Dal Palak (Lentils with Spinach)

Chana DalThis Palak Dal (Spinach and Lentils) was fortuitous in that it used chana dal from my pantry, as well as some spinach and tomatoes that were lingering in the fridge! It was very quick to cook, and very warming and comforting to eat.  It felt healthy 🙂

This was also my first time of roasting dal before using (lets face it,  i’ve used chana dal once before!), and it really enhance the flavour of the dal. The recipe is fairly self explanatory, although I did find the lentils dried up very quickly into the 1 hour cooking time – much quicker than I expected!  I will be ready with more water next time I cook. I also held off adding the spinach until right at the end, to preserve its bright green colour.

Dal Palak with Spinach


Note to Self: Nigella’s Onion Mush

Onion Mush

This is really a reminder to myself of the volume of onion mush that is produced from 1 kilo of sliced onions (it’s probably about a cup).  I do know the onions reduce down, and I always think ‘I really should double this recipe’, but, you know, one of the last things you want to do when you’ve peeled and thinly sliced a kilo of onions, is to peel and thinly slice *another* kilo of onions!  Still, when you put in effort to make onion mush, it would be nice to end up with more than a cup of delicious-ness (and it is delicious). Since peeling and slicing is the major hurdle in making mush, it would make sense to use a food processor, like Nigella suggests (the recipe is from How to Eat).

Recipe (more or less).

Peel one kilo of onions, and then slice very thinly. Add your fat (1 tbps of butter or LARD plus 3 tbps of olive oil, or 5 tbsp olive oil) to a heavy based pot over a low heat, and then add the onions once the butter/lard has melted, but has not started bubbling. Pack the onions down with a wooden spoon, sprinke with salt and then add 75 mL of Marsala (or cheap dry sherry in my case), topped up with 100 mL of boiling water.  Take a piece of foil and pack it tightly over the onion, shiny side down, put the lid, and allow to simmer for 2 hours (check after 1 hour to ensure the onion is not browning or sticking to the pan). After 2 hours, take off the lid and foil, increase the heat and boil off the liquid. You will need to keep a fairly close eye on the mush at the point, and stir pretty constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick. A key point is that the onion does not turn brown until you start boiling off the liquid.  I remember feeling quite worried the first time I made mush my onions were so pale at the end of the slow cook stage.  However the sugar doesn’t caramelise until the water is gone – so don’t worry, your onions will go brown!


An exciting moment in making this batch of mush, was using my own LARD,  when I rendered off a slow cooked pork shoulder a few days before.  I just poured the fat off the slow cooker and cooled it in the fridge, ending up with a suprisingly pristine white fat that melts beautifully (and I feel good about not throwing it away. go LARD!).  I do think you can cut down on the oil in the onions, though.  I might ignore the addition of olive oil next time.

Anyway, the mush (or relish) is very delish and worked well on our umami burgers (which I essential followed this recipe, but replaced the applesauce with  1 tsp sugar and grilled in a frying pan). If only there was more…

Zucchini and Eggplant Bake

Roasted VegetablesWith some nice eggplant and zucchini in my last vege box,  I was looking for a non-meat dinner option to make one night.  This Layered Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Casserole looked interesting and also would enable me to use panko breadcrumbs from the pantry. I made some changes, mostly based on  what I  had to hand,  and used two medium normal eggplants and two medium sized zucchinis. I swapped two tins of tomatoes for the fresh ones, includes some garlic in when I fried the onion, and used more basil than recommended (probably a good cup worth). Zucchini and Eggplant Bake

The end result wasn’t too bad but could do with some modification – firstly I found the long slices of veges unwieldy when it came ti eating it.  I’d probably cut the veges horizontally rather than length wise ( if that makes sense!).  I think the tomato sauce could have done with more flavoring – perhaps adding a jar of pasta sauce in stead of one of the tins of tomatoes would help here.

Zucchini and Eggplant BakeFinally pre-roasting the veges took a loooooong time (particularly if you are trying to save dishes by only using one tray!) I’m not sure the roasting added *that* much flavour to the dish, so I’d also be tempted to just put it together with raw veges, possibly up the tomato content (2 tins of tomatoes and 1 jar of pasta sauce perhaps?),  and just cook the whole thing in one go.

Red Quinoa Salad

Red Quinoa Salad

So getting rid of the quinoa was very easy. I cooked it one evening, let it sit overnight, and then mixed it with cherry tomatoes, green capsicum, cucumber, parsley and garlic chives from the garden, and a few squeezes from lemon juice.  It provided lunch for two days and it kept me surprisingly full. Quinoa is high in protein and has a complete set of amino acids, which is why I think I bought it in the first place.  Now I have an easy way to use it, I should probably get some more…

Roasted Chicken with Coconut Milk (Ayam Panggang Santan)


Candlenuts! These are one of the items languishing in my pantry.  I had bought them in a fit of enthusiasm, after my visit to Indonesia and Malaysia in 2010.  So I decided to go through one of the cookbooks I bought on that trip – Racik Tradisi (Traditional Malay Cuisine) by Zaidah Mohd Noor (bilingual edition). This is a pretty casual cookbook – or perhaps it’s the translation, because some of the directions left me a little uncertain, but I went with it and the resulting chicken was pretty yum!

