Saturday, 14 April 2018

Camping + One Pan Chicken Laksa

I spoke too soon about feeling the shift, instead Mr-Weather-Man has only confirmed my theory that Sydney gets two seasons. And Summer seems to be lasting forever. I am ready for the cooler nights, ugg boots, track pants, socks and doonas. I've had my last sunburn for the season and I’ve had enough of every time I wash up, sweating like I’ve run a marathon.

Although it was beautiful weather for the Easter long weekend just past, but in saying that, waking up in a hot tent with sunburnt, sandy legs... mmm I think I prefer winter camping where snuggling is mandatory to keep toes warm.

Over the long weekend we camped for two nights, the first on Redhead Beach near Newcastle and the second in Olney State Forest. When we first got to Redhead beach on the Friday it was windy but the water was perfect for a swim, small waves and not too cold and the sun was out in full force, my rash vest (to Tris’ horror) even made an appearance. Setting up our tent was a slight nightmare but after we moved the car as a windbreaker it got easier, however our toilet tent on the spent the entire time folded in on itself making it very difficult to use but better then every other camper seeing my bare bum.

I set up snacks and we had cold beers out of the Tris’ new pride and joy, the car fridge. Even our friends dog enjoyed the snacks, sneaking half a block of vintage cheddar and demolishing it within two chews when my back was turned. I think it was an eye opener for him, he was then obsessed with cheese for the rest of the weekend but how could you blame him, I feel that way about cheese.

Dinner was Food52’s One-Pan Lasagne cooked over the fire. I forgot a couple of ingredients which I realised too late but it was still impressive and very tasty, even with the slight sand crunch after dropping the lid of the camp oven into the sand. The missing ingredients (mascarpone & basil) would have made it even better than it already was and I also think some parmesan would be a good touch too. Next camping trip I'll try this again and let you in on my tweaks as it wasn’t quite there yet but Tris did say it was one of the best lasagnes he's ever had. It could be because of how chuffed we were that we made lasgane from scratch, over a fire, at the beach. Campfire cooking is so much fun.

The night continued with hazelnut chocolate, a few too many beers and monopoly… did you know the new monopoly doesn’t have paper money but credit cards you tap!!!? Blew my mind.

When we woke the next morning the wind had picked up over night and our friends in their roof top tent got no sleep and even with earplugs in our ground tent it was noisy and flappy. Desperate for a betters night sleep they suggested we move spots so we deflated our mattress, folded the sandy sheets, backed down the kite...sorry tent and stuffed everything else we’d unpacked and made ourselves at home with up. We were back in the car on the road again with no idea where we were going. After some searching for places that were available and also animal friendly we finally came across a real gem, Olney State Forest.

We drove for about an hour inland, with a pit stop at Hungry Jacks for burgers (my lunch plan was shot), a water top up and an actual (flushing) toilet stop. When we arrived it was packed but it's a no book, first in, first served kind of place with multiple site around the forest and luckily for us, there are a few sites off the tracks with small clearings, perfect to pitch a tent or two. It felt so secluded and peaceful, not at all like we were in a packed camping park. This is defiantly a spot we will be returning too, it was beautiful and also cooler under the trees out of the sun, my legs were in heaven.

For dinner I made a one-pan chicken laska with vermicelli noodles dish. I based it loosely off a Donna Hay recipe I found online and the recipe on the back of the laksa paste jar but then went off on my own and improvised. Instead of cooking over the fire like the previous night I used the camping gas stove, Tris was in charge of the fire again but I was impatient to wait for the right heat and wanted dinner while it was still light. The recipe is quick was so great to do on the gas cooker, it meant we didn’t use all the cans, leaving just enough for the morning coffees.

The recipe is a keeper and one I'll be making again and again even at home home and most likely next camping trip too. It was delicious. Belly warming and satisfying, a good one for that fresh air hungry feels you get camping and being outdoors all day. Or even on a chilly night (although I’m starting to forget what they feel like) at home for a mid week meal.

