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Spicy Chorizo Tomato with Fresh Mussels

What do you cook for a friend who you haven’t been in contact for some time? Top it off with limited cooking time knocking off work before she arrives? I chose fresh seafood- spotting some mussels at our local seafood store.

I have often associated mussels with university life. The late-night-1am-I-want-a-feed-and-where-else-is-open-in-Perth? sort of food. Chili mussels with greasy oily garlic bread and pizzas at a
“Open till late” doggy place was what we ate mostly.

It really wasn’t that doggy, it’s still operating after that many number of years. Possibly survived by the number of night owl students who enjoy the hit of chili in the dead of the night.

Cleaning mussels wasn’t too big a drama as well. Soaking it with fresh water for 20 minutes or so, then I pulled the beard off closer to the end of the shell rather than the opening. I scrubbed each shell with a little dish scrub buds and it was clean and shiny in a breeze. Keeping it fresh was another story, we placed a damped dish cloth over the bowl, emptying the water (Probably from the mussels) at the end of each day. Even so, I discarded any that have been opened in the process. From buying to cooking them- that was 4 days. I probably wouldn’t leave it as long next time.

I learned that mussels isn’t doggy. It can be classy too. Pairing with some spicy chorizo, fresh tomatoes, plenty of chopped celery and carrots, the sauce was delicious! I wish I had some bread to dipped into this rather than just pasta.

I had a smile when she asked for second helpings.

Spicy Chorizo Tomato with Fresh Mussels (Serves 6)
1 spanish chorizo sliced
1 tablespoon of garlic
1 onion diced
2 cans of diced tomatoes
4 fresh tomatoes
1 chili padi
1/2 bunch of celery diced
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 kg of cleaned mussels
300 grams of cooked pasta

Saute chorizo till cooked. Add garlic and onions and cooked till soft. When ready, pour in the cans of tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. Give it a good stir. Add 1/2 cup of water if needed. Toss in all the veges and seasoned. Simmer for around 15 minutes till vegetables are well cooked. Then, add in the fresh mussels. Cover the pot. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes till mussels are opened and cooked. Toss through pasta and serve



Pear and Coconut Almond Tart

Tarts are also associated with lovely crust and filling. I picked up this quick and easy recipe recently in a recently Donna Hay magazine. It isn’t one of Donna’s recipes- but in the advertisement section for pears! A quick glance shows that the base of this consists of a healthy dose of almond meal.

I thought about it for a few minutes and wonder how it would taste like with some coconut in it as well. The result is a thin base tart with the sweetness of pear in it. The cinnamon is certainly a very nice touch. Coconut added some texture to it.

The tart in the photos look dry but it didn’t taste like it. I had it with a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It was satisfying.

Pear and Coconut Almond Tart
90 grams of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of almond meal
1/4 cup of desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp of baking powder
2 tsp of lemon rind
2 pears peeled cored and quartered
1/4 cup of golden syrup for brushing

Preheat Oven to 160C. Process butter and sugar in the food processor. Add eggs, vanilla, almond meal, coconut, baking powder, lemond rind and process til combined. Pour mixture into prepared fluted tart tin. Press pear quarters to the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or till set. Brush with golden syrup and allow to cool in tin. Serve with cream or ice-cream if desired.


Creamy Corn and Chicken Pasta

Joanne from Eat Well with Others made Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto recently. What an idea I say! So using that as an inspiration, I made a version of it on the stove top. Instead of blitzing it with the food processor, I used creamed corn instead. I took Joanne’s advice, and used fresh corn. Amazingly good stuff. While I love a packet of frozen corn in the freezer for emergency situations, fresh is always best isn’t it?

I had some dill left over from making the fritters, and decided to add some of that to it instead. And everyone knows about my addiction to chili. So in that goes. For protein, it was chicken.

Did it remind you of something?

Almost like a pasta version of chicken sweet corn soup! Ha!

Nevertheless, it made a simple and “whatever in the pantry” meal. Certainly, this has the creaminess without the added cream or fat.

Cream Corn and Chicken Pasta (Serves 4)
250 grams of spaghetti cooked in salted boiling water
2 cans of cream corn
1 tablespoon of garlic
1 corn with kennels removed
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of fresh dill
1 chicken breast thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese

Saute garlic will fragrant. Add cream corn and stir throughly. Add fresh corn kennels and 1/2 cup of the water. Simmer till corn is cooked. Quickly add chicken and dill and cook through. Add the remaining water if needed. Toss spag through it. Serve with cracked black pepper and parmesan cheese.


