Tag Archives: kitchen

Ian Curley: A Message on Mindfulness from the Kitchen.

Maybe it’s true: that an end is merely a start for a new beginning. Or maybe, whether something is ‘an end’ or ‘a beginning’ largely depends on our perspective and the choices we make along the way.

When Ian Curley ran into trouble with the police in London back in the 80s; he could have think of it as The End. But Ian decided to see it as a chance to start a new beginning: he flew to Australia and started over. Today, Ian is considered one of Australia’s first class chefs–appearing in the ever-popular Masterchef’s program, having his own reality TV show Conviction Kitchen, and preparing meals for Hollywood celebrities; from Beyoncé to the Kardashians.



It was a sunny afternoon. I had just finished savouring Ian’s delicious steak tartare–after watching him preparing this classic dish in the kitchen. But the leek salad, that came before the tartare, enabled me to see Ian in a different light.

“Leek is a very humble vegetable,” Ian said, as he put the leeks on the grill. “It’s easy for people to overlook this vegetable. It’s just a leek! What can you do with a leek? So they say. They know they can do much with meat, for instance. But leek? But leek is special, too. You just need to see it closer. If you really ‘see’ the vegetable–even if it’s ‘just’ a leek, you can always cook delicious meals with it.”

I watched Ian as he gracefully moved around the kitchen, laying out some plates on the kitchen counter and peeling the outer layer of a grilled leek that had turned dark brown. “Nothing should go to waste,” he smiled as he put the brownish peels on an empty bowl. “You can even use these peels to make leek powder. Just put them in the oven for a little while, and when they’re dry enough, you can crush them into a powder. It’s crunchy and tasty, and adds colour and texture to your salad.”

This was when I realised the fact that I had just witnessing mindfulness taking place in the kitchen. Ian’s message is a message that translates not only to cooking, but also to living. How often do we overlook the small things in our lives, taking things for granted, or wasting the things we already have? How often do we wish to have ‘some meat’ instead of ‘just a leek’–believing that we’d be happier that way?

“See. The ingredients do not compete on the plate. They just complement each other,” Ian smiled, as he prepared the leek salad on the plate–and sprinkled it with leek powder. “Here. Now, try this!”

Leek salad


When I meet people I admire, I don’t ask them much about their success. I ask them about their failures, their hardships, their darkest days. I ask them about what happens when the lights go out and the curtains are closed. I guess it helps me to see people as human beings–with their ups and downs, plus and minuses. No matter who we are, we are all fighting our own struggles. It’s easy for us to be envious (or jealous) when it comes to seeing other people’s success. But will we be that easily envious (or jealous) if we only knew what they’ve had to go through to get there?

“I chose my career over my marriage,” Ian said as he tapped his glass with his fingers lightly. “I guess… it’s something that just happens. There will come a day when we have to face difficult choices in our lives, and we have to make a decision about it, and then live with it.”

I could see where this was coming from; especially after Ian mentioned that he couldn’t remember the last time he went traveling not for work. Even when we met in Jakarta, he was on a work tour together with Victorian Government Business Office.

“It’s hard, you know. It’s hard to really know people–or a country, when you arrive at the airport and someone with a fancy car is already there, waiting for you. And you are taken into a nice hotel, people treat you nicely,  you meet the press, and then you go to a really nice kitchen to cook, and then go back to the hotel. You don’t get to see the real things,” Ian shrugged his shoulders. “That’s why I like to connect with real people. When I’m back from my work tour, I go to my restaurant’s kitchen. And I feel sane again. There are my staff, they just want to work and make money and go home to their families. To them, I am not a celebrity chef. And I think this real interaction is what keeps me sane, what keeps me real, what keeps me grounded.”


“You know, when you are blessed with so many things in your life, you just have to give back,” said Ian.

steak tartare

I smiled, knowing by heart that he was right. Before, Ian told me about his TV show, Conviction Kitchen, where he teach life skills to recent inmates. I wondered if this choice of working with inmates had something to do with his past in London–when he ran into trouble with the police.

This reminded me of a friend who ran away from his port-city life by the sea in Vladivostok; only to find himself being pulled in by other port cities and sea-related works in different parts of the world. Some of us are running away from an event (or a place) in our past, only to find out that we’re being reconnected again with it in different ways, at certain times in our lives. It’s like a calling–a missing link that helps us to understand the reason why we need to go through certain things in our lives; no matter how unpleasant they may be.


Ian runs his restaurant, European, in 161 Spring Street, Melbourne, and still travels all around the world–from time to time, from one kitchen to another.

Raw Chocolate Pie with Chocolate Drizzle & Red Dragon Fruit Quenelle


Actually, it started out when my oven went kaput a few months ago. I had missed baking so much, and had been craving to make some desserts for quite some time–but buying a new oven had not been a part of my priority list, yet. That day was a few days after another week I spent in Ubud, Bali, where I had started to become familiar with raw food. Raw desserts, in particular, captivated me in an instant. So that day, I browsed for some raw desserts recipes online and started learning the basics of making raw desserts. Soon, I tried out several recipes and with my newly-found confidence in working with nuts, dates, fruits, and coconut oil–created my own alternate recipes.

So, what is this raw dessert thing exactly?

Raw dessert is dessert made out of natural raw ingredients. You don’t bake it. Instead, you refrigerate it. To replace flour, you can use various kinds of nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts–you name it), and to replace sugar, we use maple syrups, stevia, or agave nectar. Dates and raisins replace sugar, egg, and butter. They are adding sweetness and thickness to the raw desserts dough. For some recipes, extra virgin coconut oil is also used to replace butter. And we’re using loads of fresh fruits, too. It’s a relatively healthier way to enjoy delicious desserts and it is also friendly for vegans, health-conscious individuals, those who are on a diet, or those who are allergic to flour, gluten, or egg.

Today, I made a new recipe for my Dad’s birthday: Raw Chocolate Pie with Chocolate Drizzle and Red Dragon Fruit Quenelle. For the best results, I would ask you to do your pie crust, chocolate filling, and red dragon fruit ice cream a day before–because you need to leave them in your freezer overnight to make them really solid. A day before that, soak the nuts you’re going to use in water. This is an important step to make those nuts more digestible. Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that is difficult to digest. Soaking nuts help in releasing these enzymes.


Pie Crust

  • 1 cup walnuts (soaked overnight)
  • 1 cup dates/raisins
  • a pinch of vanilla
  • a pinch of cocoa powder
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt

Chocolate Filling

  • 2 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup (or you can add more if you’d like it to be sweeter)
  • a pinch of vanilla
  • a pinch of salt
  • 8 tbsp of water (depending upon the thickness of the filling you’d like to have; you can add more water if it’s too thick)

Chocolate Drizzle

  • 10 tbsp of Natura Lova‘s extra virgin coconut oil, in room temperature (at first I was about to buy Natura Lova’s extra virgin coconut oil; so I placed an order but then they decided to send the product to me for free, as a gift!)
  • 4 tsp maple syrup (depending on whether you like it sweeter or less sweet)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder

Red Dragon Fruit Ice Cream

  • 1 red dragon fruit
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp thick coconut milk



Step 1: Pie Crust

  1. Pulse all the ingredients for the pie crust in a food processor. You want it to be sticky and grainy instead of smooth, so be okay with some chunks of nuts, raisins, or dates.
  2. Place the pie crust’s sticky and grainy dough on your pie dish (I am using a 12-cm Pyrex pie dish, and make sure that you cover your pie dish in coconut oil beforehand, so that your pie will be easier to remove from the pie dish later on). Press the pie crust dough well until it sticks nicely to the bottom and the side of the pie dish.
  3. Put it into the freezer to harden while you’re working on your chocolate filling.

Step 2: Chocolate Filling

  1. Pulse all the ingredients for the chocolate filling in a food processor until they come out smooth. Taste it first, so you can decide whether you want to add more cocoa/maple syrup based on your liking.
  2. If all goes well, then get your pie dish from the freezer and pour the chocolate filling on top of your pie crust.
  3. Smoothen up the surface, and then put it back into the freezer. Leave it there overnight.

Step 3: Red Dragon Fruit Ice Cream

  1. Blend all the ingredients for the red dragon fruit ice cream.
  2. Leave it in the freezer for around 12 hours.
  3. Take it out and blend it again.
  4. Then leave it in the freezer overnight.

Step 4: Chocolate drizzle

  1. Blend all the ingredients for your chocolate drizzle.
  2. Set it aside (keep it in room temperature, do not put it in the refrigerator).

Step 5: Servings

  1. Get your chocolate pie out from the fridge, take it out from the pie dish, then slice it (I cut it into 8 slices).
  2. Pour the chocolate drizzle on top of it.
  3. Add a small scoop of your red dragon fruit ice cream next to it (or you can make it into a quenelle like I did).

Enjoy your raw dessert treat!



Rain and Ginger Tea Recipe.

Hello, busy-bees! The weather in my hometown has been crazy lately. It’s raining all day, and even when the rain stops, the sky remains cloudy. Down with a terrible flu for 3 days now, this afternoon I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and head to the kitchen instead. I’d like to make something simple and warm: like this home-made ginger tea.



  • 2 fresh gingers, grated (or you can use more if you’d like it stronger)
  • 2 teaspoons of green tea (you can replace this with other kinds of tea like jasmine, or if you’re lazy, a teabag will do)
  • 4 cups of boiling water

Put your grated gingers and green tea into the teapot, and then pour the boiling water. Leave it for a while, then pour it into a cup. Add a tablespoon of honey or sugar if you’d like to have a trace of sweetness there. You can also add a slice of lemon to enrich the taste (I like to have it with honey only). It’s a very simple recipe and extremely easy to make, but it gives you such a lovely extra warmth on rainy days.



For the time being, stay healthy!


Tempe and Salad Lunch Recipe.

I tried out this recipe from Food.com in an attempt to have a healthy lunch, and it turned out amazingly delicious. Italian-flavored tempe? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Whether you’d like to have it with warm rice or salad, it will turn out just perfect.


Main ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of tempe (I used half of the usual package-size sold in the vegetable seller or supermarket)


Marinade ingredients:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (being me, I also added 5 rawit chili to the marinade)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (I substituted this with oregano)


  • Cut tempe into cubes
  • Marinade the tempe, make sure all pieces are coated, and leave it in the refrigerator for an hour


  • In medium low heat, cook the tempe until they caramelized


  • You can serve it with fresh salad and cheese


Happy lunch!