Saturday 28 April 2012

ASIAN LEAF – Looking to add some spice to your cooking? Treat your tastebuds to the exotic, rich flavours of the east with our Asian leaf recipes

Betel leaves topped with chicken, roasted coconut, peanuts and lime
Serves 6 as an entrée or 18 as an appetizer
These make a great little nibble with drinks, you could plate up for a pretty entr
ée or serve deconstructed, as we have, on a platter for friends to share and make their own. Image.

¼ cup shredded or flaked coconut
¼ cup raw peanuts
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated root ginger
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
250g chicken mince
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon shaved palm sugar
18 betel leaves, rinsed and dried
½ lime, unpeeled and very finely diced
¼ cup coriander leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely julienned

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C . Roast the coconut and peanuts on separate trays for 5 minutes or until each is golden brown. Once cool, roughly chop the peanuts, set aside with the coconut.
2. Heat the oil in the wok over a high heat and sauté garlic, ginger and chilli for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken mince and sauté until browned. Add the fish sauce and the palm sugar, stir until sugar is dissolved.
3. Serve each betel leaf topped with chicken mixture, a little sprinkle of the coconut, peanuts, diced lime and top with coriander and kaffir lime leaves. Serve immediately.

food dept fact: Glossy, dark green betel leaves are available at Thai grocers, it you can’t find them substitute with small English spinach leaves.

Crispy pork belly with palm sugar caramel sauce and steamed baby buk choy
Serves 4
Crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy in the centre. These pork pieces are worth every second of the cooking involved in this recipe.

1kg boneless pork belly
2 litres chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
4 slices ginger
1 star anise
1 piece cassia bark
¼ cup soy sauce
I tablespoon salt flakes
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 quantity palm sugar caramel sauce
1 tablespoon fried shallots, for garnish
½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish
1 quantity steamed baby buk choy
Chinese red vinegar, for serving

1. Place pork belly into a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and then drain.
2. Return the pork to the pot and cover the pork belly with the chicken stock, add garlic, ginger, star anise, cassia bark and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pork belly and allow to cool.
3. Cut the pork belly into 3x3cm cubes and place in a large bowl. In a motar and pestle crush together the salt flakes and white peppercorns, toss through the pork pieces. 
4. Heat oil in a wok over a medium heat until hot. Fry the pork belly pieces in batches for 5 minutes until the crackling is golden and bubbled. Drain on paper towel and keep warm.
5. Place the pork belly pieces in a large bowl and gently toss with a few spoonfuls of the palm sugar caramel sauce. Place onto a serving platter and sprinkle over the fried shallots and coriander leaves, place remaining caramel sauce in a jug and serve alongside the pork. Accompany the pork with steamed baby buk choy and a drizzle of red vinegar. The red vinegar adds a delicious contrast to the rich and sweet flavour of the pork.

food dept fact: Star anise, cassia bark, fried shallots and Chinese red vinegar can all be purchased at good Chinese grocery stores.

Palm sugar caramel sauce
Makes approx 1 cup

1½ firmly packed cups chopped palm sugar
½ cup boiling water
1 cup reserved cooking liquid
2 star anise
1 stick cassia bark
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste

1. Place the palm sugar and water in a large saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase to a high heat and cook until sugar begins to caramelize, it will become a dark golden brown colour. You can smell the caramlisation of the sugar. Be careful to not burn the sugar or it will make the sauce bitter.
2. Cautiously pour in the reserved cooking liquid to stop the caramelisation process. It will spit and foam up in the pan. It will reduce in the pan again. Reduce the heat add the star anise and the cassia bark and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens to a honey consistency.
3. Add the soy and fish sauces and taste the sauce, if it is still too sweet add a little more of the salty sauces until the flavours taste balanced. Serve warm as required.

food dept fact: Left over caramel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Steamed baby buk choy
Serves 4

8 baby buk choy, approximately 2 bunches
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 long red chilli, finely sliced

1. Rinse the buk choy and arrange in a bamboo steamer, place over a wok of simmering water. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until buk choy turns bright green. Be careful not to overcook, it should still be crisp.
2. Drizzle with a small amount of peanut oil and sprinkle over the chilli. Use as required.

