Simple Asian Sides

Banchan come in an assortment of flavour and texture, and give a very easy way of incorporating many different elements into just one meal. The best thing about it is that they can all be prepared beforehand and stored for a week or more at a time, meaning that all you have to do come dinner time is prepare the rice and a ‘main’ dish (steamed fish, anyone?), and with the banchan on the table, there’s more than enough flavour to keep the tastebuds happy.

These two are adaptations are variants on Japanese dishes – soybean and wakame salads, but with slight twists to make them slightly more Korean (though I have to admit that the wakame dish is a well-loved Korean standard, that sort of dish transfer tends to happen when one country occupies another.

Edamame Salad
(Adapted from What Did You Eat)

1 cup fresh/frozen shelled edamame (soy beans)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup flaked almonds (toasted or untoasted is up to you)
1-2 spring onions, thinly sliced on a bias
1 tsp gochugaru (substitute with chilli flakes if necessary)

1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and season with a generous pinch of salt, then add the edamame and boil for 3-5 minutes, or till tender. Rinse in cold water, then drain well. At this point you may want to remove the outer skin – I did as I had frozen beans and I find the skins on frozen beans to be icky but if you had fresh beans then it should be fine.

2. Tip the beans into a small bowl, then add the salt, sugar, sesame seeds and vinegar and toss to combine. Give this a taste, then give it a taste. The flavour you want to achieve here is a good balance between sweet and sour, with a certain depth and nuttiness added by the sesame. Add the gochugaru/chilli flakes and half the sesame oil, toss and taste again, and if it’s OK now, add in the spring onion and flaked almonds and toss once more to combine before serving.

3. Serve immediately, but it can also be stored in the fridge for up to a week – though the almonds can get a little soft in the moisture.

Wakame and Cucumber Salad

20g dried wakame leaves (get a good quality Japanese product as the Korean brands tend to have the thick, stringy stems attached)
1 small Lebanese (or similar sweet, thin-skinned cucumber)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp gochugaru (can be substituted with chilli flakes)
1-2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Soak the wakame in 2-3 cups of cold water (this will expand a LOT in size!) and leave to sit for about 15-20 minutes.

2. Once the wakame is fully rehydrated and soft to the touch, drain and carefully squeeze out any excess water – you don’t want to mush the wakame, but any water will dilute the flavour and make the whole dish…watery. Funny that, ey?

3. Set aside the drained wakame, then cut the cucumber lengthwise in half and again across the width so you have four fingers, then use a teaspoon to carefully scoop out just the seeds (they too will dilute the flavour and make this dish watery). Slice each cucumber length into thin strips (as in the photo), then add to the wakame.

4. Place the wakame and cucumber in a bowl, then add the flavourings and toss well to evenly combine. Give it a taste and adjust as necessary (you want to achieve an equal balance between sweet, vinegary and spicy), then serve immediately. This can also be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

There you have it – two quick and easy banchan to add flavour to your meals!

[tags]recipes, Asian, Korean, Japanese, side dishes, vegetarian[/tags]

Others who have tried this recipe:

Soup's up!

Whilst I adore soups and broths, most of my experience with them has been Korean dishes so even at the age of 26, I’m still quite unfamiliar with a lot of Western-style soups. My exposure to most of the ones I know happened when I was in primary school and a family friends mother bought/discovered the blender.

Oh dear.

She thought herself quite the cook, and while her Korean cooking wasn’t bad (though honestly it was quite wretched in comparison to my mothers), her explorations into Western cuisine were abysmal, and left me horrified every time that we went over for dinner. The month that she discovered the blender, I was subjected to two of the most disgusting dishes I’ve ever put into my mouth – her pea and ham soup, and her tomato soup.

Ingredients for tomato soup

I’m not going to call her lazy, but her assumption was that these Western soups were just ingredients blended and boiled, so the soups of hers that I experienced were both bland and horrible at the same time. I hate to say it, but these childhood scars stuck with me through life, so that every time since that I’ve come across either of these soups, I’ve become quite visibly paler and backed away fairly quickly. I managed to avoid them fairly well, until I went to my best mates home for a dinner and telly sesh (we get together every Sunday night to have dinner and watch the hilariously craptastic Gladiators, Grey’s Anatomy and Brothers and Sisters together) and I was informed that she had made tomato soup for dinner.


Not to be ingracious to the wonderful host, I quickly volunteered to have the smallest serving, then carried my soup mug to the lounge room, plonked on the couch and hesitantly lifted the spoon to my mouth. Taking a cautious sniff, I warily brought the spoon to my lips and took a sip. WOW! What…what was this? This amazing smooth yet textured delight that tasted wonderfully of tomatoes yet had a freshness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Pacing myself, I savoured every spoonful till I was left mournfully scraping the sides of my mug and wishing for more but alas, there was none to be had.

Grabbing the recipe from her, I made the soup the next chance I had and enjoyed every drop of it, and I can now confess that I love tomato soup – well, this version anyway.

While I’m glad that I decided to give it a try and have this new experience that has even made me appreciate celery (a vegetable which I quite detest) and discover a love of this soup, I’m afraid that the mere thought of pea and ham soup still makes my stomach feel tender…at least for now.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Fresh Tomato Soup


750g roma (plum) tomatoes
3 sticks of celery, washed and trimmed
1 large brown onion
1 1/2 cups reduced salt vegetable stock
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp reduced salt tomato paste
1 tsp sugar (this helps counteract the acidity of the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper, to taste
80g risoni pasta (or orzo, whichever you have handy)

1. Cut a cross into the base of the tomatoes and blanch so you can slip off the skins. Roughly chop tomatoes, celery, onion and garlic.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a pot over a medium flame, then add the chopped vegetables and saute for 5 minutes and then place the lid on the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or till the celery is soft. Pour cooked veg into a blender and blitz till it has become a smooth puree, then press through a sieve to remove any tough fibres that will ruin the texture of the soup.

