Category Archives: Test Kitchen

Okara Fritters – The Aimless Cook at Downtownfood

Okara Fritters by The Aimless Cook

On today’s show, I am with Chef Darren Maclean from Downtownfood as we make some delicious okara fritters on part 3 of our special on soybeans.

The first thing you’re gonna need is some okara. Okara is the leftover lees, or pulp from the soymilk making process, and if you haven’t watched our soymilk episode, you can watch it by clicking the annotation or on the link in the video description below.

We put together something simple using some minced pork and vegetables that we’ll include in today’s recipe, but you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.

You will need:

  • 7 oz. okara
  • 3 oz. minced pork
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons kimchi
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dashi

Combine the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well to make a batter. Put in saucepan on medium high and cook slowly for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often until the mixture absorbs most of the liquid. You should have something like thick pancake batter or mashed potatoes.

Heat some oil in a pot or deep fryer to about 325F. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop the batter into the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

Drain well on paper towels and serve with your favourite toppings.

We used green onions, nitsume (unagi sauce), gochujang, and kewpie mayo.

The first thing I should say about these okara fritters is that they are very light and fluffy in texture. The okara absorbs flavours very well resulting in a very tasty bite.

What is your favourite deep-fried food?

Curanto Night

Curanto Style Leg of Lamb by The Aimless Cook

Curanto is an old-school cooking method still used today in Argentina. It uses heated rocks that cook food in a pit, very similar to Polynesian pit cooking. The food is placed on leaves or a blanket, which is laid on the hot rocks, then buried for several hours until the food is cooked. Of course, if you don’t want to dig a huge pit you can use what we used – a wheelbarrow. This was a lot of fun and I hope you try it out one day too!

You will need:

  • a wheelbarrow
  • some dry rocks (about 8 inches in diameter)
  • plenty of firewood (about 12 logs)
  • a shovel
  • a muslin, burlap or cotton sheet (dense enough to shield the food from the earth)
  • a whole leg of lamb (chickens work too, ribs, pork butt, etc)
  • some whole butternut squash
  • some whole russet potatoes
  • whatever root veg you want (carrots, beets, fennel bulbs etc)
  • time

for the spice rub:

  • equal parts (50g each) of fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds
  • some smoked paprika (10-15%)
  • some dried Kashmiri chiles (to taste)

Start a fire with 6 logs and a layer of rocks. Let it burn down for an hour and then add another 6 logs and another layer of rocks. While that fire burns down, let’s make a spice rub for the lamb.

The spice rub we’re gonna make is called paanch phoron, also known as Indian 5-spice. Take equal portions (100g each) of fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds and combine them in a large container or mixing bowl. You can also add about 15% of smoked sweet paprika for a little colour and punch. If you like a little spice, add some dried Kashmiri chilies to taste. You can store this mixture in an airtight container for months and take some out whenever you need it.

When you’re ready to use, simply roast the seeds in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant then coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Once the rocks are ready and the fire has burned down, shovel a 2 – 3 inch layer of earth in the bottom of the wheelbarrow. Carefully cover that layer with your hot rocks with hot embers to fill in the gaps. Cover again with more earth as an insulating layer.

We’re gonna use a cotton sheet to lay the food on. You can also use banana leaves, burlap or muslin. Just make sure that the layer you use is dense enough to shield the food from the earth.

Cover the food with another layer of cloth, then follow that with more earth. You want to have at least a couple inches above the rim of the wheelbarrow. Once everything is good and buried, just let it sit for about 5 hours.

After 5 hours, take off the cloth layer, being careful not to get any dirt on the food. At this point in time, your lamb should be around 145F and your veg should be nicely cooked.

Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun and very easy to do, just keep it safe and make sure your fire is completely out when you’re done. Take this recipe, make it yours and have fun out there!


What is your favourite food to cook outdoors?

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is beautiful when roasted. It takes on a golden colour and the taste is transformed! I found this recipe on the internet and thought I’d share it with you.

You will need (for 4):

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 cup your favourite hot sauce (Frank’s works well with this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

your favourite dressing (Bleu cheese, dill, etc)
In a large bowl, combine the dry mustard, garlic salt, flour and buttermilk. Whisk together until smooth, then set aside.

Gently add the cauliflower in the bowl and lightly toss to completely coat with the buttermilk mixture.

Place the cauliflower in a shallow baking dish (with non-stick spray) and bake in a 450F oven for about 15-18 minutes and you start to see a little colour. Meanwhile, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.

Carefully remove the cauliflower from the oven and pour the sauce mixture over it, stirring gently to coat evenly. Put the cauliflower back in the oven and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the sauce is baked in. When it’s done, simply plate up with your favourite dressing and enjoy!

Take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen, which brings me to my question of the day:

Do you have a recipe to transform an otherwise boring vegetable?


source: The Curvy Carrot

Snack House Soup – Hong Kong Meets Vietnam

Snack House Soup

Hong Kong meets Vietnam in this snack house inspired soup that you can do at home with a couple tomatoes and a few leftovers. This is easy home cooking and you’ll be delightfully surprised at how flavourful this quick broth is.

For the soup broth, you will need:

  • 2 medium, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 chili pepper, minced
  • 500 ml chicken stock

Start with a deep skillet on medium heat with a little olive oil and add the tomatoes, a clove of minced garlic, a minced shallot and a minced chili pepper. Let that cook for a few minutes while the tomato breaks down then add the sugar and fish sauce. Continue to cook until the tomato is completely broken down and becomes a sauce.

Now at this point, you can serve this sauce on pretty much anything, but let’s keep going. Today I’m making a soup, so I will add the chicken stock and just stir to combine.

Give it a taste and adjust with salt til you get it the way you like it. You probably won’t need much additional salt since you have the fish sauce. I didn’t.

For the rest of this soup, that’s where your creativity comes in. I have some instant ramen noodles here, but you can use whatever noodles you have handy. If you want an authentic Hong Kong snack house experience, use elbow macaroni.

Other toppings you can use:

  • leftover steak or pork chops
  • roasted chicken
  • cold cuts
  • SPAM
  • tofu or tempeh
  • cooked spinach, peas and carrots, green beans
  • eggs (fried, poached, boiled, omelette)

Have fun with this recipe, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!

Curry Carbonara Recipe Experiment – Test Kitchen Vlog

This Curry Carbonara mixes the exotic spice of curry with creamy egg yolks in this really easy pasta recipe. A textbook Carbonara consists of 4 classic elements: egg yolks, cheese, bacon and black pepper. I am experimenting tonight with some Szechuan peppercorn, a Chinese ingredient that has a signature numbing sensation on the palate. I thought that the Szechuan peppercorn would be an interesting fit with the curry spices. 

Curry Carbonara with Szechuan Peppercorn

For this recipe, I used:

  • 165g pasta (I used rice pasta since it was all I had on hand, use spaghetti)
  • 85g asparagus* (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (Madras or S&B)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 rashers bacon

Start by cutting up the bacon into little quarter inch pieces and frying them til crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Start boiling the pasta in a large pot of salted water. On the last minute or so of cooking, blanch the asparagus for 60 seconds then set aside. When the pasta is al dente, take out of the water (don’t strain it) and put it into a large mixing bowl. Add the bacon the asparagus and toss lightly. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to mix until combined. Salt and pepper to taste and that’s it. Serve up and enjoy!


A few things with this recipe…

One: The Szechuan peppercorns would go really nice with a more prominent spicy kick. Next time, I think I will add some chili flakes.

Two: The curry blend should be more subtle. Perhaps half the amount and see what happens. 

Three: use spaghetti. The rice noodles don’t hold up very well to being tossed with tongs. They broke and end up looking like sh*t. Tasted good, but I guess I’m a stickler for details.

Matcha Toast – Green Tea Toast Recipe

Valentines Day is coming and this Matcha Toast is definitely something you and your Valentine are sure to enjoy. Best of all, it’s elegant and easy to make. We combine the best of 3 great things in one recipe; the simplicity of French toast, the decadence of tres leches and the experience of cracking that caramelized sugar crust of a creme brulee. This is a triple threat that’s sure please. 

Inspired by Anthony Myint of Mission Street Food. You are my culinary hero.

  • 500ml Half and Half
  • half can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons matcha (green tea) powder
  • a loaf of thick-sliced bread (Texas toast)
  • sugar
  • butter

Ok, guys, a very easy recipe here and we’re gonna start with a large mixing bowl with 500ml of half and half and about 2 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder. Whisk them together until well combined then add about half a can of sweetened condensed milk to taste. Continue whisking until the ingredients are well combined then set aside.

Now grab yourself a couple of slices of thick-sliced bread or Texas toast and spread each slice with 2 tablespoons (don’t judge me) of butter. Pop them under the broiler until the edges turn brown.

When the bread is ready, dip the slices butter-side down (just like how you drop them) in a plate of sugar. Sprinkle more sugar to coat the bread evenly. Now grab a chef’s torch and slowly cook the sugar layer until evenly browned. If you don’t have a torch, simply pop your sugar toast back under the broiler.

When your toast is done, it’s time to plate up. Put a nice generous pool of the green tea milk in the plate and place the toast right on top. Finish the dish by sprinkling more matcha powder on top and get ready for some homemade awesome. 


So that’s all there is to our Matcha Green Tea Toast. Special thanks to Anthony Myint of Mission Street Food for writing such an incredible and inspiring book. So take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen, which brings me to my question of the day: What are you cooking up for your special someone on Valentines Day? 

A Signature Bite – Mochiyaki Recipe

When Zac Young challenged the Next Chefs to make their ‘signature’ cookie, I will admit that I was a little perplexed. Though the challenge did not have to be a cookie, we were encouraged to think outside the box and be original. I think that what I made says a lot about me as The Aimless Cook. It’s simple and straight forward, has fun with flavours and is very satisfying and comforting… all in one bite. Hope you enjoy this.

So we’re gonna start by taking a block of mochi and slicing it in half lengthwise to make it about a quarter inch thick. Add it to a dry non-stick pan on medium heat and turn frequently to get it evenly toasted.  Alternatively, you can put it under the broiler, on the grill or even in your wafflemaker if you have one.

In a mixing bowl, combine about a 1/4 cup of softened butter, 1 tsp of shiromiso, 2 tbsp of sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Whisk together until you get something like a whipped butter icing. 

When the mochi is nice and toasty, it time to assemble your bite. Simply start by topping the mochi with a generous topping of the sweet miso butter. Next, sprinkle with a touch of soy sauce, then finish with sesame seeds and shredded nori.

Now imagine a delicate balance of sweet and savoury brought together with the richness of butter. Add to that the satisfying roasted rice flavour and the textures of crispy and chewy all in one delicious bite. If you’ve never had grilled mochi, try to picture a roasted marshmallow without the sweet and a lot more chewy. It’s definitely an inspiring start to something good.

Try it out and let me know what you can make with grilled mochi. Take this recipe, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!

The Apocalyptic Cocktail – Thai Inspired Michelada Recipe

2012 is here and with it comes the latest apocalyptic doomsday prophecies. Whether our doom comes via Hadron Collider mishap or zombie infestation, you can be sure that I have the perfect drink to ring in the end of time. Doomsday recipes. I like the sound of that. 

Here’s a quick recipe for you that is based on a Mexican mixed beer cocktail called a Michelada. There are many variations of the Michelada, but most of them have a hot component like Tapatio sauce, a salt rim and some savory ingredient like tomato juice. I am giving my version a little departure from Mexico and going to Southeast Asia by using sriracha and omitting tomato juice altogether. 

All you need:

  • 1 bottle of Singha (Thai beer, you can also use something like Corona)
  • 1 lime
  • sea salt, pepper and chili powder (for the rim)
  • 1t Worcestershire sauce
  • a dash (or 3) sriracha hot sauce

Rim a large beer mug with a lime slice and the salt mixture. In a separate small glass, combine the juice of half a lime, the Worcestershire and the sriracha and mix well. Fill the mug with ice and pour in the sauce mix. Fill the mug with the beer and mix well. Garnish with a lime wedge, or if you want to be like the video, add a skewered Thai prawn. Enjoy!

For the Thai prawn garnish:

  • large tiger prawns (1 per person)
  • olive oil
  • minced lemongrass
  • minced Thai chilies
  • lime juice

In a small mixing bowl, combine the prawns, a drizzle of olive oil, lemongrass, chili and the juice from a lime. Let marinate for about 10 minutes then grill briefly in a hot, lightly oiled skillet or pop on the grill til they turn opaque. Put on bamboo skewers and garnish away!

Special thanks to Hannah Hart from My Drunk Kitchen for coming up with this challenge for the YouTube Next Chefs. 

Asian Styled Soup 101 – Test Kitchen Vlogging

Nokorimono Soba is something I made while I was rooting through the cupboard for something to eat for dinner one night. There are many occasions where you find yourself in this predicament, piecing together a meal from leftovers and staples you have on hand. I figured this was as good an opportunity as any to document my process when cooking an improv meal. The test kitchen vlog is the result of my little experiments. In this post, let’s go through the components of an Asian styled bowl of soup:

The Noodle:

Soba is a noodle made from buckwheat. They are healthy, hearty and delicious. They also cook up fast and are easy to store. I like to keep them handy since they are a lot better for you than instant ramen noodles, which contain a lot of fat from palm oil. The wontons are from a late night wonton making session I had one night after I shot the Party Food video, seeing as I needed to use up the rest of the wonton skins after using 12 for the crispy cups. For the noodle component, you can use soba, udon, rice noodle, ramen or spaghetti.

The Veg:

Sansai is mountain vegetables that are packaged in water in a plastic pouch. You can buy them in the Asian grocer in the fridge section. Usually, the pouches come with mixed veg, mushrooms, or bamboo shoots. Very convenient and easy to prepare. All you need to do is strain and rinse. Other convenient veg you can use include kimchi, spinach, corn, peas, green beans, sprouts or thinly sliced carrots. Just think of vegetables that are small enough to cook fast with a quick blanch. 


For the protein component, I used a little leftover kalua pork. The great thing about these kinds of soups is that your protein source can be whatever leftover meat you have on hand. Some great ones to have are cooked ham, leftover chicken, turkey, beef brisket, Spam, tofu, tempeh, salmon, tuna… Possibilities are endless. 


Though you have a hodge-podge of elements, like the A-Team, there is one thing that brings harmony to the show and that’s the soup broth. It’s hot, comforting and meld the flavors together in a happy, savory harmony. In the video, I used a homemade ramen broth I had frozen. I like to make huge batches of broth and freeze them, since it’s a time consuming process that makes your kitchen resemble a scene from CSI. Other soup bases you can use include beef or chicken stock with some soy sauce, dashi based stock or miso.

The Finisher: 

This brings us to the last component. I can’t make an Asian styled bowl of soup without a soft cooked egg. It seems sacrilegious to not have it. lol. For a perfectly soft cooked egg with cooked white and a silky, runny yolk, I like to boil my water (lots of water) and gently lower the egg in. Immediately, I start to time my cooking for 5:10. This comes from David Chang from Momofuku, who is probably the guru of egg cooking. Something simple like cooking an egg is amazingly complex when you think of it. There are so many different textures you can achieve by varying the cooking times and methods. More on that later.

So there you have it. The combinations of soups you can make with this simple guide are limitless. I have been using this train of thought for years, since I was a starving art student with a cupboard full of instant ramen, some cold cuts and a couple eggs. The only difference is the world of ingredients that I have discovered over the years. If you happen to be starving student, don’t despair. A lot of good ingredients are cheap, they store well and can be prepared using a simple hotplate or a microwave. Have fun in the kitchen, have no fear and live!


Test Kitchen: Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

At first glance, this may look like a ghetto attempt at the familiar soup or chili in a bread bowl, but in fact, this is my first attempt at creating a popular Durban street food called Bunny Chow. There are many stories behind the origins of this interesting dish, one of them being that during apartheid, certain racial groups were prohibited from going to certain restaurants, hence a way of serving take out curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread was created. Another story suggests that Indian caddies in need of a quick bite could grab a ‘bunny’ and have something portable since there were no styrofoam containers or paper plates. In any case, Bunny Chow, more commonly referred to as “bunny” was born. 

Typically, the curry found in a bunny is usually a veggie curry of beans or a meat curry with mutton. My curry was a simple, but flavourful wild buffalo curry made with a blend of spices from the masala daba. Coriander seeds, ground cumin, garam masala, cayenne and turmeric make the base of this curry with crushed tomatoes to make a nice gravy. I cooked the buffalo in the pressure cooker until the meat was tender. Since buffalo is very lean, I mounted the gravy at the last moment with a touch of butter. Finally, some peas for colour and I had my curry. 

For the bread, I just picked up an uncut loaf of fresh bakery bread and divided it into quarters. I dug out the inside of the loaf and set it aside. This is called the ‘virgin’ and is placed on top of the curry once you fill the loaf. In South Africa, taking someone else’s virgin is a serious offense. I’m not kidding.

Lemon pickle

To accompany my bunny, I made this delicious and super fast lemon pickle. It was a recipe from Jamie Oliver that I tweaked for a little variety and colour contrast. All you do is chop up a whole lemon, peel and all and about a quarter of a lime for colour. I cooked some coriander seed in a small pan of oil then added a chopped chili pepper, some turmeric and finally the citrus. I cooked the whole thing, tossing gently for about 15 seconds, then added some chopped cilantro. Done. It was very bright and refreshing with spicy and savoury notes from the coriander and chili. The best thing is that this pickle will last for a couple months in the fridge and probably get better. I will be featuring this recipe in a future episode of The Aimless Cook, so stay tuned and have fun in the kitchen!