Vegan Basil Pesto Recipe

vegan pesto recipe

Basil Pesto is a classic Italian sauce which has been around for more than a century at least. While I still love the original one, here is a vegan basil pesto recipe that will blow your tastebuds away!

Most basil pesto recipes use parmesan cheese and garlic. Here I have omitted both these ingredients in an effort to further simplify this recipe without compromising the flavour. Also traditionally, a pesto is made by pounding the ingredients together in a mortal and pestle which gives it a chunky texture.

Instead in this recipe I’ve blitzed the ingredients together in a blender to make it silky smooth. This pesto is very versatile and can be had as a dip with crackers; a sandwich spread or a pasta sauce! We’ve tried them all and its amazing! It’s also healthy meaning you can indulge without feeling guilty.

Check out these {Recipe Inspirations} to enjoy this pesto as a pasta sauce or a sandwich spread..

  • Chicken and Portobello Mushroom Fusilli – Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive in a large wok and sauté sliced chicken breast pieces, mushrooms and onions until cooked. Add in the cooked pasta into the wok and add two tablespoons of the prepared pesto and mix well. The water from cooking the chicken and veggies will dissolve the pesto to form a creamy sauce.

basil pesto fusili

  • Chicken/Tofu and Cucumber Sandwich – Spread 2 slices of multigrain toast with a generous helping of the pesto. Cut a cucumber in half and slice it lengthwise. Add chicken or Tofu slices with cucumber on top.





Here is the Yummly recipe card for the list of ingredients and instructions to make the Vegan Basil Pesto,

Creamy Vegan Basil Pesto

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 8 minutes

Creamy Vegan Basil Pesto


  • 1/2 cup (80g) pine nuts
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 bunch Italian basil leaves with stem (approx. 1 cup)
  • salt as required


  1. Cook a cup of frozen peas in boiling water for a few minutes until tender
  2. Grind together pine nuts, basil leaves, olive oil and salt
  3. Add peas and grind until creamy smooth


You can vary the nut to basil ratio depending on whether you prefer creaminess of strong basil flavour!

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Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish

meen pollichathu

Recently I tried my hand at cooking this age-old classic fish delicacy that makes Kerala so popular as a seafood destination for foodies from all over the world.

Meen Pollichathu  literally translates to smoked fish in Malayalam. The fish is coated in a spice rub and then folded inside plantain/banana leaves and smoked over a wood fire.

Firewood and the setup to cook over a fire is hard to come by in modern Kerala cities. Luckily for us, it just so happened that at my wife’s home in Kerala, the opportunity presented itself in such a manner I just had to get down to some serious cooking! Not only did we have firewood and an old school concrete pit to make a fire, we also had fresh produce off our backyard garden for the spice rub and good quality fresh catch from a local vendor! Just perfect!

Traditionally Meen Pollichathu uses a red curry spice paste made by blending together red chillies, onions, shallots, curry leaves and other spices. But what makes this particular recipe standout is the unique combination of just three key ingredientsgreen pepper, tamarind and shallots.

meen pollichathu spice mix

Green pepper adds a bite; tamarind imparts tanginess while the balance is struck by the mildly sweet and pungent flavour of shallots. Unlike black pepper, green pepper can be used liberally in cooking without overpowering the taste of the whole dish/curry paste.

The choice of fish is up to you. Usually karimeen (Pearl Spot) is what is used to make meen pollichathu. I choose a local fish (chemballi – a variety of red snapper) that was about the size of my palm.

Cooking Instructions

  • Grind together green peppers pods, tamarind and a handful of shallots in a grinder. Drizzle in some coconut oil and salt to taste.
  • Lightly heat the banana leaf over a direct flame to make it flexible so that it folds well without tearing.
  • Place each whole fish individually on a banana leaf. Add some of the ground paste onto the fish.
  • Fold and wrap the leaves over the fish using the leaf stem or a toothpick.
  • Place a cast iron skillet on the wood fire and wait until its smoking hot.
  • Place the wrapped fishes on the skillet. Make sure you don’t crowd the skillet.
  • Partially close the lid to smoke the fish and it turn every 5 minutes, until its charred outside.
  • Serve as a side dish or on its own with drinks 🙂 enjoy!

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Hope you enjoyed this post and inspired you cook more! Please share this post with your friends and I look forward to sharing a new cooking story with you soon.

Here’s also a print friendly YUMMLY recipe card..

Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish


  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 3/4 handful of green pepper pods
  • 2-3, 2" long pods of tamarind - deseeded
  • 1 handful of shallots
  • 4-6 whole fish (palm sized); skin on or off
  • 4-6 squares of banana leaves


  1. Grind together green peppers pods, tamarind and a handful of shallots in a grinder. Drizzle in some coconut oil and salt to taste.
  2. Lightly heat the banana leaf over a direct flame to make it flexible so that it folds well without tearing.
  3. Place each whole fish individually on a banana leaf. Add some of the ground paste onto the fish.
  4. Fold and wrap the leaves over the fish using the leaf stem or a toothpick.
  5. Place a cast iron skillet on the wood fire and wait until its smoking hot.
  6. Place the wrapped fishes on the skillet. Make sure you don't crowd the skillet.
  7. Partially close the lid to smoke the fish and it turn every 5 minutes, until its charred outside.
  8. Serve as a side dish or on its own with drinks 🙂 enjoy!


