Aloo Dhal

This is one of those recipes where the amounts are not exact, as I throw in whatever seems right at the time. A good dhal always happens like that.

And I can’t find my photos of it, so here’s a link to a Google image search for Aloo Dhal. It’s supposed to look like them. Well, most of them.

Ingredients

1 cup Toor dhal or yellow split peas
1 cup red lentils
4 french shallots, diced
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
4 potatoes, cut into bite size chunks
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground tumeric
4 long dried (Kashmiri) chillies, rehydrated in boiling water, chopped nely
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
10 curry leaves (or there abouts)
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
Fresh chopped chilli for garnish (if so desired)

Basmati rice, to serve

1. Put the Toor dhal on to boil in about 3-4 cups of water (sorry, I can never remember exactly how much),
2. If you’re lazy like me, you’ll chuck the red lentils the same pot in once the Toor dhal starts to soften up.
3. Put the potatoes on to boil in a separate pot. Drain when cooked, but still quite firm.
4. In a small frying pan, dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds until they become fragrant. Bash them up in a mortar and pestle. Or grind them in a coffee grinder. Or crush them with the flat of a knife. If you have none of these things, you’ve obviously not in a kitchen and should probably stop trying to make dhal in the bathroom.
5. In a frying pan, add the crushed seeds, mustard seeds, rehydrated chillies, curry leaves, cinnamon stick and fry on a medium heat.
6. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, then reduce the heat slightly (just so they don’t burn) and add the garlic and
shallots. I tend to add a fair bit of oil (possibly more than two tablespoons) and simmer for a little while,
so that the oil carries the flavours. Add the tumeric in last.
7. Once the spices and onion look paste like, tip the entire contents of the fry pan into it and stir it around good.
8. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the liquid if it appears too runny.
9. Add the potatoes.
10. Add the lemon juice and stir.
11. Season like a motherfucker. Lentils have no taste. They need salt, my friend. SALT.
12. Serve with rice, coriander, fresh chilli, and lime pickle, if you’ve got any (I do. MUWAHAHAHAHAHA).

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Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa

Sounds weird. Tastes amazing. And is ridiculously simple. Do you have an oven? Can you turn it on? Then you can cook this.

Serves a hungry horde (served it up on Mother’s Day to my very large immediate family), or gives you plenty of leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients

6 potatoes, chopped into 3cm cubes
1 butternut pumpkin, chopped into 3cm cubes (or whatever type you prefer. Need about 1.5kgs whole)
2 heads of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
3 large purple carrots (or 6 small), sliced into 3cm chunks
3 zucchini, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 head of garlic, top sliced off
1 bunch spinach or kale or both, sliced (ribs removed if you use kale)
Few sprigs of rosemary
A bunch of lemon thyme

1 lemon
1 bunch parsley
As little or as much sliced chillies as you like (no deseeding that shit)

1-2 cups of quinoa

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 210C. If your oven is like every other decrepit one in the Inner West, such as mine, put it on 240C.

2. Put the potato on to boil. Start another pot and put the pumpkin in once boiling. Once cooked, remove from heat and drain.

3. In a baking dish, tip the entire punnet of cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bung in the oven.

4. Do the same with the potatoes and carrots. Dress them with half of the rosemary and lemon thyme. Put them on the second rack in the oven.

5. Give the tomatoes about a 10 minute head start, then add the broccoli, zucchini, and pumpkin. Did I tell you that you needed a large baking dish? Yeah. Season well and dress with the rest of the herbs.

6. Swap the potato and carrots to the top rack and put the rest of the veggies on the bottom. The aim from now is to brown everything – including the broccoli. Oh, yes, the broccoli.

7. Walk away from the oven and get distracted by Twitter/4 year old/planning setlists for your Engagement Party. Remember only when you start to smell burning (probably about 30 minutes).

8. Realise it’s not burning, but the broccoli is caramelising. Oh, yes. This is when you put on a pot of water to boil and pour the quinoa in once bubbling. It will be ready when the ‘germ’ detaches and the grain is translucent. If in doubt, taste some. If it’s still hard or gritty, it’s not cooked.

