penniless pad thai

EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS!

DSCF1031

ok let that suffice as to why this place has been a bit quiet lately ;) the crazy thing is is that these are my last ever Otago exams (unless i fail, and have to come back next year… oh please no). we’ve successfully migrated to our favourite library to study for them, with a regular 10am standing coffee run at our favourite local café. while exam leave is never fun, i’m trying to, if not enjoy the experience, at least appreciate it for what it is. there are plenty of positives – studying alongside my best friends, the aforementioned daily flat whites, eating yummy snacks (and absolutely refusing to feel bad about eating chocolate or baking because it’s for my brain ;)

my cooking is definitely less imaginative/challenging lately as i’m saving my brainpower and decision making for study purposes, so i’m making tried and true classics i could cook with my eyes closed – not fun for blogging purposes! however, a few weeks ago i made pad thai and it was soooo good so i decided i had to share it with you (and indeed, i made it again for flat dinner a week later and no one was complaining!)

DSCF1028

i went into this with fairly low expectations haha – i cobbled together a few recipes and eliminated quite a few ingredients that i would usually like to add like bean sprouts, coriander/mint, spring onions, lime juice and prawns to fit with the student budget. i figured that worst case scenario, my flatmates could deal with a dinner of chicken and noodles.

i finished it and no one else was home, and i was starving, so i dished myself up a bowl and went to sit on the couch. i had a bite and was astounded by how delicious it was! my flatmate walked in and asked how’s dinner and i excitedly told him it was divine (gosh i’m modest..)
but it really is stunningly good, even without lots of the aforementioned yummy ingredients. of course, do add them if you can… i would never discourage coriander or prawns action!! but no one will complain if you don’t! tangy, moreish, fresh, satisfying, it simply is a perfect spring dinner.

DSCF1030

i used chives cause we have them in the garden, and lemon, because it’s cheaper, but feel free to put their more authentic counterparts in the place. they get the job done though – the oniony green of the chives and the sour tang of lemon works well here.
finally, you could definitely change veges up (just whatever you’d add to a stirfry) and chicken could be subbed for prawns, beef or pork, or just do away with it entirely. obviously don’t add the peanuts if you have a nut allergy, but i would highly recommend otherwise – they are beautiful here.

thanks for bearing with me while i live it up at the libs – see you in november when i’m done xoxo

cheap chicken pad thai

400g rice stick noodles (i used 3mm)
3tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 lemon/lime, juice
bunch of chives/spring onions, chopped roughl

750g chicken breasts, in fairly small bits
2 tbsp ginger
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp chilli

3 large carrots, julienned finely (you could defs do more veges… we only had carrots so carrots it was)
5 eggs, beaten with a little milk

100g peanuts, dry roasted in a medium oven and chopped roughly

Soak the rice stick noodles in warm water for 30 mins or longer. Marinate the chicken with the ginger, garlic and chilli, for an hour or so.
Heat a little oil in a large wok and add the carrots. Allow to cook for five mins or so or until they have softened a little.
Boil the noodles in a large saucepan according to packet directions. Drain when done. While noodles are cooking, add the chicken to the wok and brown on all sides. Add the noodles, fish sauce, soy and brown sugar and toss. Make an omelette with the eggs in another pan then chop into strips and add to the noodles. Squeeze over lemon and add herbs. Serve with peanuts. Enjoy!

getting real

don’t you find that everything you study at school or university always seems to be super relevant in your real life situations long after the subject or paper is finished?
yeah, me neither.

pythagoras theorem? nature metaphors in Mean Creek? iambic pentameter in Othello? (no offence shakespeare, love you man)

well, imagine my surprise/delight/complete and utter bemusement when one of my papers started having an overwhelming relevance on my everyday life – no, sorry guys, it’s not French due to a devilishly attractive french petit ami called Jean Luc, (a girl can dream, right..)
but my behavioural eco paper which, you guessed it, is all about human behaviour!

finally, justification for all my… um… quirks: can’t stop at one square of chocolate or one m&m? the beta endorphin triggered by the sweet taste of sugar stimulates your appetite! make budgetary decisions which end up making you worse off (I won’t buy winter boots that i would wear every day, but another cocktail dress that i’ll wear once? yeah, why not!) and oh so many more! all explained! now i can’t figure out if it is reassuring or depressing that i’m so very ordinary and human in these matters – a bit of both i think!

