top, then garnish with the coriander, cucumber, nuts, chilli and a piece of fresh lime. As you can see in the photo, I forgot the lime!

Serves 3 (more as part of a buffet)


Malaysian Spicy Chicken

I prefer chicken thighs to breasts, both the texture and the flavour. Malaysians always use thighs to make their famous satays with peanut sauce, which we ate often at the street stalls when we were posted to Kuala Lumpur in the 1980s.

This quick and easy Malaysian recipe also uses chicken thighs. Serve it with steamed rice and a crunchy cucumber, onion and coriander salad, perhaps with some halved cocktail tomatoes added. Warm roti bread also goes well.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup tamarind paste
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cardamom
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh lime wedges
1 red chilli, sliced on the diagonal
Fresh chopped coriander
½ cup crispy fried shallots (available from Asian shops and some supermarkets)

Combine marinade ingredients, add the chicken pieces, trimmed if necessary and halved or left whole. Mix well then cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least a couple of hours.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Arrange chicken pieces in one layer in a shallow baking tin and cook for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through.

Transfer chicken to a serving plate, drizzle over any liquid from the pan and garnish with the limes, chilli, coriander and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Serves 4-6

Char Kway Teow

We lived in Kuala Lumpur for three years in the mid-1980s. The street food sold by people called hawkers was fantastic and my favourite dish was char kway teow.

A delicious mix of rice noodles, prawns, egg, garlic and other flavourings, I’ve tried many times to make char kway teow taste exactly the way I remember it. Unfortunately I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not possible. Even my Malaysian friends agree with me. You need to go to Malaysia or Singapore for the real thing.

My recipe has been adapted and tweaked over the years to produce a dish which might not be 100% authentic, but which you can make easily at home with readily-available ingredients. In Malaysia they add blood clams, known as kerang. If you can find them that’s wonderful, throw them in, but I just leave them out.

Fresh rice noodle sheets which you cut into strips are available in Asian grocers, but the ready to eat rice noodles sold in most supermarkets work well. Not quite the same, but still delicious. If you’re going to make a trip to an Asian grocer for the noodles you will also be able to find Chinese sausage and garlic chives there, as well as all the sauces.

This recipe serves 2. If you need to serve more people, make another batch, don’t double the recipe.

200g rice noodles (see note below)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12-15 peeled and deveined prawns (preferably uncooked, but cooked also work)
1 lap cheong (Chinese sausage) thinly sliced (see note below)
Good pinch of crushed dried chillies, to taste (or add a little Sambal Oelek paste)
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 tsp soy sauce, to taste
2-3 tsp kecap manis (see note below)
2-3 tsp oyster sauce
1 bunch garlic chives or spring onions
200-250g beansprouts

If using rice noodle sheets (available in Asian stores) cut them into 1cm strips and separate them with your fingers. If using ready to eat rice noodles, cut the end off the bag and zap it in the microwave for 1 minute.

If using garlic chives (available in Asian stores) cut them into 4cm lengths. If using spring onions, slice thinly on the diagonal.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add the garlic, prawns and sausage and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the noodles and the crushed dried chillies and toss well to combine. Let the noodles get a bit stuck and charred, before you scrape them off. Add the spring onions or garlic chives and beansprouts and mix in.

Push everything to one side, pour the eggs into the space and cook them like scrambled eggs, allowing them to set, then breaking them up.

Add the 3 sauces. Start with a couple of teaspoons of each, taste and add more if necessary. Gently mix everything together. The beansprouts and chives or spring onions will still be raw and crunchy. Don’t overcook – you want the egg to still be soft.

Serves 2

Notes: (1) in Australia shelf-stable (long life) rice noodles are located in the Asian aisle of big supermarkets under the Wokka brand. Inside the packet are two packets each weighing 200g. I used one for this recipe. You might also find ready-to-eat rice noodles in the refrigerated pasta and noodles section of your supermarket. (2) Chinese sausage is sold in a shelf-stable (long life) packet in the Asian aisle of Woolworths and Coles. (3) if you can’t find kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) use more ordinary soy sauce and add a good pinch of sugar.


Chinese Sesame Noodles with Eggplant

These Chinese Sesame Noodles with Eggplant always leave me thinking that if I had to be a vegetarian, this is one of the dishes I would make often. Some vegetarian dishes are satisfying and others just don’t hit the spot.

