Totally tropical fool

It was Australia Day last Thursday; I’m not quite sure how it’s taken me a whole four days to get around to posting this. It seems I am the world’s biggest faffer.

I’ve said before how excited I get visiting the greengrocers in Australia, it’s always full of such yummie-looking, exotic goodies, begging to be bought. But the fun doesn’t end there, oh no, I am the proud owner of a passion fruit vine. Yes, I am now, totally tropical.

Said passion fruit vine, has to date, only produced three super-tangy fruit. But that doesn’t matter to me. I still get a kick out of just looking at it, knowing that it’s there, slowly taking over the back garden, being all exotic and unfamiliar.

So to celebrate Australia Day I decided to make a fool from my two favourite Australian fruits: mango and passion fruit. Served with Australia Day semolina shortbread cookies for a bit of crunch and kitsch.

Totally tropical mango and passion fruit fool

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New Year beer fish

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, welcome ladies and gentlemen to the year of the dragon!

When The Fella and I packed up and moved across the world from Ireland to Australia, we took the long way down. Once we found out our furniture was going to take three months on the slow boat, we decided we also didn’t need to rush. So when we left Dublin we were initially bound for Beijing, not Sydney.  From Beijing we travelled down through China, into Vietnam, back up into Cambodia, then onto Malaysia and Singapore before finally deciding we should probably face reality again.

It was the trip of a lifetime and China was definitely a highlight. It’s such an enormous country with a hugely diverse culture, people and countryside. We spent three and a half weeks there and it was not nearly enough, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s planning a holiday. And the food? Oh my, the food! Sometimes it’s not for the faint hearted, navigating a menu can be more confusing than learning the modh coinníollach (a famously difficult tense in the Irish language); but it’s also so interesting and not at all like any Chinese take-away/restaurant you’ve ever been too.

I learned to make this recipe while doing a course at Yangshuo Cooking School. We spent a very relaxing few days in the little village of Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, surrounded by the most fabulous mountains I have ever seen.

This recipe is the local staple and it’s great, totally moreish and a cinch to cook. I also did a chicken version for The Fella (he’s allergic to fish) and it was equally delicious. If getting to China on your holidays is going to be a little bit of a stretch, make this and bring a little bit of China home instead.

Beer fish


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Pad thai challenge

Near where The Fella and I live in Sydney, there is a tiny little place that sells chicken pad thai noodles for $5 a pop. Five dollars? I hear you all shout. Yes my friends, just five, small, shiny little dollars

Needless to say, my frugal Fella thinks this place is the bees knees.

While I don’t mind the noodles from Glebe’s $5 Pad Thai, they’re not outstanding; but then for five bucks you wouldn’t expect them to be. A few weeks back I made the mistake of expressing this opinion to The Fella, who immediately issued me with a challenge. The general gist of which was: well little-miss-food-blogger, if you’re so smart you should make better pad thai for less than five dollars. I accepted the challenge, with gusto.

I’m not going to count this one as a fail. I might not have managed to stick to the ridiculous budget, but I maintain that my noodles taste far better, and that’s what really counts, right?

Chicken pad thai noodles

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Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

Since moving to Australia, one of my very favorite things is the abundance of interesting and seemingly exotic fresh fruit and vegetables. I know that sounds silly, and I don’t mean to diss fresh Irish produce in any way what so ever. Absolutely not. I firmly believe Ireland produces some of the finest fruit and veg in the world. All I’m saying is that, wonderful as our food may be, visiting the green grocers in Australian can be a tad more exciting and baffling in equal measures.

Take the recipe below for instance, I will eat my own shoes and call them delicious if any of of the folks back home can honestly say they frequently find baby squash in the local Dunnes Stores. Perhaps pre-recession; but now? Doubtful.

When I was in Dublin, I’d have had to visit the always yumbo Fallon & Byrne (or the Temple Bar food market). And while I probably would have found them, I could pay through the nose for the diminutive gourds; and the taste of middle-class, carbon-footprinted guilt would have been hard to wash away; no matter how much wine I drank with dinner.

Not so in Australia my friends. The same sun that likes to mock my stupid Irish skin does wonderful things to mangos, pineapples, bananas, papaya, passion fruit, macadamia nuts, custard apples, and endless more exotic (and not so exotic) bundles of yumness. And I am busy reaping the rewards.

 Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

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Upside-down Christmas and New Year

Overindulgence (over|in¦dul¦gence).
Noun.
1. the action or fact of having too much of something enjoyable: her alleged
overindulgence in alcohol

2. excessive gratification of a person’s wishes: his overindulgence of her whims

I’m sure many people are just like me, and had to look this word up in the dictionary yesterday morning. At least I hope I wasn’t the only one.

This was my third Christmas and New Year in the land down under. And while I do miss Christmas at home something shocking, I have to admit, I find New Years in the sun very pleasant altogether. Hot sunshine, beaches, laughing kookaburras, barbecues, factor-30, kangaroos and buckets of chilled white wine may not scream Christmas to most people, but they do make for some good times. A little too good, truth be told.

I did very little cooking over Christmas, but I did make this desert. It was an attempt to reconcile the two very different types of Christmases I’ve experienced. Because, despite the fact it’s thirty degrees outside, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the pudding!

Upside-down Christmas pudding ice-cream

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