If you can't get banana leaves may use other large leaves for a different flavor.

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How to make cafe style coffee at home on a shoestring budget? 

How to make cafe style coffee at home


Like most people, for me cafe style coffee was an occasional treat. Home brewed coffee was at best tolerable, at least until few years back.

The thing is, once you’ve developed a passion for coffee, you realize its just not worth drinking anything sub par, even at home!

Faced with this dilemma, I figured, I have got to save up, buy an expensive commercial grade espresso machine, coffee grinder and other fancy paraphernalia to finally be able to drink a satisfying cup of coffee every morning at home.

WRONG! All you need is about $100 to get started.

In Melbourne’s top cafes, a good quality cup of coffee will set you back $3.80, at least!

Whether you are reading this in Melbourne or elsewhere in the world, it still doesn’t change the fact that a cup of specialty coffee made at home is going to be cheaper than sub-par cafe coffee.

So why would you not invest a little in perfecting the art of coffee-making? Especially when it is reasonably simple.

Here in this post I will do a round-up of everything that you need to make the perfect cup of cafe style coffee at home without burning a hole in your wallet.

Coffee Machine a.k.a the Brewing Equipment {$20-$40}

First off, it comes to choosing the right machine for the kind of coffee you love drinking. Although I love most styles of coffee brews, my personal favorite is a milk based espresso. Almost all cafe style coffees are espresso based. And in these, the difference mostly comes in the milk or froth to espresso shot ratio.

The other main coffee variety is the filter coffee which is made using a drip filter, siphon or a classic French Press. In this post I will focus on perfecting the more common espresso style coffee.

To make an espresso, your options are to use either an espresso machine or a traditional stovetop espresso makerthe Moka Pot. While I have used both, the latter is my failsafe choice and that is what you need. Allow me to explain!

Espresso Machine vs Moka Pot

Even cheap espresso machines are more expensive than a good quality Moka Pot, not to mention the latter’s more consistent superior coffee brewing quality. An espresso machine also takes up more space on your kitchen counter and is noisier. Unless you invest in a good quality machine that is easily between the $100-$200 mark, the quality of coffee doesn’t justify the price spent on the coffee machine. The espresso machine also incurs a higher running cost because it uses electricity and needs technical expertise for repairs.

I love the Moka Pot for its simplicity and minimalist design. It can be used on any stovetop and is small enough for portability too.

bialetti moka pot
a 2 cup Bialetti Moka Pot

I use a cheap $25 Moka Pot for my everyday use and recently bought another, a 6 cup Bialetti Moka Express. While Bialetti sells few different designs of their Moka Pot, the Bialetti Moka Express is a timeless classic that still maintains the 1933 design patented by Luigi De Ponti. Featuring an eight face collector chamber (made in Aluminum) design for optimal heat dissipation, it is definitely more robustly built that my cheap replica.

But the truth is, coffee made in either cannot be easily told apart.

I use the Bialetti only when I have guests or need to make more than a few cups in one go (you can’t make anything less than the standard number of cups the size of the Moka Pot is meant for).

You can buy the 6 cup Bialetti Moka Express for about $50 online through eBay or Amazon. I bought mine on a Myer online sale for $39!

Tips on using a Moka Pot

(other than what’s on the accompanying leaflet)

  1. Once the coffee collects in the top chamber, make sure to stir the brew before transferring it into the cups. This will make the brew strength uniform.
  2. I haven’t heeded to the advice of replacing the washer & filter on my Moka Pots every 3 months as suggested by specialty coffee equipment vendors. If you clean and maintain them regularly it will last you a long while.  I wouldn’t bother until there are visible signs of the rubber gasket needing replacement.
  3. Always make sure you brew coffee on a medium flame and not leave the bakelite handle of the Moka Pot exposed to the flame or else it will melt!

Coffee Beans {<$1 per cup of coffee}

Next up is choosing the right coffee beans for your brew. You probably know what I’m about to say next, but for the benefit of all,

You should always get freshly roasted coffee beans!

They are cheaper (yes even cheaper than freeze dried instant coffee) and beans retain freshness for longer. Just make sure they are stored in an air tight container, away from direct sunlight in a cool spot.

There are a range of options available in the market and prices vary from $10/kg to $100/kg depending on whether the coffee is Specialty, sourced ethically or certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ or FairTrade.

Until you develop a finer taste for coffee and begin to understand a bit of the complex flavor overtones some beans tend to boast, my advice is to trial with the cheapest ones first.

I do this to get a baseline understanding of what worst to expect. Well, that is not true always. I have come to like the Aldi homebrand coffee beans and feel it is quite understated. The 1 kg bag sells for about $11.50.

