Sunday, December 25, 2011

Season's Greetings and happy New Year

Thank you for joining us at Ooh, Look...
on a food, restaurant and eating journey this year.

Have a wonderful holiday season and see you in 2012.

Tabitha cat does a little Mexican hat dance to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

mini lemon meringue pies a la Tea Salon

Has anyone ever asked you, "Do you prefer sweet or savoury?". Well, no one has ever asked me, but it's a hypothetical question I occasionally think about. After much deliberation, I think I prefer savoury/salty because it's so much easier to over-indulge in the sweet stuff, and I have zero will-power. Which is why I try not to make too many desserts here at Ooh, Look... except for now!

As if we will not be getting enough sugar at Christmas (bring it on!), I thought I'd try this delightful, quick dessert from the equally delightful Stonesoup blog.  While it took me a bit longer than the suggested 15 minutes to make these little lemon meringue pies, they were more than worth it for the amazing, tangy lemon 'cream' under a fluffy pillow of soft, lightly toasted meringue.

Oh, and to finish off, here's another question: Have you ever seen a bloke having high tea at a Tea Salon? I'm thinking of a particular place (the Victoria Room Tea Salon at Westfield Sydney) that is 'artfully framed by a curved picket fence and cheery blooms, [a] whimsical English-inspired tea salon', according to its website. Every time I pass by, it's full of ladies enjoying dainty sandwiches and scones and cups of tea. I've yet to spot any blokes there. But if they serve cuties like these, then I'm sure there would be a long queue of guys waiting to sink their fangs into a mini lemon meringue pie.

Lemon meringue pies
makes 8

100g (3 1/2oz) shortbread biscuits (about 6 Arnott's Scotch Fingers)
3 eggs, separated
1 can  (400g/14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
55g (2oz) caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Line 8 holes of a muffin tray with paper cases.
2. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin. Press the crumbs into the base of the muffin cases.
3. Combine the egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and mix well.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then gradually sprinkle in the caster sugar and continue to beat for a few more minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
5. Pour the lemon filling on top of the crumb bases
6. Spoon the eggwhites on top of the lemon filling.
7. Bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Cool before serving.
Store in an airtight container (not in the refrigerator) for up to 2 days.

recipe adapted from

Some of the ingredients, including lemons, condensed milk, eggs and Scotch Finger biscuits.

Smash up the bikkies and press into muffin cases. To make the crumbs stick together more, you could mix in a couple of tablespoons of melted butter before pressing into the cases.
Amazingly, condensed milk plus egg yolks plus lemon produces a delicious lemon curd.

Whip up the eggwhites and dollop onto the lemon filling.

Golden brown from the oven.
My oven is super-hot, so to stop them browning too quickly, I turned the oven off after 5 minutes and left the pies in the oven for the remaining 5 mins, to firm up the filling.

Very pretty pies, worthy of a tea salon

If you like, serve with fresh raspberries to counteract the sweetness

A perfectly cute dessert

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Heirloom tomatoes are worth inheriting

While dodging the almost unbearable Christmas shopping crowds on Saturday, I popped into the Westfield Sydney food court for some sustenance in the form of parmesan truffle fries from Charlie and Co - with extra cheese, pleese!

Then strolling over to the Quarter 21 shop afterwards, I noticed they were having a 'farm gate' event with trestles set up and produce from suppliers for sale. It was a bit unsettling, given that it's held inside a glossy shopping centre rather than, er, at a farm gate, but the quality of the fruits, vegetables, cheese, jams and oils on display were of the highest quality.

I picked up a punnet of baby heirloom tomatoes from the stall, and some lamb shanks from inside the Q21 shop.

Beautiful, jewel-like baby tomatoes

A salad of heirloom tomatoes, simply dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
The yellow tomatoes were the sweetest, although they were all juicy and luscious.

