It Just Has To Be Delicious

I don’t have junk food very often, and when I do I am always a bit disappointed. It really is quite easy to make at home and tastes much better, and you know what goes into it – there are no nasty chemicals or preservatives. I have always wondered what the secret herbs and spices are in KFC, and I set about attempting to make the best home-made fried chicken.

This is the recipe that I came up with and it was really really good – I would have liked a bit of chilli, so I have added chilli as an optional ingredient. You can use either whole pieces of chicken leg, thighs, wings or breast, or you can make nugget sized pieces. If you want to minimise the frying time, you can always poach the chicken in advance (poach it in a nice flavoursome stock), and then you just need to fry it until the batter is nicely brown.

Homemade Nuggets

Homemade Nuggets

This is enough batter to coat nuggets from 2 large chicken breasts – will serve 3 or 4 as a main course:

Half a cup of chickpea flour

1 cup of self raising flour

1 teaspoon of garlic salt

1 teaspoon of onion salt

1 teaspoon of powdered onion flakes

Half to 1 teaspoon of chilli or curry powder (optional – for the heat lovers)

1 1/2 tablespoons of caster sugar

Half a teaspoon of ground pepper

Half a teaspoon of smoky paprika

Half a teaspoon of cumin

Half a teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of sage

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 teaspoon of ginger powder or grated fresh ginger

With the herbs you can use fresh or concentrate if you don’t have dried.

Method:

1. Mix all of the above ingredients together in a bowl.

2. Add 200mls of water (you can use cold soda water if you want a lighter batter). Mix well. The batter will be quite thick and gloopy – this is good as it will stick nicely to the chicken. It should be a thick dropping consistency so if you lift your spoon up it will slowly slide off the spoon. If it doesn’t slide at all, add a little more water.

3. Chop your chicken (raw or pre-poached) into the desired portion sizes.

4. Coat with batter.

5. Fry in approx 1-2 inches of hot oil – time depends on the size of the pieces. My nuggets took about 4-5 minutes. Turn frequently so that they cook evenly.

Serve with anything you like – I like the following options:

  • salad
  • corn
  • peas
  • home made potato wedge
  • fresh mayonnaise
  • tomato sauce
  • chilli mayo

See my recipe for super quick mayo

Tuck Shop Cafe on Urbanspoon

I finally tried the Tuck Shop Cafe for brunch last week. I have heard a lot about this place and decided to see what the buzz was about.

When we got there, we had to wait in line for a table, but the waitresses were lovely and found us somewhere to sit within 15 minutes.

The menu has something for everybody, including breakfast dishes, pancakes, nasi goreng, cheese kransky, meatballs, and salmon. Every dish was described beautifully and I wanted to try them all. There is also a chalkboard with daily specials, and I chose a date, banana, honey and cinnamon smoothie from the specials board.

smoothie

My partner had coffee – which was Toby’s estate. This was nice coffee, but not the best in Perth.

For my meal I chose the chorizo with paprika potatoes, peppers, spanish onions and crispy pork belly with fried egg. This was absolutely delicious – and very filling.

chorizo meal

My partner chose the beans with ham hock, parmesan toast and fried egg. There were some home made onion rings on top. This dish was extremely tasty.

Beans, ham hock, parmesan toast

The cafe also has a nice range of cakes. We chose a brownie and a strawberry lamington for afternoon tea at home. They were very nice.

I will definitely return to the Tuck Shop Cafe – I am keen to try the other offerings on the menu. Based on the brunch that I had last week, I can see what the hype is about. The Tuck Shop cafe is one of the best cafes in Perth.

Bluewaters Cottesloe on Urbanspoon

I went to Bluewaters on Sunday for a lunchtime meal. The restaurant is in a beautiful setting, just across the road from the beach on Marine Parade. As you dine you can see the ocean and the views to Rottnest through the window. However the interior does look a little tired and in need of refurbishment.

The waiter was very friendly and efficient and explained the specials to us. The menu consists of small or large share plates and then ‘main’ dishes which are not intended for sharing. All of the specials were main dishes e.g. red emperor, swordfish, prawn and scallop linguine.

We chose some small and large share plates.

Iced Tea Mojito

Iced Tea Mojito

My iced tea mojito was really really nice, lots of flavour and very refreshing.

Ciabatta and baba ghanoush

Ciabatta and baba ghanoush

Ciabatta and hummus

Ciabatta and hummus

The first dish up was ciabatta served with hummus and baba ghanoush. Both dips were yummy and full flavoured – a lovely combination.

