Demystification recipes: blog amnesty edition

A few weeks ago I did a session on things to cook with possibly unfamiliar things from the Asian grocery store for my women’s group. I came home and started to write it up, and then my laptop died and I am still resting between computers. On a borrowed laptop for the moment, and claiming the blog Amnesty originated by Eating With Jack and used to such great effect by Jackie herself, then extended by Claire of Melbourne Gastronome and enthusastically (and gratefully) joined by Ed from Tomatom and Sarah of Sarah Cooks. It’s twitter’s fault.

This is approximately how much stuff you need to demystify your average Asian grocery store, with the addition of a bonus Hairy McClary backpack full of nappies, wipes, toddler snacks and a cold drink. If your car is getting fixed, you’ll be needing a large hand truck. Fortunately I didn’t have far to go.

img_1990 goodies

When you get there you’ll need tables to fill up with all manner of until-now mysterious things, like giant packets of fungus and small jars of stinky fermented tofu, bundles of greens, jars full of bark, tiny bottles of mustard oil so pungent it burns your nasal hairs, etc, etc.

I think one reason why some people are cautious about buying things from an Asian grocery store is that so much stuff is packaged, and if you don’t know what it is, or what the thing you want looks like, it gets confusing. So we ripped open all the plastic and set about rehydrating, sniffing, poking and tasting.

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Anzac biscuits

An Australian institution. Note, we call them biscuits here, not cookies.

1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup “soft pack” brown sugar
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
125 g butter (half of a small block)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50 ml (2 tablespoons) boiling water

If you don’t live in Australia, I don’t like your chances of finding Golden Syrup* (not Molasses), which is pretty much peculiar to Australia, and I think the desiccated coconut is different too.


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Dr Sister Outlaw live blogs experiment in extreme slow cooking of beef and barley Middle Eastern influenced stew

One of the things I really like about my house is an old Glowburn wood heater, which I’ve just lit up for the first time this year. A friend chided me for using it, muttering something about global warming, to which I responded that I am only interested in the warming of my lounge room, but in any case I don’t really contribute to global warming because I go to great lengths to source waste wood from local arborists. That means all I’m doing is accelerating the carbon cycle of dead wood and I don’t have to feel bad about burning 300 year old Ironbarks, which is something to feel guilty about.

So, while I was sitting in front of the toasty Glowburn this afternoon, supposedly writing, I decided that it would be wasteful to burn fossil fuel by firing up the gas cooktop or the electric oven to cook the stew I had planned for dinner. Why not use the wood heater? Would it get hot enough to actually cook a beef stew? Only one way to find out, and tonight I am child free and my intended dinner guest doesn’t mind waiting if it turns out to be a slow meal. So I decided to do it and, because I really should be writing something else, to blog the results of this experiment in fossil-fuel-free cooking.

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Kirsty Says ‘You can have it Thai!’

What an odd dining experience friends and I had last night. We went to My Thai in the Brisbane suburb of Auchenflower. Just looking at their website, they’re clearly a well-established restaurant and J suggested it because she’d been there before for work dinners and could recommend the food.

Well, the food was excellent–that which they deigned to serve us anyway.

J and I arrived earlier than our dining companions, and after negotiating a move of table from just outside the kitchen to the front of the restaurant, we ordered an entree of Goog Tod, deep-fried prawns with special sauce. They were really just so fresh and crisp. Wonderful.

While waiting for the others, J and I had studied the menu and made a selection of two of the three dishes that four of us would share. J’s choice was My Thai Duck Curry, while I indulged my ongoing obsession with pork mince and chose Laab Mu, spicy pork with mint leaves. The others arrived and we added Tofu with Cashew Nuts to our order.

Again, the mains were fresh and delicious. My favourite was the Laab Mu which was juicy, spicy and refreshing, but the whole pineapple, grape, shitake mushroom and duck curry combination worked so well, I found myself snaffling the last meaty bits of pineapple coated in the sauce.

The trouble arose when we attempted to order dessert and were refused. Have you ever heard of such a thing?!

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Pamela’s eating Creamed Corn and Charcoaled Lizards


Instalments one , two, three and four.

I’m in lovely Warakurna community at the moment, located at the base of the Rawlinson Ranges in Western Australia. The remote Giles weather station, located just up the road, was built in 1956 and was the first permanent colonial occupation of the area for hundreds of kilometres in any direction. Many older people living at Warakurna now were children at the time, their families living independent existences centred around the myriad of rock holes and hunting grounds scattered throughout the ranges.

By virtue of its tenure as a piece of Western Australian Aboriginal reserve excised by the Commonwealth government fifty years ago, the weather station is the only place in the entire Ngaanyatjarra Lands where alcohol can legally be consumed, and officially only by the station’s six employees. Have I considered dropping into the weather station to say hi and flashing my big blue eyes in the hope of a cold one? Not for a moment. My research permit is far too valuable. Luckily for us, Coopers make a convincing birell (brewed without alcohol) that tastes great straight out of the freezer. While barbecuing steaks over our fire pit on Saturday night, for a brief moment I almost forgot it wasn’t the real thing.

With some time on my hands over Easter, some of the ladies organised to go out hunting for tirnka (little goannas). Armed with crowbars as digging sticks and billy cans as shovels, 8 women and 2 dogs packed into a troopie and made our way to tirnka country.


Tirnka country

We wandered through the bush for a couple of hours, stopping to dig at holes where there was evidence of recent action. It was a very successful hunt in the end, with eleven (!) tirnka bagged. We made a fire, sat down with a cup of tea and proceeded to cook up the catch. The preparation process involves removing gut then burning off the skin in the open flame for a couple of minutes. The lizards are then buried in coals and left to cook for about twenty minutes. The cooked flesh is delicious – pale white, smooth and tasty –hints of chicken (!) and fish and just a little bit smoky. No salt required. We got back to town on dusk, the ladies subsequently missing the Easter Sunday prayer meeting and making me three hours late for a sausage sizzle being hosted by the neighbours. Not good manners, but at the end of the day I think we were all where we really wanted to be.


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Helen’s Easter Cooking – Tea Eggs

At the last blogmeet, FXH and I were talking about Taiwan. I spent six months there in a gap as a student, while FX spends quite a lot of time there. Now that Easter’s almost here it got me to thinking about the Tea Eggs I used to buy in Taipei, from a street vendor with a bucket just like the one shown in the linked Wikipedia article.

Tea eggs are great picnic food, and they’re a nice salty/savoury change from all the chocolate eggs you’ll be eating. Their main claim to fame is that they take on a fabulous marbled appearance, so that they’re also sometimes called Marble Eggs.


To make them couldn’t be simpler, and all the ingredients will be available from your local supermarket (if they don’t have star anise, your Asian grocery will, of course.) Measurements aren’t needed for this recipe. Just think “strong, brown salty liquid.”

Take however many eggs you want to cook, and make enough very strong black (not green) tea to just about cover them. Chinese is best of course, but I use Indian tea sometimes and it’s fine.

Add a few sloshes of soy sauce and some star anise – about one piece for every three eggs I guess, but YMMV once you’ve made this recipe yourself. You need to put in a fair amount of soy so the mixture is dark and salty. You can also add some Chinese Five Spice if you have some. The information I’ve googled up says that most people put salt in as well, but once the soy goes in, to me it’s well salty.

Bring the eggs, in their shells, to the boil until they’re hard boiled. Now take them out, let them cool a little, and gently crack them all over on a hard surface, without removing the shells.

Return them to the soy mixture and soak them overnight or for a few hours. The soy/tea mixture will soak in through the cracks and create the beautiful marble effect that you see in the photo. (H/T)

Pamela Faye has reached the (unb)eaten track – Tjukurla Community


Instalments one , two and three.

It’s been a long and arduous couple of weeks of eating, but have finally found my way into the Ngaanyatjarra lands and some civilised eating options. I arrived in the tiny community of Tjukurla from the tourist resort of Yulara at Uluru a couple of days ago, and have been eating fabulously, if somewhat humbly, since.

My enthusiasm for food has been somewhat diminished over the past fortnight by a persistent stomach bug that left me feeling exhausted with nausea but thankfully with few other symptoms. Not that I was missing out on much. With the exception of some excellent home cooked meals with friends in Alice Springs, eating since leaving Adelaide has been a rather mundane affair. Under siege from a meat craving, I ordered lamb shanks and mash at the dubious Glendambo Road House, our overnight stop between Adelaide and Alice. These shanks were enormous – quite literally an example of the proverbial mutton dressed up as her younger sister. But they were rather tasty and quite possibly the only redeeming feature of a place that otherwise makes no apologies for the appalling state of their accommodation. The bunk-house we were offered looks so bad that my travelling companion and I opted for sleeping rough on a tarp next to the ute rather than risk bed bugs. A sprinkling of rain initially left us doubting this decision, but then a cold, strong wind blew the clouds away and we slept contentedly under the magnificence of the Milky Way.


Ginormous Glendambo Shanks

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