3. Add the strained puree back to the pot and stir through the stock, tomato paste, salt, sugar and pepper. Once it is well combined, add the risoni and bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat, cooking till the pasta has gone soft.

4. Serve piping hot, with a decent hunk of crusty bread for mopping up the soup.

[tags]tomato soup, soup, risoni, pasta, vegetarian, recipe[/tags]

300 posts and not enough kimchi

Not only did I pass my 2 year milestone last month, but was stunned to discover when I made my last post that my next would be my 300th! Yeouch! That is a LOT of writing, photos and recipes – who would’ve thunk that a website that essentially started out as a project for a uni (college) media class would end up becoming such a big part of my life! Reflecting about the content that I have put on here, I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself to discover that the number of Korean family recipes that I’ve shared is still very much in the minority, despite releasing a facebook application (Kimchi Restaurant…new recipes coming soon) and making promises to share more of my mother’s very treasured family recipes. Okay, so part of the reason that the Korean recipes have been a bit sparse is that I am working on a little something to do with them, but considering the fact that we eat a Korean meal almost every day, there’s still a lot of recipes that could be shared!

In celebration of the fact that this is indeed my 300th blog post, I’ve decided to blog about my favourite food in the whole world – kimchi! While I’ve already put up our treasured (and, till it was blogged, quite guarded) family kimchi recipe, I often get emails from browsers and readers asking what they can do with the kimchi once it’s been made! In my opinion, kimchi is fabulous and can be eaten on the side to almost any dish, but you can also utilize it’s wonderfully pungent flavour to create a number of other dishes – three of which I’ll be sharing with you today!

  • Kimchi Jeon – Similar to the haemul pajeon, this is a ‘jeon’ (battered dish/pancake) made with kimchi as the main component. This dish needs no dipping sauce as the kimchi contained in the batter provides more than enough flavour!
  • Kimchi Bokeum Bap – Kimchi fried rice. Fast, easy and delicious – ’nuff said.
  • Kimchi Jjigae – Kimchi stew which will knock your socks off with it’s concentrated flavour. All you need is a bowl of rice and you’re good to go!

Also, a final note – while I appreciate that the food blogging world is all about the sharing of recipes, the Korean recipes that I post are part of my family history and heritage, they’ve been developed by generations of women through my mother’s side of the family and the flavours, techniques and ingredients reflect that. If you do want to repost any of the recipes or an adaptation, all I ask is that you credit and make sure to link back to my site. Not to much to ask, right?

Kimchi Jeon
(Kimchi pancake)

1 cup kimchi, liquid squeezed out and diced
1/2 white onion, finely sliced
100g pork mince
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 – 2/3 cup water
Sunflower, olive or any other mild-flavoured oil for frying

1. Put the mince into a bowl, season with freshly ground black pepper and garlic and massage in. Add the kimchi, gochujjang and onion and mix together till evenly combined.

2. Add the flour and egg and mix altogether, then slowly add the water, stirring briskly after each addition. Stop once the batter has thinned a bit but isn’t quite as thin as normal pancake batter.

3. Heat up some oil in a large skillet/frying pan over low-medium heat, and once it’s nice and hot, pour a ladle of batter into the pan in the shape of a circle, using the back of the ladle to spread out the mixture and thin out the pancake (you want a nice thin pancake to get a good ratio of crispy outer to soft inner).

4. Once the edges have become set and the bottom is nice and crispy, carefully flip the pancake and fry for another 2-3 minutes or till it has also crisped up nicely.

5. Place on a bamboo tray lined with paper towels to drain (or just a plate lined with paper towels), slice into squares before serving.


‘Jeon’ is traditionally drained on trays made from thin strands of bamboo woven together – the reason for this is that this allows the steam from the hot batter to get away and not make the fritters/pancakes soggy.

While the amount of gochujjang you use does depend on taste, it is what gives this dish it’s beautiful colour, without it the pancakes will be an awful pale pinky white, and not how you’d ever find it served by any self-respecting Korean cook.

Kimchi Bokeum Bap
(Kimchi fried rice)

1 1/2 cups day old dry cooked rice (ideally a medium grain like calrose – we eat brown calrose at home as it’s the closest to Korean rice we have found in Australia)
100g protein (usual/popular choices are crumbled firm tofu, mince or pork belly)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp toasted/dark sesame oil
150g kimchi, liquid drained and reserved and diced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 eggs

*Optional: Any variety of diced/sliced veg that you want. None but blanched spinach or any other ‘namul’ would be traditional, but is perfectly acceptable. These should be added at stage 2 after the kimchi.

1. Season your protein with the garlic, pepper and sesame oil and massage in. Heat some oil in a skillet/frying pan over a medium-high flame and when it’s nice and hot, add the protein and fry till cooked.

2. Add the kimchi and continue to saute till it softens, then add the rice and mix quickly with a very light touch (you don’t want to mush the rice grains). Pour the reserved liquid from the drained kimchi into the frying pan and quickly mix in.

3. Turn off the heat and with a very light hand, quickly stir through the sliced spring onion. Divide the mixture onto two plates, fry the eggs and top each serve with a fried egg.

4. Enjoy whilst piping hot, breaking the yolk and mixing it through the cooked rice 🙂


You cannot make this with fresh rice, this dish (like bibimbap) is one that Korean mothers use to make the most of rice leftover from the previous night’s meal. Ideally, you want to make your rice, allow it to cool then leave it out overnight (covered with cling film). By the next evening it should be nice and dry/firm enough to withstand this cooking process without going mushy.

