Wednesday, 29 May 2013

pan-grilled hoisin pork steaks (a 3-ingredient recipe)

3-ingredient pan-grilled hoisin pork steak.

Sometimes the rescuer in me wakes up, and seeks out neglected ingredients that have been sitting in a lonely corner for far too long. It makes me happy when I save them from oblivion and find them a good home. On a plate. In my belly.

My recent efforts revolved around a full bottle of hoisin sauce in Simon's fridge. No one really knows who bought it, or how long it has been there. Every time I open the fridge, it niggles at me a little. I started to think about how awful the bottle of hoisin sauce must feel, because surely if you are a bottle of hoisin sauce, all you want to do is mingle with other delicious things, to create even more delicious things.

Because I'm that kind of crazy woman.

It just so happened that I won a competition and received the prize of an incredible meat tray around that time (thanks, The Vegetable Connection and Cherry Tree Organics!) so there were plenty of carnivorous delights to go around. One of the items in the meat tray were some lovely boneless butterflied pork steaks. I thought they would match well with the sweet, rich hoisin sauce, which is often described as a Chinese BBQ sauce.

And thus, these 3-ingredient pan-grilled hoisin pork steaks came into our world.

pan-grilled hoisin pork steaks

1/4 cup hoisin sauce* (more to taste, later, if desired)
1 tablespoon oil with a high smoke point (e.g. rice bran oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil)
2 boneless pork butterfly steaks or chops (approx. 300g / 2/3lb total, and 2cm / 3/4" thick)

Combine hoisin sauce and oil. Rub all over the pork steaks and let them marinate for 1 hour, or longer.
Heat a grill pan over a medium high flame. Once the pan is hot, slap the steaks down. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. (If they curve up during the cooking process, you can press them down a little so that they continue to sear well and evenly.)
Remove the steaks from the pan and rest for another 3 minutes before serving.

If you'd like to brush a little more hoisin sauce on your pork, or add other condiments like pepper... go for it!

I served mine with a simple vegetable side dish: steamed bok choy, drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. (This is only 3 ingredients, too - yay!)

*Since this recipe has so few ingredients, it is important that you use a hoisin sauce that tastes good to you. The one I rescued from Simon's fridge is Ayam brand, and it also happened to be gluten-free. However, not all hoisin sauces are gluten-free, so if you are that way inclined, do check the label and list of ingredients. I also try to look for sauces that have a fairly natural ingredient list.

easy-as-anything pan-grilled hoisin pork butterfly steak with a simple side of bok choy.

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

kebabs r yummy, south melbourne

lamb kebab from kebabs r yummy, $9.50.

I cannot believe I have been working in South Melbourne for the past few years, and have only discovered Kebabs R Yummy on 192 Well St this year. It's enough to make a greedy food-lover like me weep ever-so-gently on the inside with could've-been regret and it's-not-too-late joy.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating a little. But seriously, the food here is lip-smackingly delicious and great value. And the head honcho lady who runs the joint - she's a dear. Not only do I love coming here to get my work lunches, I sometimes visit after work to grab takeaway dinner as well. (Not both on the same day, though, that's probably a bit excessive and would likely result in a meat coma.)

My first experience here was back in January, and I got the lamb kebab, which is what you see in the picture up there. This is a hearty hunk of crisp-at-the-edges lamb döner kebab goodness, strewn with fresh onions, lettuce and tomato, deftly drizzled with chilli and garlic sauce on a nice warm slab of Turkish bread. It's mighty, it's piquant, it's carnal. It is also the only work lunch I've ever bought to have defeated me, thus far. I've never had trouble finishing the takeaways I get, especially if they're as tasty as this one was, but I really struggled here and in the end I had to admit there was going to be leftover bread.

On my next trip I went for the Combo Meat on Top, where I got three salads of my choice, plus lamb and chicken on top, and, of course, feisty lashes of that chilli and garlic sauce. This has subsequently become a favourite of mine for takeaway work lunches. Being a fork-friendly meal, it is less messy to deal with, and easier to eat at my desk. I mean, let's face it, I will never resemble anything remotely close to a sophisticated professional, but at least going for this dish means that I am less likely to be mistaken for an awkward cavewoman. Plus, I really like the salads here as well - they are always nicely seasoned, and do a nifty job of balancing out all that meat. You can't see them hiding underneath in the picture below, so you'll just have to trust me on this. I usually get the eggplant, green beans, and mixed roast vegetables, but there are heaps of other options.

(chicken and lamb) combo meat on top from kebabs r yummy, $9.90.

