Warm salad of squid, chickpeas, olives, tomato and herbs with nutty za’atar

warm salad of squid, chickpeas, olives, tomato, herbs and nutty za'atar
It is difficult to conjure up a cracking meal with what can be only described as eff all. I am not a magician; I don’t even have the skills to do a basic card trick and I certainly do not possess the powers of alchemy.

What is not difficult though, is creating a cracking meal with what I was faced with tonight; fresh squid, herbs, spinach and tomatoes from the garden, our own marinated capsicum (peppers), olives, chickpeas and some za’atar with a bit of nutty addition for good measure.

If we are reading from the same book (but let’s face it; we are probably not. In fact I don’t think our books are even from the same library as I am ashamed to say I would’ve skipped on straight past the public book loan place and picked myself up a magazine from the news agent next door) we both know that there shall be a damn attractive salad emerge from this stack of ingredients. A fantastic, light, summery, still-trying-to-cling-on-to-those-last-few-warm-days type salad.

Anyway, you can see this shit is going to be good so I’ll get right on with the main event.

No magic involved here
No magic involved here

Squid and chickpeas getting to know each other
Squid and chickpeas getting to know each other

Eat it quickly... and without the children
Eat it quickly… and without the children

WARM SALAD OF SQUID, CHICKPEAS, OLIVES, TOMATO AND HERBS with NUTTY ZA’ATAR (serves 2 if you feed the kids toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner and then eat yours once they go to bed)

500g fresh squid, cleaned, scored in a criss cross (not Kris Kross. That would involve pants being worn backwards and that’s just weird whatever planet you’re from) pattern on the inside of the hood and then cut into 2x4cm pieces
1 cup cooked chickpeas (the ones from a tin are fine)
1 handful tomatoes, chopped
1 handful olives
1 handful roasted and marinated capsicum (peppers), sliced
A handful of fresh mint and basil, torn
2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons nutty za’atar (recipe follows)
A splash of oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Seasoning
A couple of beers or something white to wash it all down

• Get all of your mis en place ready before you start cooking because once you begin it’s all going to be over very quickly… yeah, a bit like your performance under the sheets last night
• Get a heavy based frying pan plenty hot. Add oil and then squid. Toss for 45ish seconds
• Remove from heat and add the chickpeas to warm through for a minute
• Combine with all other ingredients, dress with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil, season lightly and sprinkle with nutty za’atar-y goodness

NUTTY ZA’ATAR

2 tablespoons za’atar
2 tablespoons chopped almonds and walnuts

• Mix it all together and bam, there you go

The Round Eye Review… Hu Tieu Thanh Liem Vietnamese Restaurant, Mirrabooka

It’s kind of apt that our friend G-Money should be reviewing a Vietnamese restaurant today, as I myself am currently in that land of the small table settings in person. So let this be an introduction to what will surely be a month of talk about Vietnamese cuisine… – Grazza McFilthy Mouth

Hu Tieu Thanh Liem
73 Honeywell Blvd, Mirrabooka, WA 6061

Ok. Let’s address the elephant in the room.

Yes. This is the closest restaurant to my house.

Yes. I love this place. If it were legal, I would marry this place quicker than an insane Japanese man could marry his manga pillow.

Therefore…

(SPOILER ALERT : THIS REVIEW IS GETTING A HIGH SCORE.)

So by now you should of pieced together that I live in Mirrabooka, if you haven’t then I recommend more protein for lunch and less paint chips. Mirrabooka. That word can conjure many reactions in people, and rightly so as this area has a chequered past, but it is a lot better area nowadays and where there are cons, there are awesome pros too.

Cons: drug deals on the corner and occasional murders in the neighbouring suburbs. No biggy.

Pros: get a whole block of land for two goats and a hard boiled egg, and the multiculturalism.

