Tempeh and Mushroom Fritters with Pickled Cucumber and Chilli Sambal

DSC_0704DSC_0675DSC_0693DSC_0666DSC_0659I’ve finally escaped the Australian East Coast winter and am lucky enough to again be in the warm and welcoming arms of Bali. It’s been a week now since we arrived and we are finally starting to feel like we are away from it all. Our jobs, families, responsibilities good and bad. I always struggle in the first week to let it all go and allow myself yo relax. I straight away start to come up with ideas and projects and then struggle between the guilt of not getting onto them straight away and allowing myself to have a break.

So, I’ve started slow with a couple of little recipes and shoots this week. All enjoyed by the poolside at the end of the day, so really, not too stressful…..

The local market here in Canggu is great for seasonal and cheap produce, it’s a hectic motorbike ride along a busy road to get there so we always try and get as much as we can carry back. I haven’t had the guts to carry a pumpkin on the bike yet but will sometime soon!

These little fritters were a delicious afternoon treat with some cold drinks and jumps in the pool. You can serve them like this or alongside some rice and salad for a more substantial meal. I used button mushrooms here but shitake would be even better. Corn kernels would also work well. If you can’t find Cassava flour, chickpea flour would be a fine substitute.DSC_0710DSC_0715DSC_0718DSC_0653Recipe

Mushroom and Tempeh Fritters

Ingredients

800g tempeh, chopped into 1cm cubes

10 shallots, finely sliced

500g mushrooms

2 1/2 cups cassava flour

1 lemon, zest and juice

1-2 cups water

2 tsp ground coriander

1 large thumb ginger, grated

4 tbs soy sauce

salt and pepper

Handful fresh coriander, chopped

Canola oil for shallow frying

Method

Combine all of the ingredients, except the water, in large bowl. Add one cup of the water and stir to combine, add the rest of the water as needed, until mixture sticks together but isn’t too wet.

Heat the oil in a wok, about 5cm deep. Test it is hot enough by seeing if a cube of bread turns golden in about 20secs.

Fry heaped tablespoons of mixture, in batches, turning frequently, until dark golden brown. Don’t be put off by how dark they go, they need to cook in the middle. Test one if you need.

Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with samba and pickled cucumber.

Pickled Cucumber

Ingredients

1 small or half a large telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds scraped out and finely chopped

Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 cup white vinegar

2 tbs white sugar

salt and pepper

Method

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for at least 20mins, or until needed.

Chilli Sambal

Ingredients

2 brown onions, peeled and chopped

1 whole bulb garlic, cloves peeled and chopped

2 large thumbs ginger, peeled and chopped

10 birdseye chillies

4 stalks lemongrass, white and pale green parts chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

3 tbs palm sugar

1/4 cup vinegar

juice of 5 small limes

1 tbs fish sauce (optional)

salt and pepper

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Check for seasoning and adjust to suit.

Keep in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

 

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Peanut Sambal (Sambal Kacang), Tomato Sambal (Sambal Tomat), and Eggplant in Chilli Sauce (Terong Balado)

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Bali. I’m going to keep this short, because otherwise, I could be writing all day about this amazing country. It is a truly beautiful place. Not just the land itself but the people that make it so. They are peaceful, generous and kind beyond words. I hope I can take a little of their calm and humble beauty away within myself when we leave.

It feels fantastic to be travelling again, I learn so much about myself and appreciate my home and my family more with each place I visit. It is so easy to get caught up in the bubble at home, of working and socialising and buying things. I love to be so free and happy with the people  I am with and what I can carry on my back.

So far, the food here is so amazing that I can’t quite remember anything else I would rather eat. I’ve been enjoying a mostly vegan diet and I’m not missing dairy a single bit. I have eaten a small amount of seafood, but look forward to more of that once we go to the smaller islands. We have mostly been eating in the Warungs, small restaurants that serve local dishes for an amazingly low price. I’m so impressed with the amount of different vegetarian meals they offer, and I’m in love with the tempeh here. I’d like to learn how to make it. There are many cooking classes on offer but I think I prefer to experiment on my own with what I have tried and what I have asked people so far. I think everyone makes their own versions of these dishes anyway, without ever having a set recipe.

