What I Love – Monstrositea Edition

Of course, not everyone is a coffee drinker. So, if my last post wasn’t quite your… Well, you know. Settle in, I have something for you.

The magic of a cup of tea is well established, the romance and ritual of something so small and simple is truly one of life’s great pleasures; no matter who you are.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am new to this whole tea drinking thing. I drink French earl grey with milk (gasp!) and sugar (shudder!). I like ginger tea when I’m stressed, jasmine in the afternoon, and Chinese over yum cha.

Little did I know that there is an art to tea. Different temperatures and steeping times, and for the love of god, no tea bags if it can be helped. Turns out, I have a lot to learn. What a delicious education awaits me!

Via Pinterest

Via Pinterest

Enter Monstrositea to show you how tea should be done. Five generous sample size teas in the cutest tin you’ve ever seen, delivered every month. Let the wild tea rumpus begin!

If you know someone who even remotely likes their tea, bundle up a tin from Monstrositea into their next gift. They will take you.

What I Love – Monstrositea Edition

Who are you/what do you do?

I’m Katherine, the Chief Curator of Monstrositea. I collect teas from all over the world, research them and their stories and then package them up to all of my subscribers in a monthly tea sample delivery. Tea adventures!

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Where did your love of tea come from?

Tea holds many different memories for me. My extended family have roots throughout China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, I grew up drinking Chinese tea at pretty much any opportunity but most commonly at Dim Sum and family get togethers. I distinctly remember cups of English Breakfast tea with my great grandmothers whilst we played scrabble in her lounge room. I guess I realised that I loved tea once I started exploring the world, tea and travel go hand in hand for me. Tea is full of culture and tradition, it’s a peak into everyday life and is something so many people hold dear and are very proud of.

How did Monstrositea come about?

Well…firstly practicality –  I buy a lot of tea, many of which I drink a few times and then put in my tea cupboard, to the point that my tea cupboard became a whole shelf in my pantry, a shelf in the kitchen and more… tea overfloweth! I thought it would be great to be able to try teas with enough to get a good feel for it, without committing the money and shelf space to a whole box until I knew that I loved it.

Second, I love travel and talking to people about tea. I have collected teas from all over the world, I have brought home more tea than a sane person would be expected to from every trip I’ve been on.  I have a fantastic collection of sensory experiences I can enjoy again and again. The dream is to travel the world curating incredible tea and cultural experiences. I truly believe you can travel from your tea pot, its what I do whilst saving for my next trip!

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Why Perth?

I happen to live in Perth, and despite Australia Post not being all that helpful to small ventures, it’s all too easy to run a business from here. I work full-time (the real job) so I value the flexibility of my employer and my lifestyle in Perth which allows me to juggle many things at once.

Perth people are generally open minded and looking for new experiences, it’s a good crowd to pitch new ideas at and get honest advice and experience back.

Your dream food day?

Dim Sum at 10am with a big pot of silky oolong tea, lunch of fresh sashimi salmon with a cup of freshly whisked matcha, followed by dinner of chipotle pulled pork tacos with fresh mango and avocado with a pot of peppermint tea.

What’s the best thing you ate recently?

I just came back from Japan and I’m currently feeling like everything I ate prior to this trip has been blown out of the water by the sheer incredibleness of all the amazing things I ate whilst there. A particular piece of marinated salmon sashimi is still playing on my mind, it just melted… However! prior to this, The Tuck Shop in Northbridge create some incredible things. They had a slow cooked lamb on their specials a couple of weeks ago and it blew my mind.

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Where do you love to go to eat?

Breakfast/brunch is my most favourite meal to go out to eat for, but only when its not your standard bacon and eggs, its got to be something a little left of centre, and come with great tea (of course!). I love the Tuck Shop (as mentioned previously), Harvest Espresso in Vic Park, Typika in Claremont, and Chapels on Whatley in Maylands.

Where do you love to hang out?

In the shady courtyard at my place. During my lunch hour I love to hang out in the Urban Orchard in the sun.

What’s your favourite thing right now?

Studio Ghibli films. I am in love, I guess I have been for a long time but having just come back from Japan my heart has been refilled with adoration. Lets watch Ponyo again, right now!

