Cook this: quick & healthy – beef & greens stir fry

Another quick and easy and healthy dinner that only takes a few minutes to throw together, and based once again on a recipe for the Michelle Bridges’ Crunch Time Cookbook. Easy way to get your protein and veggies in, and if you’re still hungry, you can throw in some rice or noodles, too.

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To make 2 serves:
– 300g beef, cut into strips (I used rump steak I bought at the market and sliced it up myself)
– 200g snow peas (the ones I got at the market were quite big, so I sliced them in half diagonally)
– 1 large shallot, sliced
– 1 large zucchini, half lengthways and sliced
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed
– 1 tbsp soy sauce (I use dark soy for a richer flavour)
– 2 tbsp hoi sin sauce
– 1 bunch baby pak choy, rinsed and bottoms sliced off
– deep fried shallots, to serve

1. Heat a large wok over high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the beef and cook for a few minutes, until browned. Remove from the wok and set aside.

2. Spray a little more cooking oil in the wok and throw in the snow peas and shallots, stir fry for 3 minutes or until the snow peas become a really bright green. Then add in the zucchini and cook for another 3 minutes, until the zucchini colours and softens a little.

3. Add the beef back in, along with the ginger, garlic, soy and hoi sin sauces. Stir it all together, then add the pak choy and stir fry for a few minutes, until the pak choy has wilted.

4. Serve up topped with some deep fried shallots – easy!

 

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Cook this: quick & healthy – stir fried snapper & veggies

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Here’s another quick, easy, and very healthy dinner to add to the week’s set list – stir fried snapper and veggies! Carb free, gluten free, very low fat, full of veggies and relatively cheap (for Melbourne’s grocery price standards, anyway!), here’s how it works..

To make dinner (or lunch) for 2:
– 300g boneless snapper fillet, diced into approx. 3cm pieces
– 2 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free if needed)
– 1 tbsp fish sauce
– 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 yellow squash, sliced
– 1 bunch broccolini, sliced (use the stems, too)
– 200g shitake mushrooms, sliced (if you can’t get these, regular mushrooms work just fine!)
– 4 shallots, sliced
– fresh coriander and deep fried shallots*, to serve (* available at all good Asian grocers and supermarkets)

Put it together:
1. Place the snapper in a bowl or container. Combine 1 tbsp soy sauce, the fish sauce, ginger and garlic in a small bowl, then pour over the snapper, mixing it in well – set aside.
2. Heat a wok over high heat and spray some cooking oil over it. Stir fry the broccolini for a few minutes, until the stems start to soften, then add the squash and stir fry for another minute. Put them in a bowl and set aside.
3. Re-spray the wok with cooking oil and add the mushrooms and shallots, stir frying for a few minutes, until they soften. Take them out of the wok and put them into the bowl with the other veggies.
4. Re-spray the wok once more and throw in the fish, cooking for 2 – 3 minutes (until cooked through). Add in the bowl of veggies you’d set aside earlier and the rest of the soy sauce, and combine the lot.
5. Spoon your stir fry into your bowl, top them with some deep fried shallots and fresh coriander, and enjoy 🙂

Eat here: Shiki, Melbourne (Japanese)

Shiki, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1502785/restaurant/Melbourne/Shiki-Greensborough

I first came across this little place in the Northern burbs a few years ago, and after getting over my initial shock, it’s been a solid go-to for Japanese food cravings ever since.

Shock because Greensborough is part of the most Caucasian area in Melbourne. There’s not a heap of multi-culturalism in those suburbs, especially compared to some others close by, so it’s the last place I expected to come across amazing Japanese food. But this place give you real, honest, authentic Japanese food, at very reasonable prices, in a restaurant that has one of those rare, one-big-happy-family atmospheres.

I’ll be honest here, sometimes the service isn’t amazing. I’m not sure if that’s because of how crazy busy it can get, or the occasional language barrier (the staff mostly speak English as a second language), but the food is absolutely good enough to excuse it.

We made the trip there with the family for Mother’s Day last week, and between the eight of us, ordered an absolute truckload of food. We started with two giant sushi boats to share ($36.50 each), and this is some seriously fresh and delicious sushi. Highly recommend.

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Then, it got chaotic – main dish after main dish started to bombard the table and there were forks and spoons flying absolutely everywhere. I got in quick to photograph the dishes that husband and I ordered.

The first was the Yakisoba noodles with beef and vegetables ($11.50). It’s a perfect dish that’s filling without being heavy or sickening, simple but delicious flavour in the sauce, and the beef was tender and tasty. It’s also a great share dish if you’re like us and enjoy trying a few different things.

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The other dish we shared was my personal favourite from Shiki – the Oyakodon ($9.50). It’s basically a bowl of rice topped with chicken cooked with egg, onion and sukiyaki sauce. I can’t even tell you how tender and juicy the chicken is, it’s seriously incredible. Chicken, onion and egg sounds like a ridiculous combination – I thought the same the first time a friend recommended it a few years ago, but trust me, it’s like the most delicious little bowl of Asian comfort food, and the one dish I look forward to ordering over and over again!

