Sunday, 30 April 2017

Frugal take on takeaway chips

We have a takeaway in the nearby suburb called “Billy Banks”. They are the quintessential local Aussie takeaway, with pizzas, burgers, fish, dim sims and chips the staple menu items.  

We first met them days after we moved into our new home, and made the mistake of ordering a burger each, plus chips. Whoooo-weeee, the burgers are LARGE and we were hard pressed making a dent in the pillow that was the chips. Mind you, it was a minimum order of chips, so great value of money for our $5.  

Times have moved on, we are much wiser in the burger department, but the serve of chips has not changed in size, nor in price. $5 still buys you a pillow of chips which is enough to feed a small army (well, at least half an under 7’s soccer team).

Our latest venture saw us split a burger, and again order the minimum chips. After we had had our fill of the chippies I swore I would turn the remaining chips into something tasty. To the internet I went to get inspired. I saw many a recipe for leftover mashed potato, and thought the chips (well, they are cooked potato) could lend themselves to that. Hence the ‘baked mashed potato cups’ were born.

I must have had around half the chips left, which still equated to a cardboard box full. Load that into a food processor and blitz until the chips are pleasantly crumbled.

Tip this into a bowl, and add in a heaped spoonful of flour, a level spoonful of garlic powder, quarter of a small white onion; chopped, a beaten egg, a handful of grated tasty cheese, about ½ cup milk, and 40g (or so) of melted butter. Mix this together, then spoon into a greased cupcake pan. I smoothed the tops of each cup and sprinkled a little more cheese on top.  Cook them for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, in a 170 degree fan forced oven.

I would say that next time I make these I would add in a little more liquid, probably in the form of more butter and milk, to make them a little more indulgent. But having said that, they were darn tasty, easy to whip up, and certainly made the most of our takeaway chips. I really hate to waste food so was quite happy with how these turned out.

Tell me reader, what tips do you have for re-purposing leftover food? 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A World of Dumplings

There are as many types of dumplings served around the world as there are grains of sand in the desert.  Well, not quite, but you get the idea there are LOT of varieties of dumplings.

What yum cha wouldn’t be complete without dumplings? Wonton wrappers in a variety of colours enveloping a wide variety of fillings. Meats, seafood, and vegetarian abound in all manner of crimped parcel shapes and crescents, either boiled or steamed. Dipped in soy based or spicy sauces, or served in a fragrant broth.  

Potstickers are a form of Asian dumpling, usually boiled in water in a shallow fry pan until the water evaporates, which allows them to then fry against the hot pan turning a golden brown and becoming crispy. Similar to the Japanese gyoza, but gyoza generally have thinner casings and are a little smaller in size.

Russia has the pelmeni. A thin dough, encasing a usually raw meat/onion based filling. Served with loads of sour cream and fresh dill. Pelmeni literally means ‘ear bread’ due the ear like shape of the folded dumpling and they are usually boiled in water or beef stock. These pelmeni pictured below were purchased from a Russian Easter Bazaar and I can only hazard a guess how many 1000’s they made for this weekend event!

The pierogi is from Poland, and is similar to the varenyky of Russia/Belarus/Ukraine. Fillings for these are either savoury or sweet, and are circles of dough folded into a semi-circle, or crescent shape. Boiled, then fried.

The Italians have the ravioli, tortellini, agnolotti, the cappelletti… to name just few. Various shapes of flour/egg pasta abound, and the fillings range from meats, to cheeses, or vegetable based. Served with a sauce, or in a broth.

How about gnocchi? Something as simple as potato, flour and egg come together to create clouds of grooved boiled deliciousness. The grooves help the sauce adhere, and sauces are usually tomato or cream based.

Indian cuisine is peppered with a large variety of dough filled foods. From crispy fried savoury samosas filled with meats and vegetables, to modak a sweet dumpling filled with coconut and sugar and encased in usually a rice flour based shell.

The Brits can relate to flour based dumplings, cooked on top of a casserole or stew. Flour, milk, butter and herbs are staple ingredients. 

South America is home to flaky pastry crescents called empanadas which are usually flour or corn based pastry stuffed with meats and vegetables. Baked or fried to a crispy golden colour they pair well with spicy sauces.

