Friday, June 14, 2013

The world through the eyes of Ping Lian Yeak

A beautiful interpretation Of Sydney's Opera House by artist Ping Lian Yeak (
I adore The Rocks in Sydney. Not only am I lucky enough to live nearby, it's

where I spend my work days. The history and stories ooze out of every sandstone block in the area. The atmosphere weighs heavily with whispers from the past that are itching to get into your psyche and ignite your imagination. I find the air electric - it may have something to do with the fact that I am a history nerd and it happens to be my line of work - but the ghosts of the past definitely linger through the dark, narrow alleyways and sandstone blocks that make up so many of the beautiful buildings in the area.

Weekends at The Rocks are abuzz with crowds flocking to weekend markets. We love to pop down for a walk and sticky-beak. It was during a recent visit that I came across a beautiful market stall run by Sarah,  mother of a young man called Ping Lian Yeak. Sarah sells his wonderful works of art and is more than happy to share the amazing story of her son's foray into the world of expression through art.
Sydney's Queen Victoria Building as seen through the eyes of
young artist, Ping Lian.

Born in Malaysia in 1993, Ping Lian was diagnosed with Autism at a very early age and as way of developing and strengthening his fine motor skills, was encouraged to trace pictures and colour them in. By the time he was 8 years of age, he had moved onto drawing and hasn't stopped since. I fell in love with so many of his works but bought the two prints pictured in this entry. I am a sucker for detail and the attention to detail in these prints is stunning. 

Ping Lian has been the subject of numerous documentaries and has featured in numerous books and his passion for drawing and painting continues to blossom. 

So if you are ever wondering how to spend either a Saturday or Sunday morning, make your way over to The Rocks Market and keep an eye out for Sarah and Ping Lian. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

San Choy Bow goodness

I cheated tonight. I was even going to lie to you and put up a recipe claiming that that was  I had used for tonight's dinner. But I didn't because I was too tired to write it all down and my husband threatened to expose my lies. So I will come clean. Tonight's dinner was not made from scratch. But it was super easy and apart from the sauce, it's all natural.

So what is it? I used the Asia@Home pack to make San Choy Bow. My kids love it and it literally only takes 15 minutes to make. You just need the kit, lettuce (I use cos but iceberg would work well too) and spring onions and you are ready to go. I gave them a delicious miso (yep, cheated on that one too) to start off with and then straight into the chicken mince although pork mince is as equally nice.

This is a great one for those nights when cooking isn't at the top of your priority list.

Have a great night everyone and stay tuned for the most delicious bolognese sauce ever - thanks to Bill and Toni of Bill and Toni's Italian Restaurant, Darlinghurst fame.

Here is a San Choy Bow recipe if you prefer to make it from scratch...
Pork San Choy Bow

Monday, June 3, 2013

Easy and delicious - homemade flour tortillas with pulled pork (carnitas)

One of the things I miss most from our years spent living in Los Angeles is the easy access to cheap and delicious Mexican food. We have had minimal luck finding authentic ('Californian') Mexican food since coming home 10 years ago so we decided it was up to us to try and re-create the flavours that we miss so much in our own home.

One of our favourite taco and burrito fillings is carnitas - braised or 'pulled' pork - tender, juicy and more-ish. So I attempted to make my own version of carnitas based on a braised pork ragu recipe I found in an old Donna Hay magazine. The result was quite literally, finger-licking good.

The recipe itself is easy - but takes about three hours to cook. The best thing about the ragu is that you can combine it with pasta, mash, couscous or rice. So just freeze any leftovers and pull out on a night when you are feeling too lazy/ tired to cook from scratch. Reheat, throw some gnocchi in a pot and you are good to go.

