Hola Mexico! Frijoles Charros (Cowboy’s Beans)

Frijoles Charros is fresh bean dish that is healthy and wholesome. In Mexico, this dish is commonly eaten as a soup with a watery consistency, but I added an extra twist to mine and I let it simmer for an extra hour until there was only a little bit of liquid left. This created a more concentrated flavor and a texture that was similar to  refried beans, except I did not mash them. I also added in extra chili for a delicious kick! I was surprised at how little ingredients you need to create such an authentically Mexican dish. This meal serves 4 and I had yummy leftovers for a delicious lunch the next day.




The Ingredients

2 cups of dried pinto beans, you can use canned pinto beans at your own discretion

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions, diced

200 grams of bacon and pancetta, I used 100 grams of each

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 large green chili, and one small red one for an extra kick

2 tomatoes, chopped

Salt to taste


The Method

To cook the beans, soak them over night in one liter of water, bring the beans and soaking water to the boil and then simmer for 1-2 hours.

Fry onions in oil until soft. Add bacon and pancetta, cook for a few minutes, add the garlic and chili and cook until fragrant. Add the beans and broth- I used 4 cups of broth. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2 hours or until most of the liquid has gone and the beans are starting to break down. Add salt to taste.

Serve with heated tortillas, fresh coriander, salsa (I combined tomato, red onion, coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper) and guacamole.


Exploring Indonesia: Sambal

BEWARE: HOT!…. (albeit delicious)

DSC_0593 (1)

The Sambal I made packed a huge punch. This is definitely one of those dishes that are so hot, yet as your mouth burns and the sweat starts to build up, you can’t help but resist just having that little bit more.

Sambal is great to add to any Asian dish that requires that extra kick! I’m going to be passing it around the table alongside my Laksa tonight.

There are around 300 versions of Sambal out there, so I recommend you have a Google and see what you would like to put in yours. The one I made was great and I would make it again except with a dash of lime to add an acidic kick.

The ingredients 

50 grams chilli

50 grams ginger

50 grams garlic

80 ml vegetable oil

1 tbsp  brown sugar

1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

Juice of one lime (optional)

The Method

Roughly chop garlic, chilli, shrimp paste and ginger and place in a food processor or mortar and pestle.  Combine until a paste is achieved.

Heat oil in frying pan over a low heat and add paste. Fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add other ingredients and combine.

Yoghurt Lemon Cake

A deliciously moist cake that has worked out perfectly every time I’ve made it. The great thing about this cake is that it is super easy to make and the ingredients are easy to buy if you don’t already have them.




3 eggs

1 cup of sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Juice and zest of two lemons

1 cup of Greek yoghurt

1/2 cup  of vegetable oil

2 cups of self raising flour, sifted


Pre-heat oven on 180 degrees celsius and line a cake tin with baking paper, or spray with cooking oil.

Beat eggs and sugar with an electric beater on high for 3 minutes, or until creamy.

Add juice and zest of one lemon and beat with the electric beater for an extra minute.

Stir in flour, yoghurt and vegetable oil until combined.

Add to prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until cooked right through (I insert a skewer and if it comes out clean- it’s ready!)

As soon as it comes out of the oven sprinkle the cake with extra sugar and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon on to it.

Enjoy with with Greek yogurt and lemon zest.


Delicious roast vegetable salad with tahini yoghurt dressing

Never underestimate the power of a deliciously fuelling lunch. This is an extremely easy recipe which all your colleagues will be extremely envious of. The tahini dressing is my absolute favourite- it is so healthy and delicious. You could also prepare the vegetables and tahini dressing in the evening to save time.  I have not provided measurements for the salad ingredients so you can decide how much of something you want (you might be like me and be a fiend for beetroot!) However, the tahini dressing recipe  serves one.


Tahini dressing

Tahini, 1 heaped tbsp

Yoghurt, 1 heaped tbsp

Juice of half a lemon

One small garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients well. Add salt and pepper to taste. The consistency will be a little thick- but this is normal.


Butter-nut pumpkin (could use normal pumpkin or sweet potato)

Red capsicum

Red onion


Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Tinned beetroot


Poached or boiled egg- optional (will keep you satisfied for longer!)

Your favourite salad mix (I used rocket and baby spinach- yum!)


Cut pumpkin, capsicum, onion and courgettes into bite sized pieces and scatter on a baking tray. Cover with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake one 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft.

Mix roast vegetables and all the other ingredients together. Dollop on the tahini dressing, add another splash of olive oil and serve with an ice cold lemon water.


The Most Succulent Japanese Slow-Cooked Pork- Butaniku No Kakuni

The flavor from this delicious Japanese dish is slightly sweet with subtle hints of soy. The fat from the pork belly is so tender after being simmered for 5 hours and it just melts in your mouth. There are many different options for creating this classic dish; whether to make it and refrigerate it overnight, add dashi or water, if it requires Japanese vinegar or eggs and how long it should be cooked for. This is how I cooked it, within the ingredients and time-frame that I had, and it turned out perfectly! I  served it with Japanese fried rice and steamed broccoli to create a wholesome meal.

ImageThe Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil

800 grams boneless pork belly

70 grams fresh ginger, cut into thick slices

1 litre of water- I used water but you are welcome to use dashi

300 ml sake- this is a necessity!

1 1/2 tbsp light Japanese soy

1 1/2 dark Japanese soy

60g dark brown sugar- don’t use normal brown sugar as a substitute!

Japanese Fried Rice

1 tbsp oil

2 eggs, beaten slightly with a fork

1 cup rice

1/4 cup spring onions, chopped

1 tbsp soy

1 tsp sesame oil

The Method

Add oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. When brown, remove from the pan and drain over a colander. Pour boiling water over it to remove the excess oil.

Add the sake, water, ginger and pork to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove any fat that rises to the top.

Add a cartouche- it’s basically just a large, round piece of baking paper with a vent cut in the middle that serves as a medium for letting steam evaporate and keeping it in. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until you feel like the pork is tender.

Stir in the light and dark soy sauce and sugar. Cook for another hour- or until you feel like the pork is done. It should be very tender at this stage.

Remove from heat and let the pork sit and evaporate the liquid for 30-45 minutes.

Japanese Fried Rice

Heat half the oil in the pan and add the egg. When the egg is starting to cook, start to break it up into pieces. Add the rice, remaining oil, soy sauce, spring onions and sesame oil and cook on high heat for 2 minutes while stirring.

If you feel like the sauce isn’t thick enough, remove half of the liquid from the pork and simmer until it’s at the desired consistency.

Gently reheat the pork and serve with your favorite steamed greens.


Turkey: Spinach and Feta Borek (Spinach and Feta Pie)


Borek is a Turkish filled pastry, which is commonly filled with cheese or meat. I have combined feta, spinach and dill to create a scrumptious pie that would be perfect at a party, as a snack, or as a side to a Turkish themed dinner.  I made lamb stuffed eggplant to go alongside the borek and it was a perfect combination of flavors.


The Ingredients

5 sheets of filo pastry

300 grams of spinach; frozen, defrosted and drained or fresh, chopped spinach

2 eggs

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup grated cheese

1 tbsp dill

Salt and Pepper to taste

The Glaze

1 egg

 1/4 cup of milk

The Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Grease a baking tray and line with the filo pastry.

Following that, beat eggs and add spinach, cheeses, dill salt and pepper.

Place the spinach mixture in the baking tray and top with pastry.

For the glaze, beat the egg and milk together then brush over the top of the borak.

Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy on top.


This Week at The Cultural Pantry


I have some exciting dishes  that I’m currently planning for this week at The Cultural Pantry. As the weather starts to cool down, slow-cooked food is so enticing, which is why I have chosen to cook slow-cooked Japanese  pork belly as one of my dishes this week.


To start the week off I’m travelling to Turkey, which has a cuisine that has always interested me.  Turkey’s geographical location between Asia and the Mediterranean creates a unique diet that is based around vegetables, herbs, fish, garlic, eggplant and olives.

Tonight I will be cooking up a Turkish storm and making 3 unique Turkish dishes. I will be serving up spinach and feta borek (spinach and feta pie), which will be complemented with lamb stuffed eggplant and a classic tabouli.

Later on in the week I will travel to Japan and show you how to make  slow simmered pork belly in shoyu and black sugar (butaniku no kakuni).

My third destination is unknown yet- but I’m thinking it might have to include something sweet.

Stay tuned!


New Zealand: Rhubarb Crumble Tart

Rhubarb is a winter fruit that used to grow in copious amounts in my frosty back yard when I lived in New Zealand. It’s a delicious tangy fruit that makes my throat tingle just thinking about it! I was very excited to find some in a supermarket in Brisbane, Australia. Here is a recipe for an simple crumble tart that I made for a picnic.




The Ingredients

Dessert pastry- enough to line a tart tin

750 grams rhubarb- can substitute for apple

100 grams caster sugar

Juice of one orange

Crumble Topping

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

140 grams butter, diced

200 grams plain flour

150 grams of brown sugar

1/4 cup flaked almonds

The Method

Slice Rhubarb into 2cm sized pieces and arrange on a backing tray. Rub the rhubarb with the white sugar and orange juice, cover with foil  and bake on 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes. When done, place over a sieve and drain all the juice to make a syrup with later on.

While the rhubarb is cooking, cover a tart tin with the pastry and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Cover the tart tin in baking paper and add in baking stones or rice. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove baking stones and baking paper and cook the pastry for a further 10 minutes.

To assemble the crumble topping, mix all ingredients except for flaked almonds and butter. Massage the butter in with your fingers until crumbly.

Add the rhubarb into the tart tin, add the crumble on top of the rhubarb and then sprinkle with flaked almonds. Cook the tart for 20 minutes on 180 degrees.

Serve with ice-cream, cream or yoghurt and the left over rhubarb orange juice.




Malaysia: Spicy Chicken and Tofu Laksa


This dish has to be the epitome of comfort food. I would highly recommend serving it with the Sambal that I made earlier (located under Indonesia in Savory Recipes) as it gives it that extra kick and makes it 100 times better. Don’t be shy on the lime and coriander either as they give it the fresh flavours a good laksa deserves. The laksa paste makes two servings but it keeps in the fridge for 3 weeks (I gave mine away to a special friend as a loving gift).  The recipe serves 4 adults.

The Ingredients


3 cups water with one tsp chicken stock

1½ cups coconut cream

4 pieces fried tofu cubes, thickly sliced

1/4 wombok, roughly sliced

bunch of baby bok choy, roughly sliced

200 grams thick rice noodles

500 gm cooked chicken breast, thickly sliced

1 cup each of loosely packed Vietnamese mint and coriander leaves

Laksa Paste

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

2 tsp ginger, grated

4 small red chillies, chopped

Juice and rind of one lime

2 tsp lemon grass, chopped

1 tsp shrimp paste

1 tsp ground coriander seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 cup vegetable oil

The Method

Process all ingredients for the laksa paste except the oil in a food processor until a paste has formed. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a low heat and fry the laksa paste for 5 minutes.

For the vegetables, bring salted water to the boil, add the wombok and bok choy and blanch. Set aside.

For the laksa, add water, chicken stock, 1/2 cup laksa paste and coconut cream and slowly bring to the boil. When boiling, turn down to a simmer and add tofu.

Cook noodles according to packet instructions.

Add cooked noodles into each serving bowl, arrange chicken and vegetables then add the laksa mixture. Garnish generously with coriander, mint and lime juice.