Saturday, 24 January 2009

adriano zumbo cafe chocolat (again)

With memories of our last visit still fresh in our minds, J&I were a little more prepared this time round visiting Zumbo's - we possibly triple checked our wallets to make sure we had enough money for all the food that we were going eat (J definitely didn't want a repeat of last time and I'm sure, had we repeated the events of last time, he would've left me sitting at the shop and never come back; it could've been embarrassing!)

Our toasted sandwiches, an Iced Chocolate (Dark) and and Iced Coffee. To be honest, I would call the Iced Chocolate and Iced Coffee 'frappes' - they're not your average Iced Chocolate and Iced Coffee.
I was definitely having dessert but thought to order the one to share between the two of us. J was a bit more adventurous and the Ricotta Pancakes with Berry Coulis and Passionfruit Cream on the blackboard had caught his attention. OMG - how fluffy and delicious are these pancakes! They're well complimented by the berries and passionfruit cream! Tops!
This was the dessert I had my eye on: PARIS - La Vie En Rose. Had been reading about it across a couple of blogs and was eager to try. Is it just me or is the Strawberry Sago Milkshake lacking volume? I swear I saw it on another blog and the glass was much more full! Anyway, so I was thinking that we couldn't finish the desserts after our lunch of sandwiches but this was quickly gobbled up (all except for the rose petals - are these meant to be eaten?) The rose macaroon was really quite lovely!
Some goodies for home: The Miss Marple Cheesecake (my favourite cheesecake in the world!), Charlotte Full and Wheely Wildly Wendy. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a fatty - only the cheesecake out of the three seemed to hit the spot. This time I also tried Zumbo's savouries - a Quite Pat and a Quiche Charlie (scrumptious like his cakes and ended up being a satisfying dinner for mum and me one night when dad couldn't be bothered cooking.)

I find that a trip to Zumbo's every now and then really lifts my moods and stops me from being cranky and annoyed at nothing (a true sign that I'm getting old). And well, didn't get to see the man himself this time (which undoubtedly would've left me with a big grin on my face; and possibly drool down the side of my mouth!) but I'd say next time, I'll buy a few more cakes to keep me going through the week/s till my next visit - Zumbo's cakes have a habit of getting gobbled up very quickly!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

chocolate kkomz @ eastwood

It was a last minute decision to grab dinner together that we thought to got to Chocolate Kkomz in Eastwood. It's a neat little place and their booth seating is great for groups of up to 6 - we had 5 that night. Love the fact that they have buzzers on the table - waiters/waitresses are just a buzz away and you can remain undisturbed for the majority of the night (which is great when you are meeting up with friends and don't really want to be disturbed).

Having been there a couple of times now, I've managed to get through a good part of their menu and so far, so good. There's a real mix of dishes, some traditional, a good part fusion and well, there's a mix of Korean/Japanese and Western all thrown in there. Might sound a little bizarre but I can only encourage you to try for yourself before you make that call.

Okonomoyaki - first time trying this one; definitely a good size for sharing.
Bibimbap. Had everyone at the table laughing at me (waiter boy included) when I (for some spastic reason) said something along the lines of 'Can we have a Bibim..bimbap?' or something along those lines.
Side dishes that come with the hotpot - unlimited refills. J asked for kimchi at least 4 times and was still asking after all the rest of the food was finished and the table was being cleared (the waiter only look amused and did not comment).
Octopus and Kalbi Hotpot. On the menu, it says it serves two which it definitely does. This is probably my favourite hotpot out of the ones on their menu.
Cheese Pork Cutlet Spaghetti Bolognaise. Sounds a little odd and offputting but tastes fab! I can't imagine it to be too healthy though.
Shared amongst 5, the bill worked out to be about $22pp (which included drinks) and I'd say we were all contentedly full. J was happy with all the kimchi he ate (sometimes I get quite embarrassed eating out with him! It got to a point during the night where he was asking me to ask the waiter for more kimchi cause he was too embarrassed to ask himself. hmm...)

Friday, 9 January 2009

hotpot essentials

Hotpot is arguably the easiest meal to cook and a great way to entertain a large group of people. There is some thought/organisation involved when it comes to large groups but compared to other types of meals, I'd say that having hotpot comes in at the cheapest and you have everyone generally quite full afterwards. Here's what I think are the hotpot essentials (for large groups).

