I actually meant to try this last week, but I made the banana and walnut mini muffins instead after discovering leftover frozen bananas in the freezer. It has been on my mind for a little while now, though, as I wanted to find some way to combine my home-made strawberry gin with my regular cooking. It turned out to be a perfect additive to my strawberry ice-cream, which I have had a lot of success with. It was a combination of the lower freezing point of the alcohol and letting the mixture churn for even longer that produced a lovely texture. But as I made only a small batch I will recommend doubling the mix if you want more than two scoops each between four people. It really is a simple and straightforward recipe, however. It could also be done with a different liqueur I just happened to have my strawberry gin on hand and it worked well. I was also given some tips for homemade ice-cream before I started this project which I want to share, such as putting it in a rectangular container with gladwrap over the surface to prevent ice crystals from forming and using liquor of some kind to stop the ice-cream freezing solid. Some people suggest using vodka, as it’s tasteless. But if you have a complimentary liqueur it’s fun to use that instead. I used liqueur in mine, hence the tipsy in the name. But feel free to experiment.
I think this must be one of our more famous dishes. It shows up all over the place – and not only in italian restaurants. But one of the first things I learnt about in my italian classes, and when I used all my pennies to visit Italy, was that there is no such thing as Spaghetti Bolognese. It’s a western appropriation of another common dish, which I was told is more likely to be pasta like Spaghetti al Ragu. I was interested to learn the differences because I find it so fascinating how transferring dishes from one country to another can change them so dramatically – in name, flavour or even style of cooking. I also had a similar experience while eating with my friend Xi Yue, who told me that what we think of as Sichuan cooking actually pales by comparison to the real cooking from that area of china. I thought ours was spicy enough, but she told me that ours is not at all as spicy as the real deal.It really is interesting to see how dishes are changed to suit different cultures and tastes. But I’m not sure that any dish is so famous for it as Spaghetti Bolognese. It was a staple dish of childhood, I could find it everywhere I went – even in fast food places. But there are actually so many different ways of cooking it that I have never tasted a sauce exactly like another. It gives this dish a sort of freshness in that I can expect it never to be the same old thing. But the other great thing about it is that it can be made gluten and dairy free, especially since there are so many nice gluten-free pasta brands in the world. In truth I actually prefer some gluten-free penne pastas and some gluten-free fettuccine pastas to the ones that contain gluten. I think it has something to do with their flavour being more robust. But I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I did for my lunch!
I did actually attempt to turn this mix into actual banan bread. But I had so much trouble with the getting the right temperature in my oven so that it would stop scorching the outside and leaving the inside of the loaf as soup. So in the end I decided to take an alternative route. I separated the mixture into little patty pans and the result was delicious little banana bread muffins with nice pieces of chopped walnuts for added texture. It was also interesting to make because I used extra large, 800g eggs, and the first two eggs I used had large double yolks. But as a result of this I’m not entirely sure if you’ll have any troubles replicating this recipe with eggs that don’t use double yolks. I also used frozen bananas, which I then defrosted. I recommend using them rather than regular overripe banas because the freezing and re-heating process effectively turns the banana to mush in its own skin. It requires no mashing and mixes in much easier. It also only requires you to make a hole in the top of the banan skin and to squeeze the banana out like an ice-block. So it’s relatively little mess and fuss. I also kept the amount of walnuts to a minimum because in chopping them I gained quite a few small pieces which distributed well throughout the mix. If you’re worried your mixture has too little walnuts or the walnuts aren’t spread out well then add more or mix it energetically before you start pouring the mixture out.