Maybe it's just me, but the satisfaction of cooking outside makes everything taste better. The clean up camping is always a bit of a hassle but this was a one pan jobby and nothing was baked on, the clean up was minimal. The lasagne the previous night was not to much. I ended up getting my pants wet trying to rinse the pot in the waves, in the dark, before giving it a scrub, however I don't think the beers helped me with my coordination in this.

We finished the night off with dark chocolate digestive smores over the fire with a night cap of port. Pretty darn delicious combination if you ask me.

The next morning we had teas and coffees with a version of these Gypsy Roll things for breakfast that we had in Tasmania at the Salamanca Markets on our honeymoon. A kind of everything omelette with avocado and sriracha in a fire toasted bread roll. Sooo good! A few tweaks to this and I'll share a recipe for this one  too (I made enough to feed an army so need to work out how to scale it down).

A dip in the in-laws pool when we got home, a hot shower removing every last piece of sand and cuddles with the fluff monster (Arty)… I love long weekends.

One Pan Chicken Laksa

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced in thin wedges
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 juicy lime, see note
1 jar laksa paste (I used Ayam Laksa Paste)*
500g chicken breast, sliced**
1 bunch broccolini, roughly chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 litres chicken stock
1 x 400ml can coconut cream
200g rice vermicelli noodles (I used Wai Wai rice vermicelli)
1 bunch of pak choy (3 pieces), roughly chopped into 1 inch chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
***Optional toppings: thinly sliced spring onions, fresh coriander or bean sprouts to serve.

Note: for the lime, you’ll need both the zest and juice. To get the zest, use a regular peeler and peel it from the top to the bottom 4 times so you are left with 4 fairly big green pieces of lime zest (you don’t want the white part). It’s ok, these will be removed before serving so you won’t eat them, it’s just for flavour. Cut the lime in quarters for juicing later.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the onion, garlic and lime zest to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes then add the laska paste. Stir every now and then so it doesn’t catch for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.

Next add the sliced chicken to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes until mostly browned on all sides. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes then add the broccolini stalks and cook for another 2 minutes. Fish the lime zest out and discard.

Empty the can of coconut milk into the pan, keeping the pan on a low heat and add the broccolini tops and vermicelli noodles (dried, yes put them in dried!) into the pan and bring back to a simmer slowly, do not boil. Once the pan is back at a simmer and the noodles are cooked through (taste!), add the pak choy placing the stalk pieces in the pan first and the leave on top to wilt. Cook for a further minute or so.

At this point you may need to add an additional cup of water depending on how much water your noodles have soaked up so judge this by eye and how soupy you want it to be.

Taste, season with salt and pepper.

Divide into 4 bowls with a lime wedge each to serve (and any of the other garnishes you have on hand).

* Read the back of the jar you’ve bought, each on is slightly different with how much to use for the amount of liquid you’ll be adding. The one I used said to add the entire jar which was perfect for the amount of liquid in the soup.

** I like to buy pre-chopped chicken breasts when I go camping, it saves the slimy raw chicken clean up after when you have limited water supply and a bucket instead of a sink. Or, I chop it inside the plastic container it comes in then chuck it when I get home.

*** I understand are hard ingredients to take camping as they spoil easy or come in large quantities which is why we didn’t have them camping and it was still really delicious. But, they would make a great addition if you have the space or if you’re making this at home.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Anna Jones's one-pan pea, lemon & asparagus pasta.

Lets be honest, we don't really get four seasons in Sydney, we get two and a few days of odd change in between. For the past couple of days I've felt the cool change, the shift into Autumn, and I love it. It's cooler at night (Thankgawwd!!) and the days haven't been stifling hot. I've happily (against my waistline) craved more comfort foods, slept with the donna on and even considered turning the oven on to bake rather than avoiding it like the plague. I know this won't last, there are some hot days on the forecast but I am enjoying the shift while it's here and also enjoying the last of summers produce before tomatoes lose their taste and stoned fruit feels like a dream.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Sourdough Bialys from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.

