Link Love

I took this photo in Sapa, Vietnam a few months ago. Before we left, my boyfriend and I were embarrassingly into Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam and even stole a few travel tips from him. We’ve just started watching his program on the Greater Mekong, which I love just as much. I can’t wait to go back to Asia!

  • I made this delicious pasta dish for dinner on Sunday. Served with a green salad it was super easy and, even better, its simplicity made me feel virtuous.
  • Received a stunning bouquet of flowers (mostly orchids) from here last week. They’re supposed to last two weeks!
  • Though the term is horrible, this is fantastic chick lit – escapism and joy in paper form.

I hate Wednesdays. Hump day indeed. Hope the rest of your week flies by now that Wednesday has passed! Xo

P.s. Has anyone else been experimenting with Pinterest?!! I just signed up last week but I’m finding it totally addictive! For some reason I’ve found it much easier to get hooked on than Twitter…

Caramelised pork banh mi

When I start a post here I like to have a story and a recipe in mind. I want this blog to be a combination journal/recipe book. But today I’m breaking my own rules and bringing you a recipe only. I made caramelised pork banh mi last night and we inhaled it so fast I didn’t even stop to take a photo. So not only is there no story to tell, there’s no photos either. This undoubtedly makes me unfit to be a food blogger but honestly, this recipe is so good it’s worth sharing at the expense of my food blogger credentials. Besides, I do have a photo of a market in Saigon that I visited late last year. Imagine eating banh mi and walking through the market and you won’t miss my (totally amateur) food photography at all.

Caramelised Pork Banh Mi (adapted slightly from Food 52)

This is an unbelievably delicious but light dinner and would make for a perfect week night meal. You do have to start marinating about an hour before you want to eat but once the marinading is done (and the marinade itself comes together really quickly) dinner will be ready in mere minutes.

Serves 2

350 g pork fillet (sometimes sold as pork tenderloin)

3 T fish sauce

1 T honey

1 T sugar

2 T soy sauce

2 gloves garlic, crushed

1 spring onion, sliced

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

black pepper

sunflower oil

1 carrot, sliced into match sticks

1/4 c water

1/2 c apple cider vinegar

1 T sugar

1 baguette

lettuce

coriander

mayonnaise, if desired

pate, if desired

1. Slice the pork into 0.5 – 1 cm pieces. If your slices are on the thicker side flatten slightly with a rolling pin or bottle.

2. Place all the ingredients from the fish sauce to black pepper in a non-reactive bowl (i.e. don’t use a metal bowl!). Stir to dissolve the sugar and add the pork. Marinate for up to an hour.

3. While the pork is marinating, start the pickled carrots. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-reactive bowl. Add the carrots and leave in the fridge to pickle.

4. Get everything ready to serve. Cut up the baguette into four. Place letter leaves, sprigs of coriander, mayonnaise and pate on the table.

5. To cook the pork, heat a heavy, non stick saucepan or grill pan over high heat. Add 1 T of oil to the pan and when it is hot add half the pork. Cook until caramelised and then turn over. When the second side is caramelised remove from the pan. Repeat with the other half of the marinated meat. I found it only needed 30 seconds to a minute to cook on each side.

6. When the pork is cooked, place it on the table with the pickled carrots. Let everyone put together their own sandwiches, spreading the baguette with mayonnaise and pate (if desired) and then filling with pork, pickled carrot, lettuce and coriander.

Notes

  • Food 52 uses brown sugar and maple syrup, neither of which I had. I went with white sugar and honey instead. I’d be tempted to stick with honey even if I had maple syrup around. It caramelises just as well but the flavour is milder.
  • This is not the place for an artisan sourdough baguette. You want a loaf that has a crisp but thin crust and is soft, light and fluffy inside.
  • I halved the pickle recipe and we had so much left over it would have been plenty for four. The pickle can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
  • To serve four, up the pork to 500 – 700 g and get a second baguette. There is no need to increase the marinade or pickle quantities.

