cabbage torta

 
cabbage torta

One of my favourite Filipino home-cooked dishes is "torta". I love it because it's simple but really satisfies. Most of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen right now.  The best way I can describe it is it's a cross between an omelette and a fritter. It's like an omelette because it's made up of eggs with some kind of filling be it beef, pork or crab, but it's often fried for a lot longer until it browns like a fritter.

Last December, I was invited over for dinner at a friend's place and came across my first cabbage torta. I loved it and got all excited because I happen to think cabbage is another one of those underrated vegetables.

This recipe is my version of cabbage torta. I cooked down the onions and cabbage and didn't add any water so that they would be caramelised instead of stir-fried. I also added a bit cornstarch to help the torta hold its shape. Although I chose to eat it with Japanese mayo and tonkatsu sauce, the flavours of this torta are nothing like an okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake made of cabbage. With an okonomiyaki, the raw cabbage is cooked in the pancake and doesn't caramelise.

 

 

Ingredients:

1/3 of whole cabbage, sliced into bite-sized pieces

1.5 red onions, sliced

3 shallots, cut into 5 cm lengths

2 eggs, beaten lightly

1 c plain flour

1 c water

sea salt

cracked black pepper

optional: Japanese mayo and tonkatsu sauce

Vegetable oil for frying

Method:

Heat about 2 T oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Fry onions until they become translucent. Add cabbage in batches so that the pan doesn’t cool too much and lead to stewing. Once all the cabbage is in, reduce heat to medium. Cook down the cabbage and onion mixture until the flavours deepen and become sweet, about 10-15 mins.  Season generously with salt as this really brings out the flavours. Add shallots and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Allow to cool.

Combine eggs, flour and water. Season to taste. When the vegetable mixture has cooled enough, add in the batter and mix well.

Place enough oil in a fry pan to cover the entire base of the pan and heat over medium high heat. Measure out ¼ c of the cabbage mixture into the fry pan. Flatten fritter with a spatula. Fry on both sides until golden brown.

Optional: serve with Japanese mayo and tonkatsu sauce.

Serves 4-6.

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steamed artichokes with lemon butter parmesan dip

 
steamed artichokes with lemon butter dip

I had lunch with a friend in Rozelle today and we decided to pop into About Life for their delicious cocoa chai. I always find it hard to resist browsing through the store even if I'm just getting take-away.  The food displays seem to say, "Buy me. I'm organic. I'm good for you." And so that's what I did when I came across a beautiful pile of purple-green artichokes that looked more like something I'd put in a vase instead of on a plate. I've never cooked artichokes before so I decided today was the day.

I love artichokes and the most recent rendition I sampled was the 'carciofli alla giudia' (fried whole artichokes) from the Jewish ghetto in Rome.  I've never had them steamed though so I thought I'd start with the basics and save myself from some deep fried calories.

 

 

Ingredients:

2 artichokes, trimmed (see link on how to trim and eat an artichoke)

dip:

2 T melted butter

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1/4 t lemon zest

squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Method:

Steam the artichoke for about 15-20 mins. They are done when you can easily slide a fork into the core. When artichokes are ready, dry them on paper towels. 

Place all dip ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until well combined.

Arrange artichokes on a plate and serve with the dip.

Steamed artichokes are very subtle in flavour so they are best eaten on their own with a nice glass of white wine.

Serves 2-3.

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baked panko pumpkin

 

Who doesn't love tempura? It's crunchy and melts in your mouth especially when it's freshly cooked. But I've only tried to make it once because I try to steer away from cooking deep-fried food. 

When I saw the photo of Maori Murota's recipe of "baked pumpkin" in her book "Tokyo Cult Recipes", I thought the pumpkin was deep fried and almost skipped past it. After closer inspection, I got excited when I realised it was baked and the pumpkin was seasoned in a way that promised a great combination of texture and flavours.  This baked pumpkin has some the crunch of a tempura thanks to the panko and you don't need to have a dipping sauce because of the honey soy marinade.

In this photo, I've got the baked pumpkin as part of a vegetarian "bento" or Japanese-style lunch.

 

Ingredients:

16 x .5 cm slices of peeled Kent pumpkin

4 t grape seed oil

4 t light soy sauce

4 t honey

4 pinches of salt

4 T panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a shallow oven tray with baking paper.

Mix oil, soy sauce, honey and salt in a bowl that's large enough to toss the pumpkin slices into. Add pumpkin slices, making sure each piece is well coated with the oil mixture. Place the pumpkin slices on the baking tray and sprinkle with panko. Bake for 10 mins, until tender.

Serves 4.

