My passion for cooking has been influenced by various sources. My mother is an amazing cook and taught me how to navigate my way around the kitchen from a young age. Mum is currently enjoying teaching my two-year-old niece how to cook biscuits so I am guessing I started helping in the kitchen at a similar age. Another early influence was my first weekend job as a kitchen hand working at a local guesthouse in the Blue Mountains called Pegum’s (no longer in operation). I very quickly branched out from stacking the dishwasher to helping with plating up the food and being in charge of the deep fryer. This recipe is trying to re-create a Thai rockmelon salad I remember from my Pegum’s days.
The shrimp paste in this recipe has been listed as optional, because it is one of those ingredients you need to be brave and get past the smell to use. You should be able to track shrimp paste down in the Asian section of your supermarket. Shrimp paste has an overpowering smell, and must be cooked before use; once it is roasted the flavour isn’t as strong. The SBS Food website suggests to wrap a small amount of shrimp paste in foil and put into a hot oven or hold over flame using tongs to cook. Then cool and crumble and it is ready to use.
Rockmelon is known as cantaloupe to Americans. Feel free to experiment using other melons or fruits. The dressing would be delicious on shredded green mango, this suggestion is inspired by a green mango salad I tried at a food court in Chang Mai during my first trip to Thailand. Green mangos can be tricky to find, but you could try an Asian supermarket.
Thai Rockmelon Salad
- 100g roasted peanuts
- 1 bunch of coriander
- 4 spring onions
- 4 birds eye chillies (or to taste)
- 2 large or 3 small limes
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon roasted shrimp paste (optional – see notes above)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 rockmelon
- Chop the rockmelon into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and peel off the skin. Chop into chunks.
- Zest and juice the limes. Add the juice and zest to a blender.
- Chop the ends and dark green parts off the spring onions.
- Wash the coriander thoroughly. Pick the leaves off the coriander and finely chop. Reserve two of the coriander roots for the sauce.
- Add the garlic, chilis, fish sauce, spring onions, roasted shrimp paste, two coriander roots and half the peanuts to the blender.
- Blend until everything is combined.
- Add the remaining peanuts and blend very briefly. You want to retain some peanut texture. You will end up with a thick paste.
- Scape the sauce out of the bender onto the chopped rockmelon. Stir to coat the rockmelon.
- Add the chopped coriander and stir to combine. You can either eat straight away or store for up to a day or two. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Thai inspired recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
The weather in Sydney is warming up (apart from some freaky weather last week that resulted in snow in the Blue Mountains), and with the warmer weather I tend to prefer lighter meals.
There is such a wide variety of oils and vinegars available, that salad ideas are really only limited by your imagination (and perhaps your budget).
Dressing ideas include walnut oil & white balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and ideas for salad greens include watercress, rocket, baby spinach, herbs such as parsley, mint.
Goat cheese or chèvre is a lovely addition to a salad, it’s creamy crumbly texture and tangy flavour adds an extra dimension.
There were no fresh raspberries available this week at my greengrocer so I used frozen raspberries.
The recipe below provides quantities for one, it can be easily scaled depending on how may people you are catering for.
Raspberry, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad
- 20g shelled pistachios
- 50g goat cheese or chèvre
- 1/2 a bunch of watercress or other salad greens
- 20g or 1/2 a punnet of raspberries
- 2 teaspoons pistachio oil
- 2 teaspoons raspberry vinegar
- Heat oven to 180°C and toast your pistachios for 10 minutes.
- Allow the pistachios to cool.
- Pick your watercress into sprigs, discard the excess stalks, and add your sprigs to a bowl
- Add the pistachio oil and raspberry vinegar to the watercress sprigs and toss to coat everything in the dressing
- Crumble the goat cheese into your salad
- Add your raspberries and toasted pistachios. Your salad is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite salad recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
We may think of pomegranates as being exotic and a little intimidating, but they have been part of the Australian psyche for a long time. Notably, in the form of grenadine syrup, the sticky red cordial that is used in pubs to make pink lemonade & other mixed drinks [I’ve even seen grenadine used in a schooner of Guinness for the ladies, but haven’t tried this so can’t comment if it is a good idea or not].
Pomegranates are becoming more common and affordable in our fruit and vegetable shops, so today’s post is dedicated to ideas on how to use them.
De-seeding a pomegranate: The parts you use are the pretty jewel-like seeds inside the pomegranate and the juice. To get the seeds out of a pomegranate there are lots of tips and techniques – some say cut in half and whack with a wooden spoon to dislodge the seeds. I cut the pomegranate in half, and squeeze each half over a bowl – lots of juice and seeds will come out. I then proceed to rip the half apart, popping out the seeds as I go. Remove any pithy bits that make their way into the bowl. Pomegranate can stain so you may want to use plastic gloves and be careful not to get splatters on your clothes.
A tip I learnt from one of Nigella’s recipe books, is that pomegranate seeds freeze really well. Remove the seeds as described above, then transfer to a zip-lock plastic bag or a container and freeze until needed. You might want to freeze just the seeds [not the juice], otherwise you will end up with an ice-block and you will need to defrost the whole thing to use – if you have frozen just the seeds they will be on standby to sprinkle a handful over a bowl of Hummus or Tzatziki for decoration or to add to salads, fruit salad and other dishes.
Burghul comes in fine or coarse varieties, I use coarse for the texture. Burghul is also spelt bulgur, burghul or bulgar. If you want a gluten-free alternative to burghul, you could substitute quinoa.
Wishing a Happy Mothers Day to all mums, including my mum for tomorrow.
Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli
* This recipe was inspired by one that appeared in the November 2003 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 1 cup burghul
- 2 lemons finely zested & juiced [if this is too lemony for you, use just the juice]
- 2 pomegranates – seeds & juice removed
- 1 bunch watercress, sprigs picked
- 1 large Spanish or red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch mint, leaves removed & finely chopped
- 1 bunch flat leaf or Italian parsley, leaves removed & finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely diced
- ¼ cup olive oil [extra virgin preferred]
- Salt & pepper
- Add lemon zest [if using], salt and pepper to the burghul.
- Add lemon juice, pomegranate juice to a measuring jug, fill up with water to equal 1 ¼ cups of liquid and add to the burghul mix.
- Allow to burghul time to stand and absorb the liquid – you can test when it is ready by tasting to make sure the grains are tender [you should end up with a sloppy mix when this is finished, the extra liquid will coat the greens later].
- If you are substituting quinoa, cook according to instructions on the pack but using the lemon juice & pomegranate juice.
- Prepare the watercress, mint, parsley, onion, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds, combine in a bowl.
- Add the soaked burghul and olive oil. Toss to combine.
- Can be eaten straight away or keeps for up to a day or two in the fridge. Enjoy.
How do you use pomegranates? Has this post inspired any new ideas?