The lamb shanks are anointed with olive oil and thyme, and come vacuum-wrapped in plastic, and were the most fragrant things ever! I don't know how they can get so much flavour with just oil and thyme. Anyway, the shanks were roasted for 45 minutes and served with the tomato salad and some rocket leaves. Delicious.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

tofu mushroom soba noodles for the optimistic

Look out, the end of the year is racing up to slap us in the face, yelling “Hey, what have you been doing all year? 2011 is almost over, and what have you got to show for it, eh?”.

Well, not wanting 2011 to get the better of me, I’ve been trying – somewhat unsuccessfully – to fit more into each day, and that includes eating a decent breakfast, feeling more inspired about work, working smarter not longer, not skipping lunch, going to the gym, leaving work at a reasonable hour, preparing simpler, healthy meals, not watching too much television, reading more, and going to bed earlier.

Two out of ten ain’t bad, is it???

This is an example of the ‘simpler healthy meals’ ethic. So simple that even a hungry, time-poor, gym-avoiding, avid reading blogger can enjoy it. And she does.

Soba noodles with mushrooms and tofu
serves 2

4 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
180g dried soba noodles
2 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tblsp light soy sauce
100g silken soft tofu
1 small long red chilli, sliced
½ tsp sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced

1. Soak the mushrooms in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and slice.
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add soba noodles. Cook for 4 minutes, then drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.
3. While the noodles are boiling, heat a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Mix together the oyster sauce and soy sauce and add to the wok. Gently add the tofu, mushrooms and chilli and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the sesame oil and heat for another 1 minute.
4. Place the soba noodles in serving bowls then top with the tofu and mushrooms in the sauce. Top with sliced green onions to serve.

Ingredients, including reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, silken tofu, chilli, green onions and soba noodles

The longer you simmer the tofu in the sauce, the tastier it should become.

Then just spoon it into a bowl and dig in.

This is an excellent dish for devouring while reflecting on the productive day you've had and looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ham Egg Quiche with homemade shortcrust pastry

I am quite excited.

Sorry, couldn't keep it in for much longer. The food processor just bought is a not-too-big model that comes with heaps of attachments like a liquidiser, juicer, several blades, a grinder mill, citrus squeezer, a little whisk thing, and more. I actually wanted the next model down, which has fewer attachments, but the store had none left. Fortunately, this one was on sale and there's a cashback offer as well, so looks like an early Christmas present for myself.

I've been trying to use it now as much as possible, though to tell the truth, I've forgotton where I've stored all the bits and pieces, like the juicer. I've been using the normal cutting blade most of all. I'm quite happy about the processor, as it's a nice change from the tiny bowl attached to a stick mixer that I used to use.

One of the easier things to make using a food processor is shortcrust pastry, as all you do is put the ingredients in the bowl and turn the knob. I found this pastry recipe in the cookbook that came with the processor and adjusted it using tips I found online. Then it got turned into the most delicious ham and egg quiche (processor not required). I know Thanksgiving is just passed, but I am thankful for my food processor and its ability to make pastry and my life a little easier.

Ham and Egg Quiche
serves 6

200g sliced leg ham, chopped
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup pure cream
1/4 cup grated mozzarella or tasty cheddar cheese
6 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Shortcrust pastry
makes enough to line a 23cm (9") tin

265g (1 3/4 cups) plain flour
125g chilled butter, chopped
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
2-3 tblsp iced water

1. For the pastry: Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the the mixture turns pale yellow and crumbly, like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and process until the dough just starts to stick together. Add a little more water if it is too dry.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Shape into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
2. For the quiche: Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 23cm (base) loose-based fluted flan pan. Roll pastry out on a flat surface to form a 26cm square. Line base and side of pan with pastry. Trim excess pastry. Place pan on a baking tray. Line pastry case with baking paper. Fill with ceramic pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove rice or weights and paper. Bake for 7 minutes or until base is light golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine ham, chives, cream, mozzarella and 3 eggs in a small bowl. Season with pepper. Spoon mixture into pastry case. Crack remaining eggs over ham mixture, keeping yolks whole. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Serve.

recipe adapted from

Making pastry with your new food processor: Ingredients are chilled cubed butter, egg yolk, flour and chilled water; the processed mix resembles fine breadcrumbs, then you add the egg and water and it forms a dough; roll out the dough (I really need a bigger rolling pin); line the baking dish with the nicely rolled dough.