Berta

This week has been crazy busy. My boyfriend and I graduated on Monday night and so both of our families have been in Sydney. Besides work and seeking family, it seems that all my friends who have been travelling for the past year descended on Sydney at the same time so I’ve been running around like a headless chicken catching up with everyone. Spending too much time socialising is the epitome of a first world problem I know, and it’s wonderful to see old friends, but I am beyond excited to have made it home by 8 pm tonight.

Besides a serious lack of couch and tv time this week, I’m really sorry I haven’t had enough time to be around here. I do have something exciting to share though: one of my favourite restaurants – Berta.

Berta is hidden down a side street on the very edge of the Sydney CBD behind a totally inconspicuous heavy dark door. It’s not the kind of place you could ever stumble upon but it’s well worth seeking out. I love it so much because it’s the perfect combination of delicious food, great service and casual atmosphere. The food is expertly executed and innovative without needing to resort to intimidating like such as foam and dirt. Plus it’s where I had my first aperol spritz and for that I owe a serious debt of gratitude.

I had dinner at Berta on Tuesday. We were 6 so we were able to try lots of things: tiny green peppers grilled and showered with celery salt, burrata with silky red capsicums and vin cotto, rabbit nuggets (!!) with mustard mascarpone, king fish ceviche, roasted duck with figs, blue eye cod with perfect crispy skin, pickled beetroot and capers, poached peaches and bay leaf walnut cream, tiny meringues and chocolate salami. That was only the tip of the iceberg and each and every dish was amazing. I hold a special place in my heart for the chocolate salami though. I wonder if the chef would give me the recipe?

This blog was never meant to be for serious restaurant reviews but I do want to share my favourite places. And Berta is hands down at the top of the list. Happy Friday everyone xo

Coconut muffins

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I still worry about what people think of me. Certainly, I am much, much more comfortable in my own skin than I was five years ago (late teens – early twenties is not a period of my life I’d ever choose to relive but would anyone?). But  still, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to completely forget about what other people think. In many ways, this is a good thing – it bring with it empathy and sensitivity, an awareness of how you affect others. But it also means that I waste so much time worrying about silly little things – whether my fellow commuters will sneer at my choice of book or if my housemates will hate the dinner I’m cooking. It was this dinner worrying that made me realise how ridiculous these stresses are – I liked dinner and that was enough. Besides, my housemates don’t make themselves sick with worry if I don’t like what they make.

This is a long detour on the way to today’s recipe but I promise, we’re almost there. I wasn’t sure whether to post this recipe out of fear they wouldn’t measure up. It’s true, they don’t look quite as lovely (or as big!) as their inspiration over at Smitten Kitchen. But I have to get over this fear sooner or later so here they are. Besides, they made my lunch box all week which has to mean more than a pretty face.

Coconut muffins (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

It’s true, these cupcakes aren’t the prettiest things around but they are delicious. The scent of the coconut is just divine and they were still moist on the fourth day we were eating them – I think this may be a muffin record.

3/4 c plain flour

1/2 c wholemeal spelt flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 c desiccated coconut

1/3 c macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 c virgin coconut oil

1 c greek yogurt

1/3 c caster sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375’F. Line a standard muffin tin with patty cases.

2. Sift both flours and baking powder into a bowl. Add desiccated coconut and macadamia nuts.

3. In a separate bowl stir together coconut oil, yogurt, sugar, the egg and vanilla. It will look like a big, oily mess but it will come together.

4. Add the coconut oil mixture to the flour and mix until just combined. Divide the batter amongst the muffins tins.

5. Place in preheated oven and bake until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container if you don’t polish them off on the spot.

