Auguest 2019: Brendon D'Souza

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

Hi Foodies, it’s Brendon D’Souza from @brendonthesmilingchef here.

It’s an honour to take part in Auguest once again this year at AMCarmen’s Kitchen. Allison and I met in Sydney a few years ago through Instagram, and then in-person at a food blogging event I hosted. Since then we’ve had countless foodie adventures together.

I started a food blog called Brendon The Smiling Chef around 2012, following the success of a recipe column of the same name. I wrote, styled, and photographed the recipes of my favourite dishes and reviewed some of my favourite restaurants and cafes. The blog continued to run until around 2016. I then focused on photography and a few other passions, worked for tech startups like Deliveroo and Tix and eventually landed a role at a global workspace provider. Earlier this year I launched my photography business Sydney Food Photography. I’ve been lucky to collaborate with some amazing brands like Samsung, OzHarvest and more.

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

When I received the theme for this year, I knew I wanted to take a playful twist on the definition of fruit. Potatoes are called pomme de terre in French which could literally translate to ‘apple of the earth’ and peppers (or capsicums as we call them in Australia), are also technically a fruit of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Gnocchi are delightful potato dumplings made with a few simple ingredients. They are one of my favourite comfort food this winter and pair very well with a tangy roasted pepper sauce.

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

PREP TIME 25 MINS | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR 30 MINS | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

For the gnocchi

  • 500g potatoes, skin on
  • 200g plain flour + extra
  • 1 free-range egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the peppers

  • 1 large red pepper, sliced
  • 1 large yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil + extra

To serve

  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • Grated Grana Padano or other hard Italian cheese, to serve

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

METHOD

  1. Preparing the Potatoes: Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until cooked through. A knife should glide through the potato when it’s cooked. Remove from the heat and drain. Cover the potatoes with cold water and set aside to cool.
  2. Roasted Peppers: Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan forced. Toss the peppers with a little olive oil and garlic slices. Spread in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 20-25 minutes until the peppers have softened and start to caramelise around the edges. You may need to stir the peppers in the pan while roasting. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Potato Gnocchi: Once the potatoes have cooled, peel and then mash. Add the 200g of flour, egg yolk, salt and pepper and mix with a wooden spoon to form a pliable dough. If the mixture looks a little sticky, add more flour until it forms a ball. It will look and feel like play dough.
  4. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Sprinkle a chopping board with some extra flour. Divide the dough into quarters and roll to form a 1.5cm thick sausage. Cut the sausage into 1cm thick slices with a sharp knife dipped in some cold water. This helps to prevent the dough from sticking. I like to make my gnocchi a little rough and leave them as discs.
  5. Cook the gnocchi in small batches for 2-3 minutes. They will float to the surface when they have cooked through. Remove to large heatproof bowl and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
  6. Add the roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes, and parsley to the gnocchi and toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and grated Grana Padano to serve and enjoy!

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

Optional extra: I love the taste and texture of pan-fried gnocchi. To do so, heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp butter and a drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the gnocchi in batches and sauté until golden brown.

Potato Gnocchi with Red & Yellow Peppers

Check out my foodie adventures on Instagram at @brendonthesmilingchef

Photo Courtesy & Recipe Copyright © 2019 | Brendon D’Souza

BON APPÉTIT

– Brendon D’Souza

myTaste.com

Risoni al Ratatouille

Risoni al Ratatouille

Risoni al Ratatouille

Hello Everyone! Today is the last day of Pasta Month; sad to be ending as I actually have a whole lot more pasta dishes that I want to try out, but also happy to move onto a new theme for next month! Just a heads up though – the likelihood of a theme not happening is quite possible. I did have a theme in mind, and I’ve already prepared and cooked two dishes for it in advanced, the only problem is getting two more made for next month’s theme is quite unlikely. I say this because I am heading off to the Philippines on Saturday for about a month! Because of that, I probably won’t have time to cook. I also will not be sure if I will have Internet connection during my stay there so the likelihood of me uploading content for the month of July might not happen as well. So I guess I’ll just see how it goes – if posting on my blog is a problem, then you can follow me over on Instagram @amcarmenskitchen to follow my food journey while I am in the Philippines – I’ll make sure to keep that up to speed 🙂

Anyway, so okay, the dish is not quite a Ratatouille (I just thought naming it for this post would make it sounds fancier than it looks, hehe) – more like it’s inspired by some of the vegetables used to make a ratatouille *cheeky grin* but nonetheless, it still tastes pretty good for something that I just “whipped up” with the ingredients lying in the fridge and the pantry. You can bulk this dish up by adding meat or seafood if you wish, but I decided to keep this dish vegetarian.