I got up early yesterday and went to the local markets to buy the ingredients I needed for these dishes that I had tried the day before at a friends’ house. The market had everything I needed, I didn’t need to buy a single thing from the grocery store except for some oil. This fact made me feel I was on the right track. So, here are my versions of some delicious Balinese dishes! May there be many more to come!

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Recipe

Tomato Chili Sambal (Sambal Tomat)

Ingredients

3 tbs peanut oil
5 long red chillies, roughly chopped
6 red cayenne chillies, or birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
10 golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs raw sugar

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chillies, shallots, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 5 mins, add some water if it gets too dry. Transfer mixture to a mortar and pestle and add the fish sauce, pepper, salt and sugar and grind until a chunky consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
You can use it straight away or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavour will change after a while. I like to let it sit for a few hours before using. Serve at room temperature.

Peanut Samabl 

Ingredients

2 tbs peanut oil
150g roasted peanuts
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
3 red cayenne chillies, or birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 golden shallots, peeled, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted, desiccated coconut
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
200ml water

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the peanuts, chillies, garlic, shallots, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 3 mins. Transfer mixture to a mortar and pestle and add the coconut, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper and grind to a thick paste, adding the water as you go.
You can use it straight away or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavour will change after a while. I like to let it sit for a few hours before using. Serve at room temperature.

Eggplant in Chilli Sauce (Terong Balado)

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

4-5 long eggplants
8 tbs peanut oil
2 tbs tamarind pulp, dissolved in 2 cups warm water
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
3 red cayenne/birdseye chillies, roughly chopped
10 golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tbs raw sugar

Method

Prepare a large bowl with cold, salted water. Cut the eggplants into 5cm pieces, putting them in the water as you go. Leave them in the water while you prepare the paste.
For the paste, heat 1tbs of the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for about 2mins. Transfer to a mortar and pestle with the salt and sugar, and grind to a smooth paste.
Add the remaining 7 tbs of the oil to a clean pan, over medium high heat. Add the drained eggplant and cook, stirring, for about 5mins, or until starting to soften, but not falling apart. Remove the eggplant from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard the remaining oil.
Return the eggplant to the pan, along with the chilli paste and the tamarind water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring, for 3mins, or until thickened slightly and eggplant is fully cooked.
Serve.

Pickled Fish Four Ways

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There’s no recipe here, just some ideas for the endless flavour combinations for pickled fish. So many cultures and countries around the world have their own versions, and it’s so easy to make up your own using your favourite flavour combinations and the accompaniments are also exciting. It’s all about the balance between the acidity of whatever you use to pickle the fish, along with some fresh elements, some sweetness, heat, spice, salt, and a yummy side. I think my favourite is lime, chilli, coriander and coconut with a crunchy plantain chip; but I really just loved all of these combinations that we made last week.

I’ve listed the different combinations here, the best way to get the flavour right is to combine all of the ingredients apart from the fish, taste it, adjust to suit, and then add your fish. If the liquid isn’t completely covering the fish once you add it, you can either add a little more lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar etc, or, just keep stirring the mixture every 20 minutes or so, coating the fish in the acid so that it cooks. If your fish is really fresh, you can eat it straight away, but I prefer to wait a few hours so that it is completely cooked.

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A twist on the Northern Territory’s Nummus

Lime Juice

White vinegar

Sugar

Garlic Chives

Ginger

Coriander

Chilli

Spring onion

Salt and Pepper

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My favourite

Lime juice

Coconut Cream

Chilli

Coriander

Sugar

Salt and Pepper

Salsa- Pineapple/Mango/Avocado, capsicum, red onion, chilli, lime juice, salt and pepper

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Emma’s Favourite

Papaya

Cucumber

Mint

Chilli

Coriander

Red Onion

Salt and Pepper

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Traditional Ecuadorian/Peruvian

Lime Juice

Red Onion

Chilli

Coriander

Tomato

Salt and Pepper

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Scallops with Lap Cheong and Black Rice

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‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page’ – St Augustine. I’m not really one for quotes but I thought this one was pretty nice, I found it in a Lonely Planet photo Journal I was reading the other day, getting very excited…

