Matcha-Tahini Smoothie

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2014 was the year of green juice and smoothie. People were seem to be buying Vitamix blenders and slow juicers like these gadgets were the latest fashion accessories. I wonder about food trends sometimes. Although I do admit, we don’t eat or style food like we did back in the 70s (canned pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, baked with ham, for example.), and thank goodness those days are long gone, who on earth starts these crazy trends? Smoothie has been around way longer than kale juice. Until about a couple of years ago, kale juice was mostly drunken by bygone hippies from the 60s and 70s ,who still owned the same juicers from back then. Back in high school in Adelaide, a new smoothie bar opened up. It was called Boost Juice. Many of my friends went there on weekends to buy smoothies with super food supplements. The word “super food” wasn’t really around at the time, and we, or at least, I, felt cool drinking blueberry mango smoothie with wheatgrass powder, acai berry, or other strange supplements that were foreign to a 17 year old self. I must admit, those over priced smoothies kept me going during my final exams. Unfortunately, friends back in Australia tell me that Boost Juice isn’t what it used to be. What a shame.

Regardless of the smoothie trend in the last years, I’ve been making smoothies regularly in my kitchen for breakfast for a long time, especially when I’ve had too much to eat the night before, when I have overripe bananas, or when I’m just too lazy to chew. (Bless the person who invented the hand-held blender). Matcha, or also known as green tea powder, became popular in Korea and Japan in the past decade. It’s hailed has “superfood”-whatever that means in reality- by the health food bloggers since last year or so, and somebody decided almond milk matcha latte is the new new green juice of 2015. My annoyance aside, I’ll always love matcha. The grassy, vegetable-y, and slightly bitterness is so unique. It isn’t so forth coming on your palate, like black tea, for example. It’s like drinking green tea, but tastes and smells more grassy. In Korea, one of my favourite cafes is run by a green tea company, O’sulloc, from Jeju Island. The cafe is tastefully designed, and not only do they have amazing ranges of tea, but many of their pastry products incorporate matcha. I always get a chocolate mousse cake with green tea when I’m there. They also have fluffy matcha chiffon cake, matcha truffles, matcha shaved ice… you name it.

This smoothie I made this morning is healthy, invigorating, and easily put together. Matcha powder isn’t cheap, but a little goes a long way. Mine was brought back from Japan by my friend Max a couple of years ago, and I just got two new tins of matcha from my boyfriend who came back from a tour in Japan. I guess I’m one lucky woman. (thanks guys!) :)

Matcha-Tahini Smoothie

Serves 2 or 1 generously

2 small-medium bananas

200ml yogurt of your choice (cow, sheep, soy, coconut..whatever)

150ml water or coconut water

2 tsp matcha powder

1.5 tsp honey or date syrup

1/4 tsp pure vanilla essence

1.5 Tbsp tahini

Sesame seeds, or other chopped nuts for topping (optional)

1. Peel and slice the bananas. Freeze them overnight.

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients with the bananas until smooth.

Korean Mung Bean Pancakes (Nokdu Jeon)

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Most people probably have fond memories of their grandmothers’ cooking, even though their cooking might not have been Michelin-star worthy, or it might not have been a culinary firework every time. For me, whatever my grandmothers whip up in their kitchen reminds me of their warmth and love. Their food always tasted different from my mother’s. My mother grew up eating her mother’s amazing food, but hasn’t set her foot in the kitchen until she was married. She learned most of her cooking from my paternal grandmother. Her cooking, could be said, is a direct blood line from my paternal grandmother, mixed with her memories of the taste she grew up with,

Koreans love savoury pancakes. They are made with wheat flour, buckwheat flour, or ground mung beans, and filled with spring onions, seafood, pork, kimchi… you name it. They taste amazing with milky rice wine, Magkoli, on a rainy day. (not sure why?) On chinese new year, or as Koreans call it, “old” new year, both of my grandmothers make stacks of pancakes for the family. My paternal grandmother has always been the queen of mung bean pancakes, and the maternal grandmother makes some mean, crispy kimchi pancakes. As I was making these for lunch today, the smell reminded me so much of the new year’s gathering with my family, which I haven’t enjoyed in over 10 years. My mother says that, to make these pancakes well, one must reach the age of 60+. Well, here’s my vegetarian take on the mung bean pancakes (Nokdu Jeon 녹두전) from my maternal grandmother. Someday, maybe mine will taste as good as my grandmothers’.

