Shakshouka: A great use of excess tomatoes

I often buy tomatoes in bags, yet they only really get used for burger or sandwich fillings… the rest will sit on the counter waiting to expire. Not long ago I had some tomatoes that were on their way to getting thrown into the compost… but still edible. Then I remembered a recipe I had been wanting to try for a while…

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 400g worth of tomatoes… or just grab a can of crushed/diced
  • a couple of garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 eggs
  • (vegetables of your choice)

The tomatoes that had now gotten soft were thrown into the blender and whizzed until it was a sauce. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in your pan of choice (I used a wok), throw in the onions and saute until they soften (about 5 minutes). Then add the garlic and your veggies of choice. Traditionally, this dish uses a red capsicum… but not having any available (my son loathes them) and wanting more greens in my diet, I added some shredded cabbage. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until they also soften. The stir in the tomatoes and puree, together with the spices and simmer for another 5-7 minutes until the mix begins to reduce. Season with salt and pepper, then crack the eggs over the tomato mix. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. When ready, the egg whites will be firm, the yolks slightly runny and the sauce has slightly reduced. If you have some parsley, garnish with it before serving (I had none).

Delicious! And enough for two to enjoy. 🙂

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Pizza Mate: Garlic Dipping Sauce

IMG_8411.JPGA concept that was introduced to me while dining at a Papa John’s restaurant in Beijing was a special dipping sauce that came with your pizza… it now made the previously unappealing crusts of the pizza (unappealing to most children anyway) now a necessary component of the meal. Every dip now turns your crust into instant garlic bread!

Tired of seeing leftover crusts on my son’s plate, I decided to whip together my own version of the dipping sauce… (note: there’s no Papa John’s in Perth)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Place the butter in a small bowl and pop it into the oven with the pizza. Once the butter has melted, pull it out of the oven and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Serve on the side of the pizza. Chances are you won’t get through the batch in one setting, but it can be covered and kept in the fridge for next time… just pop it back in the oven when the pizza is baking.

Beau’s Fried Rice

IMG_8391.JPGOne of my son’s most favourite dishes to chow down on and is relatively simple to whip together. This post will be less focused on the ingredients with more attention focused on the actual method… and the main reason for this is… this dish changes based on whatever is available in the refrigerator at the time of making it!

On this occasion, I heated up about 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok on medium-high heat. While this was warming up, I diced 1 small onion and crushed 3 garlic cloves… which were dropped into the wok once it was ready. Stir-fry until the garlic started browning and the onions began turning translucent. Then some bacon sliced into small bits were dropped in and once they’d browned slightly, I grabbed a bag of frozen veggies from the freezer and added that to the mix. A lot of ice had dropped out of the bag at this point, so I allowed the mix to reduce until most of the water had evaporated out of the wok.

Now the most important ingredient was added… the rice! When you’re making fried rice, the trick is to use OLD rice. Freshly steamed rice still has far too much water and will just make the fried rice a bit sticky. I had cooked rice a day earlier and popped it in the fridge in anticipation for this dish.

After the rice was added and stirred (in my case, I had to spend time manually crushing rice clumps) I then added about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and stirred that through. I cracked 2 eggs into a bowl, beat them, then poured the egg mix over the rice… then covered the wok and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Once the egg has cooked through, you can stir the rice again and it’s now ready to serve.

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DIY Hummus

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Very easy dish to whip together… although it’s not one that I happen to make regularly since Owen is not a huge fan of it. In the past, I would use my “magic bullet” rip off and whiz it up in batches… but found that method to be quite tedious. This time around, I decided to simply use a potato masher!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbs tahini paste
  • 3-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (~60ml) water
  • 100ml olive oil

Pop the chickpeas, cumin, tahini paste, garlic and lemon juice into a bowl and start mashing until combined. Add the water and mash again. Once that’s combined, drizzle in the olive oil and mix until smooth. Then you can serve it up with your dippers of choice… carrot or celery sticks, crackers, or Turkish bread.

DIY Sauerkraut

Another thing I had been procrastinating on for years but always wanting to try was making my own Sauerkraut. I have fond memories of a batch my mother made when I was young that went well with some sausages that my father had bought from the local German butcher. After finding a cabbage at the bottom of the fridge that had no use and was now sprouting, I decided that now was the time to try!

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The first thing you must do is… clean everything! Whatever containers that will touch the cabbage… and of course, your hands. The process of fermentation relies on good bacteria for the process, and this will get ruined by any other bacteria that may reside on your things.

I discarded the outer leaves, cut the cabbage into quarters and removed the core. Then I cut the quarters down again into eights and then gently broke the leaves apart before placing into 2 large mixing bowls. From there, I sprinkled a teaspoon of salt over the cabbage in each bowl (2 tsp total) and gently massaged and squeezed the salt into all the cabbage leaves. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually, the salt makes the cabbage become watery and limp.

Once this is done, I started grabbing handfuls and placing them into my jar of choice. I had recently gone through a 2kg jar of pickled cucumbers and had saved the jar for such an occasion. Every so often, I tamped the cabbage down with the end of a (clean) rolling pin so that the cabbage was all nicely packed. Juices that were released in the bowls were also poured in.

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Everything now in the jar

Once all the cabbage was packed into the jar, I slipped a smaller jar into the mouth of the jar and weighed it down by filling it with water. This was to keep the cabbage weighed down and eventually submerged beneath its own liquid. I then covered the jar with a tea towel and secured it with a rubber band.

