Month: February 2017

Spiced lamb meat balls with pumpkin, carrot and rice vermicelli (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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On the weekend we had a lovely lunch on Fort Denison, a small island in Sydney Harbor.  It was for Nadine’s 40s birthday. Nadine was originally from Melbourne. She fell in love with Bill, a Sydneysider. She moved to Sydney and settled in his small waterfront cottage by the river. There they are raising 2 gorgeous kids.

Bill has IBS – but not just the ordinary IBS. He is sensitive to most ‘common’ food including coconut milk, soy sauce and packaged meat from the supermarkets. Cooking for Bill is not just a challenge, it is a war against the modern world that many of us accustom to.

Every time I create a FODMAP dish, I think of Bill’s challenges. What are we really feeding ourselves nowadays and what consequence would follow?

Shop bought meat balls is one those food that you rarely know what you get. In this recipe, I used basic ingredients and work on blending the ingredients to achieve the flavors. Hope you will enjoy it.

Spiced meat balls with pumpkin, rice vermicelli, carrot and capsicum

Recipe is as follows:

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Seaweed and egg soup 紫菜蛋湯 and the memory of GuangYa Middle School (low fodmap, gluten free)

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Seaweed and egg soup (low fodmap, gluten free)

Recently, I reconnected with my high school mates on WeChat via a group chat. The high school, named the GuangDong Guangya Middle School, was one of the most prestige selective schools in the GuangZhou city. We all grew up to be proud and competitive individuals. Then we went on our separate paths to distinctively different lives. I selected a simple but busy life in Sydney – a job in the finance industry, a small family, a house with picket fences, a lovely garden, and a double garage full of beautiful crockery and cooking equipment – I love my cooking.

GuangDong GuangYa Middle School
Today’s GuangDong GuangYa Middle School

Bo, a school mate from Singapore had been posting his dinners every night in the group chat. He often has 5 dishes for his family of 4. The dishes are home style, plain and simple. A typical meal consists of a gorgeous seafood dish, an overcooked meat dish and 3 seasonal vegetable dishes bursting with freshness.  Sometimes we could tell how many were dining at home by counting the jumbo prawns. I was puzzled by Bo’s persistence and efforts posting his 6 meals a week, and occasionally meals from the restaurants when they ate out on Sundays. And a few days ago, he posted this story…

‘I live a simple and unexciting life, often with repetitive routines. There were seldom any exceptional events. However, the memory of this single incident at GuangYa Middle School I will always treasure. 

It was a very hot afternoon. We were attending a physical exercise class in front of the physic building. That day we had a basketball game. I was pushed over by a big fellow student. I fell and my left hand landed on the ground first. I could see my wrist was twisted, followed by sharp pains. I realized I had broken my wrist.

I was surrounded by teachers and students. The PE teacher asked who would accompany me to the local hospital which was within walking distance from the school.  Hong pushed through the crowd and took my arm. Hong was a quiet student, often with a few words and rarely smiled. I hardly spoke with him in the past. I was pleasantly surprised by him volunteering to help.

One thing was overlooked by the PE teacher – he didn’t ask if we had any money for the hospital. Those days most families were not well off and kids didn’t get much pocket money. I didn’t have any money on me that day. Luckily Hung had some money and he managed to pay for the treatment.  There was no x-ray machine at the local hospital. The wrist was bandaged and that was that. 

The next day after the math class, our math teacher, Feng, came over to my desk with a bowl of soup and a gentle smile . Feng was one of the strictest teachers and rarely showed her emotions. ‘This is a seaweed and egg soup’, she said, ‘you have it now while it is warm. It helps with your calcium intake and good for your bones.’  

I was speechless. Even my mum never cooked me a soup before (she didn’t really learn how to cook until she was retired).  I looked at Feng, who had returned to the teacher’s podium, I felt warmth all over. 

Despite her tough appearance, teacher Feng had a kind and caring heart. Many years later I connected with her via a video chat. She asked why I was still so skinny and said I should look after myself better.  

Next time I am in GuangZhou, I will visit Teacher Feng and cook her a big bowl of hot seaweed and egg soup.’

Ah, I can understand why Bo has been posting his dinners each night. Somehow he found deep connection with his food.

Bo's family meals
Bo’s family meals

 

The traditional egg soups are often made of ‘egg flowers’, means scrambling the eggs in hot water. I found scrambling eggs with seaweed was too messy.

So here is my version of a ‘neat’ seaweed and egg soup.

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Steamed pork and fennel dumplings 豬肉韭菜餃子

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For the past few years I coordinated the Asian food stall for our school fetes. Last year we sold over 1,000 pan fried dumplings which  was one of the most popular food on the day.  To make these dumplings, I held a dumpling party at our house.  Many Chinese families from the school came to help out. I was rewarded handsomely – I learnt many family dumpling tricks from all over China.

Now I am preparing for this year’s fete again. I am keen to experiment a few more varieties of dumplings.

One of the mums from school told me about a thick bush of fennel by the railway. She gathered some of the herbs and made pork and fennel dumplings,  a popular dish from Northern China.

I didn’t gather the herbs from the side of the railway,  but I did make the pork and fennel dumplings. I used a thicker shop bought wrappers and steamed the dumplings. I am a Cantonese after all and I love my steamed dumplings. They were really yummy.

Steamed pork and fennel dumplings 茴香饺子

Pork and fennel dumplings 茴香饺子

Recipe is as follows:

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South sea meat and bone soup (bak kut teh,肉骨茶)

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My best friend’s late mother, whom I dearly called Auntie Wong, used to make this herbs and spices infused soup for me. The wonderful aroma filled their small inner city apartment and floated down the narrow common corridor as I walked out the lift. I instantly felt at home, safe, warm and loved.

Besides being a fantastic cook, Auntie Wong was an amazing woman with many talents. Once a circus acrobat in Malaysia, she was retrained as a dentist. ‘It was so difficult at the beginning,’ she said, ‘there was this old lady with no teeth, and I could not figure out how to attach the denture.’ She grinned, ‘lucky that I was young and good looking at the time. I had lots of helps.’

Here is my simple meat and bone soup, with fond memories of Auntie Wong. Somehow my soup never tasted as good as Auntie Wong’s. She had added a lot more love to the soup.

South sea bone and meat soup 肉骨茶 Bak kut teh

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Spiced potato salad with pepper, chili infused oil and white balsamic vinegar (gluten free, vegan)

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Our friends had a 20 year anniversary getaway at South Australia for a few days. We looked after their child and dog while they were away. It was easy as their beautiful son is our little boy’s best friend. Their gorgeous cavalier is the best friend of our cavoodle.

When they were back they brought us a nice bottle of white balsamic vinegar they picked up from a market at the Barossa Valley.  So I made a fusion potato salad with it.

This salad used blanched potato flavored with turmeric, coriander seeds and cardamon, a mild Sichuan style pepper-chili-garlic infused oil, sesame oil, white balsamic, pickled carrot, sliced wood ear fungus, sliced capsicum, sesame, shallot and coriander.

Potato salad with turmeric, pepper infused oil and white balsamic

Recipe is as follows:

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Rice balls with wasabi furikake seasoning

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After a weekend of non-stop eating and drinking, we were keen to have a very simple meal this lovely Monday evening – perhaps some warm rice with a few sprinkle of seasoning.

I cooked the rice in a rice cooker. I used 1 cup of white glutinous rice with 1 cup of medium grain rice. The cooked rice was gently soft but not too sticky. I then rolled some rice into balls, and coated the rice balls with furikake.

I bought my furikake from a local Asian store. I particularly like the one with wasabi flavor. The furikake was made in China which is fine with me as it was very delicious.

A simple meal and no recipe required.

Furikake rice balls

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Tangy green mango salad with prawns (gluten free)

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Friends who live in an inner west suburb of Sydney have a few mango trees. Every year I admired their trees and promised to make them some green mango salad. But I was never there when the mangoes were green.

This year they brought over 2 green mangoes to our house. Reportedly the husband was injured trying to catch the second mango –  the mango fell off the tree, bounced off his hands and hit him in the “privates”.

I had to make a mango salad as compensation.

The dish is very simple, mango, carrot and prawns pickled in a fish sauce, apple cider vinegar and sugar, mixed with coriander, green shallot and sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Tangy green mango salad with prawns (gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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