chips n gravy

Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Last Saturday edition of Herald Sun’s Weekend Food has a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s Sweet White Bean and Roast Tomato Soup. Which reminds me of my own version of a similar soup. My photos may not look as great as the one in the paper, but I hope this will not stop any of you reading this post to deter from making it. The ingredients are easy to get and the soup are so simple to prepare. Jamie suggest you make a grilled crostini with homemade pesto to go with the soup. I serve mine with homemade Black rye Guinness sourdough, toast/grill and serve with your best butter. I will include Jamie’s recipe for those that does not read Herald Sun and also my own recipe.



MY version of the soup.


  • 800gm tinned cannellini beans, drain 1 tin, and reserve the liquid of another.
  • 1 tin whole Italian Roma tomatoes
  • 500gm really ripe fresh tomatoes
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1 whole clove or a generous handful of garlic pips. (I used really lovely and fragrant purple elephant garlic)
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • fleur de sel
  • 1 big handful of chopped Italian or curly parsley
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • sugar
  • 3 tbsp of Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • few sprig of fresh thyme
  • white wine or balsamic vinegar

To serve:

  • Shaved parmesan
  • Guinness dark rye sourdough or any toasty bread for a satisfying meal.


  1. make a cross at the bottom of your whole tomatoes and core the tomatoes.
  2. Gently crush your garlic pips/cloves.
  3. Place both tomatoes (bottoms up) and the garlic with the skin on and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt and crushed black pepper on a piece of parchment lined baking tray.
  4. Roast them at 200C for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove and pinch the skin off the tomatoes and garlic.
  6. Heat some oil (I prefer a higher smoking point and neutral cooking oil like canola to cook) and saute your onion until softened but not really coloured. Add in the garlic and saute together with the softened onion, and mashing the garlic on the way.
  7. Add in the sprigs of thyme with the whole roasted tomatoes and saute for a few minutes.
  8. Deglaze with white wine and toss in your tinned tomatoes and beans. Still continue to saute for a few minutes before adding in your stock. Mash your tomatoes into pieces and bring to boil.
  9. Reduce heat, add in salt and sugar to taste, also dashes of vinegar and the ketchup. Stir well and simmer for 30 minutes.
  10. Stir in chopped parsley and served sprinkle with shaved parmesan and toasted/grilled Guinness dark rye sourdough on the side.



Breads are not my strong point, and sourdough are difficult to master. But despite it all, this lovely bread is a winner every single time and I have to say, is my favourite bread of all.


Part One: Soaked rye meal

  • 67 grams cracked rye or coarse rye meal
  • 113 grams water

METHODS: Soak overnight.

Part Two: Rye-Guinness soaker

  • 255 grams rye/whole rye flour
  • 227 grams Guinness beer (what you can do is boil the beer and cooled it to reduce the gassy-ness)
  • 14 grams LIVE sourdough starter (I got them from the organic market)

METHODS: combine ingredients and mixed til smooth. Dust lightly with more rye flour. Cover and let stand overnight.

Part Three: The dough

  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • 212 grams of LIVE sourdough starter
  • 1- 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • 128 grams high gluten flour
  • 227 grams rye flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast (non rapid rise)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dutch cocoa powder


  1. Combine all ingredients and knead. If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle to mix and the dough hook to knead the dough for about 5 minutes on low. Then up the speed to medium and knead for a further 5 minutes.
  2. Desired temperature of the dough should be about 25C.
  3. Transfer the now sticky dough to a lightly dusted surface and shape your dough. Alternatively you can use a loaf pan dusted with rye flour.
  4. After shaping, transfer dough to a dusted tray if not using loaf pan and dust top of dough with rye flour. Cover and let rise for an hour.
  5. Bake at 240C for 15 minutes (20 minutes for my weak oven) and then 190C for for another 40-60 minutes.
  6. Do not be alarmed if the bread is slightly gummy. Let it sit for a day before slicing. This is a very yummy bread.

