We are excited to introduce you to our new resident foodie here on our RUBY Blog: Anna King Shahab, Food Writer for Metro, Features Editor for Taste Magazine and Eats by Anna blogger. Eats by Anna is a haven of food, from sweet treats to healthy meals along with the best restaurant recommendations in Auckland. Each month Anna will be posting her favourite new recipes here - we can assure you, you're in for a treat!
Where did your love of cooking come about?
I was lucky to be raised by parents who both loved cooking and encouraged an adventurous palate. Every time I eat an amazing dish, or travel, my culinary appreciation grows.
What's your favourite type of food?
I love the fresh, zingy and pungent nature of South East Asian cuisines, with so many herbs, raw vegetables and lots of sour flavours. I'm also a big fan of Middle Eastern food, but I know if I were to live in the region, I'd be about twice the size because it's rude to turn down any food!
Favourite Auckland restaurant?
It depends on the occasion. To feel utterly pampered, you cannot better The French Café - they just nail it. For a casual meal which also hums with perfection, Ortolana in Britomart is fantastic.
First up, Anna shares with us her delicious looking recipe for Venison Larb...
Larb is one of my favourite Thai dishes, and epitomizes everything about Northeastern Thai (Isaan) cuisine: it’s all about texture, lots of fresh herbs, and getting that zingy balance between the spicy, salty, sour flavours. Another reason larb is so good is because it’s so healthy – there’s no sugar or oil used in the cooking, and while a larb would normally only contain herbs as a green element, I like to pimp it with whatever’s in the fridge – sometimes I’d use a bit of kale or some green beans cut into 2cm slices, and here I’ve added sprouted pulses which, being super-crunchy, work brilliantly. Traditionally larb is served with sticky rice, but I like to leave the carb element out and instead wrap spoonfuls of larb in little lettuce cups.
A word about venison: If, like most people I know, you’re not familiar with cooking venison at home, you really should become acquainted with what is one of the best types of meat you can choose to eat. Vension is the meat from free-ranging deer, and when I say free-ranging, I mean these guys usually have hundreds of hectares to play with. They eat grass, a little hay and – get this – in NZ, deer farmers often grow paddocks of kale for the deer to munch on. The animals meet as humane an end as possible. The fat content of venison is very low - around 2-3 percent. In the Thai way of cooking, you prepare all your ingredients first, then the actual cooking element is very quick, and easy because you’re not trying to multitask.
You will need:
- 2 tbsp jasmine rice grains
- 1 iceberg lettuce
- 3/4 cup sprouted pulses or beans (I used 'Crunchy Combo')
- 1 cup coriander (leaves and some stalk)
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 2 shallots
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 400g venison (I used Silver Fern Farms venison stir fry)
- 2/3 cup good quality stock (chicken or vegetable, homemade is best, but if you are using bought make sure it has no added salt)
- 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes (or more, to taste)
- In a hot dry pan, toast the raw jasmine rice grains till golden and fragrant, then grind them into a powder. You can use a spice grinder if you have one, or a mortar and pestle. Set aside in a bowl.
- Remove any wilted outer leaves from the lettuce and discard. Pull apart the other leaves carefully to keep intact and wash well. Dry leaves with a clean towel and place on a serving dish.
- Put lime juice and fish sauce in a small bowl.
- Place a plate by your chopping board and place the sprouts on it. Roughly chop the coriander and mint and add to plate. Slice the shallots thinly and add to the plate also.
- Remove venison from packaging and drain any excess liquid from it. Chop the venison into very small pieces, like a rough mince. You can do this with two knives – it’s quicker, plus it will make you laugh and feel like a crazy person.
- Place stock in a wok or deep pan and heat until simmering, then add the venison. Cook for five minutes, stirring, until the meat is just cooked through. Remove pan from the heat and drain out most of the liquid (the venison will have created a lot more liquid), leave about 1/4 cup of liquid in with the meat.
- Tip the plate of prepped ingredients as well as the toasted ground rice and the dried chilli into the wok with the venison and stir though.
- Give the lime and fish sauce dressing a stir, then add to the larb and stir though.
- Spoon out larb onto a serving dish and serve straight away, or in summer it makes a nice cool dish. Let guests help themselves, spooning larb into lettuce cups and making little wraps.
I recently spent four weeks in France, where tanning is still a very serious business. The general population invest time and money keeping themselves in close proximity to the sun at all times, be that on the beach, by a lake or a pool, or even lying out on one of Paris’ crowded ‘plages’ along the banks of the Seine. I got in to the spirit of things and relished the chance to try their sunblock brands, many of which are amongst the best in the world. Their sun is also a hell of a lot more forgiving than what we get Down Under, where I stick religiously to the Faux Glow.
It's that time of the year when the layers start falling off, so if you’re not working with some kind of tanning product now then I suggest you get to it – stat! And, if you’re as rubbish at applying self-tanners then it’s high time you made a gradual tanner your friend – the best of the bunch are pretty much foolproof, and great for your skin to boot.
*One of my fave gradual tanners is by Australian beauty brand ModelCo, who recently signed up Rosie H-W as their spokesbod. They are a brand known for high performance, no-nonsense, innovative products, and ModelCo’s Gradual Tan (told you they were no-nonsense) is an everyday triple action self-tanning moisturiser for all skin types that acts as a self-tanner, tan extender and moisturiser all in one, allowing you to build or prolong a natural-looking, streak free tan gradually and easily. It helps to improve and even out skin tone, prevent the visible signs of aging and protect the skin all while delivering a gradual golden glow. It’s also scented with what they call “delicious summer fruits”, so there are no tell tale signs of tanning, just a fresh, yummy scent.
On the self tan front, one product I made sure to pack was Kate Somerville’s Somerville360° Tanning Towelettes. The creator and director of her own renowned clinic on Melrose in Los Angeles, Kate Somerville has devoted her life to creating flawless faces. When it comes to a clear complexion and a gorgeous glow, stars like Jessica Alba depend on Kate’s clever hands and killer products. Every product in her range began life in her clinic, including the Towelettes, which contain a paraben-free self-tanning formula to give you a quick and even application with no streaking. She formulated these after years of despairing over client Paris Hilton’s shockingly fake looking spray tans, and the Hollywood princess was all the better for it! Incredibly easy to use and perfect for travel as they come individually sealed - no need to stress about bottles or tubes busting out en route - each Towelette is concentrated with a self-tanning formula to give you a quick and even application. To use, unfold the towelette and apply to dry, clean skin in a circular motion over your face and body, being sure to wash hands immediately that you’re done. Tan-tastic perfection and no over-spray coating the bathroom.
Last up, I’d like to give a shout out to Asyana’s Natural Sunless Tanning range. It was created to be a completely natural tan - in ingredients, look and feel – and contains only the best of fruit, plant and botanical extracts. Think the likes of Aloe Vera, Green Tea, Grapeseed, Allatoin and essential oils – all of the good stuff and none of the bad. The formulation is most importantly alcohol and paraben preservative free – and yep, it looks great!