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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black cherry brownies

 
black cherry brownies by Bent Street Kitchen

The brownie. Some like them chewy and gooey and while others like them cakey. I've always liked them moist and fudgey because if I wanted them cakey, I figure I might as well have a proper chocolate cake. What type of brownies do you like? 

This brownie is deliciously moist, rich and chewy and I've added some cherries to heighten the experience. These brownies go really well with a cold glass of milk (and the latest episode of Game of Thrones).

You can also use pitted Morello cherries, which are less sweet.

Ingredients:

200 g dark chocolate (70% solids), roughly broken into individual squares

 

200 g unsalted butter

3 eggs

300 g white sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

125 g plain flour

pinch of salt

1 x 415 g tin of stoneless black cherries in syrup, drained; or, morello pitted cherries if you want a bit of sourness

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C fan heat.

Grease and line 20 x 30 cm rectangular baking tray that's 4 cm deep with baking paper.

Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave at High for 30 seconds. Stir then repeat until butter and chocolate are just melted. Only heat in 30 second intervals to prevent overheating the butter and chocolate.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Mix in melted chocolate and butter. Add flour and salt and combine well. Carefully fold in cherries in batches.

Pour into baking tray and cook for about 25-30 mins. It's done when the top has cracks and the centre is just set. Cool in tin for at least 20 mins before cutting. 

Serves 12 brownie hogs or 48 piglets.

Go to the comment section of this post and let me know how many oinks this recipe gets.

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beef braised in black vinegar

 
beef braised in black vinegar by Bent Street Kitchen

A few weeks ago I had a craving for a Chinese stew. One that had a depth of flavour that only comes from slow cooking and spices like star anise and cinnamon. I also knew it had to have boiled eggs in it because boiled eggs in Chinese stews always seem more special to me, reminiscent of a home-cooked meal. Maybe, this is me unconsciously living out some of my Chinese heritage. After all, eggs play a significant part in the Chinese culture, symbolising fertility. Boiled eggs are usually served as part of the traditional engagement tea ceremony and at the announcement party of a baby's birth. In my case though, it had nothing to do with fertility or babies. I just wanted a really good stew to have with steamed rice and some boiled eggs I could pour the sauce on.

I've had all sorts of Chinese stews. I love the Cantonese braised beef brisket with radish. Then there's the Taiwanese kind with chopped up pork and boiled eggs. Basically, this is a stew which combines all the things I like about Chinese stews- especially the mandarin peel, a wonderfully fragrant addition that makes the flavours of this stew deliciously complex.

Now when I'm having an Asian stew like this one, as delicious as it is, I often crave something else to go with it. Something crispy or totally different in texture. I guess being Asian, I'm used to eating a lot of different dishes in one meal- Chinese banquets, Japanese bentos, yum cha. So, I created some Sweet Potato & Coriander Fritters to go with this stew. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Let me know how you go with it.

Ingredients:

2 T vegetable oil

1.5 kg beef brisket, fat trimmed but not too much that your meat would go dry, cut into 5 cm chunks

1 t sea salt

3 pieces star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 c of sliced ginger, peeled then sliced into thin rounds

3/4 c Shaoxing wine

1/2 c Chinkiang black vinegar

2 T light soy sauce

2 T dark soy sauce

1/4 c oyster sauce

 

 

70 g rock sugar

3 c chicken stock

1 mandarin peel, broken into 4 cm pieces

6 boiled eggs, peeled

coriander leaves for garnishing

Chilli pickle, optional:

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

2 t caster sugar

2 - 3 long red chillies, sliced crosswise into thin slices

Method:

Preheat oven to 160 °C.

Heat oil in an ovenproof casserole pan to medium-low heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and toss just before cooking. Brown beef pieces on all sides until golden brown. Remove from pan.

Add ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick to pan and cook for about 5 mins. 

Add wine and deglaze pan. Add soy sauces, vinegar, oyster sauce, rock sugar, mandarin peel and stock and bring to a boil. Check seasoning.

