Monday, 29 June 2009

peanut butter muffins

Slowly but steadily I'm cooking my way through 'In the Kitchen' and now up to Recipe Number 4. I'd probably get through this book much faster if I cooked more but unknown to most, my dad actually has reign over the kitchen. The one time I cooked something for dinner, dad refused to eat it and since then, the only times I've cooked for the family is when dad's been on trip. Mum and my brother have no issues with my cooking, just that dad is a bit old fashioned and prefers to eat things he cooks and thinks my cooking is a bit too new-age and modern for his liking. Ah well, the day he changes his mind, I'll probably find it rather strange so it's better off that it stays the way it is.

Anyway, the fourth recipe I cooked up on a Sunday night was 'Peanut Butter Muffins'. As you can probably gather, I'm working my way through the back section of the book. At some point, I'll get to the savouries but I really do enjoy my sweets. Anyway, it was just convenient that I had half a jar of Crunchy Peanut Butter at home as well as the rest of the ingredients I needed so these muffins were whipped up in a matter of minutes.

Creaming crunchy peanut butter, butter and sugar. The great thing about this recipe is that it smells so good from start to finish (that's if you like peanut butter).
Once all the ingredients get mixed in, it looks a bit lumpy and unappetising but trust me, it was smelling great and only just got better.
After emptying the batter into 12 muffin cases, I thought the muffins were looking a little lonely and ended up putting some chocolate buttons on half the tray. In hindsight, I should've added a few more - the combo of chocolate and peanut butter was fantastic!
The muffins swelled up in the oven and here they are baked after 15 minutes.
I have to give a thumbs up to C&Cs muffin recipes. Out of the two that I've tried so far, the muffins come out so moist and mouthwateringly delicious. 

For breakfast this morning, I nuked one in the oven for about 15 seconds and it was good to go. The texture of the muffin was still moist although eating it this morning, the peanut butter in it seemed to make the muffin stick to the roof of my mouth a bit more (but isn't that what peanut butter is meant to do?) Anyway, it's a great recipe but I do think it could do with a some choc chips tossed throughout. I know it probably makes for a fattier muffin but it just seemed that the muffin was lacking a bit of texture. It was rich in peanut butter flavour but just needed that extra bite.

Anyway, I've still got bits and pieces from the last few lots of baking - I'm thinking I should probably start halving some of the recipes so I don't have so much left over. Unfortunately, there's only so much I can eat before things need to get tossed out!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

ajisen ramen @ liverpool st., world square

I'm almost a month late getting the 2009/2010 Entertainment Book but thanks to A, I got my hands on one this week. And being the eager beaver that I am (and considering I've already lost most of a month), I thought to myself, why not make a start to using it straightaway. It probably took me a good hour or so to pour through this year's selection of restaurants/cafes that are offering specials and discounts and come Thursday night, I was still pouring over it till the last minute, figuring out which place to go. Yes, I'm a bit of a dag and brought the book with me to work (it weighs a tonne) but better to have the entire book with me than not to have it all!

There's a good few additions to this year's Sydney Entertainment Book and the restaurant that I ended up picking for Thursday night was one of the newbies - Ajisen Ramen on Liverpool St., World Square. There's been an Ajisen Ramen in Haymarket for some time but for some reason or other, I never got round to going there and it seems like they've opened up another one quite recently at World Square? Anyway, World Square was probably halfway for J&I to get to from work so it was the most sensible choice (for those interested, the 25% discount is available at both branches).

After dissecting the menu J&I decide it was cheapest to get the 'Couples Set' for $50 (with the voucher, the meal ended up being $37.50). The set included 2 ramens, 2 entrees, 2 drinks and 2 desserts; the awesome thing is that they don't restrict you to certain items on the menu. Here's the Spicy soft shell crab. It's not a huge serving but with all the other food in the set, it's definitely more than enough.
Whilst eating our entrees, I think J was silently praying that his ramen wouldn't come in a heart-shaped bowl (as pictured on the menu). I was laughing so hard when the waitress walked our way and the distinctive heart shaped bowls were in sight. J went visibly pink in the face and with me cackling like a crazy women, the girls at the next table couldn't quite help laughing along. I remember when one of my guy friends were telling me about how embarrassed he was also when he went with another male friend to an Ajisen Ramen overseas - and again, it was the distinctive heart-shaped bowl. Anyway, J gets the 'Volcano Ramen' and I have the 'Tontoro Ramen'. Here's also my Moca Jelly Frappe (hard to describe this one - it's almost like a sweet iced coffee with jelly pieces in it).
Melon Calpico Soda.
Our desserts - What resembles an Ice Kachang with Lychee jelly, Vanilla ice cream with green tea mochi.

Whilst the entrees were great, the ramen was very average. J's 'Volcano Ramen' had quite a big scooping of chilli oil in it and the soup in mine lacked flavour. For a total of $37.50 though, it was an extremely decent meal and both J&I were walking out of the restaurant with a full belly. 

There's plenty else on the menu for those that aren't keen on Ramen. The restaurant isn't all that big to cater for big groups so better for small groups up to 4. It's mostly indoor seating although there's two tables outside for those keen on braving the cold. There's one of those buzzers at the table so service is as you like it. Once you're ready, press the button and you'll have a waitress swing your way.

I'll probably come back to check out the rest of their menu but otherwise, need to get cracking with the rest of this year's Entertainment Book!

Assorted jam drops

At work, I've had D nagging at me for ages asking why I don't bring any of my baked goodies in and just last week, it all came to a head and D refused to make me my cup of tea (actually he did in the end but it wasn't without blackmail!) and well, I figured it was about time to bring something in. It's not that I don't want to but I always feel bad about bringing something to work that was baked/cooked the day before. It just never tastes as good and call me a perfectionist, if I'm baking/cooking food for others, I prefer to serve it straight out of the oven or when it's just hot. Serving something cooked the day before just doesn't seem right.

If you've been reading my posts recently, I've set myself the task of cooking my way through Allan Campion & Michele Curtis' 'In the Kitchen' cookbook. It was only fitting that I picked another recipe out of the book (making it recipe number three). The recipe was actually for raspberry jam drops but in my case, it became 'Assorted jam drops' where I used as many different kinds of jam that we had at home. Ironically, I had every possible jam at home but raspberry jam. 

Starting with the dough which needs about 15 minutes in the fridge to firm up.
Roll the dough into little balls and arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
 The recipe said to use a teaspoon to make pockets in the dough balls. It was much easier using my thumb.
Fill the pockets with jam.
Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
On the side - this is the brand of jam I'm loving and I've got a jar of molasses to make the scones I saw on Steph's site.
Once the jam drops have finished baking, take them out of the oven and rest on a cooling rack. If you leave them on the tray, they'll cook from residual heat which is fine if you want super crunchy cookies.
And well, bizarrely enough, a recipe that was meant to make 30 jam drops produced about 60 jam drops for me. Anyway, here's the book that I'm talking about.
In the blurb to the recipe, C&C comment how the quality of the jam will affect how these jam drops turn out. So very true and my further advice, make sure you use your favourite jam. My favourite has to be strawberry and scaringly enough, I gobbled up about 4 of these babies when they came out of the oven. Blackberry jam drops are also good too! Orange marmalade is so-so which is probably why you don't see many of those recipes.

Well, I brought in a boxful to work (that's after testing them in the morning to make sure they still tasted ok). As I suspected, the jam drops had lost their crunch (despite being kept in an airtight container) but to be honest, actually tasted fine. D agreed with me; he very diligently gobbled up most of the box and returned an empty container to me at the end of the day. He did share with the others and told them how I had baked them but I think he was doing everything he could to keep them for himself. I'm glad to see that I have a fan of my baking!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

nick's diner - burgers & pancakes @ mac. centre, north ryde

It seems like all I've been eating the past couple of weeks has been burgers and there are the blog posts to prove. Truth be told, I was never a big fan of the burger until recently when I was pointed in the direction of the 'The Counter' in Crows Nest - they serve up an awesome burger and they completely erase the image of burgers that are greasy and soaking in fat. These days burgers are being made with wagyu, the patties can be cooked to your liking, they're juicy, they're wholesome and you can customise your burger with your own ingredients.

So continuing my burger adventures, a couple of weeks ago, J's younger brother pointed out that 'Platinum' at Mac Centre had now become a diner. So from fine dining, it's now become 'Nick's Diner' serving up burgers and pancakes. You can tell that this place has been a hit, people are piling through the doors and there's a great vibe both inside and outside the diner. People eagerly file in for the booth seats - J&I missed out this time but oh well, better luck next time.

The House Burger. Loved the mushroom and roasted peppers! Chips weren't bad.
J's Double Whammy - 2x200g patties and topped with bacon and cheese!
Visual evidence that J's burger was about half the size of his head. He couldn't bite into it and ended up eating most of the burger with knife and fork.

All the patties here are made from wagyu. Unlike the Counter, you can't build your own burger here - there's about an A4 page of burgers which you can choose from. The most impressive burger had to be J's 'Double Whammy' which he barely managed to finish - half a kilo of a burger isn't exactly easy to eat! On top of burgers, there's also pastas and other 'diner' food and nibblies.

As much as I tried to make room for dessert, once I had my burger, it just wouldn't budge! I admired the two girls that sat next to us that managed to eat both a burger each followed by a pancake each afterwards. Anyway, determined to get my booth seat next time and handy to know that this could be a dessert place to go to late at night!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

choc chip belgian waffles

Last week, J ever so casually mentioned that he saw a Belgian Waffle maker at Myer and thought I might be interested. Was I interested? You needed to have been around to listen to all the words that came out of my mouth. (Why hadn't you told me earlier? When were you going to tell me? Did the the belgian waffler maker have deep grooves? Could you turn it? Does it make thick waffles?) I think J was glad that he took a photo of it on his phone and could whip it out before I asked any more questions.

So first thing Monday, J headed into Myer and grabbed one of the two Belgian waffle makers that were left - it came with a 10% discount, making it $100 and I am absolutely loving it! I made a batch on the Tuesday that J brought it over and on Saturday, it made a trip over to A's place to feel 11.  It's so easy to use and makes waffles that are ever so tasty!

Here's what I'm talking about.
I asked J to help me out with whipping the egg whites. I asked him to get it to firm peaks and he shows me this - he reckons they look like boobies! Argh...
I decided to make the choc chip waffles that were in the recipe booklet that came with the machine. The batter was made with ingredients most bakers would have at home - self raising flour, eggs, vanilla extract, caster sugar, milk, butter, cocoa and choc chips. 
Total cooking time for one batch of 4 waffles is about 4-4.5 minutes. Basically, pour the batter in, flip it over so both sides are coated with batter, leave on one side for 2 minutes (the machine is programmed so that after 2 minutes, the green light flashes on), flip back over to the other side and cook for another 2-2.5 minutes. There are settings on the machine for a softer or a crisper waffle which gives you a lot more control than most other waffle makers. It took me a couple of tries to work out why the waffles were sticking to the top panel but I found that if you've cooked it enough, the waffles should fall back down quite easily. So if it's sticking to the top, just let it cook for a bit more!
The finished product!
The ones I made on Saturday actually look a bit better as I managed to get a hold of dark chocolate chips. The ones above had chocolate M&Ms in the them which was the only cooking chocolate I had at home and as soon as I mixed them into the batter, the colour of the M&Ms started running. So if you're making waffles, I don't recommend using Chocolate M&Ms.

Anyway, on Saturday, we had the waffles with icecream (just from the tub) and chocolate sauce (again from the recipe book that comes with the machine). Max Brenner and Lindt Cafe be warned, I can cook up a decent waffle at home too! From what I can gather, the choc chip waffles were a hit and it even got three of the boys to get into the kitchen and clean up. That sure did put a smile to my face!

Friday, 19 June 2009

happy birthday mum!

Last weekend, I had family over to celebrate mum's birthday. My aunt took charge and organised for each family to supply a component of the night's meal. As is the tradition in my family, everyone ends up buying enough food to feed everyone else. So a bbq that was meant to be for 15 ended up being a bbq for about 60. It was all good fun though and everyone left home with enough food for the next couple of dinners.

To start the night off, my aunt brought over these Korean puffs that she made. It's a puff/bread crossover and tastes like the fried glutinous rice balls you have at yum cha except without the filling. Apparently you buy it as a batter from the Korean stores and it doesn't take long to cook. I chomped away on quite a few of these whilst waiting for the bbq to start up.
These look like pebbles but they're actually chocolate coated apricots. I wasn't a big fan - they were sweet and unfortunately, I couldn't quite get over the fact that I was eating what looked like a rock.
The highlight of the night had to be this wagyu. Mum bought it for about $40/kg (not your highest grade wagyu) but a bite of this, I don't think I can actually go back to eating any other beef. The texture was so soft and so juicy that it just melts in your mouth. If you can, try have this medium rare/rare - it's the best! Anyway, these were cooked on the big bbq - had two bbqs running on the night.
We're all growing up! It's now our job to start up the BBQ.
Here's a snapshot of half the food.
The other half.
Behind the wagyu, this was my second favourite - tandoori chicken wings! Anyway, did my best to squeeze as many chicken wings onto this as possible. If you've never done bbqs HK style with the forks, chicken is one of the longest items to cook.
Chicken wings - nearly done. We had a good fire that night and it was actually nice to sit around the fire and keep warm.
I find I can't actually eat all that much these days. I don't think I even got to half the food that was on the table! Despite my initial reservations about sitting outside in the cold, a bbq actually ended being a quite nice idea. It was nice and toasty to sit around the fire and at the end of the meal, to toast marshmallows! The best marshmallows for toasting are the No Frills ones from Franklins - they're the biggest (bigger than the non-branded ones from Woolies) and they're actually not as sweet as your branded marshmallows. Haha...I do love toasted marshmallows.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Mum! Thanks for being the great mum that you are!

Thursday, 18 June 2009


When I said I'd be back, I wasn't lying. Sweetness - The Patisserie is one of my new loves and when it came to the weekend and mum said that the rest of the family were coming over, I took it upon myself to supply that night's desserts. More excitingly, my last post had attracted the attention of the lovely Chef Gena (owner of Sweetness) who left me a comment and I was keen to head into the shop and say hello.

So again on a Saturday, I headed over to Epping, found the exact same spot outside the shop to park and met Chef Gena from Sweetness. Fortunately, I had J with me again so I wasn't as nervous walking into the shop and asking for the Chef. The lady who I spoke to first did look surprised when I asked for the chef but not a second had passed, and Chef Gena hears her name and comes over with a bright smile. I can't stress how lovely she is; she's been trying to help me and Ja meet up (which hopefully will happen sometime) and talking to her, she was grateful for the feedback that I'd given her and before you know it, the next minute J&I were both being offered slices of the Chai Loaf that was on sale that day.

We talked about her shop and her cakes, I found out a bit more about Ja, she explained to the two other girls how Ja and I knew each other (which can be a bit of a mouthful) and with her recommendation, I left the store with the following bag of goodies:
This is the Chai Loaf that Ja was recommending. It was moist and full of flavour and even if you're not that big a fan of chai, you'll love it if you try it! There was only a small slice left over on the next day and it tasted as if it had come straight out of the oven - it remained moist and admittedly, I was a little sad to see the last of it go into my mouth. 
I started grabbing at bits and pieces in the shop until Chef Gena pointed me to the sample pack ($16.50). Here you have nougat, toffee, caramel and assorted marshmallows. How pretty everything is!
From the selection on the counter, I got myself another Chocolate Brownie, the Rocky Road (which is very very good! Chef Gena showed us the 2.2kg rocky road block that she'd made as a special order for someone's birthday - J's mouth was watering!), lemon & coconut slice and a ginger & almond slice (which my uncles/aunts though tasted like the filling in the thousand year old egg pastries which I thought was quite bizarre).
To top the day off, Chef Gena sent me home with a free pack of biscuits. She was appreciative of the feedback I gave in my last post and hoped that I would enjoy this new batch. And well, I can definitely say that this batch tasted lovely (they were some same, some different biscuits to the ones I bought last time) and omg, the florentine biscuits taste so good!

All night, I kept telling all my uncles and aunts about Gena and I think people were starting to get sick of me. At some point during the night, mum starts telling me 'You're so silly. You're so happy over a pack of biscuits'. Well, I was and I'm not too shy to admit it!

Thanks Chef Gena!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

pablo & rusty's @ oxford st., epping

I've discovered a few great places in Epping recently and over the weekend, I found another place to add to my list. Pablo & Rusty's is just across the road from Epping Station and can be recognised by the bold black & white outer. I've driven past a couple of times, curious about what they had and finally on the weekend (for the purposes of going to Sweetness), J&I decided to pop in to check it out.

Between J&I, I tend to be the one that's keen on trying new places. I think it's a girl thing...every guy I know seems to be reluctant to try any place new and prefer to stick to places they've been to or have at least been recommended. As I zoomed in on Pablo & Rusty's, J was slowly walking behind through the door, continuing to ask me 'Are you sure you want to eat here?' Even as I was about to order, I was still hearing the mumbles of 'We can eat elsewhere if you want'. What can I say...

People were in and out getting their coffees so it was only fitting to order one myself. My usual flat white with a Chicken, cheese, sundried tomato & rocket toasted turkish sandwich. The bread was lightly toasted just as I like it! Coffee was good too!
J goes for a burger and a chocolate milkshake. I still remember the time we went The Meat & Wine Co. for a nice dinner and I had this one order a chocolate milkshake! Anyway, J highly recommends the chocolate milkshake here, just the right thickness and chocolateyness!
I enjoyed my sandwich and J equally enjoyed his burger. As you can probably see, the serving sizes aren't huge but will just get you full. Price wise, we paid about $10 each which I thought was quite reasonable. As for the rest of the menu, there's more sandwiches, breakfasts and your usual cafe items - nothing by way of special but a solid selection done well (which I think is the most important thing). 