Ingredients for the quiche: eggs, chives, ham, parmesan and tasty cheese;
the eggy hammy cream mixture is poured into the pre-baked pie crust that was made in your new food processor

Delightfully golden quiche. And the pastry is light and crispy.

Finally, let me just say that I have tasted the Nancy, Sue, Charlie and Lorraine quiches from Adriano Zumbo Patissier, and this humble ham and egg quiche BEATS THEM ALL. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happiness is...Mango Lychee Sorbet

One of my favourite desserts is the sorbet trio at Blue Ginger restaurant in Balmain (Sydney). The trio usually includes a lychee sorbet, and it is sublime – sweet yet subtle with the unmistakable fragrance of luscious lychees. I even bought the Blue Ginger cookbook to see if I could make it using their recipe, but unfortunately, it requires an ice cream maker which I don’t have.

So what to do? Well, in my case, I just pined over the lychee-sorbet-that-was-not-to be for a couple of years. Until last week. And all because I had 2 eggwhites left over.

After making some spaghetti carbonara that needed 2 egg yolks, the remaining eggwhites languished in the fridge for a couple of days while I mulled over what use them for. I’m NOT a macaron maker, so macs were out of the question. Eggwhite omelette? Too boring. Then I did what I should have done first off – type ‘2 eggwhites’ into the search at It came up with this fantastic Lychee and Mango Sorbet that is every bit as good as the one at Blue Ginger (and with the bonus of mango). I pine no longer.

Mango and Lychee Sorbet
Serves 6

3/4 cup caster sugar 
565g can lychees in syrup, drained
425g can mango slices in light syrup, drained 
2 eggwhites, lightly whisked

1. Combine sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, without stirring, for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and cool completely.

2. Place lychees and mango in a processor or blender. Process until smooth. Press through a sieve into a bowl. Discard pulp. Add sugar mixture to fruit mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into a 3cm-deep, 20cm x 30cm (base) lamington pan. Cover and freeze for 1 to 2 hours or until almost firm.

3. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Add eggwhites. Process until smooth but not melted. Pour mixture into a 6cm-deep, 11.5cm x 21.5cm (base) loaf pan. Cover and freeze for 3 hours or until firm. Serve.

recipe adapted from

Ingredients: Canned mango and lychees (great if they're not in season); lightly whisked egg whites (warning: this dessert contains uncooked eggs); process the lychee and mango then push through a sieve; frozen delicious sorbet is the result

This sorbet is wonderfully smooth as long as you combine the eggwhites well with the mango/lychee slush.

These raspberries are so brightly coloured. All the better to contrast with the mango/lychee!

A frosty sweet treat that's worthy of a restaurant.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

easy chewy BIG choc chip cookies

Do you ever get those times when you're craving a biscuit or something sweet?
To heck with the bikkies, what I want is a whacking BIG COOKIE!

I felt this way just the other day. It was a slow Saturday afternoon and I'd just returned from a walk to check out Rozelle markets, where I'd scoffed a hot dog with mustard and tomato sauce ($3). But it was a small hot dog (which was part of its appeal) and I needed something to tide me over till dinner time, which was still hours away. 

A simple recpe was called for, not too many ingredients and using items already in the pantry. Chocolate chip cookies are the answer (to life and everything!). In this instance, the cookies were made large, so they were soft on the inside and a bit crispy on the outside.