Notes

  • Deb’s recipe includes salt. I find adding salt to sweet desserts is a feature of American recipes and most of the time, I love it. But with these muffins it was too much. The second time I made them I left the salt out altogether and much preferred them. If you do add salt, I would recommend table salt rather than something with big flakes, like Maldon.
  • I bought my macadamia nuts already toasted but if yours are raw, here is a handy how to. Don’t leave the nuts out – they really make these muffins!
  • It’s warm here in Sydney right now so my coconut oil was liquified when I went to use it (there’s no need to store it in the fridge!). I didn’t need to heat it but if yours is solid, follow Deb’s instructions to heat just until melted.
  • Does anyone have any must-make coconut oil recipes? I’m such a convert!

A little sole

Mimco is really hitting the mark with its shoes right now. When Mimco branched out from bags to shoes a few years ago I felt like they’d really missed the mark. The shoes were trying so hard to be different that they’d ceased to be pretty. It seemed that lots of people felt the same way because the shoes were always on sale. But sometime in the last year or so things at Mimco must have changed because at the moment I could spend my entire pay check and then some on their shoes. Last weekend I splurged on these (in mink). They’re perfect for work – closed toe and a small(ish) heel. Even better, they’re not black, they fit like a glove and every time I look down I smile because my shoes look so gorgeous. My sister wants these lace-ups and these flats and I have these sparkly ballet shoes on my wish list. Obviously if I’m going to support this new-found love I’m going to have to get a higher paying job …

Speaking of shoes, have you seen this video that Kinga Burza made for Kate Spade? So sweet and beautiful.


Sunday

As promised, my next recipe is for something savory: Sunday ragu. When I started working full time I was so excited about weekends – they were going to be jam packed full of exercise, catching up with friends (cocktails!), movies, going to the beach and barely sitting down. Now that I’m a few weeks in, weekends are not like I envisaged. Don’t get me wrong – I love (love!) weekends but they’re not frantic in the way I expected. Honestly, by the time Friday rolls around, I’m so exhausted I need down time. I can’t hack the frantic. I started declining all invitations for Sunday afternoon until I realised it’s become something of a “thing”. And so now Sunday afternoons are for me, for doing nothing. I find really savouring this time to relax and be alone puts me in the right place to head back to work on Monday. I feel refreshed and excited and that I really used my weekend wisely.

This is a very long winded way of saying that Sunday afternoon is a great time to make ragu. My housemate is from a big Italian family and when she moved in her mum loaded up our freezer with her home made ragu. It’s been perfect for Tuesday nights when you get home late and don’t want to wait for totally average, greasy take away. But last week we ran out of ragu and so I decided to cook some up. I popped it in the slow cooker at about 11 on Sunday morning and spent the rest of the day doing nothing. It’s very hard to take a pretty picture of ragu but I will say it makes for the perfect Sunday night in…

Sunday ragu

Serves 6

1 kg stew beef, diced into 2 cm pieces

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 onion, diced

2 small carrots, peeled and diced

2 sticks of celery, diced

6 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 sprigs rosemary

6 sprigs thyme

2 cups red wine

3 tins chopped tomatoes


1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan or pot (something like a Le Creuset). Season the beef with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Make sure the pan isn’t overcrowded. You may need to do this in two batches. Brown the lamb. This will take 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and repeat if necessary.

2. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add another tablespoon of oil, followed by the onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and lightly golden (10-15 minutes).

3. Add the garlic, chilli and herbs and stir for a minute or until fragrant. Add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down slightly and allow the wine to burn off for a few minutes. Return the meat to the pan with the tinned tomatoes. Stir to combine and transfer to a slow cooker. Set the slow cooker on low and walk away! I left my ragu simmering for about 8 hours but I imagine it would be good to go at about the 6 hour mark.

4. Just before serving, flake the meat with a fork. Serve ragu over pasta with plenty of parmesan and a green salad on the side. Stash leftovers in the freezer.

Notes

  • There is quite a lot of wine in this recipe. It could easily be replaced with some more tinned tomatoes or beef stock if you’d like to reduce the amount.