31 August 2009

Grilled Eggplant with Miso Sauce - Nasu Dengaku

This is a healthy, nice and easy snack or side dish to make if you manage to get your hands on some eggplants. If you have the thin & long version, then you will need at least 4-6 eggplants. Eggplants is probably the only vegetable that you cannot under cook. With this recipe, I first grill the eggplant pieces until they are nearly done, then I brush on the miso sauce, and place the eggplants under the broiler (in the middle of the oven - so the miso sauce doesn't burn too easily) for about 5-10 mins. Until at least the miso sauce has start to bubble and brown just a bit. I also find that if I soak the sliced & scored eggplant in some cold water for about 1 hr beforehand, then it retains its white fleshy colour. Even after grilling. :)

Eggplants on the Grill Pan

Grilled Eggplant with Miso Sauce - Nasu Dengaku

For Eggplants:

  • 2 big round eggplants (cut into halves & score a criss-cross pattern across the eggplant)
  • vegetable oil for brushing
  • sprinkle of sesame seeds

For Miso Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dashi (I mixed 1 tablespoon of dashi granules in 1/2 cup of boiling hot water).
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoon sake
  • 1/3 cup of miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch


  1. To prepare the miso sauce, place all the content into a measuring cup (except the hot water). Mix to combine it together (the sake and mirin should help thin out the miso paste), then pour in about 1/2 cup of boiling hot water (the water line should come up to the 1 Cup mark now). Continuing mixing until all the contents have dissolved into the hot water, making a slightly thick sauce.
  2. To prepare the eggplants, slice them in half lengthwise and then using a knife score a criss-cross pattern into them. This helps with cooking and to retain the sauce.
  3. Brush the eggplants with some oil and place on a grill pan to grill until the eggplant is cooked. This should take about 5 mins on each side, and the eggplant should be soft to touch when cooked through. Remove eggplants from the grill pan and place into a foil-lined baking tray.
  4. Start the oven in 'grill' mode.
  5. On the criss-cross sides, brush a thick coating of the miso sauce then sprinkle with sesame seeds over the top of the sauce.
  6. Place the eggplants on the middle tray section of the oven, with the grill setting to get the miso sauce to caramelise a bit. This should take about 5-10 mins.
  7. Remove eggplants from oven when you see the miso sauce start to bubble and start to turn brown.


  • If you aren't using dashi granules, then you will need to place the dashi broth and the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and heat it up until the contents dissolve and start to thicken.
  • When grilling the eggplant in the oven, try to keep an eye on the eggplants as the sugar content in the sauce makes the sauce burn rather easily.
  • I find that placing the eggplants in the middle section (instead of directly under the broiler\grill) helps cook the eggplants for a bit more as the sauce is able to caramelise slower.

22 August 2009

Breakfast Baked Puff Pastry Pies

I've been having a rather hectic week at work. In at 9am and out at about 3am. Been pretty much just living off Domino's Chicken Wings and Pizza every single night at work. So after pulling myself out of bed this morning, I went to check out what was available in my fridge.

I had a leftover sheet of puff pastry in my freezer (after my banana tarte tatin adventure the previous week), some eggs, bacon and mushrooms. My open puff pastry pie recipe came to mind for a lazy Saturday brunch.

This recipe is actually quite versatile, you can substitute the main ingredients with almost anything you have available. I have made this before with left over roast pumpkin, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese. However, for today I pulled out my usual big breakfast ingredients, stir fried them for a bit, then placed them in a large muffin cups lined with puff pastry and poured some egg over the top. This recipe pretty much lets you add anything into the puff pastry cups. The egg which can be beaten or left whole is used to hold the ingredients together. One thing to remember, is to place the muffin tray with just the puff pastry into the pre-heated oven until the pastry just starts to puff. Its then removed and the cooked ingredients are added with the raw egg then placed back into the oven for about 15 mins at 180C or until egg has cooked.