Polenta chips

Polenta chips

The polenta chips were nicely crisp and served with a tomato salsa, but they could have done with a sprinkle of parmesan or spice mix to add a bit more flavour.

Beef short rib

Beef short rib

The beef short rib was beautifully cooked. The meat fell apart and was succulent. My only criticism would be that the meat was quite thick and not all of it had been coated in sauce. The parts of meat that were not in the sauce tasted a little bland and could have been seasoned more.

Qunioa salad

Quinoa salad

The quinoa salad looked very nice and contained zucchini and tomato, but I found it a little bland.

Crispy pork belly

Crispy pork belly

The pork was the star of the selection. Served with thai chilli jam, it was nicely seasoned, the crackling was lovely and crunchy and each mouthful was a delight.

We would have eaten dessert but we were too full after all of the plates. I had read previous reviews that criticised the portion sizes, but I thought they were quite generous. Everything was well presented and nicely cooked, I just thought that some dishes needed a little extra seasoning.

I will visit Bluewaters again when I am in Cottesloe – it is a very nice restaurant and has the potential to be a great restaurant.

 

Kinky Lizard Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

I had passed Kinky Lizard several times before when going to The Royal in East Perth, but I hadn’t eaten there until last Saturday when I decided to pop in for brunch. Wow what a lovely meal – I will certainly be returning.

The cafe has an alfresco area and tables inside as well. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable.

The coffees were excellent, full flavoured, rich and tasty with no bitterness.

My companion had a full breakfast :

Full Breakfast

Full Breakfast

The wholemeal toast was made from a quality loaf of bread, not made soggy by the poached eggs (so many cafes do not drain their poached eggs properly). The eggs were perfectly cooked with a nice soft yolk. There was plenty of bacon, nice chorizos, flavoursome mushrooms and sweet tomatoes. One of the yummiest brekkies in a long while.

I chose bacon rosti :

Bacon Rosti

Bacon Rosti

This was served with fresh tasty avocado, sweet tomatoes, rocket, and a poached egg with hollandaise. A lovely combination of beautiful ingredients which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This is a fairly short review because I didn’t go to this cafe expecting to write a review, however it was such a lovely meal that I couldn’t let the experience pass by without recommending it.

I will definitely be venturing to East Perth again for a walk by the river and brunch at Kinky Lizard.

The Butterworth Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I arrived at the Butterworth with high hopes – I had seen a sample menu and liked the idea of tapas style smaller plates, larger plates and delicious desserts. It is located in Exchange Plaza, just off Esplanade in central Perth. The overall look is modern with a large bar area and tables located in a quieter darker area of the restaurant. We were seated at a lovely table by the window.

The waitress left us with two menus on the table. When I looked, one was a wine list and the other was an alcoholic beer/spirits list. Neither of us intended to drink so I asked for a non-alcoholic drinks list. I was greeted with a touch of ridicule from the waitress who said that they do not have a non-alcoholic drinks list – if I wanted a soft drink I could have the ‘usual’, or I could have a mocktail. Liking the idea of a mocktail, I asked what mocktails were available, and she responded by saying that I would have to tell her the ingredients and the bartender would make it up. This just annoyed me from the start – every restaurant is different – what is ‘the usual’ where soft drinks are concerned ? Did she mean diet coke, coke, lemonade ? Did they have juices ? Were the juices fresh or bottled ? Did they have coconut water (my current favourite) ? Did they have iced coffee, tea, milkshakes ? I enjoy seeing a choice of mocktails, so that I can choose them with the same relish that I would choose an alcoholic cocktail. Once she realised that we did not want alcohol, she took the menus away and didn’t return. Another waiter appeared a while later with food menus and we decided to stick with table water.

The main dishes on the menu were fairly traditional – two fish dishes, a steak, veal shank, lamb and duck. There were also some pasta dishes. We chose to stick to sharing plates and selected Bread with Bacon Jam,  Beef sliders, Chicken liver parfait, Chicken wings, Pork Belly with pear chutney and house salad.

Then we waited…and waited…and waited….other guests turned up and got served before us, and still no food came – the wait staff were elusive and despite a few attempts to attract their attention, they did not look in our direction. After 50 minutes I decided to get up and go and find somebody, when the food miraculously appeared – all of it – all together. Now I don’t know about you but for me one of the joys of tapas is the constant stream of little dishes that you can graze on and digest, whiling away the evening. If the dishes all turn up together then the effect is not quite the same. The waitress crammed them all on the table – “There we go – great” she said.

Okay so I was pretty fed up by this point and ravenously hungry, but the food looked nice, so I was ready to forget all the previous annoyances and tuck into a nice meal.