Lets focus on the multiculturalism. Any evening around dinner time you can stick your head out the front door, and smell the amazing aroma of 2 or 3 different continents cooking up some delicious shit. Just in my cul-de-sac alone we have Filipinos, Vietnamese, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Western folk all cooking up a storm. I really would like to push for a food fair down at the park, if it weren’t for the terrible, terrible risk of being sold weed at a food fair. This multiculturalism is responsible for a local mecca called Honeywell Shops. Oh my god Honeywell Shops. A dodgy roller shuttered hole of a shopping centre at night becomes a vibrant display of fresh produce, meat, seafood, spices and food during the day. For me it’s food prep heaven, but I’m not a shopping centre reviewer and no doubt by now a few of you are thinking “When is this nut job getting on about the food?” Right about now i say.

Hu Tieu Thanh Liem, or as the wife and I call it – Vietnamizzle (we don’t know how you pronounce it), and yes I am about to say it, is the best suburban Vietnamese in Perth. I can here some of you gasp as there is some good competition, especially around the corner at Marangaroo shops, which is great and I will get to them in later reviews. Vietnamizzle encompasses everything I think Vietnamese food should be. Spicy, sour, sweet, salty, bitter flavours that are bold but well balanced and smack bang full of uber fresh produce. Always some of the freshest produce you’ll ever be served. Lets face it, the Vietnamese are hard working bastards and churn out some amazing stuff. At Vietnamizzle most dishes will be served with a mountain of fresh basil, mint, chilli and bean sprouts. And if you get takeaway expect to have a shopping bag full of these accompanying your order. Have I mentioned I love this place?

The wife, like she regularly does went for The Pho. Not A pho. This is THE pho. The award winning pho. Now I know saying this is “The pho” that steam is coming out of a few of my friends and readers ears. “But my place does the best pho” just blasted through their lips. Like dim sum, pho is different for everyone, but for me, some Sunday Times award, a food website I can’t recall award, and most definitely for my wife, this is the best. A bowl of Raw Beef Hofan Soup (Pho Tai) will set you back a whopping $10. That’s right $10 for a bowl of heaven. Thinly sliced raw beef that just gets that rare steak look as it swims above a bed of thick, plump rice noodles and in a broth that is too far along the mind blowing scale to even start comparing to something. A hell of a lot goes into pho broth, and my brain can’t even fathom breaking it down into what I think is in there. I prefer to just eat it and be amazed. Served with a side of fresh cut chilli, lemon, bean sprouts, and mint, this is a dish that’s more of an experience than a meal.

I have pretty much eaten this whole menu, but also pictured here is another favourite the Bánh xèo ($12) or as we order it “Vietnamese Pancake.” A perfect blend of rice flour, pork, prawns, bean sprouts and chives that are all fried in a coconut oil. This is a great starter and will serve four people as an entrée. Served with another mountain of herbs and fresh vegetables, it is a dish that is best eaten served up in a lettuce leaf with the herbs (similar to san choy bau) and topped with a drizzle of the sweet, spicy & sour sauce that accompanies it. I must warn that the prawns do come with the shell still on but they are perfectly cooked and the shell adds a nice crunch to the dish. A must have if you come here.

I went for the Bun Bi Cha Gio Thit Nuong ($13), which equates to in english as rice vermicelli with shredded pork, grilled pork and a fried spring roll. I love my pork, Vietnamizzle love their pork, so no surprise here – I love this dish. Have I mentioned I love this place? The noodles here are always done so well, they are no match for Noodle Forum, but still very good. Always loose, never stuck together and perfectly cooked. The seasoned pork has that crispy texture you expect of some grilled pig, but is also packed with this immensely satisfying smokey flavour. Cover all this with the accompanying sauce and you have a fantastic feed. This is a tasty simple dish, and is especially good for those who are a bit cautious with asian food.

Other favourite dishes here are: salt and pepper squid, spicy beef salad, stuffed chicken wings, lemongrass & chilli beef, Vietnamese rolls, rice net paste dishes, wontons,….i could go on and on.