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eggplant with garlic and vinegar sauce

 
stir-fried eggplant by Bent Street Kitchen

This has got to be one of my favourite eggplant dishes. The best version I had was at a Chinese restaurant in the city centre of New York, near Carnegie Hall. 

Ingredients:

500 g eggplant, washed, dried well, then cut into 6 x 2 cm batons, 2 cm thick

vegetable oil, for deep frying

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

optional: 1/2 T cornstarch dissolved in 1 T water

 

sauce:

2 T oyster sauce

2 T light soy sauce

1 T white vinegar

1 T Shaoxing wine

1 T caster sugar

2 T water

1/2 t soy bean sauce

Method:

Place all sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined.

Heat oil in wok and deep-fry eggplant in batches at 150°C. Check oil temperature is correct before frying each batch. Fry eggplant for 1 minute and drain on paper towels.

Carefully remove oil from wok leaving about 1 teaspoon. Heat wok at high heat and stir-fry garlic for 5 seconds. Add sauce then reduce heat and simmer for 20 seconds. Add eggplant and simmer for another 10 seconds.

If you want to thicken the sauce, add 1-2 t of the cornstarch paste, stirring it well before adding to the wok and heat until desired consistency. Transfer to plate and garnish with sliced shallots or coriander leaves.

Serves 4 as part of a banquet or two if just served with rice. This dish goes well in a banquet with the egg and tomato fried rice.

Note: Soy bean sauce is available from Asian grocers. You can omit it if you can't find it but it does add a nice complexity to the sauce.

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sweet potato and coriander fritters

 
sweet potato and coriander fritters by Bent Street Kitchen
 

Ingredients:

4 c grated sweet potato

1 c roughly chopped coriander

6 shallots, white part only, roughly chopped

3 eggs, beaten

1 t sea salt

cracked black pepper, to taste

vegetable oil for pan frying, which means just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. If you don't put enough oil, the fritter will stick to the pan and not cook evenly.

Method:

Squeeze out excess juice from grated sweet potato to prevent batter from being too runny.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. 

Heat oil in fry pan over medium heat. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop out batter then form into a patty with your hands.  Place patty into frying pan. Batter will be quite loose and may fall apart in the pan- that's ok. Just nudge the bits back together into a patty with a spatula and press down on top to flatten. Cook for 5 mins before flipping. If patty starts to fall apart when you try to flip it, cook it longer. Cook for a further 5 mins on other side, taking care not to burn them. Do not crowd the pan and fry fritters in batches of 3-5, depending on the size of your fry pan. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 10 fritters.

You can serve these as finger food, an entree or as a side to go with the Beef Braised in Black Vinegar.

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cauliflower and lentil rice

 
Cauliflower and Lentil Rice by Bent Street Kitchen

I felt the winter chill today and wanted to cook something warming and satisfying without the heaviness of too much meat.  This rice dish is packed with flavour and filled with the goodness of lentils and cauliflower. I usually make this without any meat but added chicken this time to turn it into a complete meal. This is a great mid-week dinner and you can cut back on cooking time by adding the cauliflower with the rice instead of roasting it separately. I like roasting the cauliflower because you get a sweeter and fuller flavour this way.

You can serve this curry rice with some chutney and papadums. But making pappadams creates more work, you might say. Well, if you've got some cooking oil spray, you can easily make pappadams in your microwave in no time. I use the regular supermarket brand Maharaja's Choice and you can cook 10 pappadams in the microwave in 45 seconds.

In summer, you can create a lighter version of this dish by omitting the chicken and serving it as a cold rice salad.

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized cauliflower head, cut into florets

450 g chicken thigh fillets, skin and fat removed, cut into 2-cm pieces, (optional)

400g tin of lentils, drained & rinsed

1 & 1/4 c basmati rice

3 T korma curry paste

1 medium onion, chopped

3 c vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon quill

 

1 bunch coriander, chopped

1 T olive oil

1 T olive oil and pinch of salt for roasting cauliflower

lemon wedges (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 °C. Place cauliflower florets in a shallow baking tray.  Toss in oil and salt. Bake for 30 minutes, until the florets are golden brown around the edges.

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large casserole pan over medium heat. Cook chicken thighs (if using) until brown all over then remove from pan. Add onions to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Return chicken to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, bay leaves, cinnamon quill and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff rice with a fork and stir in lentils. Add cauliflower and coriander and mix through rice. 

Serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4-6.

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Miso keeping a watchful eye for food scraps at Bent Street Kitchen.

Miso keeping a watchful eye for food scraps at Bent Street Kitchen.

