Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

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Vietnamese is a favourite cuisine of mine because of the prolific use of fresh herbs and contrast of hot and cold temperatures. The salads are especially attractive, marinated and grilled meat served on top of rice noodles with pickled carrots, cucumber, herbs and a sweet, spicy and sour dressing. Nuoc Cham is a great example of how important balance is within Vietnamese cuisine, if one of the components is off then the sauce won’t taste right.

Of course I have a favourite restaurant out at Sunnybank that produces killer salads, a place that we affectionately call ‘Cow and Chicken’ because of it’s sign (It’s real name is Pho Hien Vuong Pasteur). They specialise in pho but their rice noodle salads are a cooler choice than soup when the Brisbane summer is in full swing. As with most dishes that I eat at restaurants, I have to give it a go at home to see if I can do it just as well. Legit pho is still slightly intimidating to me but the rice/rice noodle salads that I’ve made at home have been a raging success. You might have to wait a little while for the full salad recipe but if you get this dressing down in the mean time, the rest is child’s play.

Add half of the lemon juice first, taste, and add the rest as you need it. You can always add more but once it’s in there you can’t add less (I’m giving this advice because I’m horrible at taking it). De-seed the chillies for a mild, kid-friendly dressing.

This one is dedicated to my step-bro Aaron, now you can make it for yourself!

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

Adapted from Nuoc Cham Sauce over at SBS Food.

1 clove garlic, peeled

3-5 large red chillies

7 tbsp fish sauce (Three Crabs Brand is recommended)

7 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp water

juice of 1 lemon

Blitz the garlic and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped (traditionally they are pounded in a mortar and pestle, also an option).

Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely.

Chimichurri

chimichurri

For the longest time I wasn’t a massive fan of steak but as far as I can tell it was due to a childhood of eating blackened steak cooked way past well done (the treatment that Australians seem to give everything that they put on the BBQ). In response to this depraved childhood I now take my steak rare, although I am a chronic over-cooker as befits my Australian heritage.

Chimichurri is my new steak sauce of choice, it’s rich but still super fresh and has garlic for days. This recipe will serve around 4 people but go ahead and double it because the more of this you can slather on your meat the better. Use it as a versatile sauce for any grilled meats and chuck it on your salad as a dressing while you’re at it. It’s even great as a dip, I know that we couldn’t stop scooping it up with fresh bread. I’ve also got plans for using it on a steak sandwich, seriously, chimichurri can do anything.

Adapted from Chimichurri over at David Lebovitz.

1 large red chilli

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh oregano)

1/2 – 3/4 tsp sea salt

4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley

1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp lemon juice

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more in between pulses).

Alternatively, chop everything finely then combine in a small bowl.

Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream + Places to Visit in Perth

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I’m back from Perth! It was a whirlwind of brunches and family parties, with sooo much good food. We made repeat appearances at Ootong and Lincoln and I drank the tastiest Iced Coffee of my life at Typika, not to mention their insane Pulled Pork Quesadillas with Salsa (hopefully I will have a copy cat recipe up at some point).

typika

We had Tomato and Chilli Mussels at Little Creatures and ate Arepa’s and freshly fried Donuts at the Freo Markets. I tried the Hashbrown with Poached Eggs at the Little Stove Cafe and at The Roasting Warehouse I absolutely monstered the Cornbread with Maple Bacon, Poached Eggs and Salsa (this one would be super easy at home).

maplecornbread

This ice cream recipe is un-related to my trip to Perth (I didn’t get any photos of my food over there). It’s crazy easy and delicious, make it for the person in your life who can never get enough cheesecake.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Cheesecake Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop.

Strawberry Swirl:

2 1/4 cups chopped strawberries

1 cup caster sugar

Combine the strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil for 5-8 minutes (until it reaches 105 C).

Allow to cool slightly then push through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Cover with cling film (press the cling film on to the surface of the syrup to prevent condensation) and chill completely in the fridge before using.

