Creamy Garlic Prawns with Moroccan Cous Cous


This recipe is one of the classic favorites in my kitchen. We try not to have it too often because of the high butter and cream content, also because prawns are not cheap - but whenever we do feel like we should indulge in a special treat, Garlic Prawns it is! The best thing about this dish is that it is so simple and easy to prepare. Even the Moroccan Cous Cous featured in this recipe is easy to prepare!


Look out for this jar of Ainsley Harriot Spice Sensation Cous Cous at any CostCo outlet - amazing Moroccan flavors! Also as easy to prepare as it sounds on the label "just add water" is pretty much all you need to do! I like adding some salt and maybe a bit of butter for extra fluffiness but not when I'm serving it with Garlic Prawns because the sauce really compliments its natural flavors.

Creamy Garlic Prawns with Moroccan Cous Cous

Ingredients:
500g large prawns, tail stays on
100g butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped very finely (or use 1 teaspoon garlic mince from a jar)
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup white wine
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2/3 cup fat reduced cream

Optional:
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk, OR
1 tablespoon peanut butter

Method:
Using some of the butter to grease a wok / large frypan, cook prawns on medium high heat until the prawns are red (cooked). Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt the rest of the butter, add the garlic and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes, make sure you keep stirring! Then add wine a bit at a time and stir until wine is reduced by 1/3. Keep stirring until the sauce is consistent and thick.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper (and whatever else you may like to add... I would recommend maybe sweetened condensed milk for the sweeter taste, or peanut butter for a more satay taste) and add parsley.

Reduce heat and add the cream into the pan. Return prawns into the pan. Heat until gently simmering.

Serve prawns on a bed of Moroccan Cous Cous cooked according to directions, with a side of salad / steamed veggies. Sprinkle with more parsley for presentation.

How much "value for money" are you really getting from Group Buying Sites?

I used to think eBay was my biggest online shopping temptation. Not anymore. For me, I think it all started when Catch of The Day introduced the concept of daily deals. I believe the idea is to heavily discount one item and put it out there on the internet "on sale" for 24 hours. Basically, although the profit per item is close to none - when thousands of people buy the same item on the same day, it becomes a win-win situation. Distributors are happy to sell overstocked items and consumers are happy to buy cheap.

However, an extension of daily deals websites have extended to "Group Buying" sites and have particularly exploded in Australia in 2010 even though it is already big in the States.  The way it works is quite simple - a single bargain goes on sale, for a limited time usually 24 hours, and must reach a minimum number of buyers before the deal is on. Fail to reach the minimum and the deal doesn't go through, though in practice this rarely ever happens.

Today, the market is made up of sites like Scoopon, Spreets, Cudo, LivingSocial, Zoupon, JumpOnIt, OurDeal, Ouffer, Crowdmass and Vowcha.

The original daily deals concept of selling PRODUCTS at a heavily discounted price have since then been extended to everything else from restaurant deals to adventure holidays to spa treatments via these group buying sites.

Why am I telling you all this?

Like I said, eBay is no longer my biggest online shopping temptation. I am now constantly being tempted by restaurant deals from these group buying sites claiming a whopping 60% discount and extremely great "value for money".

So I have recently purchased three separate vouchers from three different Group Buying Sites and I'd like to share with my readers just how much "value for money" you really get from these deals.

Deal One: "A sumptuous seafood feast for two at The Lounge Hotel, Docklands! A dozen oysters, two grilled seafood plates and wine - only $40! You save 62%!

 
Firstly, a few facts about what I think of this deal:
  1. I've never heard of The Lounge Hotel at Docklands
  2. If I never saw this deal, I probably would continue never hearing of this place
  3. If I never saw this deal, I would probably never go to The Lounge Hotel
  4. But I saw this deal and I bought this deal, because I would pay $40 for two people to give it a go
  5. If it wasn't $40 for two people, I would probably never give this place a go
  6. Now that I've only paid $40 to eat here, I'm not sure if I will ever go back and pay full price
  7. On the other hand, now that I've sampled their food and know exactly what to expect - if I honestly think the food is worth $130 (not $40 which is what I paid for - because remember, I am getting a "really good deal" aka a "bargain") then I am more likely to consider coming back for a special occasion fully aware of what to expect.
So basically, this is a good way of getting people to give your restaurant a go. If you're a new restaurant and you haven't quite built a solid reputation in the food industry, group buying sites offer a "publicity stunt" so unique it is worth your advertising and promotion dollars. I'm not sure how much "profit" restaurants would actually make from selling these deals, but hey - if I happen to like my first experience here, what's stopping me from coming back?

A few other points worth pondering:
  • When thousands of deals are sold, and the vouchers are only valid for say, 6 months for argument sake - and a limited number of tables are allocated to "deals vouchers" each night in order for the restaurant to maintain a reasonable profit margin - what happens then when the restaurant is unable to accommodate the demand? 
    • Will they extend the validity of voucher?
    • Will the restaurants be counting on some people not being able to use their voucher for any reason?
I suppose in some ways, the concept is not much different to prepaid phone credit. You pay $30 for $120 worth of prepaid phone credit and you need to use it within a month or the credit expires. At most times, you never get to use $120 worth. It just gives you that peace of mind that you're less likely to run out of credit - and the feeling that "you got a good deal" and "value for money".

So we finally come to the part where I start reviewing my first restaurant experience purchased via a Group Buying Site. In this case, CUDO.

My workmate and I decided to book our lunch at The Lounge Hotel, Docklands as we thought it would be less busy at lunch time and hopefully I get better lighting for photos.


As we were approaching The Lounge Hotel, which is basically a pub that's not too big but clearly looks like it could be quite a cosy yet cool hangout place at night with Live Music, the restaurant looked rather empty. I suppose it's not much different to all the other restaurants on a Tuesday afternoon. It's just quite normal for The Docklands! It's ... quiet! It's quite strange, because The Docklands actually have some great restaurants and if it was buzzing with activity it would've been an ultimate place to check out in Melbourne.


Anyway, back to my review. We sat down and quickly realised that the couple on our left were there to use the same Cudo voucher, and so are the two ladies on the table on our right. Part of the deal included a bottle of house wine, but we were not interested in having wine in the middle of the day so we just opted to swap with a glass of Coke and pineapple juice. The restaurant was more than happy to accommodate.. after all, the soft drink and juice is a lot cheaper than the bottle of wine!


Our entree arrived nice and quick. Nothing could've gone wrong with this entree. The natural oysters were fresh and the sauce complimented them very well. The dozen oysters alone on the menu was $26 so our $40 bill was already more than halfway there with these oysters. They were an incredible treat for a weekday lunch.

And then comes the waiting...

And waiting...

And more waiting...

I was so tired of waiting, I decided to chat to the couple next to us and ask if they were happy with their meal and if they would ever come back to this restaurant again and pay full price. They both said a big fat NO and they were happy to spend $40 on this meal but didn't think it was worth more than $100.


45 minutes later, our Grilled Seafood Plates arrived. It's actually quite an attractive looking plate. According to the menu, this plate was about $27 each - so we very well and truly exceeded our total bill of $40 at this point. The fish was beautiful, soft and tender the way I like it. I hate fish cooked to the point of dryness more than I hate beetroot. The scallops were just a little bit overcooked, but it was okay. The prawns were fresh and deliciously flavored with a hint of garlic and herbs. The mussels, well they were cooked mussels. Fresh and tender. The CHIPS were surprisingly really good pub chips. It was nice and crispy, not soggy at all. And the seafood sauce? Pretty average but I really like how they were served in a seashell. Very pretty.

But here's one thing I didn't get - the restaurant was pretty empty at that time. WHY did it take 45 minutes for our mains to arrive? They knew we were coming because we booked in advance and mentioned our Cudo voucher. It IS a work day and therefore we had lunch break time constraints to be mindful of. If it was that slow on a slow day, how much slower would it be on a busy weekend night??

Overall though, for $40 it was an excellent meal for two.

So I've gathered based on this experience alone:
  1. Do not expect a $130 experience. You will be disappointed. Expect a $40 experience and you will feel good about it. You are not getting a 60% discount. Based on this example alone, it was probably more of a 25% discount. Still a reasonable deal, but nothing to be overly excited about.
  2. Do NOT go on weekends. The restaurant will be overly crowded and the "cheap voucher" customers will be the staff's lowest priority. After all, we have already paid for our meals whether or not we stick around to eat it.
  3. I don't think I will go back to The Lounge Hotel and pay full price. Sorry.
So that's my two cents so far on the true value of Group Buying Sites. You just need to look out for the really genuinely good deals. Go for what you know is good value. Go for places that are conveniently located so you don't have to travel out of your usual way to get there. Don't expect 5 Star service, but when you do get excellent service TELL THE WORLD! Avoid busy times e.g. Saturday nights. I don't think we somehow "deserve" to get any less of a service or quality just because we paid extremely discounted prices.

Over 2,000 deals were sold on Cudo for this deal. The Lounge Hotel made over $80,000 in a DAY. Need I say more?



My next review will be on another deal from JumpOnIt.com.au at Santorini Hawthorn sometime middle of March. We bought 3 coupons between 3 couples going together on the same night on a Friday night! Should be interesting. Stay tuned!



Grilled Lamb in a Hot / Cold Salad and Lunch Wrap

I have been very lazy with my cooking lately - mostly because I haven't done any grocery shopping for two weeks until yesterday, and also because work and life has been hectic, and also we've gone to a few family BBQs therefore I didn't have to cook, and when I did have to cook, I cooked dishes I have already blogged about!

I am also currently working on a blog post that is very different to what I usually do. It is a lot more well thought of, and requires RESEARCH! Now that's new... hehe. Unfortunately I am still not ready to show you that article until I hopefully finish it on Wednesday. So stay tuned!

In the mean time, I just thought I'd share some of the simple but delicious meals I have cooked up for hubby and I this weekend. I actually think this could be worth sharing, considering the only seasoning I used were salt and pepper.. and all the other flavors were naturally coming from its ingredients. A huge contributing factor to the flavors... delicious roasted sweet potatoes and onions and avocados. They are MAGICAL! Who says cooking needed to be hard work? Enjoy :)

Hot and Cold Lamb Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Avocado and Salad


Firstly, you would need some lamb chops lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, and panfried / grilled on a hot plate with olive oil until the meat is nice and brown and slightly crisp burnt.


Preheat oven at 200deg. In a casserole dish, add half a peeled large sweet potato and cut into cubes, half an onion sliced, and 5 large cup mushrooms sliced. Add salt and pepper. Toss in olive oil. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally every 15 mins.


Prepare salad "base" of lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, red capsicum and avocadoes. Toss lettuce in a bit of Ranch dressing if you feel the lettuce itself would be too dry.


To assemble salad, add roasted sweet potatoes on top of salad base, top with sliced lamb meat and sprinkle chopped spring onions on top. Drizzle with the olive oil from the base of sweet potato dish and serve.

Lamb Wrap (sorry for the BlackBerry photos)

The next day, I took some of the leftover ingredients to work with me and assembled an easy wrap for lunch. So simple yet so fulfilling and delicious!


I think I might have overstacked my wrap fillings - salad leaves, red capsicum, tomato, avocado, spring onions and sliced lamb topped with Thousand Island dressing.


Thankfully, I had two corn wraps with me, so I just double layered it for extra security.


And THAT'S A WRAP! A truly delicious one I might add!



Guest Post: Seafood Spaghetti

A Favorite Food Gets an Extra Dose of Flavor


This guest post was submitted by Maria Rainier, a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where she's been performing a bit of research into the gender wage gap problem and if there’s any relationship to this and how much your college degree is worth. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop. Well, if she keeps coming up with recipes as amazing as this - I hope she doesn't avoid her laptop too much! Thank you so much for this mouthwatering recipe - I am most definitely going to try this myself!

*************************************************************************

 Spaghetti is a classic comfort food, but unless you add meatballs or a hearty meat sauce, it’s not a great source of protein. And when you eat plain spaghetti for your evening meal, you’re cheating yourself out of some of the nutrients you need to help your body rebuild and rejuvenate overnight. Fortunately, I’ve found and tweaked a recipe for seafood spaghetti (spaghetti alla pescatora) inspired by authentic Italian cuisine.

Seafood is an excellent source of protein, and it’s much lighter than beef – so you don’t have to go meatless when you’re not in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs. In my opinion, it also tastes fresher and brings out the tanginess of the spaghetti sauce beautifully (but that might be the white wine talking). The only way to find out is to try this recipe yourself, but don’t worry – you’ll love every minute of it.

Ingredients
  • 1 8-ounce package of spaghetti noodles (I prefer noodles made from yellow corn flour because of their natural sweetness – it complements the seafood very well)
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 cup of crushed plum tomatoes
  • Kalamata olives to taste (I use a lot – probably ten or twelve)
  • 10 mussels, cleaned and rinsed
  • 10 sea scallops
  • 10 medium shrimp, peeled (and de-veined if you prefer)
  • Spices to taste: oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and my personal favorite – cilantro
What to Do

If you’re afraid of cooking mussels, you’re not alone – they’re a bit of an intimidating ingredient, but it’s well worth the effort once you’ve cooked them. This is also an easy recipe that enables you to get more comfortable with the process of working with mussels before you move on to preparing them alone (as appetizers, for instance). The first order of business is to figure out which type of mussel you have: wild (salt water) or farmed (freshwater). Be sure to read the packaging or ask if you’re ordering them from a seafood market because the cleaning process varies according to which type you’ve bought.

If you bought wild mussels, you might have a little more work ahead of you than anticipated, but it’s rewarding once you’re eating these delicious seafood treats. First, use a stiff potato-scrubbing brush to remove any sand, barnacles, or other debris from the outer shells of the mussels. You may need to clean them each several times to be sure you won’t have sand in your spaghetti. Next, you’ll need to remove the beard (fibers sticking out of the shell) from each mussel. This can be done by grasping the beard with a dry towel and yanking it away from the mussel or by cutting it off with a small, sharp knife. After you remove the beards, you can rinse the mussels several times to ensure that they’re clean, but don’t let them sit in fresh water because this will kill them.

If you have farmed mussels, they should be clean and beardless. All you need to do is rinse them a few times under cold tap water. Now, you’re ready to start cooking.
  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. While you do this, heat the olive oil in a large skillet at medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it takes on a golden color, or for about three minutes.
  2. Add the mussels to the skillet and cook them for about a minute.
  3. Toss in the tomatoes, olives, and all spices except for cilantro. Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce becomes a little thicker and starts to simmer. At this point, cook for another four minutes until the mussels start to open.
  4. Add the shrimp and scallops, cooking for two to four minutes.
  5. Taste your sauce – if it’s getting too thick, add an extra tablespoon or so of wine. That’s my excuse, anyway.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, coating it evenly.
  7. Arrange your seafood spaghetti on a platter and spoon the mussels around the rim. Top with fresh cilantro, serve, and enjoy.

CNY Potluck Gathering, Melbourne Flash Flooding Drama & Girls Weekend Away

(Photo: "Tu Kha Sng" Pork Leg dish I cooked up for Chinese New Year)

I just had a very interesting weekend. So much was happening in the last few days it was crazy! It all started on Friday night, as the rain started pouring at 6pm and I had to drive through areas in Narre Warren that already started flash flooding after less than 15 minutes of heavy rain. My poor little Barina braved through the flooded areas and I somehow managed to get home safely.

But it didn't end there. As soon as hubby got home, we had to brave the heavy rains and potential flood areas once again to get to our friends' house for the Chinese New Year potluck gathering I already cooked for the night before. It was still raining very heavily, and the drains outside our house were overflowing and water was everywhere, but we went out anyway. We probably should've stayed home, especially after we turned right into Bemersyde Drive and was greeted by water so high our tyres were covered, and there was already a car there stuck! We persevered, and drove slowly but steadily and soon got out of the worst areas and arrived safely at our party house on the hill.

Once we were inside, we had a great time...


The rain stopped later that night, so eventually we managed to drive home without too much drama. We had no idea what we were about to see the next day...


This was a photo of MY street! Just down the road the flash floods were so bad the road was closed and people walked over there to see what was happening and we were just amazed at what we saw. The farmlands down the road were all completely flooded, animals had to be rescued, a few houses were affected but thankfully most of the commercially built houses were up my end of the street at higher ground so our house was safe.

Can you imagine seeing ducks swimming on the road I normally drive on every single day?

So we decided to go on a little adventure and explore nearby areas where we think were highly affected. Hashtags #vicfloods were everywhere on Twitter. I was tweeting the whole time too.

Check out my photo album on Flickr: VICTORIA FLOODS 5TH FEB 2011

One of the major dramas we witnessed while we were out exploring was seeing a teenage boy cling on to his life in surging waters hugging a telephone pole! Apparently, 3 silly teenagers decided to "have a bit of fun" until they realise the water was surging dangerously fast and whilst 2 boys managed to get out safely, one got stuck! So eventually, the rescue teams from CFA and SES arrived and the picture above was when the teenage boy was being rescued in Beaconsfield. I was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and took some amazing shots of the rescue in progress that Reuters News contacted me via Twitter and asked to purchase my photos!

So, I was "Citizen Journalist" for the day and my photo got published in news websites all over the world thanks to Reuters. Example here below on Yahoo! News:

(Click for larger image. I've circled where it says "REUTERS/Kimberly Peterson" I thought that was really cool. This photo was also featured on SRN News, The Irish Times and 2space)

Click here to see more rescue photos including more flooded areas, the traffic chaos and Channel 9 News helicopter hovering right above us! 

After all that drama and the excitement of speaking to reporters and emailing my photos to the local news, my day took another lovely spin of traveling to the coastal areas of McCrae and Rosebud with my sister in laws for our Girls Weekend Away. We were spending the night at The Shores Accommodation at McCrae in a lovely 3-bedroom townhouse.


The Shores Accommodation provided everything we needed and the townhouse is absolutely gorgeous! We were a short distance away from Rosebud shops and restaurants, but unfortunately the weather obviously meant we didn't get to spend any time at the beach. No complaints though, we were more than happy to stay in the townhouse and enjoy a night in watching movies and just talking and enjoying each others company.

Finally, I am not forgetting the fact that this is indeed a food blog and this post would somewhat be incomplete if I didn't share my recipe for the "Tu Kha Sng" Pork Leg which I cooked up for Chinese New Year! This dish is one of my aunt's signature dishes and I am grateful that this recipe has been passed on to me! It's my favorite childhood dish during our annual Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner back in Malaysia. The Hokkien name "Tu Kha Sng" directly translated means "Pork Leg Sour". Its flavors are predominantly sweet, sour and mildly spicy from the fresh chillies.

"Tu Kha Sng" Pork Leg Recipe
Serves 12 - 16 people

Ingredients:
6kg pork leg, chopped into casserole pieces, skin and bone on
20 garlic cloves, unchopped, thin layer skin on
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup hot chilli sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 red chillis, sliced

Method:
In a large pot, slowly heat pork leg (covered) for about 10 minutes or until the water produced naturally by the meat starts simmering. Add dark soy sauce. Simmer further for 30 minutes, covered, in medium heat.
Add garlic cloves and simmer for another 15 minutes, covered.

Add tomato sauce, hot chilli sauce, vinegar and caster sugar. Stir gently. Simmer for another hour, or until the meat is tender. Add most of the amount of sliced chillies (leave some for garnish) and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with remaining sliced chillies. Serve with steamed rice and stirfried Chinese vegetables with egg tofu.


Happy Chinese New Year 2011!

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my Chinese friends a very Happy Chinese New Year 2011 - The Year of the Rabbit! This time of year, I feel especially homesick being away from my family and friends back in Malaysia - but thanks to Facebook and Twitter I get to see "live" pictures of their reunion dinner last night. 

Also, nothing is stopping hubby and I from starting our very own family tradition in Australia:


I was running late coming back from work last night so I got some semi-authentic takeout from Chadstone - Hainanese Chicken, Beef Brisket in Hot Claypot and Sambal Belachan Kang Kung! Almost like the real deal, lol. Our own "family reunion" dinner!


Also this morning I had the privilege of a Grand Tour inside Ralph's Butcher Shop in South Melbourne. The friendliest butchers in town I reckon! I was there nice and early this morning to pick up a massive 6kg pork leg for a Chinese New Year potluck gathering tomorrow night. I'm planning to cook one of my aunt's signature dishes we used to have all the time during family festivities. Will blog all about it after tomorrow night!

P/S: Sorry for the low quality Blackberry photos! Not my usual DSLR quality post :p

GONG XI FA CAI !!


Cookbook Giveaway WINNER!

First of all, thank you again for all of your continued support and thank you for entering my Another Random Cookbook Giveaway - I have received 90 entries between comments, FB and Twitter! And I'm sure you all know by now that the cookbook I am giving away is indeed my personal compilation of my favorite recipes available for Free PDF Download here. However, the lucky winner gets a beautifully printed copy compliments of Kimba's Kitchen for your keepsake in your kitchen. I hope you enjoy the recipes as much as I do :)


Anyway, enough with the suspense! I hopped onto random.org and keyed in a range between 1 - 90 and the random number generated matched a cell in my Excel spreadsheet... and it was a Facebook winner!

Congratulations, Sarah-Jane from SiliconeMoulds.com!!

And thank you Chin Suet May from Malaysia for that lovely email - look out for your copy of the cookbook in the mail the next few weeks!!