Kimchi Jjigae
(Kimchi Stew)

100g pork rump, diced (can be substituted with tofu or beef)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp dark/toasted sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
350g kimchi, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups water
1/2 tsp gochugaru (Korean chilli powder – PLEASE do not think you can substitute this with cayenne or any other chilli powder)
1 tsp gochujjang (Korean chilli paste)
1 spring onion, rinsed and finely sliced

1. Massage the garlic, black pepper and sesame oil into the pork and set aside. Heat a little sesame oil in a stoneware/earthenware/regular metal pot and once it’s hot, add the pork, gochugaru and gochujjang and fry till cooked.

2. Add the kimchi to the pot and saute with the pork till it has cooked and softened. Add the water and carefully stir through, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 30-45mins.

3. Once cooked, turn off the flame, garnish with sliced spring onion and serve with bowls of rice.


While using a stone pot is the traditional method for this dish, there’s no problem with just using a regular pot to make it. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to be careful that the kimchi does not stick to the bottom and give it the occasional stir.

Also, this is a very strongly-flavoured dish and consequently, not meant to be served in individual portions (as they’d be quite small and cool down too quickly). It is generally eaten communally, with 2-3 people spooning from a serve. This is incidentally why many Koreans don’t eat their rice with spoons when there is a jjigae (stew) on the table, medium grain rice has the ability to stick together and therefore they’ll eat it with their chopsticks and use the spoon for the stew. No, we’re not a culture that’s particular scared of cooties!

[tags]kimchi, recipes, Korean, food, culture, heritage, family[/tags]

Clog those arteries with some fried chicken and slaw! Or not…

If there is one fast food chain which I have a weakness for, it’s KFC. Granted, I only crave it once every few months so it’s not exactly as if I go crazy on the stuff, but the deep fried danger and greasy, crispy chicken skin (which I peel off after one bite) means that after the first bite, guilt sets in and sits very prominently in the front of my mind, preventing me from entirely enjoying the meal.

Add that to the rehydrated powdered ‘mashed’ potatoes (which I can’t actually bring myself to eat) and the milky coleslaw which is so sweet you have no need of dessert (except possibly a piece of fresh fruit to cleanse the palate after the meal) and it’s not exactly a meal that leaves me feeling happy.

So, when I saw this recipe for a baked ‘fried chicken’ recipe, I was absolutely ecstatic and couldn’t wait to try it. Now, I have a deep-seated fear of chicken skin so I made sure to remove it but was a bit worried that the chicken would dry out during the baking… what a silly thing to worry about! The crumb coating retained the moisture and the resulting dish was beautifully moist and tender (though mouth-parchingly salty to me, which I’ve since amended)

As the chicken baked, I wondered what to serve it with… I remembered seeing a recipe for a vinegar slaw somewhere awhile ago, so I decided to ransack the vegetable drawer and see what I could come up with. The result, this amazingly tangy and fresh coleslaw that’s far lighter on the calories than any mayo-laden counterpart could dream of being! With the combination of fruit and veg, it’s a delightful combination of textures and flavour – so much so that you almost don’t need the chicken!

So next time you get a craving for some crispy fried chicken and slaw, try this healthier alternative. Your mouth and your hips will both thank you for it 😉

Asian-Inspired Vinegar Slaw

Vinegar Slaw Ingredients
2 cups savoy cabbage, finely sliced
1-2 medium sized carrots, washed and grated
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1 peeled fuji apple, finely sliced into matchsticks (can be substituted with a nashi pear)
2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
2-3 tbsp salad dressing (see below)

1. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and toss till the veggies are all evenly coated in the salad dressing. Serve immediately.

If preparing ahead of time, prepare the veggies and salad dressing separately then toss together just before serving.

Salad Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbsp brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 birds eye chilli/small red chilli, finely sliced

Pour all the ingredients into a small, clean screw-top jar and shake to mix together. Will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Finger-Lickin’ Oven ‘Fried’ Chicken
(adapted from Elle’s New England Kitchen)

150g plain natural yogurt (or Greek yogurt, if you can find it)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
1.5kg chicken drumsticks
2 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 – 3/4 tsp creole seasoning (plus a couple extra pinches for the marinade!) (see recipe for seasoning below)
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Carefully remove all the skin from the chicken drumsticks, then cut 3 diagonal slices into each side of the drumstick. This will help the marinade to penetrate the chicken flesh for stronger flavour. Once that’s done, give them a quick rinse in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. In a bowl, stir together yogurt, mustard, Tabasco, and half of the creole seasoning. Put chicken in a large ziptop bag, add marinade, seal the bag and turn to coat chicken completely . Marinate for at least 6-8 hours, but overnight is better.

3. Line a large baking dish with sides with heavy duty foil. Spray lightly with oil spray. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

4. In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, the cumin and creole seasoning, then roll each piece of chicken in the crumb mixture.

6. Place chicken in prepared pan and lightly drizzle with olive oil.

7. Bake 50 minutes to one hour until golden brown and crispy outside and the juices run clear.

Creole Seasoning

1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp dried oregano

Mix and store in an airtight container.

[tags]chicken, coleslaw, baking, recipes[/tags]

A Taste of Yellow

A Touch of Yellow

When I saw all the posts popping up for the ‘A Taste of Yellow” event, all sorts of thoughts entered my head as I began planning a sweet creation. Slowly, an image formed in my mind…a striped joconde, encasing layers of honeyed jelly and a banana bavarian cream, and the Livestrong wristband proudly encasing my towering sweet. And then I figured – why stop there? Why not plan an entire 3 course meal of yellowy goodness? A shot of intense sweetcorn soup with some chili coriander corn as sides to stuffed squash, followed by my beautiful honey & banana dessert!