Jamie Oliver’s version


  • 1kg ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 6 cloves garlic, skin left on
  • Olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
  • small bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
  • EVOO

Serve: 4-6 Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes


  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place tomatoes, skin side down, in a large roasting tray with the garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Season and roast for 30 minutes until the tomatoes are sticky and browned around the edges.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat until softened but not coloured.
  4. Take the tray from the oven and pinch the skins off the tomatoes. Discard the skins, then add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion and celery.
  5. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add to the pan with the stock and beans.
  6. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Roughly chop the parlsey leaves and stir into the soup. Drizzle with EVOO and serve with a slice of crostini smothered with pesto.

Jamie Oliver’s Grilled crostini and homemade pesto.


  • 1/4 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves
  • A handful of pinenuts
  • A large handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • EVOO
  • 4 slices of ciabatta


  1. Pound the grlic with tiny pinch of salt and a handful of basil leaves in a mortar and pestle until you have created a paste.
  2. Add the rest of the basil and pound again until all the leaves have been used up.
  3. Add the pinenuts and pound until finely crushed. Alternatively, you could pulse in a food processor.
  4. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and add the parmesan, a small squeeze of lemon juice and enough EVOO to achieve a nice pesto consistency- you want semi wet but firm.
  5. Season to taste
  6. Griddle ciabatta slices, drizzle with a little EVOO and smear some pesto over the top.
from left to right, lemon-thyme, peanut butter, nutella-dark chocolate, oolong macarons with chai cream, coffee-toffee

from left to right, lemon-thyme, peanut butter, nutella-dark chocolate, oolong macarons with chai cream, coffee-toffee

Ok, First recipe for the macarons. Of all the flavours that I had made, this one were the most popular, I have gotten rave reviews from all my tasters, and they are asking for more. Who knows, I may end up THE boutique macaron seller of Melbourne (haha, dream dream dream).

MACARON with a Burnt caramel/toffee with espresso ganache.

Now, before I start on these recipes, I just want to say that sometimes I have some pretty unconventional methods to make my life easier. It is not that I do not want to follow the proper way of preparing stuff, but for me, shortcuts is because I understand how they are, so I do all these things, especially with a microwave. So, I will share them with you should you not already realised these methods by yourself already, and to make your life easier too.

Always prepare your filling for macarons ahead. Planning is important. I like to plan. I started the filling by making a drop dead safe (no spattering sugar, this will only happened later) to make caramel. It only have 4 ingredients, and they are all dumped together and heat up. It is the same recipe from my layered banana cake post. You can half the recipe to make for the filling, because 1 cup will already make enough filling for 1 recipe of macarons.

Next up, 1 cup of the salted caramel is mixed with a coffee syrup. Use 3 tsp of espresso powder with 1 tbsp of boiling water, (yes I make them bitter, but you will understand why when you taste it). Now here come the fun part. You can microwave the caramel-coffee at a 30 sec interval on high until it turns quite dark and smelled this deliciously burnt smell (not burnt like Oh-no burn, but a desirable burn) then cool it in the fridge, and when it is almost set, give it a good whisk and transfer into air tight container and chilled overnight. If you have done it correctly (I did not use a candy thermometer, just by eye) you will get this lovely smooth paste that is reminiscent of Carambar. Do note that when you microwave them, do not do longer than a 30 sec interval because, longer than that, it will, spatter all over the place.

For the macaron shells, I prefer the French meringue method. It is quick, less hassle, and does not requires you to cook any sugar. Depends on the weather, just keep some whole eggs (in their shell) in a dark, airy, cool place. I kept my eggs like that for close to 2 weeks in this weather (Melbourne’s winter and inside our house is an average 20c). By then, the egg white is completely liquid, it will be easy to seperate and you do not even need to age it overnight. Just seperate them and leave the whites out uncovered on your table top for 2-3 hours. I will just crack mine and then proceed to sift the almond meal and sugar. By the time that painful process is over, the egg white can be whipped. To know if your egg white is aged real well, you will notice that immediately as you whisk it, it will form a lovely foam similar to beer foam.


I shopped around for the recipes and compared them. I looked at Tartlette’s, Mercotte’s, Pierre Herme’s (I have the book) and also Stephane Glacier’s recipes.

  • 90g egg white (it can be a little over the required amount, because as it aged, the moisture content will evaporate and you will get a lighter in weight egg white. Just reweigh before you whip them).
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 200g PURE icing sugar (those powder mix contains cornstarch in them, so its a no-no) and make sure you sift them well to get rid of all lumps.
  • 110g almond meal – sift. make sure you really press into the sieve to get the maximum amount out of your almonds.
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp of egg white powder- this stabilises the meringue further so technically, if you failed even with this, I do not know what to say.