The great thing about this place is the abundance of magazines! Shame all the large tables were taken and we were stuck at a two seater that couldn't fit a whole lot once our food got to the table. I could've easily spent the rest of the day there reading away!

Monday, 15 June 2009

homer's cafe @ rowe st., eastwood

More than often now, I find myself at Homer's Cafe catching up with friends late at night, drinking coffee and most of the time, having dessert. Homer's didn't use to open so late but they've changed hands for about a year now and the new owners have extended their hours to cater for a night crowd. They seem to be doing well cause everytime I find myself there, all the tables are filled up and people are piling through the door. Fortunately, there always seem to be a table when I get there but be warned that the tables do fill up fast!

On this particular Friday night, J&I caught up with P&E for a 'wind into the weekend' drink + dessert. It would've been close to 10 at night and the cafe was brimming with people. We managed to grab one of the booths inside the cafe which was great - it was nice and toasty compared to sitting outside. Fact - very rarely do I enjoy sitting outside at cafes. I could spend hours giving reasons why but will probably bore you so I'll just leave it at that. Anyway, it's cold now, more reason to grab a seat indoors!

Something different tonight - a Chai Latte. 
Here's the Nutella Pancakes. The ice cream is inching itself off the plate! Not the best presentation but pancakes here are tasty. They're probably not as thick and fluffy as the ones you get at Pancakes on the Rocks but actually work out better cause it's not so heavy on the stomach and you don't end up feeling quite so guilty.
Took us a couple of shots to get us all in!
As you can probably see in the last pic, decor here leans to dated but it does have it's charm. I love cafe booth seats!! There's probably just as many seats/tables inside as there is outside. Outside seats look onto Rowe Street and Eastwood's water fountain - which when it's working, always seems to be filled up with bath bubbles (another reason for me liking to sit inside). When it rains, the tables get pulled in and stretch to the shopfronts beside the cafe so don't be surprised if you see a random table outside Eastwood's ANZ bank!

The service I've gotten here has been adhoc. Simple fact that some waiters/waitresses are better than others. Price wise it's reasonable, it was about $9 that night for a drink each and half a plate of pancakes each. Somehow or other, I don't get around to trying their other food during the day but they do have quite a menu on offer.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

happy birthday chocolate suze!

Friday night; a hoarde of foodbloggers descended upon Wagaya to celebrate Suze's b'day. For those that don't know her, Suze is the author of and also owner of 'The Biscuit Tree'. She has an absolutely infectious personality and the first time I ever met her, I was chugging down chunks of cake icing with her at the Lindt Cafe. We've been friends since then.

For me, Suze has been a huge inspiration to my blog and my previous musings on xanga. If you get a sec, check out her blog where she documents all things food - from her gummy jewellery, her gingerbread men, to the more recent blue chicken risotto - she's one helluva food fanatic!

So 30 foodbloggers, one private room...we somehow managed to squeeze ourselves in. I think Suze said something about the room fitting 20 so you can imagine what it was like. Oh well, all the better for getting to know each other a bit better and beat the winter chill!

I'm not sure who was looking after the food but whoever you were, thumbs up, you did a good job! There's a handful more photos but the following ones were probably my favourite. Here's the sushi roulette - so pretty yet one piece unassumingly holds a chunk of wasabi in it!
Daikon Chips - addictive like chips always are.
Deep fried salmon skin! Probably not all that healthy but oh well!
Just as I was biting my way through this one, Reemski (who was sitting to my left) asks the question of what the chewy thing in it was. The answer came from my right hand side; Leona tells us that it's actually mochi. It sounds bizarre but actually tastes quite nice.
Belle & I finally manage to get Suze over to our end of the table for a photo.
The theme of the night was for everyone to bring a mask. Without Suze needing to ask, each guest also came with a camera and these were whipped out even before the food got to the table. This is probably one of my favourite photos which capture the night.
If you were wondering, all the cameras in the above pic were aimed at these three.
We were seated around one big rectangular table. Unfortunately I didn't get to speak to everyone that was there but I did get to speak to these two quite a bit - thanks for a great time girls!
The b'day girl with her cake!
Thanks for the invite Suze. I had a great time and hope you did too! Great to also meet everyone else, if I haven't been following your blog, I probably will find my way to it within the next week! Great to finally put a face to a name!