IMG_1136

a lot of the lessons i’ve taken from school and uni are more likely not included in ncea curricula or lecture outcomes, and are as follows:

Don’t tell your year 11 english class that you and your husband are basically romeo and juliet incarnate and destined to be together, because when you come back to school next year with a different surname, it’s super awkward for everyone involved.

The last glass of wine at a byo is always the one that tips you over the edge. always.

Don’t flat with 4 boys if you’re vegetarian (i’m not, by the way, but this week i dared to make a red thai vegetable curry … they were highly unimpressed by the lack of meat)

always play croquet as your summer sport – the old people running the clubs will adore you and provide fizzy drinks and biscuits for your afternoon tea. croquet: the only summer sport where you put on weight!

IMG_1137

and many more.. I would love to hear what you’ve ‘learned’ from school and university in the comments!

One thing that i have learned is that puff pastry makes everything better (except in the chicken fettucine pie that my work sells… that’s just wrong). so butter chicken pies are always a good idea, and make your flatmates very, verrry happy!

IMG_1139

This recipe comes from the genius destitute gourmet, whose books have been invaluable in a flatting context (her book tasty $10 meals would make a great gift for someone who is going flatting!) Her recipes are always straightforward, appeal to boys and men and are always delicious!

My modifications were to up the spices for more of a kick, use the whole can of tomato paste, add in a tin of chopped tomatoes, and skip the cornflour, cream and poppy seeds. I just served them with green beans and broccoli, but a salad would be lovely or you could even have rice i guess, if you are feeding very hungry people! (I was but i had made apple crumble for dessert, so it worked out perfectly!)

The recipe makes 20 pies and i had a little extra filling which i just heated up and ate for lunch the next day.
Enjoy!

IMG_1142

Butter Chicken Pies
Makes 20 pies
Serves 4-8 – 2 each for regular people (me), 4 for hungry boys!

2 chicken breasts, skin off and chopped into 1 inch cubes (ish)
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp crushed garlic
canola oil, for frying
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chilli/cayenne pepper (all we had on hand!)
170g can of tomato paste (2/3 cup ish)
1/4 cup of flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 can chopped tomatoes

1 packet of puff pastry (5 sheets), thawed

Marinate the chicken with the lemon, ginger and garlic for at least an hour in the fridge. Heat a little oil in a large pan and add the chicken, sauté until sealed on all sides or thereabouts. Add the spices and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste and flour, then when combined add the remaining ingredients. Simmer on a low heat for 15 mins or until chicken cooked. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Working with one pastry sheet at a time, slice into four even squares. Brush the edges of each square with a little water and spoon some of the curry into the centre of each square, after you fold a couple you’ll get a good idea of how much filling in each. Using your fingertips, fold in and press the edges together so that the filling is contained. Repeat with the rest. You can brush with milk or egg at this point, but i don’t usually bother. Poke a couple of holes in the pastry of each pie to release steam. Bake at 210C for 20 mins or until puffed and golden brown on top (our oven at the flat is quite temperamental, hence mine look a bit ugly – i’ve made these in other ovens and they don’t usually burst open!

IMG_1141

ps – please no hate on the pictures, turns out the short days that come with the all round stellar season of winter are not conducive to taking pretty pictures! who knew? oh wait, the whole blogosphere ;) xxx