Haloumi and Pea Fritters with Smoked Trout

 Happy Friday!!! Fridays are usually a funny day for me. I’m looking forward to the weekend, but somehow, slightly reluctant to cook. It’s feels like “Yay! I should be able to enjoy and take time out to cook” but ended up with “hurry up! it’s the weekend!”

Although I have to confess, sometimes, it feels like that through the week.

There are some Fridays, where I go real simple. Like plain grilled salmon with salad on the side. Or a grilled steak with some veges. All these doesn’t take me more than a 15-20 mins to cook up.

But sometimes, I get bored. Flipping through Donna Hay magaines, I came across a recipe grating haloumi and using it as a base for fritters. It’s pretty much savoury pancakes for dinner. Brilliant idea.

Best of all, less brain cells to kill with the thinking of “what’s for dinner!”

Haloumi and Pea Fritters with Smoked Trout (enough for 4)

1 cup of plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped dill
1 tsp of lemon rind
2.5 cups of frozen peas
120 grams grated haloumi
250 grams of smoked trout
1 lebanese cucumber- using a peeler, peel thin slices.

Combine flour, baking powder, egg, buttermilk, dill, lemon rind, peas, haloumi and seasoning. Stir till well combined.

Heat pan with some oil. Cook 2 tablespoons at each time, 3-5 mins on each side. Place smoked trout and cucumber slices on top. Serve with some sour cream or attack if desire.


Ants’ Nest Cake/Kuih Sarang Semut

A childhood delight, this cake was seen frequently at bakeries when I was growing up. However, as the years go by, Ants Nest cake/Honeycomb Cake is not easily found on streets.

The name itself is intriguing. I’m guessing, it’s called Ants Nest as the little bubbles/holes resembles one. While the other name of this is “honeycomb” it is more like a rich caramel cake. Oh, backed by the ever favourite used of condensed milk!

This recipe is the reason why I bought Adam Liew’s Two Asian Kitchens recipe book. I was so excited that I found a recipe AND it looks easy for me to follow.

The result is a soft and moist cake. The caramel hits me at every bite. It’s seriously addictive.

Ants’ Nest Cake

220 grams castor sugar
85 butter softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs at room temperature
125 ml condensed milk
150 grams plain flour
1/2 tsp of bicarb soda

Put the sugar in a saucepan over gentle heat. Swirl it ocassionally till it melts into a dark sexy looking caramel. Then lower heat further and add 250 ml of water. Stand back when you do this as it will split. Stir till no lumps remain. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 170C. Line and grease a 18cm round cake pan.

Cream butter and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk eggs well. Then add eggs, condensed milk and caramel to the creamed butter. Whisk to combine.

Add flour and bicarb. Whisk it to combine.

Pour batter into cake tin. Bake for 50 mins or so till cake becomes springy in the centre when you touch it. Leave it to cool in tin, then run knife around the edge before turning it out.


Easy Jap Chae (Korean Sweet Potato Glass Noodles)

Oh I’m such a big fan of these chewy springy sweet potato noodles. I made these in year 2008 when I was testing Jaden’s cookbook. That was a fantastic recipe by the way!  One thing have changed is that due to the growing population of Koreans in Australia, it’s so much easier to grab a packet of the noodles now! and cheap! Cost me AU$2 instead of AU$8 when I first bought them!

I have since adapted a few things- pretty much to suit our taste buds, and my love for chili. I had some pork mince at hand (From the sausage rolls!), so I decided to pop that through as well.

It’s so simple as well. A quick after work 20 minutes meal!

Easy Jap Chae (Korean Sweet Potato Glass Noodles)
1 packet of sweet potato noodles
1/2 cup of black fungus soaked in warm water, washed and chopped the hard bits off
1 red onion sliced
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
200 grams of pork mince
1 carrot shredded
1 capsicum shredded
1 bunch of spring onions, cleaned and chopped to finger lengths
2-3 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of mirin
sesame seeds
dash of pepper

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling pot of water. Drain and rinse with cold water to get the starch out.

Saute garlic and onion till cook. Brown pork mince. Add all the veges and toss well. Add the sauces. Simmer for 5 mins. Add the noodles and fry it. Taste and season accordingly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss again dish up, and sprinkle more sesame seeds.