It’s only three sleeps now until our trip overseas starts. I’m starting to feel a tiny bit anxious with excitement and anticipation for what’s to come. It’s been a year and a half since my last trip overseas. Oh, except NZ, but that doesn’t really count…

We haven’t made too many concrete plans, leaving our options as open as we possibly can, incase of meeting cool people, and hearing about cool places, etc. I hate the fact that you even have to book flights out of each country that you fly into, just to prove that you are leaving, I mean, I understand it, but it still really annoys me. Customs always freaks me out, even though I know I’m doing absolutely nothing wrong, they certainly have a way of making you feel nervous. After a couple of friends of friends were recently refused entry into Aus due to lack of funds, it makes me even more nervous. But, I’m sure we will be fine, and all of those things just add to the pleasure once you make it to the breathtaking places; where you find yourself, atop a volcano, in front of an ancient temple or amidst a tropical rainforest and you ask yourself, in awe, what am I even doing here? We are so lucky to have the freedom to travel.

I’ve been wanting to make this dish since way back in November when I started working in the fish market. I had never come across scallops in their shells before, and although they were ridiculously expensive, I had to try them, if not just for the taste but for their beautiful shells as well. So, I thought I’d better give them a go before we left Darwin, who knows when we will be back!

Like I said in my last post, the discovery of Lap Cheong (chinese sausage) since we’ve been up here has been a very very good one. We don’t eat much meat but the asian grocers here are amazing and the local, tropical produce, mostly lends itself to asian cuisine, so I’ve learnt to use it for lots of dishes. The flavour is out of this world and you don’t need much, so a packet goes a long way.

This is a great entree dish, or you could even serve it without the rice, as a canapé. Alternatively, bulk out the rice with some more veggies, like a fried rice, and serve the scallops on top. Delish!

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Recipe

Serves 4 as an entree

Ingredients

2 tbs peanut oil

100g Lap Cheong (chinese sausage), finely sliced

12 scallops on the half shell, without the roe, removed from the shell, shells set aside for serving

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

20g butter

2 tbs oyster sauce

200g black rice, cooked to packet directions

2 spring onions

1 long red chilli, finely sliced

2cm fresh ginger, peeled and julienned

4 garlic chives, finley sliced

1/4 cup coriander leaves

lemon wedges, to serve

Cracked black pepper

Method

Prepare a medium bowl with water and ice. Cut the spring onions into 4 cm lengths and then finely slice them lengthways. Place them in the ice water and leave for 30mins, this will help them to curl. Drain. (note, this is purely for aesthetics and doesn’t affect the flavour).

Spread the cooked rice onto a serving platter, or onto 4 serving plates. Arrange the half shells on top of the rice, ready for the scallops. Keep warm. (again, this is just for presentation, you don’t need the shells).

Heat 1 tbs of the peanut oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the lap chuong and fry, stirring, for 2mins, add the garlic and continue to cook for a further 1min. Remove from the pan and evenly distribute between the shells.

Add the remaining 1 tbs of peanut oil and the butter, once butter is melted, add the scallops and cook for 1 to 2mins, turn and cook for a further 30secs. Drizzle with the oyster sauce. Place on top of the lap chuong.

Top the scallops with the spring onions, chilli, ginger, garlic chives, coriander, and some cracked black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Flower, Jicama and Coconut Salad with Fish Baked in Banana Leaves

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On the weekend we were invited to a big bush party on a property about an hour out of Darwin. Friends of the people we have been staying with (who have also become our friends), were having a big combined birthday party. As Benny had already made plans for a big fishing trip out to some islands, I headed out on a solo mission.

It ran from Friday to Monday morning for some (myself not included I’m ashamed to admit, even though I was probably one of the youngest there). There was a lot of dancing, long and interesting conversations, awesome sets, wacky costumes (the theme was swamp suave), everyone took amazing dishes to share and the drinks were flowing. Surrounded by bushland, we could have been anywhere.

I was feeling more than worse for ware when I arrived back in Darwin on Sunday, but before going home I dragged myself to the markets to stock up for the week and to also buy some kind of spicy feast to fill my belly. As always, the green papaya salad won out. After eating and swimming all day I started to feel slightly human again and headed back to the house. What a surprise I had waiting for me!

