Flavour Bomb Beef


Date Published: August 29th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 29th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, appetizer, Asian, sides
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 45 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

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At the start of the pandemic Toby and I started religiously watching Masterchef AU 2020. Neither of us had watched Masterchef before and neither of us watch much reality television. Perhaps it was the constant ads or perhaps it was the extra time we had on our hands from the pandemic, we got sucked in. At 7:30pm, 5 days a week, we were glued to the tv. We had a few favourite contestants on this show and Kanh is one of them. His dishes always looked so good with so much flavour on the show that I couldn’t wait to get his cookbook when it came out. His book definitely didn’t disappoint (although it’s a bit of a pain to navigate through the ebook version) and as expected, it’s full of amazing recipes with hilarious personal notes. This recipe is straight from Kanh Ong’s cookbook: A Gay Guy’s Guide to Life Love Food with a few tweaks in the methods and reorganizing of the ingredients. He calls it “Shaking Beef” in his book in reference to the shaking of the pan when you make it. We’ve made at least half a dozen dishes from his book but I think this may be our favourite!

This dish is a flavour BOMB. The beef tenderloin is marinated in a sweet dark sauce then seared on a hot pan for a caramelized outside and soft melt-in-your-mouth rare beef on the inside. The bold salty flavours of the beef is best paired with the pickled red onions and dipping sauce (also included in this recipe). I was skeptical at first, but the pickled red onions really makes a huge difference and brings the beef to the next level. This dish got rave reviews with our family and there were no empty plates!

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Marinade:
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
    • 3 Tbsps oyster sauce
    • 2 Tbsps dark soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp caster sugar
    • Pinch of salt & pepper
  • 600g beef tenderloin/eye fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and divided
  • 1 red capsicum/red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 1 large tomato
  • Handful of leafy greens (like watercress or lettuce) – optional
  • Pickled Red Onion:
    • 1 red onion, finely sliced
    • 2 Tbsps caster sugar
    • 1/3 cup (80ml) white vinegar
  • Dipping Sauce:
    • 2 tsps sea salt
    • 2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 Tbsps lemon juice

Directions:

Marinate the beef: Combine the marinade ingredients into a large bowl (garlic, oil, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, pinch of salt and pepper). Mix and marinate the beef pieces for at least 30mins or ideally overnight.

Make the Pickled Red Onion: Mix the red onion, sugar and white vinegar in a glass or ceramic bowl. Set aside.

Make the Dipping Sauce: Add the salt, black pepper and lemon juice together in a bowl. Set aside.

Cook the beef: You want to cook the beef in two batches to not crowd the pan. Heat a wok or skillet (ideally use a wok because this dish will splatter!) on HIGH heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds until lightly brown then add in half the amount of marinated beef to the pan and toss for 2-3 minutes until seared. In the last 15 seconds, add in half of the capsicum pieces and sauté. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the second half of the garlic, beef, and capsicum.

We’re aiming for med-rare with these beef pieces. Remove it from the pan when the outside is just cooked and still soft on the inside.

Serving: Drain the pickled red onion mixture and discard the liquid. Serve the beef with some tomato slices, pickled red onion, dipping sauce, and some greens (like watercress or lettuce) for freshness. Done!

Summarized Recipe:

Flavour Bomb Beef

Date Published: August 29th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 29th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, appetizer, Asian, sides
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 45 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

  • Marinade:
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
    • 3 Tbsps oyster sauce
    • 2 Tbsps dark soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp caster sugar
    • Pinch of salt & pepper
  • 600g beef tenderloin/eye fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and divided
  • 1 red capsicum/red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 1 large tomato
  • Handful of leafy greens (like watercress or lettuce) – optional
  • Pickled Red Onion:
    • 1 red onion, finely sliced
    • 2 Tbsps caster sugar
    • 1/3 cup (80ml) white vinegar
  • Dipping Sauce:
    • 2 tsps sea salt
    • 2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 Tbsps lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Marinate the beef: Combine the marinade ingredients into a large bowl (garlic, oil, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, pinch of salt and pepper). Mix and marinate the beef pieces for at least 30mins or ideally overnight.
  2. Make the Pickled Red Onion: Mix the red onion, sugar and white vinegar in a glass or ceramic bowl. Set aside.
  3. Make the Dipping Sauce: Add the salt, black pepper and lemon juice together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cook the beef: You want to cook the beef in two batches to not crowd the pan. Heat a wok or skillet (ideally use a wok because this dish will splatter!) on HIGH heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds until lightly brown then add in half the amount of marinated beef to the pan and toss for 2-3 minutes until seared. In the last 15 seconds, add in half of the capsicum pieces and sauté. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the second half of the garlic, beef, and capsicum.
    • We’re aiming for med-rare with these beef pieces. Remove it from the pan when the outside is just cooked and still soft on the inside.
  5. Serving: Drain the pickled red onion mixture and discard the liquid. Serve the beef with some tomato slices, pickled red onion, dipping sauce, and some greens (like watercress or lettuce) for freshness. Done!

Taiwanese Breakfast Burger


Date Published: August 27th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 27th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, Taiwanese, Asian
Serves: 6 patties (or 4 large ones) | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 10 mins per patty

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Toby enjoying a Taiwanese breakfast burger feat. the triangle sandwich!

Taiwanese people love breakfast food. When I say breakfast food, I don’t mean scrambled eggs, pancakes or eggs benedict. I mean Taiwanese breakfast food that can include dan bing (cheese crepes), oil sticks, white triangle sandwiches with pork floss, noodles and even breakfast burgers (yes, burgers for breakfast!) – all often served with a side of hot or cold soya bean milk or milk tea (always my preference). I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t often order burgers for breakfast in Taiwan because A) I always tend to sleep in when I can and miss breakfast and B) it’s just way too much food for me early in the morning. When Toby visited Taiwan for the first time in 2019, he saw someone order one and it looked so delicious that he wanted to try it himself. This burger BLEW. HIS. MIND. It was his new favourite breakfast item, even surpassing my personal favourite cheese dan bing. I forgot all about this burger until recently when I came upon on Lady&Pups blog while looking for some recipe inspo for this week’s menu. Despite her rant on Taiwan, she makes a mean breakfast burger, which is where this recipe originally came from. I’ve tweaked it a little and simplified the directions with some added personal notes on my experience with this recipe.

What makes Taiwanese breakfast burgers different from regular burgers? The construction of the burger is pretty similar: burger bun, lettuce, tomato, ketchup…etc., but the difference is all in the burger patty. These patties are packed with flavour and often made with ground pork or beef with carrots, onion and soy sauce. It kind of reminds me of the filling of a dumpling but with more intensity and grilled. It’s also commonly topped up with sweet mayonnaise and a fried egg. This recipe comes together pretty easy and quickly. Just chop, mix, form the patties and you’re good to start grilling! Stack the burger however you like and add or takeaway anything you fancy.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Burger patty:
    • 500g ground pork or beef
    • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped or grated
    • 1/2 cup onion, finely minced
    • 2 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 tsps cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/4 tsp five spice powder
  • Oil and butter for frying
  • Condiments:
  • To assemble:
    • Large eggs (1 per burger)
    • Hamburger buns
    • Lettuce
    • Cucumber
    • Thinly sliced tomato
    • + whatever else you prefer

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients for the burger patties in a bowl and mix until combined.

Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal balls (or 4 for larger patties) and flatten them to create patties. Use your thumb and make an impression in the middle of each patty (this helps the patty keep a flat shape and stops it from puffing up in the middle).

Heat a skillet on MEDIUM heat (or a grill) and add in a couple of teaspoons of oil and a small teaspoonful of butter. When the oil and butter starts sizzling, lower your patties into the pan and cook until both sides are browned (~3-5 mins on each side).

Remove the finished patties from the pan and use the leftover oil to fry the eggs.

Assemble the burger: bottom bun + lettuce + cucumber slices + beef patty + fried egg + dusting of white pepper + ketchup + sweet mayonnaise (spread on the top bun) + top bun. Feel free to take away or add more ingredients to your liking! Done!

Summarized Recipe:

Taiwanese Breakfast Burger

Date Published: August 27th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 27th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, Taiwanese, Asian
Serves: 6 patties (or 4 large ones) | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 10 mins per patty

Ingredients:

  • Burger patty:
    • 500g ground pork or beef
    • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped or grated
    • 1/2 cup onion, finely minced
    • 2 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 tsps cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/4 tsp five spice powder
  • Oil and butter for frying
  • Condiments:
  • To assemble:
    • Large eggs (1 per burger)
    • Hamburger buns
    • Lettuce
    • Cucumber
    • Thinly sliced tomato
    • + whatever else you prefer

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the burger patties in a bowl and mix until combined.
  2. Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal balls (or 4 for larger patties) and flatten them to create patties. Use your thumb and make an impression in the middle of each patty (this helps the patty keep a flat shape and stops it from puffing up in the middle).
  3. Heat a skillet on MEDIUM heat (or a grill) and add in a couple of teaspoons of oil and a small teaspoonful of butter. When the oil and butter starts sizzling, lower your patties into the pan and cook until both sides are browned (~3-5 mins on each side).
  4. Remove the finished patties from the pan and use the leftover oil to fry the eggs.
  5. Assemble the burger: bottom bun + lettuce + cucumber slices + beef patty + fried egg + dusting of white pepper + ketchup + sweet mayonnaise (spread on the top bun) + top bun. Feel free to take away or add more ingredients to your liking! Done!

Taiwanese Stir-fry Lamb with Water Spinach 炒羊肉 (chǎo yáng ròu)


Date Published: August 23rd, 2020 | Last Updated: August 23rd, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: taiwanese, mains, asian, sides
Serves: 1 large plate (enough for 4 ppl as sides) | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

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Shihlin is home to the largest and arguably the most popular night market (士林夜市) in Taiwan. Lucky for me our home was only a 5 minute walk from the famous night market and it was almost a nightly ritual to have supper there after closing time of my dad’s vet clinic. The night market is full of the best street food Taiwan has to offer. The food stalls are always bustling with the sound of sizzling oil, the scraping of woks, and shouting across the room from servers that hastily take your order.

Image courtesy of mecocute.com

Over the many years we’ve lived in Shihlin, we’ve seen many food stalls come and go and many food trends suddenly appear then disappear, but the old school stalls where the locals know and love always stay right where they are. Same location, same time, rain or shine. 士林炒羊肉 (Shihlin Stir-Fry Lamb) is one of these OG stalls. This place actually started off in a shop across the road from my dad’s vet clinic on DaDong Road over a decade ago. The shop was run by a man and his family. In the morning they’d serve traditional breakfast items like soya bean milk, oil sticks, sandwiches…etc. I remember buying breakfast for my family at the start of the work day. Then at night he’d open late and serve stir-fry lamb. My dad would often work until 11-midnight and we’d head over to his place for a late night supper after closing. I don’t ever remember it being that crowded, but then again we’d always go really late at night. I’m not really sure of the reason for their move (perhaps the rent was getting to expensive, perhaps the man had health issues, or maybe he just didn’t want to run the business anymore 🤷🏻‍♀️), but I remember returning back to Taiwan one summer and my parents told me he closed his shop and now his daughters run a food stall at the Shihlin night market serving only the stir-fry lamb we know and love. They opened up the stall in a small alleyway just off of the main road of the night market where exposure was limited, but surprisingly over the years they’ve built up their business pretty well and always seems to be busy despite of the location. Their place used to be one of our go-to locations when we visit Taiwan, however they’re not open as often anymore with seemingly random operating hours which makes it hard to plan for and their prices have gone up drastically as well ($150NT for a plate is quite expensive for Taiwan street food). However on those nights when the stars have aligned and we happen to catch them while they’re open, we indulge ourselves and order a plate of stir-fry lamb each. My mom doesn’t usually eat lamb, but this is the only place she’ll ever have it. Stir-fry lamb is a common dish across many street food/hole in the wall restaurants in Taiwan, but this places makes it different. I’m not sure what it is, but their sauce just seems more rich and creamy than the other places.

Bull head brand Sa-cha sauce

If you’ve never had stir-fry lamb before, it’s thin-sliced lamb that’s cooked in sa-cha sauce (Chinese bbq sauce) with water spinach and garlic. If you’re a fan of sa-cha sauce, then you’ll love this dish. It’s funny that it’s translated as bbq sauce because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use it for barbecues. I see it most often used in stir-fries or eaten as a dip with hotpot or dumplings. The most famous brand is the “bull head” brand and it’s really the only brand I’ve ever known. The sauce is oily and pasty, mainly made of shallots, garlic, and dried shrimp. I don’t quite know how else to describe this since there aren’t any other sauces that is quite like this one (or at least none that I know of).

As you may already know, I’ve been trying to cook more Taiwanese/Chinese foods lately to get back to my roots. Now that we’re all in a pandemic, international travel is out of reach for probably another 6 months (or likely longer) and it will be a long time before I’m able to see my family or visit Taiwan again. Trying to recreate my favourite childhood foods is a way for me to reconnect with home from so far away. This recipe is my copycat version of the stir-fry lamb from the Shihlin night market. It’s still not as good as the night market version, but I suspect that’s due to the lack of MSG in my recipe. I hope you enjoy it anyway as much as I do!

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 375g lamb, thinly sliced (Slice it as thin as you can manage. It may be easier to freeze the lamb for half an hour first before you slice it. You can use sliced hotpot lamb as well.)
  • Marinade:
    • 1 medium egg
    • 2 tsps Chinese BBQ sauce 沙茶酱 (Bull head brand), try to avoid the excess oil
    • 2 tsps black vinegar
    • 2 Tbsps cornstarch
    • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil
  • Sauce:
    • 1/4 cup Chinese BBQ sauce 沙茶酱 (Bull head brand)
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsps Chinese cooking wine (ie ShaoXing Wine or rice wine)
    • 1 tsp black vinegar
    • 1 Tbsp ground peanuts (or substitute with 1 Tbsp all natural peanut butter without sugar)
    • 1/2 Tbsps white sugar
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large serrano red chilli (for mild spiciness – feel free to add more!)
  • 1 large bunch of water spinach (also called Kang Kong or 空心菜)
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine (ie Shao Xing Wine or rice wine)

Directions:

Make the marinade by mixing all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl (egg, bbq sauce, black vinegar, cornstarch, vegetable oil). Add the lamb slices to the bowl and mix. Set aside to marinate for about 15mins while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Make the sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside (bbq sauce, soy sauce, black vinegar, peanuts, sugar).

