Mexican Inspired Quick Fix

I guess we are unconsciously channelling you in Los Angeles, so when Little C came home starving from school today, I chopped up half a green apple, a beautiful avocado, conjured up a quick fix salad and pretended we were snacking at a hole in the wall taqueria somewhere in SoCal. Sigh! Have you had some great Mexican on this trip?  Glad to hear you made your annual hike in the hills as the Three Musketeers again : how nice to be reunited with your gal pals. I am looking forward to hearing all their news when we see you for Christmas.

So, Izzy. When you are back in Melbourne and pining for some LA flavours, here is the salad which will satisfy that need. As you can see from the pics, it made a good study time snack.

Quick Mexican Inspired Salad

  • 1/2 ripe but firm avocado, skinned and chopped
  • 1/2 green apple, cored and diced
  • 1/2 a dozen cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 a cup of finely diced cucumber
  • 1/2 a pickled chilli, sliced fine (optional)
  • a handful of greens ( I used rocket/arugula)
  • a few sprigs of fresh cilantro/coriander
  • a tiny amount of finely diced onion ( one to two tablespoons depending on how much you like it!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • corn chips

Method:

Combine all the ingredients and serve with a handful of corn chips. Ole! 

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And the Theme Is PINK! (Raspberry, Almond and Coconut Cake)

I don’t quite know how or why, but it has been a pink infused few days.  It started last week-end, with your sister rummaging around early on Saturday morning looking for pink accessories to wear at her Touch Football game in Queen’s Park. All the SCEGGS sporting teams  took part that week-end and raised close to $2,500 for breast cancer. Even Little C’s  coach got into the fun of dressing in pink.

We took Alice on a walk in the hills around our house, and came across a home with huge Bougainvillea SPILLING all down the driveway; amazing, shocking pink.

Then on Wednesday, she was off to her vet appointment for ultrasounds. I looked at the old girl sitting alongside me in the car, sweet in her pink collar and leash.

Is the expression ‘in the pink of health’ ? Well, that’s what the tests showed for dear Alice at the end of the day. Phew.

I baked a cake which I came across in a sweet little blog ( called Wayfaring Chocolate ). You know how sometimes you read a recipe, and you have to just JUMP right up and make it? This was it for me.  I mean Izzy, think about it: a combination of coconut, raspberry and almond meal. How good can you get? (maybe a handful of chocolate chips…..?) Gluten free, and apparently, diary free too if you substitute the butter with Nuttelex. It was so easy, delicious and more-ish, that I’ve cooked it twice already. The raspberries kind of melt on top and make a deep pink decoration of its own- so you don’t even need to think about icing. Make it for your household- those vegan boys will thank you for a delicious cake!

Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 cups (170g) almond meal
  • 1 1/4 cups (275g)  sugar
  • 3/4 (70g) desiccated coconut
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g Nuttelex (dairy-free spread) or butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup (55g) fresh or frozen raspberries.
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F), lightly grease a 24cm springform pan and line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together almond meal, sugar, and coconut.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly whisk in the melted butter.
  4. Add butter mixture into the almond mixture, stirring until smooth.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan, then dot the top with the raspberries.
  6. Bake 50-55 minutes, until the cake is golden and the top springs back (or, at least, doesn’t feel uncooked… fancy that) when you press it lightly.
  7. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

After eating all that cake, I was glad to dash off with dad to the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition along the Bondi to Bronte walk. They were about to dismantle it all, so I am glad I saw it again, this time with dad. There were some good ones and some not so good ones, but I thought this one here, was clever! (and dark pink in the fading light!)

Are you packing for LA? You’ll have to drop in on the newly weds in their home in Venice. Do you think I might be more excited than you about this trip….? Haha! Sending you pink kisses, and hearty congratulations on finishing the Melbourne Uni year on a high note. Yippee!

Red Lentil Soup With A Californian Friend

The moving process began on Thursday.  it was a long and busy day, but everything went smoothly.  On Friday, a dear friend from Los Angeles who is here visiting family, hopped on a bus ( like she does everywhere she goes in the world) and made her way across town. She got off at the Double Bay shops and then made her way up the hill to our new house.

It felt like old times to be sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, Izzy, and catching up on all kinds of news about family and mutual friends. DT chatted about  new restaurants and stores in our old haunts ( you’ll be able to check on them in November ; how exciting to be heading back for a visit! ) and what everyone is up to in Santa Monica.

Around us, action swirled, as an electrician, plumbers and carpet layers worked to finish their projects. My phone kept ringing, interrupting.

I would have loved to have wandered up the road to our new ‘local’ with D for lunch.  I imagined us sitting under those huge Jackson Bay Figs and having a simple lunch, and a good coffee.  But all the workmen on site meant we had to stay close to home.

We ended up making a lentil soup, which was about the nicest thing to do: we were back in the kitchen together, pottering, chatting . I wish she’d move back to Australia…..

Lentil soup is your favourite standby: we made it slightly differently though, and I think you will be pleased with the improvement of barley in it: it gives it more substance, and a chewy element. You know how the orange lentils don’t mash down to a creamy consistency like some other lentils do, and can in fact be a little ‘floury’. I thought that the barley rounded it out nicely! There are few ingredients involved, and the soup is always a pleaser. We ate it sitting outside in bright sunshine: ah, a Sydney winter!