Breakfast Baked Puff Pastry Pies
  • 1 buttered large muffin tray
  • 1 sheet of Puff Pastry (divide the sheet into 4 smaller pieces)
  • 4x Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
The following can be substituted with whatever you have available:
  • 1 cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 pieces of bacon (sliced)
  • 1/2 Onion (sliced)
  • Cherry Tomato (halved)
  • Olives (pitted)
  • Shallots (finely sliced) - Optional


  1. Butter the muffin tray and preheat oven to 200C
  2. Drape & press the puff pastry into the tray molds and place into the oven until the puff pastry as just started to turn golden brown. (should take no longer than 5 mins). Lower the oven to 160C after the puff pastry molds have been removed.
  3. Meanwhile, stir fry together your chosen ingredients. I had mushrooms, bacon, onions, tomato and olives. Then set aside.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs, add in shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Take the puff pastry tray, and spoon in about 2 tablespoons of the egg & cheese mixture, top with the stir fried ingredients. Then pour in the remaining egg & cheese mixture.
  6. Sprinkle with some shallots over the top of the puff pastry pies.
  7. Then place into the oven at 160C for about 15-20 mins.
  8. Remove from the muffin trays and serve with some tomato sauce squeezed over the top of the pastry pies.

Makes 4 puff pastry pies. Enjoy.. :)

10 August 2009

Coq Au Sauvignon Blanc - Cooked Under Pressure

I finished work today at about 7pm.. got home at about 7.30pm... chopped up some chicken.. veggies. Browned the chicken.. threw everything in a pot. Dinner was ready at 8.07pm.

If I didn't already mention it before...I love my new pressure cooker !!

This is a variant on 'Coq Au Vin' which is a French dish that translates to 'Rooster in Wine'. Coq Au Vin is made with red wine. However for this time, I'm using a white wine. Sauvignon Blanc to be exact. Not really by choice, but it's because I've actually run out of red wine at home.

Yes.. probably for the 1st time.. I have no reds at home. Only a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

So this Coq Au Sauvignon Blanc is really 'Chicken in White Wine'. The Sauvignon Blanc can be substituted with any other types of white wine you have available.

Also, instead of going for the full blown Julia Child's Coq Au Vin recipe, I've scaled it back to omit the braising of the pearl onions. And I use some Speck Ham I have in my fridge instead of the bacon. I also added in some carrots to help sweeten the sauce.

As mentioned before, I've put my new pressure cooker back to work. According to the guide, chicken is done in 8mins on high (15 psi) or 15mins on the low (8 psi) setting.

Coq Au Sauvignon Blanc (Chicken in White Wine)
variant of a Coq Au Vin recipe I've made before, which can be found at smitten kitchen

  • 3 Maryland Chicken Thigh Pieces (drumsticks separated, thigh pieces cut into two)
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 250g Speck Ham (sliced & diced into 2cm wide pieces)
  • 3 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • 1 large brown onion (quartered)
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • Salt & Pepper

Season chicken pieces with salt & pepper. Dust with some plain flour and set aside.

In the cooker, melt butter in the olive oil. Add the Speck Ham, garlic, onions and carrot to the cooker and saute until the onions have started to brown. Remove from the cooker with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Brown the chicken pieces in the cooker on all sides. Pour back in the Speck, garlic, onions and carrots. Add the thyme and pour in the white wine. Close the lid on the pressure cooker, set to cook on high (15 psi) and bring cooker to pressure. After 8 mins turn off the heat. Release the pressure using the automatic release setting and remove the lid.

While the pressure cooker was cooking, in a separate pan, put together:

Sauteed Mushrooms:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • handful of Button Mushrooms (halved or quartered if large)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 stalk green onion (finely sliced.. this is optional)
  • salt & pepper
Once the lid is removed from the pressure cooker, add in the saute mushrooms.

Finish off the dish by thickening the sauce with a Roux made out of 1 tablespoon of butter to 1 tablespoon of plain flour. Or you can use about 150ml of thickened cream. I went for the cream option this time as I was pressed for time and had some available in my fridge.

Serve with rice, potatoes or even just 'as is' for a low-carb option. :)

09 August 2009

Banana Tarte Tatin

I've been hunting around for a simple tarte tatin recipe to try out. Something thats quick and simple. I saw this one while I was browsing through Dhanggit's kitchen - one of the food bloggies I follow.

