Viet style Pork Mince with Eggplant ( five items or less).

Sometimes we don’t have much time, energy or resource for lengthy recipes. Over time I am going to build a page of recipes containing 5 ingredients or less. Soups, pastas , curries, salad , sauces etc.. I am not including salt or oil or water or other absolute basics in the count. I’ll also include optional extras so you can take a basic recipe and build on it in your own way.

My friend at Champagne Cartel posted today looking for an eggplant recipe. I thought I’d put it to the Five Items test.

Viet style pork mince w/ eggplant. serves 4.
500 gm pork mince.
2 medium shiny eggplants.
8 cloves chopped garlic.
500ml chicken stock (optional, water will suffice).
1 good splash (metric) of sweet soy.
1 bunch spring onions.

Peel the eggplants and slice into 1-2 cm discs. Shallow fry them in a wide base pot or saucepan. Remove and drain on some kitchen towel. Sauté the pork mince in a little oil. Stir it a lot to break it down and get rid of lumps. Add a little salt.
At first it will want to release moisture and begin stewing. This is fine.
Keep cooking it until the moisture starts to evaporate and the mince takes on some colour. Add the garlic.
Once you’ve got a little colour going add the eggplant back to pot and stir it through the pork mince.
The idea is to really break down the eggplant here so it starts to form part of the sauce. Add stock and soy.
Simmer gently for 1/2 an hour, stirring occasionally to keep it off the bottom. If it dries out, add some water.
The thing to watch now is consistency. Let the moisture evaporate so you have the consistency of a bolognaise.
Finish with the washed and sliced spring onions. Fold them through and serve.
Serving suggestions – serve this over some steamed rice or noodles or in lettuce cups. Or just shovel it into your mouth whilst no-one’s looking 🙂Eggplantme

Optional extras
Some basil or coriander would finish this dish well.
Fresh chopped chilli or chilli sauce even.
Cashews – toasted, crushed and sprinkled over the top.
Star Anise – add a couple when you add the stock and remove before serving. This really gives the dish some body.
Green peas – use fresh ones occasionally and get kids to shell them. I would love it when my mum let me do this.
A fried egg on top.

What Kid did-
Kid peeled the eggplants with a good potato peeler. This will only work with a sharp peeler and firm eggplants. Otherwise use a knife and do it yourself probably. Kid put away the groceries and took the rubbish out. It’s like having my own little home apprentice. She also washed the spring onions , stirred the pot sometimes and kept me company.


The British call them Aubergines. I wish we did too, such a lovely word to say.
Leave the skin on if you like, it’s just easier to get kids to accept it without.
A really versatile vegetable, a delight to eat when prepared properly and a great meat substitute for vegetarians.
There is a school of thought that says they should be salted before cooking to reduce oil absorption and bitterness.
It helps but doesn’t have to be the case. A lot of the bitterness in eggplants has been bred out through farming practises.
They do need to be cooked properly though until the flesh is super soft to be at their best.
Once thought to be nutritionally neutral, amongst other things they are now known to be high in vitamin B and B12 -a  great source  for vegetarians.
The best eggplant dishes I’ve eaten were in Vietnam and Italy. And now my place too.eggplant6


Bacon and Egg Pasta ( Carbonara?)

Welcome to our first ever post.
A couple of years ago I took Kid to dinner at a local pasta joint (the name escapes me, it doesn’t exist anymore as it was destroyed in the 2011 Brisbane floods).  We ordered a garlic bread, a salad and a spaghetti carbonara. It sticks in my mind because Kid really loved this pasta, she thought it was the best thing ever. Since then I’ve been making it at home occasionally and still get the same reaction.  It is quick and easy and filling. And eaten. And pretty cheap.

My home version is a little different to my professional version. In restaurants we go through a process called ‘liaising’ which means thickening the sauce with an egg at the end. I will be doing this. I won’t be adding white wine or a large amount of cream. We like our pasta lightly dressed around here. Perhaps you like it a little different. I’ll leave that up to you.
Same goes for the garlic. I love it and don’t care if you can smell me from there. Kid has just learnt that she likes it too. Especially as garlic bread or in a pesto.


I’m also adding peas. You could add some fine strips of broccoli or sliced green beans if you’re interested in your vegetable consumption like us. We’ll be having salad too. Always lots of simple chopped up salad.


We  love protein so as well as putting egg in the sauce, I’m going to put a runny fried egg on top. Kid LOVES this. You’ll see us repeat this with some other dishes.