Occasionally as a treat, I buy my mate Syl’s batch roasted Minerva espresso blend coffee beans. This trademarked signature blend called Cremalux uses African and South American coffee beans for a robust full bodied flavor profile. You can buy them online at about $32 a kilo and can get a 10% discount if you use SYL10 code at the checkout!

McIvers coffee Melbourne
McIvers Coffee Merchants at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne is another of my fav haunts!

Having secured a grip on other aspects of coffee making, my next milestone is to be able to home roast green coffee beans! Apparently it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here is an article that I found that gives you useful advice and great pointers to get started.

Coffee Grinder {$68}

Now that you know why it is imperative to buy coffee beans fresh, all you need is an efficient grinder. Ground coffee starts to lose its flavor almost immediately after the grinding process. To minimize flavor loss due to oxidation, it is important to grind just enough for each batch of brew you make.

The best entry level coffee grinder money can buy in Australia is supposedly the SunBeam Cafe Series Burr grinder. A fantastic piece of equipment, no doubt! But unless you have about $200 to shell out on a grinder, get a Hario Skerton hand-cranked ceramic burr grinder for $68 and it will impress you!

hario hand coffee grinder

Before getting this beauty, I used a spice grinder which gave inconsistent grind texture. Grinding coffee beans in a spice grinder also raises the temperature of ground coffee. During coffee roasting, temperature control is one of the most important steps. It is what gives each roast its own unique and consistent flavor. You can do justice to a good roast only by taking a reasonable amount of care while grinding it!

This Hario grinder comes with a rubber base to reduce slippage while hand cranking. You still need to hold it down firmly, making this a decent arm workout.

But hand grinding gives you that unique satisfaction and the smell of freshly ground coffee is totally worth the extra bit of effort.

coffee grind size moka pot grind size moka pot theinsanefoodie

The grind should be medium fine to brew with a Moka Pot. You will need to fiddle with the manual grind size adjustment a bit before you get the grind right for yours.  Unless you need a different grind size for making a cold brew or filter coffee, you will never need to change this setting again.

Milk {$1-$4 per liter}

Last but not the least, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using full cream milk for a good cup of coffee! That is if you have diary tolerance.

But I used to make coffees with Lite or Skim Milk for a long time and it didn’t matter what coffee blend I used, the end result just wasn’t optimal. I recently had this conversation with my mate Syl, and he too agreed! So if you must, use Skim milk for your cereal. Leave your coffee alone, a little full cream won’t hurt your waistline!

Milk Frother {$3}

Frothing milk is one final bit of alchemy that will take your coffee from good to marvelous.

perfect coffee needs frothed milkIt changes the consistency of milk and the creaminess from frothing compliments the strength of your brew further.  I got a dirt cheap $3 battery operated hand held milk frother from IKEA to confirm this claim.  What this little device could do to my coffee was magic!

That’s it! All up, your investment shouldn’t exceed $100.

I hope this post helped you a tad better at becoming a finer home barista. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

Do share this post with all your friends who’ll enjoy it!


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Creamy Sandwich Tuna Spiked with Mexican Spices

Warning! If this recipe won’t make you love tuna, nothing else will!

One of the easiest and possibly healthiest way to add fish into your diet is to use sandwich tuna readily available at the supermarket. Tuna is an excellent source of omega 3 fats and protein.

While some enjoy eating tuna straight out of the can with crackers or in sandwiches, unflavored canned tuna preserved in oil, brine or spring water has a strong taste that is off-putting to most.

So more commonly canned tuna is made palatable with the addition of mayonnaise and sometimes even mustard. But you will agree that common tweak has become boring and needs a makeover!

Our neat little recipe takes it miles further by using bell peppers, jalapeños and a Mexican spice mix that will make your canned tuna sing!

If you are familiar with the Subway menu, you will see we have turned the heat up a notch on that classic Subway tuna sub and transformed it into this hearty toastie with a spicy, gooey and insatiable tuna filling.

spiced tuna toastie

So here is how you would make yours,

Tuna tossed in Spicy Mexican rub and finished inside a Toastie!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 500g

Serving Size: 90-100g


  • 4 slices of smooth wholemeal bread
  • 400g can of tuna (in brine; drained)
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 capsicum chopped
  • 2 tbsp Old El Paso Mexican seasoning (or mix together powdered cumin and cayenne pepper in 1:1.25 ratio)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, add only if using store bought seasoning)
  • 1 Jalapeño chilli deseeded & diced
  • 1 tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • Olive Oil - 1 tbsp


  1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan (on medium heat)
  2. In half a minute, turn the heat down, add the chopped capsicum & onion; let it sizzle for a minute;
  3. Add the Mexican seasoning and stir well to coat the veggies; remove from flame.
  4. {{WARM the sandwich maker}}
  5. Transfer the canned tuna to a small bowl and stir in the seasoned onions & capsicum
  6. ADD in cayenne pepper, diced jalapeno, mayo & tomato paste
  7. STIR well to combine
  8. SPREAD on 2/4 bread slices; cover with the other 2 (90-100g per sandwich is generous)
  9. GRILL until toasted.
  10. SERVE


Optional extra: garnish with some finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

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Be sure to try out our recipe to make some delicious Kerala Style tuna too! This one’s a winner if you are craving for some Kerala style fish preparation; and can be made in a jiffy! It is no wonder why we make this every week. It is perfect for lunch as a sandwich or with brown rice. Yum!

