Friday, 17 April 2015

Make Your Own Garam Masala

A little while ago, I had a kitchen epiphany. I had a lovely dish brewing in my brain, it was going to be gorgeous and spicy. I headed to my spice rack only to find none of the star ingredient I had in mind - garam masala. Much as I hate making a trip to the shops for just one item, down I went to get the all important garam masala, only to find the shelf completely bare. I was irrationally frustrated by this, and grumped my way back home. It took a surprising amount of time for me to realise that, of course, garam masala is just a blend of spices which are all present on my insanely well-stocked spice 'rack' (I use the inverted commas there because no one rack could possibly contain all my spices, so they are in fact in there separate clusters all around my kitchen).

I couldn't quite believe I'd been so silly. So I made some myself. I have not bought garam masala since that day, because making it was easy, fun and meant that I could tweak it to include more of the spices I love the most. Making spice blends also has the benefit of making your house smell ridiculously yummy. Plus - look how much darker and richer my home made mix is compared to the months-old stuff that has been sitting in the supermarket.

My Garam Masala Blend

2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns

To Make:
1. Combine all spices in a frypan and dry roast gently until fragrant and just toasted. Allow to cool slightly and then grind into a fine powder using a spice grinders, a mortar and pestle or a food processor which has a spice grinding attachment. Keep in sealed jars and use generously.

NOTE - If you don't have whole spices and don't want to go out and get them all, you can combine the same quantities of ground 
spices in a jar and use that. However, roasting them yourself before grinding really adds richness and brings out the flavours, so it's definitely preferable.

Friday, 3 April 2015

African Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad)

Kachumbari is a common salad eaten in various African countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Congo and Chad. As part Chad Month (which was all the way back in February 2012!) I made this lovely fresh African salad (for other recipes see the links at the bottom of this post - but excuse the photos, it was right when the blog first started). I've remade it now because I really felt like eating it again, and because I thought it deserved some better photos! This time I've used a combination of red and yellow small roma tomatoes, because it just looks so pretty and these lovely yellow roma tomatoes are at my local supermarket at the moment. You can make it with a mixture of any heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or just regular tomatoes (which would be most authentic). Given that tomatoes are the hero of the dish though, I'd encourage tasty vine-ripened ones, as if you buy tomatoes which taste like nothing then your salad won't taste like much!

The main elements of the dish are tomatoes, onion and citrus juice. There are lots of variations depending on region, this version includes cucumber and fresh chilli. If you like hot, add an extra chilli or just leave the hot bits in (the placenta -which is the white bit which the seeds are attached to - is the hot part of the chilli, not the seeds).  This salad is perfect paired with the Chadian Sweet Potato Fritters (see link below) and is a light and tasty addition to any gathering, potluck or group meal.

African Kachumbari


1 small red onion, thinly sliced (or diced)
4 tomatoes, sliced (or diced)
1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced (or diced)
1 chilli, seeds & placenta removed and sliced
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The juice of two limes

How to make:

1.Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until well combined
2. Serve immediately.

Serves 3-4.

Check out our other Chadian recipes: 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Lumpiang Hubad

You might have noticed a lot of lumpia on the blog this month - here is another! Lumpia are Filipino spring rolls and they come in all varieties. I've already shared fresh (lumpiang sariwa) and gorgeous fried (lumpiang prito) spring rolls, you can find links to those recipes at the bottom of this post. Lumpiang hubad is essentially the filling of the rolls and the sauce, but without wrapping them up into rolls. Same great flavours, but a 'lazy' version which doesn't involve taking the time to roll them. The peanut sauce all over it is just delicious.
I've chopped my veggies bigger than I did when making the lumpiang sariwa and prito, because I knew I wouldn't be rolling it up. You can also just make a double batch of lumpiang filling and use half for rolls and half with peanut sauce like this for another meal.
Lumpiang Hubad

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
400g hard tofu cut into cubes
1 cup sweet potato cut into cubes
1 large carrot, cubed
1 cup chopped celery
2 tsp vegan fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup sliced green beans
1 cup cabbage
Shallots, for garnish

For the peanut sauce:
2 cups water
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup finely chopped peanuts
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp cornstarch

To make:
1. Heat oil in a large frypan or wok and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until translucent and then add the tofu and sweet potato. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add the carrots, celery and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring often.
2. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce. Once the carrot is tender, turn off the heat and stir through the green beans and cabbage. The residual heat will cook them just enough. 
3. Set the filling aside to cool a little, it can be warm but not hot when you wrap up the rolls.
4. To make the sauce: Combine 1 1/2 cups water, soy sauce, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Once all the sugar is dissolved add the peanuts and garlic and simmer for 3-4 minutes. In a cup, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water with the cornstarch and stir until smooth. 
5. Stirring the sauce continually, add in the cornstarch. Stir continuously over a low heat until the mixture thickens up a bit. Remove from the heat. 
7. Arrange lumping hubad in a bowl and pour the peanut sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped shallots.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food the Philippines.
Check out my other Filipino recipe posts:

