Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Almond Milk - a rant

I didn't start a blog to whinge and rant about things however there has been some advertising lately that i find very misleading and i want to get the correct nutritional message out there! It is in regards to So Good's almond milk.

I hear ad after ad claiming that it has only 1/3 the calories of regular milk. Yes that may be true but it has a similar amount to skim milk or fat free soy milk. The thing that really annoys me is the ingredients label.

First the ingredients: This 'milk' contains only 2% almonds with water and cane sugar making up the rest of the mixture. Now i'm sorry but almond flavoured sugar water is hardly a good milk substitute. Furthermore this almond milk is not fortified with calcium, only vitamin E at a measly 10% RDI per glass. Additionally it contains only 1.3g protein per glass (compared to about 9g in skim milk or 8g in soy.)

Now i'm all for milk substitutes, but from a nutrition perspective they should at least have added calcium and be equivalent in protein. Low calorie food isn't everything, we need nutrients to survive.

Rant over.

Sarah xx

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tomato Relish

So what do you do if you have a glut of tomatoes? Make relish of course!

It's so easy to do, satisfying and you save so much money. With tomatoes recently at 99c/kg one jar of homemade relish will set you back just over a dollar, compare that to $3-$6 per jar in store.

I use a recipe that was on the back of the Ezy Sauce bottle. Ezy sauce can be found in the condiments section of the supermarket. It is normally on the top shelf and looks like a stubby. It is basically vinegar infused with cloves and other spices. You can use it to make tomato sauce, plum sauce etc.

I highly recommend you give it a go - it is really simple and preserving is really very easy. The hardest bit is remembering to save empty jars in order to have enough to fill! Salsa jars are great as they have a wider mouth so it's easier to fill and Dolmio and Five Brothers jars have easy to remove labels! Otherwise if you haven't collected any jars and you don't want to fork out lots of money for them at a kitchenware store check out your local op shop.

A Thermomix would be awesome for making relish given that it can stir and cook, however i wanted to make a big batch so the 2L bowl just wasn't going to cut it!

Tomato Relish - From Wild's Ezy Sauce

8kg tomatoes, peeled and sliced*
3kg onions, sliced
2 tbsp salt
3kg sugar
4 tbsp curry powder
4 tbsp mustard powder
375ml bottle Ezy Sauce
1 cup flour (i use cornflour so it's gluten free)
1 cup water

* to peel tomatoes easily, cut an X in the skin on the bottom and submerge in boiling water for a minute. The skin should peel off easily.


Combine tomatoes, onions and salt in a large bowl, cover and let sit for 12 hours.

Drain tomato and onion mixture, then pour into a large pot and bring to the boil.

Mix curry and mustard powder with 1/2 cup water then add to tomato along with sugar and Ezy Sauce.

Stir to combine and boil for about 2 1/4 hours or until liquid has reduced. (It will still be quite runny at this stage)

MIx flour and water together to form a slurry then add to relish mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes or until relish thickens.

Fill into sterilised jars and seal. Invert jars and leave to cool. If the little button does not stay popped in then your jars have not sealed properly and you must reseal, or put the jar in the fridge and use immediately.

Properly sealed relish will keep in the pantry for 12 months.

A WORD ON STERILISING: As your mixture is hot, your jars MUST be hot. If you are unsure about sterilising check out this article. It is simple but tells you everything you need to know.

Sarah xx

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Fish-Fragrant Eggplants... yes it is vegetarian!

Sichuan cuisine is definitely my favourite Chinese cuisine and Fuchsia Dunlop is a fantastic Sichuan chef and cookbook author. I bought one of her cookbooks, Sichuan Cookery after visiting China the first time, and on my recent trip i read her incredibly interesting autobiography. She actually isn't Chinese - she's English but was one of the first westerners to study Sichuan cookery in the 1990s.

So what does one cook after arriving back in Australia after 5 weeks overseas? Well personally i would have expected to crave salads, mexican, indian or some other food that i hadn't eaten for months but no, i felt like chinese!

This recipe is really easy to make and should be served as part of a banquet Chinese-style perhaps with a tofu dish and a green vegetable dish plus rice. Because i was cooking for one i simply served it with some quinoa - something i did miss whilst overseas!

I adapted the recipe by steaming the chopped eggplant for 30 minutes rather than frying. After all the Christmas festivities plus overseas eating i really need to get healthy again! Luckily steaming the eggplant worked brilliantly and i will do it again this way in the future.

Fish-Fragrant Eggplant - Fuchsia Dunlop

2 medium sized eggplants, cut into quarters or eighths, then chopped into chunks
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste (i used lee kum kee brand)
3 tsp finely chopped ginger
3 tsp finely chopped garlic
150ml vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1tbsp water (the original recipe uses potato flour)
1 1/2 tsp black vinegar
4 spring onions, finely chopped, green part only
1 tsp sesame oil

Steam eggplant for 30 minutes or until very tender.

In a wok, heat oil and cook chilli bean paste for 20-30 seconds until fragrant. Add ginger and garlic and cook for another 20 seconds ensuring it does not burn.
Add stock, sugar and soy and stir to mix well before adding eggplant.
Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes in order to reduce the sauce a little and allow the eggplant to absorb the flavour.
Drizzle over the cornflour slurry and stir gently to incorporate.
Stir in vinegar and spring onion then remove from heat.
Drizzle over sesame oil and serve

If you're interested, the title 'fish-fragrant' comes from the combination of flavours: salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Basically in needs to include chilli bean paste (or pickled chillis), ginger, garlic and spring onions.

Sarah xx

The China & Germany Round-up

Now that i'm back in Melbourne i thought i'd do a quick summary of my favourite meals from my 5 weeks away.

Starting with China:

Everything i ate at Mr & Mrs Bund

Yak Milk Drinking Yoghurt

I couldn't go to China without drinking bucket loads of tea. This was my favourite teapot and pu'er my favourite leaf tea. I am currently addicted to ginger tea! 

My favourite dish in China. Yunnan flat rice noodles with mixed vegetables and chilli. From Naxi Snacks 88 in Lijiang. Coincidentally this restaurant was the best of the trip - local food at local prices - $7 for 4 dishes and drinks.

Best breakfast! Yunnan rice noodles with vegetable pickle and chilli.

Best street snack - Baba. In various forms - savoury with an egg cracked on top or sweet with rose jam and red bean paste.

Best (and cheapest) lunch. From Xizhou market. Cold rice and yellow bean noodles with peanuts, chilli, shallots,  bean sprouts and a delicious tangy dressing

I wish i could make: fresh rice noodles!

 Favourite dishes from Dashu Wujie

 Always sure to please:
Egg fried rice and vegetable jiaozi from Din Tai Fung
 Now onto Germany. The surprise country... who would have thought there would be so many vegetarian options in Germany, the land of meat, meat and more meat??? Virtually every menu had vegetarian options marked with a V or a green leaf. Most yoghurts in the supermarket did not contain gelatine - even the diet ones, and there was always the option of pretzels or a plethora of dark grainy delicious breads when hungry.
This is KiBa - cherry and banana juice. Sounds gross but was delicious! Tasted like a Nudie. Germany had so many more juices on offer than we have in Australia.

Falafel doner. I did not expect to find so many falafels in Germany! There is a massive Turkish population so doner shops were everywhere! They use a flattened, toasted bun rather than pita and it was filled with falafel, tomato, lettuce, coleslaw and yoghurt sauce. For only 3 euro it was a cheap, filling and delicious meal.

Spaetzle. Delicious german wheat noodles. This dish was with a chilli sauce and was delicious! Spaetzle could be found in the fridge section of the supermarket for a couple of euro or you can make it yourself. Spaetzle is like pasta but has a higher egg:flour ratio.

So i never thought i'd be posting a picture of something from McDonald's here after not eating McDonald's food for about 10 years but in Germany they have a veggie burger for 1.99 euro and it isn't too bad.

The bun sucks. But the patty had visible chunks of carrot, capsicum, corn and potato and was obviously deep fried rather than grilled with all the meaty burgers. It contained lettuce, cheese, tomato sauce and mayo. Obviously not the greatest eat of the trip but when starving at 9pm on a long train journey with only a 20 minute stopover, sometimes you have to compromise!

Mmmm Gluhwein. The perfect antidote to a -20 degree day!

Leipziger Lerche. These delicious little tarts were filled with cherry jam and almond paste. Delicious!

Overall it was a great trip and i wish i had taken more photos! Other delicious food included ma po tofu, fish fragrant eggplant (it does not contain fish), milk tea bubble cups, hot pretzels, mezzomix - coke & fanta combined, fresh tomato soup with homemade bread and i'm sure i'm missing some things!

Anyway now it's back to reality and hopefully a bit more cooking!

Sarah xx