The original version came from Australian cook Belinda Jeffery, cooking presenter on the TV show Better Homes and Gardens for many years. I’ve been making it for over 20 years and yes I’ve tweaked it slightly (I know, I’m incorrigible) and added the optional pine nuts which were suggested by Matthew.

Served at room temperature it’s perfect for a shared buffet or as a light family dinner. Also great for lunch boxes.

This week’s recipe is especially for Moya and John and my brother David.

2 large eggplants, cut into 1cm thick slices
3 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
125g bean sprouts
A good handful chopped fresh coriander
450g fresh noodles (Hokkien or Singapore)
Lightly toasted pine nuts to garnish (optional)
Basting mixture:
2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (with or without seeds, up to you)
2 tsp finely chopped or grated fresh ginger (I tend to use more, like double!)
1 large clove garlic crushed

Cook noodles according to packet directions and drain. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix basting ingredients. Arrange eggplants on two large shallow baking trays lined with baking paper. Brush both sides with the basting mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender, brushing them again about halfway through the cooking time.

When eggplant is cool enough to handle cut into quarters, halves or thick slices and mix with remaining basting mixture. In a large shallow serving dish mix the eggplants with the noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions and coriander, keeping a little for decoration. Taste and add some extra olive oil or soy sauce, if necessary. Garnish with the reserved coriander and a few toasted pine nuts (optional, but they do add a nice bit of crunch) and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Chicken with Coconut Pilaf

We recently hosted a 60th birthday dinner on a balmy summer’s evening, for a friend who follows a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Watermelon and Feta squares went down well with drinks on the verandah, then we started the meal with Gin-Cured Salmon with Kewpie Mayonnaise and Pickled Grapes and finished with Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe. I replaced the dairy cream with Organic Coconut Whipping Cream, made by The Tender Table and sold in some specialty shops. With six candles, one for each decade, this dessert doubled as a birthday cake.

For the main course I served this chicken dish which was given to me by my daughter’s friend Mel over a decade ago. Mel is a fabulous chef and now makes special cakes to order in Canberra.

A chicken supreme is a boneless breast with the skin and first section of the wing left on. If you’re not sure what it looks like watch this video. There’s a shop in a nearby shopping mall that specialises in chicken. They didn’t have supremes on display, but the butcher knew what I wanted and prepared them for me.

6-8 chicken supremes (boneless breasts with skin & first piece of wing attached)
Grated rind 1 lemon
1-2 small red chillies, very finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 Tbs olive oil
S and P
2 Tbs  butter (or olive oil to keep it dairy-free)
2 cups basmati rice
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream and about 2 tins water
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups beansprouts
2 cups coriander leaves – broken off, not chopped
2 cups Vietnamese mint leaves (or ordinary mint)
2 cups purple basil leaves (or ordinary basil)
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vinegar
To serve:
toasted shredded coconut

Trim any untidy bits off the chicken and if you think they look a bit too big, remove the fillets and keep them for a stir fry another day. Mix the chicken with the marinate ingredients and leave for several hours, or overnight if possible, in the fridge. Arrange chicken on a shallow baking tray (lined with baking paper if liked) and bake for 25-30 mins at 180°C, or until cooked and tender. Be careful not to overcook it, or it will be dry.

For the pilaf melt butter, add rice and stir to coat. Add coconut cream or milk and stir over low heat until the rice starts to thicken. Add water, lime juice, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover tightly and cook on a very low heat until liquid has all been absorbed. You may need to add slightly more or less water, so don’t add it all at the beginning and see how it goes, stirring and adding more if necessary. You can also do the rice in a rice cooker, just putting all the ingredients in together and adding a bit more water towards the end, if necessary.

Remove any stringy bits from the beansprouts. For the salad dressing, heat vinegar and sugar in a small pan, bring to the boil. Boil for a minute then cool. Mix all the salad ingredients together and at the last minute add the dressing, mixing gently using your fingers, so you don’t bruise the leaves.

To serve, divide rice among six serving plates. Place chicken on rice, top with the salad and finally the toasted coconut. I used large dried coconut from Aldi, stirred in a dry frying pan over moderate heat until lightly browned.

Serves 6-8