*sad sigh*

Without going into detail, let me just say properly planning these sorts of things has never been my forte. The corn that I boiled up for the soup was devoured by my mother and brother (entirely my fault as I forgot to account for their eating of my ingredients – something I usually do!), and the dessert…


It looked fine. It looked beautiful, in fact. And then I had to transfer it out of the springform tin onto a plate for photographing.

And then it didn’t look so beautiful anymore. The slightly dry (overbaked) joconde refused to stay together at the seam and pulled apart, splitting my beautiful dessert straight down the middle to expose its insides which threatened to begin a little bit of a droopy journey out of their cakey skin.

This post should probably have some heart-touching story about how cancer has touched my life or the life of someone that I know (instead of the trivial brain-farts I’ve spewed forth so far), but the fact of the matter is that I’ve never had it’s deadly tendrils touch the life of my family or anyone that I know – something I’m very grateful for. However, should the unfortunate occur, it’s reassuring to know that there are others out there already fighting for an answer, a solution, a cure.

While the deadline for Barbara’s photo competition is today, you still have till the 27th of April to get entries in for the ‘Livestrong – A Taste of Yellow‘ event so if you haven’t done so already, get cracking! 🙂

Stuffed squash

Stuffed Scalloped Squash

5 small, firm scalloped squash
1/2 green capsicum/bell pepper, roasted, skinned and diced
Kernels from 1 ear of cooked corn
1 spicy Italian-seasoned sausage, deskinned
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese (go for something quite sharp in flavour)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and boil the squash till they are firm but the flesh is easily pierced with a knife (approx 15 minutes).

2. Allow to slightly cool, then cut off the tops and scoop out and discard the seeds. Scoop out the flesh, and put into a bowl. Add the capsicum, corn kernels and sausage to bowl and mix together, shredding the sausage meat with your hands.

3. Add the sausage mix to a preheated frying pan and cook till the sausage is done, then remove from the pan and stir in the cheese, salt and pepper. Stuff the hollowed squash with this filling, then place them into cupcake liners (to keep them upright) in a muffin tray, then bake for about 20-25 minutes, or till the squash are tender and golden brown.

4. Serve warm as finger food or with a salad or pasta for a meal.

Chili Coriander Corn

Chilli Coriander Corn

40g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 ears of fresh sweetcorn, cut into 2″ (5cm) lengths

1. Boil the corn cobs till the kernels are cooked, then drain.

2. Melt the butter, then stir in the chilli powder and coriander leaves. Give it a taste and adjust seasonings to suit you, then add a little salt and pepper to taste and stir through.

3. Use a pastry brush to brush each corn cob with the spiced butter mix, and serve straight away whilst still warm.

[tags]Livestrong, A Taste of Yellow, corn, squash, recipes[/tags]

To celebrate the blog turning 2 years old (and because I ‘broke’ the last design while upgrading), I’ve redesigned the thing from scratch (in the hopes of making it PDA/iPhone friendly) but am still working out the kinks – if you spot any problems with the site or would like to offer feedback about the design, please feel free do so in the comments 🙂

The most magnificent noodle salad of all


A long time promised – and finally here it is! Our recipe for japchae, a magnificently multi-coloured noodle salad dish that is a must-have on any celebratory table. Though, like many Korean recipes, it is quite time-consuming, this extremely fragrant and flavoursome dish is well worth the time and effort it requires, and is guaranteed to evoke raptures from your dinner guests twice – once for it’s aesthetic beauty, and again for the myriad of textures and flavours it combines.

This dish is one that I can remember as being part of my life as far back as I can remember – made in large batches as part of any celebratory feast, it was either served on its own, on the side as just one of the many banchan (side dishes) or atop a bowl of steaming hot rice to form a meal called japchae bap (mixed noodles [on] rice). The sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyun) that provide the element of this dish which holds it together also make it quite healthy, being low-GI, and combined with the other components, it makes for quite a satisfying dish.



1pk/340g dangmyun/sweet potato starch noodles
2 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half, then cut into thin strips
120g spinach, roots cut off and rinsed twice to remove all dirt and grit
15g dried cloud-ear fungus (also sold as wood-ear fungus), rehydrated in boiling water
150g lean pork, thinly sliced
1/2 green capsicum (bell pepper) – cored and thinly sliced *optional
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper) – cored and thinly sliced *optional

Pork marinade
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Noodle dressing
6 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp caster sugar
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

*NOTE: To make a vegetarian/vegan alternative, replace the pork with firm tofu which has been drained/pressed and sliced into thin strips. Pan fry the strips in a little oil till they are firm and brown, then mix them through with the pork marinade and set aside till step 5.

1. Mix together the pork marinade and massage into the pork, then set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil, then blanch the spinach for 1-2 minutes before quickly removing and refreshing in ice water (this helps them regain their bright verdant colour), then setting in a large strainer to drain.

2. Remove the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms from the boiling water and drain, then use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Cut out the woody stems then slice into thin strips and set aside. Drain the rehydrated cloud-ear fungus and then once again use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then add to the shiitake mushrooms put aside.

3. Heat a little light/mild olive oil in a frying pan, then add the strips of carrot and stir-fry till barely cooked – they should have a bit of tenderness but retain a kernel of crunch in the centre. Remove the carrot, then add the marinated pork to the pan and fry till browned and cooked through. Set aside.

4. Set another large pot of water to boil and cook the sweet potato starch noodles till al dente, then rinse in hot water and drain (unusual, but I find that rinsing them in cold water makes them take on a lot of moisture). While the noodles are draining, chop the blanched spinach into smaller pieces then use your hands to squeeze out as much moisture as possible – make sure to work in small batches as you’ll be able to squeeze out more water that way.