fragrant asian broth

I recently got back from ten days at home and I was just as happy as larry! it has been wonderful to just stop for a minute and have a break – and the fact that school holidays coincided with uni was just wonderful as i actually get to see my family and not just try fruitlessly persaude my little sister to pull a sickie and hang out with me (spoiler alert – it never works!) I’ve read 3 books, baked, cooked dinner, been for numerous cafe dates, went to Cinderella (sooo good!) and the Woman in Gold (even better!) and done so much lazing in my pyjamas over multiple cups of coffee.
DSCF1441
my sister Sarah is the greatest cook and cooks dinner almost every night which blows my track record when i still lived at home out of the water. the one night i managed to wrest the kitchen off her i decided to make this fragrant asian broth, with vermicelli noodles and chicken coriander balls – it’s so good! it is one of our family’s faves and aways feels like such a treat. i figured that after hot cross buns pudding and profiteroles, it was high time that i posted a savoury, healthy recipe – and this ticks all the boxes.
DSCF1445
we have grown up on asian food – my mum has always cooked us stirfries, curries and more and we have gone through many rice cookers over the years. since we grew up eating spicy food and there was not much room for fussiness in our house, we all have extremely tolerant palates and were amazed at the thought of people NOT enjoying spicy food! i’ll never forget making butter chicken in home economics in year 7 – as you can imagine, this being Christchurch, NZ, it was the mildest mixture with just a hint of spice – half the students couldn’t eat it they found it so hot, and here was 11 year old Anna disgusted by the lack of flavour!!
DSCF1444
don’t worry, this soup isn’t hot unless you want it to be – i like to let people stir through their chosen amount of chilli through their soup, which eliminates the chances of the home ec situation repeating itself! it is light and filling at the same time – the flavours are all super light and fragrant, but since there is tons of liquid it’s very satisfying. the yummiest thing for winter time, when you need a break from the heavy ‘comfort food’ like potatoes and roasts and casseroles. this is just as comforting, but less food coma inducing! and note – with dunedin’s polar blast we are currently experiencing (snow in april, it’s no joke) this would be the most ideal way to thaw out!
next time – i need to chat about my birthday! it was on wednesday and I had the happiest day – goodness gracious how did I get such wonderful people in my life? my family, friends and flatmates were so so good to me and my heart was overflowing.
DSCF1451
fragrant chicken coriander broth 
adapted from ray mcvinnie’s numerous asian soup recipes
2 litres chicken stock (the real stuff, not just chicken stock powder)
a bunch of coriander
1 kg chicken breasts, cubed
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp crushed ginger (or as much as you want, really)
10 thin slices of ginger
4 carrots, julienned
4 bunches bok choy, sliced in think ribbons
6 button mushrooms, very finely sliced
a packet of vermicelli noodles
minced chilli, to taste
blitz the chicken breasts, garlic, crushed ginger and coriander stems (not the leaf/frond part, save those for the end) in the food processor until all combined and chicken minced.
heat chicken stock in a big stock pot to a simmer and add ginger slices. use a teaspoon to make walnut sized balls of chicken, and plop them in as you go. they are cooked when they rise to the top. add carrot, mushrooms and bok choy. let simmer for 5 – 10 mins or until carrot is cooked. rehydrate the vermicelli in boiling water and drain.
Place vermicelli in bowls and ladle over the broth. add minced chilli to taste and top with coriander leaves. Enjoy!
DSCF1453

sticky chicken

the last few hours have just been a mush of laughing and jumping around and hugs- my brother has just found out he’s received a scholarship for uni next year, after previously being turned down, they received more funding or something and so now he’s got one!! we are just over the moon for him – it was a big shock when he didn’t get one as he’s a fabulous kid and has been a real leader in school and community.

it was just as well, then, that i was halfway through making this chicken: eminently worthy of a celebratory meal, if i do say so myself. i also made a scrummy salad that i’ll elaborate on in my next post- think indian spiced potato salad with toasted coconut shards.

this recipe is one that i’ve tweaked and muddled with over the years – i think the original was a judith cullen recipe. i love the way your favourites evolve out of inspiration, necessity, memory loss or sheer laziness – there’s something lovely about a recipe you’ve made your own.

IMG_5387

the other cool thing about this recipe is that you can quite happily leave out one or two ingredients without it being too harmed – the exception would be the brown sugar (though honey could be substituted), soy or chilli. This time around we didn’t have any garlic on hand and it’s getting to the time of year where nz garlic isn’t readily available, so i left it out.
i would encourage you to try and make it with the complete ingredients however – it is very very good just the way it is! with lemon juice and tamarind providing a mouth puckering sourness, chilli giving heat, fragrant lemongrass and ginger – yum!

IMG_5365

sticky chicken

note: I used a kilogram (two pounds) of thickly sliced chicken breasts, however whole breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks, even a butterflied whole chicken would work nicely here.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp minced lemongrass (tube is fine)
2 tbsp minced chilli
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
a 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
zest and juice of a lemon

1 kg chicken (see note above)

mix together marinade ingredients, then mix with chicken, and allow to sit for at least 1 hour. Place in 180 C/375 F oven and bake for 30 mins (longer if cooking larger pieces). The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear.

Take the chicken out of the pan with a slotted spoon, then pour the liquid into a saucepan and let simmer for ten or so mins to reduce down to a thick syrupy sauce, then drizzle over the chicken and serve!

congrats willbill, we’re all so proud of you xx

jfkaj-copy_edited