The venue:
A place that's free with a dining table, hotpot stove, pot and nets (It's preferable to have two or more pots going if you have a particularly large group). Chairs aren't completely necessary as you'll be standing around the hotpot for most of the night to get to the food.

The shopping:
For large groups, I'd advise against getting the entire group to go shopping - it just doesn't happen. Nominate two (preferably one girl/one boy, preferably with some experience at the shops) to go shopping. Girls generally have a better idea of what's required to cater for the whole group, the boy generally makes comments re. the volume of food required (plus they can hold the shopping basket as it starts to get heavy). You'll find you can get most of what you'll need at Asian grocery stores (ingredients, gas, stove, utensils etc.)

The people: Make sure everyone turns up with a stomach to eat and about $5-15 to split the shopping bill. To date, I haven't had to pay much more than this.
Assorted soup bases: You'll find that about half the group are adventurous and can take the chilli but for the other half, a seafood soup base or chicken broth will come in handy. Alternatively, you can skip the soup base and start with water. Over the course of the meal, the flavour of the food will boil into a soup.
The ingredients: Assorted Meats (Beef, Lamb, Chicken - generally the fattier the meat, the tastier it is), Chinese Cabbage, Raddish, Fish balls, Cuttlefish balls, Beef balls, Fish tofu pieces, Fresh tofu, Enoki Mushrooms, Beef Brisket, Assorted dumplings, Udon noodles, Fresh Egg, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Jimmy's satay sauce. There's all sorts of ingredients you can buy but the above are pretty much your staples. Oh, and don't forget drinks - you'll probably get thirsty! You'll find the more people you have for dinner, the more budget you have to buy a range of ingredients. Might I add, make sure you keep hot water boiling in the kettle as you'll need the hot water to top up the pots as they start to boil down and evaporate.
The cleaning: Don't forget that there is a bit of cleaning to do afterwards. A handful of helpful hands will get the job done in no time. Probably the most annoying thing is cleaning the hotpot nets which get egg and bits of meat caught in the cracks. Whilst having hotpot, be mindful about the food you put in - always make sure that no food sinks to the bottom and gets forgotten as you'll have some trouble getting that off once it starts to settle at the base.
Fruit to finish - It's almost the Asian way to finish off any meal.

Notice how the oranges have been cut! I thought I'd have a go and do what they do at Chinese restaurants. It actually wasn't too hard although less juicy oranges will make less of a mess - I had orange juice running everywhere on the chopping board. Could be that I wasn't doing it right but the presentation of the oranges did get them going like hotcakes and that's surprising when you have a group where the majority of them are boys!

Monday, 5 January 2009

cleaning out the fridge - a spicy pork noodle salad

Mum had given me instructions to clean out the fridge (i.e. chuck out things that had expired) and had also asked me to do something with the box of marinated spicy pork that dad no longer wanted to eat. I ended up doing both (finding things that had expired for a good part of a year) and well, cleaned up the fridge beyond just the expired goods. There were assorted leftover vegies, herbs and the like and with this, I mixed it with the marinated spicy pork and made an impromptu spicy pork noodle salad.

Here it is - containing marinated spicy pork (bought from the Korean supermarket), flat vermicelli noodles, carrot, chinese cabbage, coriander, and shallots. The spicy pork was fried and tossed into the salad warm.
Once tossed, eat up! I tried to have it again at dinner time and despite reheating in the microwave, it didn't taste quite as good. 
The salad could've also done with a bit more sauce. Whilst the pork was marinated and full of flavour, if you had just the noodles, you would've found it quite bland.

Mum was more than pleased that the fridge was emptied out. Our fridge constantly has too much in it whether it be leftovers or ingredients which dad seems to forget about buying and putting in there. And well, the cleaning up of the fridge ended up being to my benefit - with a bit of work, I might be able to better this recipe and call it mine! Will let you know how I go.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

ST's farewell @ garlic tepanyaki, neutral bay

It seems like one-by-one, my friends are heading back to HK whether it's for work or to be with family (I actually wonder what it'd be like to work in HK - but I'd say it be much tougher than working here in Sydney. Not that I'm really considering it at the moment).  Anyway, last week, we had a farewell for our friend ST at a place called Garlic Tepanyaki in Neutral Bay. It's in the mall where Coles is - it's only a very small restaurant and you might actually miss it if you don't look carefully. 

The restaurant fits just over 30 people - our group took up about half the restaurant. At first I thought this place was Japanese but whilst waiting outside and reading the news clipping that was on the window, their chef is Chinese and also from Hong Kong. He understood everything that we said and he seemed awfully amused.

