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Virtual Bloggers Dinner for Modern Spice

June 23rd, 2009

Monica Bhide recently invited food bloggers to participate in a Virtual Bloggers Dinner using recipes from her book Modern Spice. It sounded like so much fun and I put my hand up right away.

My dish for the virtual “potluck” dinner party was Pan Seared Trout with a Mint-Cilantro (Coriander) Chutney. The recipe was very simple. I was expecting to have to raid my spice rack and go on an extended trek for many wonderful ingredients but was pleasantly surprised and how easy this was going to be.

My local seafood shop had some coral trout, but sadly without the skin. I bought it anyway but was a little upset I wasn’t going to eat some crispy pan-fried fish skin with my dinner.

I ended up putting about half a red onion instead of a quarter, just on a whim, and because I love onion. I didn’t have a green serrano chile which the recipe called for but since this was optional I picked a couple of small chillies from a rainbow chilli tree I bought at the markets and used those. The tree is so gorgeous, purple, red and orange chillies! All gone now though since I made some chilli jam the other day.

Back to the trout!  The Mint-Cilantro chutney was as simple as throwing a bunch of ingredients into the blender to make a yummy paste.

I followed Monica’s instructions to pan sear the trout and it came out perfectly. (Ignore the part of the picture where it looks like I smooshed the fillet)

I made a little vegetable, noodle stir fry to go with the fish for dinner as well.

Andrew was very impressed with the fish and so was I. The chutney was so fresh and went really well with the fish. I was worried it was going to be very minty but it wasn’t at all. By following the recipe I ended up making more than enough chutney for quite a few more serves  so I’m looking forward to cooking the fish again (hopefully with some skin on this time).

I had lots of fun doing this and ended up cooking something I might not have tried otherwise. I hope Monica has another one of these soon.

To see the other dishes made for the Virtual Dinner, check out Monica’s site

And here is Monica’s recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Pan-Seared Trout with Mint-Cilantro Chutney

If you are reading this recipe and thinking, “Really, can it be that simple?”—yes, it is, and it is simply delicious. Don’t take my word for it, though. Get a pan out and start searing!

Serve the trout with a drizzle of the Mint-Cilantro Chutney.

Serves 4

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes

4 skin-on trout fillets, about 6 ounces each, halved lengthwise

Table salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1?4 cup Mint-Cilantro Chutney

1. Season the trout fillets with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the trout, skin side down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the trout is cooked through.

3. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, skin side down.

4. Place each fillet on a serving plate and drizzle each with up to a tablespoon of chutney. Serve immediately.

Mint-Cilantro Chutney

This is the most popular chutney in India, hands down. It can be found in many Indian-American homes, in restaurants, and now in jars on grocery store shelves. Its charm lies in how simple it is to prepare. My father always adds a little yogurt to his chutney to make it creamy and then pairs it with lamb kebabs. My mom-in-law adds a hearty dose of roasted peanuts and serves it with savory snacks; Mom adds pomegranate seeds—you get the idea—to each his own.

This versatile chutney has so many uses. Thin it a little and use it as a salad dressing for a crisp green salad; use it in the consistency provided here as a spread on a baguette topped with fresh cucumber slices; or simply drizzle it on some freshly grilled fish for a fresh flavor.

One word of advice here: Green chutneys have a short shelf life. Make them in small batches and make them often—they only take a few minutes but the rewards are well worth the effort (which really isn’t much).

Makes 1 cup

Prep time: 5 minutes

1 cup packed cilantro (leaves and stems)

1 cup packed mint (leaves only, please)

1 green serrano chile (optional; if you don’t like too much heat, remove the seeds)

1?4 small red onion, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1?2 teaspoon table salt

Up to 2 tablespoons water

1. Blend the cilantro, mint, chile, onion, pomegranate seeds (if using), lemon juice, and salt in a blender to a smooth paste. To aid in the blending process, you can add up to 2 tablespoons of water, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.

2. Transfer to a covered container and chill for about 30 minutes.

3. Serve cool. This chutney will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.

Baked Pear Cheesecake

March 29th, 2009

After eating some yummy cheesecake at Pearl Cafe I decided to do some cheesecake baking of my own. Pears have just come in season so what better way to celebrate than with cake. This turned out to be a really nice cake. It wasn’t too dense but I really should have had more pear. The base was nice but I wanted it more crunchy, so maybe I’ll use less butter next time.

