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.

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Baked happiness

Here’s the thing with this time of year. It’s cold (duh), wet (sometimes) and turns me into a bed dwelling house cat. Given that I’m generally opposed to exercise and anything resembling health food, I like my winter dinners to be a little… Indulgent.

This recipe serves two, and it took great restraint on my part not to eat the whole dish in one sitting. Seriously, I’m proud of myself as I get gently reminded regularly when faced with too much food that I actually don’t have to eat it all. I don’t really understand the point of that. It’s there, OF COURSE I have to eat it.

I know risotto is the dish of death on MasterChef, but to me it’s the dish of life. It’s good for the soul, it’s good for warming the body, and, if you throw in some roasted vegetables, maybe just a little bit good for you too. Roast whatever vege is in the fridge – it’s a great way to use up any leftovers. I had pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and capsicum, plus some spinach. ALWAYS add garlic, as the roasting process makes it sweeter, and at the same time a slightly salty taste that I can only describe as awesome. after that, it’s up to you.

I love the idea of Meat-Free Monday, and this is a quick, really easy weeknight meal which is about as effortless-yet-impressive-looking as you can get. Fact.

Roast Vegetable Baked Risotto

From Epicurious

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion or leek, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine (use more stock if you have none)
2 to 2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 tsp salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter
A handful of washed spinach
Vegetables. Whatever you want, as much as you want. Just dice them small for even roasting. If you need a recipe for that, check here

1) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the vegetables in a roasting tray on the top rack of the oven.

2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion/leek and garlic and cook, stirring, until it is soft.

3) Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated, 1 minute more. Stir in 2 cups of stock water, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Place the rice in a oven proof dish, cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake on the bottom rack during the last 25 minutes of roasting time for the veggies. Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the rice just cooked.

4) Remove the risotto from the oven and stir in another 1/2 cup of stock and butter.

Stir through the spinach until wilted. Serve topped with roasted vegetables and parmesan.

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.

A time for fuss. And probably wine.

There are nights where it’s completely acceptable to sit on the couch and eat baked bean jaffles. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, there are also times where you need to pull out the big guns.
A date, perhaps.
Meeting in-laws.
Rewarding someone.
Birthdays.
Just generally trying to show off.

All of these are completely legit reasons to bust some serious moves in the kitchen. And do you know what the solution is to your food dilemmas?
Risotto.
Nonononono, don’t be scared away, stay with me here!

I love risotto, but had always put it firmly in the too hard basket. I thought it was complicated. Let me tell you now, that there’s a difference between ‘hard’ and ‘takes time’. This is in no way hard, but trust me, it’s worth every minute.

I’m not a big one for making the same dish twice, I buy faaaar too many cooking magazines for that. I made this a little while ago and I loved it so much, that when I promised dinner to my favourite cousin and his gorgeous girlfriend, I knew this was going to be on the menu.

The recipe is simple, with few ingredients. Buy good brie, fresh mixed mushrooms (I like oyster and enoki – get them from The Herdsman or good grocers) and you have yourself one hell of a flavour punch.

This recipe is gluten-free, and, if you leave out the chicken, vegetarian, making it a great one to have in the reserves.
It’s rich, silky, indulgent. Buttery mushrooms, creamy rice, fragrant rosemary, the bite of brie. It’s beautiful, truly delicious and highly impressive.

Hell, if you made me this, I’d go out with you.

Creamy Brie, Mushroom & Chicken Risotto

Adapted from Delicious Magazine

Ingredients
1 tbs olive oil
60g unslted butter
2 leeks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 skinless chicken thighs, diced
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, plus extra to serve
1 1/3 cups arborio rice
100ml white wine
3 cups gluten-free vegetable stock (chicken works too)
100 ml pure (thin) cream
300g assorted mushrooms
150g brie, roughly torn

1. Place  oil and half the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Cook leek, garlic, chicken and half the rosemary, stirring, for 6-8 minutes, until the leek is soft. Add rice, stirring to coat all the grains.

2. Add wine and simmer for a minute or two, or until almost evaporated. Stir in stock, a ladleful at a time, allowing each to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 20 minutes or until al dente (you may not need all the stock). Stir in the cream, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until warmed through.

3. In another pan, melt the remaining 30g of butter over high heat. Cook mushrooms and remaining rosemary for 6-8 minutes or until mushrooms are golden. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve risotto immediately, topped with mushrooms, torn brie and additional rosemary leaves.

A word of warning about cooking risottos, however. I’m going to assume that you have to buy  bottle of wine to cook with, because, lets be honest, who has wine left over? The ladling schedule is pretty much perfect timing for polishing off the rest of the bottle.
If you’re trying to impress someone, this may not end well for you.
Just sayin’.