The thing is, you really have to sift the almond meal and the icing sugar really well. And I prefer to use them immediately after I sifted them because if you let them sat too long after sifting, they will lump up again. This is personal experience. So just sift and use immediately.

Whip egg white with the egg white powder and add your sugar in SLOWLY, I do mine tablespoon by tablespoon and whisk it well each time. This ensure your meringue be smooth and shiny and would not be grainy. Really whip your egg white till very stiff peaks. Over whipping of  egg whites will actually get you very dry egg whites, but to be honest, if you add your sugar correctly, and with the addition of egg white powder, you will have a very stable meringue. VERY.

After that, always fold in your tpt (almond + icing sugar) in batches. I do mine in 4 batches and fold in in a clockwise motion scraping the bottom each time (like how you would fold the sponge) to mix in the tpt. Do not mince at the meringue, will cause it to collapse. Oh, I have seen enough apprentices “mincing” at the meringue or even batter with their dough scrapper or spatula. Regarding the over-mix under mix part, the magma flow thing, well, google a video of how magma flows, and you will understand why people say that. So, to test, just do a flow test, if the batter drop back into the rest of the batter from your spatula flows like magma, and when you pipe, it does not have a peak, and even after you whack your baking tray to flatten it and release air pocket, it still holds it shape. Then its good. I do not rest my batter as some people does to form that skin, mine is just pipe and go, and they always form skin. So yeah, maybe I am just lucky. As for the temperature, each oven is different, I have a oven that is not very strong in heating, so as mentioned in previous macaron post, after 4 batches, I baked them at 100c for 30 minutes with the door ajar by propping a wooden spoon against it. Play with your oven and test.  Do some research around the web and see what people temperatures are, and these will be useful to help you. If fail, try again, because the results will be worth it.

Good luck!

Do you love mussels? Flavourful but quick dish that you can make and impress ina hurry? (Think less than 30 minutes from start to finish).

Today, I was at the Victoria Market doing a spot of fresh produce shopping, walking around, the mussels looks great beside the rest of the frozen mollusc (they are also the only one thats ALIVE). I weaved my way through the stores and looked and compare the mussels, cleanliness and also the price. In the end, they are all about the same, so I bought a Kilogram worth (at $5.00 aud) from the one that looks like the most clean.

The thing with mussels is that, as with any other seafood, it is important not to overcook it. How many times have I ate rubbery deep fried mussels from the fish & chips shop? Its so bad, but for some reason, I seem to have amnesia, because I kept eating them. LOL

Anyway, it is important to clean the beards from the mussels and scrub them clean because if you don’t, you might catch some nasty food bug.

A tip: you can use a mussel to clean another mussel. Just use the flat bill part of the mussel and scrape the beard off the other mussels.

Ok, proceed to my quick and easy to impressed meal.


  • Mussels (obviously I have a kg)
  • Fresh basil (just pluck a few leaves and roughly torn them)
  • Flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped a handful)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (roughly chop)
  • Bacon trimmings
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/3 onion, chopped
  • A handful of button mushroom, quartered
  • Red capsicum, small dice
  • Half a zucchini, small dice

Seasoning: (note all cups measurement are in Australian standard cups)

  • Ketchup ( 1 tablespoon)
  • White wine (1 1/2 – 2 cup). I used a dry white chardonnay. If you do not have white wine, you can use beer. I prefer Lager.
  • Fish stock or vegetable stock or Chicken stock (1/2 cup)
  • 1 piece bayleaf
  • Few sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp curry powder (yes, I swear it is good)
  • Pinch of sweet paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of coriander powder (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste


  1. Heat up about 2 tbsp of oil in a high pot, I like a non intrusive flavour oil like canola. I only uses olive oil for dressing salads or finishing up a meal or a few drizzle before serving, never use it to cook because I do not like how it low it’s flash point is and how it likes to rob mild flavoured food of flavours.
  2. Fry the bacon trimmings briefly until slightly golden brown.
  3. Toss in onion and garlic. Saute onion and garlic together for a few quick minute, until you can smell the fragrance and onion is slightly translucent
  4. Add in all the herbs, zucchini, capsicum and mushroom. Give it a quick stir fry.
  5. Toss in the tomatoes and season with the spice. Give it a good fry until you can see the ingredients is a semi mush.
  6. Now, add in your cleaned mussels and with the heat on high, deglaze with the white wine, give a quick stir to coat evenly, and pour in your stock. (you can add extra stock, if you like the juice with the mussels, which I did)
  7. Mix in 1 tbsp of the ketchup and season with sugar. Cover the pot with a lid and on high heat, cook the mussel for 5-6 minutes, giving it a few shakes to cook them all evenly.
  8. Season with salt and discard unopened mussels.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a slice of lemon.

If it ain’t good, I would not recommend it. 3 of us each ate 2 bowl. 😀


buttercupBefore I start off on today post, I just want to say that, this is my guinea pig, she is called Buttercup, but I called her affectionately as “Poopy” because she is like a pooping machine, although that could be my fault. I felt that  I may have fed her too much. 😀

I got her 2 weeks ago from a farmer’s market. She looked kind of lonely but so cute. I must state that I have kept many furry pets throughout the years but never guinea pigs mainly because I do not find them attractive but, Buttercup stole my heart for some reason. She just have this look that is so adorable. I love her.

Guinea pigs represent a challenge for me, with Buttercup, I have to work for it to make her trust and be comfortable with me. She is very fidgety and skittish also easily scared. According to the seller, she was entrusted to her through a friend of her who owns a petshop. Buttercup was too old to be sold in a petshop as a pet anymore, so they were trying to get rid of her. I shudder to think of what happened should nobody bought her and gave her a home. Btw, did I mentioned that I only paid 5 Aud for her? What a steal! Granted, ever since I have her, I been spending a lot of money on her (but I am happy to see she is well fed, she has gained weight ever since we brought her back). Luckily W workplace is full of timber, we got all these timber for free and he built her a lovely hutch. I should take a photo of it. She’s only been outside in it once as we are still in winter and Victoria’s weather as usual been pretty unpredictable.

Ok, back to today’s post.

photostudioThe picture above is my D.I.Y kit of trying to make a “photo studio”. From previous post, you can see I was pretty offended by foodgawker keep rejecting my photos. Anyway, I take this as a learning process and also as an experiment. I bought a piece of black perspex, 2 piece of foamcore whiteboard as you can see from above and also a piece of reflective “mirror”-white. All of the above and the black perspex cost me 9.93 aud (this is after 20% student discount). So the following pictures is of me experimenting with the lighting. The box still lack some parts, but I think the picture has a vast improvement to it. I only have a point and click 10.2 mpx camera. So this is currently the best that I can do.

20080101-100_0910Those that follows me on twitter might have learn that a few days ago, I bought some really lovely quality mince at a bargain price. 1.78kg for 10.41 aud (very very cheap indeed).

Now, what can I do with so much mince? I do not want to make bolognaise, as W, my partner always eat them. I am sick of his boring meals. I was thinking meatballs? Kibbeh? Kofta? Meatloaf? Chilli? Kibbeh and kofta requires me to get additional ingredients. Not keen. Meatballs? Too similar to bolognaise. Chilli? W cannot take the heat. So I googled meatloaf and see how do people make them.

I have never made meatloaf nor ate meatloaf before. I think I never really came across them, and also because I do not like to eat ketchup as a condiment, lashing and lashing of ketchup on top of the meat is not my idea of gourmet. Also the restaurants that I had worked with would never serve meatloaf. Anyway, W and his mates has eaten meatloaf before and they had all been bad experience for them. He was not keen on meatloaf. He said and I quote “they suck”.

I had an idea of how they should taste like after browsing through many recipes. Yeah, it looks pretty easy to me, so I decided to make my own meatloaf flavour. It is a case of whatever is in my pantry, hence the title of the post.

Here is a list:

  • minced meat 750gm
  • bread crumbs 4 tbsp
  • fresh corn kernels
  • shredded carrot
  • chopped onion
  • chopped purple garlic
  • ketchup
  • W’s Nanna special barbecue sauce
  • curry powder
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine (chinese sherry)
  • salt
  • dried mixed herb
  • cayenne pepper
  • streaky bacon

20080101-100_0925It is tasty, juicy, and baking it with streaky bacon, the bacon fat as it drips down into the meat, the meatloaf absorbs the bacon fat. Ketchup inside the meat rather than outside gives it a nice lovely tang as compared to just ketchup being lathered on the meat (shudder).