9. Drain in a fine colander (or with a cloth in one with big holes).

10. Get your veggies out of the oven. Mix the smallest tray into the biggest tray (or whichever is easiest). Mix in the spinach and/or kale. Dump the quinoa on top.

11. Mix delicately, as your tomatoes and pumpkin are likely to break up. This is all part of the flavour, mind you, but you don’t want them to disappear completely.

12. Add the juice of 1/2-1 lemon, depending on your preference for acidity (I love it, so put a whole lemon’s worth in), parsley, and chilli, if you prefer (again, I like lots). Season well, remembering all of the vegetables were seasoned. Mix well, but not too well.

I have been kinda vague with the amounts, with good reason. There’s not fixed amount for anything – you can put in as much or as little as you like of each ingredient. The idea is simplicity paving the way for the veggies to speak for themselves.

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Pumpkin, eggplant, and barley braised in miso

I *think* I may have stolen this from Gourmet Traveller – at least the idea of it. Hopefully they don’t mind.

This is so easy. Definitely a colder weather dish.

Ingredients

1kg or so of pumpkin (I used butternut, but it’s way too sweet. Go for something else)
3 or so Japanese eggplants
1 cup of barley
3 tbs miso
3 tbs soy sauce
Bunch of asparagus

1. Slice the eggplant into 1cm rounds. Fry them in oil until brown and cooked through. Set aside.
2. Cut the pumpkin into approximately 4cm chunks.
3. Fill a pot with about 2L of water and bring to the boil (I think. I can’t remember! You need enough to boil your barley and eventually cover all of the pumpkin).
4. Throw in the barley, miso, and soy sauce. Leave the barley to cook until almost done. Top up the water if necessary.
5. Throw in the pumpkin to cook. Once the pumpkin is soft, turn down the heat and throw in the eggplant to warm through.
6. In a dry pan, brown the asparagus. Dress with salt, pepper, and olive oil, once done.
7. Check the seasoning of the dish. I find this is one that needs A LOT of salt, otherwise it’s too cloying. Add soy sauce and/or salt to taste.
8. Serve in bowls with asaparagus plonked on top. Dunking the asparagus in the miso braise it OH MY GOD SO AWESOME.

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Fettucine Carbonara

There are very few ‘authentic’ (and I use the term loosely in reference to my recipe) recipes for Fettucine Carbonara on the web, apart from this awesome one from Abstract Gourmet. So, I figured I’d add to the ‘closest to authentic but not really’ list and hope that a bunch of people somewhere out on the interblargs end up making their own awesome, and very easy, fettucine carbonara.

This all needs fairly awesome timing, though.

Ingredients

500g Fettucine
125g chopped bacon/pancetta/guanciale
2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
3 eggs
1/2 cup grated pecorino
Handful of chopped parsley, to serve

1. First you need to boil your pasta. Start the water around about the same time you put the bacon on to render. Put a splash of olive oil in the pan, keep the bacon on a low heat and let it render slowly.

2. Add the sliced garlic after the bacon and let the bacon and garlic flavour the surrounding oil. FAT IS FLAVOUR.

3. Crack the eggs into a bowl or, if you’ve got one, the leftover high-walled jug from a Kenwood mixer that an old flatmate reclaimed the rest of.

4. While the pasta is cooking and the bacon and garlic making sweet, sweet, oily, love, mix the pecorino with the eggs, like so.

5. Once the pasta is done, move it into the frying pan with the bacon and garlic, using a pasta scoop. The pasta scoop will bring some of the starchy pasta water with it, which will make the sauce thicken.

6. Add a whole bunch of cracked pepper, just cos.

7. Now this is the bit I can’t show you in pictures, as I was the only photographer and it needs to be well timed. Tip the egg and pecorino mixture into the pan with the pasta and mix quickly. You don’t want the egg to cook into little omelette-like lumps, but to create a beautifully unctuous sauce. Take it off the heat immediately. The residual heat will continue to cook the egg to the stage that it’s still sauce like, but doesn’t have a raw egg flavour. Season with salt to taste, remembering you’ve got salty bacon and pecorino already in there.

8. And this is what you end up with! Except I didn’t have any parsley at the time. I recommend only chucking the parsley in just before serving.