First I tried the Bread with Bacon Jam:

Grilled bread with Bacon Jam

Grilled bread with Bacon Jam

The bread was nice and crusty, but the jam…I didn’t get the bacon – it just tasted sweet, maybe a little oniony (if that is a word), but bacony – no. It wasn’t unpleasant but it wasn’t anything that made me go ‘wow’ either. So next I tried the pork belly:

Pork Belly Pear Chutney

Pork Belly Pear Chutney

Well it looked very nice – a good sized chunk of pork belly with crackling and chutney, however what it really needed was another hour in the oven. It was a bit tough – I am used to pork belly falling apart when you cut into it – I had to vigorously ‘saw’ this into serving pieces, and the flavour was good, but it just needed longer to cook. The crackling was nice, the chutney was quite cloyingly sweet.

Pulled beef slider, pickled cabbage

Pulled beef slider, pickled cabbage

The beef sliders weren’t bad. I kind of expected more though. If you are going to ‘chef up’ a burger it has to taste divine, and these were just average and in need of some seasoning or another element to lift them – maybe some horseradish would have done the trick.

Chicken Liver Parfait

Chicken Liver Parfait

I was really looking forward to sampling the parfait – one of my personal favourites. You can’t see it in the photo, but this came with a heap of salt on the board. I soon found out why. It wasn’t seasoned – it was bland, soft and luscious, but bland. The first time I have ever had to season my own parfait – how disappointing.

House salad

House salad

The house salad was boring. It consisted of a mixture of leaves, a thin slice of radish, a few thin slices of apple, and chick peas. It wasn’t dressed with anything and it wasn’t seasoned.

Chicken wings

Chicken wings

.Finally the highlight of the meal was the dish of chicken wings. The chilli sauce was quite hot so not something that you would smother them in unless you had asbestos lips, but the coating on the wings was tasty and I enjoyed them.

So there we are. I chose not to order dessert. Although the choices looked nice and included salted caramel mousse with peanut dacquoise, I thought that if the chef can’t dress a salad, then the desserts won’t be up to much.

We left feeling overwhelmingly disappointed. Maybe if you go there and drink lots of alcohol (as they seem to presume you shall), then perhaps you lose sight of how distinctly average the food is.

 

 

Rasa Enak on Urbanspoon

This is a relatively new cafe style restaurant in the shopping complex on Coolibah Drive, Greenwood, pretty close to the Farmer Jack’s, so there is quite a large car park with plenty of room.

It’s a nice cosy cafe, clean and nicely decorated and although the menu has some pan-asian dishes it is predominantly Malaysian.

We chose our favourite starter – Loh Bak – pork, carrot, water chestnuts and spices wrapped in a bean curd skin and steamed then deep fried. It was crispy, meaty and delicious, nicely seasoned too and served with a sweet chilli dip.

Loh Bak

Loh Bak

For main course we chose to share char kway teow, beef malay curry and rice.

Beef Malay Curry

Beef Malay Curry

Rice

Rice

Char Kway Teow

Char Kway Teow

The char kway teow was delicious – nicely spiced as requested with a medium amount of chilli, chinese sausage, prawns, sliced fish balls – a really nice authentic version. The beef curry was thick and tasty with chunks of roast potato (a nice change to the regular boiled potato), and it had a spicy kick to it. The portions were a generous size and perfect for two to share and good value at $36 all in.

I would love to try a lot of the other dishes on the menu, in particular the fish head curry and the eggplant sambal.

In summary, great service, pleasant surroundings and tasty authentic food – I have a feeling this will be a regular cafe on my agenda.

Toffee Fruits

One of my fond memories of UK Chinese restaurants is the toffee fruit dessert served with ice cream. You can get it in Australia, but it’s not quite as common or popular as in the UK. Most restaurants serve toffee apple or toffee banana, but I have seen lychee before and theoretically you can do it with any firm fruit that can withstand deep frying. Pineapple and pear would probably also be good options.

The recipe is not the easiest thing to do at first, but once you work it out, the results are so worth it. My first attempt does look a bit clumsy and messy, but the guests loved them. Now I know what to do, next time the presentation will be better.

Toffee Fruits

You can prepare and deep fry the fruits in advance to save time. The batter is enough to coat two apples, a banana and a  can of lychees, it is fairly thick and made up of:

100g plain flour

1 large egg – beaten

1 tablespoon of peanut (groundnut) or corn oil

120 ml water

I used a large high sided frypan to fry my fruits but you can also use a wok, saucepan or deep fat fryer.