5. Get a large mixing bowl, then add the drained noodles and all the other ingredients. Mix together the noodle dressing then pour it over the bowl and use your hands to lightly yet thoroughly toss it through. Once is has been well mixed together, give it a taste – if it tastes too sweet for you, add another tbsp of light soy sauce, and if you find it too salty, add another tsp of caster sugar.

6. Serve warm, over rice or as a banchan/side dish.


[tags]japchae, Korean food, recipes, Asian, noodles, savoury, salad[/tags]

Pasta in a flash – fresh, fast and super easy!


We’ve been having quite a few dinner guests recently, and that has meant that I’ve been on hand a fair bit preparing dinners and desserts for folks that are over, and usually dining on the leftovers the following day. However, one dinner that I prepared with a delightful seafood pasta – and during the preparations, whilst I only intended on cooking 1 1/2 packets of dried pasta, in my tired absent-mindedness, I accidentally dumped both packets into the pot of boiling water!


Whilst there was no seafood pasta left, I was rather unfortunately left with quite a bit of cooked pasta, so by lunchtime the next day I knew that I really would have to fix a pasta dish in order not to let the already boiled pasta go to waste. The problem was that I really didn’t feel like cooking anything at all, so I was rather lacking for inspiration. I had some Roma tomatoes and arugula leftover from the salad I’d served the night before so I knew that those two were on hand to be used, but I wasn’t quite about to toss them through some pasta and call it a day. Rummaging through the freezer, I happened across some forgotten frozen spicy sausages, so I thought that adding them to the dish would add enough oomph to make it a meal!

Quite a nifty dish, the tomatoes and arugula added a lovely light freshness to the dish, whilst the spicy sausage (removed of its casing) lent some of its flavour to make the dish slightly more robust and bring it all together 🙂


Sausage, Tomato & Arugula Pasta

Ingredients (serve 4)
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 birds eye chilli, thinly sliced
5 vine-ripened Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
40g arugula/rocket, rinsed and patted dry
4 spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
400g dried pasta (I used linguini)
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Put on a pot of water to boil, and add your dried pasta and cook till al dente (nothing worse than soggy, overcooked pasta!). Once it has cooked, give it a quick rinse under cold water to stop it sticking and getting claggy, then drain well.

2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, chilli and salt (salt helps stop the garlic from sticking to the pan) and cook till the onion becomes translucent.

3. Add the sausage to the pan and use a wooden spoon to break the meat into pieces as you cook, stirring it all together whilst cooking. Once the sausage has cooked, and add the tomato, rocket and drained pasta and toss through, briskly tossing it through till the noodles have heated up and absorbed some of the flavour from the sausages (if you don’t keep things moving, you risk cooking the tomatoes too much and consequently losing their freshness).

4. Serve hot with a little grated cheese on top (parmesan, pecorino, your choice, just make sure it’s a firm, robustly-favoured cheese!)


[tags]pasta, sausage, recipe, savoury[/tags]

So, who wants to take me on a date?

At the moment, I’m afraid that there hasn’t been any action on the romantic front, which means many long, lonely nights curled up in bed with a book and my dog, sighing wistfully as I imagine a dashing gent who’ll come along and sweep me off my…


Sorry, couldn’t help myself 😛 I’m not much of a writer at the best of times, and when it comes to writing pseudo-romance chick lit, I’m about as useless as knees on a fish. However, I am ridiculously single at the moment which does mean that the only sort of dates I get are the dried fruit variety!

What’s the old saying? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…well, in my case, I just used my dates in another homely, beautiful lot of scones!

Pumpkin & Date Scones

My last documented dash into scone-land was with Belinda Jeffery’s buttermilk scones, and one of my readers who left a comment also highly praised Ms. Jeffery’s pumpkin scones as surpassing all overs! Well then! I had to see whether I agreed, so I added pumpkin to my shopping list (though butternut instead of jap) and made note to give them a try at the next available opportunity.

I have to say that while I like these just as much as the buttermilk scones (the latter being better for jam and cream combinations while the pumpkin really shouldn’t be paired with anything other than salted butter), the pumpkin scones have been FAR more popular with the family members. My mother and kid sister have been absolutely wolfing these down, and on every occasion, a batch of 12 scones has been reduced to nothing but crumbs in just a few days!

The pumpkin really is the key here – it provides lots of moisture to the mix and while it makes it quite difficult to knead and roll out your scones (all I do is mix with a wooden spoon till combined, then pat my dough together then dump it onto a well-floured bench and pat it it flat and into shape instead of even attempting to knead the dough), it also means that these scones stay soft and moist for days and are so full of flavour that there’s no jam or cream required. In fact, having tried them a few different ways, I can safely say that all these golden nuggests require is a little pat of salted butter and a mug of tea to help wash them down 🙂

Pumpkin & Date Scones

Pumpkin & Date Scones

(from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)

3 cups (450g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb/baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
120g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
200g chopped pitted dates (not medjool, they’re far too moist and sticky for this)
1 cup cold cooked mashed pumpkin (I used butternut)
3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, then very lightly dust it with flour and set aside.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking/bicab soda and salt into a large bowl and use a balloon whisk to whisk it together. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir together the buttermilk and cooked cold mashed pumpkin and set aside for now.

3. Add the dates to the bowl and toss them through to coat them in the flour mixture, then make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the pumpkin/buttermilk mix. Stir it together till barely combined, then tip it onto a well-floured chopping board and lightly knead till the mixture comes together (not till the batter is smooth – just till it holds together and doesn’t have any unmixed bits).

4. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm thick, then dip a scone cutter (or glass tumbler) into some flour and stamp out your scone shapes. Alternately, you can cut the round into triangular wedges or pat it into a cylinder and just cut off rounds.

5. Carefully sit the scones closely together on the baking tray, using up all your dough (press the scraps together rather than kneading them). Either dust the tops with flour or give them a milk or egg wash, then bake for 20 minutes or till cooked through and golden. Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and wrap in a clean tea towel for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool.