Serve with a side of couscous and black pepper gravy. I did not hear a single sound from the boys until their plates were clean. W and one of his mate are even having it as their lunch tomorrow. After this meatloaf adventure, I still have close to 1kg of mince left.

20080101-100_0916What do you think? Will this be a good meatloaf for you?

100_0881Back to my roots. This is a plate of a hot appetiser using fish. The marriage of red snapper, vadouvan and curry rub on the fish was sooooooo good, it will be something that I will be making again and again. Accompanying the fish are; pickled corn kernels (again in a brine solution w/v) which is lightly sauteed, garlic confit, wilted spinach and a mushroom reduction.



I had never been a big fan of dumplings, but living in Melbourne, the motto “if you want to eat something great, you have to make it yourself” has really stuck on. Frozen dumplings are dime a dozen in the various Melbournian Asian groceries, ranging from the myriad korean dumplings flavours to Japanese and the Chinese. Still, I was not keen to pay 7-18 aud just for frozen dumplings.  I find the price not justifiable. Also, as an ongoing re-education of my white man bf, there is only one conclusion. I have to make it myself with fresh ingredients.

Dumplings are actually easy to make and eat. The filling are just a matter of mixing all the various ingredients together and wrapping them with off the shelf skins. Simple, easy, and quick to put together kind of affordable, last minute or lazy meals. To make it extra special, I decided to make the skin myself as well as the filling. I find it a challenge to seal the dumplings. My short stint as a dim sum apprentice only resulted in making horribly disfigured har gows.

trying to create nice pleats in with the sealing

This time round, it was a therapeutic experience as I stand in my kitchen kneading, rolling and then pleating the dumplings. I cannot say that I have mastered the art of sealing the dumplings, but looking at the pictures, I have to say that it was a vast improvement from before. Therefore, I plan to make dumplings as a staple in my kitchen. It is easy as W, my partner, loves it very much. Also, as I am a perfectionist, I would really like to practise sealing them until I can have it as dainty as those you will see in your dim sum restaurants. You can make it in a large batch and just freeze the uncooked ones in the freezer for that next convinient meal/snack.


the filling

The dumplings that I had made is my take on the Wafū Gyōza (“Wafū” meaning japanese style and “Gyōza” is how the Japanese pronounced the chinese Gyo ze). The exchange of culinary influences between Asian countries can be seen in each countries version of many dishes. Dumplings in Japan and Korea are the results of Chinese influence. Japan first credit the Chinese for their influence on the dumplings back in the 17th century and post-WWII Japan saw many a family stretching their small quantities of precious meats and other ingredients to make gyōza as a dinner staple. Today, gyōza has gone on to easily become one of the most internationally recognised Japanese dish.

The ingredients in the filling were quite long, it was a case of whatever was in my fridge that needed to be cleared and I certainly has quite a bit of them.

  • Minced pork
  • minced prawn
  • chopped shiitake mushroom
  • chopped water chestnut
  • finely chopped garlic
  • finely chopped young ginger
  • grated carrot
  • white part of spring onion- this is as a replacement for the Japanese leek, negi.
  • chiffonade of napa cabbage

and seasoned with few tablespoons of chicken stock to moisten the filling, as well as cornflour, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce and sherry wine.

I also wanted to note that, this is a good way to make W eat mushrooms, ginger and prawns. Given in their original form, he would not eat any of them. For the skin, freshly made with mandoo flour were extremely soft and pliable. The maleability of the skin is definitely better than the generic supermarket skin.

tang mian flour

mandoo flour

In the end, for this post, I was feeling a little whimsical, so I caramelised some king oyster mushroom together with enoki with some imperial shoyu. I also made some dashi-shoyu broth to go along with it. W, being the fussy eater that he is, only get the pan fried gyoza.

garnished with thinly sliced spring onion. I would love to have some salmon roe as colour contrast

Wafū gyōza served in dashi scented broth accompanied by imperial shoyu glazed saesong-i beosut and enoki


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