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Beer Infused Noodles Japanese Style

Stout infused noodles

Howdy folks! It’s been a while since I cooked something totally wacky like these beer infused noodles!

Using beer in my cooking is not anything new. I have done this in the past with a fair amount of success.

But if you know anything about using beer in cooking, you’ll know I played it safe. I used a lightly hopped lager/pale ale to make the sauce, increasing the chances of success.

This time my cooking is inspired by a recipe post that I read on BeerAdvocate!

These guys know their beer and can get extremely technical about the tasting notes, aromas and what not. Anyhow what caught my attention was the use of an Imperial Stout (one of my favorite beer styles) in cooking some asian style noodles. Whoa! I thought I should try this one out.

If you are a freestyle chef, you know you can’t work easily with ingredients whose flavors you aren’t familiar with, even while following a recipe.

This recipe uses a few different ingredients like that, which I had never cooked before with. But I was open to experiment, although I could sense a bit of restraint when I finally got to trying them out. I had to literally taste after each and every step to make sure what was in the works tasted yum.

stout infused noodles theinsanefoodie

The first time I attempted this, I’ll be frank, it wasn’t a huge hit! It was palatable, but Dee being the honest critic she is, didn’t say much when she quietly ate her’s 🙁 , but I wasn’t giving up just yet!

So I read up more and was more careful on the second attempt and what came out tasted delicious. The notes below will help you heaps!

Cooking Notes {what you should know before you venture out!}

Choosing the right beer

  • The simple trick is to pair a beer style with complementing food flavors. Like how red wine goes with dark meats, BBQs, gamey meats & white wine goes with seafood and other lighter flavors, pick a dark beer (Stouts or Porters – such as an Imperial Stout/Oatmeal Stout/Chocolate Stout) if you wish to enhance the flavors of dark meats such as beef. You really can’t go wrong. Chocolate flavors especially blend extremely well with beef.
  • Belgian Ales with citrusy flavors are supposed to work really well with seafood, if that’s you thing. But since it’s winter in Melbourne, I picked the Southwark Stout. This is an award winning Aussie Old Imperial Style stout that is rich with an inviting smell of coffee and a chocolate aftertaste! Oh I’m salivating already..

It’s a winter warmer as you must have figured, and if you love beer, coffee and chocolate, this one is a winner! Another option is The Coopers Extra Stout – another brilliant brew. After you’ve tasted it, Guinness will be a thing of the past!

  • Use a beer you like to drink and something not too cheap. Because when you use beer in cooking, the flavors will intensify.
  • Make sure you add a little beer at a time into your cooking. There is a chance the happiness of strong stouts can make your sauce taste quite bitter.
  • Bring the beer to room temperature before using it.

For more in-depth reading, check out the entire post on wikiHow.

Recipe Notes

  • I found making the sauce separately and boiling the noodles in it easier than doing it all in one vessel, in one go!
  • The enoki mushrooms takes the form of soft string noodles once cooked down & in my first attempt I added them before the beef and I couldn’t really brown the beef enough.
  • Familiarize yourself how Miso tastes (very salty) and make adjustments to the amount accordingly.
  • Mixing miso paste & the sauces separately and adding it into the cooking vessel is highly recommended, as it takes a bit of stirring to dissolve miso completely.

So here is the detailed recipe and some notes along the way to help you get it right.

Beer Infused Noodles Japanese Style

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 serves


  • 250g dried Asian wheat noodles
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic (keep ginger to garlic ratio approx. 1:1.5)
  • 3/4 tbsp Miso paste
  • 1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce (if not use Chinese)
  • 3 tbsp Hoisin sauce sweet; use it to balance the flavors
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp peanut oil
  • 120-150ml Beer (use Imperial/Oatmeal/Chocolate/Coffee Stouts/Porters)
  • 50g fresh shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 150g fresh enoki mushrooms discard the woody base & separate the mushrooms and add
  • as whole
  • 1 large onion sliced fine length wise
  • 1 carrot cut into half and then sliced fine length wise
  • 200g beef sliced thin or use stir-fry cut
  • water
  • salt to season as required