The boys had finally had an amazingly successful fishing trip! Four mud crabs, three huge queen fish and five trevally! Totally amazing! Along with the market goods and the fruit and veg from the garden, we have been eating like Kings and Queens this week!

For this salad, because the banana flower is served raw, it is important that the banana flower is freshly picked. They can become much too bitter to eat when they have been off the plant for more than a day or two.

IMG_3394 IMG_3402 IMG_3349Recipe

Ingredients

1 large fresh banana flower, weighing 800g to 1kg

Juice of 1 lemon or lime

1 tsp salt

1 jicama, weighing 600-800g

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh coconut flesh, grated

2 handfuls fresh coriander leaves

1 handful each fresh thai basil and mint leaves

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Dressing

2 tbs tamarind puree

Juice of 1-2 limes

2 tbs palm sugar, grated

2 tbs fish sauce

1 long red chilli, finely chopped

1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped

1 tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped

1/4 cup coconut cream

Red Spot Emperor Baked in Banana Leaves

1 kg whole Red Spot Emperor, gutted and scaled (you could also use red emperor, rock cod, snapper or trevally)

Banana leaves (or baking paper), for baking

2 cloves garlic

1 birdseye chilli

1 tbs fresh ginger

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp salt

1 tsp palm sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

Sliced spring onion, sliced chilli, coriander leaves, thai basil leaves and fresh lime wedges, to serve

Steamed rice or asian style rice cakes, to serve

Method

Line a large baking dish with banana leaves, leaving overhang to wrap the fish. Score the fish along both sides, just enough to let some flavour get in, but not down to the bone.

For the fish marinade,iIn a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, chilli, ginger, lime juice, salt, sugar, fish sauce and sesame oil. Pour this over the fish, rubbing it into the cuts and a little into the cavity. Wrap the fish, finishing seam side down, and leave in the fridge to marinate for 30mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

To prepare the banana flower, remove the dark outer leaves and discard or keep for decoration. Have a large bowl of water with the lime/lemon juice and salt ready. Start removing all of the leaves of the banana flower, discarding the small flowering stems that gather at the base (these are very bitter), and stack the leaves as you go to make them easy to slice up. Thinly slice the leaves widthways, 0.5cm, placing them in the bowl of water as you go. Leave them in the water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Peel and thinly julienne the jicama (a mandolin is ideal). Strain the banana flower, try and remove as much water as you can. In a large bowl combine the jicama, banana flower, spring onions, coconut, coriander, thai basil, mint, and peanuts (reserving some herbs and peanuts for garnish). For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.

Place the fish in the oven and cook for about 40mins. Remove from oven, cut open the banana leaves and place the fish on a serving platter, pour over any cooking juices. Scatter with the spring onion, herbs and chilli and place fresh lime wedges alongside.

Toss the salad dressing through the salad and sprinkle with reserved herbs and peanuts.

Serve with steamed rice or asian rice cakes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Chilli Mud Crab

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Have you ever had one of those days where you want to throw yourself on the floor and have a massive tantrum like a lollipop denied three year old in the grocery store? Well, this is my third day running of one of those kinds of days….and i’m hoping, for the sake of my boyfriend’s ability to stand anymore of my foul mood, that bad things happen in threes. Mind you. These are all very much first world problems, but hey, this is my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

Aside from visa applications, bank issues, flight issues, and the stress of selling our car with one week to go, all of my problems have mainly been technology based. So much so that I would love to grab one of those crab claws and violently punch it through the screen of my computer, camera, mobile phone and any other device that may get in my way. If there was such a person as ‘Mac’, he would be feeling the wrath of my crab claws (this, of course would be after we had demolished the delicious flesh from them).
OK, rant over.
Let’s talk about something great. This dish. It was my first time trying Mudcrab, a must up here in Darwin. And made all the better by the fact that they were caught by my boyfriend and his mate. I’d heard a lot about Chilli crab, and the many ways in which people up here insist is the best way to prepare it. So, with a few recommendations from friends and some twists of my own, that night we were getting down and dirty with these tasty creatures.
You could use any shellfish in this sauce, just make sure you’ve got lots of crusty white bread to mop up all the juices. Oh, and something to wipe your hands on.