Green curry of sin qua, pea eggplant and fried tofu
Serves 4–6
Nothing beats the freshness of a homemade curry paste. This is a delicious vegetarian curry but can easily be modified to make your favourite chicken green curry. Sin Qua has a similar texture to zucchini (courgette), its best eaten when young, if you have trouble finding it you can easily substitute with zucchini. Baby zucchinis with flowers would be lovely to use when in season.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
⅔ cup green curry paste, or to taste
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
4 kaffir lime leaves, crush the leaves to bruise and release the flavours
2 small sin qua
½ cup pea eggplants
100g fried tofu, halved
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon palm sugar, finely chopped, or to taste
Steamed rice, for serving
½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
½ cup Thai basil leaves
1 tablespoon fried shallots

1. Heat oil in a wok or a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the green curry paste and fry for 2-3 minutes, until the paste is fragrant.
2. Add the coconut milk, water and kaffir lime leaves, bring to a simmer. Peel the sin qua, keep paring down the corrugated skin until it is all removed, the skin is very tough. Add the sin qua, pea eggplants and tofu, simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the sin qua is tender. 
3. Season the curry with fish sauce and palm sugar. The flavours in Thai recipes are a blend of hot, salty, sweet and sometimes sour. The heat in this curry comes from the amount of curry paste used and the saltiness and sweetness come from the fish sauce and palm sugar and the sour/bitter flavor comes from the pea eggplants. 
4. Serve the curry over rice and sprinkle with coriander, Thai basil and fried shallots.

food dept fact: Pea eggplants are commonly used in green curry and are available at Thai grocers. They have a bitter flavor that blends beautifully with the other flavours in the curry.

Green curry paste
Makes enough for 2-3 curries depending on how much paste you like to use.

6 large green chilies, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and toasted under a hot griller for 5 minutes
½ cup purple shallots
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch coriander leaves stems and root, washed
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 sticks lemon grass, tender part only, roughly chopped
1 x 5cm piece galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Finely grated rind, 1 kaffir lime

1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until it forms a paste. Use as required.

food dept fact: This curry paste can be made and stored for a few weeks in the refrigerator or if you would like to keep it for up to 6 months freeze it in 1/3 cup portions. You could substitute the fresh curry paste for a bought green curry paste, but be sure to use the amount as recommended on the package, curry pastes can vary a lot in intensity.

Fried choy sum and snake beans with mustard greens
Serves 4
An easy stir fry that can be served on its own or as part of a selection of Asian dishes.

1 bunch choy sum
1 cup vegetable oil 
1 bunch snake beans, trimmed and cut into 10cm lengths 
250 g pork mince
1 tablespoon dried shrimp soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, drained 
2 tablespoons finely chopped, preserved mustards greens 
¼ cup soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt flakes
2 teaspoons sugar 
• ¼ cup garlic chives, cut in 3 cm lengths

1. Rinse choy sum and trim the leaves from the stems. Cut steams into 10 cm pieces and reserve leaves.
2. Heat oil in a wok over a high heat, plunge choy sum stems into the oil for one minute until the skin starts to blister. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towel. Do the same with the snake beans.
3. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok and stir fry the pork mince until browned, add the prawns and mustard greens and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes. Return the choy sum stems, snake beans and the choy sum leaves to the wok, toss to combine. Stir through the soy sauce, salt and sugar for 3-4 minutes until the choy sum leaves are bright green. Toss through the garlic chives and serve immediately.
food dept fact: Dried shrimp and mustard greens are available at any good Chinese grocery store.