To prepare the fruits:

Apples – peel and core the apple then cut into 8 wedges

Lychees – peel and stone fresh lychees, for canned lychees, drain them well (make sure there is no liquid in the centre) and pat them dry with kitchen paper.

Bananas – cut them into chunks – I used zig zag cuts along the length of the banana.

Coat the fruits in batter and deep fry them in an unflavoured oil e.g. corn oil or peanut (groundnut) oil. Make sure that the fruit is fully coated with batter – a thicker batter helps with this. Fry the apple and banana for about 4-5 minutes turning frequently until the batter is a light golden brown. The lychees take a bit less time. Drain them on kicthen paper to keep them as crispy as possible.

If you are not serving them straight away – once all of the pieces have been fried, allow the oil to cool, sieve it to get rid of any debris, and keep the oil for the second frying.

When you are almost ready to serve re-fry the fruit pieces in the hot oil for just a minute to warm them up and get them crispy again.

Now the tricky bit, have a bowl of iced water ready and some sesame seeds handy.

In a wok or saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of groundnut or corn oil. Add 9 tablespoons of white caster sugar and dissolve it in the oil over the heat. It may take on a strange appearance and look like white lumps, but persevere – keep stirring all the time and don’t overheat it. When it is ready it will turn a pale golden brown. Quickly coat the fruit pieces in the caramel, remember as you put the fruit into the caramel it will start to cool, so work quickly, then drop each piece into the iced water which will immediately set the caramel and then place the pieces on a serving plate.

Tips – if you are using a spoon to transfer your fruit from the caramel to the ice water, don’t let the spoon touch the ice water or your toffee fruit will stick to the spoon. Warm your spoon(s) first so that you are not dipping cold spoons into warm caramel. The Chinese use chopsticks to do this – so if you are a dab hand with chopsticks…maybe try them.

I am not quite sure if it is best to add the sesame seeds to the caramel  while the fruits are being coated, or afterwards when they are on the plate. I think that they stick better if you add them to the caramel.

I placed my platter on the table and everybody just used their fingers to serve the fruits straight to the mouth – it was a lovely communal food moment. They are delicious with vanilla ice cream. As you can see from my picture, some of my lychees popped out of their batter coating. I think this was because they were not 100% covered in batter, so next time I will make sure that they are fully coated.

 

 

Chinese restaurants offer various varieties of spare ribs. Barbecue ribs seem to be the most popular, but you can also get the drier spiced salt ribs, ribs in plum sauce, or Peking spare ribs (sometimes called King Do). In restaurants the Peking ribs are usually coated in an orangey-brown sticky sauce and have a unique flavour of sweet and sour richness with a warm spicy background.

Peking spare ribs

The recipe for the ribs is fairly straightforward, but you need to plan ahead because they take a lot of marinating and cooking time. Whether you buy beef or pork ribs, get the best quality you can with a nice amount of meat on them.

Quantity – I served two racks of ribs between 6 people as an interim course between starter and main. It looked like quite a lot of ribs and was a large serving, but they all disappeared fairly quickly. If your ribs are long you can chop them in half with a meat cleaver to get extra portions. As a starter you should probably allow 2-3 ribs per person.

Wash your ribs before marinating, pat them dry with kitchen paper, and divide them up so that they are easier to manage.

Marinade recipe (enough for two racks):

250mls vegetable stock (either from stock cubes, powder, a carton or freshly made)

5 tablespoons of brown sugar

half a teaspoon of five spice powder

4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger

4 tablespoons of light soy sauce

2 cups of tomato ketchup (I used Heinz)

2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar

60-80mls red wine (optional)

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and marinate the ribs  for at least 24 hours, I marinated mine for 2 days in the fridge, the bowl covered with cling wrap.

The next stage is to boil them. You don’t have to do this but it really makes them tender, so I definitely advise it. Pour the ribs and marinade into a large covered saucepan and bring them to the boil, then simmer them for 15-20 minutes.

Next prepare a large baking tray – for ease of cleaning I lined mine with foil and then placed baking parchment on top of the foil – this avoids the result of gooey bakeware which needs soaking to remove the sticky residue.

Place the ribs in the tray, make sure that each one is coated with marinade but not swimming in it. Loosely cover the tray with foil and roast in a preheated oven at 180-190 deg C for 70-90 minutes. The longer you cook them the more tender they will be. The meat should fall away from the bone quite easily.

