Dear Gretel

I’m sorry I haven’t written you in a while.  Things have been busy around here.  You already know I’m working on a thesis, but have I told you I’m about to start tutoring as well?  It’s true, I am!  I’m both excited and terrified, and more than a little mystified as to why anyone would entrust me with the shaping of impressionable young minds. (My plans are all coming together!  Soon I will take over the world!  Mwuahahahahaha.)  Ahem.

Yes, things have been busy, but I’ve still been cooking and eating, oh yes.  Many, many delicious things. I just haven’t been writing them up.  I could say it’s because my old camera, which was gifted to me when the flash stopped working, finally died and I’ve been forced to resort to phone photos.  But we both know my photography was never what you’d call good to begin with, and actually, I often get better photos with the camera phone anyway.

No, dear Gretel, the real reason I haven’t written in so long is Masterchef.  Yes, I have been watching it.  On any given evening you may find me in front of the tv with a glass of wine in one hand and a twitter stream full of #masterchef snark in the other.  Oh, I love it!  But I’m also a little ashamed of just how much that show has been influencing my cooking.  I like to think I’m somehow above it all.  Above the product placement, the food porn, the emotionally manipulative editing. But then Kylie Kwong makes this eggplant dish full of chilli and coriander and buckets of oil* and, well, I’m sure I’ve told you how much I love eggplant.  I couldn’t help myself!  I didn’t mean to go to the website, or download the recipe, or try to cook like a masterchef cooks.  But it was eggplant! I’m sure you understand.

I wish the eggplant was all I had to confess.  But I also made the Salt & Pepper Tofu that was in the same episode.  Salt and pepper tofu is one of my favourite things ever, and oh my, this was good.  The mushrooms that go with it? Well, they were disgusting…ly good.  Sweet and gingery and soy-sauced and delicious.

Not satisfied with having sullied my kitchen once, I decided to make the whole thing again a week later for dinner with one of my favourite new friends (Hi, Sam!).  This time I left out the mushrooms, but added yet another Masterchef-inspired recipe, Chinese Money Bags.  I altered all these recipes a fair bit (I used spring roll pastry rather than rice paper for the money bags, for example, and seriously reduced the amount of oil in the eggplant).  I also remembered to take poor-quality camera phone pictures to show you, so here they are:

Delicious, crispy parcels of mushroom and tofu goodness.

This photo is all wrong in terms of priorities.  Rice in the forground, delicious eggplant on the left, steamed greens on the right (not a Masterchef recipe, this is a Michael & Cindy recipe), and salt and pepper tofu behind that.

I am sorry about the photos, and if we do indeed ‘eat with our eyes’ as everyone on Masterchef keeps insisting, then I suggest cooking up these dishes yourself and looking at them in the (non)flesh, rather than through the my phone.  Mostly I suggest cooking up these dishes yourself and eating them with your mouth, because that sounds like much more fun.  Especially when there’s chilli involved.


*Actually way too much oil for me, and I love oily eggplant.  I cut it down significantly the second time I made it.


5 responses to “Dear Gretel

  1. I am also hooked on Masterchef and love eggplant and salt and pepper tofu. I made the eggplant dish but cut down on the oil by less than half (I think) and still found it quite oily. Loved the sichuan pepper and salt topping, that was the bomb and ever since I have been sprinkling it on roast vegies. I am totally hooked on the stuff, it’s awesome!!!

    Haven’t made the salt and pepper tofu yet but am planning too and will make sure that I try the mushrooms as well based on your comments.

  2. The mushroom and tofu parcels look great, but hard to make a home. How did you go?

  3. Mel – yep, the pepper and salt mix is amazing! It’s great making the tofu and the eggplant together because you use it on both. I tried the tofu using both silken and firm tofu, and I like the silken texture better but you’ve got to eat it FAST or it goes soggy. The firm is easier to make and still incredibly delicious.

  4. Food lover – the parcels are a little tiny bit fiddly, but not too bad to make at home. I’d say they’re easier than ravioli, because you just bunch up the edges and tie them off (I used strips of green spring onion). The process gets a little tedious, but unless you’re catering for a large number, it’s totally manageable. And delicious!

  5. Wow, I’m impressed! Yep, I been totally hooked on Masterchef too, and promised myself I was going to make that eggplant dish and went out and bought everything and then didn’t make it cos I didn’t get a mortar and pestle. Oops. I’m going to follow you lead and get onto it again all reinspired!

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