And because they're biggish, it's easy not to get carried away and eat to many. Well, that's the idea, anyway. I managed to put away 3 of these babies before I realised what had happened. And that's the beauty of a simple, big choc chip cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes approx. 25

2 cups plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp.baking soda
170g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 160C/325F. Line baking sheet/s with baking paper.
2. Use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter mixture, mixing well.
3. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and add to the butter and eggs. Stir until just combined, then add the chocolate chips and gently fold them through the batter.
4. Roll 2 tablespoons of the batter into balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the balls slightly if you prefer a crisper cookie. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Ingredients, including flour, white and brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and chocolate chips

Various stages of preparation: before creaming the butter and eggs; post-creaming; after adding the eggs.

The taller the scoop of cookie dough, the higher and therefore chewier the cookies will be.
Even a reflective photo screen is no barrier to Tabitha cat when there's cookies around.

As always, I ended up with a veritable mountain of cookies.

I stored what was left of the choc chip goodies cookies in a cake tin I got for my birthday (from Peter's of Kensington) - it's cat safe.
A motto for our times: Keep calm and bake on (or eat on, in my case).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jamie's electro pea and broad bean fritters

I tell you what, I'm loving this digital reader caper!
Since we last spoke (ie. since I last blogged), I've gone crazeee! downloading books and magazines to read on the e-tablet.

I started by getting copies of books that I already have in hardcopy, that are great reads but a bit bulky, eg. Bill Bryson's Down Under, numerous Jilly Coopers. These are perfect on an e-reader.
Then there are the 'nostalgia' books, the ones I remember reading when younger and that still hold an allure, eg. Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, still thinking about getting the Trixie Belden series.
And the new books that I've held off buying till now because I didn't want more dead trees clogging up the house, eg. The Churchills by Mary Lovell (excellent gossipy biography) and the Agatha Raisin books (about a crime-solving, retired PR lady; just starting my first one and am really enjoying it).

Last, but definitely not least, there are the COOKBOOKS! Well, actually, I'm still hesitating over a lot of books, so I've only downloaded the free ones. Some are better than others when it comes to electronic reading. The Neil Perry Rockpool Bar and Grill book is a fine example of digital form, with embedded videos on how to prepare certain dishes. Others books, I found, look like they've just been scanned in and are nothing special. This may be due to them being free, but it will make me think twice about getting the e-version of them.

Ooh, and I mustn't forget the MAGAZINES! I've bought Super Food Ideas (only 99cents!), Gourmet Traveller, Martha Stewart Living, BBC Good Food, Donna Hay, MasterChef... and many more. My fave is Donna Hay because it has great recipes (naturally), the first issue is free, and it takes advantage of the digital format by having animations that make the food look extra beautiful.

This recipe is from the Jamie Oliver Recipes app - you get 10 recipes for free, then you can buy packs of additional 10. It's a bonus that the recipes have nice how-to pictures and you can even email a list of the ingredients to yourself.

Pea and Broad Bean Fritters
serves 2

85g frozen peas
85g frozen broad beans
1 egg
60ml milk
1 tsp baking powder
80g plain flour
salt and pepper
35g pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
100g baby cherry or roma tomatoes
20g black olives
1 tblsp thyme leaves
50g mixed salad leaves

1. Put the frozen peas and broad beans into a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water. Wait 30 seconds, then drain in a sieve. Peel (double-pod) the broad beans. Set aside.
2. For the batter: In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg, milk, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper until well combined.
3. Combine the drained peas and beans, together with the pecorino, into the batter. Mix well. 
4. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Cook fritters in batches by adding 2 tablespoons of the batter to the frypan. Don't let the fritters touch each other. Cook fritters for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Transfer to a plate when cooked.
5. For tomato salad: Roughly chop the tomatoes and combine with the olives and thyme.
6. To serve, place some salad leaves on a plate and top with the fritters and tomato salad.

Preparing the fritters, with ipad instructor and Tabitha cat observer.

Chop some tomatoes and olives and thyme for accompaniment to the fritters.

For a rustic look, serve on a clean wooden board.

Very colourful and easy to make.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Digitally enhanced Spiced Chicken Salad

Good news, my friendly reader(s)! Bel from Ooh, Look has finally joined the digital age and got an ipad ™.