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What inspires you?

Nature, green spaces. I am inspired by urban greenery and well designed parks where people gather to relax, chat, eat, food truck, drink and be merry. I love that people can use space together and have a shared experience which not only connects them to the community but also to nature.

When I’m feeling flat, pessimistic and tired, getting outside is what I need to get my energy back. Even better yet, to be accompanied by wonderful friends and a thermos of chai.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

(un)fortunately I packed all of my travel for 2014 into the first half of the year. It was a bit silly to go to India, Nepal and Japan in the space of 3 months, because… now what?!

Lucky for me Revelation Film Festival is about to begin, I look forward to this wonderful showcase of films every year and it has most certainly meant that I’m not getting the post holiday blues.

 

If you would like to know more about Monstrositea, check out their website, Facebook page, these reviews here and here.

All images via Monstrositea instagram

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Classy as f*ck

Sometimes, you just want a fucking taco.

Make no mistake. The weekend that I just spent in Margaret River was unbelievable.

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I ate marron and truffle in a chandelier lit marquee on the not-out-of-place-in-an-English-palace gardens of Voyager Estate, listening to the wisdom of the chef one of the world’s best chefs.

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I ate marron on the shores of one of Yallingup’s most secluded and spectacular beaches, served by two of Australia’s best young chefs and was served wine by one of Australia’s most prominent wine makers. Actually, I ate more marron that weekend than I have in my whole life to date. It was a tiny bit amazing. Super fancy. Why couldn’t every day be like that?

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After a weekend of pure excess, I spent the drive home asking myself the kinds of important questions about my new life as a purveyor of the finer things. Wagu? Oysters? Where does one get Russian caviar in Perth on a Monday afternoon? Do I own a champagne flute? (the answer to that is no)

As I aimlessly wandered through the supermarket, I happened across pâté. Yes. Fancy people love pâté! I then considered what to have with said pâté. Crisp bread? Cheese? And then BAM. Lightning. Banh mi was the only answer.

Pâté belongs in a roll with pickled vegetables, coriander, some kind of protein and cheap, fluffy white bread. It’s just pure mouth magic. It’s French, it’s Vietnamese, it’s easy, it’s street food. There is nothing fancy about it, and I realised that there is very little fancy about me. I love street food. Probably too much, which is why there’s a lack of truffle in my diet. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And so home I went. I cooked. My boyfriend, housemate and I ate off a chopping board on the floor of my lounge room with our hands. And it was equally, if not more perfect than anything else I’d eaten that weekend, because sometimes, you just want a fucking taco. And I was happy.

Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi Taco

Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 red chillies, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
¼ cup fish sauce
40 gm grated palm sugar or brown sugar
800 gm piece of skinless pork neck, cut into 6cm thick pieces

Good quality pâté
Pickled carrots
Coriander leaves
Sliced jalapenos
Japanese Mayo
Sriracha

Blitz the garlic, chili and lemongrass in a food processor until a paste forms. In a large bowl, combine the fish sauce and sugar, add the lemongrass paste, stir to combine, then add the pork and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.

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Heat some oil in a fry pan over medium high heat and cook the pork in batches until cooked through.

When you’re ready to serve, spread a tortilla with pâté, then top with pork, pickles, coriander, mayo and sriracha, and a squeeze of lime.

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Notes: Banh mi is traditionally made as a roll, however, due to the lack of appropriate bread at my local supermarket, I went with the tiny tortilla option, which was pretty damn fantastic.

The pickled carrot recipe is so stupidly easy, that I have to insist that you give it a go. If you can’t be bothered, julienne carrots are fine, but it’s really worth the extra step. Promise.

Kitchen mixed tapes

I had the great joy of taking Frankie (if you’re new here – that’s my dad. Say hello!) to see Sound City recently. *side note: If you haven’t seen it – do so. Immediately. Awesomeness abound.

My dad lights up like a Christmas tree when you get him talking about his favourite music. The records he owned, the memories they trigger, the people he saw in concert. He tells a great story of getting to see Eric Clapton in concert in the midst of his downward spiral – Clapton was so wasted he could barely keep himself on his stool and play. He’s ok now, folks, don’t worry.