What is your favourite dumpling? 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Vegan Yum Cha at Bodhi

When I recently put the call out to the Canberra Food Bloggers brains trust seeking a great place for a vegetarian lunch when in Sydney, I got back a ton of excellent ideas for a venue. From various eating options in Customs House, to the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. I’ll need a few trips to Sydney to explore all of the above eats!  We did decide on a location which made our vegetarian very happy indeed… vegan yum cha at Bodhi Restaurant and Bar. For the vegetarians out there, it’s not often that you can have everything (repeat … everything) on the menu, without having to scrutinise the details of what’s in the sauce, or what ingredients have been used.  

Bodhi is a lovely venue, nestled between Hyde Park and the Cook & Phillip Park. Most of the tables are outside but sheltered under large weather-proof umbrellas.  On a very sultry Sydney day, we opted to sit inside, just in reach of the cool air blowing from a large wall mounted fan. Ahhhhh.

Bodhi is a vegan restaurant that does yum cha for lunch, and has an al a carte menu for dinner. Dishes on the extensive yum cha menu are mostly in three portion serves, but some serve two and others four, so between the four of us we had the following:

- Green tea and choysum dumplings
- Sweet Japanese pumpkin dumplings
- Cream corn and ‘chicken’ dumplings
- Vietnamese rice paper salad wrap
- Blanched fresh vegetables
- Chinese cabbage and ‘chicken’ buns
- Rice paper sesame seed ‘prawn’ pillow
- Red bean puff
- Coconut agar jelly
- Apple pies
- Mango and vegan ‘cream cheese’ pancake
- Mango, rambutan and Asian citrus sago

Although we could have had far more of the delicious dumplings and hot crunchy dishes, we held back to make room for dessert. On a very warm day, the cool desserts were magic to end with.  

Costs were around $37 per head, which included soft drinks. 

Bodhi is open for lunch from 11:00am – 4:00pm, 7 days a week, and dinner is from 5:00pm to 10:00pm Tue-Sun. Ph 02 9360 2523, or email a reservation to

Address: 2-4 College Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Pistachio Dining January 2017

Dave Keeley is the owner and chef at Pistachio Dining in Torrens. He’s adventurous with food, innovative, passionate, lovely to chat with, and he’s only in his 30s. He is European culinary trained, and has worked in iconic restaurants such as Aubergine, Courgette and Sabayon. 2017 will see a new direction for Dave at Pistachio, seeing him pair back a little on his offerings in order to let the fresh produce shine.

I introduced my bestie to Pistachio nearly two years ago, and it has been her regular eatery ever since. To the point she has been there nearly forty times!  I have joined her on several of these occasions and to this day, we have only ever ordered the “just feed me Dave” menu option. This consists of a canape, plus four courses for only $65.  Matching Canberra district wines is an option for only a further $20, which is stunning value. The anticipation of not knowing what you are going to be fed is exciting. Who doesn’t like a degustation menu anyway!  

Dave was being extra generous tonight (or maybe as we were frequent diners) as he squeezed in an extra course.

We started with the beetroot gazpacho soup, with cubed roasted beetroot, cucumber, school prawns and croutons.

Course one was the tender-as beef tenderloin with salsa verde and crispy potatoes.

Course two was a light and very summery offering of scallops, with part of a Peking Duck rice paper roll.

Course three presented chicken two ways; Szechuan crusted chicken, and a sous vide chicken breast flash pan fried to crisp up the skin, with spinach and a confit cherry tomato.

Course four (the sneaky extra course) was Dave’s pork tenderloin with garlic and shallots, French lentils, smoked potato puree and heirloom carrots.

Course five (aka the final course) is a tasting plate sampling four of the desserts. We received the lemon tart with black sesame meringue and mascarpone mousse / a chocolate macadamia brownie and vanilla ice cream / a large cube of hazelnut cheesecake with a crunchy topped jelly, and pistachio (of course!) biscotti / and finally a single folded vanilla crepe with vanilla ice cream.

PistachioDining is located at the Torrens Shops, and is open for Dinner only from Tuesday to Saturday. Ph 6286 2966.