The reason for this extravagance is to help cut down on the amount of magazines and cookbooks that I buy by downloading them instead.
So far, this has work reasonably well because I think twice about getting the latest issues, but then I realise that some of my favourite magazines aren’t available yet in digital form. Dang and blast! Get with the times, man! (This means you: delicious/House and Garden/Real Living. By the way, have you seen the new Donna Hay digital magazine? It’s magically brilliant)

So rather than using the ipad purely as an Angry Birds game console, I’ve started making online recipes directly from the source (or rather, website). This is an example of something I found on the Sydney Morning Herald’s site. I added my usual preferred dressing and dinner’s ready. Easy to read, easy to make and easy to eat.

Spiced Chicken Salad
Serves 2

2-3 chicken thigh fillets, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
Olive oil spray
2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp rice wine vinegar
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Pinch of caster sugar
1 tblsp water

1. Place the chicken and five spice powder in a bowl and spray with a little olive oil. Mix until combined.
2. Heat a frypan over high heat and add the chicken and cook until browned all over and cooked through.
3. For the dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
4. To serve, place the salad leaves on a plate with the mango and cooked chicken. Drizzle over the dressing.

recipe inspired by

Ingredients, including salad leaves, fish sauce, chilli flakes, mango and chicken

Tabitha cat is fascinated by the ipad screen, which is why I downloaded a cat toy app for her.
Chicken pieces are mixed with Chinese five spice powder.

The dressing is super versatile.  It's great on brussels sprouts, too.

A deliciously fresh-tasting salad.
You could substitute roasted sweet potato or pumpkin for the mango.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Old Skool No-bake Apricot Ginger slice

This is such an 'old-school' slice. It's perfect!

Here's another recipe from New Zealand's Annabel Langbein, though this time from her new 'Free Range in the City' cookbook. I actually bought her previous book, The Free-Range Cook, after making this panna cotta, and the new one is also a great read if this teaser is anything to go by.

Although it's billed as a cookbook based on eating well, for city dwellers (as opposed to country lifers), this recipe for Apricot and Ginger Slice would be right at home at a school fete, country fair or farmhouse kitchen. It's also no-bake, so it's quick to make and all it needs is a quick chill in the refrigerator and it's ready to gobble up.

Note: My "Hey you, you're not allowed to buy any more cookbooks unless it is an absolute emergency" rule is in great danger of being broken after tasting this recipe. The new cookbook is released here next week, I think, so another couple more days before we see how strong my resolve is. Hint: I'm a usually a weakling!

Ginger and Apricot Slice
makes about 20 squares

100g unsalted butter
3/4 cup (185ml) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (150g) dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup (100g) crystallised ginger, finely chopped, plus extra for topping
1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tblsp lemon juice
375 plain biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs
2 tblsp pistachios, shelled and chopped

50g unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon juice
3 cups icing sugar, sifted

1. Line a 30cm x 24cm Swiss roll pan or baking pan with baking paper.
2. Heat butter and condensed milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the butter melts. Remove from heat.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the apricots, crystallised ginger, coconut, ground ginger and lemon juice. Then add crushed biscuits and stir to combine.
4. Add butter and condensed milk mixture and stir well to combine.
5. Press into the prepared pan and refrigerate for 1 hour or until set.
6. For the icing: Melt the butter and mix with the lemon juice, icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of boiling water,  until smooth. Spread icing over the chilled base and sprinkle with extra chopped cryst. allised ginger and pistachios.
7. Leave to set, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

recipe adapted from delicious magazine

Ingredients, including condensed milk, chopped crystallised ginger, crushed biscuits (I used Nice biscuits), coconut and dried apricots

It's so easy - just mix everything together and press into the pan.
The icing is also easy to make, and it tastes slightly tangy.

Cut the slice in squares to serve

  You could also wrap squares in plastic wrap to sell at the school fete.
Or wrap in foil to take to work for little lunch.