Tamagoyaki is a sweet little treat, a japanese omelette. It’s made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg usually prepared in a rectangular pan, and having cooked mine in a circular one I can see why that would be preferable. It can be served in little pieces you get a few bites out of, or it can even be used as a filling for sushi. It’s very simple and easy to make, provided you have luck and a few spatulas on hand as well as plenty of patience. But if I can manage to make it on my first go I’m confident a lot of other people should be fine with it as well. I also made my tamagoyaki on sake, rather than mirin. Both of them are essentially rice wine, but sake is traditionally used for drinking and mirin is not. I had no mirin, but I had sake, hence why I used that instead. I must recommend not using cheaper sake brands as they typically do contain gluten products, but any junmai sake or gekkaikan sake will be gluten-free as both of these are pure and more upmarket. If you have more money to spend you could get daiginjo sake, or there’s also gingo sake. But if you want to use mirin then use hon-mirin as that will be pure and gluten-free, I just wanted to try the sake my brother bought back from japan. It has a very unique flavour and really enhances this great little snack. I also recommend not using too much oil, as you can see one of my pieces is all shiny and glossy because I had too much in my pan. But it didn’t ruin the flavour.
I have to admit that when I first started to use almond meal and coconut flour I found it a bit challenging. I had no real experience with almond meal in desserts, except for on the rare occasions we were given slices of flour-less orange cake – as cooked by our incredible family friend Polly. But now that I’m using it more and more I’m really starting to appreciate almond meal over coconut flour, although I will be listing both versions I tested of this recipe for those of you that don’t mind using coconut flour as the base for these little muffins. I like the texture of almond meal. I like how it makes desserts rich and moist and dense. But it really has taken me a lot of practise to get used to recognising when the mixture is moist enough or when it needs moe baking powder. I have learned that, as a rule of thumb, almond meal and coconut flour both need a lot more liquid than regular flour. I also know that almond meal is much more dense than regular flour and thus sometimes needs much more baking powder to get approximately the same sort of lift as regular flour will get. So I will post up the coconut flour recipe first, and then I will put up the almond meal recipe second. If you read both you’ll see they’re very similar except for varied amounts of flour and liquids. It’s because both of these gluten-free substitutes require slightly different levels of moisture, and I prefer my almond meal desserts very moist.
So although I might not able to attend another soup night held by my friend later in a week or two, as I’ll probably be out of town visiting my boyfriend’s mother for her birthday, that doesn’t mean that I can’t use this as inspiration for my latest dish! I thought that this time I would like to make another traditional soup, but a more vegetarian friendly and much simpler one. I do like complex soups, don’t get be wrong. But there is a beauty in simplicity at times. Moreover the winter months creeping into the city have made me long for the traditional soup I gorged on while on my first overseas trip. Although I doubt my miso will ever taste as unique and as traditional as the soups I had overseas, because I often saw them making the dashi stock from scratch, this is a simple version of a delicious and traditional soup that I want to share. It can be altered in numerous ways, with noodles and vegetables and meat, but for me the miso I love will always be the simple miso that acts as a side dish to a traditional japanese breakfast of rice and fish. Besides, miso alone is apparently very high in dietary fibre and protein, which explains how it helps you to feel a little more full than thin soups like this normally would. It has a very distinctive flavour too, one that instant miso and packet miso soups can’t really reach. So please enjoy this soup when the outdoors are chilly and it’s warm inside, perhaps even warmer if you have a kotatsu!
Although I can’t say I’m a big fan of salads, there are some dishes that work well with salad as a side-dish. It also adds balance and a little bit of extra vitamins and minerals to your food. I recently discovered rainbow salad, which I tink is probably one of my favourites, and that inspired me to give making a salad a go. It probably seems silly to be posting up a salad recipe, but the truth is that salads are as much a worthwhile dish to post about as any. Some salads are very fancy including grilled fruits and marinated meats. But what I decided to go for was a simple and fresh salad that you could add or subtract from depending on tastes. In my case my father has an allergic reaction to tomatoes, so although you would normally expect to see some form of tomato in this sort of salad I decided to keep them out of the equation. If you have someone who really loves avocado then you should add more, and in this way the recipe can be altered as you see fit. But the idea with this was really to throw in as many vegetables as I could find in our refrigerator, and then to add some of the avocados my father bought home from the farmer’s markets. I thought it was a good way to put out another, and significantly healthier, recipe which could also serve as a side dish for our dinner.But I did intend to put chicken strips through this salad as well, that is – until my father ate the leftover chicken strips for his lunch! So I will still suggest putting in chicken strips as an optional ingredient if you have leftover chicken from a roast or barbecue chicken lying around. Please feel free to leave the chicken out if this is going to be a strictly vegetarian dish or to add extra for any carnivorous friends or family lurking around. But I do have to mention my father again as my inspiration for the dressing. His favourite snack at the moment is fresh avocado smothered in sweet chilli. I thought that a chilli dressing would work very well for this salad, but I cheated somewhat in that I used a bought chilli and lime dressing (having no time to make my own). But it turned out to be delicious!