I have also included the recipe for home-made tortillas. Once you have tried these, you will never go back to the packaged ones. I love making food from scratch and knowing exactly what goes into the meals I prepare for my family.  Authentic, simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Carnitas/ Ragu

A pot that can be placed in the oven and used over a stove. If your pot can't do both, do as I do and prepare in a saucepan and then prior to placing in the oven, transfer the food into an oven-proof pot.
1 kg of pork roast or pork neck
plain flour to dust the pork with
2 tablespoons of olive oil
150 grams of chopped pancetta
1 medium-sized brown onion - chopped
2 carrots - peeled and chopped
2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups/ 500ml of red wine (don't forget to taste it just to ensure it tastes ok - that's my excuse)
2 cups/ 500ml chicken stock
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
6 sprigs of oregano
Patience (it will smell delicous and you will want to devour it almost immediately)

Preheat the oven to 180C.
I chopped up my roast into 4 portions. Dust the pork in flour and give it a good shake to remove any excess.
Add the oil to your pot and heat. Time to brown the pork so pop it in- should take about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Throw the pancetta into the pot and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook for about 7 minutes on medium heat.
Follow this with the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine (again, I just take a quick sip to ensure it's still ok) and cook for 3 minutes - don't forget to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any food that may be sticking to the bottom.
In goes the stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and oregano. Give it a good stir and return the pork to the pot.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and pop it into the oven for 2 hours.
Once the two hours are done, shred the pork using two forks, return it to the sauce and get ready for some lip-smacking goodness.



3 cups of plain flour
1 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of vegetable oil (I use Rice Bran Oil)
1 can Spray-On Oil (vegetable or olive)

Mix all of the ingredients together. 
Roll dough into a large ball. 
Pull off palm-sized balls of the dough and either push into a flat, thin circle in your hands or use a rolling pin to do it. The key is thin and round. It may take a few goes to get it right - it took me a couple but managed to master it surprisingly early. 

Spray a frying pan with olive oil (or vegetable oil)
Place tortilla on the pan and cook until the familiar brown spots start appearing on the tortilla. It shouldn't take long at all so keep an eye on them and make sure they don't over-cook.
I wrapped mine in aluminium foil to keep them warm whilst the others cooked.

You can make a simple salsa of chopped tomatoes, coriander and red onion to make it even more authentic. My kids love to throw in some lettuce and cheese to complete the soft-shelled tacos.

I hope you give this one a go - it really is delicious.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Delicious and healthy-ish Chia, Banana and Chocolate Muffins

I will begin by stating that baking and I are not a good mix. We are terrible together. Which is one of the reasons why I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after tasting these muffins which I (thankfully) successfully baked. With my own, bake-useless hands. Delicious - seriously so. They even bounced on the floor as opposed to my normal muffin attempts which just dented the floor when they fell. Success indeed.

I got the recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks - Chrissy Freer's Supergrains. As I have mentioned in past posts, I am on a mission to lift my family's diet to ultra-healthy levels and so I thought I would give it a go. I was a little hesitant - I assumed the recipes would be a bit meh (bland, tasteless, dull) but thankfully, I was completely wrong. Chrissy's recipes are not only ridiculously healthy but in my house, they are kid and husband friendly - the marker of true success.

This recipe can be tweaked to make it that little bit more healthy. Use wholemeal flour instead of normal flour - gluten-free if you have a gluten intolerance.  You can use fine brown sugar instead of caster sugar and you can always leave out the chocolate but seriously, why would you? Everyone deserves a bit of naughtiness every now and then. 

The chia seeds are fabulous in this recipe - they're a bit like poppy seeds but in my opinion, better. The reason? Apart from being delicious, they also happen to have the highest plant content of Omega 3 fatty acids and are very high in fibre. Throw in the fact that they are gluten-free and you have the triple whammy.

So treat yourself and enjoy Chrissy Freer's delicious Chia, Banana and Chocolate Muffins.

Preparation time: Approx 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes


2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
2 tablespoons of black chia seeds (yum)
1/2 cup (45g) of dessicated coconut
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
1 cup (240g) of mashed bananas
100g of melted and cooled unsalted butter
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
2/3 cup milk chocolate 'bits'
* I always try and use as many organic products as possible. Our local supermarkets have a great range of organic 'basics'. 