Risoni al Ratatouille Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 15 MINS | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g risoni, or other shaped pasta
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 red bird’s eye chilies, sliced
  • 2 medium-szied Lebanese eggplants, sliced into 1-inch thick chunks and then quartered
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into 1-inch thick chunks and then quartered
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 punnet (125g) cherry tomato medley, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut into thirds
  • 1 tbsp baby capers, washed and drained
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Handful of grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

METHOD

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add in the risoni pasta and cook according to packet instructions or until al dente (mine was about 11 minutes).
  2. While your pasta is cooking away, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Sauté the garlic and chilies until golden brown and fragrant, about a minute, and then add in the onions, cooking until soft for another minute or two.
  3. Add in the asparagus, together with the zucchini and eggplant, cooking until soft for about 6-7 minutes. Season with a bit of ground salt and black pepper. Add in the cherry tomatoes and leave to cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Lastly, add in the capers and then turn the heat off.
  4. Once the risoni is done, drain, and then return to the pot. Add in the stir-fried veggies to the pot with the risoni and then give it a good mix.
  5. Divide the risoni equally into 6 portions and then top with a generous handful of  grate parmesan cheese and some ground black pepper. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Risoni al Ratatouille

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole

Hello Everyone! It’s week 2 of Pasta Month and let me tell you a little story (don’t I always? *cheeky grin*) before I move on to the recipe. The first time I had squid ink pasta was in an Italian Restaurant when I was studying in Sydney. If I’m not mistaken, the restaurant is called Pizza e Birra on Crown Street in the suburb of Surry Hills. I was having a fancy dinner night out with my flatmate at that time and squid ink pasta was on their specials menu. I was a bit hesitant at first because I obviously hadn’t tried it before and to be honest, I was a bit put off knowing that the colour of the pasta would be black (yes, at that time my palette wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it is right now). To my surprise, the squid ink pasta tasted like any normal pasta – it was just that the colour that was different to me. I’ve had my fair share of squid ink pastas, both in Australia, and here in Brunei. I decided to combine my favourite flavours from both experiences to put up this dish to share with you guys.

I’ve never made fresh squid ink pasta at home, and only because I have no idea where to source squid ink from besides from the ink sacs of fresh squids/cuttle fish. I did some reading online and found that you can actually buy bottled squid ink, but you definitely won’t find them in stores here in Brunei. Heck they don’t even have store bought squid ink pasta here! So how did I manage to source mine? Well, if you’re a regular follower/reader of my blog, you’ll know that I was in Singapore a couple of months back. I was shopping for groceries with my friends for a dinner party that night and I was flabbergasted by all the produce and products found in that grocery store. I was supposed to be focused on grabbing the ingredients I needed to cook my dish for that night, but instead I wandered off, going from aisle to aisle, looking at anything and everything. I found myself in the pasta aisle and that where I came across store bought squid ink pasta. You had no idea how excited and in shock I was when I saw it – because I had no idea that you could buy it on the shelves; and without any hesitation at all, I bought myself a pack to bring back here to Brunei. I know, I know – I’m crazy right? Haha. My next mission will be tomato squid ink pasta from scratch, and I’ll definitely share it on my blog whenever I get around to trying it out! For now, here’s one recipe you can do for your squid ink pasta:

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 10-15 MINS | SERVES 5

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pack (500g) squid ink pasta*
  • 1 pack (250g) cherry tomato medley, halved
  • 1 fish bouillon cube, dissolved in 2/3 cup of boiling water
  • 250g baby clam meat
  • 4 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 2 large squids, cleaned and cut into pieces
  • 1 lemon, wedged
  • 1/2 bulb garlic, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley, roughly chopped

*Fresh homemade squid ink pasta or store bought is fine for this recipe

METHOD

  1. Lightly score the inner surface of the squid, or alternatively, cut into rings. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the squid ink spaghetti according to packet instructions or until al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking away, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high. Sauté the minced garlic and chillies together until golden brown and fragrant.
  4. Add the clam meat, juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of ground black pepper. Give it a good mix before adding the fish bouillon stock. Turn the heat down to low and leave to simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Add in the calamari when the pasta is almost done.
  5. Once the pasta is done, drain and then transfer to the calamari and clam mixture. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and then give it a good mix. Top with the chopped parsley and then turn the heat off.
  6. Serve immediately with a lemon wedge. Enjoy!

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia con Calamari e Vongole

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

Hello Everyone! To kick off the week, we have something that might not fit people’s fancy. Yes, you read the title right, ANCHOVIES. I know a lot of people hate anchovies, in fact I heard from my manager while she was doing research for her client that there is even a ‘National Pizza with Everything (except Anchovies) Day’ which falls on the 12th of November. Both my manager and I found this ridiculous because we both love us some anchovies. If you too are part of the haters club, then just substitute the anchovies in this recipe for something else.

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

The links to the pizza dough and white-based pizza sauce is linked below in the ingredients list. Now, if you’re like me and don’t have a peel (a shovel-like tool used by bakers to slide loaves of bread, pizzas, and other baked goods into and out of an oven), then make sure that you roll out your pizza dough onto baking paper to ease in transferring the pizza onto the pizza stone.

Anchovies & Capers Pizza Ingredients

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 10-15 MINS | SERVES 3-4

INGREDIENTS

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place your pizza stone in the oven as well to heat it up.
  2. Roll out your dough to a circle the same size as your pizza stone on a lightly floured surface as thick or thin as you want.
  3. Brush around the edge with a little water, then create a wall of the mozzarella cheese all the way around. Fold the edge over the mozzarella wall and seal it in by pressing down on the damp dough to form a stuffed crust.
  4. Spread a thin layer of sauce onto the dough. Be very careful not to overdo the sauce; if you use too much sauce, it’ll be too rich and also will bubble over the pizza and burn. A quarter cup to a third is just about right per pizza.
  5. Top the pizza with anchovies, bocconcini, capers, cherry tomatoes, chilli flakes, and olives. If these aren’t quite to your fancy, then get creative and top your pizza with your favourite toppings.
  6. Carefully remove the stone from the oven and quickly slide the pizza over the top of the stone. Place it back in the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until cooked all the way through. It should not take more than 15 minutes in total.
  7. Remove from the oven and top with fresh rocket leaves before serving.

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

Anchovies & Capers Pizza

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Hello Everyone! I can’t believe that it’s already February, which means sad times ahead as I only have less than two week in this beautiful city I have been calling home for the past 4 years. I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that once I leave, the possibility of coming back is unlikely. Yes I will be back for graduation, but after that it’s quite possible that it’s sayōnara for good.

So why am I starting off my blog post on this matter? Well it’s because leaving and knowing you won’t be back in a long time has me in this cleaning-up-the-pantry phase. I discovered that I have a tin of pearl barley in my pantry and so I wanted to make use of this. I came across a recipe on the Food Network for a Barley Greek Salad and decided to give this a try. I didn’t change much of the recipe besides the fact that I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar only because I had about a quarter of a bottle left of balsamic. I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of red wine vinegar seeing as I didn’t have any (since my whole point is to clear the pantry)! I also decided to throw in some avocado chunks instead of cucumber because for those who know me, cucumber isn’t my thing.

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Easy, simple, and packed with lots of flavour. Good for a light and healthy (I presume) lunch or as a side to a classic Aussie summer BBQ. The flavours worked really well together; you’ve got the saltiness from the olives, counterbalanced with the acidity of the balsamic vinegar. You’ve got the freshness of the added vegetables as well as the crunch from the diced capsicum, chewiness from the pearl barley, and creaminess of the avocado. Like fireworks in your mouth I tell you; an absolute burst of flavours to the palette!

Greek-inspired Barley Salad Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 45 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup danish feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 punnet (250g) cherry tomato medley, quartered
  • 1 small red capsicum, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 1 small red spanish onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt

METHOD

  1. Combine the barley, 3 cups water, and a pinch salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes. Strain* and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, feta, olives, mint, capsicum and shallots in a large bowl. Once the barley has cooled down, add it to the bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a separate small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and dress the salad and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It’s best to make the barley salad at least 3 hours ahead of time so the flavours have time to incorporate and mingle into each other.

*Optional: when straining the barley, reserve the water for drinking. There are numerous health benefits associated to drinking barley water such as lowering cholesterol levels in the body because of its high fibre content. Barley water also helps reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. It is a good source of magnesium, which reacts with various enzymes involving glucose levels in the body. To find out more about the health benefits of barley water, check out the Diet Health Club.

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Ampersand Café & Bookstore is one that I am very fond of mainly because of the memories and conversations shared over food. I have been going to Ampersand on a frequent basis over the past 4 years; it was the go-to brunch/lunch spot before or after classes at the then-COFA (now known as UNSW Art & Design). I remember popping by the café with Bec many times before our 9am classes; I would always get a regular latte, and she would always get a regular flat white. Then there are many times we’d visit for a quick brunch/lunch in between classes. Most recently, it was an after photography class lunch date for Anastasia, Jess, Jialing, and myself. We would sit and talk about the most random things for 2 hours, and even quote from White Chicks all throughout lunch.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

What I also love about this café is that it is also a bookstore! It has a rustic, or as one would use the term, ‘hipster’ feel to it which makes it even that more inviting for the suburb that it is in. The café and bookstore has three amazing floors of dining areas surrounded with an adjoining library and bookstore with many books to choose from. A great place for those who just want to sit and immerse themselves in a book over a cup of coffee, or with friends over food.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Besides all the fond memories I have of this café, and the cozy ambience, the coffee and food are also quite excellent! The menu that you are about to see in this post is some of the dishes that my friends and I have indulged in. I have had many more dishes from this café but I think that during first two years of visiting this café I wasn’t taking any photos or I just can’t seem to find where the photographs are if I did take any. I have indulged in the Ampersandian, the Morning After Breakfast, and their Club Sandwich from their counter items. Nonetheless, I feel like the dishes on this post are quite a good range of the food that Ampersand has to offer. Also, I should make mention that they also have another café known as Ampersand on Crown | Café, Bar & Bookstore. I actually didn’t know that this existed until I went and had brunch with some friends at  Rustic Pearl. Ampersand on Crown was just right next to it! 413 Crown Street, Surry Hills for those who want to know where!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
brewed using Allpress Beans (Regular $3.30, Large $3.80)

Their coffee art amazes me every time. I have yet to come across an ampersand on the drink as I have seen in many Facebook/Instagram posts by others.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
Nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, and honey served with hot milk ($4.80)

What really struck me about this drink was that, on their blackboard menu, it said ‘seahorse eggs’. Being naive and gullible at that time, I legitimately thought that the drink actually had seahorse eggs it in. Only then did I come to a realisation that the seahorse eggs referred to the frothy, fizzing bubbles in the drink. I was not disappointed though; the drink was absolutely amazing! However, probably not a great idea to have before a boring lecture (which was what I did at the time). It’s all in the name of the drink!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
Arborio & barley risotto, confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto ($15.90)

What attracted me to this dish was the fact that it was originally ‘arborio & barley risotto, tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta’ on their blackboard menu. The combination sounded so great in my head that I had no second thoughts of wanting to order it. However, for a reason that I cannot remember, the lady at the cashier told me that their risotto for that day was confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto. At first I was hesitating whether or not I should have that or order something else off their menu, but at that time there wasn’t anything else that tickled my fancy. So I decided to go for this, and absolutely no regrets. It tasted amazing! But I secretly think that the tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta would’ve been amazing-er!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
Braised beef cheeks (slow-cooked), seasonal veggies, potato rösti, and poached egg ($16.90)

This dish, that Jialing ordered and we shared with Annie, was again to die for! The only criticism I have with this dish that it said ‘poached egg’ and the egg we for that day was what you would get between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg. No runny yolk! Disappointed. Other than that, the beef cheeks where tender and full of flavour; verging on the dry side which is why it was important that we had that runny yolk!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

I mean, if these empty plates of the first two dishes mentioned above does not convince you of their deliciousness, then you sir are not my friend (the other empty plate is of the stuffed red capsicum which is the very last photograph on this post).

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
served with aïoli ($6.00)

This is a winner side dish for me. I never fail to order these babies each time I visit Ampersand. But sadly over the past month in late October, early November last year, I did not get to have any. Why? Because their deep fryer had been broken during those times. But for a month? Pure torture. I have not been back since our last photography class which was in early November. Maybe it’s time I paid another visit – hopefully their deep fryer is fixed by now! I just love the thin crispy sweet potato sliced paired with garlic-y and tangy aïoli.

Besides their blackboard menu, they also have a selection of pre-cooked counter items. Possibly an easier and quick option for those who have their breakfast/lunch/brunch to go, but that never stopped us from trying them ourselves over a two hour lunch session. You can probably tell that we have a thing for their arancini as it appears in almost every counter item on this post, but are paired with a different salad each time. This is because no salad is ever the same whenever we visit the café. One thing that I do love about their salads is that they aren’t your regular Joe that you see in almost every café; they are pretty exotic to your taste buds! Black sticky rice? Miso chic pea? Cracked wheat? I mean, who would’ve thought these combinations would work so well?! Yum! So what you can do is order an arancini, sandwich, wrap, or whatever hot dish they have at the counter, and then add $5.00 on top for a salad on the side.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Chic pea salad with miso and red wine dressing, enoki, kale, and raw zucchini (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Cracked wheat salad with mixed beans, feta, grilled sweet potato, asparagus, and sweet & sour paprika dressing (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Roasted eggplant and cracked wheat salad with green peas, red pepper, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
Poached egg, crispy bacon, spinach, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise ($9.50) & Black sticky rice salad with cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, rocket, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
with pearl barley, pumpkin, feta, and spinach purée ($5.90)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore
78 Oxford Street
Paddington, New South Wales
Australia, 2021

– Ally xx