  1. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok or thick bottom non-stick vessel
  2. Add onions, brown until caramelized
  3. Add ginger & garlic and fry until fragrant
  4. Add the beef and keep tossing it on a high flame, stirring it to make sure the beef is lightly
  5. browned.
  6. To this add the mushrooms and cook them down for 2 minutes. This will bring the nutty & earthy
  7. flavors out!
  8. Add about 3 tbsp of soy sauce to deglaze the mixture and infuse the flavor into it.
  9. Keep tossing until the beef has soaked up all the soy sauce and until all the water from the beef
  10. has dried up
  11. Add the carrots and cook for another minute - I like my carrots crunchy & fresh, but you can cook
  12. it down if you wish
  13. Stir well to combine and turn off the heat & keep aside.
  14. Sauce & Noodles
  15. In a small bowl, mix together the rest of the soy sauce, miso paste, Sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce
  16. and some water to combine them into a paste.
  17. In a deep bottom pan/vessel, add the sauce mixture, about 100 ml water and add the dried
  18. noodles into this sauce.
  19. Add beer, a little at a time and spoon the boiling sauce over the noodles, until the noodles
  20. become tender.
  21. Transfer the cooked noodles into the vessel with the other cooked ingredients. Toss & Serve!


Vegetarians can just omit beef. The earthiness of the shiitake and enoki mushrooms really blend well with the stout and is enough to impart a beautiful flavor to the noodles.

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Spicy Beef Ularthiyathu

spicy beef ularthiyathu

The Beef Ularthiyathu is one of the most popular meat delicacies from Kerala. Period!

One that every meat eating Malayalee will proudly admit to have had religiously during his/her time spent in Kerala, whether or not they have actually had it!

Why? Firstly, it is a celebration of spices, coconut & one of the most delicious meats, beef!

 Local Trivia

In Kerala, you are bound to find Beef Ularthiytahu in every restaurant, although the best preparations are undoubtedly reserved to the local bars or smaller street side stalls!

While the ‘Beef Ularthiyathu’ is often called by many other names, at street side stalls if you ask for it, most often the Beef Dry Fry is what you shall get instead.

The Beef Ularthiyathu or Beef Dry Fry is extremely popular as a ‘touching’ (drink accompaniment) at local Kerala bars or more colloquially just ask for BDF and your waiter will be pleased!

Secondly, it is a classic dish from the age old Syrian Christian cuisine, which boasts centuries of local culinary tradition and perfection.

Thirdly, it can be had with any form of bread, rice or anything between, such as local accompaniments like appams and dosas; but personally I just love it on its own as a touching.

Not many dishes has this versatility. You can possibly get away having it even with noodles! 

beef ularthiyathu sandwich

…used the leftovers in a rustic white bread sandwich the next day..yum!

A bit of history of Syriac Christian cuisine if you are keen…

Beef Ularthiyathu is a dish that attributes its origin in the kitchens of the Syrian (Syriac) Christians of Kerala.

However, I was curious.

The Syrian Christian origins of this dish baffled me a tad. I was interested in finding out what made this and few other popular non-veg dishes from Kerala ‘Syrian Christian’, when there are several different (and mind boggling) christian denominations in Kerala!

In the ingredients used, there is nothing that is unique to a particular community’s style. The spices are native to the region and pretty much Kerala cuisine’s stock standard!

So I set out to understand the Syrian Christian cuisine a little.

But without going into the origins of how Syrian Christians themselves came into being, how can we understand their cuisine? In a nutshell,

It is believed that in 52 AD, Saint Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus who came from the region called Fertile Crescent in the Middle East spread the Christian Gospel in Syriac language (Latin, Greek & Syriac were the three main languages with which Christianity was propagated in the world). And the people who practiced this religion came to be termed Syriac Christians or Syrian Christians as they are more popularly known in Kerala.

So being one of the earliest forms of Christianity that has existed in Kerala and also in the world, almost all traditional meat dishes from Kerala (barring the ones with more Arabic influences from the Northern part of Kerala), are Syrian Christian for this simple reason. 

{the recipe}

Now that we are fully equipped with the historical significance of Syrian cuisine & other trivia, isn’t it reason enough to know how to make it?

Now my recipe as always uses few hacks to simplify things for home cooks. This is an easy, no frills recipe. The Syrian Christian puritans may frown upon the use of desiccated coconut over small pieces of fresh coconut. But I assure you the taste will be spot on!

Here’s how to go about making it,

Spicy Beef Ularthiyathu

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serving Size: serves 5


  • 700g Beef cut into small chunks; In Australia, you can get Beef off-cuts from Coles, it's
  • perfect
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • 1 knob ginger grated (keep garlic to ginger ratio 1:1)
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 6-10 curry leaves
  • approx. 100g desiccated coconut
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil coconut oil if you can get it else olive oil is just fine


  1. Using a pressure cooker is ideal; if not get a thick bottom vessel with a lid
  2. Heat the oil to a high temperature;
  3. Now reduce the flame to a minimum and add in the mustard seeds; wait until completely cracked
  4. Add dried chillies and wait for 5-10 secs for them to turn crispy
  5. Add the curry leaves, toss & wait for 10 more secs
  6. Add in the ginger & garlic, fry until slightly brown
  7. Sprinkle the coconut and fry until golden brown and the oils start to come out
  8. Add the masalas, allow them to fry a little (the aroma will change when fried)
  9. Add the onions & fatty beef pieces first. Stir well to combine.
  10. Toss in the rest of the beef
  11. Add two pinches of salt. Stir well.
  12. Close the vessel/cooker and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the beef pieces are tender.
  13. Open and cook until whatever water the beef has released dry up. You can add a bit more salt
  14. and coriander powder if you must at this stage after tasting.
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How to make Easy Homemade Cheesy Nachos under $5

cheesy nachos

YES! This recipe will not do any more $5 of damage to your wallet..