We had the $30 set menu which I thought was enough for the girls. I wouldn't be surprised if the guys were a little hungry afterwards. Here's the first course - scallops (looks very pretty cooked in butter and garlic but was a tad overcooked and chewy).
I sat on the side so didn't get to see much of the actual cooking.
King Prawns - served in the same sauce as the scallops. The missing prawn heads were used for the game of 'catching prawn heads with your chopsticks as they were catapaulted towards you'. Admittedly, I wasn't very good at catching them. I had at least 3 prawn heads at my feet.
I actually managed to take photos of all the courses but being lazy about posting them up (well some don't look particularly interesting). I did like this one though - it was the teriyaki chicken which tasted fab!
After the initial catching of raw eggs in bowls (which I missed and almost went into my can of coke), there were more egg games. We had the machine gun fired at a select handful (thankfully I was sitting on the side), the catching of egg in your mouth (I managed with this one first go) and finally, the egg fried rice in a bowl which is flipped mid air and you need to catch in a stack of bowls (yay I managed this one too! Others weren't so lucky and had egg fried rice in their laps).
J seems to be doing ok with this one.
 Cheesy got asked to put the stack of bowls on top of his head. Thankfully the egg fried rice bowl landed in the stack of bowls and not on his head.
Photo with ST (everyone down my end of the table).
Group snap.

Tepanyaki is definitely a fun way to eat food (although I'm not so sure about the food that gets wasted and whether you actually feel that satisfied afterwards - it's a lot of effort to get to your food esp. when you have a cheeky chef that wants to try a handful of new tricks). Fortunately the chef seemed to get the gist of it and picked on the guys mainly, leaving us girls relatively unscathed. Phew!

ST - have a safe trip home. All the best and hopefully we'll be seeing you back soon!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

pete evans - spaghetti bolognaise

It's been awhile since I've done any proper cooking (in place of it, it seems that I've been growing my cookbook collection which is growing healthily - much to mum and J's dismay) so it was great to finally get back into the kitchen and put those cookbooks to use.

A recent purchase is 'My Table' by Pete Evans which I found whilst doing some other Christmas shopping last year. It's full of simple, easy to follow recipes and some fantastic photography. I must admit that I get drawn to recipes that have nice photos of the food - mum thinks I'm being silly.

Perhaps the main reason for cooking Spaghetti Bolognaise was the half bottle of red wine we had in the fridge from the last party. Otherwise, your other ingredients include beef mince, chicken stock, tomato soup, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce, dried oregano, garlic, onion, pasta, parsley and parmesan.
Here's the sauce simmering away. You'll need to be patient here - it's about a half hour wait.
Once the sauce is done, toss together with the pasta and chopped parsley.
If you're J, you'll start eating from the pan.

I don't know a whole lot about Pete Evans but he sure does have an awesome  recipe for Spaghetti Bolognaise. J, my bro and I eat had a plateful that day and that night, the rest was gobbled down by my bro's friends who were over (they had it as a midnight snack). Mum reckons I've mastered the art of pasta. Anyhow - the next recipe I want to try from this book is the Butter Chicken with Naan Bread.

Friday, 2 January 2009

sugar magic: lesson 40

It's actually taken me awhile to finish putting together the showcard that we were making in our last term of Sugar Magic Classes. I'd gotten all the flowers done and the showcard itself was also done, it was just a matter of putting the two together. After almost a month since class finished for the year, I managed to find some time this week to do the last bits.

The finished product.
Most of what you see is actually edible (although I don't think I'll be eating this one). The only things you can't eat are the wires which hold them together and the foliage that's been made out of stem tape.
I'm quite happy with how it all turned out. Still need to put a bit more work into getting the colouring of the flowers right.
Side view - the assembling of the showcard was a bit of a nightmare; notice how the back card has meant slightly? There's actually also a crack running through it. The fault is partly mine as I was meant to make pastillage for the showcard but as I was lazy, i just used normal modelling fondant. As big pieces of modelling fondant takes ages to dry plus we had some humid weather, when I went to assemble the showcard, it started to curve over and it was too late for me to fix by the time I realised.