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Recipe

Ingredients
2 mudcrabs (how to prepare your mud crab)
2 tbs peanut oil
8 garlic chives, finely chopped
2 long red chillies and 2 birdseye chillies, finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, bashed and tied into a knot (to be removed after cooking)
4 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tsp coconut vinegar
1 tbs fish sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce/ketchup
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs cornfour, mixed with 2 tbs water
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls of fresh coriander leaves and 1 handful of thai basil leaves
Crusty white bread or steamed rice to serve
Method
In a large wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the garlic chives, chillies, ginger, lemongrass and spring onion and cook, stirring for about 2 mins. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add the vinegar, fish sauce, tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of water, brown sugar, and cornflour mixture, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring for about 5 mins. If sauce seems too thick, add more water. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Add your prepared mud crab and stir to coat in the sauce. Cover and cook, stirring often for about 10-15 minutes, or until flesh is cooked. Stir through most of the coriander and thai basil, reserving some to sprinkle over at the end.
Serve with bread or rice and some cracking tools if you have them.

Dragonfruit and Banana Tart (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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Thirty sleeps. Can I make it through thirty more sleeps in this heat without an ocean to swim in…. with the promise of Indonesia, looming so close, I think I’ll survive.

I’m lucky enough to be spending our last month in a house with another foodie, just as crazy (or maybe even a little more crazy), about food and cooking as me. Check out her blog Taste of the Top End, she’s a clever cookie. So I’d say I’ll be able to keep myself pretty busy, as well as cooking and creating with the local produce, we’ll be helping out with renovating and gardening this little patch of rainforest in the city. It’s actually the first house we housesat in Darwin, back in January/Febuary, since then, we have become great friends with the owners and their puppies. I’m really happy we get to spend our last month in Darwin here (just install that air-con in our room when your ready guys ;-)…. )

This tart is deliciously unusual, and dramatically beautiful! For me, making it vegan wasn’t  so much about it having to be vegan but rather, wanting to use all natural ingredients to accentuate the flavours of these beautiful tropical fruits. I didn’t want them to be hidden away with overpowering flavours of butter, cream, chocolate etc. Not to say that those flavours are bad! I also had a friend in mind when creating this dish. A beautiful, colourful, spiritual woman who has two of her daughters giving birth to their first babies this year. She asked me if I’d be around to cater their baby showers, and unfortunately I won’t. But if I was, I’d be cooking something vibrant like this tart, to celebrate two new babies being born into a wonderful, vibrant family.

If you live in an area that doesn’t grow dragon fruit, I would recommend replacing it with kiwifruit, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or passionfruit. And you can decorate it any way you like. Because it is so warm up here, I set mine in the freezer, and brought it out of the freezer about 15mins before decorating and serving. But if your in a cooler climate, the fridge will be fine.

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Ingredients

Base

1 cup roasted almonds

1 cup dates

1/3 cup desiccated coconut

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs maca powder

1 tbs coconut oil

1 tbs maple syrup

Filling

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight, stained, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup coconut cream

3/4 cup coconut sugar (or raw/brown/caster)

200g chopped banana (2-3 bananas)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200g chopped red dragonfruit flesh (about 1 1/2 dragonfruit)

Zest of 1 lime

2 white flesh dragon fruit, hard, outer skin peeled, cut into thin slices, to decorate

Toasted coconut chips, to decorate

Method

Grease and line a springform cake tin.

Combine all ingredients for the base in a food processor and process until well combined. Press into the base of the prepared tin and place in the fridge.

For the filling, in a clean food processor, place the cashews, coconut oil, coconut cream, and sugar. Process until very smooth. (if your processor doesn’t manage to get the mixture to a super smooth consistency, I recommend finishing it off with a stick blender)

Divide the filling evenly into two bowls.

Process the dragon fruit and strain through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add this, along with the lime zest, to one of the bowls, stir to combine and spread on top of the base. Return to the fridge/freezer, to set.

Add the banana and vanilla to the other bowl and process until smooth. Spread this on top of the set dragon fruit mixture and return to the fridge/freezer to set. Minimum 6 hours.

When ready to serve, remove from the fridge/freezer, to allow it to soften a little. Decorate as you like.

Enjoy!