I like the idea of a flambée tarte tatin.. but wasn't really up to doing it at home. So I've changed the recipe a bit to exclude the flambée part, and also added in some cinnamon and vanilla essence.

This has to be one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I've done in a while. You can probably substitute the bananas for apples or pears. Although they will probably require a bit more cooking time.

Banana Tarte Tatin

originally adapted from this recipe at Dhanggit's Kitchen

  • 2 frozen sheets of ready-made puff pastry (see notes below)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 4 bananas, sliced diagonally
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon of rum essence

Prehead oven to 180 degrees celcius. Thaw out the pastry a bit by placing it on top of a smaller bowl or cup. (see notes on pastry below)

In the ovenproof frying pan, melt the butter, add in the sugar, salt and lemon juice and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture sit and simmer for about 5 mins until a light caramel starts to form.

Layout the bananas over the caramel, let it cook for 3 minutes. Drizzle the vanilla and rum essence over the bananas. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the bananas. Remove from heat, then cover the caramel bananas with the puff pastry.

Make sure the pastry is tucked in well around the sides to seal in the contents. Prick the pastry a few times with a fork.

Place the frying pan into the oven and bake until the top starts to turn golden brown. This should take about 20-25 mins.

Don't worry about the corners, its not visable once its flipped.

Turn over the tarte tatin on to a plate and serve immediately with some vanilla ice cream. We had it with some homemade vanilla ice cream that was made the previously.

  • Flipping the tart tatine: Using two oven mitts, I placed a bigger plate over the saucepan, held it together and quickly turned it upside down. Then let it sit for a couple of minutes before removing the saucepan.
  • I used Pampas Ready Made Puff Pastry (in sheet form). This is found in the frozen section at the supermarket. Just remove two square sheets and thaw out slightly. Then when the caramel is ready, place one sheet on top and fold the corners down towards the centre. Place the other sheet on top, and arrange it so the corners aren't directly on top of each other. Fold the corners in, and tuck the puff pastry sheet in around the pan, sealing in the caramel. Alternatively you can trim away the corners, but I didn't really want to discard away any yummy puff pastry. :)

08 August 2009

Beef Rendang - Cooked Under Pressure

I finally managed to get to PoK today and got myself a Fagor Duo Pressure Cooker.. :)

This is the kitchen appliance which will help reduce my cooking time for beef stews from 3 hrs to 40 mins and produce risottos in 7 mins !!!

I've been researching online for over a month now on which pressure cooker to buy. I've never actually used one before. But I have seen my grandma use her rather loud pressure cooker to cook abalone. An appliance which I remember to quite scary... The way it would go off.. I used to think it would blow up in someone's face.

After a going through numerous reviews of pressure cookers on Amazon, I had pretty much narrowed my choices down to a stovetop cooker. An electric cooker would save an extra stovetop space, but given the amount of bench space available at my little kitchenette, it wasn't going to be much different. A few reviewers who had both an electric and stovetop cooker said that they preferred the stovetop version over the electronic cookers. This was mostly due to the ease of browning meats and better control of the temperature and high pressure achieved.

After reading Helen @ GrabYourFork's review on three difference pressure cookers, I was pretty much sold on the Fagor Duo.

I christened my new pressure cooker with my Beef Rendang recipe. :)

This usually takes me about 3 hrs to make and requires constant stirring and checking to make sure the bottom doesn't stick and burn. In the Fagor Duo, it took about 35 mins. With 5-7 mins extra cooking with the lid off when I had to add in the sugar, salt and toasted desiccated coconut.

My version of beef rendang is probably less dry and has more sauce (..I like to mix the sauce in with my rice..) than the traditional version. I doubled the amount of coconut milk to achieve this and also added in some curry leaves. You can half the coconut milk required and omit the curry leaves if you like.

Here is the full recipe...

Beef Rendang

In a food processor, pulse together:

  • 3cm galangal (sliced)
  • 3cm ginger (skin removed)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 dried chilli (cut up with scissors, soaked in water, seeds discarded)

Then use as a spice rub and mix together with:

  • 1kg chuck steak (cut into 3cm cubes)
  • 2 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt

Set the mixed beef cubes aside and in the pressure cooker stir fry:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 10 red shallots (roughly sliced)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (ends removed, sliced into 3 parts, bruised, outer green layer discarded)

Once the shallots start to brown, add in the following spices and stir fry together:

  • 3 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (torn in half down the spine)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon bark (about 5cm long..)