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roasted pumpkin with parmesan and pistachio crust

Roasted Pumpkin with Parmesan and Pistachio Crust by Bent Street Kitchen

Apart from French stews and tarte tatin, another comfort food that I turn to in the colder months is roasted vegetables. This one was inspired by a dish I had at a Surry Hills cafe whose name escapes me at the moment. They presented two beautiful thick slices of roasted pumpkin topped with a delicately flavoured breadcrumb mix and a dollop of sour cream. I don't like breadcrumb toppings and pistachios and parsley kept coming to mind. Fortunately, my experiment turned out well so I'm able to share this recipe with you. Let me know how you go. I'm happy to get some suggestions on how to improve it.

Ingredients:

1 kg pumpkin with skin on, cut into thick 3 cm slices

zest of 2 lemons

1/2 c chopped flat parsley

1/4 c pistachio kernels, chopped

1 c grated parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 c olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method: 

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a bowl, mix together lemon zest, parsley, pistachios, parmesan and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush pumpkin with olive oil and lay flat on baking tray. Top with a thick layer of crust mix. Roast in oven for 30 mins or until pumpkin is tender. After the first 20 mins of the cooking time, check crust isn't getting too brown. If it is, lower oven temperature or to 180°C and continue to cook for another 10 mins.  Serve warm.

Serves 4.

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Roasted Pumpkin with Parmesan and Pistachio Crust by Bent Street Kitchen

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roasted Dutch carrots

I love my vegetables. I love eating them. I love photographing them. I think these purple Dutch carrots can be the next top model of the vegetable world. 

Like the chargrilled broccoli from the previous post, I did not want to lose the beautiful flavours of these carrots by muddling them with too many other ingredients. I wanted them to sing, sing on their own! They did just that - with good quality olive oil and short cooking time so that they were tender but still had a bit of a crunch.

Roasted Dutch Carrots by Bent Street Kitchen

Ingredients:

2 bunches organic Dutch carrots, trimmed and scrubbed, halved lengthwise

2 T good quality extra virgin olive oil

sea salt flakes

freshly ground black pepper

small handful of thyme leaves

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 °C.

Toss carrots and 1 T oil in a bowl and season to taste. Spread on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender but not mushy.

When done, drizzle with olive oil. Check seasoning then garnish with sprigs of thyme. Serve warm.

Can be a side dish or a starter.

Serves 4.

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okra curry

Okra Curry by Bent Street Kitchen

I think okra is a much maligned and underrated vegetable.  A lot of people think it's slimy and hairy and with that reputation, why would you want to eat it? I used to think the same way when I was little. We'd have it at home steamed and served with bagoong, a Filipino shrimp paste. We'd also have it in a stew of pork, bitter melon, and pumpkin called pinakbet. However, it wasn't until I had okra in a variety of East Indian curry dishes that I became smitten. Those dry Indian curries make okra taste sweet, nutty and blog worthy.  

I remember planting okra in school because they're easy to grow in warm weather.  And, while we're extolling its virtues, I might as well add that they're a good source of fuzzy fiber, folate, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.  For this recipe, choose pods that are about as long as your pinkie or index finger. If you use younger pods, the more tender, less hairy and slimy they're going to be.  Make sure they're a bright green in colour, firm and have no black spots or blemishes.

Ingredients:

500 g okra

1 large onion, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 t ground turmeric

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t chilli powder

5 T vegetable oil

sea salt flakes, to taste

squeeze of lemon, if desired

coriander leaves for garnishing

Method:

Wash okra and dry well with a kitchen towel. Remove base and stalk then cut into 2 cm lengths.

Heat 2 T of oil in a large non-stick fry pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add okra and cook until slightly tender. Remove from pan and set aside.

While pan is still hot, add 3 T oil and heat for 2 minutes. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic then continue to cook until onions are golden brown. Add spices and salt and cook for 1 minute. Turn heat down to low. Return okra to the pan and stir so the onions are well distributed. Cook until okra is tender, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and add salt if needed. Add squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serves 4-6.

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Ottolenghi's roasted cauliflower, hazelnut and pomegranate salad

I think cauliflower is such an underrated vegetable but that's probably because the usual cooking methods like stir-frying or steaming don't bring out the best in them. Enter deep-fried or roasted cauliflower and now you're talking. Suddenly the albino counterpart of broccoli is transformed and surpasses its more popular verdant green cousin.  

This is a wonderful salad from Yottam Ottolenghi. Roasting the cauliflower makes them deliciously sweet and they go wonderfully with the crispy celery and the sweet and juicy pomegranate seeds.  I suggest keeping an eye on your cauliflower while it roasts instead of relying on the time provided as they can burn easily. The same goes for the hazelnuts. 

I don't like overly sweet or flavoured dishes so I added the spices and maple syrup to taste instead of just throwing the set amounts in the next time I made this salad.

