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Friday, January 28, 2011

Vietnamese-style Rice and Spring Rolls

One of my favorite things is being able to cook delicious food using only the ingredients that you already have in your kitchen, particularly the vegetables that have limited life left in them.  This is particularly true when you are broke.  So,  when I looked into my cupboards and fridge the other night and saw that I could make a Vietnamese-style egg fried rice,  I was pretty excited. Then I got a little more ambitious and thought, 'Hey, why not throw in some spring rolls as well.  This may have been where I went wrong, but I don't think so, I think it was just a bit of a practice run. They didn't turn out perfectly, BUT I feel like I learned a thing or two about making spring rolls. Number One: They are NOT burritos, and so should not be stuffed like burritos.  Anyway, live and learn.  
So, this was the result.  I don't this photo really captures the tastiness of the dish,  but it's better that the tastiness was captured in the dish instead of the photo, right??

Anyway,  getting down to business.  I don't know why this was specifically Vietnamese-style,  it just felt like it, you know??


  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 7 mushrooms
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1tsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • oil for cooking
Spring Rolls
  • Rice paper wrappers
  • handful of vermicelli noodles
  • 2 mushrooms
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • handful of bean sprouts


First, I started with the rice. I cooked the rice and let it cool.

Next step was making a marinade of fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, all chopped as small as possible or crushed in mortar and pestle.  Then toss it all in with chopped veggies, and let sit while you assemble make the spring rolls.

For the spring rolls, I poured boiling water over the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and let sit, covered, for about 7 min. I chopped up the veggies and through them in a pan and cooked them up in a bit of oil.  Then, put veggies aside, drain noodles and put aside.  I put some water in a circular pan and one at a time immersed the rice paper. After the rice paper was a little bit soft, I took it out and put in some of the filling. This is where I went wrong because I put in WAY too much.  Next time, not so much, definitely!  Anyway, after each one, I put another rice paper in and did it again. Then I set them aside on a plate, waiting to be cooked.  

Back to the rice, throw the veggies in a wok, and cook them all up in a bit of oil.  It really smells delicious. Then, make a little spot where there is no rice and throw the eggs in, beating them as you go. Once they're cooked up a bit, stir them in with the rest of the rice.  Add the cashew nuts at the end.  

Put a bit of oil in a frying pan and throw in the spring rolls. For the life of me I CANNOT bring myself to deep fry ANYTHING, and so I always panfry.  This may have partially resulted in poor spring rolls.  

Serve spring rolls on rice.

OH. also, i threw some garlic, chili, sugar, water and a tiny bit of fish sauce to dip spring rolls in and pour a bit over the rice.  DELICIOUS.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Massaman-ISH Curry

Yesterday, I really wanted a curry. And I love making curries.  As well as eating them. Actually,  I love eating curries more than I love making them, to be truthful, but I still love making them because people love curries and it's so satisfying to have someone dig in to food you've just made and look so happy.  So, I initially wanted more of an Indian style curry, but ended up making this kind of Massaman Thai curry instead.  Now, I need to emphasise that this is not a true Massaman Curry, for the simple fact that I could not find all the ingredients!  I tried really hard, but the Asian food stores in my neighbourhood stocked neither lemongrass nor shrimp paste. I was a little bit irritated, because I love them both, but what's a girl to do when she's living in a country where she doesn't speak the language???  Try for a bit, then give up and go home and see what happens with the ingredients she has I guess.  

This was the result:

What do you think?? I'm sure there's a great way to photograph curries.  At Chefinyou AND Veggiebelly,  they always take beautiful photographs of their curries. Alas, I am a beginner, and this will have to do. 

It really was tasty, and if you want a more authentic Massaman curry, there are plenty out there. One that's particularly good AND gives a bit of info on the Massaman, can be found here: http://www.shesimmers.com/2010/07/massaman-curry-recipe.html#comment-form

Also, you can easily add beef or chicken, but it really did taste beautiful without meat.  I even fooled Roddy into thinking there was meat in it for a bit.  But not the whole meal.

