Tag Archives: recipes

4 Asian Soups

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Curry laksa. Image from Bidu Recommends.

As the weather gets cooler, don’t we crave more the warmth of hot hearty soups? Let’s venture into exotic territory with these Asian classics. One thing these have in common is that they pack a punch in terms of flavor. They’re not the soothing, comfortable types — they’re passionate and intense, fragrant and fiery, rich and spicy. They make quite a food trip.

Another thing they have in common is that they’re very complicated to make, if you’re making them from scratch, because they either involve a lot of ingredients or a whole lot of steps. The good news is you can buy packets that can give you the real thing with very little time and effort.

Tom Yum

It’s a classic Thai soup with fierce hot and sour flavors that make me perspire just thinking about it. It’s smells heavenly — with a light freshness from kaffir lime leaves and cilantro, and the heady earthiness from the shitakes and whatever protein, usually seafood, that is in it.

Image via No Such Thing

Try making it from scratch or get tom yum mixes from Asian Home Gourmet,


Image via Rasa Malaysia

This one’s a well-loved staple in Singapore and Malaysia. There are many different variations on this noodle soup, but my favorite is the coconut milk based curry laksa. The soup itself is rich, thick, and creamy. It’s spicy and has a riot of flavors from different spices in it. There’s also a salty and seafood-y base flavor from prawns. Here’s a recipe if you want to make it from scratch, or get it from a Prima Taste box.


Sinigang is basically a sour soup, and its variations are derived from the different sources of the sour component. My favorite is the tamarind-based soup, and though we had a tamarind tree in our backyard, I never saw my mom make sinigang old school — by cooking the tamarind to a pulp and straining the liquid through as sieve. The soup mixes are really quite excellent, and I grew up with this one made by Knorr, and available at the Filipino Store. But if you want to make it from scratch, here’s a recipe. You can also try this sinigang from the Kitchn.  The soup is made with either prawns, milkfish, pork, or beef, and a selection of vegetables — string beans, water spinach, radish, chilies, and taro.


Via Rasa Malaysia

Bak Kut Teh

It is basically a slow cooked pork bone soup. Literally, its name means, “meat bone tea”. There’s no tea in it though, but it is flavored with numerous spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and fennel — all wrapped in muslin that stays in the pot for the entire cooking process, and fished out just before serving. The tricky part in this is gathering the correct blend of spices, so using a store-bought ready-made bak kut teh spice bag is definitely a good way to go, and you can get it from Prima Taste. But if you want to conquer this particular mountain, here’s an excellent recipe for making it from scratch.

Image via Almost Bourdain

Posted in Food | Tagged , , ,

Ostrich: Healthy Red Meat

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Ostrich teppanyaki at Benihana, Pattaya. Image from @ Bangkok

Care for something exotic?

I wrote about ostrich before, about all the fabulous gifts that they bring, from flouncy feathers and dotty leather. In addition to all these wonderful things, ostrich meat is really yummy too!

Ostrich meat is not white like that of chicken or turkey. It’s a gorgeous, rich, deep red, much like beef. The difference is that this red meat is lean. As in good for you! It has even fewer calories than white meat.

The ostrich’s natural habitat is in Africa. So ostrich dishes are not so unusual over in, say, Cape Town. But since its lovely red meat and healthy qualities has been discovered, farms in warm climates around the world have started raising them. They grow much faster than cattle, and they’re not picky with food, so they’re quite a good investment. There’s an ostrich farm in the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro, the city where I live, so ostrich meat is pretty much readily available here. It is pricey though, and is twice the price of its equivalent beef cut.

So how does one prepare ostrich meat? Theoretically, you can take any recipe for beef, and just substitute ostrich. The only key thing to remember is that since ostrich meat is very very lean, you have be careful to not dry it out.

For steaks and grills, go with the fillets. Because ostrich is so lean, it is very important to sear it and not cook it beyond medium.

South African Chef Jason Whitehead`s Ostrich Fillet with Biltong Cream. Click for recipe. Image via Hospitality Jobs Africa.

Image via Robertsons. Click for recipe.

Ostrich and butternut kebabs. Image via Food and Family. Click for recipe.

I used to make Asian satay with ostrich using this recipe from Emeril Lagrasse. The marinade is great and that peanut dipping sauce is the bomb!

Smokey Chilli Ostrich Goulash. Via Food and Fabulous. Click for recipe.