Red Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup small red lentils
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a large onion, chopped
  • 1 large tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cummin seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 litres water

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan, and brown the onion,  garlic and ginger with the cumin and fennel seeds.
  2. Add the lentils and stir well.
  3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, water and tomato paste.
  4. Add the barley, and stir.
  5. Adjust seasoning to your liking.  You might like to add a squeeze of lemon juice, and a hint of chilli powder.
  6. Turn the heat to very low, and cook gently for about twenty minutes to half an hour.
  7. If the lentils bulk up too quickly, and soak up all the liquid, add half a cup of water at a time to adjust the thickness of the soup to your liking. If you have to do this, be sure to check for seasoning as you go along, as the additional liquid changes the flavours. 

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and some crusty bread! I have also sometimes added tiny cubes of potato at the frying onions stage for an even heartier version.

Yummy and hearty.

Tonight we are sitting at the kitchen table: Little C hidden under a ginormous pile of books, and me with my laptop.  We both have a refreshing glass of mint and lemon tea: mint leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of honey. Mmmmm! More moving trucks tomorrow- bring ’em on!

 

Much Beloved Laksa

I had a lump in my throat as Uncle David, dad and I waved you onto your flight last night. Why did I think it would be easier from a shorter distance ? You will be sorely missed, dear Izzy. Such a happy month for us to have you around, in our settling in period in Sydney. Thank you for your enduring good cheer, great companionship and unfailing support. We did some good exploring of the city together, and I promise to keep you updated on all the continuing great finds.

When you were tiny, everyone looked at you, and after they had finished gushing over those crazy furry eyelashes of yours, they’d all say how much you looked like your dad. None of us have ever disputed that. But from me, you most certainly got the Laksa gene!

Quick! Chopsticks and soup spoon please!

Growing up in a little town called  Kuching, it was a local delicacy. My family used to go to a tiny food court called Tiger Garden after Sunday mass, and sit around a crowded table, and have bowls of this delicious curry  noodle dish.  A lifetime away, and living in North America, most people had never even heard of it. Luckily for us when we came home to Melbourne on holidays, Chinta Blues, a Malaysian Cafe down the lane served a good laksa, and we’d make a bee line for our fix.

You looked like a dainty little girl, but appearances belied the tolerance you had for fiery food. Dad even has a video of you in your pretty French pajamas, sitting in the blue and white stroller in Nana and Papa’s living room, wolfing down spicy fish curry. I think you were all of eighteen months. I was so proud! Haha!

So laksa! Why do we love it so? When chilly weather sets in, there is nothing better than a spicy, steaming bowl of comfort soup. The combination of fresh cilantro, bean curd, bean sprouts and omelette strips in a thin coconutty, chilli spiced broth made piquant by a squeeze of lime is quite special. In Malaysia, kalamansi lime is used, a most gorgeously fragrant variety, quite small in size with a thin dark green skin and bright orange inside. The addition of cooked shredded chicken and or prawns is optional, but it does happen to be our favourite version. On the North-West coast of the Malay archipelago, a soured fish version called Assam Laksa is made, with the addition of tamarind. But who am I kidding about the chilly weather bit? We love this soup even on the hottest day!

You were right here in the kitchen with me when we made it a couple of nights ago (thank you for taking the photos!). Dad had a work dinner, so we three girls got our socks on, and sat around the tv slurping chicken laksa and watching MasterChef. What fun, dearest Isabel! Come back soon, and we’ll cook together some more!  Meanwhile, here is the easy peasy recipe. (Thank goodness for laksa paste!!)

For your household of vegans (Misha, please note), exclude the chicken of course and add the eggplant, more of the veggie ingredients, and make your stock with just the coconut milk and water. Celiacs can omit the egg noodles and just keep with the rice vermicelli ; as delicious!

Laksa (Kuching version) for four people

  • two large chicken breasts
  • 2 litres of water
  • 1 packet fresh and crunchy bean sprouts
  • 1 packet firm fried tofu
  • four eggs
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro
  • 1 jar of laksa paste
  • 1 packet vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 small packet yellow egg noodles
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sliced red chillies (optional for extra heat)
  • 1 cupful small cooked prawns (optional)
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced, grilled, and set aside (optional)
  • cucumber cut into thin match sticks
  • 2 fresh limes

Method:

  1. In a small pan of the water, gently boil the chicken breasts for about twenty minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool completely, and then shred by hand. Reserve the stock.
  2. Heat the oil in a stock pot, empty the contents of the laksa paste into the oil, and stir until fragrant. (Check the instructions on the jar to be more exact. )
  3. Add the chicken stock, and coconut milk, and bring to the boil, at which time, turn the heat down to a low simmer.
  4. Add the juice of one lime, and adjust seasoning by tasting. If more liquid is needed to make up larger bowls, add a little more coconut milk or chicken stock. The Kuching laksa soup is quite thin, so I add stock if more liquid is needed. Others (the Singaporeans for instance), like a very rich gravy, and use coconut cream and more coconut milk. You chose how you’d like your soup! After simmering for about ten minutes, turn the heat off and set aside.
  5. Beat the eggs in a bowl and fry a simple omelette. Fold over, and slice into thin strips when cool. Set aside.
  6. Boil a large pan of water, and throw in the noodles to soften. When cooked, drain, run under a cold tap and set aside.
  7. When you are ready to eat, turn the laksa soup pot on again to a very low simmer.
  8. Assemble in large bowls, some well drained noodles, bean curd strips and sprouts, egg slices, and all the other dry ingredients.
  9. Ladle some simmering soup into the bowls to just cover the dry ingredients, and serve with an extra wedge of lime. For those with the asbestos tongues, top with sliced red chilli.  Enjoy!

Laksa soup simmering on the stove…

 

 

Noodles cooked and waiting in cold water.

Thin slices of egg.