Meet Babbs.

She’s my sourdough starter and yes, I’ve named her. It’s what you do.

Sourdough Starter | salt sugar and i | Dani Elis

Sourdough Starter | salt sugar and i | Dani Elis

She’s just over a year old and I’ve killed her at least once. Thank goodness she survived her dried cryovaced state and I could resuscitate her.

She’s had a baby or two or three… not sure if her babies are still alive but she is and going stronger than ever before. I’ve found out what food she likes, half good ol’ plain flour and half organic stoneground wholemeal. You see, she’s just a little bit fancy.

Friday, 9 February 2018

January, perspective + Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.

Blogs are a funny one. You share a part of your life but not all of your life because who wants to read about the crappy stuff. It’s the same with social media, who wants to see a filtered photo of a too cold, sad sandwich (yes sandwiches can be sad) balancing on your knee in a hospital room? The answer is no one. But life does have it’s crappy moments and January, boy oh boy did you have yours. Everything’s different now, for not so great reasons and also, for the best.

We knew it was coming, it just snuck up on us all a little quicker than expected. About two weeks ago we moved my dad into a nursing home to live. He has alzheimer's. He was diagnosed 5 years ago, just before his 63rd birthday. He was too young then and still is. It’s shit. It’s not fair. But it is life I guess. 

I know how lucky I am for everything and everyone I have and I could have kept this to myself and there are things I have kept to myself over the years. It is just part of life now and if I didn’t share it I’d feel weird going on and on about, what sometimes feels like nonsense here, when really some days are just plain shitty. I do also feel weird sharing it but I think it’s good to see both the good and crappy. It’s real. It’s life. And I don't think it's talked about enough.

But in saying that, I scrolled through the photos on my phone last night and it made me realise you’d never have known the year didn’t have the most joyest of beginnings. We just don't take photos of the ok days, it’s the good ones which you find yourself blurting ‘SMILE!’ out at someone and also grinning like an idiot in hopes the other person smiles too. Yes, some days were sadder than others but not every day was bad. January also included a mini-break to Cottesloe in WA for a cousin-in-laws (is that a thing?) wedding where we met up with family who we don’t see nearly enough and I rode a bicycle. Now this may not sound like a big thing for the average joe but I’m so so bad on a bike and it was my idea to hire them. As soon as I said it and everyone agreed I instantly thought, oh crap what have I done!? But I’m getting better and it was so worth the sore bum and all the weird squarks I made trying not to ride into people and parked cars. The views and beaches along the costal bike track are beautiful but pretty sure the cold beer and chicken parama at the end helped too. Oh and there are so many dogs along the way!! I couldn’t appreciate them as much as the others or I’d have fallen off and face planted the path but why doesn’t Sydney have more dog beaches? They should.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017 and Gin Pickled Cucumbers.

2017. You had some epic highs and some tough spots. Thank you and good riddance.

I turned 29 just over a week ago. I’m now officially into my last year of my 20’s and in my 30th year of hanging around this world. My birthday is a bit of a non event and I enjoy other people’s birthdays much more. But, I have these lovely, beautiful and pesky friends that organise things for me each year and spoil me so I can’t skip it. I end up having the best time and realise birthdays aren't so terrible in the end. This is a message for future me.

Also, does anyone know where December went??? It came, and is nearly done and I’m still not sure how it all happened. It has flown. I normally bake my little feet off and gift cookies and toffee but this year it seemed hard enough to get a batch of mince pies baked, let alone cookies. I’m still not sure what went wrong except that it has been the most unorganised Christmas/December ever. We didn’t even have a tree up or lights... go on say it. Grinch! Grinchy Grinch Grinch! Yep I am. Instead of baking for people, I made gin pickled cucumbers from The Modern Preserver cookbook that I borrowed from the library. I’m sharing this recipe with you all because I wasn’t organised enough to gift everyone some and they are freaking amazing so you should make them yourself but also for me, to note the recipe down so I can make them again and again. They are sharp, pickley, spicy, zingy and go so so great with cold smoked salmon. If you love pickled things, you will LOVE these.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Summer Panzanella, the only salad recipe you need this summer from Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat | #GIVEAWAY

Welcome summer, you stinker you!!

