Tag Archives: recipe

I Say Tamale, You Say Whaaaa?

_MG_6062Photography by Tony Mott, Styling by Ali Nardi

Recently my buddy Tony Mott and I teamed up to do a photo project with my local tortilla joint, La Tortilleria. Tony is a great photographer. He is also the only other person I know other than myself who feeds his pet, a Doberman named Duke, a raw food diet, so naturally, Tony and I make a totally weird awesome team!

La Tortilleria is a small mexican eatery and tortilla wholesaler in Kensington, Melbourne, that makes tortillas  from scratch. They also make awesome cactus and cheese empanadas!



They grind the corn themselves (with the use of a crazy squeeky machine!) to make their own masa de maíz, which translates to corn dough). The dried version of masa de maíz, which is more commonly found, is called masa harina and translates to corn flour. It is often just referred to as masa.


All of the meat they serve at La Tortilleria is free range and humanely treated, and they have awesome vegetarian and vegan option. They are really the local tortilleria for all of Melbourne along with El Cielo, located in the more industrial area of Port Melbourne, as fresh tortillas are not common here (If you are willing to travel to port melbourne, you’ll burn a much smaller hole in your pocket. A kilo of fresh masa from La tortilleria will run you $8 while it is only $3 at El Cielo, and just as delicious. They also offer blue corn products at El Cielo).

Anywho, as I styled and Tony took photos at La Tortilleria, we ate everything we were working with throughout the shoot as one does… My favorite bit (and my favorite photo), was the tamales. I LOVE tamales, and while they were a staple part of my $10/ day lifestyle during the post college year in San Francisco, they are really hard to find over here. It was Tony’s first time tasting one. Even the word was foreign to him, and I threw it around amongst my commonwealth buddies to see if they had ever received this package wrapped appealingly in dried corn husks or banana leaves (tamale strategy changes country by country). Surprise, surprise– they hadn’t. I needed to fix this situtaion.

So I had a group of friends to my place last week for Mexican style tamales. Everyone loved them as much as I hoped they would. As usual, my friend Sel-dawg just went for it and tried eating the corn husk as well. Talk about adventurous eater!

The one con about tamales: They are pretty labor intensive, and in a city like Melbourne, you’ll have to go to multiple shops to gather all of your ingredients. (I have provided a list of tamale ingredient suppliers in melbourne at the bottom of this post.) The trick to make sure it is all worth your effort and is cost effective as well– make them in bulk! They freeze well, and in our case, they didn’t last that long anyway. Tamales are a food you will want to share. These little parcels feel like gifts.

I’d like to share a few tamale tips with you, and let you know my new approach to the fat component that goes in the masa mixture. If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s coconut oil.

There are 4 components to your tamale dough.

  • Masa (in fresh or flour form)
  • Fat (traditionally lard or butter; shortening is another option– now it can be solidified coconut oil too!)
  • Stock to thin the dough out and give it flavor and moisture
  • Salt (sometimes this is already in the masa, so make sure to taste before you add extra)

I don’t use lard in my tamales, not because i am against lard, but because I like to know where my animal products come from, and the stick of lard from the supermarket most likely does not come from free ranged meat…. I stay away from shortening as a rule (just use butter in your pie crust!), and because Anders purchased an industrial sized bucket of organic coconut oil (at industry price :), it just make sense.

The filling for your tamale is often slow cooked pork, beef or chicken, in a sauce made from a variety of dried chillies (In Melbourne, you can find the chillies at Casa Iberica Deli in Fitzroy). Vegetarian tamales are just as delicious, and are usually filled with veggies and cheese.

I made delicious beef tamales in a red chilli sauce (and added a few non traditional extras– my adaptation in the recipe below).

I have a ridiculously large steamer that I acquired while styling for a cookbook, and being able to steam 50 tamales at a time was key to keeping my sanity, as opposed to doing them in tiny batches.

Below is the “approach” I use. I’ve given you measurements to make about 3 dozen tamales  (I made about 100 and found that one pack of corn husks from Casa Iberica Deli was more than enough!).

Smokey Beef Tamales  (adapted from multiple recipes, including Tyler Florence’s recipe on FoodNetwork.com, and tips from the chef at La Tortilleria)

yield: About 3 Dozen

Ingredients for dough using fresh masa (Tyler Florence has a good dough recipe if using masa flour here):

  • 1 kilo fresh masa
  • 250 grams solidified coconut oil (ratio of masa to fat should be around 4:1)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup beef or veggie stock if using fresh masa (if making beef tamales, just use stock from slow cooked beef (you’ll need a lot more if using masa harina base)
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 pound whole piece of free range beef for slow cooking– a roast or brisket works well
  • 100 grams dried chillies, tops and seeds removed (Pasilla, Ancho, and New Mexican chillies all work)
  • Enough stock (from slow cooking beef) or water to cover chillies
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 head garlic peeled
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tspn smoked paprika
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Enough corn husks for 3 dozen tamales (Case Iberica Deli)
  • Sourcream and lime or lemon wedges to serve
  1. Place meat, 1 sliced onion, 1 tspn salt, and half the peeled garlic in a heavy pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover with lid and turn down to gentle simmer. Cook for 2 hours, or until very tender and falling apart. When finished cooking move beef to deep baking dish and shred with two forks. Reserve the liquid in pot and put through sieve. This is your beef stock.
  2. For the red chilli sauce, place your chillies, cumin seeds, smoked paprika,  remaining onion and garlic in a pot and add enough beef stock to cover (if you don’t have enough for dough and chillies, you can add some water too). Add salt to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until chillies are very soft. Allow to cool slightly, then blend into a sauce with an immersion blender (or if you are scared of those, a normal blender). Add the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the beef and stir to coat. Your filling is ready.
  3. For the tamale dough: in a large bowl, cream solidified coconut oil (or other fat) until fluffy. Add in fresh masa using hands. Add enough stock to make the mixture soft and easy to work with, but not too mushy. This part you have to play by ear a bit.
  4. Assemble the tamales! Soak your corn husks in warm water for 20 minutes at least. Start with the larger ones. Spread a thin layer of masa onto the smooth side of the corn husk. There will be a wide top to the husk that comes down to a point. Cover the top half (I don’t have the words to explain this bit very well, but there are some instructional videos on YouTube. Here is one I found helpful.)I use a wet palm but everyone has their preferred method. Place about a tblspn of filling on the masa towards the edge of the husk, and roll. Fold bottom end up and pinch top. If you want to get fancy with it, you can tie a corn husk bow around the tamale, which is also a helpful trick if you are layering two corn husks to get enough surface are (again the video is a very good resource!)
  5. To cook the tamales, places then in a steamer with the open side up (i place a bowl or foil ball in the center of the steamer to prop them on.) Steam for 1.5-2hrs or until tamale dough is nice and firm.
  6. To serve unwrap the tamale from the corn husk. I love them for breakfast with eggs and hot sauce. For dinner, I served them up with a fresh tomato salsa, sour cream with a bit of lime zest, and a lemon and lime cabbage slaw (just the cirtus, some salt, and some thinly sliced scallion– cuts through the richness of the tamale). Oh and hot sauce is a must!

Where to find tamale ingredients in Melbourne, Australia:

  • Casa Iberica Deli in Fitzroy has masa harina (masa in flour form), corn husks, dried chillies, spices
  • El Cielo in Port Melbourne has white fresh masa available during the week, and sells masa harina (blue corn as well). They also have dried chillies and an awesome collection of mexican products
  • La Tortilleria in Kensington has fresh masa, as well as a a good selection of mexican ingredients




Haloumi: The Official Food of Australia’s Crappy Athletes

Haloumi 1Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

Admittedly that post title is not technically %100 true. Haloumi is not the official food of anything other than the following salad recipe, and Australia’s athletes are not %100 crappy. In fact, only Australians, particularly the Olympic commentators seem to think their athletes are crappy.

I love living in Australia mainly because the quality of life here is so great. High work wages, free health care, good weather, lots of space, the list goes on. And because Australia has all of these high standards for quality of living, I find that frequently on occassion Australians whine get mildly upset when they don’t get something they feel entitled too. And no where has this attitude been more apparent then the consistently negative and critical coverage of their own athletes in the Olympics.

A typical interview tends to go something like this (fictional discussion based on my own perception of commentators interviewing athletes):

Commentator: “How does it feel to get fourth when you were so close to getting on the podium?”

Athlete: “I’m so proud. It feels great to get to be at olympics and I gave it my all.”

Commentator: “Yes, but how disappointing is it not to get gold?”

Athelete: “I’m just so excited at what I accomplished and I’m looking forward to the next olympics in 4 years.”

Commentator: “Ok, but how does it feel to totally suck for not winning the gold, which is the only thing that matters,” and so on a so forth.

I’ve also never witnessed Olympic commentators who are so eager to see fellow competitors fall, crash, or slip so their athletes can gain a spot on the podium. I mean, is that really how you want to win? Hoping your opponent takes a fall trying something daring and worthy of gold while you play it safe? I don’t think so, and I don’t think Australia’s Olympic athletes do either, but hey, I can only speak for myself…

So this post is in dedication to Australia’s Olympic Athletes who I think are doing a pretty swell job in the most prestigious athletic competition in the world. Chumpy might have gotten wiped out in border cross, but man is he good looking. And David Morris didn’t win the gold, but he dressed in bright yellow for his follow-up interview which is just as good.

haloumi 2

Australia loves haloumi, they support haloumi, they believe in haloumi. They should probably start treating their athletes more like haloumi short of eating them, and make this awesome Haloumi, Rockmelon (Cantalope), Almond and Basil Salad instead. Cook time is minimal, so you don’t have to linger by the heat on a sweltering Melbourne day, and it’s super simple to prepare so you can reserve your energy for things like walking down the block, or getting the lid off your water bottle which you have probably refilled at least ten times when Melbourne is at it’s worst. I serve it as a main–it is refreshing and filling, and won’t bog you down. It’s definitely worthy of a gold :)

haloumi 3


  • 12  1/3″ thick slices haloumi cheese (it’s the “meat in this dish” so i don’t skimp!)
  • 1/2 rockmelon/cantalope, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 french shallot, thinly sliced
  • a handful of basil, leaves picked and large ones torn
  • a few handfuls mixed salad greens

For the dressing: Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and sald and pepper to taste

1.Over medium high heat on the BBQ/grill, or on a grill pan or regular fry pan, cook  haloumi pieces in a bit of oil until golden brown on both sides (if doing this directly on the BBQ, just brush haloumi with oil). This only takes a few minutes on either side.

2. Combine remaining salad ingredients with dressing,  lay haloumi pieces on top and drizzle with a bit of extra dressing. Simple as that. Enjoy!

Avoid the Sugar Hangover! Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies

Photography by Kim Mennen and Jake Lowe, Styling by Ali Nardi
Notice: WordPress is having a mini meltdown and currently won’t recognize spaces between paragraphs. Sorry for the big block of text.
Last night I had my ladies over. We used to get together to exercise, but now, we mainly get together to eat and drink wine, which suits us all just fine…
I made a wholesome and really flavorsome classic for them: a lemon and rosemary roast chicken with roast spuds, sweet potatoes, garlic, and kale (I will try to post that recipe soon). My friend Alice is off the sugar Sarah Wilson style, and inspired by Alice, I haven’t been eating much processed sugar either. It’s usually just a bit of fruit everyday and that’s been the deal. I feel pretty good, and I considered this fact while deciding what to make them all for dinner.
We were all full and satisfied, but then my friend Amelia went into the kitchen, and returned with a box of gorgeous Greek pastries. So gorgeous, that even Alice crumbled. What was meant to be just a bite of each turned into a bit of a feeding frenzy, but lady style, so it didn’t actually look like a frenzy…. and before you knew it, there were only a few measly scraps left–which I ate for breakfast this morning to try and cure the terrible sugar hangover I awoke to this morning.
Sugar. It’s super addictive. I consider myself very lucky that I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, but a few months ago, I slipped into dangerously high sugar-eating territory, and it was a major effort to scale it back. I was addicted for a bit, and I don’t want to go back to that place. I always felt tired, bloated, and desperate for something sweet. It truly made me feel hungover in the morning, without the benefit of actually being drunk the night before..
That being said, I never planned and still don’t plan to quit sugar completely, and by sugar, I mean fructose. I don’t like extreme dieting. I love almost all foods, and to cut out sugar completely would be cutting out a lot more than just the sweetness. It would be cutting out experiences, not to mention always being the difficult one at the dinner table– or any table for that matter.
The problem was just that I was having sugar way too often–like with every meal, and that didn’t feel so hot…
I read Sarah Wilson’s e-book, I Quit Sugar, and there were some strong points in there, and it definitely helped me cut down big time. But that point that stood out to me the most is that she drinks a cup of warm milk while sniffing incense when she wants a treat– and that sounds fairly dreadful to me.
I like to enjoy a hard cider or two on occassion when I’m out with my friends. I clearly enjoy Greek pastries once in a while. I like making birthday cakes for me friends, and enjoying them with them. And I’m certainly not going to miss out on eating a gelato here and there throughout the summer.
So sugar is in, but only when it is really worth it. I stay away from it unless I am eating a proper dessert that accompanies an occasion. The Greek pastry event was a bit over the top, but again, experiences! It wouldn’t be as much fun to share a stick of celery around the table. But that’s one night. And the rest of the week will have to be pretty clean (with the exception of Thanksgiving, which is  free-for-all in my book.
Maybe I should have mentioned at the top that this is not a post that is trying to keep you off the sweets over the holidays. I have no place telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat. I’m just letting you know what I enjoy. Really, what I am trying to say is: I think it is ok to eat bad stuff, as long as it’s usually and mostly eating good stuff. (And Thanksgiving is only once a year…)

peanutbutter cookie 3

peanutbutter cookies

One way I manage to do this is by keeping treats that are low in sugar and packed with protein and good fats in the house, like Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks.  This week, I’m talking about Peanut Butter Cookies– really good ones, with mostly good stuff in them apart from 1/8 cup honey. They are gluten free, and have some delicious optional extras in them. They are based on a recipe from Elana’s Pantry–she does great desserts– but I’ve cut the sugar in half, made a few other changes, and added some extras to keep you full for longer and add some more interesting flavor.


Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies
Makes about 12 cookies
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tblsn cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded or dessicated coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda, and shredded coconut in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat peanut butter, honey, butter and vanilla extract, until light and fluffy.
  4. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients, and beat until well combined. Stir in cacao nibs and chopped peanuts.
  5. Scoop dough 1 tablespoon at a time onto lined baking sheet and press down with a fork.
  6. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Possum Wars and Indian-Style BBQ

Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Tamarind

Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Tamarind

I’m in the middle of moving (arrgggg) but I won’t bore you with that. Hearing about the ups and downs of someone’s move is just about as interesting as hearing stories about airport delays or how your cat really is the cutest cat ever (impossible, because mine are)…. But, made some rad food for a farewell barbecue, and got the thumbs up from my guests to post my Indian barbecue recipes to the blog (not authentic Indian food, just some stuff I made up). These recipes are great on the barbie in summer, but could also be moved from the barbecue to the oven for a hearty winter m. They were a hit, thank goodness. Wouldn’t want to leave on anything but a tasty note!

The Barbecue: Anders and I had a “farewell barbecue” to see our friends before we head south. Everyone got along great, except for our resident possums, who were duking it out.  The neighbors recently cut down some well established trees and the possums that used to dwell in that territory are now trying to move in on the possums living in the branches above our roof. Possums are anything but stealthy, and we could hear them tumbling around overhead. Pictured below is a possum that couldn’t hold it’s ground and joined our barbecue for a while. Unlike those fangy looking, pink-eyed possums in the US, possums in Australia are adorable, except for when they are in your kitchen nibbling on leftover salad, and refuse to budge even when you are waving your arms like a mad man and shouting at them.

Just want to say the friends I have made in Brisbane are fantastic people, and I will miss you (but we’ll be all up in your face when Anders and I are back to visit family). Take care and enjoy the recipes!


Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Tamarind
Recipe by: Alexandra Nardi


  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons tamarind paste*
  • 1 tblspn honey
  • 2 tsp melted coconut oil (or oil of choice)
  • 6 lamb chops (from the shoulder, a few more if you are using lamb loin chops)
  • 1 lime (optional)
  • Raita to serve (recipe follows)

Raita Ingredients:

  • 3/4 grated cucumber
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • good handful of fresh mint, chopped (plus a sprig for garnish)

*You can find tamarind paste in Indian/Asian grocers

  1. Grind coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in mortar and pestle until the seeds are broken down (but not yet a powder). Transfer to a bowl, and add paprika, salt, garlic, ginger, tamarind paste, honey, and oil. Add lamb chops and toss well to coat. Cover bowl and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
  2. Heat grill (barbeque) to high, and cook lamb chops a few minutes on each side (I like them medium rare, so about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Cook a few minutes longer on each side for medium or well done).
  3. Squeeze lime juice over lamb chops and serve with raita.
  4. For raita: Grate cucumber and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Allow to rest for a few minutes than squeeze out and discard excess liquid. Mix cucumber and mint into yogurt. Add salt to taste. Garnish with a sprig of mint

Indian Spiced Yogurt Chicken

Recipe by: Alexandra Nardi

Indian Yogurt Chicken

Indian Spiced Yogurt Chicken


  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes, more if you like it spicy
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala (see recipe below)*
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (fresh coriander), including stems, and a few sprigs for garnish
  • thumb size piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  1. Grind cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle until broken down (but not into a powder). Pour into a medium bowl and add turmeric, salt, chili flakes, garam masala, cilantro, garlic and ginger. Add yogurt and stir to combine. Add chicken pieces and coat with yogurt mixture. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to four.
  2. Heat the grill (barbeque) to medium heat. Cook chicken for about 20-25 minutes, turning over once (wings and drumsticks will cook faster than the breast and thigh pieces).  Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve.

*You can of course buy garam masala, which is a blend of different spices in powder form. I like to make my own, as I have found that it really makes a difference if you use fresh spices. So, if i plan to cook with garam masala, I make the garam masala myself and keep it in a jar, where it stays potent for a few months. I use one of the garam masala recipes from Indian Vegetarian Cookery, by Jack Santa Maria. This no frills book (no pictures!) is a really good book to use as a launch into cooking Indian food, and it has been a great learning tool for me.

Garam Masala (by Jack Santa Maria)

To make your garam masala, in a mortar and pestle grind together:

  • 4 parts black peppercorns
  • 4 parts coriander seed
  • 3 parts cumin seed or fennel seed (i just do both)
  • 1 part cloves
  • 1 part cardamom seeds (just crush the pod to release the seeds)
  • 1 part cinnamon