But of course, those stories aren’t exclusive to Frankie. The magic of music on the whole is that we all have these stories. Our own personal soundtracks, mixed tapes, whatever.

So, in the interest of sharing (and you giving me your recommendations so I can fill up my iPod), here are some of mine. Feel free to judge me, I don’t mind. I brought this upon myself.

The song that my dad taught me the words to as a little kid: Bad Medicine
The song I like to dance in my kitchen to: The Time is Now
The song I like to drive to when I’m roadtripping: Babylon. Or Thriftshop. Or possibly Run the World. Sometimes Horses.
The song I like to drive to on a Monday when I’m running late: Smells Like Teen Spirit
The song I like to play at late at night: About Today
The song that makes me want to dance in a manner that embarrasses everyone else around me: Chelsea Dagger (no, seriously. Don’t be seen with me in public)

What does all of that have to do with anything? Well, there’s nothing that brings people together like music. Except for food. The two common denominators for humanity; things that are good for the soul, that feed you.

See? Segue!

I loved this recipe, because it’s burgers but not as you know them. Vegetables! Which makes it good for you, right?! Also, it’s a massive, fresh flavour without much work. They do make great burgers, but I also ate leftovers with rice the next day (where I swear it tasted even better).

Ginger Pork Burger

From Food Republic

1 pound pork sirloin
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely grated yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely grated apple, skin on
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 ounces mushrooms, stems removed
1 small carrot, peeled
2 spring onions, green part only
1/2 small head lettuce
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
6 Hamburger buns

1.Thinly slice the pork against the grain. Mix together the Worcestershire sauce, honey, onion, apple, ginger, garlic, salt and sesame oil in a large bowl. Throw in the pork, turn to coat and set aside for at least 20 minutes to marinate.

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2. Thinly slice the mushrooms, spring onions and lettuce into strips. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into long ribbons.

3. In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the pork (but not the marinade – but don’t throw it out) in a single layer and cook until golden, turning a couple of times. Transfer the pork to a plate. Add the carrot and mushrooms to the pan, and cook until slightly wilted. Return the pork to the pan, and add the marinade. Turn up the heat to high, and cook until the sauce thickens and coats everything. If you’re using the sesame seeds, add them now, and stir.

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4. Gently toast the buns. Divide the pork lettuce and spring onions between the buns.

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Grating the ginger/apple/garlic is fantastic because it’s on utensil (less dishes is good, remember?).
Grating the ginger/apple/garlic is awful, because I have a pathalogical fear of mandolins/peelers/graters because I hurt myself.
That’s right. I grated my nuckle while making this. But don’t worry, dinner was a flesh free affair. But it bloody hurt. Because ginger and garlic are not open wound friendly.

Let that be a lesson to y’all.

The one where I do something I didn’t want to.

I am a bitter disappointment to my parents.

I know! Who would be upset with a daughter who’s prone to accidental arson? But when you have parents who are excellent fisherpeople like I do, my aversion to seafood is… Regrettable.

Have you ever been squidding? It’s possibly the funniest activity under the sun that doesn’t include a bouncy castle. There is nothing more hilarious than the Russian Roulette of copping ink in the face.

There’s also the pure relaxation of a day spent cruising around on the open water, reeling in whatever is biting. So when my folks bring home their catch of the day, I’m not usually interested. On the bright side, more for them! No, seriously. That’s my mother’s mantra. There’s usually a sigh involved.

However, in the interest of eating better,I’m forcing myself to like things I wouldn’t normally. I’m learning to love fish. Salmon, to be precise. Asian flavours are a great way to mask that fish taste, if it’s not your thing. It is, of course, recommended that you buy the freshest fish you can. Make friends with your local fishmonger, they will provide you with the best, sustainably caught produce. Or catch your own! Wheeeee!

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This is a great weeknight meal, quick and so easy to throw together. While the fish marinades, you cook the rice, while the greens blanch, heat the sauce. Done, dusted with less than 30 minutes real cooking.

Booyah.

Miso-Ginger Marinated Salmon

From Serious Eats

1/4 cup miso (I used the instant packets)
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced spring onions
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl, then add the salmon and turn to coat. Marinate for half an hour, turning occasionally.