I went to see what I could make for dinner last night and discovered that our fridge and pantry were pretty much devoid of everything you would turn to for a simple meal – including leftovers, meat, and most vegetables. I scouted for supplies and found rice, eggs and a packet of frozen diced vegetables. But for some reason or another I stood there wondering what on earth I could do with all of that until I remembered getting a few tips about making fried rice from my friend Nhim. I remembered the basics – that is it needs meat, day-old rice is better, and you can put eggs through in more ways than the traditional omelette, but of course this recipe was made via a – I think that looks about right method. It turned out to be a simple a delicious dinner, full of vegetables. But I decided to add more to the recipe this time by actually buying a few ingredients we have been missing and some more spices. I also prefer not to put sugar through my friend rice, although I know some recipes call for it. And considering I can only handle so much chili I stuck to a pinch. But it really is surprising how filling this recipe can be considering that the portion I make is about a half a cup of rice per person if it’s a main meal rather than a side dish. But of course if you’re feeding more than double or even triple the quantities, or keep them small if this will be your side-dish rather than a main.
I’m still in the process of experimenting with gluten-free dairy-free shortbread. But the recipe I cooked today worked well enough that I feel able to post it up here. But it will probably change as I experiment with it more and get used to using nuttelex as a butter substitute in biscuits. I also whipped up a small amount of lemon glaze to put over the biscuits. If anything the lemon glaze is nice by itself and works well on other biscuits aside from plain shortbread. So feel free to use that. I also considered using lard as I did in my hazelnut shortbread biscuits, but I was eager to try using nuttelex because it’s fast becoming my preferred butter substitute. I like the flavour of nuttelex more than the flavour of lard as well, but that might be because I like the flavour of anything like olive oil and nuttelex is an olive spread. I also found I needed less nuttelex than butter to make this recipe into a dough, and in one batch accidentally added too much. But I found they still cooked well and had a very robust taste from using the nuttelex. I also found that using gluten-free plain flour didn’t have an adverse affect on their texture or taste, so I didn’t bother with trying a rice flour version instead. But I may try that at a later date as rice-flour shortbread is the traditional gluten-free version. So I hope that these biscuits work out for everyone as well as they did for me. But if there are any problems let me know, as it will help me next time I go to test this recipe. In the meantime enjoy this recipe, as it’s really nice with a cup of tea.
I had some somewhat troubling news after visiting the physiotherapist this morning. I have been given a thumb brace to wear for the next two weeks to try and help ease my tendonitis. It does, however, completely limit the movements of my thumb and makes holding things a little challenging, even while it provides comfort and support for it at the same time. So when I was thinking about how limited my movements are with it on, and how I’m only supposed to remove it for when I’m writing, I started to fet that maybe I wouldn’t be able to cook a main dish today. I had the help of my mother, though, in overcoming this challenge. She was in desperate need of some soup and I was in desperate need of a working pair of hands. So I did what I could while she took my directions for dicing and chopping. It turned out to be a small – but fun, moment to spend with her. I was also pleasantly surprised at the results of my soup, having not expected much to come of it really. I think this is because I’m used to being served vegetable soups without much flavour, as if the vegetables are somehow meant to make the soup taste extraordinary. I found I quite liked using herbs, garlic and pepper to give my soup a bit of life. It was also a delicious lunch to have after being out in the cold winds coming too and from my appointment. So lesson learned for soups, herbs and pepper and garlic really can improve what might otherwise be a rather plain dish. But my go to initial ingredients for soups and casseroles will probably always be bay leaves. It’s hard to tell how they improve flavour until you eat dishes cooked without them! But also, if you’re wondering how I managed to type this with my brace on, the answer is - with great difficulty.