Remember – ALWAYS read a recipe from start to finish before beginning. It will save time.

Here goes. I’m going to boil a pot of water with some salt in it. I’m going to use a big pot. Don’t try and squeeze pasta into a little pot. Pasta will expand considerably as it absorbs water and it needs room to move around so it can cook evenly. The salt is to add flavour. You need to make a whirlpool with a spoon when adding the pasta and remember to stir it off the bottom occasionally here. Use any pasta you like to eat.

I’m cooking for two and hoping for leftovers. So four really. Per person I’m using 1 rasher of bacon, 2 clove of garlic – chopped, 1 stalk of spring onion, 1 handful (metric) of peas (defrost them in some boiling water) 1 egg per two people (plus an extra egg each if you want to eat this like kings), 100ml cream, 100 gm dried pasta. As much cheese as you like to grate on top. Fresh parmesan,romano or pecorino is best but some grated whatever you have in the fridge is fine (and some kids prefer it).

Cut the rind off the bacon and sweat (slowly without colour) gently until it releases all of its oil into your pot. Remove the rind, pat it dry on some paper towel, add a little salt and eat it all to yourself while no-one is looking. Or don’t. I would. Next add your chopped up bacon, onion and garlic and sweat until the garlic is soft. Add cream and let simmer gently for a few minutes. Don’t let it cook too far otherwise it will go stodgy. Turn off the heat.



Now you need to work quickly for just a minute. Lightly beat your eggs for the sauce (do this in advance) now fold it into your cream sauce, add the egg slowly and beat sauce rapidly. Nothing will go wrong here other than your sauce getting bits of cooked egg in it if you don’t incorporate it properly. Eggs coagulate at a low temperature. Add your spring onions and pasta, fold and serve with some cheese and a fried egg on top (poached is okay too).

Eat this with a good amount of salad, otherwise it can seem like a rich meal. Our salad tonight, like so many other nights has tomato, cucumber, avocado, raw broccoli and some great Queen green olives I get every week from a providore near kids school. Sometimes we have beetroot or carrot or celery too. Or cheese. Aim for variety in colour and texture and you’ll be on a winner. It will look appealing and will have good nutritional value.

I know that Kid will lap this up and take some to school for lunch tomorrow. I will eat it with more salad when I get home from work late and be so goddamn happy that I made too much.

Pesto bread – spread pesto on bread (we use fingers of Turkish bread) and bake at 160* until a little crispy. This is totally unnecessary as you’re already eating a plate of carbs. But it IS very yummy.

What kid did – Kid was a great help today. Grating cheese, spreading pesto, peeling and grating garlic, stirring the pasta whilst it cooked, playing Frere Jacques on the clarinet, setting the table, clearing the plates and just being present and part of the process. Thanks Kid.

The Wash Up – The pasta was tasty and not at all heavy. I had seconds and there was enough for 2 small helpings left over. The egg on top is delicious but just indulgence so don’t worry about leaving it off. Kid enjoyed the pasta, especially the egg. I’m going to invest in a garlic press for Kid to use instead of the grater. Next time we’ll make our own pesto. One day our own bread.

A Couple of Points on Pasta – Dried pasta is best for this style of dish, even the Italians agree. Fresh pasta is best for delicate dishes and  filled pasta – ravioli, tortellini etc.

There is an old guide line that suggests long and thin goes with lighter sauces and shorter dish shaped pasta goes with heavier meatier sauces. This throws Spaghetti Bolognaise right on it’s ear so go figure. Use what you will. I’m using orecchiette (it means ‘little ears’ in Italian). On that, another rule of thumb with pasta names is if it ends in ‘ini’ – fettuccini, linguini it means smaller. If it ends in ‘ oni’ – rigatoni, cannelloni it means large. This will help you next time you go out for Italian, which I fully encourage you to do.

My research tells me the name carbonara comes from an old Italain word ‘carbonero’ meaning charcoal burner. Not from carbohydrates as I’ve heard suggested. Early American Italians called it coal miner’s spaghetti, others claim it to be named after an Italian secret society. I like the coal miner version myself. This takes it back to a dish like so many that derive from peasants and workers meaning it would have had a very rustic beginning anyway until they polished it up in spiffy pasta joints. .

I once travelled to Bologna, the home of bolognaise. What they call bolognaise and what we call bolognaise are worlds apart.

I know chefs that won’t add salt to the water for fresh pasta because they believe the salt toughens the gluten in the pasta.


Buon  Appetito !!

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