Once you get used to the timing of the pan-pasta-egg combination, this is an easy dinner to throw together. It only has a few ingredients. It tastes FANTASTIC, too, if I do say so myself.

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The Fucking Hipster Report: SoKi

Yeah, that’s right. I fucking said it. Wrote it, whatever. SoKi. I fucking hate myself.

For the uninitiated, some arseholes on Twitter decided that south King St wasn’t a good enough location descriptor, so they needed to shorten it to SoKi. Wat.

Anyway, it made me realise that if someone decided it needed a new name, there was obviously more going on down there than the last time I visited (possibly a year ago or more) and I should check it out.

In the spirit of the evening, all photos, bar one, were taken with Hipstamatic – The photo app for the fuckwit on the go.

We started our evening off at Bench Wine Bar.

I liked the setting, which is unusual for me. Normally I will get the shits with the atmosphere, crappy ‘reclaimed’ seats and ‘hip’ layout, but I liked it. The website claims it’s ‘Industrial Chic’. I wouldn’t go that far, just because all of the tables and chairs were textured metal, but it looks cool. And it’s still comfy. I like it.

And the wine wall changes colour. Coooooooooool.

My drinkin’ partner had a glass of the Two Italian Boys Sangiovese. It was like a big Sangiovese punch in the face. Gorgeous. I had the Tscharke ‘Girl Talk’, which, although retails for a rather low price, is a rather nice drop. Get on it.

The wines gave us confidence in their list. Slightly overpriced, as most wine bars are, but at least it reflected that someone in the house had some knowledge of wine and didn’t just go with what the supplier suggested the price should be. Nice work.

Bench is right next to Pizza Picasso. Seeing as they have a $15 pizza menu, along with a bunch of things that can be made by pulling it out of the fridge and putting in on a plate, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they are in cahoots with the pizza place next door, if not owned by them. I have no idea, because I didn’t actually ask. There seemed to be an older woman hovering and waiting tables, though, which is not your stereotypical wine bar owner. I just assumed she owned both places.

We ordered the Bench Carnivore.

To be honest, for $15, it really wasn’t that great. Two bits of parma ham and two bits of cured Wagyu, that probably could have come from any old deli, isn’t that impressive. Granted, it came with a big wedge of ‘Warrnambool’ cheddar (and a choice between that and goat’s cheese), and a small serve of pickled onion salsa-type-thing (to me, it looked and tasted like chopped up cocktail onions, but I could be wrong!), with bread, but it didn’t stack up to other similar plates I’ve had. I was quite taken aback by the bread as well. Most places will offer some sort of hard bread, as, what I thought, is the tradition. Maybe I’m wrong.

We decided to move on and discovered Martini, a place famed for its breakfasts, was open to serve booze. Hells yeah.

The place is full of reclaimed, mismatched, furniture, as you would expect. The most ridiculously hipsterish thing, though? The menus.

The were hidden in DVD covers.

Anyway, considering the name of the place (or just cos we’re drunks), we ordered martinis; my drinking companion having the Deviltini (tequila, vermouth, olive brine, bitters and tabasco), myself going for a Lychee Martini (both $16).

I was pleased to find that what is usually a cloying drink actually had a bitterness to it that cut through the sugar. I don’t know if that was a credit to the vodka they used or an accident because they didn’t clean the glass properly. Whatever it was, it was marvellous. When I went to try the Deviltini, my drinking partner warned me, “Careful of the salt”. Indeed, it was rather briny. I was rather disappointed that there was very little spice, despite tabasco being listed as an ingredient. FOR SHAME.

I lied. This was the most hipsterish thing in the venue:

A fucking ukelele on the wall.

We decided one more drink and home. We were gonna choose Moose Bar, across the road from Bench, as the final stop. until we discovered they not only had Innocent Bystander Moscato at the ridiculous price of $20 for a 375mL bottle, but had ridiculously gendered cocktails:


HAHAHA NEWTOWN HAS LOTS OF LESBIANS THAT’S WHY THIS IS FUNNY.

Yeah.

So, we hightailed it out of there and walked down to the Union Hotel.

I hadn’t been in a VERY long time. It used to be an old man pub. Now they’re serving $13.50 jugs of Monteith’s Apple Cider. Oh, HELL YES.

We managed to spend the time having a good ol’ chat while sitting on a few glasses of cider, so it was well worth its value.

We decided that was enough for the night and jumped on the 11:09 train back to Marrickville. Money well spent. Thank you SOUTH KING STREET. YES. THAT’S HOW YOU SPELL IT AND SAY IT. SOUTH KING STREET. FUCK YOU HIPSTER FUCKS.

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The Wolf and Honeybee, Newtown/Enmore/Marrickville/St Peters/God knows

This is one of those new hipster cafes that keep popping up. In fact, to use hipster parlance, it’s quite like a pop-up cafe – no formal kitchen, just a toaster oven, a few fridges and a coffee machine, surrounded by mismatched or reclaimed furniture and playing cruisy tunes in the background. Even the name is hipsterish.

The owner, however, is not a hipster fuckwit, but someone who is serious about their coffee and providing a good customer experience in somewhat limited surroundings. I think I have figured out which one of the baristas is the owner. Of course, I haven’t bloody asked. That would have made sense.

A quick Google search has revealed they are connected to The Bunker in Darlinghurst, which is where I used to get my coffee while at my old job. Weird.

My test of any place that serves coffee is to see how well they do a soy flat white.

Soy Flat White, $4.50

They do Campos blends, which is was what attracted me in the first place. In the first few weeks of visiting, there was too much soy flavour (hey, it’s not Bonsoy, so it’s bound to be a bad thing) and not enough coffee. Now, either the machine or the baristas have hit their stride and I get a full-bodied and flavourful coffee every time. 10 out of fucking 10.

With such a limited space in which to prepare food, don’t expect to go in there and get a full meal. They have coffee, juice, sandwiches, and cakes, and that’s about it. However, like any good chef says, as long as you have good ingredients to start off with, you can create something great.

Over the past month or so, the Little Miss and I have been in quite a few times. I find it much easier to get her breakfast on the way to day care, rather than feeding her at home and waiting for the infinite number of pauses while she watches a really captivating part of Lazytown to finish her toast. We always end up late as a result. Spending a few dollars on breakfast out means we not only get quality time together, but we’re not rushed.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve consumed:

Toast with spreads, $4.50

My child is obsessed with Vegemite. She will eat the leftovers out of the little ramekin. She is mental. However, she won’t eat just any old toast. I am familiar with Brasserie Bread well enough to know that’s where all their bread, cakes and pastries are from. Well chosen supplier, I must say. My 3 year old approves.

Avocado and Lemon on Quinoa and Soya Toast, $8.50

This sounds rather boring on the menu and seems a little overpriced as a result. When it arrives at your table, however, all is forgiven. You’re given wedges of lemon to squeeze over your avocado at your discretion and a little jar of olive oil. There is sea salt and pepper mills already on the table. If this is not perfection in simple breakfast form, I don’t know what is.

One morning when I ordered this meal, they ran out the back to find me a better avocado, because the one they opened was overripe. Most places in Sydney would just serve it to you and expect you to be grateful. I was very impressed by their dedication to high quality service.

Ham and Cheese Croissant, $7

Ah, simple, but bloody brilliant. They use Ormiston Free Range Ham, which is damn tasty, I must say. No idea what the cheese is, but it’s perfect. All on a Brasserie Bread croissant. Fantastic.

Hmmm. It appears I’ve lost the photo of the Tomato and Goat’s Cheese on Toast, $8.50, because my iDevice is a cunt. Anyway, it was good. The goat’s cheese was nothing to write home about, but the tomato was lovely and ripe. Good stuff.

Coconut Tea Cake, $4

I’m pretty sure these come from Brasserie Bread as well. Yes, I am a terrible parent who lets her 3 year old have cake for breakfast. Piss off.

There’s not just fantastic, simple, food, there are the little touches as well – like the way in which the Little Miss’ warm milk is presented to her each time. She never grows tired of it.

Warm milk, $1

This cafe is a fantastic place to bring kids. They even handled it well when the Little Miss spewed. To her credit, she got most of it back on the plate.

For the adults, they also do cold drip coffee. I haven’t had the time to sit down and sample some, yet. I’m too busy trying to get the Little Miss to eat her breakfast.

All in all, it’s a fantastic spot to grab a coffee and a sandwich and I am SO VERY GLAD they have opened.

The Wolf and Honeybee
Cnr Alice St and Edgeware Rd
Newtown/Enmore/Marrickville/St Peters/I don’t know, do you?

Open 7 days, as far as I know.

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Soupe au Pistou

This recipe is not particularly authentic, I don’t think, but it comes close. Soupe au Pistou is a French recipe that comes from that time in Europe where travellers would go to some far flung land, in this case, Italy, and come back saying, “OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. GUESS WHAT I ATE. IT’S THE BEST THING EVER,” or, much in the same way that Australia as developed its national dishes, brought to the country by immigrants, and the home country ends up integrating it into their culinary culture.

My understanding is that this soup is like a Minestrone al Pesto (if you hadn’t guessed already, ‘Pistou’ is French for pesto) and hails from the Provence region. Just like many of these traditional recipes, every region, town, street and family has their own variation. This is mine.

Ingredients

2 carrots, chopped small (but not fine)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 leek, white part only, sliced finely (apparently this should not be included, as the soup must only have summer vegetables. Mine does. Sue me.)
2 ribs celery, chopped small
500g fresh peas (for all fresh beans, you end up with about 200-250g after podding)
500g broad beans, podded
500g fresh borlotti beans, podded (for Inner Westies, Banana Joes in Marrickville has a ready supply)
300g green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 zucchini, chopped small
2 potatoes, chopped small
1 bunch kale, stripped from the ribs, chopped finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and parsley stalks, tied up in a bouquet garni (or just dumped into the pot. See below)

Pistou

1 bunch basil, picked
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
Salt

Grated Parmesan or Parmagiano Reggiano to serve

Method

1. Place a big pot on a low to medium flame and pour in a good lug of olive oil. Gently cook the carrot, celery, onion and leek until the onion is translucent. If you’ve got kitchen string and muslin, chuck you bouquet garni in with it. If not, chop the parsley stalks finely, pick the thyme leaves off and chuck them and the bay leaves in with the mirepoix.

2. Add the podded beans and let them cook for a bit. I let them it sit over a low flame and mixed it occasionally while I chopped up the potato and zucchini.

3. Add water. I think I added about 2-3 litres. I can’t remember. Add enough to cover it when you turn it up enough to boil.

4. After it has reached boiling point, turn back down to an excited simmer (this is a thing!) and added the zucchini, potato and chopped tomatoes. Top up with more water if it doesn’t look soupy enough.

5. Take your basil and garlic and whiz it in a food processor. If you don’t have one, use a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one of them, you’re dead to me. If you decide that buying a jar of pre-made pesto is a good idea, I will find you and burn your house down. Add enough olive oil so that it looks like a smooth paste, but not a sauce. Season to taste and put in a sterilised jar. Cover with a cm of oil (and the lid) once you’ve served it with the soup. Store in the fridge. I have no idea how long it will last, but mine kept for about a week. You may be able to keep it longer, I don’t know. Just don’t come crying to me when you have botulism.*

6. When everything looks cooked, add the kale and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adding the kale last means that it retains its flavour and doesn’t end up being tasteless pieces of string.

7. Once the kale has wilted, take the pot off the heat.

8. Ladle the soup into bowls, grate Parmesan over it and put a dollop of Pistou on top. The idea is that you mix the Parmesan and Pistou through the soup before eating.

*You know how you buy a whole bunch of basil and you’re like, “Fuck yeah, my pasta sauce is gonna be awesome with three basil leaves in it!”, and have no idea what to do with the rest? This is what you do. It means you have a basilly-garlicky combo you can add to pasta dishes or soups, such as this one. Or put on meat. Or on your face. Whatever floats your boat.**

**I mean make a Pistou or a basil paste out of it, not get botulism.

***The little red blob in the picture is Jolokia paste. I only recommend adding that if you’re not concerned with keeping it authentic, you like chilli, and/or are insane.

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