By now you definitely think I am biased, possibly endorsed, but it really is a suburban gem and incredible value for money. Our total dinner bill was $35, add $1 corkage per person, yes it is BYO anything alcoholic, and BINGO….winner winner tasty, cheap Vietnamese dinner.

I love this place.

4.5 mispronounced dishes out of 5

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Black Rock Camping Part 3… the final instalment of how to eat like a king while camping

camp oven breakfast
Black Rock Camping 3

We endured but another night of wind and rain worthy of the adventures of Scott of the Antarctic himself. We should of maybe packed ourselves up, or possibly threw caution to that proverbial wind, but instead we decided throwing ourselves three sheets to the wind would be a better option and we drank ourselves numb to the pending eventuality that our campsite would be lifted from its tethers and transported back to Oz itself!

Our determination and the fact that we were all oblivious to the storm that continued around us paid off as we awoke to blue skies and the promise of a sugar-sweet day in paradise. I foraged native fruits and berries, tracked wild boar and gathered emu eggs for our breakfast feast. That is, I Viking raided the fuck out of everyone’s eskies and used the pillaged goods to create a communal breakfast. I let my brain be free as it instructed my hands through the motions needed to get this kick-ass breakfast on the table. I feel my brain worked very well with my hands on this occasion.

We ate a spiced vegetable and bean stew with baked eggs, sausages and bacon, and pots of freshly brewed coffee (we are not animals) and tea. *Fun camping fact #2 – if you want to eat like a king while camping get yourself a camp spice rack.

Eggs baked on top of a spiced vegetable and bean stew looks damn good eh?
Eggs baked on top of a spiced vegetable and bean stew looks damn good eh?

Serve that shit up, kid
Serve that shit up, kid

SPICED VEGETABLE & BEAN STEW WITH EGGS (for 8)

6 big handfuls of diced vegetables that you can steal from everybody’s eskies. We had onion, corn, eggplant, carrot, mushrooms and kale
1 tin of cannellini beans
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tablespoon each cumin seed, paprika and dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ a teaspoon dried smoked chilli powder
Seasoning
2 tablespoons smoky barbecue sauce
1x 700g bottle of tomato passata
½ cup water
8 eggs
Sausages and bacon, to serve

• In some medium-high heat coals ☺, cook off all of the vegetables except kale with a splash of oil
• Once starting to colour and soften add spices and kale and cook out for another couple of minutes
• Add beans, barbecue sauce, tomato and water and simmer, covered for another 8-10ish minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Add another splash of water if it starts to thicken up too much as you need a wet sauce to poach/bake the eggs in
• Check and adjust seasoning if necessary
• Make a few (eight, actually) little dips in the stew and crack eggs straight into them. Don’t be too concerned if they don’t stay where you want them too, it’s all good in the end
• Cover camp oven and simmer, covered, for another five minutes or so (until the eggs are cooked but still a little soft in the middle is the desired result)
• Once cooked, serve with an array of camp fire meats, a pot coffee, tea, whiskey or what ever it is you drink in the morning and the company of some nice people

I am starting to think the reason I get invited on these trips is because of my camp cooking smarts, which is A OK by me. The challenge of cooking with only the (almost) bare basics, using the most primitive of cooking methods, just damn well appeals to me. Camp seasoning provided by the fire and the flora in this unattended outdoor greenhouse that is my kitchen stadium. Fire and then some more fire. It is all about the fire when I’m on the scene. You can take your trek through the bush, read your Mills and Boon novel or build a carnie survival hut in the bush, but you’ll find me tending the fire, getting the next meal together and possibly (definitely) sipping on a sneaky beer… well, as long as we’re done with breakfast.

The camp spice rack helped bring a little Jamaican influence to our chicken and chorizo. Pretty easy huh?
The camp spice rack helped bring a little Jamaican influence to our chicken and chorizo. Pretty easy huh?

That sucker in the coals next to Marky's meatballs
That sucker in the coals next to Marky’s meatballs
…and finished with a few green beans
…and finished with a few green beans

Camping is my shit.

We wake, eat, drink, relieve ourselves and sleep when we feel the need, as our bodies regress back to the bare necessities of what you need to do to stay alive. Camp life is not dictated by alarm clocks, bus schedules or appointments at the herpes clinic. Meal times are not relevant as you eat when you feel like you want to eat, not when your boss sanctions your union approved 45 minute lunch break. As my friend Daniel-San, a fellow strapping young red-bearded lad, would say, “that is camp time, folks”. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter if you are drinking a beer at 10:30am or asleep at 7pm, as long as you are out there, enjoying what our dear sweet mother nature has to offer you, what ever that may be.

But this camping trip is almost over and nigh is the time that we shall return to our urban homes so that I may clean myself up, for I am currently exuding more funk than James Brown’s butt crack.

It’s been real, folks. It’s been real.

Simply brilliant simple chorizo, rogue cherry tomato and herb pasta

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If you pay attention to the words that are printed on these new age electronic enviro-friendly, paper-free pages, you may remember me stating that I would be cleansing my body over this month. So you could imagine my food consumption may have simplified dramatically. As I am purging my physical being and soul of impurities, I have no room in my diet for fatty, meaty, buttery, cheesey goodness. Plenty of fruit, nuts, rice with stir-fried vegetables, salads and Asian vegetable soup all on repeat until body and mind have repented for their sins and chi is in alignment with Jupiter… I very clearly have no idea what is going on here.

Tonight we have to some extent strayed from the course a little, I little off the track, venturing into the bold unknown (and no. Not one of these are euphemisms) with this cracking pasta. Yes, we tossed the map of the country we shall call extra-healthy-and-well-being-place. We threw that map fair out of the car window, hooked a hard left and followed the dirt track to damn-tasty-dinner-county. Hell yeah!

My youngest son, Obi, wanted pasta like the cheap hooker wants the penicillin, and quite frankly he didn’t need to hire a high class lawyer with many fancy diagrams and big words to pound his argument into me. I was very easily convinced that a slight detour past the recently implemented safe distance from health and rejuvenation might be a good idea tonight. I fricking well wanted pasta too. Man cannot live on a bowl of rice a day forever… although I guess a million Philippine factory workers can’t be wrong…

This is another pasta dish that is literally child’s play. My son made this and he is seven years old. All I needed to do were the things that required “big hands”, like cooking the pasta and… well that was about it actually. All you need is someone to cook the pasta and you could make this too.

The rogue cherry tomato bush that is now providing us with a heap of cherry tomatoes every day
The rogue cherry tomato bush that is now providing us with a heap of cherry tomatoes every day
Obi grating the parmesan, after he chopped the sausage
Obi grating the parmesan, after he chopped the sausage
Toss it all together in the pan
Toss it all together in the pan
You will not be disappointed with this… unless, of course, you are allergic to chorizo… then you will most likely hate this
You will not be disappointed with this… unless, of course, you are allergic to chorizo… then you will most likely hate this

CHORIZO, ROGUE CHERRY TOMATO AND HERB PASTA (for 4)
The really good thing about using a cured sausage in a simple pasta dish is the chorizo is full of garlic and spices and pork so it provides a kick-ass flavour base for quick and easy week night cooking. Hell yeah!

250-300g spaghetti, cooked by someone with “big hands”
2 chorizo sausage, sliced
2 punnets (400g-ish) cherry tomatoes, from the cherry tomato plant you found running rampant in your backyard
2 handfuls of fresh herbs (Whatever you have in your garden. Any combination of parsley, basil, mint and oregano will do the trick), chopped or torn
Some chopped fresh chilli or dried chilli flakes if you want a bit of extra spice
A splash of white wine if you have some lying around in the fridge, not really pulling it’s weight…
Seasoning
Grated parmesan to serve
• Sauté chorizo, with a little olive oil, for 3 minutes or until it has started to release it’s sexy oily red juices
• Add tomatoes, chilli and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook out for another 3 minutes or so, until tomatoes start to blister and collapse
• Deglaze with wine and then add pasta and herbs. Toss to combine. Check seasoning
• Serve with a bit of grated parmesan

This pasta dish would be a happy home for some prawns or crayfish or squid or chicken. A very happy and caring home indeed.

Foodisthebestshitever – promoting easy-tasty every day!

Herb crumbed squid rings

This made my belly very happy
This made my belly very happy

We have just been to the Fisherman’s Co-op and procured ourselves a nice little bag of fresh squid. And how much did that squid cost us, I hear you ask. Well my friend, I am here today to tell you right now that it cost not a penny more than seven Australian dollars and thirty cents of the same nationality.

We have done our dawn fishing followed by a morning at the beach and the skatepark thing, so now is my time to sit back. As I write this (just for you) the kids are in two different rooms watching the same show in stereo. They don’t get to watch much of the picture box shows at home so I figure while on holidays they can pretty much do what they want… except catching pet snakes… or throwing dog poo at each other… or throwing dogs at each other… so they can’t to anything, but they can watch a little TV. And me? Well I’ll just sit back and have myself a cheeky beer, hit a few keys on my laptop (and I may even pay attention to what I’m doing so the words I form don’t resemble some kind of top security government code that only a kid with autism is going to be able to figure out) and convey to you a recipe for one of my all time favourite things to eat in the world. Ever.

Crumbed squid rings.

That’s right, crumbed squid rings. A childhood favourite of mine that has grown into an adult monster of an obsession. Like the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim”… a big monster just like that.

I remember when my younger brother Matt would come home from “squidding” with a couple of big squid or maybe a cuttlefish (it didn’t matter, it was all the same to us) in hand and mum would crumb the lot of it up, deep fry it and we would eat squid for the afternoon. I’m a big boy now so I get to eat squid whenever I damn well choose to. One of those moments shall be today. Look out sqiddy, here comes Uncle Grazza…

You know what? There’s a heap of herbs in the garden at this place so I’m going to chuck some of them in too.

The boats dropping off the squid at the Fisherman's Co-op
The boats dropping off the squid at the Fisherman’s Co-op
Seven bucks and thirty cents. Buying squid for bait is more expensive
Seven bucks and thirty cents. Buying squid for bait is more expensive
A few herbs from the garden
A few herbs from the garden
All crumbed up and ready to go
All crumbed up and ready to go
Time for you little suckers to get in my belly
Time for you little suckers to get in my belly

HERB CRUMBED SQUID RINGS

This recipe is per person… work that one out for yourself

200g fresh at fuck squid (this stuff was landed at 8am today. I saw the boats come in)

1 small handful mixed herbs; I had parsley, rosemary and sage, chopped

1 cup breadcrumbs

½ cup flour

1 egg beaten to with-in an inch of its life (these jokes* clearly never tire with me), or just beaten with a splash of milk, which may be more applicable here

Vegetable oil or something similar to shallow or deep fry

Seasoning

Chips, salad, mayonnaise** (yes, I fricking love mayo alright. It is my favourite condiment ever. Although I do love anything you could call a condiment, mayo always comes out on top… yes, just like your gay lover) and lemon/lime to serve

  • Clean your squid by cleaning your squid. Keep the tentacles because they are the best part
  • Slice the tubes (this is what we call the body of the squid) into 1cm rings. Guys, do not be tempted to put the tubes in the microwave for ten seconds and use them as a tool for masturbation. This is not conducive to a tasty meal or a good family lifestyle
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the herbs and a good hit of salt and pepper
  • Now the squid rings go through the flour, and then the eggwash, and then the crumbs. If you fuck with this system it will not work
  • Heat your oil to 180C-ish (flick a few breadcrumbs in there and if they sizzle up to the surface quickly you’re good to go)
  • Now fry your squid in batches of 10 or so (I would suggest doing this with a shirt on even if you are on holiday. Hot fat. Lesson learned) for 1 minute, turning regularly. They should be crisp and golden. If they are pale and soggy you should probably put them under your bed with those socks that look much the same…
  • Put the first batch aside on paper towel to drain and repeat until you’re all done. These puppies have a magical ability to hold their heat for a while
  • Sort the chips and salad out all by yourself. Here is a recipe for mayonnaise
  • Don’t forget to put some lemon/lime on the side

*Could be loosely termed as jokes I guess

**You could put a few cornichons, capers and a bit of dill through the mayo to make tartare, or some ketchup and Tabasco to make marie rose (seafood sauce), some sriracha hot chilli to make something awesome, or add whatever you want really…

Balsamic beetroot salad with fried beetroot leaves, quinoa, soft feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs

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I sit back today, slowly winding down and reflecting on my week so far… and by that I mean I am in bed, sick, sore and whining like the small child who needs his mothers boobie. Dammit, I do need my mother’s boobie… Actually that would be a little sick, but probably encouraged in many hippy circles around these parts. I think what I meant to say was; I need the boobie of the mother of my children… Shit, that is still waaaaay too weird.

As I lay here, one thing I did actually think about was the beetroot salad we had for dinner earlier this week. I’m sure it didn’t make me sick…

It is true that it has been many times said in the kitchen that “you can beat an egg, but you can’t beat a root”. It is also true that you cannot beat Usain Bolt in a running race because he is really fast and he is also not you.

But the beetroot salad; We picked a lovely pile of beetroot from the garden this week, and it fell prey to a cracking salad of balsamic beetroot, fried beetroot leaves, quinoa, soft feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs… I’m sure it could’ve been a slightly longer title if I had have thought about it some more… dot dot dot

...and the beetroot
…and the beetroot

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This was a rally good salad. Like, really good. It ticked all five of my salad requirements at the moment;

  1. Beetroot, fresh from the garden so it came with a certain amount of pride
  2. Quinoa, I can not say enough (well, I probably could but I guarantee you wouldn’t sit through it) about this grain
  3. Cherry tomatoes straight from the garden
  4. Herbs straight from the garden
  5. Other stuff
  6. Personality
  7. It taught me how to count

As you can well gather from this dodgy assed explanation of my salad-y faves at the moment, I got nothing. Nothing except this salad that is. Well, nothing except this salad, a panpipe and a pair of novelty trousers that resemble goat’s legs with little hooves attached. Looks like I’m heading back to Narnia again… damn that fucking wardrobe.

Balsamic Beetroot and quinoa salad (the short version of the title) for 4

10 medium beetroot with leaves, unless they are not very fresh, in which case use the leaves from something else. Probably not from your teenage son’s “South American tomato plant” in the backyard though

3 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup soft feta. I like Bulgarian sheeps feta

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved… or not

½ red onion, bruniose

1 cup each picked parsley and mint

¼ cup balsamic vinegar, plus a little extra

2 tablespoons castor sugar

Extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning

  • Trim the leaves from the beetroot and set aside. Cook the beetroot in boiling water until tender, about 20-30 minute depending on size. You can check them by inserting the tip of a knife and if it is soft inside it’s done
  • Drain beetroot and cut into 6 pieces. I don’t bother about peeling them if they’re this fresh
  • Sauté beetroot in a little olive oil for ten minutes, then add ¼ cup of balsamic and the castor sugar. Reduce for 5 or so minutes, until balsamic is thick and coats the beetroots. Season and set aside
  • In another pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add beetroot leaves. Fry on high heat for a few minutes until they start to crisp up a little. That’s crisp up, not burn
  • Now layer that salad up like the cover of a Women’s Weekly magazine circa 1981. Quinoa, beetroot, onion, leaves, feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs. Then hit it with a splash of balsamic, olive oil and seasoning
  • Magic