Crisp skin red fish on wilted gai lan with hot and sour tamarind sauce and fried basil leaves
Serves 4

¼ cup peanut oil
8 purple shallots, peeled and finely sliced
½ cup Thai basil leaves, rinsed and well dried
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 small red chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 cup tamarind liquid
½ cup shaved palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt flakes
1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
4 x 200g red fish (nannygai) fillets, skin on
Extra, 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 bunch gai lan (Chinese broccoli), rinsed and trimmed

1. Heat peanut oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the shallots until browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon remove the shallots and drain on paper towel. In the same oil fry the basil leaves a few at a time. Be careful to dry them well, any water on the leaves will cause the oil to spit. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
2. Using the same oil, sauté the garlic, chilli and ginger for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the Tamarind Liquid, palm sugar and fish sauce and simmer over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, keep warm.
3. Crush the salt flakes and Sichuan peppercorns in a motar and pestle. Dry the skin of the fish fillets and rub the salt mix onto the skin. Heat extra oil in a large frying pan and cook the snapper skin side down for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm, uncovered in a low oven.
4. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and plunge the gai lan into the water, cook for 1-2 minutes until bright green. Be careful not to overcook, drain well.
5. Divide the gai lan between 4 serving plates and top with a piece of fish. Spoon over sauce and sprinkle with fried shallots and basil leaves. Serve immediately.

food dept fact: Substitute the red fish fillet with any white fish fillets with skin on. It also looks fantastic if you serve the sauce over a whole fish (bream works well). Score the flesh of a plate size fish, rub the skin with flour that has been seasoned with salt and sichuan pepper, deep fry until crispy and golden, serve with sauce. 

Tamarind liquid
Makes 2½ cups

100g tamarind pulp
2 cups hot water

1. Roughly chop the tamarind and place in a medium bowl, pour over the hot water and allow to stand for 10 minutes or until the water has cooled enough for you to put your hands in.
2. Knead the tamarind to remove the pulp from the seeds and fibers. Strain and use as required. Left over liquid may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Barbecued Squid and Mizuna Salad and Lime Dressing 
Serves 6
Mizuna is a pretty leaf lettuce with a mild peppery taste. It’s often one of the leaves found in mesclun but can also be bought separately at good greengrocers. You could use mesclun or rocket (arugula) in its place.

750g baby squid, cleaned – reserving the tentacles
1 tablespoon vegetable or light olive oil
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 quantity of herb and lime dressing
200g mizuna leaves
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges
½ bunch mint leaves, for garnish
½ bunch coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish

1. Cut the squid hoods open and lay flat with the outside of the hood facing up on a chopping board. Score the squid in a crisscross pattern and then cut into 4-5cm square pieces. Trim the tentacles but leave whole. Toss the squid with the oil and season.
2. Heat a barbecue or char grill plate until hot. Char grill the squid for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the squid turns white and has a char grilled look.
3. Place in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and set aside to cool slightly.
4. Arrange mizuna on a serving platter and sprinkle over the onion, arrange the squid on the salad and drizzle with a little more dressing. Sprinkle over extra mint and coriander leaves. Serve immediately.

food dept fact: For a sweet Asian twist , add some fresh lychees to the salad. If you would like less heat, remove the seeds from the chilli.

Herb and Lime Dressing
Makes 1 cup

½ bunch mint
½ bunch coriander
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 large green chilli, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large lime
½ cup vegetable or light olive oil

1. Pick the mint leaves from the stems and place them in a food processer, add the coriander leaves and stems, garlic, chilli, fish sauce and sugar. Peel the lime making sure there is no pith left. Roughly chop the lime to make sure there are no seeds, add the lime flesh to the processor.
2. Process until the dressing ingredients are finely chopped, gradually add the oil through the spout of the processor and blend the dressing until it is well emulsified. Use as required.

food dept fact: Dressing can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week, shake well before use to emulsify. This dressing makes a delicious sauce poured over barbecued seafood.

Prawn and Mushroom Wonton Soup with Water Spinach
Serves 4 – 6
This beautiful clear soup is full of delicious Asian flavours.
Serve a small bowl for an entrée or a generous bowl for a soul warming meal.

2 litres good quality chicken stock
⅓ cup soy sauce
• 8 slices ginger
1 quantity prawn and mushroom wontons
1 bunch water spinach (kang kong), cut into 10 cm lengths and washed
Sesame oil, for serving
1 shallot, finely sliced on the diagonal

1. Combine the stock, soy and ginger in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
2. Gently drop the wontons into the simmering soup and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the water spinach and simmer for a further 2 minutes, being careful not to overcook the water spinach.
3. Carefully lift wontons and water spinach into serving bowls and ladle over the soup.
Drizzle with a small amount of sesame oil and sprinkle with shallots, serve.

Prawn and Mushroom Wontons
Makes 24 wontons

4 medium, approximately 20g dried shitake mushrooms,
soaked in hot water, drained and finely chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon shao shin wine
1 packet wonton wrappers
1 egg, lightly beaten
24 medium green prawns, shelled leaving the tails on and deveined

1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Place 1 teaspoonful of mixture onto each wonton wrapper. Lightly brush the edges with egg.
Place a prawn onto the mushroom mixture and gather up the edges of the wonton wrapper to form a bag shape leaving the prawn tail exposed. Seal tightly.
3. Place onto a tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate until required.

food dept fact: These can be steamed over simmering water for 5 minutes and served with a soy dipping sauce as an appetizer. For a crispy version, try deep frying them.

Recipes: Sally Courtney

Friday 6 April 2012

CHOCOLATE MADE EASY– some tips and tricks to help you with the recipes from our hot chocolate feature

Would the world revolve without chocolate?
Well certainly not here at the food dept....

Chocolate is a divine product made from the seeds of a mexican tree, called the Theobroma Caco. The fruit contains seeds which are fermented dried and roasted and processed into cocoa liquor. It is then further processed and mixed in various forms with fat and sugar to produce chocolate.

Varieties of chocolate 

White Chocolate
A purest might say, it is not chocolate at all. White chocolate has virtually no cocoa at all but is a blend of fat, sugar, milk solids and vanilla. White chocolate tends to be the trickiest to melt, but some say the yummiest to eat.

Milk Chocolate
Paler in colour, milk chocolate is a sweet chocolate with a lower cocoa content, and a higher amount of milk solids and sugar. It is mostly enjoyed as confectionary, but can be used in baking, especially in the form of chocolate chips.

Dark Chocolate is commonly found in 3 types:
Semi Sweet Dark Chocolate
Has a higher content of cocoa compared with milk chocolate, anywhere between 35-62%. Semi sweet contains a smaller amount of milk solids and is the chocolate that is mostly sold for baking in supermarkets.

Bittersweet Chocolate
Contains between 60-85% cocoa and therefore less sugar, giving it that bitter but sweet taste. It is mostly used for cooking but if you’re a dark chocolate fan you might not be able to resist it. The good thing about it is that it satisfies some people’s chocolate cravings in smaller quantities.

Unsweetened Chocolate
Contains about 99% cocoa. But don’t be fooled, the high percentage suggests there is virtually no sugar, so it is not really suitable for eating, it is better used for cooking.

As chocolate has a high fat content it should be stored in a cool dark place. Don’t be tempted to put it in the refrigerator, as it will sweat when brought to room temperature. Keep it in an airtight container so that it doesn’t take on flavours of anything that it is stored near. If chocolate gets that grey powdery look to it, it has become too hot during storage and the cocoa and fat content have started to separate.

How to melt chocolate

Chocolate melts beautifully in the microwave. The trick is to melt it in shorts bursts of 30 seconds at 50% power. Allow it to rest for 30 seconds between each cooking and give it a little stir each time until the chocolate has melted. Be patient and wait between each cooking as residual heat will continue to melt it. If chocolate is over heated it will seize and become dry and grainy. This can also happen if water is introduced to the melting chocolate, be careful to always use clean dry utensils. If you would rather not use the microwave, place the chocolate in a clean and dry heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Give it an occasional stir until melted and then remove the bowl from the saucepan. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water and that the water is not boiling. Again over heating or water splashed in will cause the chocolate to seize.
The most important thing to remember with
Chocolate is to enjoy! 

Here's a quick little recipe for truffles
.... just in time for Easter