Thursday, 26 February 2009

annual suckling pig night

It started off as an idea one year and since then has become tradition that every year, the family gets together for suckling pig night. It's usually around Chinese New Year, give or take a month and as it's name would suggest, is celebrated with a whole suckling pig. We've tried pigs from a couple of places - this year's pig was from BBQ One in Eastwood.

The responsibility of cutting up the pig seems to have fallen on my uncle's shoulders. He does a rather good job!

I was telling mum how I was fascinated by the 'Yee Sang' which Malaysians have to celebrate Chinese New Year. I'd had it once at J's place and his aunt had made it; mum had seen some packet ones at Ton Yon and said we could try one of those. Minus the sashimi, all the other ingredients you see in the below pic were in the packet.
To top it off, you have some fresh cut coriander and shallot. 
The fun bit is the tossing where everyone puts their chopsticks and everything gets mixed together. It's a tad messy but a lot of fun - and anyway, eating food should be fun!

So to add to our suckling pig nights now is 'Yee Sang'. The packet 'Yee Sang' was actually quite good although the dressing they had was a little sweet but people didn't seem to mind too much. I've already discussed with mum what ingredients we'll put in when it comes to us making it ourselves - can't wait till next year comes around! 

lunch date @ char's

Char is a good friend of J&I and also a food blogger (you can find her food musings at She got married last year and since the year started and she & A started getting their place together, they've started to have guests over. We were there for our second time a couple of Saturdays ago for a lunch date. We were in the area (I was buying a printer) and J had promised Char an aloe vera plant - J will discuss with you at length the benefits and merits of having an aloe vera plant. J also claims that I can't keep plants and continues to tell everyone the story that I killed the aloe vera plant that he gave me (and apparently aloe vera is classified as a cactus). Point is - me and plants don't seem to get along.

Anyway, after the dramas of J being stuck in lift for a good 20 minutes (he forgot to bring the aloe vera plant and went down to get it), we made a start on lunch. Char had said she'd do pizza, I'd been watching way to much Nigella and decided on one of her midnight feast recipes - Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

It was actually the first time I'd cooked Carbonara - it was very different to the other Carbonara's I've ever tasted  - it was heavy and actually quite eggy. After discussing this at length with one of our Italian Art Directors at work - I believe that the Carbonara's you find here in Australia are midway between a true Carbonara (containing egg) and a Bosciaola (containing cream and mushrooms). Anyway, in his words, saying that a carbonara and a bosciaola is the same thing is almost the same as saying apples and oranges are the same thing.
Char's homemade pizza on  Lebanese Bread. Ingenious and tasty too! The 4 of us gobbled up 2 of these.
The table is set for lunch!

Some hour or so later, our bellies were full from both food and wine. As I got back into the car later that afternoon, I tell J, 'I really need to close my eyes and sleep' and pretty much did so without opening my eyes until the car took us back to my place. As soon as J got out of the car, it was his turn to sleep. What a nice and relaxing way to spend a weekend!

Thanks Char for having us over!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

fetuccine with peas & lemon (adapted from bill granger's 'holiday')

I've been wanting to watch Bill's Holiday on Thursdays (Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel) but when Thursdays come around, I find myself caught up in something or other and by the time I manage to sit in front of the TV, the show is already over and I make the mental note to watch it next week and never do. History repeats itself. Managed to catch about 5 minutes of the show tonight and well, fortunately, this month's delicious has a teaser CD of Bill's Holiday - maybe that will get me through till next week.

Awhile back, tried another one of Bill's recipes (from Bill's Holiday - the cookbook). His recipe was 'Tagliatelle with Fresh Peas and Lemon". In the absence of tagliatelle, I substituted it with a pantry staple - fetuccine. And well, I have no idea where you can get your hands on fresh peas and having watched many episodes of Nigella who calls herself the 'Pea Queen', I figured frozen peas would do the trick. They did.

Overall comments - this recipe is tasty when eaten fresh. Not so good when you try to reheat in the microwave (so unfortunately not a recipe you can cook in advance and bring to work for lunch). When you reheat, the peas cook a lot faster than the pasta and by the time you get both items cooked, the pasta is probably good but the peas are no good - which makes for a very unsatisfying lunch. Nonetheless, this recipe leaves me intrigued and if anyone could tell me where I could get my hands on fresh peas, that would be great!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

cafe andronicus @ victoria ave., chatswood

It was a Sunday of running around, ahieving not a whole lot and getting fed up with incompetent salespeople that J&I finally resolved to sit down at Cafe Andronicus in Chatswood. On a board outside was 'Coffee & Cake Special - $6: Choose any cake from the display cabinet.' A quick squiz of the display cabinet saw about 8-10 different cakes - in we went to sit down.