This receipe was adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Best Cheesecake Ever receipe on


100g butter (melted)
300g butternut snap cookies
500g cream cheese, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
3 eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice (I think that the cake could have been improved by substituing half of the lemon juice with pear juice)
few drops of vanilla extract to taste
pinch of salt
2 cups sour cream
2 pears (I Used only 2 pears for this receipe but I recommend increasing this to at least 3)

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Brush the base and sides of a 22cm x 6cm deep springform tin with a little of the melted butter. Remove the base from the tin. 

Cut a round of baking paper to fit the base of the tin, brush the paper with a little butter and set aside.

Tear off an 80cm sheet of foil and double it over so it measures 40cm in length. Lay the foil over the base of the tin, then put the buttered round of paper on top. Sit the springform tin over the base and lock the sides into place, leaving excess foil outside the tin. Draw up the excess foil around the tin and fold the top out of the way. You now have a watertight container.

Pear Cheesecake Tin

Crush the biscuits in a food processor. Add the remaining butter and process. Press the crumb mixture into the base of the tin, tapping firmly with the base of a glass tumbler or similar as you go. I pressed some of the crumb mixture into the sides but later I realised that I had left the base quite thin. Next time I will put all the mixture in the bottom for a thicker base.

Pear Cheesecake Base

Beat the cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth.

Pear Cheesecake Sugar Cheese

Beat in the cornflour, then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating each time just until smooth.

Pear Cheesecake Batter

Add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt.

Add the sour cream and beat briefly to combine.

Peel the pears then halve and remove core. Slice into small slices.

Pear Cheesecake Pears

Pear Cheesecake Sliced Pears

Pour the batter into the tin to fill about 1/3 of the way up. Add 1/3 of the pears.

Pear Cheesecake Batter

Pear Cheesecake Batter and Pears

Add another third of the batter and again top with pears.

Pour the remaining batter and top with the last of the pears.

Pear Cheesecake

Stand the tin in a large baking dish. Pour boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the tin.

Bake for 50 minutes, then turn off the oven but do not open the door for a further hour.

Lift the tin from the water bath and flatten the foil away from the sides just in case there is any water trapped inside. I used paper towel to soak up some of the excess water.

Pear Cheesecake

Allow to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack and then refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Pear Cheesecake

Eat it!

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

March 19th, 2009

I recently read about muscovado sugar (unrefined cane sugar) which is similar to brown sugar except with a more rich taste and has a deeper colour. There are light and dark varieties and they are more “sticky” than brown sugar.

Then as if it was a sign I was walking through the specialty food section of my local fruit and vege shop and found a box of muscovado sugar sitting very close to a container of Lindt Ecuador Dark chocolate pieces. Without really knowing what I was going to make I found my arm reaching out and grabbing both ingredients to put into my shopping basket.

Once home I decided it was time to make some brownies and here is the result. The recipe is adapted from Recipe by Chrissy Freer, published in the August 2003 issue of delicious (page 135).


140g unsalted organic butter
200g good quality dark chocolate
200g light muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
85g plain flour
75g walnuts chopped
Cocoa powder or icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Grease and line your baking pan. I used a 32cm x 16 cm x 3.5 cm pan but you can use a square or rectangle cake pan.

Melt the butter and chocolate (I used Lindt Ecuador Dark Chocolate).


The best practice for this is apparently in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. I used a small metal bowl over a small saucepan but because I used a metal bowl I had to watch the chocolate mixture to make sure it didn’t burn. Do not let the bowl touch the water in your pan as it will be too hot and can burn the chocolate.

Once this has melted, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Add the light muscovado sugar, vanilla and a good pinch of salt to the chocolate mixture and beat until well combined.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition.

Add the egg yolk and flour and beat until smooth.

Fold in the walnuts. You can buy pre-chopped walnuts or buy whole nuts and chop yourself if you would like bigger pieces (pre-chopped nuts can be quite small). If you like, you can lightly toast the nuts (they don’t take long to toast so make sure you don’t burn them!)

Pour the mixture into your pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs on it, not batter.

Allow the brownies to cool and then turn it out onto a wire rack to peel off the lining paper.

Cut into squares and dust with cocoa or icing sugar before serving.

These go down a treat with some vanilla ice-cream and are especially delicious served warm.

