Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

Chicken Karaage

How can chicken so crunchy be this tender? Try it and see.

One of our favourites to order in a Japanese restaurant, this is just as good as restaurant quality. Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can go out to restaurants again (post Covid) I will still be delighted to sit in a booth and order ….. but for now I can at least satisfy my cravings. It is also one of Sloan and Stella’s favourites to order and I just know when we can gather around the Sunday dinner table again this will be requested.

  • 1 lb chicken thighs cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin (sub Sake if you have it)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger

Reserve the starch and flour for just prior to frying up. Combine soy sauce, miring, garlic and ginger in either a sealable plastic bag or bowl with lid. Stir in the chicken pieces and set aside. You can either do this earlier in the day or at late as 20 minutes before dinner – I find it very flexible.

Heat your oil to 350, if you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a chopstick in – if it sizzles happily, then it is time to add your chicken.

Toss the starch and flour together, then toss with chicken. It doesn’t matter if the coating is uneven, it just means more texture.

Add about 1/3 of the chicken at a time to wok – do not overcrowd. Any time you overcrowd when you are frying it reduces the temperature of the oil and that leads to greasy fried food! Keep the chicken moving while in the wok, and remove when golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with salt. Keeping the cooked pieces in a 200 degree oven allows them to retain their crispness while you do the remaining 2 batches.

DIPPING SAUCES – I’ve given two options because that’s the way I like it!

CREAMY

  • 1/2 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sriracha
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce

SOY

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • chili oil to taste
This well used wok is perfect. Of course, you can use a deep fryer if you have it handy, but I like the wok just fine for this, and it encourages me to fry only small amounts at a time. Be sure to strain and reserve your oil for use another day!
Love having the option of two sauces – everybody gets their own little sauce dipping bowl and dip away!
Definitely not as many vegetables as we normally get onto our plates, but this Japanese dinner was so tasty! I even made my own gyoza wrappers and that’s a story for another day…..

Coconut Shrimp

Couldn’t wait to dive into these. Every time I make them it surprises me how easy and how incredibly delicious they are.

Just like you get in the tropics….. minus the palm trees and ocean breeze. That dang Covid thing is still keeping us at home, during a time of the year when we’d so much rather be in the land of palm trees & sunshine, ocean bobbing and munching coconut shrimp. Never mind the beach, I’d happily settle for just being able to cuddle my granddaughters!!! Enough whining, here is the perfect recipe to make you feel like you’ve escaped to the beach.

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well (can just use egg white if you like)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat (350-360 degrees)

Set up 3 dredging bowls:

  1. flour
  2. egg
  3. panko/coconut mixture

Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then working with one shrimp at a time, dredge through flour, then egg, then panko/coconut. Press into the panko mixture to make sure the shrimp are well coated. Set aside until you have them all coated.

Working in batches, add shrimp to hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning as necessary until they are crunchy and looking irresistible – around 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix well to combine. If you think of it, mix this ahead of time and set in fridge to allow flavours to meld beautifully.

I can’t promise you will smell the ocean when you make these, but it might make you feel a little better about staying home!

You can get these prepped ahead of time and just keep in the fridge until ready to fry.
Served tonight with rice and curried vegetables. This would disappear in a hurry if served as an appetizer also.

I originally got this recipe off Damn Delicious website, and she’s right – they are damn delicious! The dipping sauce is my own concoction and it’s yummy!!

Cacio e Pepe with bacon!

Every time I make spaghetti carbonara I think it would benefit from a bunch of crispy bacon, so here it is … a tangled mash up of cacio e pepe and carbonara. I think it is perfect! Also quick and easy.

A tangle of creamy pasta, sharp cheese and crunchy bacon can’t be beat. Apologies to Italian pasta grannies for any offence this mash up could cause, but it sure is delicious.

Kosher salt

  • 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 oz cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • ¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • ⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino

This serves 2 as a generous dinner helping – adjust for your table!

Slice bacon into thin strips and cook over medium heat, stirring often to separate, until crispy and cooked through. Set aside on paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add whisked egg, Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Do this relatively quickly so the egg doesn’t scramble. You only want it to cook through via the hot pasta. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve, with a generous helping of more Parmesan and cracked pepper.

If you only have one of the cheeses, that is fine too – I’ve had to adapt this a few times during our Covid restrictions to work with whatever I had on hand.

Serve with this aromatic green onion and pepper focaccia and a big salad.

Malaysian Laksa

It’s cold around here! If you are looking for a big bowl of comfort, well here you go! Dress it up however you like, made it vegetarian if so inclined, whatever you do, give it a try. This is perfect for a chilly night.

Once you have tried this creamy coconut broth, laced with spicy chili and fresh crunchy vegetables you will be putting this on repeat!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 2 cm (1 inch ish) ginger, grated
  • 1 lemongrass , white part grated
  •  2 birds eye chillis , finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (175g) laksa paste 
  • 400g / 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (sub soy but fish sauce recommended)
  • 2 tsp chili sauce
  • cooked noodles, either rice vermicelli or Udon noodles
  • any cooked protein if you like ….. chicken, prawns, crispy tofu, the options are up to you
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • sliced green onions
  • bean sprouts

METHOD

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan or small pot over medium low heat. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 20 seconds, then add lemongrass and chillis. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add laksa paste. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until fragrant.
  • Add chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce and 2 tsp of Chilli Sauce. Place lid on and simmer on for 10 minutes.
  • Adjust to taste using lime juice (for sour) and fish sauce (for saltiness). Leave on turned off stove with lid on for 5 minutes.

To assemble, place noodles in bowl, add in vegetables and bean sprouts – top with broth and then any of the fixings you like

Personal touches added to each bowl make all the difference. I used the “Umami Crisp” from Big Smoke in Whistler, BC to add in place of the chili paste.
I love to make this a one dish meal, so I saute or steam a bunch of fresh veg for color flavour and brightness. Use whatever you like. Cook separately from the laksa broth so you retain their color and brightness.

I’ve tried a number of laksa recipes, and they tend to disappoint. Part of the problem is a difficulty sourcing different pastes and sauces where we live. Laksa paste itself is a very complex flavour compound. This recipe came from Recipe Tin Eats, and it was her recommendation to use a paste that convinced me to try again. Nagi was right on with that suggestion, by the time you have enough of the right ingredients to make laksa paste, you would have to be making it frequently to keep all your supplies fresh. Hop on over to her blog for even more components to this dish, even recipes to make your own stock and chili paste.

We love this served with my green onion pancakes, perfect for dipping!

Miso Herb Roasted Veg stock

The perfect base for any kind of soup – wonton tonight, laksa another night.

Cold dreary days lead to healing soups! Even the start of this, with the miso coated vegetables roasting in the oven promises great flavour. I promise you will feel like brighter days are coming by the time you finish this bowl of deliciousness. (Is that a word?)

  • 4 tbsp white miso paste
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sheet of dried seaweed (optional but recommended)
  • 1 large yellow onion, skin on, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in half, skins on
  • 4 inch knob of ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs parsley (or any other herb you have around!)

To finish: juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine miso, oil and water, whisk to combine.

Place piece of seaweed and all prepared veg on the parchment and toss well with the miso mixture.

Roast for at least an hour, until veg are lightly browned.

Turn into a large stock pot, and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1-2 hours.

Strain the stock off, discard the vegetables (you’ve cooked all the goodness out of them!) and add in the juice of 1 lemon, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

This is delicious!!! I got it from the kitchen of Jillian Harris, she calls it Gut Healing Veggie Broth, and it is a sure fired winner.

Don’t you just know how good it is going to be already??
Once that miso gets tossed in there with it all and starts roasting your whole house smells fabulous.
The broth alone is a great starting place for amazing soups.
LAKSA – totally delicious with this stock.

Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs

OMG – these are delicious. It was all I could do not to gobble down a lot more than I should! The marinade is quick and easy. I let it marinade a day, but I’m sure you could get away with less.

Mouth-watering. Literally mouthwatering.

  • 5 pounds Korean style beef short ribs*
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
  1. Preparation: Sprinkle brown sugar over beef and mix well to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag (you may need 2). Add marinade, press out excess air from bags, and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
  2. Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, if desired. 
it was a pretty simple marinade, but absolutely delicious. Lucky for me – we still had some fresh asian apple pears and that is what I sued.

This recipe came off a Bobby Flay recipe on Food Network (who doesn’t love Bobby?) … but it is courtesy of his guest Judiann Woo.

Vietnamese Pepper Chicken Rice Bowl

I love THE FRESH BRIGHT FLAVOUR OF A RICE BOWL LIKE THIS! THE ADDED BONUS IS THAT IT ALL COMES TOGETHER VERY QUICKLY AND IS AS VERSATILE AS WHATEVER YOU HAVE ON HAND.

Today’s version included some stir fried vegetables to make it a one bowl dinner, and some quick pickled peppers.
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets
  • 180g (6.3 oz) dried rice vermicelli noodles 
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 100g (3.5 oz) baby spinach leaves 
  • sliced cucumber, to serve 
  • finely julienned carrot, to serve 
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, crushed or finely chopped 
  • roughly torn mint leaves, to serve 
  • Marinade: 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated 
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper 
  • Nuoc cham dressing: 
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 3 tbsp sugar 
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp lime juice 
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped (or a pinch of chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, toasted peanuts, slivered green onions, and if you have them cilantro & herbs.

STEP 1
In a large bowl, combine the chicken fillets with the marinade ingredients. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the remaining ingredients. 

STEP 2
For the nuoc cham dressing, place the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside for later. 

STEP 3
Cook the noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked. Drain and rinse until cool. Divide among serving bowls. 

STEP 4
Heat the oil on a large grill plate or in a frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken fillets and cook 3-4 minutes on the first side or until lovely and golden. Turn the fillets over and reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat and slice the chicken. 

STEP 5
To serve, arrange the baby spinach, cucumber and carrot on top of the noodles. Top with chicken slices. Spoon over a generous amount of the nuoc cham dressing. Top with the crushed peanuts and mint leaves and serve. 

For such a simple marinade, this chicken was very tasty! Fish sauce is a real flavour booster.

I’ve adapted the recipe here according to what I had at home, and we felt more like rice than rice noodles tonight. Honestly, we struggle with rice noodles after our trip through Vietnam and Cambodia, the noodles here at home just never taste as fresh and tender. We were in Cambodia, at the Kampot Pepper plantation and I keep finding ways to use that fabulous pepper.

This recipe is exactly as written from Marion Grasby of Marion’s Kitchen. If you haven’t followed her yet on Instagram or Youtube, you are missing out. She is amazing to watch, and every recipe is on point! Thank you Marion!

Thai Style BBQ Chicken

This chicken dish reminded me of chicken grilling over charcoal all along the streets of Thailand – you see the little stands everywhere!  The amount of effort vs the amount of flavour really helps knock this out of the park.  

 

This chicken was so moist, packed so much flavour, and don’t skip the som tum coleslaw, it adds lots of interesting heat, freshness and texture – sorry about the slightly too dark photo, these summer nights are coming to an end, and it was already dark by the time I took this.
  • 2 coriander roots 
  • 4 garlic cloves, skins removed 
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns 
  • 8 chicken thighs 
  • ½ tsp turmeric 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 1 tbsp dark sweet soy sauce (e.g. kecap manis) 

Som Tum’ Coleslaw: 

  • 3 garlic cloves, skins removed 
  • 3 birds’ eye chillies (use less or more as you like) 
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • 2 tbsp lime juice 
  • 4 cups finely sliced Chinese cabbage (also known as wombok or Napa cabbage) 
INSTRUCTIONS

STEP 1
Use a mortar and pestle to pound the coriander roots, garlic and peppercorns to a rough paste. 

STEP 2

Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the coriander paste, turmeric, fish sauce and dark sweet soy sauce. Mix well. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes but overnight would be ideal. 

STEP 3

In the meantime, make the ‘som tum’ coleslaw. Use a clean mortar and pestle to pound the garlic and chillies to a fine paste. Add the peanuts and pound to a paste. Then stir through the fsh sauce, sugar and lime juice. Just before serving, mix the dressing with the cabbage. 

STEP 4

Heat your barbecue grill plate (you can use gas or charcoal) to a medium heat. Place the chicken onto the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes each side or until the edges are charred and the chicken is cooked through. Rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with the ‘som tum’ coleslaw. 

I love my mortar and pestle sets – I have 3 and use them all the time …. bonus tips for those amazing smells that drift up when you are crushing ingredients.

This recipe came from marionskitchen.com and it certainly is one of my favourite blogs to either research recipes or watch her youtube.

Dan Dan Mian Noodles

There is something so comforting about a bowl of noodles. I’ve got a fabulous recipe for Tan Tan noodles on here, but this is slightly different – and an entire meal in one bowl. Get as adventurous as you like with the add ins.

  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp black bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth (use veg broth if you want to make this vegetarian)
  • 8 ounces egg noodles (Chinese style), rice noodles or Udon noodles
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 3-4 baby bok choy
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/2 – 1 pound ground meat (I used pork but chicken would work well too)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped (I used crimini but that is what was available, use whatever you can find)
  • black pepper
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 4 green onions, chopped

Garnish suggestions

  • sesame seeds, toasted
  • green onions, slivered
  • fresh bean sprouts

Typically, Dan Dan Mian is a spicy dish ….. however I’m not so good with extra spicy food. To make it more authentic, drizzle with chili oil when you are ready to serve. You can either buy one and have it to dress up many dishes, or make a quick, easy one that lives in the fridge for ages.

Chili Oil

Heat skillet over med heat – add:

  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)

Cook, stirring occasionally until garlic is fragrant – be careful not to burn it! Remove from heat and transfer to heat safe bowl or glass jar.

I got this recipe originally from http://www.halfbakedharvest.com – only tweaked it a bit for personal preferences. The chili oil is entirely hers.

Combine soy sauce, hoisin, black bean sauce, honey, vinegar, peanut butter & tahini. Stir well until smooth and creamy. (If the peanut butter and tahini are really cold it helps to heat up the mixture slightly). Add 1/3 cup water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook whatever noodles you have decided to use. Drain well and set aside.

In the same pot, add a little neutral oil and saute the onion, green onion, garlic and ginger until soft and fragrant. Add in 1/2 of your soy sauce mixture. Stir to completely mix it all in and heat up the sauce slightly. Add broth and bring just to a simmer.

In a shallow fry or sauce pan heat up a little neutral oil and add the ground meat. Allow to sit without stirring for a few minutes to help with carmelizing the meat. When mostly cooked, add the mushrooms and shallot. Cook until the mushrooms give up their moisture, and the pan dries out again. Add in the remaining soy sauce mixture. Stir to coat well. Allow the mixture to continue cooking until crispy bits appear. This is an important step as it adds a lot of texture as well as flavour to the finished dish.

Bring the pot of broth back to a higher heat and add in whatever vegetables you have decided to use. Make sure to add them in the right order so your don’t end up with limp veg – nothing sadder. I used bok chow and as soon as they were wilted but still crisp, I turned the heat off and added the spinach and bean sprouts.

Ladle noodles into the bowl and add your broth with vegetables. Scoop a generous amount of the meat mixture over top and garnish with the suggestions listed.

Turning this dish into a vegetarian meal would be so easy – omit the ground meat and use extra mushrooms in that step. Make sure to add extra fresh veg to make it a full meal.

Absolutely delicious!

Make sure to simmer until the meat & mushrooms dry out a bit, getting those lovely little bits of caramelization that add so much flavour and texture.

Add vegetables – as many as you want.

I like to keep fresh vegetables FRESH. I only add the spinach and bean sprouts when I remove it from the heat.

Serve with scallion pancakes for a total win!