Pork Apple and Fennel Sausage Rolls

 I always have abit of fear in mixing fruit in savory dishes. I thought my Asian palate might not like it. It’s not the first time that I heard wonderful things about apple and pork being together and of course fennel, a spice and pork.

So I gathered my courage and thought I could experiment and make a sausage roll using all three ingredients. I was surprised by the result. The apple just gave it a tinge of juice and sweetness but not too much that it is overpowering. The fennel provided it abit of a hit in taste on your taste buds.

It’s super easy, and come to think of it, will be a winner for a cocktail party. Hubby took them to work and toasted them in his grill. He said most people commented the beautiful fragrant and how “real” it smelt.

I didn’t even know store bought sausage rolls smelt “fake”?

I feel like I’m tooting my own horn here, but seriously love this and will be doing experimenting with more ways of making sausage rolls again!

Pork Apple and Fennel Sausage Rolls (Makes 24 mini rolls)
2 puff pastry defrosted

500 grams pork mince
1 apple finely chopped or grated
2 tsp of fennel seeds
1 egg
1 cup of bread crumbs (Package or fresh)
salt and pepper

Sesame seeds

Preheat oven 200 C. Line baking trays with baking paper.

Combine mixture together. Cut each puff pastry into half. Place filling in the middle and roll up. You might want to use egg wash to seal the edges. Cut into 6 mini rolls. Place on baking tray. Repeat. Egg wash all the sausage rolls and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes till golden brown!


Spiced Pinenut Couscous

One of discoveries I had while on the no sugar/sauces diet was how I underused spices previously. My favourite spices at the moment would be curry powder, chili powder, tumeric and cumin.

Making couscous as a side dish one evening together with some lemon roasted chicken, I decided to spice things up a little (ha ha, my pun!) by using most of the spices in the above combination with some pinenuts and vegetables.

I love the yellow tinge of this dish as well. I was told recently that tumeric and cumin has an added benefit of cancer prevention.

Crazily addictive it was!

Spiced Pine nut Couscous (serves 4-5)
1 cup of couscous cooked in water directions on packet

1 zuchinni chopped finely
1 tsp of garlic
1 red onion chopped finely
2-3 chili padi (hehe, i do put chili in pretty much everything)
1 cup of corn kenels
1/4 cup of pine nuts
2 tsp of cumin
2 tsp of tumeric
1/2 tsp of curry powder

Saute garlic, onion and chili. Add zuchinni and corn. Toss in all the spices and coat well. You may need to add 1/4 cup of water if mixture appears too dry. Toss in pine nuts and toast till nice and brown. Mix mixture to couscous. Toss well.


Three Nut Birthday Cake

 What did I do when I completed my 30 day no sugar and sauces challenge? I baked!

It was a friend’s birthday and I had the luxury of baking him and a few friends his birthday cake this year. I kept it really simple though and chose a recipe from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake Book. I thought it was interesting as the cake featured a crust and then the filling itself. Upon looking at the ingredients and method of baking, I imagined the cake to have a macaroon like texture which was what it exactly turned out to be.

I drizzled some melted dark lindt chocolate in a zig zag motion (as recommended by Belinda Jefferys), and I have to say it turned out looking terrific!

Three Nut Birthday Cake

120 grams almond meal
2 1/2 tablespoon of castor sugar
3 1/2 tablespoon of plain flour
75grm cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks

125g hazelnuts
100 grams pecans
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar for dusting
200 grams of melted lindt chocolate for decoration.

Pre heat oven to 180C. Line and oil a 20 cm springform cake tin.

Make the crust first- blitz almond meal, sugar, flour into food processor till combined. Add butter and whiz it till it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Press it evently in the cake tin. Fridge it to chill.

Filling- grind hazelnuts, then the pecans in the food processor. Set aside. Place flour and baking powder in medium size bowl. Whisk them together. The add the grounded nuts and coconut. Whisk to combine.

Using an electric beater, mix all the eggs and sugar till fluffy. Pour this mixture to the flour/nut mixture. Fold and combine well. Pour mixture into chilled crust. Shake to even out.

Bake for 40 minutes or so till it is set but soft in the middle. Cool the cake. Loosen it with a butter knife if needed. When ready to serve, dust the top with icing sugar and using melted dark chocolate, drizzle it in a zig zag motion to form the pattern.