Prepare the water spinach by first washing and trimming off the ends of the stems that may be discoloured or hardened. Discard these pieces. Next, separate the leaves from the stems by chopping the bunch in half (it doesn’t have to be too exact, just eyeball the halfway point). Chop the stems into 4-5 cm pieces and set aside in a bowl. Put the leaves in another bowl.

In a non-stick wok or a wide base pan on MED-HIGH, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and stir-fry the marinated lamb for a couple of minutes until just brown (doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through). Remove the lamb from the pot (strain it if there’s a lot of oil) and discard the rest of the oil from the pot except for 1 tablespoon.

I used hotpot lamb slices for this recipe which happened to be a fattier cut so I had a LOT of oil in my pot. Try to use a leaner cut or be prepared to strain out all the oil!

Add in the garlic and chillies and stir-fry in the leftover oil until fragrant (~30 seconds). Add in the spinach stems and stir-fry for another couple of minutes until it starts to soften.

Then add in the lamb, water spinach leaves and 1/4 cup cooking wine. Do not stir the pot and put on the lid to let the veg steam for 1 minute.

We’re not stirring the layers at this point because we want to keep the tougher spinach stems on the bottom to cook more while the leaves on the top layer steams as the cooking wine evaporates.

Remove the lid and stir everything together. Add in the sauce and stir-fry until it’s evenly mixed through. Taste and adjust flavours as needed. Turn off the heat and add a drizzle of sesame oil before serving.

(Optional: If you find that your cut of lamb is too fatty and there’s too much oil in your dish, you can strain out the oil before serving.) Done! Serve as a main dish with some rice or as a side.

Summarized Recipe:

Taiwanese Stir-fry Lamb with Water Spinach 炒羊肉 (chǎo yáng ròu)

Date Published: August 23rd, 2020 | Last Updated: August 23rd, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: taiwanese, mains, asian, sides
Serves: 1 large plate (enough for 4 ppl as sides) | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Ingredients:

  • 375g lamb, thinly sliced (You can buy it already sliced usually in the hotpot section at the Asian grocer, or just buy regular lamb and slice it as thin as you can manage. It may be easier to freeze the lamb for half an hour first before you slice it.)
  • Marinade:
    • 1 medium egg
    • 2 tsps Chinese BBQ sauce 沙茶酱 (Bull head brand), try to avoid the excess oil
    • 2 tsps black vinegar
    • 2 Tbsps cornstarch
    • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil
  • Sauce:
    • 1/4 cup Chinese BBQ sauce 沙茶酱 (Bull head brand)
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsps Chinese cooking wine (ie ShaoXing Wine or rice wine)
    • 1 tsp black vinegar
    • 1 Tbsp ground peanuts (or substitute with 1 Tbsp all natural peanut butter without sugar)
    • 1/2 Tbsps white sugar
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large serrano red chilli (for mild spiciness – feel free to add more!)
  • 1 large bunch of water spinach (also called Kang Kong or 空心菜)
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine (ie Shao Xing Wine or rice wine)

Directions:

  1. Make the marinade by mixing all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl (egg, bbq sauce, black vinegar, cornstarch, vegetable oil). Add the lamb slices to the bowl and mix. Set aside to marinate for about 15mins while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Make the sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside (bbq sauce, soy sauce, black vinegar, peanuts, sugar).
  3. Wash the water spinach and trim off the ends. Next, separate the leaves from the stems by chopping the bunch in half. Chop the stems into 4-5 cm pieces and set aside in a bowl. Put the leaves in another bowl.
  4. In a non-stick wok or a wide base pan on MED-HIGH, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and stir-fry the marinated lamb for a couple of minutes until just brown (doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through). Remove the lamb from the pot (strain it if there’s a lot of oil) and discard the rest of the oil from the pot except for 1 tablespoon.
  5. Add in the garlic and chillies and stir-fry in the leftover oil until fragrant (~30 seconds). Add in the spinach stems and stir-fry for another couple of minutes until it starts to soften.
  6. Then add in the lamb, water spinach leaves and 1/4 cup cooking wine. Do not stir the pot and put on the lid to let the veg steam for 1 minute.
  7. Remove the lid and stir everything together. Add in the sauce and stir-fry until it’s evenly mixed through. Taste and adjust flavours as needed. Turn off the heat and add a drizzle of sesame oil before serving. Done! Serve as a main dish with some rice or as a side.
    • (Optional: If you find that your cut of lamb is too fatty and there’s too much oil in your dish, you can strain out the oil before serving.)

Pesto-Crusted Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast


Date Published: August 20th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 20th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, easy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 25 mins

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Pesto. Panko. Goat cheese. Spinach. Garlic. These are a few of my favourite things and make me salivate just by reading them out loud. We’ve been cooking with a lot of chicken breast lately mainly by breading them to make a katsu or katsu parma, or adding them to salads like my favourite apple goat cheese salad. I was doing some research for meal prep and stumbled across a stuffed chicken breast recipe. This immediately made my mind go into a million different possibilities of what I could put in a chicken breast. After a whole day of thinking about it (seriously), I settled on a pesto-crusted chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and garlic spinach. I was SO excited to make this dish and hoped it would be everything I had imagined it to be. Sadly I didn’t actually get to make this dish until 2 painful weeks later because during pandemic times, we only do grocery shopping once a week and I kept missing all the ingredients I needed. The first week we didn’t have enough basil for pesto, then the next week we didn’t have enough spinach. Bah! I FINALLY got to make it today and I’m happy to report that everything turned out fantastic and this dish was definitely worth the wait! It got rave reviews at the dinner table. Everything came together so quickly and it was so easy, I was looking for more things to do in the kitchen (I ended up making two side dishes to go with it: brown butter thyme mushrooms and bacon mashed peas). The panko with the pesto made a crunchy little crust on top of the breast with gooey melted goat cheese and spinach in the middle of the chicken. The goat cheese mixture actually kept the chicken really moist while baking so it came out perfectly cooked!

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups (200g) fresh spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup (150g) soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied (click to see tutorial)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup pesto (you can make it yourself with my recipe here or use store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Directions:

Warm a skillet on MEDIUM heat and add in a drizzle of oil (~1/2 tablespoon). Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds until fragrant then add in the spinach leaves and sauté until the leaves are just wilted (~3-5 mins). Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl to cool. Discard any excess liquids.

While the spinach is cooling, rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts and butterfly them (click here for tutorial). Sprinkle black pepper and salt over the breasts. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C (~400˚F).