The tougher cuts are ideal for slow cooking, as in soups, stews, and curries. A leg of ostrich would make a great roast too.

And for a touch of exotic added to everyday fast food — ostrich burgers.

Ostrich Burger with Beetroot Relish. Image via Nomu. Click for recipe.

Ostrich burger with hummus, haloumi, and mushrooms. Image via Woolworths. Click for recipe.

Posted in Food | Tagged

The Cider House Rules

It’s Foodie Tuesday

I love fall. For me, nothing beats the colours of autumn, in either nature or clothing. I adore wrapping up in a cozy sweater and enjoying a cup of tea in the waning sun. And the cooler weather inspires me back to the kitchen to cook up comforting classics for family and friends.

apple harvestImage: The Purl Bee

Autumnal fruits are not abundant but who needs a wide variety when the versatile apple is in season? The perfect fall treat, apples are as crisp as the weather. But as much as I love eating them straight from the tree, I love apple cider even more.

apple ciderImage: Room for Dessert

Unlike filtered and pasteurized apple juice, which brings up awkward memories of kindergarten, apple cider is thick and rich- it really is like drinking an apple. I love to have a pot of cider on the stove when guests come over; simmering with orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, and a touch of nutmeg, it perfumes the whole house with a welcoming scent.

Image: Scarlet Lime

I know that it is truly fall when my local coffee shop offers fresh, hot cider from a nearby farm. They serve it laced with caramel, which is one of the most decadent treats I can think of. Imagine my joy when I stumbled across Scarlet Lime’s recipe for apple cider caramels!

Image: Smitten Kitchen

As a child, my school took us apple picking almost every fall. It is still something I love to do when I have the time. My local orchard (which provides that wonderful cider to the coffee shop) takes advantage of the season by making apple cider donuts. You know they are making them when you walk into their shop: the room is filled with an enticing aroma of apples, sugar, and cinnamon. I wait all year for these donuts and now, thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I can make my own!

Image: Gimme Some Oven

I tend to think of apple cider as a sweet treat but it pairs remarkably well with meat and poultry. I often braise chicken in apple cider with chunks of apples and onions. Gimme Some Oven kicks it up a notch with an easy skillet recipe laced with lemon and herbs.

pulled pork with apple ciderImage: A Sweet Pea Chef

If you think pork chops with apple sauce is a winning dish, try making pulled pork with apple cider. A Sweet Pea Chef’s version roasts slowly in the oven, leaving lots of time to enjoy the wonderful fall weather while it cooks.

rutabaga glazed with apple ciderImage: Bon Apétit

Many autumn vegetables are intrinsically boring; rutabaga, anyone? But glazed with apple cider? Yes, please! I bet even the most stubborn of veggie-haters will like this recipe.

applesImage: NPR

Pick up some apple cider at a local orchard or market and experiment: mix it with chicken stock as a basting liquid for turkey or substitute it for water in a spice cake recipe. I promise you that it will make your recipes’ flavours as bright as the fall foliage.

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , ,

Tasty Tomatoes

As much as I love tomato-based sauces, I have never really enjoyed the raw fruit. It’s a texture thing; I’m just not a fan of the squishy insides. And let’s face it- most tomatoes are tasteless and mealy, having “ripened” on their long journey in refrigerator trucks.

(Farm to Fork BBT Sandwich; Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

The exception is at the height of summer when fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are available. At this time of year I overcome my textural bias and enjoy the overwhelming sweetness that these gorgeous globes provide. Case in point: the awesome bacon, basil, and tomato sandwich prepared by Farm to Fork Catering at my local farmers market two weeks ago. See that large slice of golden yellow tomato? It was the sweetest, most delicious tomato I have ever eaten, contrasting perfectly with the salty bacon, the bright basil, and a creamy herb-laced mayonnaise.

(Hazelfield Farm Tomatoes; Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

I couldn’t get that sandwich out of my head. I posted a picture on my Facebook page, I dreamt about it and, this past weekend, I ordered another one. It was just as good as the first.  Inspired, I hunted down some tomatoes to take home and enjoy. I came across these baby heirloom varieties grown by Hazelfield Farm and I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

(Jamie Oliver; Photo: Daily Mail via Grace in Full Measure)

Several years ago, I watched Jamie Oliver prepare a simple dish of sausages roasted with cherry tomatoes in his wood burning oven. It was so easy and looked so scrumptious that my husband and I recreated it at the cottage, substituting our barbecue for his fancy oven. It was the perfect meal and our guests raved about it. I really don’t know why I haven’t made it since.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

But, with my pint of tomatoes in hand, I knew that it was time to recreate this delightful dish. Recipe junkies can see his printed version here, but I prefer the simplified, slap-dash version from Oliver’s live demonstration:

1-2 Italian sausages per person (hot, mild, or a mix)

1 large handful of cherry tomatoes per person (I really like a mixture of heirloom varieties)

Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil work well)

Fresh garlic cloves

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Because this is such a simple recipe, use the best and freshest ingredients you can find. Bust out the expensive oil and vinegar if you have them. I grabbed some thyme and basil from Hazelfield Farm and plump Italian sausage from Brooks Meats.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Because I wanted the sausages to cook through, I browned them for a few minutes on each side while I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees. Then I simply tossed the tomatoes and sausage with enough oil to coat, added a splash of balsamic vinegar (go easy on this if your fruit is really sweet), and liberally seasoned everything with salt and pepper. I spread the mixture in a cast iron skillet (pick a pan that your ingredients will cover the bottom completely in one single layer) and topped with sprigs of fresh thyme. In my haste, I totally forgot the garlic cloves but these would be peeled and tossed in here as well.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Cook for 30 minutes, turning the sausage and pressing gently on the tomatoes (watch out for the hot juice) half-way through. I like to top it with a chiffonade of fresh basil and serve it with a simple salad and lots of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the sauce. This recipe works equally well in an oven, barbecue, or even a campfire. If there are leftovers (and that’s a big if), they make a great sandwich filling or pasta sauce. Enjoy!

Posted in Food | Tagged ,

The Summer BBQ

Pizza made on the BBQ courtesy Dima's Kitchen

Pizza made on the BBQ courtesy Dima's Kitchen

Ugh it’s hot here.  Hotter than hot, and hotter than any summer I can remember.  We live in a century old building, on the top floor with no central air.  We have window air conditioners in the primary rooms and they do the trick but there’s no way, no how they could keep up with the oven on top of the already sweltering temperatures.  So bless the barbecue. It’s cold salads and fresh fruit and if we must eat something cooked, it’s barbecued, outside, by my other half. What could be better?

Here are a few favourite less ordinary things I like to grill:


peaches on the BBQImage via Wellness Made Natural

Figs, Pineapple and Peach SkewersImage via Yum Sugar

Grilled fruit is absolutely perfect totally naked for breakfast (I did mean the fruit, but that could work too).  The simplicity of grilled fruit is what’s really fantastic here: in about 3 minutes of cooking time,  the grill really teases out the flavours, especially sweetness (toss them first in some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, or vegetable oil, honey and fresh mint before they hit the grill) .  Other ideas include adding grilled fruit as the oomph factor to salads and, most obviously, as the perfect way to end a meal.  Dressed with ice cream or chocolate, grilled peaches are a to-die-for dessert.


Individual pizzas made on the barbecueImage via Serious Eats

I must admit I was late to the game re: grilling pizza.  I actually am not a huge pizza fan, what with my dairy allergy and all.  But I have tried pizzas made on the barbecue and I must admit the texture of the crust is pretty amazing.  Click here and here for  some great primers for those of you who are feeling adventurous tonight.


Salmon grilled on a cedar plankImage via Leite’s Culinaria

grilled calamariImage via Picnic Food Ideas

shrimp skewers for the BBQImage via Closet Cooking

While totally delicious, barbecuing for us so often means hamburgers, portobello “burgers” and mixed veggie skewers.  But seafood is incredible grilled and really isn’t much more work than preparing homemade burgers.  In fact in the case of fish done on cedar planks or shrimp skewers, very little could be easier.

Here’s our easy peasy shrimp recipe:

1. Cheat and buy a bag of frozen large, raw, deveined and peeled shrimp

2. Toss these in a resealable plastic bag with some olive oil, salt, the juice of a lemon and lime, a couple finely minced cloves of garlic, and black pepper.  Let this mixture marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours in the fridge.

3. When you’re ready to fire up the BBQ, just put these on skewers and cook on the grill for 3-4 minutes on each side till they turn pink and are no longer translucent on the inside.

(Hint: if you’re using wooden skewers rather than metal, be sure to soak these in water for about an hour before use.  This will help ensure they don’t go up in smoke.)

Happy Grilling!

Posted in Food | Tagged , ,