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Pine Nut Pork Mince and Zucchini Rice Noodles

I have been suffering for digestive issues for some time now, and last year, I decided to reduce my intake of milk products. Since then, I find a big improvement in reducing the bloat and gluggyness.

This year, I decided to take it one step further and reduce intake of sugar, wheat and vinegar for a month. Just for an experiment to see how I go. I must admit though, that I’m not really good at keeping to it as sugar is EVERYWHERE. I’m so glad I’m not allergic to it! Vinegar pops out in unexpected places as well, such as beef stock. I was also told to avoid soy sauce.

This is my first attempt in making a dish that has no sugar. I pan fried some pork mince with pine nuts which gave it flavour. However, I couldn’t resist and put a teaspoon of oyster sauce in that. Oops. Well, it was only day 1! So I could ease myself into it right? I had some lotus root left in my freezer so pan fried that also with garlic and salt. Grated a zucchini and mixed it up with carrot and chilli.

All this together makes this a simplified version of dan dan noodles. It’s so simple that I’m going to have to call it… Pine nut Pork mince and Zucchini Rice Noodles. I guess my trick here was to create lots of different texture to make this dish more interesting.

Ps- did you notice the purple little bag at the background? Thanks to Tigerfish for my win on her blog! It’s an awesome lunch bag that I have been using daily.

Pine Nut Pork Mince and Zucchini Rice Noodles
200 grams pork mince
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1/2 tsp of oyster sauce

Grated zucchini and carrot- 1 each water squeezed from vegetables

Lotus root

200 grams of rice noodles

Boil water, cook rice noodles and drain. Set aside and dish out in bowls. Cook garlic in pan. Fry pork mince till nearly all done. Add sesame oil, salt, pine nuts and oyster sauce. Taste. Serve on noodles.

In a separate pan, hit garlic up and fry lotus root till done. Season with salt and pepper. Dish on bowls.

Then gently heat up zucchini and carrot using same pan. Again, dish on bowl, Mix it all up and serve.



Beef Rendang

 Have you caught the Masterchef fever yet? I have. Every time I watch an episode, I learn something new. According to some newspaper reports, home cook meals have increased by more than 100% following the series. They could even predict what ingredients are more in demand after the show!

Last season’s winner Adam Liaw published his first cookbook “Two Asian Kitchens” not long ago. He separated recipes into “old kitchen” and “new kitchen”- concepts that I embrace immediately. Afterall, I’m always trying to learn how to create recipes that my heritage and family taught me but at the same time, love to re create new stuff in my new kitchen from experiences and life.

I picked his rendang recipe to try first. Most people who cooked rendang before would tell me that it is a tedious and long process to get it right. It’s a very thick beef coconut spicy stew, cooked so long that the meat is tender and has a melt in your mouth texture.

His ingredients are easy to source in my local oriental and vegetable market- a big bonus because I often find it hard to locate items from cookbooks bought overseas. He made it easy for the Aussie Market!!

I love mixing the toasted coconut at the last 20-30 minutes. It provides the texture that only the rendang can claim king. It tasted better after the next day.

Adam Liaw’s Beef Rendang (serves 4-5)
1 tsp oil
600 grams of lean beef chunks. He recommended braising steak as well.
3 stalks of lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves shredded
1 tsp sugar
400 ml coconut cream
100 grams grated fresh coconut or 130 grams desiccated coconut if needed.

Base Paste
1 red onion (or 8 eschalots)
6 red hot bird eyes chilies
at least 6 garlic cloves. I added 2 generous tablespoon of minced garlic
3 cm piece of galangal, ginger and tumeric. All peeled and thickly sliced.
2 tsp sea salt flakes

Place all base paste ingredients in a food processor or mortar. Grind to a paste. Heat oil in large saucepan, fry paste for 5 mins or so till fragrant.

Add beef, lemongrass,, eric, kaffir leaves, sugar and toss to coat in mixture. Add coconut cream and around 200 ml water. Simmer for 30 mins. Then uncover and cook for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, toaste coconut till slight brown. Transfer to a mortar and grind it to a paste. This will release the oils. I cheated and just use a pestle to gently press the coconut.

The beef would have been cooking for 1.5 hours. Add the coconut and cook for another 20 minutes or so. Stir often. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Serve with hot rice or coconut rice.


Quick Fix Egg Tarts

With one piece of puff pastry left in the freezer, I was wondering how can I make use of it. Then Sonia from Nasi Lemak Lover posted her Egg Tart with Puff Pastry and I knew that I have found my answer.

Egg tarts has a special meaning for the two of us. When hubby asked me to be his girl friend, he took me to a lovely quiet spot near a river armed with an egg tart. I was still in university and he just started working. He picked me up after my late classes and told me he was worried that I would be hungry (as I usually am after my classes), hence the egg tart. We were good friends who went for a few dates before that evening and I thought nothing of it. When he did utter the question ” I have been thinking, I really enjoy spending time with you and I know you like the time we have together too, so would you be my girlfriend?”, I was just slightly surprised.

Two hours of questioning later, I agreed. Most of my friends still give me grieve that I  “tortured” him with my questions in our early stages of dating. While I was initially embarrassed, I was glad we clear up some expectations and thoughts early on, which probably helped us prepare our lives together. If you are wondering, these questions were about his future plans, career pathways, religion and beliefs and seriousness about the relationship. My line of thinking was, I’m not going to waste my time if he isn’t serious!

Oh fun times indeed. So while I have not yet master the art of making proper egg tarts yet, I managed to surprise hubby with these little treats when he came home late from work one evening.

Quick Fix Egg Tarts  (makes 8 mini egg tarts)
1 piece of puff pastry cut into 8 pieces
3 eggs
40 grams of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of vinegar

Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and vinegar. Strain it twice. Place pastry into muffin or tart tin. Pour egg mixture into casing. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 25-30 minutes till golden brown.


Chicken Pea and Celery Soup

From time to time, I would add a handful of pasta into soups. For this soup, I added around 1/2 cup of orzo in it. I love how you bite into different textures when you drink soup.

Soups are not as boring as one think anymore. For this version, I added abit of parma ham for the flavour and heaps of peas and celery. The hit of chili got to us while we drank this.

You can opt not to blend it but I blended half the soup to have the thicker, creamier flavour. It’s a easy, no fail quick dinner!

Chicken Pea and Celery Soup (Serves 4)
50 grams parma ham
2 bird eyes chili chopped
1 red onion sliced
1 500 grams of peas
small bunch of celery chopped
1/2 cup of orzo
ltre of chicken stock
1 chicken breast poached and sliced

Cook parma ham, chili and red onions. Add all the peas and celery tossing it through. Add stock and simmer for around 10 minutes. Blend half the soup and return to pot. Add orzo and cook through. If you have some chicken, stir through and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Happy weekend!

*oops- I did 2 entries in 2 days! Scroll down for my Cheat’s version of Beef Pho!!


Cheat’s Version Vietnamese Beef Pho

I’m very appreciative of Vietnamese eateries- especially a small one near where we live. It offers convenient and reasonable priced healthy food. My favourites of course are the Pho and paper rolls.

While this is not the real deal, it provides a quick and tasty alternative. The real deal says that the stock has to be simmered for hours with the right blend of fish sauce, onions, ginger and cinnamon. I cheated by purchasing beef stock. Where I cheated, I saved time by simmering the stock with the above ingredients for 20 minutes or so.

The rest of it is really quick and easy, just blanching the beef with the stock and then it’s ready to serve. I thought I was lucky enough to get my hands on some Vietnamese beef balls from our local oriental shop-but I found them a little too tough with small bits of sinew. Not a good match at all. I spotted another brand- frozen though, and might give that a go another time.

Hubby gave me credit for trying to match the “atmosphere” of Vietnamese eateries, seriving my soup with a dish of bean sprouts, basil leaves, lemon and chopped chili. Hey, that’s the least I could do with my cheat’s version!

Cheat’s Version Vietnamese Beef Pho (Serves 2-3)
100 grams of lean beef fillet sliced really thinly
100 grams of Vietnamese beef balls
1 ltre of beef stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 small piece of ginger peeled
1 red onion sliced
2 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tsp of sugar
1/4 lemon juice

1/4 pack of rice sticks- soaked in warm water for 5 minutes.

Serve with bean sprouts, basil leaves, lemon quarters and chopped fresh chili.

Fry onions till soft. Simmer stock, spices and sauces for 20 mins. Meanwhile cook noodles and set aside in bowls. Taste and season if needed. Cook beef balls in it till done. Then, quickly blanched sliced beef. Ladle the soup on the noodles straight away. Serve hot with all the condiments.


Quick and Simple Pear and Walnut Cake

It has been a while since I baked some sweets. The main reason is that my current work place does not have a culture of morning teas. Rather, we like to go out for a short walk to a nearby coffee joint to grab a caffeine fix.

So one day, when my manager said we will be having a guest speaker, I asked if I could bring something. I spotted this recipe by Belinda Jefferys- a well known Australian cook and baker. This came from her book Mix and Bake. I am a fan of her recipes because it is as it says in the title- most of them are mix and bake! No fuss and little use of the cake mixer (less to wash! yay!).

I used a bundt tin for this. Unfortunately I did not oil it well and the cake broke while I turned the tin over. Oh well, MORE crumbs for me I say!!

It’s a rather moist cake. I love the chunks of pears in this. Best of all, it’s an olive oil cake so it’s healthy to eat.

Quick and Simple Pear and Walnut Cake 
2 cups plain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp of mixed spice (you can use nutmeg)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of roasted walnuts
3 eggs
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup of light olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
3 medium size pears peeled, cored and diced into small chunks

optional-icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 150C. Oil and flour 26 cm bundt tin.

Whisk flour, spices, bicab soda and salt in a large bowl. Toss nuts through.

Whisk eggs, then add sugars, oil, vanilla and water. Pour wet ingredients to dry. When they are well combined, fold in pears. Spoon into prepared tin.

Bake for 1 hr and 10 mins or so. Cool tin for 10 mins and invert it to the rack. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar if desired.


Chicken and Pistachio Korma

At the beginning of the year, I said that one of my goals would be to make curry from scratch. I spotted this recipe from Poh’s Kitchen and thought it looks really interesting. Korma is an Indian style curry- often served thick like stew.

I love the use of pistachios in this. The nutty flavour of this is a sure winner. I didn’t add cream but pour in some coconut cream instead which added another layer of creaminess to it. The other thing I did was to use a mixture of green and red chilis in this. No other reason but to fulfill my cravings for hot and spicy curry on a cold night.

Surprisingly, the curry paste was soo easy to do. Did I mention my food processor? A few blitz and the sauce was done!

Chicken and Pistachio Korma (serves 4) 
2 onions sliced
1/2 cup pistachio kernels
4 green chillies
2 red chili padi 
1-2 tablespoons of ginger minced + garlic mince
1 tablespoon of coriander powder
dash of white pepper
500 grams of chicken thigh chopped
100 grams of coconut cream
1 cup of water
1 tsp of garam masala powder

Boil onions in one cup of water, drain, cool and puree. Puree pistachios and green chilli, keeping a few nuts aside for garnish.

Heat the oil and add the onions and sauté for four minutes, do not brown. Add ginger and garlic paste. Fry for one minute and stir in coriander and pepper powders. Add pistachio and green chilli paste and cook for about a minute.
Put in the chicken with the salt and mix well. Add a little water (quarter of a cup) and cook gently until done. Add coconut and garam masala. Garnish with pistachio nuts and serve hot.