The 'How To'

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
Brush a muffin tin (12 hole) with melted butter to grease or line with paper cases.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the chia seeds, sugar and coconut. Mix with a wooden spoon before adding the melted butter, banana, and milk. Stir to combine but don't over-mix. If you have any chocolate bits left after no doubt nibbling on them along the way, pop them in and carefully fold into the mixture.

Divide the mixture into the muffin holes and bake for 20 minutes. Lick the spoon and the bowl. 

As tempting as it will be to stuff one straight into your mouth, set aside for 5 minutes to cool and then pop them onto a wire rack. 


Monday, May 20, 2013

My Faux Pho - Vietnamese Chicken Meatball & Noodle Soup

There's nothing like a delicious soup to warm the cockles of one's heart on a cold, wintry day. Pour in the garlic and ginger and you have an immunity-boosting bowl of goodness - as is the case with this fabulous version of Vietnam's much-loved pho (from Real Living Magazine).
My family can't get enough of this soup - so much so that I have to make double the recipe in order to satisfy their hunger pangs. Whilst not a gluten free recipe per se, you can swap the noodles for gluten-free ones and do the same with the stock. The rest is all natural goodness - you seriously can't go wrong. Unless of course you are a vegetarian - chicken mince balls probably don't rate too highly on your list of must have food. But that's ok because the chicken can be replaced with tofu if you so desire. 
There are a lot of ingredients but rest assured, you will be making this again so the ingredients won't sit in your pantry without ever getting used again.
So let's get stuck into it - I dare you not to like this one....
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 long red chilli, sliced finely (- my kids aren't into chilli so I add it in later)
1 bunch coriander, stems and leaves separated, both finely chopped
3 tsp finely grated ginger
4 cups chicken stock (you can get gluten-free stock)
3 cups water
2 star anise
1 tbsp finely grated palm sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
500g chicken mince
4 spring onions, chopped
Ground white pepper and salt
125g vermicelli noodles or udon noodles
1 bunch choy sum, gai larn or pak choy, cut into 10cm lengths - I use baby spinach leaves...easier to eat and delicious
125g bean sprouts
Handful mint leaves/ coriander or thai basil, to serve
The 'How to'
Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chilli, coriander stems and 2 tsp ginger and cook for 2 mins until fragrant. The aroma is just divine - I'd go as far as saying hypnotic. Add the stock, water, star anise, palm sugar, soy sauce and 1 tbsp fish sauce. Bring to a simmer to infuse flavours. I let it simmer for approximately 2 hours to ensure the herbs and spices completely release their goodness into the broth but if you are pressed for time, 30 minutes should do it.

The meatballs
Place the chicken mince, 2 spring onions, handful of chopped coriander leaves, white pepper, salt, remaining ginger and fish sauce into mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Really get int here with your hands and get all the ingredients evenly spread throughout the mince. Divide and roll mixture into 20 or so little balls. 

Back to the soup
Increase heat to high, drop meatballs into the soup and cook for 3 mins until almost cooked. Add the noodles and green vegetables, then cook for a further 2 mins until noodles and vegies are tender and meatballs are fully cooked. As I mentioned above, I use baby spinach so I pop that in at the end just as I am about to serve so it doesn't wilt too much.

And that's it! It's ready to go once you have topped it with the bean sprouts, herbs and remaining spring onions. 

Let me at it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Butter Chicken - sort of

(Image courtesy of Real Living Magazine. Photography by Katie Quinn Davies - a fabulous photographer and food stylist -
This recipe (from Real Living) is a touch indulgent. Creamy and buttery, it's definitely one for the colder weather and when counting calories isn't on the top of your list of priorities. It's naughty but oh so nice. 
Whilst it's not a real butter chicken in that it isn't a curry per se, it's equally as tasty thanks to the gorgeous blend of spices. The smell it emanates whilst cooking draws the whole family to the kitchen and the drooling begins. 
I try and go for the healthy options wherever possible which means I serve this one up with brown rice. I also try and stick as many vegetables I can into a dish - especially with the lead up to cold and flu season so I steam broccoli, chop it up and mix through the rice. Speaking of cold and flu season, there's nothing like garlic - and lots of it - to boost your immune system so most of my dishes in the lead up to winter are practically swimming in the stuff. Delicious. 
I have never been to India - the closest I ever got was being mistaken for a Bollywood actress called 'Holly' whilst in Malaysia. But it is definitely on my bucket list. One day.
60g of butter
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
750g chicken - you can use thighs but I use breast or tenderloins
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp chilli powder (optional - based on personal taste)
½ tsp ground cumin 
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp garam masala 
1¾ cups tomato passata 
⅓ cup cream
1½ tbsp sugar
½ cup Greek yoghurt
Sea salt & white pepper 
Handful coriander leaves                                                                             Naan bread or poppadoms - you can buy both in the Indian food section of the supermarket
Steamed rice - basmati or brown rice for a healthier option. 