Return beef to pan, making sure most of the meat is covered by the sauce. Cover with lid and cook in oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Carefully remove pan from oven and add boiled eggs ensuring they are covered in the sauce as much as possible.  Return to the oven and cook for another hour or until the meat is tender and can easily be broken apart with a wooden spoon.

If doing the chilli pickle, dissolve sugar in vinegar and add chillies. Set aside.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 20 mins. Break meat apart and with a fork so you can mix more of the sauce through it.

Serve with steamed rice, Asian greens and chilli pickle.

For a special treat, make some Sweet Potato and Coriander Fritters to go with.

Serves 4-6 people.

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Here's a version of the stew in which I used chuck steak instead of brisket, used double the amount of black vinegar and didn't add boiled eggs. I found the brisket's flavour matched the rest of the ingredients more and using less vinegar meant more balance in the flavours.

Here's a version of the stew in which I used chuck steak instead of brisket, used double the amount of black vinegar and didn't add boiled eggs. I found the brisket's flavour matched the rest of the ingredients more and using less vinegar meant more balance in the flavours.

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vanilla and cinnamon poached pears

 
Vanilla & Cinnamon Poached Pears by Bent Street Kitchen

At first, I wasn't sure whether to post this recipe or not. It seemed so basic. I ummed and ahhed about it. Yet, it's a recipe I've been doing every year for the last 8 years whenever pears are in season. It's simple but delicious. I suppose this reflects what my cooking is all about. As much as I love eating out at fancy restaurants and sampling the latest cauliflower "foam", chocolate "soil" ice cream, or sous vide meat, when it comes to my cooking I like uncomplicated but delicious food. Food that comforts and makes you feel like you're home. 

You can use all sorts of flavouring for these poached pears like cloves, lemons, ginger or even star anise. However, keeping it simple has worked best for me so I've stayed loyal to my cinnamon and vanilla combo. 

Ingredients:

4 ripe and firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into halves or quarters

1 & 1/2 c sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 t vanilla extract

1 litre water

 

Method:

Cut out a circle of baking paper to fit the circumference of the pan you're using. Fold the circle into a triangle and cut the pointy tip, making about a 2 cm hole in the centre of the circle. Prepare all the ingredients.

Heat water and sugar in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Add cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Slide pears in and cover with round of baking paper.  This helps the pears to cook evenly and not discolour. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer until cooked through, about 15-20 mins. The pears are done when you can slide a knife easily into the flesh. Remove from the heat and cool. Store pears in poaching liquid.

You can serve these pears warm or cold with ice cream or plain yoghurt (particularly the creamy kind from Harris Farm). You can also add them to your breakfast oatmeal or bircher muesli.

Serves 4-6.

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Preparing Bent Street Kitchen's Vanilla & Cinnamon Poached Pears

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Korean style burger with kimchee mayo

 
Korean Style Burger with Kimchee Mayo by Bent Street Kitchen

For some of you, there's a high chance you might want to run the other direction as soon as you hear kimchee is on the menu- and on your burger. Fear not, this kimchee mayo is almost like a spicy coleslaw and goes wonderfully with this soy flavoured burger. I used lamb mince because I think its gamey flavour is a good match for the kimchee.  Let me know how you go by writing on the comment section of this post.

Ingredients:

600 g lamb mince

6 brioche burger buns 

6 slices of cheese (you can use cheddar or gouda)

1 T melted butter

vegetable oil to grease the grill with

1 large red onion, sliced into .5 cm thick rings

1 T olive oil

2 T soy sauce

2 T balsamic vinegar (you can also use red wine vinegar)

1/4 c kimchee

5-6 T Japanese mayonnaise

burger seasoning:

1/4 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 t grated ginger

 

4 T soy sauce

 2 T brown sugar

1/8 t black pepper

Method:

In a food processor, blitz all the burger seasoning ingredients together until well combined. Place mince in a large bowl and add burger seasoning and mix well.  Place half a teaspoon of the burger mixture on a microwave-save plate and cook in microwave for 15-30 seconds. Test taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Cover and set aside.