J's been asking me how long it would take for me to make this one again. Well, it was 8 weeks worth of classes which may seem like a long time. Anyway, this time round, I've learnt not to fiddle with things when they are drying. The front of the showcard which you see was actually my second attempt - the first one just cracked into pieces as I moved it when it hadn't dried completely. Notice how there's also a texture going through the front of the showcard. Hadn't actually planned for this (it was the gelatine that didn't dissolve) but fortunately, ended up looking quite good on the finished product.

christmas with friends

Boxing Day - Ken had a house free and it was decided that we would do a Christmas dinner where everyone had to bring a dish. Everyone was allocated their 'dish' when we were at Bungalow (unfortunately, there wasn't much choice: between Em & I we had to draw up a list and strategically allocate what people were to bring. When you have a group with boys, you really have to be specific about what they bring otherwise you end up with either a lot of soft drink or a lot of ice; as learnt from experience). I ended up being quite surprised because everyone that turned up did bring what they were allocated. 

Fish Finger Rolls with Japanese Mayonnaise and mixed salad leaves. The idea for this one came about when J&I were at the supermarket doing the shopping. Originally we were just getting some dinner rolls but then thought to jazz them up with a filling. They ended up looking quite spectacular!
ST made Curry Chicken Puffs.
M made us 2x Roast Chickens with Baked Pumpkin and Potatoes - I'm giving up on roasting a chicken, M you do a perfect job! Here's one of the chickens (recipe by Bill Granger).
Trifle was allocated to my friend Ka. I have a feeling that M was the one that actually made it and he only contributed to the drawing on top of the trifle. Only he could've thought of something like that!
Getting the girls together for a photo. Not quite sure what E was doing here (but possibly trying to swallow?)
There's actually a lot more food that I didn't get photos of (as busy as I was eating). There were at least 3 types of kebabs, a tuna pasta salad, lasagna, sliced cold turnkey, garlic bread, sushi, noodles (courtesy of Ken's mum), chocolate truffle cake, fruit and a cheese plate (which we completely forgot about). And of course there was alcohol and plenty (I stress plenty) of soft drink.

And well, last but not least, a late arrival to the party - Len's infamous egg tarts! Yum!

I'm in favour of more get-togethers where everyone brings a dish - ended up being lots of fun and there was plenty of food to go around. Good to also catch up and see friends I haven't see in a while. J&I also managed to finish Christmas cards to give to everyone which I thought was a big improvement for me this year.

Oh...last but not least, the picture on top of the trifle is of a man peeing on grass. Let me know if you can see it (trust me, only someone like my friend Ka can think of it!)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

christmas day!

We had our early family Christmas but on the actual day, the family (less two) got together again for another celebration. This time round, there wasn't quite so much food but a few of us did get round to trying some new recipes. 

This was one I cooked up -Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad (recipe from Good Taste). Loved all the fresh flavours in this although one thing to improve on is the noodles. Possibly cause I soaked them for a bit too long, the noodles didn't maintain their shape and were all broken by the time the salad was tossed - still tasted good though.
My aunt had a go at making Pad Thai. I had my fair share of this one and gobbled up all the leftovers the next day.
Smoked Ocean Trout - this was store bought and tasted fab!
My uncle had a go at making steamed scallops with vermicelli (top left hand corner of the below pic). This is definitely on par with what you get at restaurants - I would even add a bit of fresh cut chilli to give this one more bite. Below are sushi platters bought from our local sushi place.
This has become one of my dad's specialities which we all look forward to - lightly battered, fried oysters. I have yet to find a place that makes this better than my dad.
J bought my mum an Iced Tea set from T2. We had a go at making the Turkish Apple Tea - to which we added fresh cut apple slices to give it more flavour.
As for dessert (there's always dessert if you have dinner at my place), mum bought a Mango Mousse Log Cake from Bread Top. Look how cute the decorations are! Liked the mousse cake also but wasn't a big fan of the white chocolate covering on the outside of the cake.
We also went and tried the Ice Cream Puffs from Puffy. To our surprise, they do takeaway - every 3 puffs are packaged in a polystyrene box with a handful of ice packs to keep them cold (ingenious!) We bought a dozen - out of the flavours I tried, I'd say that Taro was my favourite.
That morning I also baked Choc Chip cookies (recipe from The Rose Bakery). They're not quite the texture that I'd like them to be but were still tasty.
My coz baked Shortbread and these were dipped in chocolate and decorated with Christmas sprinkles. I'd say that this coz of mine is going to be a chef one day.

Dad also bought another leg of ham (a different brand) but unfortunately no photos - meaning that my family alone consumed about 10kg of ham this Christmas. hmm....

Hope everyone had a wonderful and food-filled Christmas!