6. Serve whilst warm with some salted butter, or store in an airtight container for up to three days. Cold scones can be reheated in a microwave or toaster oven to make them warm and soft again.

Pumpkin & Date Scones

[tags]pumpkins, dates, butternut, Belinda Jeffery, scones, biscuits, baking, recipe[/tags]

Is there such a thing as too much pizza?


Cooking, like anything else, requires a number of things. The ability to plan ahead, patience in order to take things slowly, a careful and considered approach, and not least, an ability to focus and keep ones mind on the job.

All things considered, its a wonder that I’ve actually managed to survive and not electrocute/burn/maim myself or have some sort of disfiguring accident in the kitchen – I like working FAST, having at least 3 dishes on the go at any one time (those of you who think I bake/cook everyday, nope, I have insane cooking days where I make anywhere from 3-5 recipes which are methodically filed, photographed and saved in draft form for this blog), working alone (regardless of what my mother says, I have NEVER snarled at her and told her to get away from the dirty dishes so I can do them myself!) and, despite evidence supporting the contrary, I still like to believe that I have a properly functioning mind.

Have you stopped laughing yet? May we proceed?


To those who know me, its no secret that I loathe numbers. I hated algebra, I abhorred trigonometry, and I never even considered taking calculus1. I almost wept tears of utter misery when I went to university and they announced that a beginner’s class in statistics was compulsory for all Liberal Arts students, and upon finishing that class, I did actually set my textbook on fire.

To summarize, I loathe numbers.

Anyone who’s ever read a recipe before will know that numbers are something that comes with the territory – grams, cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, it is a sort of science and these formulas must be understood and followed to some degree if its going to work. This presents me with a bit of a dilemma – on one hand, I love the manual work, the creativity and the sensory overload of cooking, yet working with numbers makes me a grumpy little parrot. Well, you’ve got to take the bad with the good, right?

While its usually not that much of a problem, if I’m feeling in the slightest bit scattered, it leads to situations where I start out doubling a recipe, then get lost and quadruple it instead. Not much of a problem if you’re dealing with something like a freezable cookie dough, but a bit more problematic if you’ve ended up with over a kilo of pizza dough. Which is, incidentally, the reason that I ended up making 7 pizzas in one night!

And ALL this because I just got a bit too excited when Joey from 80 Breakfasts announced PIZZA to be the theme for this month’s Hey Hey it’s Donna Day!

Basic Pizza Dough (Dan Lepard’s recipe from The Cook’s Book)

Ingredients (makes 2 pizza bases)
4g dried instant yeast
150g warm water (ideally around 20-25 degrees C)
10g caster sugar
25g olive oil, plus more for kneading
100g strong white flour
150g all purpose flour
5g salt

1. If using dried yeast, activate it by dissolving in a bowl with 1 tbsp flour taken from the total amount and 50g water taken from the total amount, but at a temperature of around 35 degrees C. Leave to activate for 10 minutes. If using fresh yeast, you can skip this step and go straight to the next.

2. Whisk the yeast mixture with the remaining water, sugar and oil. In another bowl, mix the salt into the flour, then pour in the liquid and mix together till you have a soft, sticky mess. Cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes.

3. Lightly knead the dough:

To knead a yeast-risen bread, the book recommends using an oiled rather than a floured surface, and instead of a constant 10 minutes of kneading it recommends a series of brief kneads with rests in between.

3a. Take 1 tsp of oil (olive, corn or sunflower) and rub it onto your work surface in a large circle. Also rub about 2 tsp oil over the surface of the dough. Scrape the dough out onto the oiled surface.

3b. Before starting your knead, wash and dry the bowl, then rub the inside and your hands with a little oil. Set the bowl aside.

3c. Fold the dough in half towards you. It should be extremely soft and sticky at this stage.

3d. If you are right handed, use your left thumb to hold the fold in place whilst using the heel of your right hand to gently but firmly press down and away through the centre of the dough to seal the fold and stretch the dough.

3e. Lift and rotate the dough clockwise a quarter turn. Repeat the folding, pressing and rotating about 10-12 times, stopping before the dough starts to stick to the surface. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, seam side down, and cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes, or till the dough does not bounce back when lightly poked.

3f. Repeat previous step another 2 times, remembering to rub a little more oil over the dough after each 10 minute rest if it has become too sticky.

After the final kneading, leave the dough to proof for about 30 mins.

4. After proofing, cut the dough in half and roll or stretch each half into a thin circle about 3-4mm thick, then set aside.

5. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (or as hot as your oven will go), and rub a tiny bit of olive oil over the surface of your baking trays, then sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.

6. Place the dough onto the tray like you would like a tart tin (roll the dough lightly over a rolling pin then unroll on the tray) and then tidy up the shape.

7. Brush surface with olive oil, pesto or paste (depending on what kind of pizza you’re making, put down a layer of cheese then arrange the other ingredients as the cheese will help hold them to the dough. If necessary, sprinkle a little extra cheese over the top, but restrain yourself from adding too much topping to the pizza 🙂

8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or till the dough has puffed, the top is lightly browned and the edges are crisp. Repeat with second amount of pizza dough, and enjoy!


  • There’s a lot of fuss over pizza stones being the only way to get a crisp and crunchy base – this is nonsense. While they *do* help, I don’t have one and those who have tasted my pizzas can attest to the fact that there are no saggy, soggy bases to be seen in my kitchen. As Dan Lepard says in this book, a great way to achieve a crunchy bottom (for your pizza, not you) is to lightly oil your baking surface, then sprinkle it with a fine, even layer of cornmeal/polenta.
  • Do not overload your pizza with a mountain of toppings. Ideally, you should have no more than 3-4 at the most, all sliced very thinly to prevent the base from being weighed down.
  • Roll/stretch the base nice and thin, I find that the best way for me to do this is to form the dough into a ball then squish it flat and then begin to quickly run my hands around the outer edge like a steering wheel – this gives a nice thick and firm outer edge for holding onto the slice, but stretches out the inside. Once its almost at the desired thickness, put the base down onto your baking surface and carefully stretch it out however much more is needed.
  • The pizza dough should spend as little time as possible inside your oven – the idea is only to cook the dough and melt the cheese, the toppings should not rely on the oven’s heat to cook. Dan Lepard suggests turning your oven up as far as it can safely go – mine goes up to 240 degrees C (about 460 F), but I generally tend to use a preheated fan-forced oven at 220 degrees C
  • The only limitation to the pizza toppings you can try is your imagination! Though I know my family’s favourite combination (the chorizo pizza, last picture in this post), I will often try different topping combinations based on a suggestion from a friend, something I’ve ordered at a restaurant or seen on a menu, or just what’s in the fridge!


Lamb Pizza w/ Roasted Capsicum & Chive Yoghurt

1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/2 a large red capsicum/bell pepper
1 lamb leg/sandwich steak
A large handful of fresh rocket/aragula, washed and dried
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp snipped chives
1/4 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt

1. Prepare the pizza dough and set it aside for now. Finely slice the lamb and season it with salt and pepper and massage it in, then leave it to rest for a few minutes.

2. Meanwhile, slice up your capsicum/bell pepper into thirds so that they will lie flat on a baking tray. Heat up the oven grill then place the capsicum on a lined baking tray and under the grill for a few minutes, or till the skin has blackened and blistered. Take it out of the grill and throw a clean damp teatowel over the top to steam for 5 minutes. Remove the blackened skin and slice into thin strips.

3. Heat up a frying pan and briefly brown the lamb strips (ONLY brown, do not cook as they will do most of this in the oven!). Mix together the garlic, dried oregano and olive oil into a slightly runny paste, then carefully spread it all over the prepared pizza dough. Layer over the rocket/aragula, then the lamb and then the capsicum strips.

4. Place into a preheated oven and cook till the base is nicely brown and has puffed up. Remove from the oven, allow it to slightly cool then mix together the chives and natural yoghurt and messily dollop all over the top. Serve, and enjoy!

This is my entry into this month’s HHDD, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share the rest with you:)


Pumpkin, Spinach & Semi-Sundried Tomatoes w/ Toasted Pine-Nuts & Bocconcini

1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/4 medium pumpkin, Jap/Kent or Butternut is what I usually use
1/3 cup semi-sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out
A handful of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
A small handful of pine nuts
5-6 medium sized bocconcini balls
1/4 cup reduced salt tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Prepare the pizza dough and set it aside for now. Take off the skin of the pumpkin and cut into slices about 3-4mm thick. Layer onto a plate and cook in the microwave till just done, then remove and allow to cool.

2. Mix together the tomato paste, dried oregano and garlic (this is a cheater’s pizza sauce but works in a fix). Lightly spread over the pizza dough, then add a layer of spinach leaves. Then add the pumpkin slices and semi sundried tomatoes, making sure to leave the layers light. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top of this.

3. Slice your bocconcini balls into slices about 5mm thick, then place a bit haphazardly around the top of the pizza. Place into a preheated oven and cook till the dough has puffed up and browned and the cheese is nicely melted. Remove and enjoy whilst still hot!


Vegetarian Pizza

1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/2 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 3-4mm thin slices
1 handful mixed rocket/aragula and baby spinach leaves
1/4 red onion, thinly slices
1/2 capsicum/bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup grated mozarella
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Prepare the pizza dough, then mix together the minced garlic and olive oil and rub it all over the dough. Add a thin layer of cheese and begin layering on the vegetables starting with the leafy greens and ending with the capsicum or mushrooms.

2. Sprinkle on a very thin layer of cheese then pop into the preheated oven to cook till the dough is done. Remove, and enjoy while still hot!


Spanish Chorizo Pizza

1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1 large chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 green capsicum/bell pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1/4 red capsicum/bell pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1/3 cup semi sundried tomatoes, all excess oil squeezed out
1 cup grated mozarella
1/4 cup reduced salt tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Prepare pizza dough and set aside. Heat a frying pan and lightly fry the sliced chorizo till browned, then drain all the oil on some paper towels. Mix together the tomato paste, oregano and garlic and spread over the pizza dough. Sprinkle over a light layer of cheese, then layer on the remaining ingredients, keeping the layers sparse, thin and light.

2. Top with a thin layer of cheese and pop into a preheated oven to cook till the dough has puffed up and nicely browned. Slice up and serve, and enjoy 🙂

Entries for Hey Hey its Donna Day can be submitted to Joey at 80 Breakfasts up till January 26th, so be sure to get your entries in as soon as you can! The round-up will be posted on February 2nd, at which time everyone can vote for their favourite to win this month’s edition of HHDD!

1 – It’s interesting the different approaches to numbers that different countries take. I was just used to learning MATHS (as we call it here in Australia) as one jumbled class racing through different areas, but upon going to the International school during my teens, which followed an American-style curriculum, I very quickly learnt to say MATH (no ‘S’) and that it could be split up into different areas, each of which I hated with an equal amount of passion.

[tags]pizza, HHDD, recipes, Dan Lepard[/tags]

Rolling in from the Land of the Morning Calm


This may look like sushi, but let me tell you that that’s about as far as the resemblence to Japanese maki sushi goes. The flavours and aromas that are a part of kimbap (a literal translation of the word – ‘kim’ = nori sheets, ‘bap’ = rice) are very very different, making this version from the Land of the Morning Calm quite different from it’s second cousin, twice removed, from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Since Korea and Japan are geographically so close to each other, they share a lot of similarities in parts of their culture as well as a lot of history. Land of the Morning Calm is a Western nickname for Korea, and Land of the Rising Sun is a Western nickname for Japan. Both names are based upon the loose translation of the country’s names in the native tongue.