I don’t know about the oven in your kitchen but when it’s a stinker like it has been for the past few days the last thing I want to do it turn my oven on. In winter we turn it on and use it as a heater, why on earth would we want that in summer?! Ok, I can think of two reasons. One, you promised mince pies to the office (totally regretting this one) and two, you get sent a lovely new cookbook. Tuesday was one of those days where both exceptions happened. And now we have a new rule in our home; I'm not allowed to turn the oven on throughout summer.

Ok so what recipe and book called for the oven to be turned on on a 30C+ day? First, the recipe, torn croutons of course. Yes dear readers, torn croutons. And I’m going to say you should do the same and get that oven cranking. It was totally worth it. No I didn’t just eat torn croutons, although they were delicious to snack on, they were for a Summer Panzanella Salad. This time of year, when it’s hot and you don’t want to eat steamy foods is the perfect time of year for this salad. The tomatoes make up a big portion and are beautiful and fragrant and just taste like summer right now but you also get the combination of dressing soaked croutons and the crunch from the croutons you add last minute. It’s a salad with the best kind of carbs and it’s delicious.

Monday, 4 December 2017

banana, fig and walnut loaf cake from The Tivoli Road Baker

I've started this post I think about ten times by now. What I want to say is just not coming out right.

But here goes... for the eleventh time now...

I've been in a cooking funk for a couple of weeks. My mind has been elsewhere. When this happens I find I go elbow deep in a project. At the moment, it's sourdough and for the past few weeks I've been trying to master a simple loaf, I think I've got it but sourdough is a labour of love. It takes planning and time. You put so much effort in, folding, proving, shaping, proving, preheating your oven to very freakin' hot, turning your apartment into a sauna and then, to find a flat, very dense, pancake looking blob. It's like a stab in the guts. Although in saying all this there has been one recipe that has given consistent results each and every time, the Basic Sourdough recipe from The Tivoli Road Baker Cookbook. It's simple, reliable, clear, not too wordy and I like that it uses both white and wholemeal flours. Now, for those sourdough bakers out there, I am sorry but I am not sharing a sourdough recipe here today. Even though I think I've got it down pack now (touch wood) I am no way confident enough to share sourdough on the space just yet, I still cross my fingers and pray to the sourdough gods each and every time.

banana, fig and walnut loaf cake from Tivoli Road Baker | salt sugar and i

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Geng Gari Curry from Thai Food Made Easy

I'm coming to you with a problem dear readers. My husband and I are funding our local thai restaurants rent with the amount of takeaway we order. We actually (embarrassingly so) order so much Thai take-away week to week that the driver now knows us and our broken apartment buzzer. And whats more embarrassing... they have an app that records your orders so that every 10th order is free... we've had a few free orders.

Geng Gari Curry | Thai Food Made Easy | salt sugar and i

I can't help it, I freakin' love Thai food. It's one of my all time favourites. The freshness and variety of dishes mmmm just yum. As of last year, it also reminds me of our holiday in Patong where we ate fried rice topped with the perfect fried egg... runny yolk... crispy bottom, every single day. I wish I cooked more thai food at home than I do because as much as I love our takeaway place it's just not as good coming in those plastic boxes as it is piping hot, straight from the wok. But there is a reason for our takeaway problem. I find thai cooking somewhat intimidating. Yes, I'm a food blogger and I just admitted that. Bite me. But honestly, I do and I don't think I'm the only one. I mean, I'm pretty good with the pre-made curry pastes from the supermarket but other than that my thai cooking skills usually involve me botching up a salty stir fry by adding every asian sauce and condiment from the fridge. Sometimes it's great and others... well let just say I don't go back for seconds.