Place kimchee and mayonnaise in food processor and pulse until just combined. The mayonnaise should still be chunky with kimchee instead of being smooth. 

Heat 1 T olive oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Add onions and fry for 2-4 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Reduce heat and continue to cook until onions have caramelised.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Divide burger mince into 6. Heat greased grill pan or barbeque to medium high heat for about 5-8 minutes. Cook patties on one side for 2 minutes. Flip over and place cheese on top of patties and cook for 2-3 minutes, until burger is done to your liking and cheese has melted. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes.

Keep the grill on. Brush burger buns with melted butter and toast on grill for 1-2 minutes making sure you get some good grill lines on the buns. 

Spread some kimchee mayo on the bottom bun and place a patty on top. Add some caramelised onions then the top bun.

Serves 6 as a main. You can also make 12 small patties and serve them as appetisers.

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Korean Style Burger with Kimchee Mayo by 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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tarte tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin by Bent Street Kitchen

When the weather starts to cool like it has today, my mind inevitably turns to French food. I start dreaming of hearty stews like beef bourgignon or slow-cooked osso bucco. But, we're eating out tonight so I'll have to take out my cast iron pot on another day. I did spy some Kanzi apples in the fruit bowl and the leap to make tarte tatin happened in a millisecond.

I've tried numerous tarte tatin recipes and this is the one I've been happiest with. I did have aspirations of making my own puff pastry but since I got this recipe right just using ready-made pastry I haven't really bothered because it tastes pretty darn good just the way it is!

Ingredients:

1 puff pastry, thawed

2 Kanzi or Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters

1/4 lemon, juiced

1/4 & 1/3 c caster sugar

3 T butter

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 °C.

Place apples in a bowl and toss with lemon juice and 1/4 c sugar.

Place pastry on a flat surface. Using a 20 cm oven-proof skillet as a guide, turn it over and press lightly against the puff pastry without cutting through it so you get an outline of the pan's circumference. Cut the pastry 1 cm larger than the pan's circumference.

Place the butter in the skillet and melt over high heat. Stir 1/3 c sugar and cook until the syrup bubbles, caramelises and turns brown. This takes about 6-8 mins. Shake the pan every so often to make sure the syrup is cooked evenly. Add apples and spoon syrup over them. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Arrange the apples cut side up. Drape the pastry over the apples, tucking the edge of the pastry over the apples and inside the pan. Poke 4 small steam holes on top of the pastry. Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 mins and until the pastry has browned and crisped.

Remove skillet from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Place a serving dish on top of the skillet and flip tart onto the dish. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4.

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Apple Tarte Tatin by Bent Street Kitchen

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italian-style roast chicken

Italian-Style Roast Chicken by Bent Street Kitchen

As I mentioned in my post about Rome, Italy has given me the best (Western) roast chicken experience I've ever had. Italy's roast chicken or "pollo arrosto" is aromatic, well-seasoned, tender, moist and oh so more-ish. 

So far, this recipe is the closest I've come to replicating the roast chicken I had in Rome and Florence. One thing I learned from experimenting is you don't get much flavour into the chicken by just seasoning the skin. If you season the skin, that's all you really do- season the skin. If you want to season the meat, then you have to go under the skin and put the seasoning on the meat. There are a lot of videos online showing you how to place seasoning under the skin.

I tried a simpler version by not brining and stuffing the chicken with onions and celery but the meat wasn't as moist or flavoursome. I haven't, however, tried to just stuff the chicken without brining it to see if that was good enough. The reason being it has only been over a week since we got back from Italy and I've already made roast chicken a few times. I don't think my husband and I can eat any more roast chicken for the next while or we'd grow feathers.  I will of course revise the recipe if I come up with another version but I think this one will be pretty hard to beat. Let me know how you go with this recipe.