This is the be-all and end-all of fast food in Korea. In snack food stores/cafes all over the country, little ahjumas (older women) stand or crouch behind counters, their nimble little fingers pumping out roll after roll of these delicious delights in just a few seconds. It is the Korean equivalent of the sandwich in that it’s the food of choice when going on a trip or a picnic – the difference is that while a sandwich contains the goodness of the filling between two (hopefully not bland) slices of bread, Koreans wrap their filling in a smooth, subtly flavoured rice roll that’s contained in a shiny sheet of nori.


Of course this stuff tastes great on its own, with the seasoned rice and the fillings, it’s full of flavour, but to have a really authentic instant meal, your best bet is to grab a packet of Korean spicy ramen (any fellow lovers of Shin ramyun out there?), boil it up, get some well fermented kimchi and pop yourself down with a friend to have an easy meal, the hot broth of the ramen washing down the rice roll and the fresh heat of the kimchi making your tastebuds tingle…

Damnit, just thinking about this ritual has me feeling hungry!

Even though it’s many, many years since I last saw the ‘homeland’ (as my mother says, since I’m the only one who hasn’t been back since I moved back to Australia when I turned 16), there are many memories that I cling to fondly, and kimbap is a part of quite a few of them. The number of times that I went to the little snack cafe outside the school with my friends to have a quick and easy fix of ddukboki and kimbap, sitting and rolling these with my mother late at night so the rest of the family could take them for lunch the next day. And, of course, the one morning when I sat on the ground with my mother and aunties, rolling kimbap as we prepared them for sustenance when we’d later take the long journey into the mountains to visit my grandmother’s shrine.

To most Koreans, kimbap is a food that has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. Unlike sush, it needs no wasabi and soy to be gussied up, but delivers it’s flavour in one neat, clean parcel, to be consumed and enjoyed with every bite.

So if you like your sushi but want to try something a little different, give kimbap a try and see if this roll from the Land of the Morning Calm helps to ease your hunger pangs 🙂




For the rice:

  • 5 cups cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp toasted sesame oil (just make sure you get the Asian stuff, it’ll be rich dark brown and smell powerfully of toasted sesame seeds)

Common filling variations:

  • Finely julienned carrots, sauteed briefly
  • Tinned tuna, with all the liquid squeezed out and mixed with a little mayo, salt and pepper
  • Pickled burdock
  • Sweet pickled daikon, cut into long strips
  • Blanched spinach, wrung dry
  • Crab sticks, cut into thin strips and lightly fried till cooked through
  • Ham (a lightly spicy variety like strasburg ham works well) cut into long thin strips
  • Egg omelette (lightly beat about 4 large eggs into a bowl, then season with salt and pepper and pour into a frying pan like a thick omlette. Once cooked on one side, carefully flip over and cook on opposite side for a minute before removing to a plate to cool. Once cool, cut into thin strips)
  • Bulgogi mince (sweet soy seasoned beef mince)
  • Cucumber, preferably a thin-skinned variety, seeds removed and cut into long strips. You can pickle this by leaving it overnight in the liquid of the sweet pickled daikon.
  • Strips of kimchi, briefly sauteed and with the liquid squeezed out

To make:

  • Nori sheets
  • Toasted sesame oil

1. Once the rice is no longer letting off steam (but still warm), add the sesame seeds and sesame oil and 1 tsp of salt and mix it through. Taste a bit, and if it needs it, add the second tsp of salt and mix through again.

2. Prepare your fillings and have them ready – not only go on flavour but also on colour, your kimbap should be nice and colourful when cut into. As my mother says, we eat with our eyes before our mouths, so make sure it looks appetizing and colourful!

3. Once your fillings have all been prepared, set them out in front of you with the bowl of seasoned rice, and follow these steps:

  • Lay down your sheet of laver in front of you
  • Cover 2/3 the sheet with the seasoned rice in a thin layer, leaving both ends free from rice (this will prevent your kimbap having a big black streak through the rice when rolled).
  • Put your filling into the centre, then grab the edge closest to you and fold it over, pulling it back tightly and squeezing to compact the rice and get it to stick. Continue to roll it up while squeezing from the ends to the centre to compact the rice.
  • Once rolled, put a few drops of sesame oil into your hand and rub it all over the roll to make it gleam and to also help the ends to stick.
  • Repeat with remaining ingredients till all done!
  • Once they’re all rolled, heat up a sharp kitchen knife and lightly rub the blade with sesame oil. Cut the rolls into slices (as per the first few pictures) and store in an airtight container till you’re ready to eat 🙂

4. Enjoy with some spicy Korean ramen (or ramyun as we call it), the most authentic being Shin ramyun, or if you want less MSGs, try for a bowl of hearty Korean-style miso (dwaenjang guk or jjigae).

While these do taste best the same day that they’re made, if you’ve got some leftovers then just store them in the fridge. If they get a bit firm, the best thing to do is to lightly beat together some egg, dip each side of the kimbap into it then fry till cooked through – this will bring it back to life AND is another great way to enjoy your home-made kimbap!


Here’s a rather crap video of my mother’s nimble Asian fingers speed-rolling some kimbap! You’ll have to forgive the audio, as I was sitting with my kid brother (who was tormenting the dog with food) and ma and despite my desperate signaling to remind them that I was recording, they carried on a conversation about the kimbap regardless!
[tags]kimbap, Korean, Asian, food, sushi, recipes[/tags]