Once the spinach has cooled, mix it with the goat cheese, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, and a pinch of salt.

Spoon and divide evenly the goat cheese spinach mixture amongst the 4 chicken breasts. Only put the mixture on half of the breast, then fold the other half over to enclose it. Use a few toothpicks to secure the breast closed.

As the chicken cooks the meat will shrink and open up the breast which is why the toothpicks are necessary to keep them closed and maintain their shape.

Mix the pesto and panko together then evenly divide the mixture amongst the 4 breasts and cover the top of each breast.

Bake in the preheated oven at 200˚C for 20-25 minutes. The pesto crust should be golden brown and the chicken juices run clear. Carefully remove the toothpicks then serve immediately. Done!

Summarized Recipe:

Pesto-Crusted Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Date Published: August 20th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 20th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, easy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups (200g) fresh spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup (150g) soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied (click to see tutorial)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup pesto (you can make it yourself with my recipe here or use store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Directions:

  1. Warm a skillet on MEDIUM heat and add in a drizzle of oil (~1/2 tablespoon). Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds until fragrant then add in the spinach leaves and sauté until the leaves are just wilted (~3-5 mins). Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl to cool. Discard any excess liquids.
  2. While the spinach is cooling, rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts and butterfly them (click here for tutorial). Sprinkle black pepper and salt over the breasts. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200˚C (~400˚F).
  4. Once the spinach has cooled, mix it with the goat cheese, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Spoon and divide evenly the goat cheese spinach mixture amongst the 4 chicken breasts. Only put the mixture on half of the breast, then fold the other half over to enclose it. Use a few toothpicks to secure the breast closed.
  6. Mix the pesto and panko together then evenly divide the mixture amongst the 4 breasts and cover the top of each breast.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven at 200˚C for 20-25 minutes. The pesto crust should be golden brown and the chicken juices run clear. Carefully remove the toothpicks then serve immediately. Done!

Roast Lamb with Garlic Rosemary Rub


Date Published: August 19th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 19th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, easy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 90 mins

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A few months ago Toby’s parents came home with a big leg of lamb and challenged us to cook it. We haven’t made many roasts before because it’s always too much food when it’s usually just the two of us and I had little to no experience cooking big hunks of meat because it’s not something I grew up with eating in a traditional Asian household. Toby was excited for the challenge and found an amazing recipe for a lamb roast from Damn Delicious – which is exactly where this recipe has been adapted from. This lamb is SO damn good and it came out perfectly the first time. We were all blown away by it and have since made it 3 more times! The flavourful garlic rosemary rub works so well with this lamb and even better when paired with this creamy mint yogurt sauce.

Making a roast lamb is so much easier than we thought. Just massage the garlic rosemary rub all over the lamb and pop it in the oven and wait. Done! The only thing I would definitely suggest getting is a meat thermometer if you don’t have one. It’s a fantastic tool to check the doneness of your meat without having to slice into it and let the juices escape as well as having a prettier presentation when serving. They’re inexpensive and costs around $10-15 for a decent one. The original recipe calls for bone-in lamb but you can use a boneless lamb roast and have the exact same results (you may need to adjust the cooking time a little).

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Garlic Rosemary Rub:
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 2 tsps ground black pepper
  • 2kg lamb roast without bone or 2.5-3kg leg of lamb bone-in
    • If you’re using a smaller or larger lamb, make sure you adjust the amount of rub you use accordingly so you don’t end up with an overly salty smaller lamb or an under-seasoned larger lamb.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Make the rub: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the rub: garlic, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, dijon, salt and pepper. (If you’re feeling lazy you can alternatively combine it all in a food processor and blitz to save time on chopping.) Set aside.

Rinse and pat your lamb dry. Use a sharp knife to shallow score the top of the lamb (this helps the rub seep through).

Place the lamb (fat side up) in a roasting pan lined with a baking mat or aluminum foil. Rub the rosemary garlic rub all over the lamb, getting into the crevices. You do NOT need to use the whole rub if you have a smaller lamb (it may become too salty).

Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack until the internal temperature reaches 58-60˚C (135F) for med-rare to medium doneness (place your thermometer in the centre of the lamb at the thickest part or near the bone to measure). If you don’t have a thermometer, slice your lamb at the thickest part to check for doneness. It will take roughly 1.5 hours to cook, depending on the size of your lamb. Baste the lamb in its juices every half an hour. If you find that the outside of your lamb is starting to burn before you reach the designated internal temperature, lightly cover the outside of the lamb with some aluminum foil to protect from the heat while the rest of the lamb continues to cook.

Once it’s done, take out the lamb and let it rest for 15 mins to let the juices redistribute before slicing. The lamb will continue to cook another 5˚C while resting.

Slice and serve immediately!

P.S. Slice up any leftovers and store it with the remaining juices and make a delicious wrap the next day! In this photo I’ve served the lamb over homemade flatbread with leftover mint yogurt sauce and some cooked quinoa mixed with dill.

Summarized Recipe:

Lamb Roast with Garlic Rosemary Rub

Date Published: August 19th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 19th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, easy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 90 mins

Ingredients:

  • Garlic Rosemary Rub:
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 2 tsps ground black pepper
  • 2kg lamb roast without bone or 2.5-3kg leg of lamb bone-in
    • If you’re using a smaller or larger lamb, make sure you adjust the amount of rub you use accordingly so you don’t end up with an overly salty smaller lamb or an under-seasoned larger lamb.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
  2. Make the rub: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the rub: garlic, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, dijon, salt and pepper.
  3. Rinse and pat your lamb dry. Use a sharp knife to shallow score the top of the lamb.
  4. Place the lamb (fat side up) in a roasting pan lined with a baking mat or aluminum foil. Rub the rosemary garlic rub all over the lamb, getting into the crevices. You do NOT need to use the whole rub if you have a smaller lamb (it may become too salty).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack until the internal temperature reaches 58-60˚C (135F) for med-rare to medium doneness (place your thermometer in the centre of the lamb at the thickest part or near the bone to measure). If you don’t have a thermometer, slice your lamb at the thickest part to check for doneness. It will take roughly 1.5 hours to cook, depending on the size of your lamb. Baste the lamb in its juices every half an hour. If you find that the outside of your lamb is starting to burn before you reach the designated internal temperature, lightly cover the outside of the lamb with some aluminum foil to protect from the heat while the rest of the lamb continues to cook.
  6. Once it’s done, take out the lamb and let it rest for 15 mins to let the juices redistribute before slicing. The lamb will continue to cook another 5˚C while resting.
  7. Slice and serve immediately!

Baked Chicken Katsu Parma


Date Published: August 15th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 15th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 30 mins

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This past week we’ve been using more eggplant in our cooking, a vegetable that we previously never really touched. We’ve actually made some pretty tasty dishes with eggplant including sweet chilli eggplant and a few more dishes that I’ll be posting soon. I found a popular recipe for an eggplant parmesan from Jamie Oliver and decided to give it a go. Toby LOVES a good parma, so you can imagine his disappointment when he thought an eggplant parmesan was a chicken parma with eggplant on top, rather than an eggplant-style lasagne. In the end our eggplant parmesan turned out well, but I felt bad that Toby never got the parma he was so excited for so we put parma on this week’s menu. We decided to use the baked chicken katsu recipe to make it a healthier (and crunchier) alternative and topped it off with our own marinara sauce. It was SOOOOO good. Toby said it was one of the best parmas he’s ever had, especially with the homemade marinara.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsps Italian seasoning (or dried oregano)
  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied
  • salt & ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • A few slices of mozzarella cheese per parma
  • Basil leaves (for garnish)

Directions:

Cooled toasted panko with parmesan and Italian seasoning

On a pan on medium heat, toast the panko with the olive oil. Stir to combine and toast until golden brown. Then put your panko in a large bowl and set aside to cool. Once cooled mix in parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.

Preheat oven to 200˚C.

Rinse your chicken and pat dry. Butterfly the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Follow the photos above to butterfly the breasts or click here for a more descriptive tutorial.

In two large bowls or plates, place flour in one and beaten eggs in the other.

Now bread your chicken in this order:

  1. Dunk the chicken breast in the flour bowl to cover both sides. Shake off any excess flour.
  2. Next coat it in the beaten eggs.
  3. Finally coat it in the toasted panko parmesan mixture, pressing the crumbs in slightly to help them stick.

Place the katsu onto a wire rack over an oven tray. Bake for about 20-25 minutes on the middle rack until the chicken is no longer pink inside. If you have an oven thermometer, your chicken should be about 74˚C.

When the chicken is cooked, put a few spoonfuls of marinara sauce over each katsu then top with mozzarella cheese. Put it back on the oven and broil on HIGH until the cheese is bubbly and melted (~1 minute).

Top each parma with a few slices of fresh basil and serve immediately. Done!

Summarized Recipe:

Baked Chicken Katsu Parma

Date Published: August 15th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 15th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 30 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsps Italian seasoning (or dried oregano)
  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied
  • salt & ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • A few slices of mozzarella cheese per parma
  • Basil leaves (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. On a pan on medium heat, toast the panko with the olive oil. Stir to combine and toast until golden brown. Then put your panko in a large bowl and set aside to cool. Once cooled mix in parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven to 200˚C.
  3. Rinse your chicken and pat dry. Butterfly the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper on both sides (click here for tutorial).
  4. In two large bowls or plates, place flour in one and beaten eggs in the other.
  5. Now bread your chicken in this order:
    1. Dunk the chicken breast in the flour bowl to cover both sides. Shake off any excess flour.
    2. Next coat it in the beaten eggs.
    3. Finally coat it in the toasted panko parmesan mixture, pressing the crumbs in slightly to help them stick.
  6. Place the katsu onto a wire rack over an oven tray. Bake for about 20-25 minutes on the middle rack until the chicken is no longer pink inside. If you have an oven thermometer, your chicken should be about 74˚C.
  7. When the chicken is cooked, put a few spoonfuls of marinara sauce over each katsu then top with mozzarella cheese. Put it back on the oven and broil on HIGH until the cheese is bubbly and melted (~1 minute).
  8. Top each parma with a few slices of fresh basil and serve immediately. Done!

Khao Soi (Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup)


Date Published: August 11th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 11th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, soups, asian, quick and easy
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

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Khao Soi? Oh boy! If you’ve never had Khao Soi before, you’re about to have your taste buds obliterated because this dish is THE BOMB (I’ll see myself out). It uses an intense curry paste that’s similar to red curry but with the addition of curry powder (like a yellow curry paste) which is then simmered with coconut milk that results in a luxe creamy coconut curry soup with some heat. This northern Thailand dish is commonly served with egg noodles, chicken, and topped with crispy noodles. There are many variations of this dish and you can easily customize it yourself with extra veg, tofu puffs, fish cakes…etc.

I’m going to admit something here. I’m actually pretty new to Khao Soi and only heard about it a month ago on Masterchef (when Jess made it in the ramen challenge) and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. I LOVE curries, especially Thai curries for their aromas so it’s no surprise that Khao Soi instantly made it straight to the top of my (long) list of dishes to make. Since I’ve never had Khao Soi from Thailand I can’t attest to how “authentic” my recipe is to the real thing but I can guarantee that this recipe is f*cking delicious. I ate two bowls in one sitting the first time I made it! Move over green curry, I actually think this may be my new favourite Thai curry. Since I’m a novice to Khao Soi, I came up with this recipe by reading through a LOT of highly rated “authentic” recipes and compiled all the best parts together. I’m surprised I pulled it off!

I’m a huge advocate of homemade curry paste because it just has so much vibrant flavours that you can’t get from a can without “freshening it up” with aromatics. I used my pre-made homemade Thai red curry paste for this recipe which saved SO much prep work and made this recipe infinitely easy and fast to come together (I haven’t tried this with canned paste so apologies to anyone that was hoping to use it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!). This dish takes about 15-20 mins from start to finish. The only thing you need to chop is the chicken! So quick and easy for something SO full of flavour.

Hopefully one day when this pandemic is over I’ll be able to travel to northern Thailand and have Khao Soi to see how it compares. It’s a shame because I was actually in Chiang Mai last year for 3 weeks volunteering at an animal shelter desexing stray dogs and cats. The whole time I was there no one mentioned Khao Soi but I did have some pretty amazing green curry. Ah well, another excuse to travel! 😊

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 4 portions of egg noodles
  • Khao Soi paste:
  • 1kg chicken thighs (or breast), diced into large pieces (or to preference on how big you prefer your chicken pieces)
  • 4 cups (1 litre) reduced salt chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 600ml (1 1/2 cans) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsps fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • Optional: any additional veg you like

Directions:

Cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

In a bowl, make the khao soi paste by mixing the red curry paste, curry powder and turmeric powder together. Set aside.

Warm a pot on MED-HIGH heat, add 1-2 Tbsps of oil and sauté the chicken pieces until browned (don’t worry about cooking it all the way through – it’ll finish cooking in the soup). Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.

In the same pot, use the leftover oil from the chicken (or add more if there’s not much left) and add the khao soi paste (red curry paste, curry powder and turmeric powder). Quickly sauté for a couple minutes until the paste dries out a little and becomes fragrant.

Add in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Stir until no clumps remain from the paste. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes then add in the browned chicken pieces (and any additional veg you like). Simmer for another 5 minutes (or until veggies have cooked – if using). Add the fish sauce. Taste and adjust flavours as needed (if it’s not salty enough you can add more fish sauce or salt, if you prefer your soup creamier add more coconut milk).

Divide the egg noodles into 4 bowls and ladle the soup with ingredients into each bowl over the noodles. Done!

Summarized Recipe:

Khao Soi (Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup)

Date Published: August 11th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 11th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: mains, soups, asian, quick and easy
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 portions of egg noodles
  • Khao Soi paste:
  • 1kg chicken thighs (or breast), diced into large pieces (or to preference on how big you prefer your chicken pieces)
  • 4 cups (1 litre) reduced salt chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 600ml (1 1/2 cans) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsps fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • Optional: any additional veg you like

Directions:

  1. Cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, make the khao soi paste by mixing the red curry paste, curry powder and turmeric powder together. Set aside.
  3. Warm a pot on MED-HIGH heat, add 1-2 Tbsps of oil and sauté the chicken pieces until browned (don’t worry about cooking it all the way through – it’ll finish cooking in the soup). Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
  4. In the same pot, use the leftover oil from the chicken (or add more if there’s not much left) and add the khao soi paste (red curry paste, curry powder and turmeric powder). Quickly sauté for a couple minutes until the paste dries out a little and becomes fragrant.
  5. Add in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Stir until no clumps remain from the paste. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes then add in the browned chicken pieces (and any additional veg you like). Simmer for another 5 minutes (or until veggies have cooked – if using). Add the fish sauce. Taste and adjust flavours as needed (if it’s not salty enough you can add more fish sauce or salt, if you prefer your soup creamier add more coconut milk).
  6. Divide the egg noodles into 4 bowls and ladle the soup with ingredients into each bowl over the noodles. Done!

Apple Chicken Goat Cheese Salad


Date Published: August 10th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 10th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: salads, healthy, easy, < 30 mins, mains
Serves: 4 as mains, 6-8 as side salads | Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

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This is my ALL TIME FAVOURITE SALAD. Seriously. Back in Canada I used to go to Montana’s a lot with my friends and I almost never order salad when I’m eating out because I always think it’ll never be as good as a warm cooked meal and not way could it be as flavourful. One night I wasn’t particularly hungry and I was trying to be a bit more healthy since I was training for a marathon so I decided to browse their salads section and ordered the ‘Apple Harvest Salad’. I only chose this one because it had goat cheese in it (and I LOVE goat cheese). When the food arrived, my salad portion was HUGE with dressing served on the side. I was skeptical, but ohhhhh boy was I wrong. That salad changed my world and it actually became my new favourite thing on their menu (other than the goat cheese stuffed chicken breast and Kapow Shrimp). I’d actively go to Montana’s just to get this salad – which doesn’t sound like me at all! Now that I live in Australia, there’s no Montana’s in sight and I decided to recreate it myself! I’d say I did a pretty good job because this salad is FANTASTIC. If you love goat cheese, this is the salad for you! The juicy crisp apple pairs so well with the warm nutty toasted pecans and the creaminess of the goat cheese all tied together in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

I’ve only ever eaten this salad as a main dish because it’s THAT good and there’s no way I could eat it as just a small side dish so I’ve categorized this in both the mains and sides section. If you want to serve it as a side, you might want to consider skipping the chicken so your meal isn’t too bulky. If you’re packing it for lunch, keep the salad dressing separate and pour it on when you’re ready to eat.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Salad:
    • 1 cup pecans
    • 4 cups cooked chicken breast or thigh, chopped to bite-sized pieces – you can use leftover chicken from a roast or make it fresh the way you prefer (see my preferred method to cook chicken breast here)
    • 12 cups of lettuce or mixed greens (enough for 4 main salads)
    • 1 red bell pepper (aka capsicum), sliced (I ran out of peppers in the house and used cherry tomatoes instead in the photos)
    • 1 large apple, sliced
    • 1 cup dried cranberries
    • 140g goat cheese, crumbled
    • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinaigrette dressing:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp honey
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Toast the pecans: Preheat oven to 180˚C (~350˚F) and bake the pecans on the top rack for 5-10 mins and flip over and continue to bake until fragrant and toasty darker brown (another 5 mins). When done, set aside and let them cool then roughly chop.

Optional step: if you haven’t made your chicken breast, you can pop them in the oven with the pecans (see my preferred method). When cooked, slice into strips or bite-sized pieces and let cool.

Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, add all the salad ingredients together: pecans, chicken, lettuce/mixed greens, red pepper, apple, cranberries, goat cheese, and fresh ground black pepper. If you want to be fancy you can place the ingredients on top of the salad and serve the dressing on the side.

Make the balsamic vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients for the dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, dijon, honey, salt and pepper) in a bowl and whisk until you get a homogenous mixture. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Enjoy!

Summarized Recipe:

Apple Chicken Goat Cheese Salad

Date Published: August 10th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 10th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: salads, healthy, easy, < 30 mins, mains
Serves: 4 as mains, 6-8 as side salads | Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

  • Salad:
    • 1 cup pecans
    • 4 cups cooked chicken breast or thigh, chopped to bite-sized pieces – you can use leftover chicken from a roast or make it fresh the way you prefer (see my preferred method to cook chicken breast here)
    • 12 cups of lettuce or mixed greens (enough for 4 main salads)
    • 1 red bell pepper (aka capsicum), sliced
    • 1 large apple, sliced
    • 1 cup dried cranberries
    • 140g goat cheese, crumbled
    • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinaigrette dressing:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp honey
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Toast the pecans: Preheat oven to 180˚C (~350˚F) and bake the pecans on the top rack for 5-10 mins and flip over and continue to bake until fragrant and toasty darker brown (another 5 mins). When done, set aside and let them cool then roughly chop.
  2. Optional step: if you haven’t made your chicken breast, you can pop them in the oven with the pecans (see my preferred method). When cooked, slice into strips or bite-sized pieces and let cool.
  3. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, add all the salad ingredients together: pecans, chicken, lettuce/mixed greens, red pepper, apple, cranberries, goat cheese, and fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Make the balsamic vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients for the dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, dijon, honey, salt and pepper) in a bowl and whisk until you get a homogenous mixture. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Enjoy!

Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings 水晶饺 (Shuĭ Jing Jiao)


Date Published: August 9th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 9th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, easy, soups
Serves: 24 dumplings | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

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[Warning: Long foreword to this post. If you want to skip ahead to the recipe, click on the link above.]

Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings!!! I don’t think I’ve been more excited or proud to share a recipe! These hold the ultimate nostalgia for me. My maternal grandparents live in Miao Li which is a county ages away from Taipei (where we lived) and it takes roughly 2.5 hours train ride to get there and then we’d have to hail a cab to get to their house because their public transport system isn’t the most efficient. Although the journey to visit them is laborious, it was always so nice to see them, especially when it was only once a year when we’d visit Taiwan. It was even better when ‘wai po’ (grandmother on my mother’s side) would visit us in Taipei and stay for a few weeks at a time. She’d always make such delicious food (steamed egg (chawanmushi), fried fish and sesame chicken soup was her specialty). Back to crystal dumplings: she never made them for us but there was a special shop in Miao Li that would sell them frozen and she’d always buy a big bag of them when she visited. Those crystal dumplings were Miao Li’s best kept secret. I’ve had crystal dumplings in Taipei from various shops, but none compared to the ones she’d bring from Miao Li. Now in her later years she doesn’t travel to Taipei anymore, but every time we’d visit Miao Li with my aunt, we’d be sure to pick up a bag before heading home.

Crystal dumplings were always this special treat that we’d only get if wai po visited or if we made the journey to Miao Li. There was no other way to get them and no one else makes a good substitute (I guess you could say I have very high crystal dumpling standards 😜). However since the pandemic, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands and I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the cooking world. I was a self-taught cook in the kitchen and only made Western dishes in the early days roughly 8 years ago. Asian food is familiar territory when it came to ordering from a restaurant, but cooking it was completely foreign to me – I had no idea where to start (so many sauces!). Over the years I became more competent in the kitchen and started cooking more Asian food. During this pandemic and with the release of Polyphagic Abby, I found myself gravitating towards more and more traditional Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. Perhaps I’m missing my family from so far away in all this craziness or maybe it’s because there’s no decent good Chinese food out here in the Aussie country. Whatever the reason, it makes me so happy when a recipe turns out perfectly and I’m transported back to the days eating with my family again.

I’ve had a few victories so far recreating my childhood dishes such as cheese dan bing, Vietnamese pho, and Taiwanese cold noodles which I’m all really proud of, but I’m especially proud of this crystal dumplings recipe because this brings me back home. A lot of dishes make me revisit my childhood in Taiwan, but this one in particular makes me think of wai po. This is a photo of wai po and wai gong back in 2016.

Taiwan has a LOT of popular dishes but for whatever reason the reputation of the crystal dumpling didn’t cross into the Western world so it was impossible to find any recipes on these bad boys. I searched high and low and couldn’t find any english recipes for this dish so after watching multiple Taiwanese youtube cooking videos, compiling different methods and ingredients together with a lot of taste-testing and trial and error (I still have a 500g bag of failed pork filling in the freezer that I didn’t want to throw away 😂), I think I’ve successfully created a recipe that is just like the ones in Miao Li (I haven’t been to Miao Li in a few years, but I’ll have to have them side by side to be extra sure) 👏 👏 👏 (is it weird to applaud myself? I’m just that proud)! Crystal dumplings are one of my mom’s favourite foods so I’ll have to let her be the judge when we can be together again. This is the reason why I’m so proud and excited to share this recipe with you. Not only because it’s so sentimental to me, but also because I feel like I’m introducing crystal dumplings to the Western world and it’s a Taiwanese secret that the world needs to know about.

Taiwanese crystal dumplings have an outer casing that’s made with potato starch which becomes translucent when the dumplings cool down after being cooked (hence “crystal”). The starch gives it a distinct chewy texture. The casing itself doesn’t have much flavour but serves more as a textural component. The real flavour is in the pork filling which is sautéed in fried shallots and soy sauce, making a little flavour bomb. The intensity of the flavours in the filling carries the bland casing with it to create a wonderful balanced mouthful of savoury chewy goodness. There are multiple ways to eat a crystal dumping. My favourite way is to have it in a bowl of warm chicken soup with fried shallots but you can also eat it on its own or throw it in a hotpot. Scroll to the end of the recipe and I’ll show you how to eat them in different ways! I’ll be uploading a video on how to make them shortly so keep an eye out!

Anyways, thanks for reading my story and without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Filling:
    • 200g pork mince
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps fried shallots
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • Crystal Dumpling Skin:
    • 1 cup (165g) potato starch
    • 1/4 cup boiling water
    • 3 Tbsps (45ml) cold water + more if needed
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Bowl of cold water + 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

Make the filling: Heat a skillet over MED-HIGH heat and sauté 1/3 of the pork mince in some oil until cooked through. Add in the soy sauce and stir until fragrant. Turn off the heat and mix in the fried shallots.

Put all the contents from the skillet in a large bowl and mix in the remaining pork mince and white pepper to the bowl. You should now have a sticky filling mixture. Set aside.

Make the dumpling wrappers: In a wide base bowl (you want a wider base for a bigger surface area), add in potato starch and pour the boiling water over the potato starch and mix with a spatula until combined/clumped together. When the dough is cool enough to handle, continue mixing with your hands. THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL! The boiling water cooks the starch and it’s what gives the dumpling the chewy texture so you want to mix it all together as best as you can before adding the cold water. Once you’ve mixed it as well as you can (you’ll end up with a rough dry dough (second photo)), add in the cold water 1/3 at a time while using your hands to mix the dough until you get a smooth ball (you might not need all of the water, just add enough until it’s smooth). Roll the dough around the bowl to ensure you’ve incorporated all of the potato starch into the dough. Add in 2 tsps of sesame oil and mix it into the dough. You should have a smooth, easily pliable dough ball similar to soft play-doh.

Oil your hands and roll the dough out into a roll and cut it into 24 equal pieces (you can keep dividing the dough into halves until you reach 24 pieces). Then using your hands, flatten each small dough ball into a flat pancake roughly 2-3mm thick and place 1 tsp of filling in the middle. Bring the edges together to form a triangle shape and press together the edges to seal it.

Tips:

  • Be careful not to overfill the dumplings! This dough is not like typical dumpling dough and does not stretch well – it can easily break if you stretch it too much or overfill the dumplings. If you can see the filling through the skin, you’ve stretched it too much and it will have a higher chance of breaking while cooking.
  • If you’re worried you’re wrapping them too thin or thick, you can always wrap a few and cook them first as a test to see if the thickness is right for you.
  • While you’re wrapping the dumplings, keep the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. By keeping your hands oiled during the wrapping process it helps keep the dough moist and easier to work with.

Cook the Dumplings: Once you’ve finished wrapping all your dumplings, bring a pot of water to a hard boil and gently drop the dumplings in one at a time. Traditionally when dumplings float to the top they’re considered cooked, however with these dumplings I found that they need a little longer to cook the skin to get the ultimate chewy texture. These dumplings will pretty much float to the top in the first 30 seconds, but they aren’t done cooking until the skin looks a little puffy/squishy and the edges are a little translucent (see photo above – it’s hard to describe it!), ~5-8 mins to cook.

Strain from the hot water and dunk them into a bowl of cold water with sesame oil (the oil stops them from sticking together and the cold water stops the cooking process, firms up the skin, and also makes the dumplings more translucent). When cooled, drain them (don’t let them soak for too long in the water or they can get soggy and fall apart).

Choose Your Eating Adventure:

In a broth (my favourite way!!): Add some fried shallots and chopped spring onion to a bowl and pour hot chicken stock into the bowl, topped with a few dumplings and serve. You can also add in some noodles and shredded chicken if you like to make it a full meal.

Eaten alone: If the dumplings have cooled, put them in a pot of boiling water to warm them up and then drain and serve with any sauce you like. Lao gan ma crispy chilli oil would be my go-to choice! You can alternatively also eat them directly as they come out of the pot after boiling instead of dunking them in cold water but make sure you add some sesame oil on them or else they’ll stick together when you serve it.

Storage: Drain the dumplings well and place them in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of sesame oil and mix them around. You can refrigerate them in the bag for a few days but I’d recommend eating them soon

In a hotpot: Dump them directly in your hotpot soup! They only take a couple minutes to warm up and be ready to eat.

Summarized Recipe:

Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings 水晶饺 (Shuĭ Jing Jiao)

Date Published: August 9th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 9th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, easy, soups
Serves: 24 dumplings | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

  • Filling:
    • 200g pork mince
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps fried shallots
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • Crystal Dumpling Skin:
    • 1 cup (165g) potato starch
    • 1/4 cup boiling water
    • 3 Tbsps (45ml) cold water + more if needed
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Bowl of cold water + 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Make the filling: Heat a skillet over MED-HIGH heat and sauté 1/3 of the pork mince in some oil until cooked through. Add in the soy sauce and stir until fragrant. Turn off the heat and mix in the fried shallots. Put all the contents from the skillet in a large bowl and mix in the remaining pork mince and white pepper to the bowl. You should now have a sticky filling mixture. Set aside.
  2. Make the dumpling wrappers: In a wide base bowl, add in potato starch and pour the boiling water over the potato starch and mix with a spatula until combined/clumped together. When the dough is cool enough to handle, continue mixing with your hands to pick up as much starch as possible (you’ll end up with a rough dry crumbly dough (see photo above) – THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL! Next add in the cold water 1/3 at a time while using your hands to mix the dough until you get a smooth ball (you might not need all of the water, just add enough until it’s smooth). Roll the dough around the bowl to ensure you’ve incorporated all of the potato starch into the dough. Add in 2 tsps of sesame oil and mix it into the dough. You should have a smooth, easily pliable dough ball similar to soft play-doh.
  3. Oil your hands and roll the dough out into a roll and cut it into 24 equal pieces. Then using your hands, flatten each small dough ball into a flat pancake roughly 2-3mm thick and place 1 tsp of filling in the middle. Bring the edges together to form a triangle shape and press together the edges to seal it (see tips and photos above). Don’t overfill or stretch them too much and keep your remaining dough under cover so it doesn’t dry out.
  4. Cook the Dumplings: Once you’ve finished wrapping all your dumplings, bring a pot of water to a hard boil and gently drop the dumplings in one at a time. They’re done when the skin looks a little puffy/squishy and the edges are a little translucent (see photo above – it’s hard to describe it!), ~5-8 mins to cook.
  5. Strain from the hot water and dunk them into a bowl of cold water with sesame oil. When cooled, drain them (don’t let them soak for too long in the water or they can get soggy and fall apart).

Choose Your Eating Adventure:

  • In a broth (my favourite way!!): Add some fried shallots and chopped spring onion to a bowl and pour hot chicken stock into the bowl, topped with a few dumplings and serve. You can also add in some noodles and shredded chicken if you like to make it a full meal.
  • Eaten alone: If the dumplings have cooled, put them in a pot of boiling water to warm them up and then drain and serve with any sauce you like. Lao gan ma crispy chilli oil would be my go-to choice! You can alternatively also eat them directly as they come out of the pot after boiling instead of dunking them in cold water but make sure you add some sesame oil on them or else they’ll stick together when you serve it.
  • Storage: Drain the dumplings well and place them in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of sesame oil and mix them around. You can refrigerate them in the bag for a few days.
  • In a hotpot: Dump them directly in your hotpot soup! They only take a couple minutes to warm up and be ready to eat.

Parmesan-Crusted Cauliflower Steak


Date Published: August 8th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 8th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: vegetarian, mains, sides, healthy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 38 mins

Jump to recipe |

Ohhhhh boy. Get ready to have your mind blown. I had never heard of cauliflower steak before until a few weeks ago when the whole family was trying to eat a little lighter. After a couple hours of googling for some food inspo, I came across this recipe from Epicurious and I instantly knew we had to make it. The result came out fantastic albeit a little salty (and I usually love my salt so that’s saying something!). The crunchy parmesan panko crust with the dijon mayo ontop of the roasted cauliflower was so delicious and adds warmth to a miserable cold day (much like today). This easy recipe is definitely a must-try! It’s going straight up to my top 20 dishes to make! I’ve adjusted the recipe to lessen the salt and made some adjustments to have this as a standalone dish with any sides of your choice.

PS: Try to get the biggest cauliflower you can find because I could eat two of these in one sitting! Or make smaller steaks and serve this as a side dish.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 2 large heads of cauliflower
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsps mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Parmesan Crust Topping:
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • Zest of 1 lemon (~1 Tbsp)
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    • 6 Tbsps olive oil
    • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 220˚C (425 F).

Remove the outer leaves of your cauliflower heads and keep the core intact. If the bottom of the core is thick and fibrous, you can trim it off. Cutting along the widest part of the cauliflower (so you get the biggest slices), cut the cauliflower in half then slice one 3cm thick cuts from each half. Reserve the rest of the cauliflower to be used another day. Repeat for the second cauliflower.

Gently rub olive oil over and black pepper to both sides of the steaks and bake for 10-15 minutes on each side at 220˚C. You want the cauliflower to be tender and browned on the edges.

While the cauliflower is baking, combine the mayonnaise, dijon mustard and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In another bowl combine all the ingredients of the parmesan crust in a bowl except panko (garlic, lemon zest, parsely, parmesan, olive oil) and set aside. Don’t add the panko to this mixture until your cauliflower has cooked and you’re ready to use it, otherwise the panko can get a little soggy sitting in the bowl.

Once the cauliflower steaks have cooked on both sides, take it out of the oven and spread the mayonnaise/dijon mixture over each steak. Add panko to the parmesan crust mixture and combine then spread it ontop of the steaks. Bake the steaks for another 5-7 minutes until the panko crust is lightly browned. Serve!

Summarized Recipe:

Parmesan-Crusted Cauliflower Steak

Date Published: August 8th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 8th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: vegetarian, mains, sides, healthy
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 38 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of cauliflower
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsps mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Parmesan Crust Topping:
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • Zest of 1 lemon (~1 Tbsp)
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    • 6 Tbsps olive oil
    • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 220˚C (425 F).
  2. Remove the outer leaves of your cauliflower heads and keep the core intact. If the bottom of the core is thick and fibrous, you can trim it off. Cutting along the widest part of the cauliflower (so you get the biggest slices), cut the cauliflower in half then slice one 3cm thick cuts from each half. Reserve the rest of the cauliflower to be used another day. Repeat for the second cauliflower.
  3. Gently rub olive oil over and black pepper to both sides of the steaks and bake for 10-15 minutes on each side at 220˚C. You want the cauliflower to be tender and browned on the edges.
  4. While the cauliflower is baking, combine the mayonnaise, dijon mustard and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. In another bowl combine all the ingredients of the parmesan crust in a bowl except panko (garlic, lemon zest, parsely, parmesan, olive oil) and set aside. Don’t add the panko to this mixture until your cauliflower has cooked and you’re ready to use it, otherwise the panko can get a little soggy sitting in the bowl.
  6. Once the cauliflower steaks have cooked on both sides, take it out of the oven and spread the mayonnaise/dijon mixture over each steak. Add panko to the parmesan crust mixture and combine then spread it ontop of the steaks. Bake the steaks for another 5-7 minutes until the panko crust is lightly browned. Serve!