So, here is the process.  Note that shrimp paste and lemongrass in the paste would have added a whole other level of deliciousness.


  • Tsp peppercorns, toasted
  • Tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • Tsp coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp cloves, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tsp each of cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper and coriander, ground
  • 2 of the really hot red chilis
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • Zest of lime
  • 1 tbsp oil
Other part:
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 3 potatoes, cooked 3/4s of the way in boiling water, in bite sized pieces
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup crushed cashew nuts

For the paste, just blitz all the ingredients in a hand blender, or pound it in a mortar and pestle, depending on how much time and pent up anger you have to get rid of.

Then.  Heat up a little oil in a deep-ish pan, and add the paste.  It's probably WAY better if you make the paste the day before so the flavours can come together more,  but I'm not that much of a planner, so same day paste must do!

Sautee that for around 5-10 mins, so that you can really smell the flavours. Mine was a little bit dry, so I added a bit of the coconut milk to it for added moisture.  Then add the onion, chopped to your desired size.  Cook that up for a bit,  I covered the pan as well.  Then, add (in this order, giving each time to cook before adding the next), garlic, zucchini and mushroom.  Finally add the coconut milk and later the nuts.  Did I forget anything?  YES. The potatoes. Add them right before the coconut milk.  Let that simmer as long as you can.  Mine was not sweet enough so I ended up adding a bit of sugar to it. And i snuck in a bit more cumin as well.  It just depends on how you like it.

I let it sit and simmer on low heat for as long as I could before I cooked up the rice, but I imagine the leftovers in my fridge are going to taste even better for letting those flavours mix together even longer!!

TexMex Style Chili, Potatoes and AvoSalsa

Well, the other night Roddy called me up as I was heading to the grocery store.  This was our conversation.

Me:Hey, what do you feel like for dinner tonight?
Him: I'm in the mood for mexican.
Me: No problem
Him: But with mashed potatoes.
Me: Umm, okay, I'll see what I can do.

Now,  this is as good a time as any to mention that Roddy is Scottish.  So, when he says he wants mexican, he actually means something a little more TexMex-y than actual mexican.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, I just needed to point it out.

Anyway, this was the result, and even though it might not look amazing, it tasted pretty darn good.

I mean, particularly because it's winter, right?? And I live in Berlin, it's cold here! Ok, I don't know why I feel like I need to defend this, MAYBE because I'm not supposed to be eating this much fat so early in the year, since I haven't even been exercising.   Regardless, it's super easy to make, and obviously easy to adapt to your tastes.  I was actually planning to make it without meat, but Roddy actually mentioned how excited he was to eat meat, so I had to give him a little something.


  • Lots o potatoes
  • However much milk and butter you like to use in your mashed potatoes
  • 250 grams of ground beef (optional)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 small chili
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • Grated cheese (I used gouda)
  • Chopped spring onions for top


For the potatoes, I used a bunch because Roddy is a big fan. I cut them up pretty small before I boil them because I am impatient and hate waiting for them to boil.  Boil until soft, drain, add a bit of salt, pepper, milk and butter. I find you don't need to add too much butter because they're going to have the chili and cheese and AvoSalsa on them, so they'll still taste good.

For the chili, just chop up your onion, sauté until soft, chop up garlic and add it to the onion. Oh, but if you're using meat, do that first. Or at least I did, but I think everyone has their own style.  Add chopped chili and red pepper and sauté them too.  Add the spices and simmer.  I would normally add tomatoes, but because of the avosalsa, it's not necessary... but still tasty!! Then just add the drained and rinsed kidney beans and simmer for as long as you want!

For the AvoSalsa, just finely chop up tomato, salsa, onion, avocado and add salt and pepper.  Toss it up a bit, and you're done! If you make it first, then the flavours come together a bit more and it's more delicious.

I made a little loop with the potatoes and filled in the hole with chili and added the cheese and spring onion on top, with the AvoSalsa on the side.  

Either way,  it was super tasty. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faux Pho Soup of the Vegetarian Persuasion

My day yesterday was cold and rainy.  I wanted to make a pho soup, but as usual, I didn't have any of the ingredients nor did I have a recipe.  As I went about my day, some flat viewings all of which looked like they were conceived over a dinner between the inventor of linoleum and a depressed architect, I thought I'd try to find an Asian supermarket in my neighborhood.  I found one, and just bought everything I saw, flat rice noodles, vermicelli, soy sauce, rice paper.  I felt good. I then found another and went in. Now, I'm guessing what happened through her actions as, again I speak no German, is she saw the rice noodles in my bag and felt like I shouldn't have bought all my stuff at the other store. She emptied out my shopping bag on her counter, wrote down all the price information, guessed at what I might be making and instructed me to buy a variety of other ingredients that would make this imaginary dish complete.  This resulted in below--

I'm not going to lie to you, it was delicious. It's not real Pho, but it was good, it was warm, it had lots of flavour AND I felt very healthy after I ate it.  Also, I'm going to learn to take photos of the process soon, I'm just a really messy cook and I feel like photos of food next to crumply wrappers and food discards will not have the appetizing effect I'm going for at this point in time.

Anyway, here is my recipe.


  • 3 of those little piles of flat noodles (how they pile them in the package)
  • Whatever vegetables on hand for stock, I used carrot, leek, onion, ginger, celery.
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Soy sauce (splashes)
  • Fish sauce (splashes)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 things green onion
  • bunches of cilantro
  • 1 small chili
  • 2-3 brown mushrooms
  • Water
  • Tofu, around 200 grams
  • Pinches of salt, pepper and chili flakes

Now, what I did to start was mix the clove of garlic (minced) some splashes of soy sauce, fish sauce, and some pinches of salt, pepper and chili flakes in a bowl, and then marinated the tofu, which was cut into thin strips.  Probably going back I would have started on the broth first, basically just boiling water, cinnamon and the stock veggies, with some splashes of soy sauce as well. But just do these at around the same time, they're both in the "flavour sharing" portion of the cooking program.

Then go pour yourself a glass of wine while the flavor mixing party happens, it doesn't need your supervision, it won't trash your house like a teenager.

Around 15 minutes into the flavor party, throw the tofu and its marinade and fry it up in a pan. I had just bought a non-stick pan that very day and so I didn't even use oil.  Next, put noodles in a bowl, cover them with boiling water and put a plate over it to cover it. Or for you fancy people with actual kitchen utilities, a real cover.Then just chop up your other stuff, onion, cilantro, chili and mushrooms.

Go drink some more wine.

When you feel the flavor party starts to wind down (let's say, 30 min?) check the noodles. If the noodles are ready, get started on putting it together.

First, put all the chopped and waiting stuff in, as in the below photo, including the tofu.  Roddy also threw in some sweet chili sauce for an extra treat.

Then the noodles, then spoon in some broth and you're ready Freddy!!

It really was good. I wish I could have it again tonight....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chorizo and Roast Tomato Penne...

Last night I wanted to make something really exciting.  I mean, it's my second real recipe post and I wanted it to be good, exotic, intriguing.  I was, however, exhausted from searching for flats all day (I should mention that was online hunting, not walking around Berlin actually, ooops!). Anyway, Roddy and I discussed and he wanted something with chorizo, SO this is what I came up with. It's simple, but the flavours really come out and it's so easy to make, especially when it's cold out, you're tired, and really really hungry.

Weird, it looks kind of stretched out in that photo,  maybe it gained weight since I took it?  I don't know. Anyway, here is the recipe!!

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • Medium sized onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 300g penne
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • A few fresh basil leaves
  • Cheese (I used gouda...because I live in Germany ö)
  • 1\3 cup passata
  • Olive oil for cooking
Step One

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and toss with 1 garlic clove (minced), and all the other spices, and some olive oil.

Step Two

Place tossed tomatoes on a pan like the photo below, throw in the oven and roast those suckers for, well, around 10 minutes, but more if your oven is tricky like mine.

Step Three

Sautee onions (chopped), adding the other clove of garlic (chopped) when the onions have cooked for a bit, until both are soft and smelling like Italy. 

Step Four
a) Sautee chorizo (roughly chopped) in pan (you don't need oil, it's oily enough!)
b) Combine onion, garlic and roasted tomatoes in a bowl and blend with a hand mixer, or use a food processor if you are super lucky and have one. 

Step Five

Add it all together, with the passata and cook it up!!!

WOAH.  I forgot to add a step in about cooking the penne!! But I bet you were all smart cookies and made it anyway, right???  Or, if you didn't, just pretend you did it on purpose so that you could let all the flavours of the sauce meld together while you cooked up the penne. That's what I do...

Serve with some freshly chopped basil and grated GOUDA, and enjoy!!!

NOTE-- you could totally eat this without the chorizo and it would still be tasty, and maybe a bit lighter!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yummy Yummy Fish Cakes with Red Pepper Yogurt Sauce!!!

Well,  it has been too long since I last wrote, however I had decided not to post anything until I had actually made something, took photos and had something real to share.  Since the last time I wrote, I have travelled a bit more around Egypt, gone back to the UK, moved to Berlin, worked a 2 month contract in Mozambique and gone home to Nova Scotia, Canada for the holidays.  Now I'm back in Berlin, and last night I made the most delicious fishcakes with a beautiful roasted red pepper yogurt sauce.

Now, since moving to Berlin (the whole 17 days I've lived here),  I've found it a bit difficult working my way through the grocery stores.  I think that the universe has sent me to places where the grocery stores are increasingly worse and this must be a message to me to use less and less already prepared products, to sample more international markets and to learn to cook under any conditions.  So, last night, I wanted to make something delicious for me and my lovely boyfriend Roddy in our super cute and cramped studio apartment that we will hopefully be moving out of in the next month so we can eat, cook and sleep in separate rooms...


Fish cakes seemed like the perfect solution.  I had wanted to use something canned, as fresh fish would have meant that our bed would smell like fresh fish for the remainder of the week, but I was a bit disappointed when I had the option of 50 different types of canned tuna, but no other varieties of canned fish. It was disappointing, but I persevered, and below is what I managed to create!

I realize I need to work a bit on my food photography, but, here goes!


Fish Cakes

  • 1 small can of whatever fish floats your boat that evening
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp oregano
  • 1.5 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • olive oil for shallow frying
Red Pepper Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 large red pepper
  • 75 mL plain yogurt
  • pinch each of sugar, salt, garlic powder, chili flakes, salt and pepper

Fish Cakes

1) Peel and cut potatoes into small pieces and boil until almost ready for mashed potatoes, but not quite (I like the potatoes to be a chunky mash instead of a mashy mash).  When ready, drain and let cool a bit.
2) Cut onion and celery into tiny little pieces and sautee until aromatic and soft.
3) In a bowl, mix potatoes, onion, celery, can of tuna (drained, obviously),  and all the spices and mash.  I don't have a masher yet so I used a fork and the consistency was awesome and chunky mash.
4) Heat a LITTLE bit of oil (it's the beginning of the year and I'm sure we're all still making an attempt to eat healthy???), roll fish cake mixture in flat-ish patties of your desired size (once I made them kind of like mini-burger patties, once like little croquets and both times I loved them equally) and cook for around 4 minutes a side. Then, they're finished!!

Red Pepper Yogurt Sauce

1) Cut red pepper in half, cut out the seeds and white stuff inside and stem, put on top layer of oven and roast (or grill, whatever), skin-side up until skin is black. Take out and let cool, preferably in plastic bag.
2) Empty yogurt into a bowl and add spices, mixing them together.
3) Peel of skins of pepper, cut into small pieces and add to yogurt.
4) Using a hand blender, mix it up into a smooth dressing.

I think the key to success for this is to make the sauce in advance, to take all the yogurt bite out of it, for those who don't like the yogurt tang (Roddy).  Also, a squeeze of lemon juice adds a delicious touch.  We had them on some egg noodles with lettuce and avocado and we were seriously full at the end of that dinner!

And that's it!! What do you think???


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