After you can start to smell the aroma from the spices, the add in the beef and brown on all sides, then pour in (one after another):

  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste (diluted with a tablespoon of water)
  • 1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
  • 500ml coconut milk

If the coconut milk doesn't come up half way to the beef cubes, then add in 1/2 cup of water.

Place lid on pressure cooker, set it to high (15 psi), enable safety lock, then turn up the heat to bring the cooker to pressure. Once pressure has been achieved, turn the heat back down so that only slow continued puffs of steam are released. After 35 mins, turn the heat off, then use the automatic release method to release the pressure. Once all the pressure has been released, unlock the cooker and remove the lid.

Don't worry if the contents in the pot looks a bit weird (its the coconut milk that has separated), just give it a quick stir to combine everything together again.

Turn the heat back on to the lowest setting and add:

  • 5cm stick brown block sugar (broken up with a pestle mortar..see notes below for substitutes)
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (lightly toasted in a pan)
  • salt to taste

Continue to simmer on low heat for about 5-7 mins. Gently stir the contents in the pot around and make sure everything is combined and the block sugar (if using) has broken down.

Taste the rendang sauce and add more sugar or salt as required.

Serve with some plain steam rice or with some coconut rice.

Beef Rendang

  • I got the brown block sugar from a Asian grocery store. You can use palm sugar (which would probably be more authentic) or substitute this with about 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar instead.
  • Bruising the lemongrass consisted of smashing it with the back of my chopping knife
  • I got the cinnamon bark from a Asian grocery store. It doesn't have the curly bits like normal cinnamon and looks a lot more 'bark-like'. I think it maybe called Cassia bark.. but I can't be sure. You can use a normal cinnamon stick instead.
  • After making this, I think you can probably change the order around a bit by using 1 cup of water to cook the beef in the pressure cooker, and adding the coconut milk in the last 5-7 mins of cooking. I will give this method a try, once I get my hands on some more chuck steak :)

06 August 2009

Cauliflower Cheese

Making this cauliflower cheese reminds me of the time my grandma used to take us out to this old-style cafeteria around the Aherns department store in Perth. And we would have pork roasts with veggies and Crème caramels for lunch. Yes, for lunch.. Dinner was always back at home and was always chinese food. So every time my grandma would suggest going to Aherns for shopping, we would always tag along.

I guess pork roasts with crackling, 3 vegs and crème caramels doesn't seem to be much. But for someone that just has chinese food all day... any break from that... is a much welcomed break. :)

The 3 vegs would always be mashed potatoes, roast pumpkin and cauliflower cheese.

I would mix the mashed potatoes and pumpkin up with the gravy. But the cauliflower cheese was always satisfying just by itself.... :)

The secret is in the extra thick belchamel sauce and not to overcook the cauliflower so that it doesn't completely fall apart when you pick it up with your fork.

This is my version of a more 'spiced up' cauliflower cheese, with the addition of anchovies, mustard and garlic into the bechamel sauce.

Cauliflower Cheese


  • 1/2 head of white cauliflower (steam removed, trimmed and broken into florets)
  • 1 tablespoon butter - more for greasing the oven dish
  • 4 anchovy fillets (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 150g Cheddar (grated) - more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon fine fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Cook the cauliflower in boiling salted water until just tender - should be no more than 5 minutes. Remove from the salted water, run the cauliflower through cold water under the tap, then drain thoroughly in a colander.
  3. Grease the sides and edges of an ovenproof dish then tip the cauliflower in.
  4. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the chopped anchovy fillets. Stir the butter around until the anchovy fillets start to melt into the butter. Spoon in the flour and stir for about 1 minute.
  5. Add in the chopped garlic. Continue stirring for another minute or so.
  6. Lower the heat and gradually beat in the milk.
  7. Add in the mustard and nutmeg. Bring the sauce back to a slow simmer for and about 3-5 mins and keep on stirring while it simmers.
  8. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and season generously with salt and pepper.
  9. Taste the sauce, it should be a bit on the saltier side.
  10. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower.
  11. Sprinkle the extra Cheddar over the top, then the breadcrumbs and top with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper.
  12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top has turned golden brown and bubbling.