1 chicken (mine was just over 2kg)
2 cups of coconut milk (I used 2 x 270 mL tins)
5 candlenut
1 large onion
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 stalks of lemon grass
1 tbps ground chilli
some peanut oil for frying

Clean the chicken and cut into two pieces ( this was actually pretty unwieldy – in future I’d probably leave whole or buy a similar weight of chicken pieces – probably thighs and drumsticks). Finely chop the onion and candlenuts and bruise the lemongrass. Heat the oil and fry the onion, candlenuts and lemons grass until fragrant. Add in chicken pieces and stir fry for a while ( I chose about 5 minutes). Pour in chillies, coriander seeds, and coconut milk. At his point I diverged from the recipe. It said cook until the coconut milk is dried and remove chicken, then roast the chicken til cooked and pour gravy on top. Instead, I let the cocnut boil for a while, popped the top on my oven proof pot, and roasted in the oven for 80 minutes at about 180 deg C. I’ve found roasting a chicken in a pot is a sure way to end up with really moist meat. It’s particularly fantastic if you include a couple of cups of masterstock.  After 40 minutes I turned the chicken peices (sort of – they were unwieldy!) and left the lid off to try and reduce the coconut gravy. The gravy was delicious but watery after cooking, so I reduced it further on the stove after taking the chicken out to rest.  I served it with steamed choi sum and microwave sticky rice (another item off the pantry list!!).  Overal I loved the gravy – reminiscent of a thai curry, and the lemongrass (from my garden)  made it particularly fresh. I did worry about the amount of  ground chilli  – a tablespoon sounds like a lot. I erred on the side of less, but it really wasnt overpowering.  I’d be happy to put in a full tbsp in future.

Roasted Chicken with Coconut  Sticky Rice  Roasted Chicken with Coconut

Restaurant Review: Greenhouse

100 St Georges Tc
Perth, WA 6000

08 9481 8333

I’ve been wanting to go to Greenhouse for aaages, but it’s smack bang in the city, it’s not open on Sunday for brunch and, for whatever reason, it just never happened – until last night. And it turns out Saturday night at that end of town is a good time to go. Parking becomes free, and there is no problem getting a table if you can get there early-ish (tho there did seem to be a line of people waiting later in the evening).

Greenhouse has a pretty interesting list of cocktails, but I was driving so stayed sober with the earl grey lemon iced tea, which was was refreshing, not too sweet, but a little lacking in earl-y grey-ness (oh well). The food is tapas style, and our table of 6 split into 3 vege diners and 3 meat eaters (I was on the meat side, tho to be fair the vege dishes looked very appetising!). My favorite savory dishes were the pizza (of the day) – cherry tomato and the most delicious pancetta, on a thin but dense pizza crsut, and the rabbit pie, which was a delightful filo (?) parcel, filled with slow cooked rabbit, topped a cinnamonn-y flour, and served with labneh. I would have never though to put such varying tastes together, but it worked beautifully, and was so interesting (I love interesting food). The beef belly was the most disappointing dish – last to the table and not really what we were expecting, as it looked more like slow cooked ribs. The meat was very tender and tasty, but the dish lacked the wow factor of other dishes.

However, the highlight of the meal was probably the dish we almost didn’t order – dessert – the cherry and rhubarb bread pudding. It came with it’s own little jar of creme anglais (or similar). We shared between three, and it was just the right amount of dense wholemeal bread and punchy cherry and rhubarb. To be honest, I’d probably return just for the pudding.

Greenhouse is reasonably expensive for the portion sizes you get, but the quality of the food is excellent and it is pretty different to the usual Perth restaurant experience. I’m not sure I loved it, but I’d definitely recommend trying it at least once.

Greenhouse on Urbanspoon

The Annual* Pantry Clean Out

Clean Pantry

So today has been the annual* pantry clean out – not only to clean the shelves and reorganise things, but also a great opportunity to identify all the unusual ingredients I couldn’t help but buy, but have not managed to incorporate into my diet on a regular basis (or, in some cases, ever!) I decided to make a list of them, and then try and tick them off, by finding dishes that I can make with them – ideally on a regular basis. So, in order of pulling them out of the pantry, here’s my list of ingredients I’d like to cook with or consume this year, cos I already have them. Please feel free to suggest things I can try out!

red quinoa: recipe
glutinous rice: recipe
glutinous rice flour
tapioca starch
pomegranate molasses
candlenuts: recipe

Spider on the Rose

nutmeg (whole)
dried procini mushrooms
chana dal (+ yellow split peas)
Oregon trail sourdough bread starter
chickpea flour
dried kidney beans
Ginjinha (Portuguese cherry liqueur)
pandan leaves
Panko bread crumbs: recipe
wonton wrappers

Also,  check out this spider who was living amongst the Rose! No sure where he is now. I took the photo,  left the bottle on the kitchen bench, and he was gone by the time I came back to dust off the bottle…

*I say annual, but it’s the first time I remember doing it, although to be fair we’ve only lived here for about 15 months. Anyway, lets be optimistic and call it annual.