 

Banana, Coconut and Chocolate Surprise Muffins (Gluten and Dairy Free)

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These muffins are to die for, especially when warm from the oven. As with most muffins, they are best eaten on the day they are made, but, due to the coconut and the moist chocolatey centre, these guys are more like little cakes, and will stay moist and delicious for up to five days. Ha! As if they will last that long!

This recipe was created for a new Australian company that contacted me regarding recipe development for one of the products that they send out to their subscribers every two months, along with their magazine ‘Provenace’; including recipes and information on the Australian producers. The company is called Spiced Fig, and I highly recommend subscribing to their tote, when I received mine I was overwhelmed with the beautiful products inside. In fact, I’ve got a Moroccan Chicken Curry simmering away on the stove right now, the sauce being one of the products in the tote. It smells pretty fantastic!

So, the product I ‘had’ (damn!) to develop recipes for was Nuibella, a certified organic, coconut and chocolate spread. It is seriously delicious, and, all natural, fair-trade, gluten free and vegan friendly. This muffin recipe wasn’t chosen for the magazine, my other, even more special recipe was chosen, but you will have to subscribe to find out what it was!

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Recipe

Ingredients

125g coconut oil, melted

165g raw sugar

3 large, very ripe bananas, roughly chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp coconut essence

300g gluten free, self-raising flour, sifted

50g desiccated coconut

12 heaped teaspoons of cold Nuibella

Chipped coconut to sprinkle

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius, grease and line a 12 hole muffin tin.

Process oil, sugar, banana, eggs and coconut essence in a food processor until smooth. Combine the flour and desiccated coconut in a large bowl, then fold in banana mixture. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute half of the batter into the muffin tray and gently place a heaped tsp of cold Nuibella into the centre of each, making sure that you have enough batter in each hole so that the Nuibella is not touching the bottom of the tin. Then, carefully and evenly spoon the rest of the batter around and on top of the Nuibella (spooning the batter around the Nuibella before on top of it will ensure the Nuibella stays in the middle of the muffins whilst baking). Sprinkle with the chipped coconut.

Bake for about 15-20mins or until muffins are golden and spring back when touched.

Cool in pan for 10 mins and then cool on a wire rack. Or eat one while it’s lovely and warm!

Ceviche with Avocado and Mango Salsa and Tortilla Chips (and my entry into a competition to win a foodie adventure to Sri Lanka)

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Since starting this blog a couple of years ago, I’m quite surpised at how far I’ve come, and how much I have learnt, all through the process of trial and error. I always strive for something better, new ideas, and inspiration. I don’t have a studio, or special lights, or a set of props, each place I cook in I use what is available to me, look for the best natural light and battle it out with the flies. Being on the road has been very beneficial, as I am constantly meeting new people, discovering new produce and being introduced to new opportunities. I’ve come to realise that there is no point in planning or worrying too much about what the future holds, or whether I am making the right decisions. Everything folds out the way it is meant to. And luckily enough for me, lately, it’s been folding out pretty nicely.
Opportunities have been popping up left, right and centre, from being part of the upcoming annual Darwin Banana Festival this weekend, where I have been hired as a ‘banana stylist’, to writing recipes and styling shots for a new Australian foodie mag, and, to the point of this blog post; my entry into a competition to win a trip to discover and document, the food, culture and experience of Sri Lanka.
I’m so grateful to all of my supporting friends, who are constantly letting me know of little competitions and advertisements they see on social media, that they think I might be interested in. I would have missed half of them, including this competition, if it wasn’t for them. It’s such a lovely feeling, getting older, and realising how lucky I am to have these beautiful, supportive, creative and genuine people in my life.
Regardless of whether I win a position in the Sri Lanka trip, it’s been a fantastic experience completing the entry. As with each blog post I do, I try to push myself for a new angle, and this one really got me out of my comfort zone. If you told me ten years ago that I would have the confidence to ask a bunch of near strangers (except you Mel), to sit on the beach and share a meal while I take photos of them, I would have said, no way! But, despite the very unfortunately times spurt of rain, everything went perfectly and we had a great time, not to mention the delicious food! It gives me confidence, and makes me excited, to know that, unlike my first trip overseas five years ago (where I was too shy), I will be able to photograph more and speak to the locals more about their traditions, culture, recipes, ingredients, etc.
I’ve included my short essays here that were part of the application. It was so hard to stay within the word limits!
Also, if you have a spare couple of minutes and would like to nominate my blog in the upcoming Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards, it would be hugely appreciated, if you think it deserves a nomination that is! http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate

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Competition entry essays:

The Story Behind the recipe.