The 'How To'

Heat butter and oil in saucepan, over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 5 mins. It will start smelling divine and probably start attracting family members into the kitchen. Add chicken and cook for 3 mins. 

Add garlic, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, ginger and garam masala to saucepan. Stir to coat chicken with spices. Cook for 2 mins. If you thought it smelt good before adding the spices, then you won't know what hit you once the spices are in.

Add passata, cream and sugar to chicken pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 10 mins until chicken is cooked through. Remove butter chicken from heat and stir through yoghurt. Season to taste. 

Serve Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with coriander. You could also add some chopped up pistachios to add to the texture and flavour. Serve with rice and naan bread/ poppadoms. I dare you not to lick your plate.....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Roast Lamb and Couscous/ Quinoa Salad on Pita Bread

cooked my first roast when I was well into my 30s. I come from a South American background and grew up on asados (the most insanely delicious bbqs in existance) and stews. As a kid, I used to listen to school friends talk about their Sunday roasts and I would turn green with envy (I would also get very envious as I watched them open their lunchboxes and pull out their devon and tomato sauce sandwiches. We didn't do devon.)

It wasn't until I moved in with my then boyfriend-now-husband that I managed to build up the courage to try baking a roast. It seriously turned me into a nervous wreck - was it burning/ cooked/ still moving/ edible? It was all in all a very unpleasant experience. 

But I have matured (in more ways than one - and not always like a fine wine, unfortunately) and I have moved on to successfully baking roasts. Here's a recipe I found in a House and Garden magazine. It's a great one for a weekend lunch - fresh, light and healthy. Obviously not one for my vegetarian friends but I promise to start sharing some meat-free meal ideas soon. Enjoy!

Serves : quite a few
Cooking time: a long time - about 4-ish hours (maths was never my forte)


Couscous or quinoa (for a gluten-free option)
1kg lamb shoulder, boned, rolled and tied
5 tomatoes - can be cored roma tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
8 small round pita breads
2 cucumbers - I find that lebanese ones are sweeter and less bitter
2/3 cup (100g) black olives
200g fetta cheese, crumbled
1 red onion, finely sliced 
2 tbsp fresh oregano
1/2 cup (or more) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar

How to:
Preheat oven to 200C (180C if fan forced). Place lamb on a roasting tray and season well with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and season with salt and pepper. Cook lamb and tomatoes at the same time but remember to remove the tomatoes after about 15 minutes unless you like the taste of charcoal - my family were almost subjected to burnt tomatoes. Almost.

Continue roasting the lamb for another 30 minutes. Remove lamb, wrap the entire tray tightly with foil and return to oven. Make sure you reduce the oven temperature to 150C (130C fan) - let it roast for another two hours. Apparently, by this stage, you will be able to push your finger through the meat. And burn it to shreds no doubt. I just stuck a knife in it. When ready , remove from oven and let it sit for approximately 30 minutes. Pull/ cut lamb into bite-size pieces. Yum.


Prepare a cup of couscous or quinoa as per packet instructions. Chop up the cucumber and mix with couscous/ quinoa, fetta, olives, sliced red onions, oregano and parsley. You can choose to throw in the lamb at this point or serve it separately. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and Bob's your uncle (or Jose in my case).

Serve with pita bread and watch everyone have fun as they make a complete mess of themselves. Provecho!