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Filipino Pancit Canton

The Philippines is a fun country to explore, it's such a melting pot of different influences. A lot of Chinese influence has made it into their traditional dishes, and this is one of them. Pancit means noodles, so these noodles are called Cantonese Noodles in the Philippines. It's a dish of stir fried noodles with vegetables (and usually pork) similar to a chow mein. It has lots of variations, you can use any variety of mixed veggies, and a few different cooking methods. I love how easy this dish is because you cook the noodles in the broth, rather than separately, which makes it a great one-pot dish.

Filipino Pancit Canton

1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium-large carrots, cut into sticks
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup light soy sauce
750g dried wheat noodles
3 cups shredded green cabbage
A few handfuls of snow peas, trimmed
Generous grinding of black pepper

To Make
1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in one cup of hot water while you chop all your veggies.
2. Heat the oil in a wok and sauté the onion until just softened and then add the crushed garlic and cook for another few minutes.
3. Add the carrots, vegetable stock, soaked mushrooms, soy sauce and any liquid remaining from the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the carrots are just slightly softened.
4. Add the dried wheat noodles and simmer until he noodles are just cooked and have soaked up the liquid. Add the shredded green cabbage, snow peas and a generous amount of cracked pepper. The residual heat will cook them just enough. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Note: Depending on the thickness and variety of your wheat noodles, liquid quantities may be variable. If your noodles have absorbed all the stock but are not quite yet cooked through, you may need to add in a little bit more liquid - make sure it is boiling hot rather than cold. Alternately, you may find that the noodles are perfectly cooked but you still have quite a bit of liquid. In this case, mix 1 tbsp. cornstarch with 2 tbsp. cold water and stir just before you take it off the heat and add the remaining veggies.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food the Philippines.
Check out my other Filipino recipe posts:

Friday, 20 March 2015

Plum Infused Wine

It's turning disticntly to Autumn here, the mornings have started to get chilli, the leaves are starting to yellow and the beautiful summer fruits are diminishing in stores. Around this time of year I like to try and preserve some of the flavours of the summer fruits so that I can enjoy them once the fruits are no longer available. Jams are a wonderful way to do this, but I'm also a big fan of infused vodkas - Strawberry & Lime Infused VodkaRaspberry Vodka & Pineapple & Basil Vodka have featured on the blog in past years to preserve the flavours of summer fruits (plus they make great gifts).

This time around I had a big bag of plums on the verge of being over ripe, and I thought I'd try something a bit different. I love Japanese plum wine, so I thought I'd try a fresh plum infused wine. No, they're definitely not even close to being the same thing, but my fresh plum infused wine worked really beautifully.

It's not really a recipe, use whatever quantity you have or want. Use whatver type of plums you have, and choose a wine you like. I recommend starting with a mild flavoured wine, and definitely not one that is too sweet. I recommend starting with a Semillion or Semillion Savingnon Blanc. If you start with a wine that is already sweet, all the sugars in the plums will make for a very sweet wine! Mine turned out just the right amount of sweet with a mild Semillion Sauvignon Blanc, it was fresh and fruity - and a truly beautiful colour.

Plum Infused Wine

About 500-750g plums
1 bottle mild flavoured white wine

To Make
1. Wash the plums (then pat dry, you don't want to water your wine down) and then remove the seeds and slice. 
2. Place in a large (probably 1 litre) clean jar and pour the wine over the top. Seal well and store in the fridge for 2-4 weeks. 

Will last several months in the fridge. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Lumpiang Prito with Vinegar Dipping Sauce

Any excuse to make spring rolls is good with me! These veggie spring rolls are particularly good and the vinegar dipping sauce was sensational! I tend to always have my spring rolls with sweet chilli, sweet and sour or chilli dipping sauce, so I wasn't sure how this vinegar sauce was going to turn out. It was so delicious, I think I'll make it for all my future spring rolls and rice paper rolls!

Lumpaing Prito
2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced sweet potato
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts
1 tbsp. Soy sauce (or vegan fish sauce)
1 cup sliced green beans
2 cups shredded green cabbage
20 spring roll wrappers
Lots of vegetable oil, for deep frying.