So, in conclusion, if you ever find yourself in South Melbourne and you're craving something big, meaty and satisfying (that's what she said), give Kebabs R Yummy a go. It may even be worth a slight detour.

Because, as it turns out, the kebabs here are pretty yummy.

Kebabs R Yummy on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

easy cheesy spinach frittata (quick and simple)


Baked frittata. Easy, cheesy, spinachy.

Hello, frittata.

You're just so good, so easy. Delicious warm, but also cold. Suitable for all seasons: cool and convenient picnic fare for summer, warm and comforting at home in winter. I think I love you a little. Or a lot.

This can be as simple as anything. A bit of butter, a bit of garlic. Whisked eggs and yoghurt. Spinach and cheese. But of course, I can get fancy with you, too. I can stir in some basil, throw in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. So many possibilities, so many variations of deliciousness.

I gleefully top you with cheese before putting you into the oven. Who doesn't like a cheesy crust, after all.

How my easy cheesy spinach frittata looked before it went into the oven. Just in case you're interested.

The hot oven worked its magic. You look nice, frittata. Oh yes, you do.

Easy cheesy spinach frittata, hot from the oven.

Cross-section of easy cheesy spinach frittata.

easy cheesy spinach frittata

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
5 large eggs (around 55-60g/2oz each)
1 pinch salt, or to taste*
2 pinches black pepper, or to taste
1.5 cups baby spinach leaves, firmly packed
1/2 + 1/3 cup roughly grated/shredded cheddar, or other cheese*
1/4 cup sweet basil leaves (optional, but awesome)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (optional, but awesome)
1/4 cup unsweetened natural or greek yoghurt

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F) fan-forced (200°C/390°F conventional).

In a 20cm/8" oven-safe pan, warm up the butter over low to medium heat and gently fry the garlic until soft and golden. Swirl to coat all inner surfaces of the pan with the melted butter, and spread out the garlic across the pan with a fork.

In a bowl, whisk eggs with salt and pepper until the whites and yolks blend together smoothly. Gradually trickle in yoghurt, whisking all the time. Stir through the spinach and 1/2 cup cheese, as well as the basil and sun-dried tomatoes, if using.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Scatter the top with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or a little longer, until a puffed golden with hints of brown.

Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. It will sink and shrink as it cools, and become easier to remove from the pan with time. Cut slices straight out from the pan, or if you're feeling brave, run a knife along the edges and flip it out. (Note: If attempting to do the latter, perhaps use more butter in the initial cooking process, and also wait longer for it to cool.)

Suitable for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks, picnics, anytime really!

* I've made this frittata with both roughly or finely grated cheese. I've tried it with different cheeses -  cheddar, grana padano, parmesan / parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino romano. I've found that with a very salty cheese like pecorino, there was no need to add salt at all.

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

pok pok, docklands

I met up with a few friends for dinner last month. We became acquainted years ago through the training of the Brazilian martial art, capoeira, and these days, some of us still rock up to classes, while some have moved on to other things. Despite it all, our bonds remain.

So, let's call us.... Capoeiristas Anonymous ™.

Selecting a restaurant for our gathering was no easy task. As it turns out, many places insist on groups of 8+ taking on the set menu option, which wasn't necessarily the best fit for us. Thankfully, there were no such restrictions with Pok Pok (801 - 803 Bourke St, Docklands), so in the end, that was where we merrily went. (And I got Simon to come along, too, despite him not being a member of Capoeiristas Anonymous.)

It was a good choice! The food was satisfying, and the service came not only with patience for the shenanigans of our mischievous group, but also a twinkle in the eye.

I kicked off the proceedings with Thai milk iced tea. This is of a similar standard to other Thai places in Melbourne. Pretty sweet, as expected, but still nice and refreshing.

Pok Pok: Thai milk iced tea ($4).

For starters, we went with some Bangkok street style fresh spring rolls (soft spring roll wrapped around tender chicken, lap cheong, marinated tofu, steamed bean shoot, finely sliced egg omelette and fresh cucumber served with tamarind relish). I'm not always big on sweet-and-savoury dishes, so while I found it to be pleasant, I wasn't carried away. Simon, on the other hand, was rather infatuated, continually asking me if I could re-create it at home.

Pok Pok: Bangkok street style fresh spring rolls ($7.5).

Next up was char-grilled chicken satay (free range chicken marinated in fresh Thai herbs and spices, served with Bangkok street style peanut sauce and cucumber & red onion relish). I really enjoyed this. The chicken was tender and the sauce was thick and satisfying, with the spice and crunch coming through in every bite.