After a month in central Columbia, I was full to the brim with carbohydrate laden meals of rice, beans, potatoes, bread and meat. Thank goodness for the obligatory bowl of Aji on every table at even the smallest of roadside eateries, I drenched all my meals in this delicious homemade chilli salsa. I was itching to get to the coast.
So, with one last bowl of steaming, chicken feet soup at the bus station, we were on our way to Quito and then to a tiny coastal town called Canoa. We knew nothing about the place apart from the fact that it was a small surf town, famous for it’s slow paced, relaxed vibe.
After a rough overnight bus trip from Quito, we were finally approaching the coast. Morning rituals were getting underway, people riding to work, roadside stalls selling delicious treats and smiling school kids jumping on and off our bus.
We were exhausted, and starving, by the time we arrived in the main street of Canoa (a dirt road running the length of the beach). The beach was lined with little food shacks, shaded by Coco-Cola and Pilsner tarps. Each had a blackboard touting Ceviche, which we knew very little about. As far as I knew, maybe, it was some form of raw fish dish. But, as we had experienced so far on our trip, anything could be eaten at breakfast time, and we were too hungry to care. So, we picked one shack at random and sat down at the plastic table on the sand. Without having to order anything, we were brought two bowls of ceviche and some fried plantain. With a squeeze of fresh lime, and a tad of hesitation, we dug in. WOW! What a fresh and flavoursome bowl of food we had in front of us. The fish so soft and the lime so tangy, paired with a kick from some chilli sauce and the crunchy plantain chips. What a dish!
After that, we ate it at least twice a day for the week that we were there, but, as hard as we tried, we just couldn’t find that one shack where we had eaten our first. It was like it had disappeared, and no other could match it.

About me and why I should be chosen for the gig.

After years of studying art, architecture and teaching, feeling lost and unfulfilled, I finally saved enough money to travel overseas. I started with the Americas, backpacking and having my mind blown by the amazing traditions, landscapes, and people. It was on this trip, whilst working in a bar on the beach in a small fishing village in Peru (famous for it’s amazing tuna), that I came to the realisation that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was cook. To never stop discovering ingredients, recipes and methods from all over the world, to cook meals that bring people together and make time stand still for a little while, whilst we all enjoy the fruits of the land and the labour of the people who love to cook with them.
Upon returning to Aus I was lucky enough to gain a position in a small cafe, that, over the two years that I helped to run the kitchen, has now turned into one of the most well known cafes in the Hunter.
With only a short stint in Europe in those two years, I decided that it was time to really hit the road. I sold most of what I owned, and have been travelling through Australia in a 4WD ever since, with an overseas ticket booked for April.
My foodblog has been an amazing creative outlet for me also. Something that has been forcing me to learn and discover new things about food and cooking, almost daily. Every meal I create, and every photo shoot I do, creates a new challenge for me. I never do the same thing twice. Discovery is my passion!

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Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Ceviche
1kg white, firm fleshed fish, I used Robinson Bream
Juice from about 5 limes
1 cup coconut cream
1 tsp caster sugar
1 long red chilli, finley diced
Handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
Salsa
2 ripe but still firm avocados
1 large mango
1 long red chilli
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs olive oil
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (or plantain chips if you can get them), lime wedges, sliced chilli, chilli sauce, and salad leaves, to serve

Method
Make sure there are no bones in the fish. Slice fish into pieces about 3cm long and 5mm thick and place in a large, non-reactive bowl. In another bowl place the lime juice, coconut cream, caster sugar, chilli, and coriander. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Add to the bowl with the fish and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but no longer than 10 hours.
When nearly ready to serve dice the avocados and mango into 5mm pieces. Combine in a bowl with the other salsa ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado too much.
Serve ceviche with the salsa, tortilla chips, lime wedges, chilli, chilli sauce and salad leaves.
Enjoy!