the inspiration

Who doesn’t love good pub grub that goes with beer! You know thick beefy wedges, crunchy chips and the likes? I fancy it even more if this can pass for finger food but healthily replace a full meal. For that reason,

I absolutely love cheesy nachos!

cheesy nachosYes, I know they don’t exactly qualify as traditional pub food except maybe at a Mexican Restaurant! But man, when prepared right, these can any day replace fries (unless of course fries are topped with chilli, in which case we have a tie!)

And occasionally there are times when a bowl of nachos just cannot be enough! That devilishly uncontrollable urge to order another round! At this point it becomes unreasonably expensive too; you know they aren’t cheap as chips, right?!

Especially in the case of nachos, if you are not watching, it’s easy to consume a ton of calories all the while being cast under its tasty spell!

Neither can you stop yourself from having more nor do you wanna shell out another $15, for you know its pure indulgent flavors that’s making you crave it!

So to put an end to all this misery I set out to recreate a simple homemade healthier version with store bought corn chips, homemade tex-mex salsa, black beans and loads of (light) tasty cheese, all for under $5!

cheesy nachos recipe

And thus originated this Cheesy Veggie Nachos recipe! And boy, wasn’t I pleased as hell! Oh and please note I said healthier, not healthy, for its after all Nachos baby! 

Delightful Homemade Veggie Nachos

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 2 main meal portions


  • 1 400g can of red kidney beans/ black beans (healthier choice)
  • 1 bag of Baked Corn Chips (approx. 170g)
  • Light Tasty Cheese (shredded) - generous enough to cover chips & beans beneath
  • 200g, diced tomato (1/2 can)
  • 1 med sized onion, diced into small cubes
  • 1 jalapeño, diced with seeds in
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use smoked paprika for a tex-mex twist - AWESOME)
  • a small handful of coriander leaves, chopped


  1. For the Salsa
  2. Heat olive oil in a flat pan
  3. Once its HOT, add in cumin powder and cayenne pepper and let is sizzle for approx. 10 secs
  4. Add the onions and cook until translucent
  5. Add in the jalapeño & tomatoes
  6. Keep stirring and cook until the sauce thickens, stir and keep aside
  7. Nachos
  8. Spray some oil on a medium depth bake tray and line the corn chips; don't use all the chips just yet
  9. Spoon over some of the salsa as the next layer
  10. Use the baked beans to form the third layer
  11. Sprinkle chopped coriander over the beans as garnish
  12. Top it off with the rest of the corn chips
  13. Add the tasty cheese generously all over to form the top layer
  14. Bake at 180 deg C approx. for 25-30 mins or until the cheese melts and turn golden brown on the top!
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Here is a price break-down of how much it will cost you to make this at home,

Chips $2; Tomatoes $0.40; Onion $0.20; Tasty Cheese $0.80; Red Kidney Beans $0.75 / Black beans $1; Spices <$1; All up ~ $5!

**Aldi & Coles Supermarket home brand prices! If you’re reading this overseas, prices may even be lower!

Please Note:

  • In this recipe I used both Red Kidney beans and Black Beans to give it a healthier kick and even got rid of the sour cream in an attempt to further cut back on the calories.
  • While I still found this recipe delicious, you can always use some low fat greek yogurt as a replacement for the sour cream, if you absolutely must! But I really think it is unnecessary.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did and I look forward to your comments!

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Where to eat in Bali and my top 5 picks

where to eat in bali

Firstly I’d like to set this straight once and for all! While the film Eat Pray Love pushed Bali and especially Ubud into the limelight, I honestly believe it didn’t do much justice to Bali’s much treasured food-scape.

For those of you bewildered by the above comment – In the movie, Julia Roberts visits Bali to Love! I’m sure she tried some local fare, but what a missed opportunity for Bali! 

The Balinese cuisine has strong influences from Thai and Malaysian cooking styles mainly in the use of lemongrass, pandan leaves and coconut milk in the curries, but there are plenty of dishes that are unique – Babi Guling (spit roast suckling pig)Ayam Bakar (Char grilled chicken with Balinese spices) & Tempeh (savory soy cakes), are probably the most popular among those.

What you should know?

Bali draws its revenue almost solitarily from tourism. So aimed at luxury tourists and the others who carry around a huge wallet (or a weak gut) are them expensive restaurants and cafes, ones where you would easily pay AU$20 upwards for a main meal of gourmet portions. Most of these restaurants will also charge an extra 15-21% in service tax! OUCH!

So the question arises, where should you eat in Bali?

Look out for Warungs!

Warungs are small family owned traditional restaurants and you will find many scattered all over Bali. These are where you must go if you want

  1. authentic Balinese meals
  2. absolute bang-for-buck local fare
  3. to HOG a variety of local delicacies!!
  4. to feel good having supported a local business!

NO! These are by no means street hawkers, which by the way you might want to avoid if you don’t have an iron-gut! And especially if you’re using a local tour guide or driver, let them know your preferences because when they “naturally assume” your can’t handle local fare at a Warung, you most often end up at a pricey restaurant!

If you want to taste the traditional Indonesian fare in a very rustic setting, where you can absorb the local culture, head to the Warungs!

But there is something you should know first and that brings us to

The Art of Ordering at a Warung!

In Warungs, typically you can order food in 2 ways.

One is using the standard menu (if they have one); But at some Warungs, frequented only by locals and seasoned tourists, the ordering process can get more obscure! All they will have is an array of Indonesian foods on display behind a glass counter, sometimes even without individual prices.

Here you basically pick whatever fancies your eyes onto a plate and pay for the lot. Usually items other than seafood are around 3000-7000 IDR each. Fried chicken (Ayam) is usually 8000-10000 IDR per serve and seafood is 12000-15000 per serve. Use these prices as a guide.

So I would say, peruse the menu first, then add items from the counter optionally or just choose a mix of interesting foods from the counter – you should do this at least once!

Now that you are fully equipped with the knowledge of a local, here are my

TOP PICKS where you can enjoy a traditional Indonesian meal,

When visiting Bali, Seminyak may not necessarily be on your must visit places in Bali, unless if you happen to stay in this area, like we did. However if you do land in Seminyak, I recommend checking out these two Warungs!

Warung Taman Bambu {Seminyak}

eat in Bali warung taman bambu
IDR 45000 for the plate – calamari, fried anchovies, Ayam, Ayam Bakar, Veggies, Rice & Sambal

Located away from the touristy side of Seminyak and tucked in between few local businesses, stands this gem of a eatery. This is where we had our first meal in Bali and also encountered the menu-less ordering pick & pay method. The guy behind the counter hardly spoke any English, and all my efforts in trying to get him to recommend something were wasted; instead we just ordered what looked appealing to our eyes!

Warung Eny {Seminyak}

This local restaurant is very popular and has raving reviews on Tripadvisor too. Although not the cheapest Warung we went to in Bali, the satisfaction of having a home cooked Indonesian meal with organic produce is unparalleled. Meals are prepared on the spot in the open plan kitchen in the middle of the Warung by Eny herself! And this is why you must visit this Warung. For those of you interested in learning Indonesian cooking, they offer classes too!

eat in Bali warung eny
Try the items on the special! The Indonesian Ayam curry was excellent.

Located in the heart of the buzz in Seminyak, the restaurant fills up quickly with patrons once it’s past 7:30pm.

Warung Ocha {Seminyak}

This one’s a good pitstop for a decent Indonesian meal. The ambience is cosy although the interiors aren’t typically that of a Warung. While they serve a wide variety of cuisines, their Indonesian food options are also quite extensive. I learnt some of the food names browsing their food counter. One particularly interesting and tasty meal we tried there was Plecing Kangkung. The Kangkung is a slightly bitter water spinach, and makes its appearance as a popular veggie with most Indonesian meals. It was something very different to whatever I have seen or had before.

warung ocha
Plecing Kangkung – Kangkung mixed with chilli, served with Ayam Bakar, Tahu (Tofu), Tempeh, steamed rice and sambal

Warung Indonesia {Kuta}

While Kuta as a place is unpopular with most tourists to Bali (other than the dodgy ones!), it is worth checking out this local restaurant, buried deep inside Kuta, where you can get to easily only if you walk. The food was delicious and was by far the cheapest meal we had in Bali. We ordered 2 main courses (Tahu Tempe with rice & salad and Mee Goreng) and a fried chicken on the side – all for IDR 38000 – less than AU$4!!

eat in bali warung indonesia

Lia Cafe {Jimbaran}

While this last one is not exactly a cheap Warung, it is a must visit restaurant serving delicious seafood in Jimbaran area. Cafe is a misnomer. It is more of a beach shack. For the quality and portion size of seafood you can eat at this restaurant, the prices are well worth it.

To help you put things into perspective, a meal at a similar restaurant cum beach shack   setting in Goa or Kochi (India), would be equally or more expensive.

And I advice against walking around their kitchen or spending too much time gazing at their fresh catch area, for it may not appeal to your hygienic standards! Visually!

But the food is amazing and of good quality too. Around 8pm, a local band goes around each of the tables singing songs (be sure to carry change to tip them). All in all, a brilliant value for money experience!

eat in bali lia cafe
Char grilled Red Snapper, prawns & squid! Plus 2 large Bintangs and a tip to the music band. All for IDR 375.000. Darn cheap!


So whether or not the film had us expect much less from Bali, Dee and I stand corrected after our visit.

Bali is definitely a place to eat your heart’s content. Period.

So if there is one take away from this post, that is, eat at a Warung; you’ll love the food, experience and if you still didn’t like it at the end of it (please let me know why?), you’ve probably spent only $8 or under to try!

I would love to hear your Bali food experience, and if you found this guide useful please share it with others who might benefit!

Oh and by the way, can’t say this enough, definitely swap water for Bintang!



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Kopi Luwak Farm Tour and Tasting

Kopi Luwak Farm Tour

Last week, we visited the Alam Sari Agrotourism farm in Ubud, Bali where we had a chance to taste the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, and get an up close and personal look at the coffee beans which had been through one of the most exotic forms of coffee processing!

Ubud Agrofarm


Known to sell at exorbitant prices of up to $1/gm in the overseas market, Kopi Luwak is a coffee made using coffee beans that have been naturally fermented/cured by a Luwak’s digestive enzymes.

The ‘Luwak’ is an Asian Palm Civet native to Indonesia and few neighbouring Asian countries. It generally feeds on small pulpy fruits and takes a particular fascination towards the sweet coffee berries of the Arabica (more commonly cultivated in Indonesia) and Robusta species.

Kopi Luwak processing

Top – Luwak poo. Bottom (from left) – cleaned coffee beans; roasting; powdering

The whole coffee cherries consumed by the civet undergoes fermentation in its digestive tract and the coffee beans gets excreted along with its poo. (YUCK, that’s it I’m outta here).

(For those of who still reading this post) It is then cleaned thoroughly to separate out the coffee beans; sun-dried, roasted and powdered.

The mini walking tour of the farm premises yielded an up close and friendly glance at a Luwak too! Yes, it’s caged. But I’m sure this Luwak was there only for visitors to see one in flesh & blood.


Why is it so expensive?

While the story itself garnered this coffee a lot of popularity the world over, Kopi Luwak tends to be very expensive not only because of a growing demand but because this coffee cannot be mass produced ethically and economically at the same time,

  1. The Luwak is known to feed on coffee cherries only seasonally. So there is only limited supply available.
  2. Luwaks live in the wild and therefore the steps involved in collecting the poo in the wee hours of the morning requires dedicated personnel to be on the job, while the task itself can be daunting and time consuming.
  3. Mass produced Luwak Kopi is often sourced from the poo of overfed Luwaks bred in captivity!

While some producers like Ross Kopi painstakingly produce Kopi Luwak from only the ‘wild’ Luwak population in their farms, there seems to be no certification in place at this stage to certify the same.

Read more about sustainable coffee production in Indonesia and what it takes to produce ‘wild’ Kopi Luwak.

The sampler cup of the Kopi Luwak cost us AU$5, which is reasonable as most specialty coffees cost the same (or even more at times) in Melbourne!

The lady who accompanied us on the tour displayed good skill in making a cup of Kopi Luwak using a Siphon Coffee Maker. The extracted cup of coffee was completely devoid of any grit, tasted rich and full bodied.

kopi luwak siphon extraction

As part of the tour, we were also given free samplers of all the different coffee blends the farm produces. Of the lot, I loved the spiced cocoa, which was very unique in flavour with additions of spices like ginger and cinnamon.

alam sari Bali

The Verdict – what can you expect?

The popular opinion is that the coffee is sold more on the story rather than quality. Some coffee critics have even gone as far as saying it is absolutely a gimmick and lacks any flavour!

While I’m no coffee connoisseur to challenge this verdict, Luwak coffee didn’t fail to impress me. I found this coffee to be at par with some of the best filtered coffees I’ve had in Melbourne and Kenya.

But, will anyone be able to tell apart Kopi Luwak in a blind taste test? Most probably not!

Kopi Luwak is served black without milk. The coffee had a good depth of flavor (richness) while still maintaining low levels of both acidity and bitterness (the Arabica coffee beans are generally less bitter too).

Pure Kopi Luwak without mixing any other coffee blends is hard to find unless you are willing to pay a huge price, so if you get a chance to visit one of the Agrofarms, I suggest you at least try a sample cup and make your own judgement!



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Leonards House of Love {review}

leonards house review

Leonards House is a bar that makes South Yarra seem much less pretentious. As an approachable & affordable watering hole, with people casually dressed and having a genuinely good time, it just makes you think you’ve gone over to a mate’s place next door!

leonards house of love

Leonards House of Love is an amazingly quirky bar which gives you the satisfaction of a good ol’ home party with your best mates!

Delightful traditional Texan fare at reasonable prices.

You can read my full review here on Weekend Notes


  • Located in the heart of South Yarra and yet serving fare dirt cheap! $13 double cheeseburgers $10 cheeseburgers & $9 pints of house lager
chicken tenders at Leonards House
The finger licking hot glazed chicken tenders served with chipotle mayo and pickles are a must try! The cheeseburgers come next..
  • Cosy ambience with a log cabin theme for a truly Wild West American experience & rock n roll music from the 70s; if you love AC DC, The Doors, ZZ Top and the likes..
  • They often run weekly specials

Leonard's House of Love Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato