Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Why is it that some of the yummiest dinners I cook happen when I have just about run out of money?

It has been a rather expensive week - booked a hotel in Hobart for a trip in a couple of weeks (yay!), paid a deposit for a study trip to New York next year (double yay!) and went and saw a whole lot of films that were crying out to me to be watched (yay, yay, yay and yay). Tomorrow is pay day and I had $7.15 left tonight when trying to decide on dinner ingredients. I parked my bike at an oriental supermarket just off Sydney Road that I just discovered and went in to see what I could rustle up.

I bought, for a grand total of $6.05:
1 small tin of coconut milk
1 packet laksa paste
1 tin enoki mushrooms
1 large packet of tempeh

Laksa it was to be! I remembered also that I had some vegetables sitting in the fridge (a sweet potato, an eggplant, and a single buk choy) that desperately needed to be eaten before they sprouted body parts and ate me instead.

I used dramatically less coconut milk than was suggested on the laksa paste packet, making a very light, delicious soup that was aided by the addition of a bit of soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Method I made up as I went along:

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot. Add 2 tablespoons of laksa paste, frying until fragrant. Pour in small tin of coconut milk. Add a few cups of hot water until you have the desired quantity of soup liquid. Add diced sweet potato and eggplant. Boil until tender. Add chopped bok choy, tempeh and enoki mushrooms. Heat through until soft. Add fish sauce, soy sauce and lemon juice to taste. Stir through boiled noodles (or boil them in the soup, and add a little extra water for them to soak up).

It was fabulous! And cheap! And there are leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Yay!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thai (ish) Noodle Salad

Hey! It's getting warmer, and warm weather = noodle salad time.

This is a basic noodle salad guide, but put in there whatever floats your boat. Bean shoots, tofu, chicken, cucumber, shredded carrot, lime, mushrooms, zucchini etc...all make good noodle salad additions.

I follow a loosely Thai theme for the dressing. Andrew was watching me make this and he said 'Sugar! Why are you putting sugar in the salad?' - it's to balance the flavours. Lemon or lime for sour, fish sauce or soy sauce for salty, sugar for sweet, sesame oil for nutty and chilli paste for hot. You can't taste the sugar when everything is mixed together, the flavours are just more balanced and complex.

Thai(ish) Noodle Salad
Serves 2 hungry people, or more people, if those people are good at sharing

Noodles (enough for 2) - I suggest somen, soba, rice vermicelli, sweet potato noodles or thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
juice of one lemon or lime
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon chilli paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
3 tablespoons crushed peanuts
Vegetables - I used a bunch of bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and a tomato I had hanging around
Protein element - I added a tin of tuna (that ol' standard), but consider strips of tofu fried in a bit of soy and sesame oil, or chicken done a similar way

In a large bowl mix together sesame oil, sauces, lemon juice, sesame seeds, chilli paste, ginger and sugar.
Boil the noodles as per the packet, drain and rinse under cold water. Prepare your vegetables to the state where they are good to be eaten - for example, just cut up cucumber into strips, but other vegies such as bok choy or zucchini can do with a little steaming or boiling. You know what I mean.
Stir the prepared vegies, coriander and noodles into the bowl with the dressing in it. Stir through the tin of tuna or some chicken or tofu. Another idea is to cook a fillet of fish quickly in a bit of soy sauce and then separate it into flakes, and then stir it through.
Have a taste of a noodle and see if the dressing is working for you. Add a bit more of whatever it needs.
Serve it up and then sprinkle generously with crushed peanuts or sesame seeds.

Summery goodness! Oh, please ignore the torrential rain in the background whilst I write this, my meals might be getting a bit ahead of the seasons...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coffee Review - The East Brunswick Project

I have always intended to do some reviews on this blog but I have one major problem - I cannot fathom getting out my camera to take a photo of the food in front of me at a restaurant. How attention grabbing! How awkward!

Reviews without photos aren't pretty enough for my liking though, so I wasn't sure what to do. However, I simply had to write about The East Brunswick Project (EBP).

The East Brunswick Project
438 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
Tuesday - Sunday, 8am - 4pm

I haven't written much lately because this semester has been really busy and my cooking has sort of dwindled to vitawheats and spaghetti with fridge-bits thrown on it. One sustaining element of my diet however, has been the glorious coffee at EBP, up the northern end of Lygon Street, just around the corner from my house.

I am a picky coffee drinker. If I don't know that the coffee will be good, I will often order tea. I can't handle burnt, badly frothed, poorly-made in any way coffee. I'd prefer to stay at home in that case and make it in plunger. But the coffee they brew at the EBP is always mindblowingly good: smooth, creamy milk, nutty coffee beans that I think give it a slight biscuity taste, just the right strength.

The latte I usually order comes on a delightful handmade ceramic dish, in various colours, so it is worth staying in to drink rather than getting takeaway. Everyone who works there is warm and friendly and they've started to give me that knowing 'Oh hello, coffee addict!' look when I walk in.

To get all technical: I know that the EBP roasts their own beans, has lotsa special equipment, and do all that coffee nerdy stuff that makes them very important (but is a bit beyond me). It smells great in there. The coffee is $3, making it cheaper than most places now, especially those that specialise in coffee. My only criticism of the place, if you can call it one, is that they don't sell any meals. They do offer some sweet or savoury muffins and friands, and they are lovely. It's probably a good thing that they don't have meals or I might spend my entire life (and all my money) there.

It's Monday today. They are not open on Mondays. Sigh...

(Oh and about the photo. There is no photo, but you know what coffee looks like. It's what it tastes like that matters. Please go and give it a try!)

As of 16/09 - There is now a photo. I managed to sneak one in without drawing attention to myself! Doesn't that coffee just look perfect?