Tuesday, 28 July 2009

wanly noodle shop @ carlingford village, carlingford

Just because two people like food doesn't automatically mean they'll see eye to eye on everything about food. Take for example my dad, he's the cook in the family, loves food and he's not shy to spend money on it. I love his cooking like no other yet when we go out, more often than not, we'll end up in some lengthy debate about what to eat and what to try, and well, dad being dad, usually gets his say.

That's not to say that between us we haven't compromised and lately I've noticed dad has been more willing than he has been in the past. Dad's always been of the thinking that good food is going out to the places you've been to who are known to cook up a good dish and well, what that defaults to is eating the same dishes that have been ordered before. He doesn't think trying new restaurants is a good idea - there have been exceptions (notably when a restaurant is recommended as being cheap) but largely, he sticks to the same places where people end up getting to know us my our names (which is great when it means we get a bit more service).

So where's the compromise? Well lately dad seems to have seen that eating the same thing at the same place every time is quite boring. He's been a bit more adventurous and despite going to the same places, he will break out a little and try something new. Wanly Noodle Shop in Carlingford is a place regularly visited my parents and this what we had the other night:

Something new - Eggy Prawn sitting on a base of crispy fried vermicelli noodles. I'm a fan.
One of the regulars - Curry Beef. It looks like a lot of onion but tastes great.
Seafood with vegetables.
A new take on the omelette. It was a mixed omelette with seafood and meats, served with a sweet & sour sauce.
Dad is a big fan of the head chef who cooks here. It's basically a one-man show and he does a great job at it (and I would agree!). The dishes are all cooked to order, ready in no time and taste great. In Cantonese they would say that all the dishes have good 'wok air' - which really is a compliment to the chef that he's mastered the use of the wok and the food that he cooks out of is superb.

My dad's only warning is be prepared for a substandard quality of food when the head chef isn't there. I guess even with the places that my dad loves to go to aren't always perfect, but I mean, is there really a perfect restaurant out there? If you think there is, let me know!

Anyway, great to see that dad's trying new things when he goes out and eat. And I'll just keep working on pushing him so he tries some of the restaurants which at the moment, only happens when a place closes down and needs to be replaced. Dad will always be Dad!

Monday, 27 July 2009

cafe centro @ rowe st., eastwood

It was 3pm, the plan was to walk to West Ryde and adventurous as I was about these walks which J has been getting me to go on, somehow or other we got lost and we ended up back in Eastwood for another afternoon of coffee and cake. I know J probably thinks I planned it out that way but honestly, we did get lost and even google maps on his phone couldn't get us in the right direction. We still ended up walking for about an hour for the exercise but just not as per the original plan which would've been close to a 2 hour walk all up.

Our venue for coffee and cake this afternoon was Cafe Centro on Rowe Street, Eastwood. The cafe is just outside the shopping centre and next to Commonwealth Bank. It's hard to miss with the seating outside but generally, if I'm here, I'll be indoors. I might have sat our here once but ultimately got too paranoid about the pigeons flying about my head. Who knows what is getting dropped into my food and drink?!

Anyway, it's nice and warm inside and perfect for this cold weather. It gets a little dim towards the back of the cafe but if you sit on the cubes in front of the coffee machine, you'll get the natural sunlight streaming in.
Lemon & Lime Tart.

I used to come here heaps when I was back at uni, whether it was to catch up with J before I had to head into uni, catching up with girlfriends, weekend lunches; I'm actually not too sure why I stopped going. Possibly cause there's so many food choices that have opened up around the area and where possible, I try to venture out of my suburb to try all the places that I get recommended/hear/read about. Nonetheless, I definitely recommend Centro's as a must visit if you're in Eastwood. It's a cafe with a great atmosphere, food is tops (but leans towards being pricey if you compare with the other food choices you have in the area) and I have to say, everyone who works here is extremely good looking! Seriously, check it out and you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

provence garden cafe @ west parade, eastwood

To point out the obvious, it's so cold! We had a few days of warm weather (one of which I could've mistaken for spring), but once again, it's gone back to being yucky and cold - the sort of weather I find difficult to wake up to, let alone be motivated to do much else.