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In a frypan over medium heat, cook the salmon for 3 or 4 minutes each side. The sugar in the mirin will blacken a little bit, but its good. Trust me.

Restaurant-style Chinese Greens with Oyster Sauce

From Rasa Malaysia

Your favorite Chinese greens (I used bok choy and broccolini)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes of white pepper powder

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add a couple of drops of oil to the water. Add the vegetables to the water and blanch for only 20 – 30 seconds, you only want them to wilt slightly. Place them on kitchen paper to drain and then place on a serving plate.

In a wok or saucepan, heat the oil and then add the sugar, oyster sauce, water and pepper. Mix well, then  pour over the vegetables and serve immediately.

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The sauce for the greens? So. Effing. Good. I just had ground black pepper (the powdered stuff that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole) in the cupboard, so I used a couple of dashes of that instead of the white pepper used in the recipe.

I would have happily drunk it with a spoon. It’s brilliant.

Tastes like home

What food did you love growing up?

I was always really jealous of the kids around me who came from different backgrounds. I grew up surrounded by Italians (I believed their pigeons were pets – silly me!), my friends were Thai, Serbian, English and Indian. They had family trips back to ‘The Home Country’, interesting relatives in return. They had special days off to celebrate holidays and festivals.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I’m painfully Australian. I got zip, zilch, nada of these fun things. All those fun foods? I didn’t get those either.  But, before you start playing the tiny violins for me, don’t worry. The flavours I grew up loving were a little less traditional Australian, but good none the less.

I loved the sweet and salty balance of char siu sauce, usually used to marinate chicken skewers for barbecues. I’d plead with mum to make them for me whenever she could. The second they came off the grill, there I was, getting in the way of anyone who dared thought they could have one. They were my precioussssssss.

The marinade is traditionally paired with pork, and makes these gorgeous organic pork ribs amazing. You should get some. Really.

Char Siu Pork Ribs

From Not Quite Nigella

Ingredients:

300g Pork Ribs
4 tablespoons of Lee Kum Kee Char Siu sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
3-4 garlic cloves chopped
4 tablespoons honey

1) Mix together char siu, salt, sugar and garlic in a ziploc bag. Add the ribs to the bag, and carefully smush the marinade around the ribs to coat. Marinate overnight if you have time, or for at least an hour.

2) Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Bring the ribs to room temperature. Put the ribs on a rack over a baking tray of water. Cook for 30 minutes, turning halfway.

3) Increase the temperature of the oven to 200c. With a pastry brush, baste one side of the pork with the honey, cooking for 5 minutes, then turn over baste other side with more honey and cook for a further 5 minutes.

4) Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve with steamed rice and Asian greens.

I went to Malaysia.

Last year, I was very lucky to experience Malaysia with my awesome mum, for my quarter life crisis birthday.
Turns out, I hadn’t taken any more than a couple of days off at a time, let alone gone on holiday in over two years. It was two weeks of mum and I taking naps, drinking Pimms, G&Ts, reading books, sleeping through dinner and generally doing SFA. Glorious.
The only thing I was looking forward to most (naps and books aside) was eating. Malaysia is a food mecca. A mix of cultures heavily influenced by the Indian and Chinese. It’s also delicious.

Somewhat luckily, we arrived during the holiday of Ramadan, where there is no eating by the local Muslim population between sunrise and sunset. It’s also a time where the Muslim population ‘go home’, where ever that may be, leaving the restaurants empty. More for meeeeeee!
After a hard day’s shopping/napping/visiting bird parks/visiting butterfly parks, we’d hit a local bar for a Sundowner and then dinner.

What very quickly became our favourite dish was something called Lor Bak. Imagine something akin to a spring roll, but rather than the relative thickness of a spring roll wrapper, imagine pork wrapped in delicate tissue paper, and then fried. The contrasting textures of crunchy outside and delicate pork inside makes for a truly gorgeous feast for the senses.

When this recipe appeared in SBS Feast magazine, I was straight on the phone to mum, excited for the opportunity to recreate something we both enjoyed so much. It was also the first time mum and I had really cooked together. I was really excited to a) learn from her and b) be able to play in A Real Kitchen.
Even more exciting, was that she only rolled her eyes at me once! That’s a new record for me, huzzah!