  • Running the cauliflower straight after cooking under a cold water tap helps stop the heat in the cauliflower to 'continue cooking' it.
  • The cheese sauce should be at a slightly thicker consistency, but still runny enough to be able to pour out of the saucepan.

03 August 2009

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Strawberries

In one of the few episodes of Masterchef I actually watched, there was this Chocolate Ganache Tart with some passionfruit cream thingy. The judges that were tasting it were saying they had to 'stop scoring at 10'. The website for Masterchef doesn't actually list the recipe (and there are many people in the forums asking for it). So I put my googling skills to good use, and tried to track down a similar recipe.

I didn't manage to find an exact match that called for both chocolate ganache and passionfruit, but two other chocolate tart recipes caught my interest.

I liked the idea of using Arnott's Choc Ripple biscuits as the tart base. (That meant I didn't have to produce a pastry base). And making the chocolate ganache with a 1 part cream to 1 part chocolate sounded about right (ie. not overwhelmingly rich). In the end, I wasn't too fussed about the passionfruit cream topping, so I opted for some fresh strawberries instead, since I had a punnet already sitting in my fridge.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Strawberries
With reference to this on taste.com.au and this recipe from formerchef

-- 10" tart tin with removable base

  • 1 Punnet Strawberries (rinsed, steam-end cut flat, sliced in half)

Tart Base:

  • 15 Crushed Arnott's 'Choc Ripple' biscuits
  • 60g butter (melted)

Mix and press into tart bases. Then place into the fridge until its needed to be used.

Ganache Filling:

  • 200 ml Thickened Cream
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200 g Cocoa Dark Chocolate (broken into small pieces - I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate)

Place chocolate pieces in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream and sugar to just before it starts to boil. Pour the hot cream, through a sieve, over chocolate pieces. Stir until smooth and creamy in texture. Mix in vanilla. This way the chocolate doesn't need to be 'heated' directly. Therefore avoiding the chance of having 'burnt chocolate'.

Keep on whisking the chocolate mixture until all the lumps are gone. Put the bowl over some hot water (ie. like a double boiler) if the chocolate hasn't melted properly.

Pour the chocolate mixture into center of cooled tart shell. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly to the end of the tart crust. Arrange the sliced strawberries around the tart. Place the tart into the fridge to set for at least 1 hour before serving.

We had this with vanilla ice cream, and it did help to offset the bitterness in the 70% dark chocolate I used.

Considering this was my first Ganache Tart.. it actually turned out pretty well. I think I will still hunt around for the Masterchef version. Stay tuned... :)

02 August 2009

Another Use for Leftover Egg Whites ...

After I've had my little bit of fun making the vanilla ice cream, I was leftover with about 6 egg whites. I was thinking meringues.. but.. again ?!... (I could already hear the moans & groans coming from my household if I produced another meringue related dish again). And then I saw this post from Not Quite Nigella... ~ The perfect saviour for my 6 egg whites !

Now I just have to get my hands on some lemon extract... :)

Milan Cookies

Recipe from Not Quite Nigella with reference to Gale Gand, from the Food Network website

  • 170g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cookie filling:

  • 1/2 cup thickening cream
  • 200g semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 orange, zested

  1. In a mixer, cream the butter and the sugar.
  2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
  3. Sift in the flour and mix until just well mixed.
  4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread -- I used a sandwich bag with the tip of one corner cut off as a 'piping bag'.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350F/160C degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
  6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
  7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
  8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
  9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
  10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.


  • I think the next time I bake these, I will try putting the temperature a bit higher. The edges of the cookie were really yummy and crisp, but the middle was a bit more chewy then I would have liked. I noticed the ones where the bottom had completely gone a golden brown colour were a lot less chewy.

I wonder how long its going to take for us to devour 3 dozen cookies ?! :)

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