Holiday lunch – Michelin stylz !

I think I will be disqualified from entering any Michelin star restaurants in the future for using the word “stylz” in my header. Soooo not on, but hopefully it conveys my excitement about having dined at a Michelin star restaurant for the very first time (possibly the last) in my/our life. ZOMG!

So, we were cruising through the Kentish countryside and a good friend had informed us of a “very affordable” Michelin star restaurant called “Apicius“.  Apicius refers to a collection of Roman cooking recipes though the word “apicius” was a common phrase for the Roman “foodie” back in 4-5 A.D. Intrigued by their name and under £30 lunch fare, I found out where they were (Cranbrook, Kent), their number and decided to call and ask if they’d have a table for Sunday lunchtime. This was about 6pm on Saturday and I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a table the following day. So began our Michelin dining adventure.

Did you know that the “Michelin Red Guide” which rates and lists all Michelin starred restaurants was an invention of the Michelin brothers of the Michelin tyre fame ?

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Colourful vegetarian risotto

The Italian risotto is something I didn’t make in my kitchen for a while after I started cooking. I’d usually pay money to eat it as it was one of those things that I didn’t cook in my kitchen. Once, in the small town of Palmerston North, New Zealand, in a “fancy” restaurant, I had a roast vegetable risotto. The rice was half-raw (no, not al dente) and I got put off the taste for a while. A little later, a friend made a spinach-pesto risotto that was so rich, I was ill the next day. Once again, I was put off risotto for a while. A few months later, another friend of mine made a very nice roast vegetable risotto with pesto and I thought I’d put it back on my list of things I like to eat. Clearly, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this dish.

In the first year of my PhD, I met a postdoctoral fellow whose husband was a chef. One day, she gave me his recipe for a mushroom risotto (he is also a mushroom grower by hobby) while chatting over lunch. I soon tried it and ever since I tried it, I’ve been in love with it. I make modifications in terms of what veges I add but the basic recipe is always the same. I have also taught my partner to make it who has extraordinary patience for stirring the risotto after each addition of stock. As a result, his risottos are always better than mine. The recipe here is for a red and yellow capsicum, zucchini and brown mushroom risotto. To spice it I use pepper, lemon rind and lemon juice. We loved it and hope you do too.

Multi-coloured risotto ready to eat

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Chinese vegetarian dumplings

Having lived in  Melbourne, I got accustomed to being able to have vegetarian dumplings whenever my heart desired them. There is the infamous Camy Shanghai Dumpling House on Tattersall’s lane off Little Bourke St with its dinky staircases, Dumplings Plus on Swanston St where you can see the chefs make them and more authentic ones in Doncaster whose names I don’t know because I cannot read Chinese characters. You could get anywhere between 12 and 16 dumplings for AUD 6 and between my partners and his friends, they would easily wolf down 6 plates of these delectable dumplings.

There is something very comforting about these little steamed balls of rice filled with vegetables. Dunking them in dumpling sauce and biting into them while they are steaming hot always brought me great joy. Then we moved to England and where we live, dumplings are very hard to come by. When you do come by them, they are very expensive and not so great in variety and taste. As in most situations like this, I decided to have a crack at making them in our kitchen. The raw materials were very easy to find and while making them was a bit finicky, then end result was pretty satisfying. Do try them and let me know how you go.

Tsingtao and dumplings for dinner

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Quick dinner series: With olive bread and soft goat’s cheese

I think I have confessed before that I am a slow cook. Cooking relaxes me and is my unwind at the end of the working day and so I take my own sweet time at it. However, we all have those days when we just can’t be bothered and I’m no exception. I still like to pretend I’ve put some effort into my dinner and try and jazz up our dinners even if they are simple. Here I present one such pretence with olive bread and goat’s cheese. They were dinners on 2 consecutive days. Easy and tasty!

Please note: I love avocado (much to my partner’s dismay) and will throw it on everything I can but please don’t feel obliged to.

a. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with mushrooms sautéed with thyme and finished off with fresh tomatoes and avocado
b. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with a salad of tomatoes, olives, croutons, avocado, olive oil and lemon juice and served with fresh rocket.

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