Now this is a dish that requires a little work. It requires bean curd wrappers, readily available from Asian grocers. Be warned, its honestly like working with tissue paper, delicate and easy to tear. Neither mum or I had worked with them before, so it was a fun learning curve.
Also, look out for the white tendons attached to pork fillet. It’s tough and fibrous; and a bitch to chew. Ask your butcher to remove them, or you can do it yourself.

Fried pork rolls in bean curd skin (Lor Bak)

Adapted from SBS Feast Magazine

1kg pork fillet, trimmed
225g can water chestnuts, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, white part only, finely chopped
2 tbs Chinese five spice powder
1 tbs caster sugar
50g tapioca flour (from Asian food shops)
2 eggs, beaten
35g plain flour
50g packet Malaysian dried bean curd sheet (from Asian food shops)

1) Slice pork into 10cm bits. Place in a bowl with water chestnuts, garlic, onions, leeks, five-spice, sugar, tapioca flour, eggs and 1/2 tap salt . Mix well.

2) Place plain flour and 60ml water into a small bowl and whisk into thick a batter.

3) Dip bean curd sheets into a tray of hot water for no more than 5 seconds, then carefully (really carefully) unfold onto a large work surface (if you’ve ever made sausages, it looks similar to flat casings). Cut into 15cm x 20cm squares. Repeat until you have 10.

4) Divide pork mix between wrappers, placing mix at one end. Leave a 2cm border from the sides and bottom. Brush the border with the batter, and roll up; folding the sides as you go. Seal the end to the roll with more batter. For tips on rolling the lor bak, check out these here

5) Fill a large wok (or a deep fryer, if you have one), one-third full with oil and heat until 170*c. Working in batches so not to overcrowd the wok, fry rolls for 4 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. They can be sliced on the diagonal for serving with dipping sauce. Serve hot.

They were served with slow roasted Balinese style duck and wok-fried Asian greens.
Yeah, I love dinner at mum’s. I’m spoilt, and I’m ok with that.

Fasian. It’s totally a word.

I love Asian food. With all it’s complexities, delicate balance of flavours and textures, it’s a truly remarkable and varied cuisine.
I equally love, however, Asian food that isn’t really Asian food. You know, the stuff that if you know anything about real Asian food, is kind of a guilty pleasure, because you know you’re secretly being judged if you order it in a restaurant. Lemon chicken. Sweet and sour pork. All that really good stuff, that’s really bad. Omnomnom.

Well, today, that was exactly what I wanted. Fasian food, in all it’s fake Asian glory.
I found a recipe for General Tso’s chicken. I figured, why not?
Legend has it, that this was General Tso’s (a Chinese military leader and statesman in the 1800’s) favourite dish.
This is a load of bollocks. It was probably introduced to the Americans in the 70’s.  But, living to my motto of “if it tastes good, eat it”, historical inaccuracies don’t have too much impact on my appetite.

This recipe teaches a nifty little technique championed by the Japanese, shallow frying the chicken until crispy, and then seasoning in a flavoured liquid. The meat loses a little of its crispiness in this process, but it absorbs all these amazing flavours instead, so everybody wins.

General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Kokocooks

Sauce:
½ c hoisin sauce
¼ c white vinegar
3 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs cornflour
1 ½ c water
1 Tbs vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Coating and frying

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large eggs
1 ½ c flour

Vegetable oil for frying
2 green onions, green parts thinly sliced
Sesame seeds
To make the sauce, whisk together the hoisin sauce, white vinegar, soy sauce, cornflour, and water in a bowl. Set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the hoisin mixture. Stir until the sauce is dark brown and has thickened. Remove from heat and cover.

Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks. Whisk the egg in a shallow dish. Season flour in a separate shallow dish with salt and pepper, if desired. Toss half the chicken into the egg until well coated, and then dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making all sides are coated. Transfer chicken to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.


Heat oil in a fryer or a large wok. Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through cooking. Transfer cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Re-warm the sauce over medium heat until bubbling. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Garnish with sliced green onions. Serve with rice/noodles.

It’s perfect in it’s crispy/salty/saucy/fasian goodness.

Dericious.