Ingredients:

1.5 kg chicken, preferably free-range

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

 

3 T chopped fresh rosemary

1 T chopped fresh sage

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 lemon, sliced into 12 lenghtwise wedges

1/8 c olive oil

15 g sea salt (using 8-10 grams of salt per kg of chicken as a guide)

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c sea salt for brining

Method:

Place 1/4 c salt in stock pot and add 5 litres of cold water. Stir until salt has dissolved. Add chicken making sure it is completely submerged. Cover and place in refrigerator for 1.5 hours, or more if you like. Drain, pat dry and leave chicken out at room temperature for about half an hour before placing it in the oven.

Preheat oven to 225°C.

Juice lemon wedges but only up until they're 80% dry. Discard seeds. Set aside juice.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper under the skin and inside the cavity, leaving aside some salt to use on the skin once we've stuffed the chicken. Mix the herbs and garlic together and rub under the skin and inside the cavity. Place 8 of the lemon wedges under the skin and the rest inside the cavity. Place onions and celery inside the cavity and truss the legs with kitchen twine to make sure the stuffing stays in place. Add reserved lemon juice by pouring into neck cavity. Rub olive oil all over the skin then season with salt and pepper.  

Place the chicken on a roasting pan, breast side up. Put on middle shelf of oven and roast for 15 minutes until skin is golden brown. Turn heat down to 170°C and move roasting pan to bottom shelf. Cook for 1.5 hours or until done. Using a meat thermometer, measure the temperature at the centre of the thickest part of the breast and thighs. The meat is cooked when it has reached 75°C. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6.

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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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corn bread

If you like those smoky North American BBQ ribs like I do, then you're going to want some cornbread to go with them.  I've tried making cornbread in a baking pan several times but I kept getting inconsistent results. Sometimes the top would brown before the middle part is cooked. Or, the bread doesn't cook evenly across the pan. After those unsatisfying attempts, I decided to use muffin pans and they worked a treat. Having them as individual muffins also made it more convenient to store them. Plus, they produce very little mess because you don't have to cut the cornbread which can go all crumbly.

Cornbread by Bent Street Kitchen. Tofu testing the cornbread with her little piglet snout.

Cornbread by Bent Street Kitchen. Tofu testing the cornbread with her little piglet snout.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour, sifted

1 T baking powder

3/4 c polenta

1/2 c sugar

1 t salt

110 g butter, unsalted, melted

2 large eggs

3/4 c milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with cooking oil spray.

In a large bowl, mix together polenta, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs then add the milk. Add egg mixture and melted butter to dry ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon until just combined. Do not overmix. Spoon into muffin pan, filling each cup almost to the brim. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until top is golden and skewer comes out clean. Rest for 5 minutes then turn onto wire rack to cool.

Serves 12.

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Thai basil chilli chicken

Thai Basil Chilli Chicken by Bent Street Kitchen

One of the great things about living in Sydney means having easy access to Thai food. Over the last 15 years, I've seen Thai food become what Chinese take-away used to be. You can pretty much find a Thai restaurant in almost every suburb. It's not surprising though. I love Chinese food but I think these days the average Thai is probably better than the average Chinese take-away. Thai tends to be less greasy, packed with flavour and most dishes are abundant with vegetables.

And how good are those cheap Thai lunch deals? This pad kra pao or Thai basil chicken was inspired by one of the lunch deals I had from our local Thai. It was so delicious and I thought I'd be pretty chuffed if I learned how to make it myself. I had a couple of tries before I got the flavours right and I used Mark Wien's eatingthaifood recipe as a guide. Well, I am chuffed, so chuffed because the recipe passed with flying colours and I can share it with you.

Ingredients:

200 g minced chicken

2 long red chillies, or as many as you can take, sliced crosswise into .5 cm pieces

5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

30-40 Thai basil leaves

4 T vegetable oil

1 T oyster sauce

2 t light soy sauce

1 t dark soy sauce

1 t sugar

1 egg

steamed rice

Method: 

Heat 2 T of vegetable oil in a  wok over high heat. Fry egg according to how runny you want your yolk to be but allow the edges of the egg white to become golden brown and crispy. Set aside on a plate. Drain excess oil.

Crush garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle until they are well combined.

In a small bowl, add sauces and sugar and mix until sugar has dissolved.

Place 2 T oil into the wok and turn up to medium-high heat.  Fry garlic and chilli until the garlic is golden brown, about 30 seconds, making sure not to burn them. Add chicken, breaking up the mince as you stir. Cook for about 2-3 mins or until done. Add sauce mixture and stir-fry for 30 seconds. You can put in a splash of water if it gets too dry.  Toss in basil leaves and immediately remove wok from heat. 

Arrange mince on top of rice with the fried egg. Serve with some sliced cucumber and enjoy your Thai lunch special!

Serves 1.

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Preparing for the Thai Basil Chilli Chicken at Bent Street Kitchen

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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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Nigella Lawson's chocolate pavlova

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Pavlova by Bent Street Kitchen

This is my go-to no-fail pavlova recipe that I have made again and again thanks to Nigella Lawson. When I first came across it, the purist in me protested. A chocolate pav isn't really a pav, I thought. Then I tried to imagine what a dark chocolate chewy marshmallowy meringue centre would taste like and I was out like a shot buying the ingredients.

I consider this a no-fail recipe because it always tastes good regardless of whether the meringue sinks or not. It also doesn't matter if it cracks because you just cover it up with cream anyway. In fact, I think this pav looks good because of the cracks. The cracks give a preview of the light and squidgy chocolate goodness waiting for you.  As you can see from the photo, I overwhipped the cream. That's because I was busy chatting to my guests and my Kitchen Aid mixer was too efficient for its own good. That didn't matter either! You just end up gobbling down this pav because it's so tasty. 

When I serve, I don't tend to put the cream and raspberries on the entire meringue disc. Instead, I serve the pav individually. I do this so that I can store the leftover meringue without it going soggy with the cream. The meringue keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge. Plus, when done this way, everyone gets a generous amount of cream, raspberries and chocolate shavings.

Ingredients:

meringue base

6 large egg whites

300 g caster sugar

3 T cocoa powder, sieved

1 T balsamic vinegar

50 g dark chocolate, finely chopped 

topping

500 ml double cream

500 g raspberries

3 T dark chocolate, coarsely grated

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 °C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Beat egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until that meringue is still and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to the baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23 cm in diameter, smoothing the side and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150 °C and cook for about 1 to 1 and a quarter hours. 

When it's ready, it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the meringue disc cool completely.

When you're ready to serve, invert on to big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble.

Serves 8-10.

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sweet and sticky barbecue chicken with shaved fennel

Sweet and Sticky Barbeque Chicken with Shaved Fennel

I had some hoisin pork rib sauce leftover and thought it too good to waste especially after the painstaking effort of grating all that ginger.  It was also a sweltering 32°C in Sydney and I did not want to wilt any further by making something elaborate. I decided to use the leftover sauce on some chicken thighs I had in the freezer and pair it off with a refreshing fennel salad. 

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs, bone in

1 portion hoisin pork rib sauce

4 fennel bubs

2 lemons

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 °C.

Grease a shallow baking tray with cooking oil. Place thighs on tray with skin side down. Cook for 20 minutes. Take out of oven and brush chicken with sauce. Cook for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn chicken over with a spatula trying not to damage the skin. Brush skin side with sauce and return to oven for another 7 minutes.

Prepare fennel by trimming off the stems and reserving the lacy fronds. Slice the fennel bulb using a mandolin. Toss sliced fennel and fronds with oilve oil and season to taste with sea salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Serves 4.

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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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oatmeal and raisin cookies

Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies by Bent Street Kitchen

It would not be unusual for me to start baking something at about 9 or 10 pm at night. I'd get a craving for something sweet and rush to the pantry to check if I have all the ingredients.  Often it would be something I'd find comforting and would go well with a cold glass of milk. These oatmeal and raisin cookies do the job nicely. The smell of nutmeg envelops the kitchen in a warm dreamy cocoon as the balls of batter begin to expand and turn golden in the oven. Nothing beats the experience of eating freshly baked cookies, still warm from the oven and downed with an icy glass of cold milk.

Ingredients:

120 g unsalted butter

3/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c white sugar

3/4 c plain flour

3/4 c rolled oats

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/2 t ground nutmeg

1 large egg

1 t vanilla essence

3/4 c raisins

1/4 c walnuts, chopped, optional

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs and and vanilla. Mix flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg in a separate bowl then stir into egg mixture. Stir in oats, raisins and walnuts if using. 

Shape batter into 3 cm balls. Place balls on cookie sheet leaving 3 cm in between them. Bake for 20-22 minutes but keep an eye on them when it starts approaching the 20 minute mark to avoid burning. Use a spatula to scrape off the cookies from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

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 Miso, Bent Street Kitchen's Little Helper.

 Miso, Bent Street Kitchen's Little Helper.

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hoisin pork ribs & cucumber pickle

I'm constantly on the hunt for rib recipes. I adapted this one from a recipe I saw in Gourmet Traveller magazine by doubling the amount pickle and changing the cooking method for the ribs. I was planning to try the original recipe where the ribs get marinated briefly and then placed straight onto the grill. As it happens, my husband decided to invite my brother-in-law and his partner for lunch and since I hadn't tried this recipe before I decided to play it safe with the cooking method. From my experience, ribs can often burn before they get cooked especially when the sauce is sweet like this one. I didn't want our guests to be dining on charred meat! I decided to pre-cook the ribs at a low temperature so that all I had to worry about was making the sure the sauce would caramelise nicely on the ribs. I increased the amount of sauce so that I don't end up with dry ribs and the extra sauce tastes great with the rice. 

Hoisin Pork Ribs and Cucumber Pickle by Bent Street Kitchen

Ingredients:

pork ribs

1.5 kg pork ribs, cut into individual ribs

handful of coriander leaves 

1 T sesame seeds

 

marinade:

1/3 c hoisin sauce

1/3 c oyster sauce

2 T light soy sauce

2 T shaoxing wine

2 T honey

1 T ginger, finely grated

1 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 t sesame oil

2-3 dashes of ground white pepper

cucumber pickle

2 lebanese cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, sliced into 3 cm pieces

2 T ginger, finely grated

1 garlic clove, chopped

4 T rice wine vinegar

4 t white sugar

2 t sesame oil

Method:

Mix all marinade ingredients in a large enough bowl to fit ribs and place ribs in it for 30 mins.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and oil together. Add cucumber and toss until lightly pickled. 

Preheat oven grill to 250°C.

Place ribs on foil lined baking tray and place in oven's topmost shelf. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn over, baste with marinade and cook for another 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 225°C, move ribs to lower shelf to prevent burning and cook for 5 minutes. Turn ribs over again and cook for another 5 minutes. Ribs should be a bit charred but not burnt.

Place 4-5 pieces of ribs on top of some steamed rice on a plate. Top with cucumber pickle, coriander leaves and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Serves 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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Jamie Oliver's stewed fruits

Jamie Oliver's Stewed Fruits by Bent Street Kitchen

Autumn finally seems to be making its way to Sydney and what better way to say goodbye to summer than with these beautiful dusky pink nectarines and peaches. The original recipe is in Jamie Oliver's "30 Minute Meals" but I've made some minor adjustments by creating more stewed juices so the better to the drizzle the ice cream with. 

Ingredients:

18 ripe plums or a mixture of stone fruits

1 t vanilla extract

2-4 T caster sugar

1-2 oranges

1 cinnamon stick

good quality vanilla ice cream

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Halve and stone the fruits and place in a large roasting tray with vanilla extract. Peel zest from oranges and squeeze juice in. Add cinnamon stick, snapped in half. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 mins. The fruits should be soft and can be cut by a spoon when they're done. If they're not yet done by this stage, cover with aluminium foil so they don't burn and dry out and cook for a further 10-15 mins.

Serve with ice cream.

Serves 6-8. 

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Jamie Oliver's Stewed Fruits by Bent Street Kitchen

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