The brownies can be kept for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge or they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Quick Bruschetta

February 16th, 2009

Inspired by one of my favourite restaurants I snacked on this over the weekend.


Fresh Sweet Basil
Smoked Salmon
Persian Fetta
Crusty bread (a baquette would be perfect, though you can use any bread really)
Vine ripened tomato

Slice your bread of choice, and lightly toast it.

Slice the tomato.

Set up a mini picnic, laying out your Persian fetta, tomato, salmon, basil and bread.

The order that I placed my ingredients in was to make it easiest to eat, but feel free to be creative.

Take a slice of bread and spread with fetta.

Place a piece of smoked salmon on the bread.

Next a basil leaf.

Then a slice of tomato (or half slice depending on the size of your bread/tomato).



Repeat until you run out of ingredients or you are too full or someone steals all your food because it looks so yummy. If someone does steal your food I suggest you try to steal it back before its all been eaten. I’ve heard its nice to share, but I think only if I get the biggest portion.

Potato Puree with Truffle Oil

February 16th, 2009

This is just another way to make some yummy mashed potatoes. If you don’t have truffle oil, its not really necessary. You can also use garlic infused olive oil if you like, or season with your favourite herbs.


3 or 4 medium sized potatoes (in this one I used some kifler potatoes I had, they’re smaller but I just used the rough equivelent in volume to “regular” potatoes)
1/2 cup of cream (if you can use a thicker cream, with about 35% fat, this would probably be creamier, but in this case I used whatever I happened to have in the pantry)
2 tbsp of butter (organic preferred)
a few drops of truffle oil (or other flavour infused oil)

Wash and peel the potatoes then boil in lightly salted water until cooked through. To speed up this step, you can cut your potatoes into smaller pieces. Just watch them and poke them with a fork every now and then to check if they are cooked through yet (they should be soft when you poke them). I have pretty much perfected the timing on boiling potatoes and can judge roughly how long it will take depending how big I cut them.

Eg. If I quarter medium sized potatoes it will take about 20-25 minutes. If I cube the potato (anything around 2cm to 1cm cubes) it should only take around 10 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them in an ever-trusty colander (an essential kitchen item). It was Valentines day and some how I had found a heart shaped potato! How appropriate, awwww!

Pour the cream and butter into a sauce pan and bring to a boil while stiring to melt the butter. Once it has started boiling take it off the heat.

Put the cooked potatoes into a bowl or even back into the pot you were cooking them in.

Mash them (if you are lacking a potato masher, go out and get one, forks work okay if you are desperate, but you can’t go past a decent masher. Look for one where the handle is centred on the mashing head. I had a weird one that was placed to the side and I always felt like it was going to snap.)

Add 1/2 the cream mixture to the mashed potato and continue to mash and mix. Once it is mixed thoroughly, add the remainder of the mixture.

Add a couple of drops of truffle oil. (While trying to take a picture of myself adding truffle oil I had a bit of an accident and added about 1 tbsp of truffle oil. I was going to leave it, but for such a small amount of potato, the truffle was going to be pretty powerful so I opted to try and scoop most of it out. The taste ended up being okay if you are eating the potato with other things, like some vegetables, but was a bit too strong on its own. So try not to make the same mistake.)

Overall it was a delicious and creamy potato mash, the perfect accompaniment to a nice roast.. mmm.

Marinated Chicken Wings on the BBQ

February 16th, 2009

This marinade is enough for about 1.2kg of chicken wings. I am a chicken-wing fiend. I could just sit there like a big pig and eat a massive pile of them. I know some people who don’t like them because they require the most mess and work to eat, but I have a belief that foods that need more work taste better (ie. things in shells, crab, prawns, and meat off the bone). The wings are my absolute favourite chicken cut. Mmmm. Tasty.


