Monday, 27 August 2007

Night Markets and Sunday Cooking

Canberra's inaugural Night Markets were on last week, for 3 days only. The Bloke and I went to check it out on Friday. It was so very pretty, I really wanted to love it. The lights were shimmering reflections in the lake, the bare trees were sculpturally lovely in red, blue and green floodlights, a cheerful band was playing something Afro-Latiny, and there was the scent of mulled wine in the air. How could you go wrong?

Well, by undercatering. There were a few food stalls, but the only one with a queue less than 50 people deep was the Chameleon icecreamery. And even if you were prepared to wait for your food, you'd then have to stand in another even longer one for your mulled wine. We're not a fan of queues, so we had a bit of a peek at the stalls - which were also few and very crowded - and buggered off for a quick Thai dinner in Braddon. I don't feel that I missed much by leaving early; the stall holders were mostly recognisable from EPIC and Kingston. But I do really hope they do it again next year, only better.

So onto Sunday and the cooking. I usually get home from work around 6.30 or 7pm, so getting well-prepared for the week is an important part of the weekend. I shopped at the Belconnen markets on Saturday. Asian veggies were cheap, so I decided on Shanghai noodles with brown bean sauce for Sunday night. I also cooked up some old apples into an interesting stew with dried quandongs. Something to top the breakfast porridge, while winter lasts. I picked up some rabbit sausages from Eco Meats, which I'm thinking of cooking with lentils later in the week. And the Bloke requested a chilli, so I got some roo mince (Eco Meats again) for a big pot of Chilli con Skippy. It only occurred to me when I got home that everything was minced. Oh well.

1. Aussie Apple Compote
30 g dried quandongs
6 small-medium apples
1 tablespoon brandy
2 tablespoons redgum honey
Soak the quandongs in 1/2 cup hot water for an hour. Peel, core and quarter the apples, and toss into the quandong mix. This is a bit acid so no need to acidulate the water. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the apple is just slightly underdone to your taste. Add brandy and honey, and simmer for another 5 minutes until well-mixed and the alcohol is burned off.

Use more or less honey to taste. I like it fairly tart, so possibly you'll want more. I prefer a eucalyptus honey. Cooking times and results will depend on the apples - I had a mix of old golden delicious, which keep their shape, and some mystery reddish ones which went to mush.

2. Shanghai Noodles with Brown Bean Pork Sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 large spring onions (scallions), chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

350g minced lean pork
1 small can water chestnuts, chopped
4 tablespoons brown bean sauce
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water & 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder)
400g pack Shanghai noodles
2 cups beansprouts
Green veg of choice for accompaniment - bok choy, gai lan, broccoli etc.
1 tablespoon Ketjap manis

Fry the spring onion, garlic and ginger in the sesame oil until the onion is just wilted. Add the pork, and fry until coloured. Add the water chestnuts, bean paste, hoi sin and stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated.

Rinse your bean sprouts in a large colander. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and add the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain them right over the top of the bean sprouts. Stir the now wilted sprouts through the noodles and serve them up with the sauce on top, and a side of steamed Asian veg drizzled with ketjap manis.
(Serves 4)

Notes: This is adapted from a Terry Durack recipe, from his Noodle book - he says it's like a Chinese spaghetti bolognese. Compared to Terry's version, I changed the spice balance a bit, reduced the meat and added the water chestnuts, for an interesting crunchy texture which contrasts well with the soft noodles. The various brown bean sauces available from Asian grocers can be quite different, making this a little unpredictable. I do find it's usually quite salty, so beware if you are averse to salt.

Cooking today: Nothing; that was all yesterday. We had the chilli tonight; I'll save a recipe or thoughts on that for later.

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