Ottolenghi's Roasted Cauliflower, Hazelnut and Pomegranate Salad by Bent Street Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, approximately 680 g, broken into small florets

5 T olive oil

1 large celery stalk, cut on an angle into 1/4 inch slices (2/3 c total)

5 T hazelnuts, with skins

1/3 c small flat-leaf parsley leaves, picked

1/3 c pomegranate seeds (from about 1/2 medium pomegranate)

Ottolenghi's Roasted Cauliflower, Hazelnut and Pomegranate Salad by Bent Street Kitchen

Generous 1/4 t ground cinnamon

Generous 1/4 t ground allspice

1 T sherry vinegar

1 t maple syrup

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Mix cauliflower with 3 T olive oil, 1/2 t salt and some black pepper. Spread out in a roasting pan and roast on the top oven rack for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Decrease oven temperature to 160°C. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 17 minutes. 

Allow the nuts to cool a little, then coarsely chop them and add to cauliflower, along with remaining oil and rest of ingredients. Stir, taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 2-4.

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amouse bouche of sweet corn soup

We missed a friend's birthday dinner a few weeks ago and I wanted to have them over for dinner for an extended celebration.  I wanted to create a small and delicious starter to go with our main of hoisin pork ribs. I thought of the traditional Chinese sweet and corn soup but didn't want the heaviness of it. I also wanted it be mostly about the flavour of the corn and its sweetness. 

I looked at different recipes and then tried to pull elements that I liked to create my own. One of the interesting things that came up was how much the flavour varied depending on the corn I used.  I used corn from Harris Farm for my test run and corn from Woolworths for the actual dinner. As soon I pulled the husk off the Woolworths corn, I noticed they didn't feel as plump as the first batch of corn I bought from Harris Farm.  The Woolworths corn resulted in less juice, a paler colour and sadly less flavour. I ended up having to remedy it by putting more salt, nutmeg and cream. In these kinds of recipes where you have very few ingredients, the freshness and quality of the products you use become even more important because there's nowhere to hide. 

I have since done some research on picking the best corn cob and apparently one must check for plumpness in the kernels and the hairy tassels at the top should be brown and sticky to touch. If the tassels are black and dry, this means they're old. Unfortunately, you can't always check the tassels as some groceries present them with the tips already chopped off.

Amouse Bouche of Sweet Corn Soup by Bent Street Kitchen

Ingredients:

2 corn cobs

750 ml water

1 T butter

1/2 brown onion, finely chopped

1 T pure cream

sea salt flakes

dash of nutmeg to taste

freshly ground black pepper

a few drops of truffle oil

Method:

Using a sharp knife, shear kernels off the cobs. Put kernels in a saucepan with cold water and a small pinch of sea salt. Gently simmer for 30 minutes, then strain reserving the stock.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the corn kernels and cook for 3 minutes. Add reserved stock and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

Transfer soup into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing to get as much juice as you can. If you want to prepare ahead of time, this is when you can store the soup in the fridge until you are ready to serve. When you are ready, gently reheat the soup, keeping your eye on it so it doesn't burn. Add the cream and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add truffle oil just before serving as its wonderful flavour tend to dissipate with heat.  Serve in espresso cups or shot glasses.

Serves 4.

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chargrilled broccoli

Chargrilled Broccoli by Bent Street Kitchen

This recipe was inspired by a trip to Eveleigh farmer's market. I saw a huge stack of broccoli heads that looked so bright and green that I just had to buy and make something out of them.  

I wanted to cook the broccoli as little as possible so that I wouldn't lose its bright colour. I also wanted to keep the dish simple so that the broccoli's flavour was the star.  I  came across a recipe of grilled broccoli salad that had a lot of ingredients in it so I pared it back and came up with this. 

This was so delicious it never made it as a side for the main meal. My husband and I just ended up eating it as a snack with a nice cold glass of dry white wine while I prepared the rest of dinner. I wasn't sure what to expect from grilling broccoli but I have to say it's probably one of the best ways I've ever had them.

Ingredients:

2 broccoli heads, preferably organic, cut into florets then cut lengthwise along the stalk so that they lie flat during grilling

1 T and 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, cut in half crosswise

2 T red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 red onion, finely sliced

sea salt flakes

freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Heat a grill pan to high heat. Toss broccoli with 1 T olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Grill for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally. Set aside. Grill lemon on both sides until softened.

Whisk 1/4 c olive oil, vinegar and garlic to make dressing. Add onion to broccoli and toss in dressing. Drizzle with juice of grilled lemon to taste.

You can serve this as a side or on its own.

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Serves 4.

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