1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp brandy (optional)
2 spring onions coarsley chopped (the second time I made this I didn’t have spring onions so I used chinese fried onions, which gave it a different flavour, but still very nice).
If you want to make it easier to eat, you can cut the chicken wings into two parts, the drumette and the wing/tip piece. Alternatively sometimes you can buy the pieces pre-cut like this. I try to always buy organic chicken because hopefully this means they treat the animals well and theres less artificial things fed to the chicken.
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
Place chicken wings in a big bowl or container and cover with the marinade. Coat the chicken pieces well. You can either use your CLEAN hands to do this, or if the bowl/container has a lid you can just shake the chicken pieces to cover them in marinade. Its adviseable to make sure the lid is fairly liquid and air-tight if you don’t want to make a huge mess and lose lots of yummy marinade.
The minimum time I would leave this to marinate for is probably 30 minutes to an hour. The absolute best time to let it sit for is over night because then the flavour will really have soaked through the chicken. I’ve tried it both ways and the over-night  marination tasted much better.
When you are ready to cook, the wings, the best way is going to be to BBQ them. Everything just tastes so much nicer when BBQ’d don’t you agree?
If you don’t have a bbq or you are too lazy to bbq (like I am sometimes), a grill pan is the next best thing, then of course you can either pan fry, or probably even bake them (I’m guessing at 180°C for about 25-30 minutes, just check on them).
Cook them until they are nice and browned (little charred bits if you are BBQ’ing are okay, and tasty!). If you want to make sure they are cooked through just cut through to the bone on one and make sure it’s ok.
Feel free to “taste test” a whole chicken wing, you know because, you just want to make sure that it tastes okay… hehe. Enjoy!

Sautéed Potatoes & Carrot with Egg & Sausage

February 16th, 2009

This is a recipe adapted from a recipe book Piggy gave me for my birthday! The carrots and sausage were my addition, and it worked out quite well. Might try to add some sautéed mushrooms next time.

500g Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (small is good)
1 carrot cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons olive oil (if you have it, substitute some of the olive oil for truffle oil, maybe about 1/2 a tbsp, makes it soooo tasty)
20g butter (I use organic butter)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 sage springs (lacking fresh sage, I used some oregano flakes or you can also use dried sage)
2 eggs (again organic, the only “real” free range egg)
Some sausages (entirely up to you how much you cook, I think we did about 6 sausages) 

Cook these in a frying pan, then chop them up into small pieces, using kitchen scissors is easiest, just hold the sausages with tongs and cut away back into the pan. This will save you messing up another plate and cutting board.

The recipe says if you want just potatoes on their own (with no egg), you can double this amount and add an extra spoonful of oil, but if you’ll be adding the eggs to the pan you’ll need this smallish amount of potatoes with a fairly large non-stick frying-pan. However, I use enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan, and I’m still able to push them aside to fit eggs in it. Also I use about a 30cm-ish pan and you can serve this in the pan. 

Boil the potato and carrot chunks in boiling salted water until they are cooked through but not breaking up, this should only take about 10 minutes.
Put the olive oil, butter, garlic and oregano/sage in a large non-stick frying pan and heat until the butter melts.
Drain the cooked potatoes and carrots and add to the frying pan.
Saute over fairly high heat at first, until they start to become golden and leave to get a crispy coating. Every now and then toss or stir them carefully so that they will get crispy all over.
Take care not to mush them up, although I don’t mind if it happens a little bit because it just means there will be more crusty bits. I love the crusty bits which is why I try to cut my potato pieces pretty small.
If the garlic looks like it may burn, sit it on top of the potatoes.
When the potatoes are golden all love and crisp to your liking, shuffle them to the side to make two big spaces for the eggs, you CAN add more egg if you like. The most I’ve done is about 3, though I suppose I could fit 4 in my pan and just let the egg go over more bits of potato.
Break an egg into each space, sprinkle with a little salt, and put the lid on. Cook over medium-low heat until the whites are just set.
Serve at once, trying not to break the egg yolks because its nice to mix them with the potatoes on your plate, but this is entirely your choice (I know some people don’t like runny egg).
Then just tip the sausages on top when serving and eat from the pan!
I love the bits where the egg has cooked around pieces of potato, especially if its crunchy bits of the potato. Yummmm. This is a very filling dish, but even when you’re full you will keep eating it until there is no more.

Home Made Lasagne

February 9th, 2009

This recipe will serve about 6 people if you have a bit of salad and garlic bread on the side as well. They’ll probably have room for a bit of dessert as well. Or this will serve 4 really hungry people. I love lasagne, so I serve 4 with this (sometimes theres a bit left over for a serve of lunch and hopefully hubby forgets to bring it to work so I can eat it).