Pok Pok: Char-grilled chicken satay ($7.5).

Simon and I shared two mains amongst us. The first one was the Massaman lamb curry with crisp roti bread (Massaman curry of slow-cooked lamb shank, waxy potatoes, onion, fried shallot and crunchy cashew nuts served with freshly cooked roti bread). I had forgotten that most Thai curries - or, at least, many of the ones I've had - tend to be a bit too sweet for me, so perhaps I made a minor mistake in ordering this. The lamb also didn't fall off the bone as easily as I'd hoped. However, the bread was delicious - if a tad greasy - like a flaky, crispy fried love child of roti and naan. It also matched well with the sweetness of the curry, thus rescuing me somewhat from my quandary.

Pok Pok: Massaman lamb curry with crisp roti bread ($14.5).

And here's the crowd favourite, roast pork belly and dry green peppercorn (crisp pork belly stir-fried with green peppercorn curry paste, crunchy green beans, kaffir lime leaves, chilli and basil served on Thai jasmine rice). This was so good. Generously spicy, with an amiable crunch, a hint of fattiness, and a touch of stickiness - a smorgasbord of elements that enticed me to tuck in, again and again.

Pok Pok: Roast pork belly and dry green peppercorn ($13.5).

I also managed to sneak in a couple of samples from my friends' dishes. (No pictures, though - I didn't want to subject my friends to food-blogger-terrorism, ha!)

The wok-fried Angus beef with oyster sauce (wok tossed Angus beef in oyster sauce with splash of Chinese cooking wine and stir-fried with shimeji mushrooms, broccoli and onion, served with Thai jasmine rice) was a suitably delicious option for J, who wanted non-spicy fare: it's like a more upmarket and elegant take on a Chinese-style stir-fry, complete with a fragrant smokiness from the wok.

I also tasted a spoonful of D's stir-fried chilli basil chicken with fried egg “Krapow Gai Kai Dow” (free range chicken mince lightly stir-fried with chilli & holy basil, snake beans, banana chilli and served with fried egg together on Thai jasmine rice). Once more, I was impressed. This is a familiar dish, one that I've ordered in many other Thai restaurants, and the version here is excellent - something I can recommend.

We couldn't leave without a sugar fix, of course.

I opted for the coconut ice cream in sweet brioche sandwich, which came with the typical Southeast Asian toppings of palm seeds, sweet corn and peanuts. I appreciated the coconut ice cream, which was gentle and not too sweet. I'm not too sure how I feel about everything else - the brioche made this more of a heavy dessert, and the corn seemed slightly dry and half-frozen - so I think I would've been happy to just have the ice cream by itself and forgo the rest.

Pok Pok: Coconut ice cream with sweet brioche sandwich in syrup, topped with palm seed, sweet corn and roasted peanuts ($6.5).

The others unanimously decided upon the fried roti with fresh banana and Nutella. It's a small serving, especially compared to what I got, and I only stole a tiny morsel of this. My memory is slightly fuzzy, but I do vaguely remember liking it.

Pok Pok: Fried roti with fresh banana and Nutella ($8.5).

When all's said and done, the Capoeiristas Anonymous had a delightful time, and Pok Pok is the sort of place that I would love to have as my local - I lament that it is not so. A few things didn't fully hit the target for me, but several dishes I would very, very joyfully consume again (e.g. the satay, pork belly, Angus beef and chilli-basil chicken mentioned above). Plus, there are yet more affordable items on the menu that caught my eye and begged another visit. I'm up for round two, if anyone else is!

Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

honey yoghurt beetroot smoothie

honey yoghurt beetroot smoothie.

It's autumn now, and nearly winter, but I'm clearly still in denial, still making bright and cheerful smoothies. Indeed, why not? They are so easy, so delicious, so satisfying. And today's beetroot smoothie is so, so wonderfully pink, in a fuchsia-magenta kind of way. It is also sweet, earthy, and revitalising.

In other words, wherever you're at, be it cool or warm... if beetroot is in season, this is a smoothie that you should seriously consider making.

A happy pair of sweet, earthy beetroot smoothies.

honey yoghurt beetroot smoothie 
(serves 2)

1 small beetroot, peeled and chopped (approx. 150g / 1/3lb)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened natural or greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons honey
8 ice cubes

Whiz everything together in a blender until smooth. Pour into glasses, and serve.

You may strain the mixture to remove any grittiness from beetroot roughage, but as I am lazy and appreciate the extra fibre, I didn't bother.

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