Ice Cream:

250g cream cheese

1 lemon

1 cup greek yoghurt or sour cream

1/4 cup thickened cream

1/4 cup milk

2/3 cup sugar

big pinch of salt

Cut the cream cheese into small pieces then place in a blender.

Zest the lemon directly into the blender then add all of the other ingredients and puree until completely smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover with cling film (pressing it onto the surface of the mixture) then chill thoroughly in the fridge.

Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer to a 1L container in alternating layers with the Strawberry Swirl.

Chill for at least 4 hours before eating.

If you have any extra Strawberry Swirl then add it to the ice cream as you eat it.

Creamy White Sauce (Hiding a Terrible Secret!)

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It’s not really a terrible secret, it’s kind of a kick ass one. This sauce tastes like it’s packed with a cow’s worth of cream and milk but the only dairy present is 1/2 cup of low fat milk and a smidge of butter. I’m pretty confident that even if you changed that for stock or a non-dairy milk it would still be just as creamy. Cooking cauliflower has never been high on my agenda but when I saw how much praise this sauce inspired from the people cooking it, giving it a try went to the top of my to do list. I’m no health nut but when you can make something this creamy without using cream it’s a total bonus. In the original recipe Lindsay from A Pinch of Yum talks about eating it straight out of the blender and I’m not even embarrassed to say that I did the exact same thing.

This sauce is super versatile, any time you would usually make bechamel just replace it with this and you’ve crammed in another serve of veggies without sacrificing flavour or consistency. Conveniently enough one head of cauliflower was almost exactly 6 cups of florets so there were no little extra bits of cauliflower hanging around. I added the spinach as an extra but just leave it out if you want to.

Hate cauliflower? Yeah, I thought I did too.

Creamy White Sauce

Adapted from Lindsay’s Creamy Cauliflower Sauce over at Pinch of Yum.

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp butter

5-6 cups cauliflower florets

6-7 cups vegetable stock

grated parmesan to taste

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup low fat milk

2 cups baby spinach

Combine the garlic and butter in a pan on low heat, stir until the garlic is cooked and fragrant but not browned, transfer to your blender.

In a large pot bring the stock to a boil and add the cauliflower, boil for 7-10 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.

Transfer the cauliflower to the blender using a slotted spoon, add in 1 cup of the stock, parmesan, salt, pepper and milk.

Puree until completely smooth, taste and adjust seasonings.

Transfer to a large saucepan on low heat, add the spinach and cook on low until it’s just wilted (add in a little water or stock if it gets too dry).

Serve on pasta or use in the same way as a bechamel sauce (lasagne, mac ‘n’ cheese, sauce for a white pizza or even thin it with water to make a soup).

Basil Pesto

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I was inspired by Vegerama in the Brisbane CBD to make a Pesto Vegetable Salad and I knew I had a kick butt pesto recipe hidden somewhere on my Pinterest. The salad that inspired me is a fresh and crunchy combination of grated carrot, capsicum, roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, green beans, olives and tofu. I’m pretty sure that the Vegerama version doesn’t have parmesan in it because all of their food is at least vegetarian if not vegan but for me the parmesan in a pesto is the best bit. I love finding a tasty idea for a salad then recreating it at home for less money and tweaking it to fit my personal tastes.

The salad recipe will be forthcoming but for now here is the pesto that I used as the salad dressing. It’s quite thick so if you want it to spread a bit easier you can thin it with a little bit of water. This recipe makes quite a bit of pesto but if you divide it up into little zip lock bags and pop them in the freezer you’ll have lovely homemade pesto at your fingertips. This stuff is addictive. From the moment I got the seasoning just right I was spooning it out of the blender and basically shoving the spatula in my sister’s hands so we could both babble about how tasty it was.

Basil Pesto

Adapted from Rachel’s My Pesto over at Rachel Schultz.

1 large bunch basil, stems included

1 cup grated parmesan

1 cup olive oil

2/3 cup raw walnuts

4 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

Place everything except the salt and pepper in a blender or food processor, pulse until combined and smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, pulsing in between additions (add enough salt to make the taste of the parmesan really pop).

Freezes well.