Handmade Lasagne Sheets
Makes 2 baking tray sized lasagne sheets 

This recipe can also be used to make other pastas. Even though I rushed out and bought a pasta maker, its not really necessary. You can use a good, old-fashioned rolling pin and cut the pasta to the shape and size you desire. If you have enough time, its best to make the lasange sheets at the same time you make everything else. If you really need to make them the day before, you can store them in the fridge. I suggest you put layers of baking paper between the sheets and flour the sheets to prevent sticking. Make sure you cover with clingwrap to prevent drying out. But of course, freshest is bestest.


1 cups semolina flour
1 cups plain flour
1 eggs well-beaten
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil (sometimes I substitute this for garlic oil)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water (keep extra water aside if needed, though hopefully a tap is easily accessible)

Steps to delicious lasagne sheets:
1. Sift the two flours together into a large bowl.

2. Mix beaten egggs with olive oil, salt and one cup of cold water.

3. Make a well in the flour and pour in egg mixture.

4. Mix until it starts to come together (form lumps of dough).

Then start to use your hands to roll it into a big ball and knead it (keep pushing it down and rolling it together again) until the dough becomes more smooth. About 5 minutes of kneading should make it a uniform consistency.

5. Roll the dough into a loaf shape, dust underneath and over the whole “loaf” with flour. Cover with a dry cloth and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.

6. Take half the dough and use either a pasta maker or a rolling pin to roll your dough into a thin sheet. This amount of dough should make about 2 large sheets for a decent sized baking tray/dish.

Bechamel sauce
600mL milk
60g butter
60g plain flour
white pepper

1. Heat milk to scalding point and set aside.

2. Melt butter in another saucepan and stir in flour.

3. Cook, stirring, until you have a smooth golden pasted (known as a roux).

4. Gradually work in hot milk and stir until sauce thickens and is very smooth. Continue stirring until sauce boils. You can add more milk if you feel that the sauce is too thick.

5. Cook for a further 10 minutes with pan on a simmer mat over a gentle heat.

6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Sauce & Filling

Olive oil
500g minced meat (beef)
1/4 of a Japanese Pumpkin (chopped into small pieces, this will help it to cook faster)
250g of mushrooms (roughly chopped or broken into pieces)
1 can of diced tomatoes (I chose one with basil and oregano, you can pick yours to taste, or add fresh herbs yourself)
Some tomato paste or good tomato sauce can be added as well. This time I added about 1/3 of a cup of tomato paste.
Salt & Pepper 

You can substitute vegetables of choice. Zuchinni or carrot sound nice.

1. Put a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan and heat on high (for extra flavour, use garlic infused olive oil or just add a couple of peeled cloves of garlic while your oil heats up, just remember to remove these before adding to the lasagne unless you want a garlicy surprise).

2. Add chopped pumpkin once oil is hot. After a couple of minutes add the mushrooms.

3. Continue to cook until the pumpkin is cooked through (the colour will change and the pumpkin should be soft enough that when you press down on the pieces with a spoon or spatula it is quite squishy).

4. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Heat a little more oil in a pan.

6. Once the oil is hot, add minced meat (in the photos you’ll see I added more mushrooms at this stage, this was because I realised I just simply needed more mushrooms!)

7. When it is pretty much cooked through (beef has turned brown) pour diced tomatoes over meat, add the cooked pumpkin and mushrooms andmix everything together.

8. Allow this to cook for another 5 or so minutes. Turn off heat.

Assembling the lasagne.

Shaved Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup mozarella (if you want the top layer to be extra cheesey)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Put half of the sauce mixture to line the bottom of the baking dish (hopefully you have enough here, if not, just remember for next time you make it to cook more sauce, or get a smaller baking dish hehe).

3. Next layer a sheet of the pasta on top. I didn’t need to do this the first time, but it might be a good idea to prick some holes in the pasta with a fork, as the second time around I experienced some big air bubbles under the pasta while cooking and had to push them down.

4. On top of the sheet of pasta, spread half of the bechamel sauce. If it seems to have become too thick, add some more milk and heat it up again on the stove.

5. Add the remainder of the meat and vegetable sauce as the next layer.

6. Place the second lasagne sheet next.

7. Now you can add the remainder of the bechamel sauce. If you like the top of your lasagne to be extra cheesey, you can heat up the sauce again and add 1/4 cup of mozarella before spreading it on top.

8. Cover the top of the lasagne with pieces of shaved parmesan cheese.

9. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes (Or until the cheese on top has become golden).

10. Eat it! :D