recipe – “Asian Tacos”

My two younger sisters are with us tonight. Mum dropped Lisa to my house after work and I drove her over to her hockey match in Albury. Kate got a lift with someone else and I took my pirate quilt and cheered them on to a 2 all draw in the thunder and the hail.

Prior to this, however, I got some meat marinating. Knowing it was going to be a late dinner I prepared part of it earlier in the day. I wanted something light, fresh, and somewhat Vietnamese inspired. I had an idea for something like rice paper rolls, with a bit of crunch. Except I didn’t feel like rice paper so I decided to use lettuce instead. Kate ended up deciding they were “Asian Tacos” so I think we should stick to that. Sounds good enough for me.

I had two lots of meat marinating while we were at hockey. Here’s what I did:

Overall ingredients for meat (or rough guesses)
500gm of Beef
500gm of free range chicken (any boneless part that you want)
2 stalks lemongrass
1 – 2 chilis (more if you’re game)
6 cloves garlic (I put 3 in each)
2-3 cm piece of fresh Ginger
splash of Mirin
1 bunch of fresh coriander
zest and juice of 1 lime

For the rest of the meal:
Iceberg Lettuce leaves, peeled off the head whole.
Carrot
Snow Pea Shoots
Red Capsicum
rice noodles (thin ones)
Dipping Sauce or ingredients for one.

Lemongrass Beef.
Very finely Grate (or smash in a mortar and Pestle) some fresh lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chili. Add a touch of sesame oil and a tiny bit of Mirin (certianly optional – or try a pinch of sugar if you don’t have Mirin). Mix through some beef, cut into strips and marinate for the length of a field hockey game (70 mins, plus the warm-up and aftergame talk)

Coriander and lime Chicken.
Smash one whole bunch (including roots if they are clean enough) of fresh coriander, some garlic, a bit of salt, some fish sauce – not too much – and some oil in a mortar and pestle to make a nice paste. Add zest and juice of a lime. I used half a lime and it probably could have done with more. mix that through your chicken and marinate until ready.

I then cooked up the beef in a frying pan (as I brought pre-cut strips and they were too small to skewer properly), and skewered the chicken chunks and BBQ’d them.

Yummy green chicken

While the meat was cooking the girls helped me cut up the rest of it and make the sauce. We took a recipie from this book: Vietnamese Street Food. I won’t post the recipe here at the moment but it’s a basic dipping sauce, with lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, chili, garlic, and sugar. Yum!

Lisa made the sauce…

…while Kate chopped some veggies

Kate and I chopped a few things up. We ended up with thin carrot sticks, sliced spring onion, thin sticks of red capsicum and some snowpea shoots. Check it out:

The noodles are not in this photo – they’re on their way to the table though

The sauce ended up tasting pretty good – although it was less a dipping sauce and more a “pour on your food and let it drip everywhere” kind of sauce. Whatever works.

tasty tasty sauce

How To Eat:
1) Put in mouth
2) Chew
3) Swallow
4) repeat steps 1-3 until foodstuffs is gone.

…. no seriously, this meal is fun. Grab a lettuce leaf, put some noodles in, then some meat, then the veggies.

the final product

roll….

and Nom.

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this morning.

I decided to do something different this morning.
I woke up at 6:30, pulled on some warm clothes and my hiking boots, and drove the couple of kilometers to Federation Hill. We are planning a trek in Nepal later this year and I want to get serious about some training. The hills around town are only small, however it’s a start I guess in getting myself more used to that kind of workout.

The air was cold and crisp, and it was a beautiful morning. When you get to the top, you have Albury/Wodonga spread out before you, and when you turn around you have the hills and trees. I watched the sun rise over Albury, then headed back home to get ready for work. I felt fresh and content.

Perfect.

A few photos from Pop’s garden

But first, here’s Pop cooking us all eggs and Bacon for breakfast.

Pop’s make the best breakfasts

Then on to the exciting garden photos.

Pop has always had a great garden. I remember spending hours with him one day, sitting out the back of his house in Goulburn shelling broad beans.

Beetroot, glorious beetroot.

check out this perfecly formed wonderfully crunchy looking cabbage

The best thing about early morning garden photos – the fact that the dew is still on the plants and everything looks wonderful and fresh.

See what I mean?

Pop is really good at growing things. As evidenced by this next photo.

Scott seems a bit confused by this GIGANTIC carrot!

We weighed this beast of a carrot. Apparently Pop’s secret is very sandy soil. When we tried to grow carrots they ended up being all twisted and stunted.

this thing was huge

The next door neighbour’s cats watched us wandering about the backyard from their sunny spot.

Before we left on Saturday, we got a few photos in. Here’s one of my favorites.

Lotta, Scott, Julie, Pop, Myself, and Gary

And I’ll leave you with this little gem. Last season we brought a mystery bucket of mixed daffodil bulbs. While Gary wasn’t looking, I planted them in a bunch of random places throughout the front garden. They sat and waited, under the mulch. He had no idea where I’d planted them. Then they started popping up like little happiness bombs. I love daffodils. They are so simple and bright and cheerful. This one is the first to pop up this year, down near out letterbox:

Our weekend, also I brought a Kindle!

No photos today, just words. Not feeling too good at the moment so I’m contemplating some takeaway a soak in the bath and an early night. Gary’s on afternoon shift and won’t be home till midnight.

Over the weekend we (Gary, myself, my brother Scott and his wife Lotta) had a trip up to Young to visit Poppy Harry and Julie. It was good to see him again. It’s been a while and it was lovely just to spend some time relaxing at their home.

Pop cooked us a wonderful beef stew for our late dinner Friday night (we drove the 3 hour trip after work) and Julie made a Feijoa and berry crumble. Delicious! Julie’s daughter Tegan was there with her son Nick, who is 5 and contains boundless energy.

Saturday morning was a walk down the street, past the place where my great grandmother Nanny Madge used to live. When she died her house was bulldozed and the car yard next door was expanded. I’m pretty sure the cacti in the car yard garden are hers though. I have fuzzy childhood memories, glimpses of moments frozen in my mind from that house. One thing that has always stuck with me was the sarsaparilla syrup and lemonade that Nanny Madge used to make for us. To this day, sarsaparilla makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I remember nothing but love and happiness in that house.

We wandered past that spot ad down to the op shop (the only one that was open). Then it was on to a coffee and meeting up again with Julie and Nick. More wanderings produced a box of wool for $10 (awesome!!) and some mixed vintage style fabric for another $10. We got some sausages from the local butcher, and trundled back to pops house for a BBQ lunch, some time hanging out with our family, then the long trip home.

Sunday was a quiet affair. Not much was done. Gary worked more on the garden fence. I’ll do a post on that when he finishes it all completely.

Yesterday I brought a kindle touch. I want to get back into reading again, and a workmate has a kindle already. So I checked hers out and decided to snag one for myself. It’s portable, looks very similar to how a book reads, and can hold loads of literature. My first purchase? Game of thrones, books 1 to 5, for $30. I’m currently reading it.

That’s about it. I’m going to cheat tonight and get takeaway then go pass out in bed wrapped around my hot water bottle and wait for Gary to get home

more garden additions, and other news.

On the weekend we went on a visit to the nursery. Here’s what we came home with:

Our new babies

That’s my lovely Gary, doing what he does when I say “smile for the photo”.

In the tray is some chives, garlic chives (I’m currently frustrated with my lack of chives), Russian chamomile and some perennial Basil. It’s not the same as the sweet basil we all love, but it’s a reasonable substitute for when my salt preserved summer basil runs out, and it’s worth a try.

The chives will be planted in a couple of buckets with holes drilled in them. I was thinking about maybe painting the buckets with some bright designs just for laughs. Maybe sponge painted flowers or something like that.

Also in this tray is rainbow chard (Silverbeet).

I love silverbeet. I love it so very much. Next to broccoli and zucchini, it’s probably my favorite thing we grow. It’s delicious with feta, in pasta, with tuna, with rice, in a tart, in bread, and just sautéed with a little butter, garlic, salt and pepper.

We grow a lot of it. Our last bunch, however, ended up with powdery mildew and we are currently without mature plants to harvest.

I am sad. But there is hope for the future, because we have the next generation waiting to grow big for us!

We also had these little fellas pass on:

baby snow peas

Gary has been nurturing these guys from a young age (from seed) and since we had two successful punnets come up, he gave away one to a friend who has been dabbling in growing things. She told him a while ago that her tomatoes had expired and she wasn’t sure what to grow next. So she now has snow peas! they are so delicious.

Actually, I think I will add snow peas to my list of favorite veggies. I love them. Most of them don’t make it to a meal because we (or the dog) devour them before they get anywhere near the house. But when they go in at the end of a stir fry or curry… man they are amazing!!

on another note, here’s a photo of me with my new glasses. These are my black ones. I also got a lovely purple pair. I’ve received quite a few compliments so I’m pretty happy with my choice. Also I’m pretty happy with the fact that I can now read street signs at night and I don’t get headaches within 10 minutes of looking at a computer.

Zephyr finds it difficult to sit still, particularly when cameras are involved.

some recipes – Super Awesome Nachos and my Chicken Schnitzel

There are certain things I don’t order in restaurants, purely because I have my own way of cooking them, and restaurants tend not to cook them the same and I get disappointed. These dishes include risotto and Nachos.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really cooking it properly, or if my recipe is so far from the traditional that it can really be called what I call it anymore. That’s what’s happened to my nachos recipe over the years. Are these really nachos anymore? Regardless of what it should be officially called, I refer to them as Nachos. Or when I add the extra bits, Super Awesome Nachos.