Thai Salmon Potato Cakes

By now you know about my love for simple foods. I call making patties food therapy. I love shaping some mash potato with fish and throwing it on the grill plate. I used some thai flavours in this fish cakes adding kaffia lime leaves and fish sauce. Because I like the bite of spring onions, I decided to throw some in as well to the patties.

I deliberately didnt mash the potatoes as much- so that there are some chunks when the cakes are bitten into. I could have probably added some chopped chili to the mixture but I ran out (surprise?!).

The other thing I did was to make a dipping sauce to go with it. Lemon juice, sugar and good dash of fish sauce and chopped chili heated gently did the trick. We were so addicted to this that we kept munching on it. Oh well, at least this is cheap AND health.

Thai Salmon Potato Cakes (serves 2)
2 potatoes boiled cooked and mashed with some soy milk.
1 200 grams tin salmon flaked 
2-3 kaffia leaves
2-3 sprigs of spring onion chopped
2 tablespoon of fish sauce
1/4 cup of corn flour
1/4 cup of plain flour
1 egg

Combine mixture together. Shape into patties. Pre heat fry pan with oil. Fry patty each side for around 4 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.

Thai Dipping sauce

1/2 juice of lemon
2 tablespoon of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of sugar
2 chili padi chopped

simmer all ingredients till sugar has dissolved.


Potato and Broccoli Soup

There are nights where we just want a simple dinner. No rice, no nothing but just soup and toasties. Melted cheese and ham on bread (especially since I can’t have too much cheese makes this super appealing to me!) with a bowl of hot simmering soup.

I love thick soups like this. It gives the illusion that cream is added to it but it’s really simply potato and broccoli. No fuss soup  blended to create such warmth.

I made this soup before heading to the gym for my zumba workout (loveee zumba!) so I wrote a note to hubby asking him to eat first. As I read it now, it says FAT ME instead. DOH! Subconsciously perhaps?

Potato and Broccoli Soup (serves 4)
4 medium size potatoes peeled and chopped
1 onion sliced
1 tablespoon of garlic 
2 medium size broccoli chopped
1 ltre chicken stock

Fry onion and garlic. Add in potatos and broccoli. Pour stock in and cook till done. Blend in liquidizer till smooth. Serve with some Parmesan cheese and toasties.


Tau Cheo (Soya Beans) Pork Ribs

It’s not often that we have ribs in our home. I’m usually nervous about the fat content with these babies. A friend recently shared with me this recipe and I just simply could not resist it. It’s good old fashion ribs made at home- the Cantonese/Chinese way.

The photos are not really appealing aren’t they? It’s pretty difficult to make a pile of bones enticing. The taste however, .. mmmmmmmm. You could hear us licking our fingers more often than talking while having dinner that night.

The sauce is made up of soya bean paste-that’s the magic to this dish. With the addition of ginger and chili…It’s so good with a bowl of rice.

so we conclude- the winner of pork ribs are not bbq ribs anymore in this household. It’s getting in touch with our Chinese roots and making it the Tau Cheo Way!

Another conclusion? The best place to eat pork ribs? At home. With all 10 of your fingers.

Tau Cheo (Soya Beans) Pork Ribs (serves 4)
Around 700 grams of Pork ribs
1 generous tablespoon of minced garlic
1 onion sliced
1 knob of ginger peeled and sliced
3 chilli padi (You can also use some dry chili)
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1.5 tablespoon of salted soya bean paste (from oriental stores)
1 cup of water
potato starch or corn flour mixed with a little water

Fry onion garlic, chilli and ginger till nice and fragrant. Brown ribs with the mixture. Then, add in vinegar and the salted soya bean paste. Add 1/2 cup of water first and simmer. Cook for around 45 minutes or so till the meat looks like it is falling off the bone. Taste and if it is too dry add more water. If too watery, add the corn flour/potato starch mixture. Serve with rice and stir fry veges.