Thursday, 2 July 2009

Thursday 2 July 2009: A slight break in the kitchen

Sarah and my heart just left for Brisbane last night, but luckily I’ll get both back in five weeks time when I join them. This also has consequences for this secret, or soon to be not so secret, blog :) What it means is that the end of a chapter has arrived in this covert blog’s young existence, a sort of coming of age, as the cooking which will so gratefully be blogged about will not be from our checker-floored kitchen at 140 Dien Bien Phu, Saigon. Instead, the salivating smells and sound of sizzling will emanate somewhere from an apartment in Brisbane – hopefully without the masses of cockroaches (mostly dead or dying) and elusive mice that die in the sink and then miraculously disappear. Also, it means that there will be a temporary break from diarising Sarah’s cooking exploits until we are reunited. I also plan on documenting the dishes in picture form, which will add an extra element. Until then au revoir and bon appetit (or born up a tree as my sister says) for now!

In a hospitable kitchen in a freezing Pokhara, Nepal

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Monday 15 June 2009: Vegetarian Lasagne

Oh it’s been a while. We had the best vegetarian lasagne last night (and this morning, I couldn’t help stealing a cold slice from the fridge). The “meat” of the lasagna was made of lentils, garlic, chopped onion, green or red pepper, tomatoes and tomato paste, chopped celery, zucchini, and olive oil and dried oregano. Again, Sarah experimented as she couldn’t get ricotta cheese for the white sauce (I believe the term is b├ęchamel? bleh) so she used a mix of normal cheddar. She’s really waxing the white sauce bit, which is really hard because you have to get the temperature and stirring technique just right otherwise the consistency turns into a pubescent British teenager’s face, all lumpy and pale. For the cheesy top she used a pizza topping mix (mozzarella and cheddar) which was perfectly crunchy and gooey, again hard to get right as we have a very shallow baking oven but all I could do was droooooool again and wolf it down. Nyumnyum.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Monday May 4 2009: Depression Stew

We just came back from holiday, and as you can see from the date it wasn’t “tomorrow”, like I promised. Anyways – let me get into the Depression Stew. There’s this wonderful food blog called “The Wednesday Chef”, which has become one of Sarah’s favourite online haunts since her discovery of these digital food resources. Anyways, The Wednesday Chef has been kind enough in these troubled and miserable times in which we live to provide us with the Depression Stew.

Here’s the recipe reblogged:

“The base recipe: Saute a chopped onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until translucent, then add a sliced carrot (amounts are to be changed as needed). When these have cooked together for another minute, add a can of diced tomatoes, and herbs. When the flavours have melded nicely and the stew has reduced a bit, about 15-20 minutes, add a box of frozen baby lima beans. Cook, covered, until heated through, and serve. Vary as you'd like, and enjoy."

Serve with warm, crusty bread to mop up with.

So this is Sarah's version (drrroooool):

2 small onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
4 tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 ½ medium-sized potatoes, cubed
1 tbsp tomato paste
6 tspn brown onion powder (from Henno’s Ma in SA)
1 tspn dried basil
2 dessert spoons fresh thyme
1 tspn fresh rosemary
1 can red kidney beans
shaved parmesan cheese

As you can see, I’ve started getting all fancy ‘n shite woith posting recipes 'n things. Not bad huh?
See that part about “mop up with crusty bread”? Sarah went one step better. We ate the stew the one night but there was just enough left the next day for one of us, so what did she do? The next night when I got home she had ordered a large Al Fresco’s Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza, warm yummy goodness with all kinds of veggies on it. She heated the chunky, hearty stew, which by now had sucked in all the flavours overnight and dumped it all over the pizza. Now that’s how you make food stretch during a depression. If only those Yanks had her around back in the 1920s and 1930s! Therw would've been none of that jumping from buildings and things, and if their was, they would've landed safely in pools of their own drool!

Oh what wonderful food we ate on holiday! It was a joyous occasion not seen since the likes of the feast of St Someone back in the Holy Days where all those ridiculously dressed geezers ate great hunks of animals with their bare hands and gulped down ale till they all puked and passed out on the feasting tables. We didn’t exactly do that but we did stuff ourselves royally, historically and joyously. We managed to fit in a cooking course in Hoi An as well, I haven’t really managed to put it into words yet. It’s all written down in Sarah “real” cooking diary. I’ll get to that one day. Possibly when she’s back in Australia without me for 5 weeks and I get all nostalgic.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Monday 13 April 2009: Apologies and bad excuses

Bloody hell it’s been a long time. I apologize sincerely. Since my last entry, there have been so many yummy things to post about: The Depression Stew, the pastas, the stir-fries, the soups…I can go on. But I need to think back and make a proper entry. Things have been getting pretty hectic as Sarah has discovered foodie blogs. What a blessing, as a whole new world of possibilities have opened up. She’s started copying down recipes from her favourite blogs and trying them. Dips, Indian food, stews, again I can continue but give me time.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Tuesday 05 August 2008: Fly my little feathered friends!

Chicken wings, mate. What more should I say? Dunked in honey, soya sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice, a squirt of orange juice, a bit of mayo for thickening, ground black pepper and coriander, these dripping beauties splashed around in the marinade for a day in the fridge and then hit the oven that evening. With a nice side salad and a few more buttery hot bread rolls, the marinated, sticky wings really hit the spot. Yum.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Sunday 03 August 2008: Laksa

It’s laksa time! I think Sarah got the original recipe from her Thai cookbook, but spiced it up a little (excuse the low-grade pun) in her own style, adding a little here, reducing a little there, until it was what she proclaimed her best dish to date (which actually says a lot because she’s so damn modest about her cooking and doesn’t know how to take a compliment about it!). It starts with the fragrant stuff: chopped ginger, onion, lemongrass, chilli, garlic and galangal – the ginger lookalike that stains everything it touches a deep yellow, so Sarah’s hands ended looking like she had an advanced case of TB or had been chain-smoking a pack of French filter cigarettes for twenty years! Add some chopped spring onions and curry paste and it’s on. She turned this yummy base into a delicious, yellow, creamy curry laksa after adding a can of coconut milk. She chopped a block of tofu into chunks, stirred them in and topped it off with bean sprouts and fresh coriander leaves and some roughly torn basil leaves. Add some baking hot buttered baby bread rolls for dunking and viola, couldn’t have asked for more.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Sunday 22 July 2008: Liquorice all-sorts

It’s been a while since I’ve update this secret diary, not for lack of cooking on Sarah’s part, or lack of eating on either of our part, but due to my own inherent laziness. This weekend was a bit of a messy one and I was feeling a bit under the weather, nursing my self-inflicted physical and mental wounds on the couch, while Sarah was toiling away in the kitchen (I still feel kinda bad about that). I don’t know how she did it because she couldn’t have been feeling much better than I did. Anyways, she came up with something really good.
Now, I like a fat juicy steak as much as most South Africans (or Australians for that matter), and wouldn’t naturally flick to the vegetarian section of a menu, but this veg meal was awesome. In my torrid state, my only job was to mash potatoes (which I messed up wholeheartedly – the mash was more like milky porridge peppered with olive-size cancer tumours). Sarah, on the other hand, totally outdid herself. She hollowed out some eggplants (the skinny, long Vietnamese kind, not the fatter Western variety) and then mixed up and fried some chopped onions, tomatoes, capsicum, pine nuts (yum), garlic, fresh coriander and the innards of the eggplants and laid it out nicely inside the skin. Supposedly you’re suppose to use parmesan, which we didn’t have, so Sarah substituted it with cheddar, which was grated, sprinkled over the top and baked in the oven. When it came out, it looked so good, really visually appealing with the different colours and the layering inside the eggplant skin. It was also super tasty, exactly what I needed in my degraded state of being. The best part was that we also got to eat it again the next day!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tuesday 3 June 2008: Pasta Amatriciana ala Sarah

I play football on Tuesday nights so I come home pretty late and pretty exhausted, so it’s awesome when I see Sarah and she’s cooked up something super ngon (delish – this is actually more of a mental note when I reread this in years to come and can’t remember any of the Vietnamese phrases I’ve learnt). Well, this Tuesday was no different. Pasta Amatriciana ala Sarah. Awesome tricolore pasta again, with bacon, shitake mushrooms, which, even though Sarah had her doubts, turned out to work just fine in this Italian dish – and a whole bag for only 20 0000 vnd! Lots of fresh tomatoes, mixed herbs and pitted olives, and some grated cheese to finish it off. This was so good with a nice green salad of capsicum, tomatoes, lettuce and capers drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. The special thing about this meal was that Sarah cooked it all out of her head and knew what to add from her own experience, which as she says, is how really good cooks do it. They just know what goes with what and what goes in when. Our gastronomic future, my friends, looks as shiny as a cooked, glazed leg of ham.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sunday 1 June 2008: Marinated Chicken drumsticks and fried rice.

This was another first. It was an experimental recipe which Sarah adapted from Ina Paarman’s book my mom got her and fried rice her friend Bich showed her how to cook. The chicken should be marinated hours (preferably a day, I guess) before the time in soy sauce, honey, garlic and some other stuff I can’t remember. The honey makes it nice and sticky so when it gets cooked in the oven it creates a great glaze that causes you to reflexively lick your fingers off after every bite. The fried rice is another awesome concoction. Sarah boils some normal rice, and at the same time boils some frozen veggies – your standard peas and carrots mix, and fries a bunch of garlic and some other stuff. Traditionally you’re supposed to add some Chinese sausage but we had the chicken so Sarah went veg this time. When it’s all cooked you throw it together with nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) and soy sauce and fry in a pan. Also, as we did two nights later with the leftovers, you can fry an egg for a Vietnamese stodge meal. Anyways, no egg this time as the gas decided to run out just before frying! Luckily everything was still hot and the chicken was ready so Sarah just mixed it up the fried rice served with the sticky drumsticks and we had a killer meal. We did manage to get another gas canister delivered after what sounded like a ridiculous conversation in Vietnamese between Sarah and the gasman (turns out “gas” is not “gaz” in Vietnamese as I previously thought.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Monday 26 May 2008: Tuna Cheese ‘n Pasta

I’m like a kid on Christmas when it comes to this one. Sarah doesn’t often cook it anymore due to the unhealthy intake of white sauce, pasta and well, more white sauce, but when she does I push the veggies aside and gobble it down like a Jew in a concentration camp. This is one in her repertoire of “stodge meals” – i.e. stodgy meals being cheap and filling – like when you’re a student scraping together whatever cash you got to go buy a kilo of rice and some cans of tuna, but usually end up spending the tuna money on a few ciggy’s and a litre of cheapest booze you can get your grubby paws on so you end up just eating the rice! The best is when she cooks it with the shell pasta as they act as little pails in which the tuna and white sauce get caught creating little bubbles of joy. Three more vital ingredients – spring onions, garlic and a lot of black pepper. Need I say more?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sunday 25 May 2008: Vegetable Soup

Yum. Without sounding like that guy on Bizarre Foods who claims everything is “his favourite” or “definitely on his top 10”, this is definitely up there with my favourite hearty meals. Sarah brews up all kinds of veggies with aplomb and makes enough for a few days, which is awesome because it just gets better with time. The soup seems to suck up all the flavours so, where it started out as quite a clear broth, which alone is really healthy and tasty, but after a day or two it turns murky – especially if you add more stock – and explodes with veggie flavours. But wait, there’s more: the ultimate garlic bread! A French baguette, fills with creamy butter, garlic and parsley (or, on occasion, mixed herbs) and toasted to perfection in the over. You know the kind – crunchy and crispy on the outside and fluffy and buttery inside. Perfect for dunking. Damn, I can’t get enough of this.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Friday 23 May 2008: Tuna Pasta

Okay, this sounds simple, but the way Sarah makes it is awesome. This is another one she’s made once before for me (I think once before that for herself too), and it’s super healthy (except for the cheese and pasta bit). I think it’s also quite cheap to throw together – we’re a bit deprived of monetary funds this month as we’re saving – so it also fits our pockets well. I think Sarah steams some veggies – carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, tomatoes that sort of thing – cooks some tricolore pasta, and throws them together with a bit of butter. Then she adds capers, the shredded tuna (just your everyday from-a-can tuna), a lot of balsamic vinegar and gives it a toss. Finally some grated cheddar cheese over the top and viola! Not only is it really fresh and tastes damn good, but the different colours of the pasta and veggies makes it aesthetically pleasing too. Yum. If she’s gonna make this every time we run out of money, I’m gonna start spending like a fiend.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sunday 18 May 2008: Dal Bhat

Sarah made what I believe could become her signature dish: vegetarian Dal Bhat, or Nepalese lentil soup and curried vegetables. The recipe stems from our visit to Nepal and an eventful evening with Narayan and his family in Pokhara, where he taught us how to make Dal Baht. The most important thing I think taken from the experience was the masala – that great blend of Nepalese spices – and the amount of everything used. I truly believe Sarah has taken Dal Baht to another level. She’s made it a few times and I believe every time she makes it, it just gets better (which bodes well for my selfish gastronomic gluttony). The lentil soup is awesome as is the curried vegetables with the masala spices. With some rice and a bit of unflavoured yoghurt – a feast fit for kings. I’m so fucking lucky. I look forward with salivation to the next Dal Baht meal.

Monday, 13 April 2009

My secret Diary of Sarah’s Culinary Delights

I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this sooner, I could kick myself. Sarah’s food is so good and she’s becoming such a good cook that it only makes sense to document the progression. Of course, she’s so modest and humble that she’d never admit how good a cook she is and every compliment is countered with a “But you’re so biased!” I may be slightly biased but I know good food when I taste it, so henceforth follows my secret diary of Sarah’s culinary delights.

Now this is what you could call a backlog so I'm going back in time to the diary of Sarah's cooking progession which I've been saving and will post, in the present, about the past. Forgive me, but it's worth it.