Essentially my Super Awesome Nachos are nachos with a salad thrown on top. I have heard these referred to as haystacks, but I like my version better because it sounds cooler.

Anyhow.

SUPER AWESOME NACHOS:

here they are, all naked before I put the extra bits on.

Beef/Bean mix:
I usually make this with only beans, however I know Gary prefers it with some meat in it. This mix was used the night before for burritos and I threw some extra beans in to top it up. if you want vegetarian, omit the beef and increase the beans. When using all beans I tend to smoosh some of them up a bit for added texture

500g Mince (usually beef, feel free to substitute turkey mince, chicken, go crazy!)
1 can red kidney beans.
1 onion, chopped (I like it chunky)
garlic (however much you like. I like heaps.)
1 reasonably sized capsicum, cored and chopped.
Fresh or dried chilis (to taste)
Cumin seeds
(a dash of) cinnamon
cayenne pepper
fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped. – I used a 500 ml preserving jar full of whole tomatoes, so maybe one can or 2 big fresh ones?
Fresh/dried oregano and basil.

Optional: grated carrot and/or zucchini. I tend to put these in the full vegetarian version for a bit more texture and flavour.
I also threw in a bit of homemade tomato sauce at the end.

Other stuff you need:
Corn chips
Avocado
Fresh tomatoes (this week I used cherry roma. Oh My Nonexistant Deiety! amazing!)
lime
sour cream
lettuce, shredded.
cheese, grated.

how to make beef mix:

1) sautee onions, garlic, and chili in a bit of olive oil until starting to soften. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Or if your oven is like mine and is lame as hell, heat to 200 degrees.
2) brown beef with the onions, garlic, and chili.
3) add beans, capsicum and tomatoes.
4) add cumin, a dash of cinnamon, and however much cauyenne pepper you like. Don’t overdo it though. it’s better to add a little then have to add more then to try and fix it when there is too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5) simmer till thick enough. Add the basil and oregano.

Next part is to assemble the nacho section.

put a layer of corn chips in an oven proof dish. Add half the been mix, then top with half the Cheese. Repeat. if you want, you can put a bit of paprika onto the top of the cheese, just because. Bake this in the oven till cheese is melty and it’s looking like it wants to be eaten.

Meanwhile, back on the kitchen bench:
Shred lettuce. Chop avocado and tomatoes. Slice the lime in half. Mix the avocado and the tomato together and squeeze some lime juice over it. Open the sour cream.

Fetch the nachos from the oven, top with lettuce, avocado and tomato mix, and dollops of sour cream.

Nom.

they may not be pretty but they are delicious.

My other recipe (as advertised by my post title) is for my chicken schnitzels.

simple but delicious

First, a word on chicken. I use only certified free range chicken if I can help it. I don’t even really think about it much. If free range is not available, I don’t buy chicken. I guess it comes partially from my upbringing where we raised our own chickens to eat and although that isn’t an option for me right now I’d like to support a meat industry that is the most ethical one we can access at the moment. I understand there are issues with the definition of free range, however when given a choice I guess it’s the lesser of two evils approach that I’m taking.

Also, with eggs, I don’t buy free range eggs from a company that also sells cage eggs. I choose to send my money to companies that only sell free range eggs. Again, we are working on setting up our own chook yard so we can raise our own and provide for our own food. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to support the most ethical practices I can.

So now that I’m off my high horse, here’s what I do with those delicious free range chicken breasts.

Chicken Schnitzels:
Free range chicken breasts (1 per schnitzel desired)
panko breadcrumbs (I prefer the texture on the Panko crumbs. For those unfamiliar, check the asian section of the supermarket.)
cornflour
free range eggs (one will generally do two schnitzels)
herbs – I tend to use fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley. In summer I use basil.
salt and pepper
olive oil.

1) wash, pat dry, and finely chop herbs. Mix with the panko crumbs. Also mix in some salt and pepper and spread them on a plate or another dish to dip the schnitzels in.
2) organise three plates/Dishes. the first has the cornflour, the second the beaten egg(s), the third the panko crumbs.
3) beat the breasts with a meat mallet/tenderiser until thin enough.
4) heat a frying pan with some olive oil. When hot, begin the schnitzel process.
5) take a flattened breast, lightly coat it in cornflour, then beaten egg, then then panko crumbs, ensuring even coverage.
6) place in frying pan. Cook a few minutes either side. You may have to add some olive oil or it will not look lovely and golden brown when done.

if you need to cook in batches, place cooked schnitzels in an oven at 100degrees, placed on a rack over a tray. This should keep them hot and crispy without them sitting in oil.

I like to dish these up with steamed veg and some gravy. This night I made steamed broccoli and mashed sweet potato with paprika.

Variations: try Basil, lemon thyme and lemon rind, or basil, parsley and parmesan.

and finally, here’s Gary enjoying my epic Super Awesome Nachos:

By the way, we shared that dish. I know it’s huge. It was split between us.