Korean mung bean pancakes

*Note: You can leave out the kimchi if you have a hard time finding it, but the pancake definitely tastes better with kimchi. Nowadays, it should be easy to find it in Asian or Korean grocers. It’s usually found in the fresh produce aisle. (In Leipzig, the Asian grocer on Hainstr. has vacuum packed ones)

Makes: 4-6 pancakes
150g hulled and split mung beans (can be found at asian or indian grocers), also called mung dal
5 Tbsp brown rice flour (or rice flour)
A big handful mung bean sprouts
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and re-hydrated in hot water.
1 spring onion, finely sliced
50-70g kimchi, finely chopped (can be found at Asian grocers, in fresh produce aisle)
240ml water
1/2 tsp salt
1 mild fresh red chili, sliced thinly, for garnish
vegetable oil, for frying
For the dip
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1.5 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp water
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
A pinch of chili flakes
1. Rinse the mung beans in several changes of water. Soak them in plenty of water for about 12 hours.
2. In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add the mung bean sprouts and cook for one minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. Squeeze them between your hands to get water out as much as possible. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sprouts with a pinch of salt and sesame seeds.
4. Drain the shiitake mushrooms. Discard the stems. Squeeze out the water. Slice the caps finely and add to the mung beans.
5. Drain and rinse the mung beans. Add them to a mixer or food processor, along with water, salt, and rice flour. Grind them into a fine paste. Add the paste to the large mixing bowl with mushrooms and sprouts. Add the chopped kimchi. Mix well.
6. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a none-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a small ladle in the pan and flatten them. Flip, once the bottom turns golden and crispy. Cook the other side until golden. Repeat.
7. For the dip, mix all the ingredients together. Serve the pancakes with the dip on the side.

Maple-Buttermilk Pots de Creme with Caramelized Pecans

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Guys, do you want to impress your guests with a dessert, that’s absolutely delicious yet easy to make? This is it! Pots de creme sounds fancy because it’s in french..  :-) (honestly, pots of cream, or custard don’t sound as good) but it’s basically baked custard in small individual cups. This one is made with tangy buttermilk and cream, topped with crunchy maple syrup and rum glazed pecans and apple slices.

Maple-Buttermilk Pots de Creme with Caramelized Pecans

Serves 4-6

175 ml buttermilk
175ml single cream
80ml maple syrup, preferably B grade
1/2 tsp pure vanilla essence
A pinch salt
1.5 tsp cornstarch
4 egg yolks

For the pecans
50g pecan halves
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dark rum
a good pinch salt

To serve: apple slices or pear slices

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Bring the buttermilk, cream, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt to a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch in a small heat proof bowl.
2. Once the cream mixture is heated to a gentle simmer, take it off the heat. Pour a small ladle into the egg yolks in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pot, while whisking constantly.
3. Over a low heat, whisk the cream-egg mixture until it just starts to steam. Do not let the egg yolks curdle.
4. Pour the mixture into small, oven proof cups/pots. Place the pots in a deep baking dish, pour hot water in the baking dish, until the water comes half way up the sides of the pots. Bake for 30mins. Let the pots cool to a room temperature before putting it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
5. To glaze the pecans, mix all the ingredients together and lay them out on a lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10-15 mins in 150 degrees celsius, stirring once half way through.
6. Serve the pots with chopped pecans and sliced apple of pear.

Earl Grey Milk Jam

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Happy new year, everyone!

I hope your end of the year was filled with love, wonderful and indulgent food, and delicious wine. Are you on a detox? I’m not a believer of detox, but I do cut down on a few things in January, like meat (I eat a lot of meat in December, compared to the rest of the year), less alcohol, and a little less cheese (because frankly, how can you cut down on cheese completely?). Sugar? Yes, of course we all should cut down on sugar, but on cold grey mornings, I swear this recipe will brighten up your day. It will be your new Nutella. It’s super easy to make, and it can be doubled with no trouble. The jam or confiture de lait, is full of creamy, milky, sweet goodness with a hint of earl grey. Spread some on toast, drizzle over pancakes and waffles, or just spoon straight out of the jar. Go and make this today! Xoxo A.

Earl Grey Milk Jam

This is adapted from my aunt’s cookbook, Cold Sweets. (available only in Korean, unfortunately!). To sterilize a jar, wash the jar and the lid in hot water with soap. Dry upside down in an oven over 110 degrees celsius for about 10 mins. 

* Make sure you use a wide frying pan with high sides, and a silicon spatula for baking*.

Makes a 200ml jar

250ml whole milk

2 earl grey tea bags

250ml single cream

2.5 Tbsp raw cane sugar or vanilla sugar

1 Tbsp honey

A pinch of salt

30g butter

1. Heat the milk to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and steep the tea for about 10 mins. Remove the tea bags.

2. In a medium to large frying pan with high sides, bring the infused milk, sugar, honey, and salt to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Add the cream to the milk in 3 batches, stirring constantly until the cream has been incorporated.

4. Add the butter, and let it melt. Simmer the sauce in a medium heat for about 20 mins, stirring frequently to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom. After about 20 mins, stir constantly until the consistency of the jam is similar to a thin syrup. It will thicken up once cooled.

5. Pour into a hot sterilized jar and put the lid on to seal. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, although I’m sure it will be eaten up in a day or two!

Chestnut Gnocchi with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Onion

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Everyone who loves to eat and cook, probably decides their next travel destination by food once in a while. I like nature, sure. I also like to visit great museums, landmarks, and historical sights. But a city or a country wouldn’t be on my priority, if it didn’t offer interesting and great food. One thing I love doing is going to markets and supermarkets whenever I visit a new city. I like to look at what locals are buying, and even ask a few questions, if I feel particularly curious. I was on an orchestra tour once many years ago in a small city in Hungary. I have to say, the food I had there was mediocre at best, but I loved the fact that they had chili pepper flakes and pastes on the tables in restaurants. There’s nothing that a bit of salt and chile pepper can’t fix, if the food is bland! :)  I went to a supermarket and there was a huge selection of chili pastes, that I was a bit overwhelmed with what to get. I asked a hungarian woman who was near by, who didn’t really speak any english, helped me gladly. I bought the pastes for my mum and other friends who like a bit of a spice in their food. Since then, I put on a huge smile, and ask the locals, and they will help with pleasure. Most of them are flattered that you are interested in their food.

My friend Paige, one of the best cooks I know, and I usually bring each other food as souvenir whenever we travel. I bought her some Korean chili paste, fermented bean paste, and dried fish for broth, whenever I went to my parents in Korea. This year, even though it wasn’t a lot, I  brought her a nutmeg in its shell from an organic farm in Penang, Malaysia. She also brings me back all sorts of wonderful things. The recipe I made for you today, was possible by the chestnut flour she brought me from Corsica a year ago. I love roasted or boiled chestnuts, but the flour was foreign to me until she presented me with a bag. It’s so aromatic, that you immediately want to bury your head in it. I made a couple of recipes with the flour, but the taste is pretty strong, that you don’t need a large amount. A bag  of chestnut flour from a health store or an organic store is not the cheapest flour you can find, but a little goes a long way.

Brussel sprouts and chestnut are a fantastic pairing. I avoided cooking with brussels sprouts for many years, because, let’s face it. A lot of people have traumas from overcooked, sulfurous smelling brussels. Since last year, I got my courage up, and cooked the them in a frying pan with lots of butter until they were beautifully caramelized. Guess what? My fear of brussels subsided. Everyone should cook them in this way. The slight sweetness and the chestnut aroma will balance out nicely with cruciferous brussels and caramelized onion. Making gnocchi is really easy once you read the direction properly. I find it easier than making fresh pasta. Give this a try, and you will be making gnocchi every week! xo-A

ps. I’ve been published in The Guardian almost every week this month. Check out here, here, and here, for my recipes. I was so stoked, naturally.

Chestnut Gnocchi with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Onion

For the gnocchi,

500g large floury potatoes

120g all-purpose flour

45g chestnut flour, sifted

2 large eggs and 1 egg york, whisked

1/2 tsp salt

To finish,

25g butter

1 large red onion, finely sliced into half moon rings

300g brussel sprouts, trimmed

1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar

a small handful hazelnuts, toasted, skin removed, and chopped

1. Turn the oven on to 220 degrees celsius. Prick the potatoes a couple of times, and bake for about 50 mins- 1 hour depending on their size.

2. Cut the potatoes in half, wait for a minute to cool down a little, and scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. (I know, it’s hot, but be brave)

3. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes. Add the flour, eggs, and salt. Mix with an wooden spoon and eventually, with your hand, until a smooth dough is formed. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky, but make sure not to put too much flour, as the gnocchi will taste hard once they are cooked.

4.Divide the dough in half. Roll the dough into a long cigar shape and cut them into 1.5cm pieces. Roll them on a gnocchi board or on a fork.

5. Start a large pot of water onto a boil. Salt generously.

6. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until lightly caramelized. Turn down the heat accordingly. This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. The wait is worth it.

7. Boil the brussel sprouts for about a minute. Take them out with a slotted spoon. Keep the water on a rolling boil.

8. Cut the brussels in half. Add the brussels and thyme to the onion, and stir-fry until lightly browned. Try not to stir them around too much.

9. In the same water that brussel sprouts were cooked, add the gnocchi and cook for about 2 minutes or until they float to the surface.

10. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and add them to the brussel sprouts and onion. Add a couple of tablespoons of cooking water. Mix everything together over medium heat for about a minute. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss.

Pomegranate Molasses and Harissa Glazed Carrots with Cashew-Ginger Cream

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Growing up, I was never a picky eater. I ate almost everything, from cow’s milk from 6 month old with no allergy whatsoever, (I still wonder what mum was thinking when she decided to give a baby cow’s milk?!) to fish, kimchi from an early age, and blood soup, according to my aunt. I still have no idea what the soup is, but she claims when I was 3, she saw me eating a small bowl of a pork soup with coagulated blood floating on top, without blinking twice. I definitely wouldn’t eat it now, though. Another story goes, when I was about 2-3, our family went to a restaurant, where a big aquarium with exotic tropical fish was at the entrance. Most kids would have stared at the aquarium and probably admired the beautiful fish, but I saw them as source of food, and said “Mmm, Yummy! I want to eat them all!”.  What a weirdo.

There were few things I didn’t like when I was little, most of them I still don’t like to this day. I thought soy milk was the most disgusting thing ever, I almost puked the first time I tried it. My old flatmate from a few years ago, told me vanilla-flavored soy milk didn’t taste too much like soy milk, but I still found it disgusting. I also despised carrots, raw, or cooked. It took me a very long time to like carrots. I was a teenager when I decided I like carrots when they are cooked, or should they be served raw, they must be grated or julienned. Don’t ask me why. But I still find raw carrot sticks repulsive. My friends laugh at this, of course. I can’t tell you why it’s ok for me to eat grated carrots and not the stick. It could be the aroma, or the texture? Who knows.

The carrot, being one of three components of mirepoix, (the other ones being celery and onion), is sometimes overlooked. I always have one or two laying around in the kitchen, in case I spontaneously want to make a soup or stew, and although when you have sweated the finely chopped carrot in oil for 20 mins with onion and celery, you won’t be able to taste it, but you will notice a difference to a soup when the carrot is missing. Carrots are usually cheap and plentiful almost anywhere you live. They come in beautiful rays of shades, like purple, white, yellow, pink, and orange. They can be paired with many different spices and herbs, and when roasted, the natural sweetness intensifies, especially when they are glazed like in this new recipe. I would have never guessed as a 9 year old that I would ever make a dish where the carrot is the star on a plate. It’s a simple recipe to make for a weeknight dinner. I can also imagine it would be great as an accompaniment to turkey or chicken. Enjoy! xo-A.

Pomegranate Molasses and Harissa Glazed Carrots with Cashew-Ginger Cream

Note: Pomegranate molasses and Harissa can be purchased at turkish/arab supermarkets. Make sure the molasses has as little ingredients as possible. Most of them contain a lot of additives and such.

Serves 2 as an appetizer or a side dish

1 bunch thin-ish carrots (about 8-9), left whole, but halved if they are too thick

For the glaze,

1.5 tsp honey

1.5 tsp pomegranate molasses

1-2 tsp harissa (store-bought is fine)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1.25-1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove garlic, grated to a pulp

For the cashew-ginger cream,

60g cashew nuts

40ml water or vegetable stock

A good squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

To serve: A few coriander leaves and/or mint leaves, and a good pinch of roughly crushed pink peppercorns.

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the honey over low heat until they become very runny. Add all the ingredients for the glaze and whisk well. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper. Lay the carrots on the sheet, brush all over with the glaze until they are well covered. Roast for about 45 mins until the carrots are tender. Toss them gently once or twice for even cooking.

3. For the cashew cream, cover the nuts with boiling water and set aside for about 30 mins. This process will soften the nuts. Drain and rinse quickly with fresh water.

4. In a food processor, add the cashews and the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add a bit more water or stock if the cream is too thick.

5. Serve the glazed carrots, sprinkled with coriander leaves and/or mint, and a good dollop of the cashew-ginger cream on the side.

A simple autumn slaw

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After a wonderful summer of traveling, chilling on the beach of Langkawi, tasting new food, indulging myself in mum’s amazing food and learning to cook Malaysian cuisine, I’ve been back in Leipzig for about a month and a half now. It seems like I blinked and missed September all together and, although I have been cooking a lot, for some reason I haven’t been keeping up with my new recipes on this little space of mine. So, here I am, after almost a three month interlude.

Today was market day. There are gorgeous apples everywhere these days. Fennel bulbs of all sizes seem to be having its high point, as the morning air becomes crisp. I bought my first bunch of kale the other day, and now I finally feel the change of season. My boyfriend’s parents have a big walnut tree in their beautiful garden, and every October, they bring a big bag full of walnuts for us.(shelled! I’m eternally grateful.) Today for lunch, I have decided that all these amazing autumn ingredients call for a little celebration to welcome the new season. This simple slaw is dead easy to make, especially if you have a mandolin slicer at home. Otherwise, a very sharp knife will do the job of slicing the fennel bulb wafer thin. If you can’t find kale, I think a bulb of radicchio could work in a pinch. The slight bitterness would well compliment the sweet-sourness of a crisp new season’s apple.

I hope all of you had a lovely summer/winter, depending on which hemisphere you live in. xo-A.

Kale, Fennel, and Apple Slaw

*If you are using radicchio instead, as I suggested in the intro, you won’t need to massage the leaves. Just toss all the ingredients with the dressing.

Serves 2

5 meidum-large kale leaves

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1 small handful walnuts, toasted

1 small fennel bulb, sliced wafer-thin, if possible

1/2 crisp new season apple, sliced very thinly

For the dressing,

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1.5 tsp walnut oil

3 tsp rapeseed oil or mild-tasting olive oil

A splash of maple syrup

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste, and a few grinds of pepper

1. First, pick off the leaves off the kale, leaving the tough stalks in your compost bin. Give them a good wash. Squeeze out the water with your hands, and chop the leaves finely. In a big salad bowl, add the kale, along with the apple cider vinegar and salt. Get your clean hands in there and massage the kale for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves are welted. Leave to stand for about 30 mins.

2. Preheat the oven to 150 deg celsius, place the walnuts in the oven for about 8-10 mins until they are nicely toasted. Do check after 6 minute mark to see if they aren’t burning. Transfer the walnuts to a plate and cool until ready to use.

3. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing until well emulsified.

4. Add the fennel and apple slices to the kale. Add about 3/4 of the dressing and mix well with two forks. Check to see if the slaw needs some more dressing. Scatter the toasted walnuts and serve immediately.