They gave us a menu which I had a quick look through. Their cake slices are usually $7.90 - it made sense to get the coffee and cake special. At first, J thought to get something else but everything else on the menu seemed a whole lot more expensive than the cake and coffee special; and well, the two of us could eat two slices of cake...i think?

I went for the Blueberry Cheesecake with a Flat White. J reckons that I make a better Blueberry Cheesecake cause the base of this one was a little soggy - I actually didn't mind it too much - it was rich and cheesy and well complimented by the blueberry sauce/compote (which was both on the top and sandwiched between the cheesecake and base).
J goes for the Lemon & Lime Tart with a latte. I preferred the Blueberry Cheesecake - the flavours of this one were a little too subtle.
Can't remember what was happening here - maybe a fly had flew up J's nose? There were a handful buzzing around our heads as we ate.

My overall comment - their cake slices are huge!  (but somehow we managed and cleaned both plates) It's a little annoying with the caramel that they use to decorate the plate - whenever I put my fork down, it kept dipping into the caramel sauce so that 5 minutes into eating, my hands were getting sticky from holding a caramelised fork. Then again, it's me being clumsy. Anyway, cake and coffee is a nice way to wind down the weekend; and to add, it can leave you quite stuffed so if if you have a big dinner planned for afterwards, I'd advise sharing a slice of cake between two.

Friday, 6 February 2009

bacon & egg rolls (adapted from bill granger's holiday)

I've been telling myself to do a little more cooking at home - and frankly, it's not a bad idea considering the number of recipes and books that have accumulated over the last couple of years. I forget when this whole food thing started but just the other day, J looked at my bookshelf and my floor and commented that I surely should have enough. He knows I like buying cookbooks but to see all the cookbooks together (you see, there's a pile that doesn't quite fit on the shelf so I've had to stack them in one pile and now it's pretty much table height and well....then that's not the only pile...), it's growing into a sizeable collection, to say the least.

One of my favourite chefs is probably Bill Granger. Time and time again, I find myself gravitating to his books looking for a recipe to use. I find that his recipes are simple, easy to follow and will guarantee a great-tasting and healthy meal. And so far, so good - there's not one complaint I have about Bill.

Here's to the weekend - A Bacon & Egg Roll (Rindless short bacon, scrambled eggs with rocket). Bill's recipe has it served with a tomato relish which there's also a recipe for in 'Holiday'.
I have an easier solution - a good dollop of tomato sauce!
J complained that I used rindless short bacon and that the bacon & egg roll wasn't fatty enough (and also, why didn't I make two for him). Boys...

Could it be that the added rocket makes the 'bacon & egg roll' healthy? This had to be healthiest bacon & egg roll that I'd ever tasted! I finished it comfortably full - no signs of the greasiness that follows after eating bacon and no, this meal wasn't for the purposes of soaking up a big night. Actually, it was a random craving for bacon meaning that we had these rolls for lunch (not breakfast - Bill has it as a breakfast meal which I think is just as good served at lunch time!)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

mario brothers pizza & pasta @ pacific highway, crows nest

Dinner last Friday was preceded by a flurry of emails - people made suggestions as to where to go, others narrowed it down to the one or two to choose from and by the time I finished work, we'd only managed to get it down to 'Meet at Crows Nest. See you there'. And well, to be the first girl to arrive, a good 15 minutes was then spent walking up and down Pacific Highway with the boys, pressing our faces against the glass windows of restaurants a) to study their menu, b) to work out if they actually had space to fit the 7 of us. At some point, someone announced that 'Mario Brothers' had good pizza and the fact they had empty tables, made it an easy choice.

As you walk in, you pass the ovens, the chefs rolling out dough, the cashier, the coffee machine - tucked at the back are about 8 tables which sit from 2 to 7 people. It's a tad dark at the back but there's air con and there's also the welcoming smell of freshly baked pizza coming from the oven.

Here's one of the starters - Chilli & Garlic Crust. I highly recommend!
Hanging on the walls are pictures of food, pictures of Italy (one assumes), people, and well, it's a bit of mixtape! Anyway, I love how Pizza places have those stands - it sure helps when the table isn't all that big and you've ordered more than enough to fit on the table.
My caption to this photo: K lost in thought about his gf M. Anyway, here's the "Phuket" pizza which was probably my favourite of the night.
J requested we had the Capricciosa - his boss, who's Italian reckons that a Capricciosa is the benchmark of the Italian pizza. I didn't find this one that spectacular - maybe just a bit too much ham and too bland for my liking.
This one the waitress recommended and is on their Special Menu - Roma. It was topped with olives, anchovies, salami - it's definitely one pizza with bite!
Another one that the waitress recommended when we sat down - Spaghetti Meatballs. The serving was massive, the meatballs juicy and definitely one I would order again.

I can't decide - this pasta was pretty good too - Gaetanos Spaghetti Gamberoni (a combination of prawns, scallops, garlic, white wine, tomato salse and cream)

Dinner was extremely satisfying and I'd say we got a good taste of Italian food and culture - mid meal, two men sitting on separate tables broke out in song - one started singing, the other echoed his song. I can't remember exactly what they were singing about but it was definitely one interesting experience. Service was extremely friendly with the chef asking us how our meal went. I picked up a takeaway menu at the end of the meal and had the lady at the counter ask 'Do you live nearby?' J answered on my behalf, 'No, but we'll definitely be coming back if we're in the area and feel like pizza'. The lady smiled and truth be told, it is a neat little place serving up some awesome pizza.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Y2K super cafe @ dixon st., haymarket

We were out in the city early for our annual family chinese new year dinner and with a bit over an hour to kill, dad suggested that we all go for a drink. Nearby was Y2K cafe which seemed like a good place to grab a quick drink. In we trooped and were seated close to the door of the restaurant.

These days, Y2K is a little shabby for wear - they could do with a good clean up. Even just a mop of the floor might do the trick but what can I say, you're probably only there to grab a quick drink or meal so you're not going to spend a whole lot of time checking out the decor - depends whether cleanliness is on your list of priorities when you go out and eat. For me, when it's a fast meal, I can't say that I pay too much attention to the decor of a place. As always, my main concern is the food!

Anyway, any drink with my dad is never without food. Here are the skewers smothered in a light satay sauce.
My drink: Milk tea with mango pudding. I used to love getting the Milk Tea with Egg Pudding at Easy Way (it was the best!) Anyway, this one's alright, tad sweet.
J goes for a Pearl Milk Tea. He is quite the poser for photos!
Dumplings - I like! I also like the sauce that went with it!
Mum doesn't understand me and photos but she obligingly takes a photo of me & J.

I realise now that I'm missing photos of two other dishes that we had - prawn cocktails with a sweet chilli sauce and this dish of deep-fried fish with the bellies of fish roe; urgh! (I'm not a big fan of the latter. I'll eat it but you might just see me squirm a little when I do - there's something wrong about eating that much fish roe. Needless to say, it was just a bit too much food and drink before dinner and I sat down to our proper dinner already feeling quite full. Good thing about the Chinese New Year banquets is that the food always takes a little while to come out (which gave me ample time to digest and still eat everything that was part of the banquet! Woot!)

By the way, there's a hefty surcharge at Y2k on public holidays. They bring it to your attention when you sit down but whilst waiting to pay, there was another customer having an argument with the person at the cashier. From memory, it was $2.20 per person which is a tad hefty if you're only in there for quick drink or snack!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

ton ton regent @ george st., sydney

One seriously hot Saturday spent fixing a broken computer in the city led J&I to have lunch at Ton Ton Regent (a Jap restaurant tucked/almost hidden inside Regent's Place on George St.) Regent's Place hides a handful of neat little shops/places to eat and fortunately, whilst people are still learning of its whereabouts, it's actually not a bad place to head to to grab a table. Don't get me wrong, there's people heading there but at least you're not fighting with crowds everywhere else in the city who are looking to grab a bite.

Gyoza. I could easily gobble up a couple more of these - the dumpling skin is thin and the inside is juicy!
Sun streamed down through the glass ceiling (literally cooking me - I'm really not good with heat!) - J is slightly more relaxed and fans himself with a wad of paper.
My choice: Spicy Chicken Don. I kid you not, it is about 2/3 chicken, 1/3 rice. Note that the pieces of chicken are fried, making the dish quite filling (needed J's help).
J went for the Ton Ton Ramen - this is definitely a place to come back to for Ramen.

Anyway, the computer is fixed (yay!) and I definitely enjoyed lunch. Jap has to be my favourite food in the world - I just can't seem to get enough of it! Definitely heading back to here to try more of the menu and hopefully, the heat will die down so that I can eat here without breaking into a sweat (really not fun!) Saying that though, I did notice that they had some seating inside (they seem to have used the empty shop next to them and filled it with chairs and tables). Maybe I'll sit there next time...