Add honey to the remaining marinade (I added about 6 tablespoons) and baste them with fresh marinade about every 15 minutes during roasting. You can remove the foil cover 15 mins before the end of cooking. Once they are done, you may wish to garnish them with sesame seeds and chopped spring onion before serving.

Serve with good wine and good company.

Home made dukkah

Dukkah

Dukkah

Dukkah or Duqqa is a Middle-eastern dish which is a mixture of nuts, spices and herbs. It is quite versatile – I made mine to serve as a starter with bread. To use it this way, you serve some fresh crusty bread of your choice, a dish of olive oil with some balsamic vinegar added, then you tear off a piece of bread, dip it in the oil/balsamic and then dip it in the dukkah so that the dukkah mixture sticks to the bread. You can also dip fresh veggies in the same way. Dukkah can also be used as a crust for fish or chicken that you are going to oven bake or pan fry. This recipe makes quite a large quantity, so adjust the quantities to suit your needs. this quantity will easily serve 8 people if you are implementing the bread/oil starter idea, and you still might have some left over to use as a crust for a midweek meal.

There are a lot of variations, the following is the version that I made, but you can use different varieties of nuts, herbs and spices to get different flavour combinations.

You don’t have to fry and toast the ingredients, but it really makes the end result more flavoursome if you make the effort.

This is what I did:

1. I heated the oven to 180 deg C. I put 120g of hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toasted them for about 5 minutes, shaking them regularly. Don’t burn them. When you take them out they should smell nice, as if the flavours are being released. I then whizzed up the nuts in a food processor so that they were a nice biscuit crumb consistency, and placed them in a large bowl.

2. I dry fried 80g of sesame seeds in a heavy based pan for 2 minutes, shaking them around as they heated. I then added them to the hazelnuts.

3. I dry fried 2 tablespoons each of coriander and cumin seeds in the same pan for 1-2 minutes until the aroma was released. I then ground them up in my spice grinder and added them to the bowl.

4. I added a further tablespoon of smoky paprika, a dash of chilli and a tablespoon of mixed dried herbs, along with approx 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

5. I mixed it thoroughly, and then tasted the mixture, adjusting the salt and pepper to taste.

Variation ideas are detailed below – you can have fun making the mixture that suits your tastes:

Nuts you can use include pine nuts, brazils, macadamias, almonds, pistachios, cashews. You can also add chilli, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, thyme, mint, oregano etc.

 

Crayfish Fettuccine

Crayfish Fettuccine

This is quite a nice dish to make for supper at the weekend if you want something that tastes divine but isn’t too heavy. You don’t have to use crayfish, you can use any seafood – scallops, prawns, firm white fish or even chicken/bacon if you are not a fish lover. I bought a pre-cooked cray, but if you want to ensure freshness it is better to cook it from raw if you can bear to kill a live one.

Crayfish meat

Crayfish meat

An average cray provides enough meat for two, depending on how greedy you are. About 200g of meat per person should be a decent portion. I usually allow 100g of dry pasta per person. You don’t have to use fettuccine, you can use any pasta. If you want to bulk it out a bit, you can add some extra veggies – carrots, zucchini and mushrooms would all work well. If you prefer a creamier sauce you can add a dollop of plain yoghurt or thick cream to the finished sauce.

This recipe will serve two people – double up the quantities to serve four.

400-500g of cooked crayfish meat (or other seafood)

1 onion diced

1 tin of plum peeled tomatoes

2-3 ripe vine tomatoes quartered

1-2 anchovies chopped (optional)

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 chilli (any kind depending on your preference) finely sliced

3-4 chopped olives (optional)

2-3 chopped peppadew pickled peppers (optional)

Handful of fresh basil or a good squeeze of ‘basil in a tube’

seasonings – salt, pepper, dash of balsamic vinegar

1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large high sided frypan (or wok – it should be big enough to accommodate all of the sauce and cooked pasta).

2. Add the onions, garlic, anchovies, olives, peppers and chilli and cook until they start to soften, then add the tin of tomatoes.

3. While the sauce is reducing and cooking, boil a saucepan of water with a teaspoon of salt.

4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package instructions – usually 8 minutes roughly.

5. Taste the sauce and season with salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar (optional). Stir in the basil and fresh tomatoes.

6. Just before the pasta is cooked, add the crayfish meat to the sauce to warm it through. Meanwhile drain the pasta and add it to the pan.

7. Stir the pasta around so that it gets nicely coated with sauce. Serve in bowls with a nice rocket salad. I dressed my rocket salad with lemon/lime and olive oil, but you can add pine nuts and  shaved parmesan for a bit of extra flavour if you like.

 

 

 

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