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This isn’t a fancy restaurant. It’s not high dining. It’s probably not the absolute best Japanese food you’ll get in Melbourne. But it’s certainly the best I’ve had out in the Northern suburbs, it’s very well priced, very authentic, and regardless of whether you’re visiting for the first time or the twentieth, it always feels like home.

 

Shiki on Urbanspoon

Baipai Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand

Baipai Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand
http://www.baipai.com/

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Bangkok twice now, and I hope to go back many more times in the future. It’s an amazing and very underrated city, and there are a billion reasons why; places like this count for a few of them!

I came across this cooking school on a trip I took a few years ago with my best friend. We decided to take a girls trip to Phuket and Bangkok, and wanted to try some new and exciting things, like a Thai cooking class. I had just started working as a travel consultant a few months before the trip, and this school came highly recommended, so we decided to enrol and give it a go!

 

When the day came for our class, we were whisked away from our hotel in the middle of Bangkok in one of their complimentary shuttles. We were terrified; two young women in a big, unfamiliar city, and we were being ushered into an unmarked van to take us to a cooking school, in the middle of goodness only knew where. After 15 minutes or so of driving through a whole lot of back streets and abandoned alleyways, we started to panic a little… we finally arrived at what looked like one of those compounds run by a Mexican drug cartel in a bad movie – enormous, high, concealing gates, that took some effort to slide open. We had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t the garden paradise that sprawled out before us behind the gates!

We climbed out of the van, and looked around in pure amazement at the beautiful gardens, ponds, water features and cushioned rooms overlooking it all.. it was stunning! We were invited in, given a cup of tea while we waited for the other participants, and relaxed for a few minutes. Then, the fun started!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We were each given our own set of recipe cards, and briefly run through the dishes we were to make. It was completely hands on, we did everything from chop our own onions to mix our own curry paste! The ladies were fantastic, explained everything incredibly well and made sure everyone was laughing and having a great time while we were learning their tricks.

Two of the four dishes we cooked are below: Masaman curry (with curry paste made from scratch!) and stir fried chicken with crispy Thai basil leaves on rice. We also did an amazing pomelo salad and home made rice crackers with toppings.  It was also lovely to sit down and eat with everyone, getting to know some fellow travellers and food fanatics!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

At 2,200 THB (or approximately AUD $75.00) for a 4 hour course (including take home recipes), I thought it was pretty good value. They were small classes – we only had ten people in ours – so we got plenty of attention and help and time to ask questions. The recipes were also simple enough that I’ve been able to re-create them at home with no problems, which is always a concern when doing these classes! I’d definitely recommend this class to anyone visiting Bangkok with an interest in Thai food; it’s a really fun morning or afternoon out with like minded people, lovely hosts, and incredible food!

Eat here: Maney’s Dumplings, Melbourne (Chinese)

Maney’s Dumplings, Bundoora, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1559031/restaurant/Melbourne/Maneys-Dumpling-Bundoora

 

Maney’s is a northern suburbs institution and absolute favourite of locals, for two simple reasons:
1. The food is simple, yet ridiculously delicious.
2. The food is crazy cheap. As in, 12 – 15 dumplings (each dumpling around half the size of my fist) for under $10.00. Shit by Asian standards, absolute bargain by Melbourne’s!

It’s a little place on an inconspicuous little corner behind the main shopping plaza, always busy, yet you’re always met with a greeting and a smile within seconds of walking through the front door. We eat here relatively regularly because of the reasons above, and thought it was worth sharing – sometimes the suburbs really have some incredible hidden gems. This is particularly amazing because Bundoora may be situated in one of the most Caucasian parts of Melbourne – you’d never think that you’d be able to find spot on Chinese food there!

Our order doesn’t change a heap from visit to visit (if it ain’t broke..) – husband and I always share a plate of the fried pork dumplings (12 pieces for $9.50, and they are not small!)

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

After the dumplings, we get a main each – what we order varies, but my favourite is the Shanghai fried noodles ($9.00 for a plate piled precariously high). The noodles are great and soft, the sauce is incredible and in no way re-creatable at home, it’s just a damn good plate of food!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Husband likes to try something new each time; this time he settled on the Hot Spicy Chicken Noodle ($8.50, massive serving – he didn’t finish it!). I’m not a fan of anything of the hot and spicy variety, but he is, and he loved it!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

It’s not fancy or over the top – it feels like walking into an auntie’s house, and being served up some good home cooking. Because that’s what it tastes like – it’s not the usual Chinese-by-numbers crap that you usually find in the suburbs, which puts off most people. This is good, honest-to-goodness Chinese food, served up in a warm family environment, where you can fill up without breaking the bank. What’s not to love?!

 

Maney's Dumpling on Urbanspoon