Over the next day, I would constantly check the cabbage and press it down with the smaller jar. As the cabbage continued to release its liquid, it becomes limper and compact and the liquid should rise over the top of the cabbage. If it doesn’t after 24 hours, you can dissolve 1 tsp salt into 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage. I, fortunately, didn’t have to on this occasion.

The photo on the left was the result of 1 day of fermenting, the right photo another 2 days later. I had it fermenting for about 10 days when I tasted it… and it tasted good! At that point, I removed the weight, screwed on a cap and moved the jar to the fridge.

Things I’ll do differently the next time: I should have sliced the cabbage down even further till they were strips. The larger pieces were a little more difficult to pack down. And next time, I’ll try adding some caraway seeds and black peppercorns.

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Chicken Adobo

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There are very few meals that I can remember so vividly from my childhood, but this is the most memorable…. it’s a delicate balance of salty, sour and sweet flavours. This dish is the pride of the Philippines and primarily uses soy sauce and vinegar as a marinade. It is one of the easier dishes to prepare and once you get the ratios right, it is very delicious. And don’t feel that you are limited to just chicken, you can safely use any meat with this recipe… I’ve tried an assortment of “red meats” at this point.

My first attempt at this turned out far more “tart” than expected, and it was due to my mother’s failing memory. The next attempt came from a random site on the internet and, since it was now close to that taste I was familiar with, it became my “set in stone” ratio… for 500g of meat – ½ cup soy sauce, ¾ cup vinegar, 2 cups water.

In recent times, I have played around with this dish and tried a few new things out. Since Adobo is known as a “marinade”, I’m now allowing the meat to sit in the sauce for a few hours before cooking (although I honestly haven’t noticed much difference as far as flavour goes”. Usually, I would just use white vinegar but on this occasion, I decided to give apple cider vinegar a try.

In the photo above, I placed 2kgs of mixed chicken pieces into the marinade and allowed that to sit in the fridge overnight.  The marinade used is as follows…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed with the blade of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water

When preparing to cook the next day, everything was transferred to a large heavy bottomed pot and was brought to the boil… then the heat was reduced to medium and allowed to simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. With chicken, you can tell it’s ready when you see the skin coming away from the meat. I like to have it sit on the stove top a little extra to allow the mix to reduce further and really thicken up the sauce. Serve with steamed white rice.

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Chock-full of Choc Cookies

Recently, I went through my tried and tested cookie recipe and decided to mix it up a bit. I added some Cocoa powder to the dry mix to now make the cookies a dark brown colour and added white chocolate chips. I was already a little suspicious of this batch since I found it wasn’t as “wet” as past batches, and I was able to easily roll the cookie dough with my hands.

After this batch came out of the oven, I had a very delicious BUT very crunchy cookie… which was not expected since we’re usually going for softer cookies. It made the larger and thicker cookies a lot more difficult to get through… which had my son slightly concerned since his front teeth had finally come back and he wanted them to stay around.

When my friend and his wife came over for a visit, it wasn’t until I was explaining the recipe that it dawned on me what I had left out of this particular batch…. eggs!

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Crunchy Version

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (225g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • one third cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and vanilla in one bowl and mix the other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the sugar mix into the dry ingredients and mix together to form the cookie dough. Then add the choc chips and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray (that’s been lined with baking paper), and bake for about 15 minutes.

During this process, I went from cookies that were probably too soft to ones that were hard (but manageable if you create thinner cookies). Once I realised the eggs were missing, I had to run another batch… but just using a single egg.

New Favourite Version

Same as above… but add 1 egg to the wet ingredients.

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ANZAC biscuits… not burnt! :D

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Not one to give up after initial failure, I gave these yummies another go. Although the last batch was from an authentic ANZAC biscuit recipe from a Gallipoli veteran, we decided to go back to a previous recipe since we prefer a softer, chewier version.

Link to the recipe

The first big change that was made was to turn the oven temperature down to 160º, and the trays were lined with a silicone sheet. Baking time was kept at 15 minutes with a tray swap half way to ensure all were being baked evenly. Since we were after soft and chewy, brown sugar was omitted and replaced with raw sugar (I didn’t have caster on hand)… and they turned out just the way we like them.

My Choc Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I’ve been tinkering with for the last few years. The original contained way more sugar than I felt was necessary, but removing ingredients required replacing with others… and a lot of failed batches. This is the current recipe…

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (or 200 g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and eggs in one bowl and mix the other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the sugar mix into the dry ingredients and mix together to form the cookie dough. Then add the choc chips and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Edit: since this post and several more batches, the recipe has made these changes:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 and 1/3 cups flour

Today’s School Lunch: Sushi Rolls

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When it comes to school lunch, I now leave it in the hands of my son… usually. But even he gets tired of his own sandwiches at some point (which is going to happen when “peanut butter” is the only sandwich you’re willing to make). To give him a break, I helped make sushi for him. And to reduce the amount of mess that’s bound to happen in his lunchbox, I opted to just halve the roll and wrap it in sandwich paper… and a soy sauce fish thrown in.

The sushi rice was actually prepared a week ago and has been sitting in the fridge awaiting its next use. I spoon out the amount needed into a bowl and reheat the rice in the microwave… and it’s just as good as having prepped it the day of.

Owen’s sushi of choice is the California roll, but he’s not fond of avocados. So in this version, cheese replaces the avocado and is joined with the usual suspects… cucumber, “seafood stick” and mayonnaise. Hopefully, we’ll have an empty lunchbox this afternoon!

 

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Exactly the same sushi, but cut into pieces.