Vinegar Dipping Sauce

1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

To Make
1. Heat the 2 tbsp. oil in a wok and sauté the onion and garlic until just softened and translucent. Add the sweet potato, carrot and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the celery and peanuts. Once the sweet potato and carrot are just tender (they can be just slightly undercooked), turn off the heat and add the soy sauce, green beans and shredded cabbage. The residual heat will just slightly cook them.
2. Cool the filling (while it's cooling, you can make your vinegar dipping sauce) and then roll up the spring rolls. Use about 2 heaped tbsp. per roll.
3.Once your rolls are all done, clean out the wok and then fill generously with oil. Heat the oil and then test it by throwing in a corner of spring roll wrapper - if it floats to the top and look like it's fizzing then your oil is hot enough.
4. Deep fry the spring rolls in batches until golden brown (if you prefer, you can shallow fry them and make sure you turn them while cooking to cook both sides). You will probably need to turn them over to cook both sides as they'll float on the surface. Once golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a bit of paper towel to absorb excess oil.
5. Serve hot with vinegar dipping sauce.

Vinegar Dipping Sauce:
1. Combine all ingredients and mix well until sugar is completely dissolved.

Makes 20 medium sized spring rolls.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food the Philippines.
Check out my other Filipino recipe posts:

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jamaican Pineapple Salsa

I had so many dishes from Jamaica month that I just couldn't get around to posting them all last month, so I've got a few stragglers to share with you. I'm a huge fan of fruity salsas, and I wanted to share this one with you before pineapple goes completely out of season! Enjoy the last of the lovely warm weather with a Jamaican cocktail and some gorgeous fresh and tangy pineapple salsa.

I think the jalapeños have the loveliest flavour for this dish, but if you want it even more brightly colourful then chopped red chilli would look lovely.

Jamaican Pineapple Salsa

2 cups fresh diced pineapple
1 jalapeño chilli, finely minced (I like to leave the hot bits in, but you can remove them first if you prefer)
2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
2 tbsp. finely chopped coriander
3-4 shallots, sliced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper

To Make:
1. Combine all ingredients. Store in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to let the flavours deepen.
2. Serve.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Jamaica.
Check out my other Jamaican recipe posts:

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Coconut Mango Float (Vegan)

The start of Autumn in Sydney means take advantage of the last few mangoes around before they disappear until next summer. One of the many things I miss about summer as I'm trudging through the winter months is the beautiful summer stone fruits, so it's nice to make the most of them while I still can.

Mango float is a dessert popular in the Philippines and several of it's neighbours - including parts o Australia. It's a nice simple dessert, easy to make and usually not vegan. My version has a few changes. I've used whipped coconut cream (a vegan's best friend) but I've also included grated fresh coconut because Filipino versions use young coconuts, it adds a lovely texture to the whipped cream and enhances the beautiful coconut flavour. Most recipes use whole biscuits for the biscuit layers, but I've just used crumbs because I found it a bit easier. If you like, you can layer whole biscuits and just use crumbs to fill in any gaps.

Mango float is often made like a slice, in a long dish and then cut into slices. I've made mine in jars because they look so lovely plus they're very easy to store. You could also make them in individual parfait glasses or dessert bowls, or even in one big glass bowl like a trifle. If you're making it like a slice, you'll want to start with a bottom layer of whole biscuits to make the base, but if it's in jars or parfait glasses then I prefer to start with a layer of mango because I think it's nice getting to the bottom and finding fruit!

If you like a boozy dessert, try marinating the mango in 1-2 tbsp. rum.

Coconut Mango Float

2 x 400ml cans coconut cream (refrigerated for at least 24 hours)
1/4 cup soft icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated fresh coconut flesh
3 large mangoes
200g digestive biscuits (or other plain biscuits) (you'll need more if you want to make it slice-style, as you'll need a bottom layer)

To Make:
1. Remove the cans from the fridge (the longer you refrigerate them the better), open them up and scoop out all the solidified cream. Discard any watery liquid in the bottom of the can.
2. In a bowl, whip the coconut cream solids with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Move the beaters up and down while you beat to aerate the cream as much as possible. Once it's smooth and whipped, add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat in well.
3. Chop the mango flesh into cubes or slices. At this stage you can add a tbsp. of spiced rum or another liqueur if you want to.
4. Turn the biscuits into crumbs either in a food processor or just crumble with your hands.
5. Start with a layer of mango and then top it with coconut cream and a fairly generous layer of biscuit crumbs. Follow this with another layer of mango and another of coconut cream. Garnish with more biscuit crumbs.
6. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours (or overnight).

Serves about 8.

If you want to make it as a slice, use a long rectangular dish. Start with a layer of whole biscuits and fill in any gaps with crumbs. Then layer mango and then coconut cream. Repeat with another layer of biscuits, followed mango and coconut cream.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food the Philippines.
Check out my other Filipino recipe posts: