My Inspiration: Carly & Emily from My Kitchen Rules

If anyone had any contact with me whatsoever in the latter half of this year they would know that I was completely obsessed with this season of My Kitchen Rules. I don’t really know what it was but I would miss going to the gym and grumble about having to go to dance practice, which I am normally super excited about, just so I could indulge in the tension, elation and drama that ensued on the show.

Of all the teams, my favourites to win were Carly & Emily, the sisters from Victoria with mixed Chinese and Australian ethnicity, which was reflected so well in their cooking. The biggest reason I supported them was because I related very well to many of the ingredients that they used and the subsequent dishes they created. Everything they made seemed to be the right level of fusion between Asian and Western-styles and their ability to perform under pressure was inspirational to watch.

Sadly, they were eliminated before the final but they really deserved to get there. Their talent with food, tenacity and drive for perfection have made them an incredible inspiration for me.

“Of all tastes, salt”

Many people love to make jokes about the amount of salt I put on my food when I eat (“Would you like some steak with that salt?”). Contrary to what people may think though, I do understand the health risks of having too much salt but I don’t put salt on everything and when I do, it’s always only enough to taste. I’m definitely of the opinion that a little bit of salt goes a long way – it is one of the basic human tastes after all – and it really is a simple but perfect seasoning.

Although salt is perhaps one of my best friends in the kitchen, I don’t really know all that much about it. Only yesterday had I come across the term “kosher salt”, which I believe – but correct me if I’m wrong – is another name, or another form, of rock salt. It’s a little bit fancy and a little bit more expensive than good old table salt but cooks love using it.

After a Google search and some light reading, I learned that table salt is mined from underground salt deposits while sea salt is derived from the sea (obviously) through the evaporation of sea water. Kosher salt can come from either source but it’s the use of it in “koshering”, or drawing blood out of, meat that gives it its name.

The origins of this stem from the Bible forbidding the ingestion of blood and large granules of salt were used to effectively draw the blood out without dissolving into the meat. “Kosher” means, of course, to conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut.

Being able to learn even simple knowledge like this is one of the things that gives me great joy in learning how to cook.

“Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.”
– George Herbert, (1593-1633)

Cheap Eats – Taniya Udon in Ningyocho 人形町の谷や

Just looking at this makes my mouth water. Udon noodle soup is by far my Number One preference every time I go to a Japanese restaurant. Yum.

Food Sake Tokyo

Udon is a dish we often eat at home for lunch. Udon noodles are sold in the supermarket as dried noodles that need to be boiled and rehydrated or fresh (and also frozen) that just needs to be blanched in hot water. While both of these versions are fine for a simple meal at home, there is nothing that compares to freshly made udon noodles at a restaurant that also makes an excellent broth that is served with the noodles.

Taniya in the historic district of Ningyocho is one of these places. Walking by on the street that leads up to the famous Suitengumae shrine it is hard to miss the handsome chef in the window rolling out the udon dough and then cutting it with a large knife. The style of udon noodles here are from the Sanuki region of Kagawa prefecture.

Tempura udon is one of my favorites…

View original post 177 more words

Dessert Night

Dessert Night - Welcome Back Jenny

My girl friends and I hardly get to see each other anymore but when we do, we like to make an occasion out of it. The last time, which was way too long ago now, was a dessert night, where the host made everything in this picture – can you believe it?? She’s a superb baker and requests for her baking extend far and wide from her closest circle of friends to management-level at her work.

Although a huge dessert fan, I’m personally not that keen on baking (as in verb, not noun) and pretty much all my past attempts have ended in spectacular failure. I would like to one day be able to make a nice lemon tart, berry crumble or even my favourite, creme brulee but I’m just going to take this food-making adventure one step at a time.

Kind of cooking but not

When I went to Chengdu in the province of Sichuan, China last year, I had the experience of “cooking” hot pot. I write “cooking” with quotation marks because you are cooking raw ingredients yourself but all it involves is the lifting of a hand and some awareness as to how cooked your food is. All the flavour comes from the stock that is bubbling away the entire time, which means everything pretty much all tastes the same. For me though, hot pot is probably more about the experience and time spent with family and friends than the food.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time that I had eaten hot pot – I’ve had it several times before, both at home and in China – but this was my first real “Sichuan” hot pot, meaning: extremely spicy. Also, up until this point, I had only ever eaten the food dipped with sesame or peanut sauce; in Sichuan, they dip the food in sesame oil as a way of masking the spiciness.

An abundant and simple way to enjoy time with your companions and indulge in a bit of gluttony.

The Story

Up until recently, I was never known to do any sort of cooking whatsoever. Ask any of my close friends and family about my repeated attempts at trifle-making and you’ll hear stories of varying severity, describing my absolute lack of ability to even make custard properly without churning out a gooey, lumpy mess.

Times have changed though and I have gotten a lot smarter in the kitchen. I’m not sure if this is a result of the countless episodes of MasterChef, Top Chef, My Kitchen Rules and various other cooking shows that I love watching or if it’s because of all the cooking books that I’ve been gifted (a genuine thanks goes out to everyone who has ever bought me a cookbook, by the way!) but for me now, cooking is an absolute pleasure not only because I can produce something that is actually edible but also because I understand it so much better.

I may not be conversant with the jargon and techniques yet but I learn from watching, reading and experimenting. I think one of my first successful dishes was chilli garlic prawns, which were devoured in about the same time that they took me to prepare and cook. From then on, it’s only really been an uphill ascent in terms of my love for cooking and creating food that’s tasty and which people love. What I love the most though, is that cooking is as much about the feeling, improvisation and creativity as it is about the skills and knowledge about what you’re cooking.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try out new recipes and improve on tested ones. Here’s hoping I lose the reputation of being a hopeless cook and gain one that’s significantly more positive!