One thing I've been quite unmotivated about is going outside to take walks. With the weather being so cold, I'm quite content to stay indoors and watch TV, put on a movie, or do a bit of baking. Anything but go outside and brave the cold. J thinks otherwise (he's taken up running) and for the past two weeks, he's dragged me outside to go for walks in the hope of training me up to a run. I tell him I run at the gym but he thinks I should go run on the footpath.

Anyway, long story cut short, the walks have come with incentives. On our first walk, J let me stop for a coffee at Provence Garden Cafe on West Parade in Eastwood. This place used to be a nursery but a Chinese couple have taken over and maintained both a nursery selling bonzais and a small cafe by the side.

A much needed coffee and a slice of the banana cake recommended by the waitress (I'm pretty sure they bake the banana cake themselves - it's not too sweet and tastes great!)
They have magazines! Unfortunately, none that could keep J entertained for long. I could've easily spent my afternoon there pouring over magazines.
Anyway, coffee and cake aside, J got me one of these off Catch of the Day. It keeps me toasty!

Provence Garden Cafe serve up both breakfast and lunch. I'm not sure about dinner as the whole place is lit up by natural light and close to 5pm, it's pretty much all dark. The waitresses there are particularly attentive and friendly. Aside from the occasional buzz of traffic, it's actually quite a nice place to stop by for a coffee and meal (it's away from the main throng of Eastwood) and people are just slowly finding out about the place so it's not too crowded. Despite walking by it everyday from the station, it actually took me awhile to realise that a cafe had opened up there so keep an eye out for it if you're in the area, you might miss it if you don't look carefully.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

kreativ blogger award

The lovely and extremely creative Trisha of Sugarlace has awarded me with my first ever 'Kreativ Blogger Award' and I've got to admit, I've been ecstatic about it for the past week! Thanks Trisha!

So following the rules of Kreativ Blogger Award, 7 things about me which hopefully count as interesting (I've kept these related to food):

1. I have filled up an entire bookshelf (to the point of combustion) with food magazines and cookbooks. All the new food mags and books now form piles on my floor - one of these is as tall as my table!
2. I love food but really don't drink that much alcohol (and actually prefer not to because it leaves me hot/flustered and then sleepy) so when it comes to wining and dining, I only really do the dining bit of it.
3. I actually didn't watch a whole lot of Masterchef - the full episode that I watched was the Finale!
4. After work, you'll probably find me at Basement Books at Central Station picking up yet another cookbook (whilst I'm waiting for my train).
5. I'm in love with all things cake and muffins (as simple as they are), are the best cakes for me. I do love cupcakes too but they can sometimes be too sweet.
6. I would love to work with food but I'm still undecided as to whether it's opening up a cafe, becoming a patisserie chef, being a cookbook editor or if it's something else. I just know that I have a passion for food that just won't go away!
7. I hog the kitchen and I'm not good with sharing with a fellow cook :P

Guess what I saw this weekend?
One of my favourite patisseries - Pattison's.
Ok, so passing the award along, here are the 7 blogs that I would like to award:
2. Char of Char Post
3. Suze of Chocolate Suze
4. Sarah of Sarah Cooks
5. Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella
6. Steph of Raspberri Cupcakes
7. Belle of Ooh Look

The Kreativ Blogger award comes with the following rules:
1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on which of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

Thanks again Trisha!

wagyu steak wraps

What a week?! Somehow the week sort of started and it crazily went by and well, all I can say is that I'm glad it's over and I have a weekend to look forward to. That also explains the lack of blog posts in the past week, I've just come home from work too exhausted to type up anything but thanks for the comments that all of you have left. It's always great to come back to my blog and know that I have readers out there.

Well I mentioned earlier that I was quite addicted to wagyu beef. We had another BBQ at home last weekend and mum, since learning of my addiction to wagyu, went out to buy more wagyu (shall I say, more than what she did last time) for the BBQ. We ended up having way too much wagyu to cook that night so there were about 3 slabs left over for the next day. Between J&I myself, we were quick to gobble these up (wagyu beef goes down so smoothly - you hardly even need to chew it!); anyway, here's what I made:

The ingredients: Wagyu Beef, Rocket, Sliced Cucumber, Grated Carrot, Lavosh Bread and Nando's Hot Peri Peri Sauce (between Mum and I, we have now stocked up on the whole range of Nando's sauces available at supermarkets!)
Never overcook your wagyu. Look how pretty the pink is between the two seared surfaces (these slabs we had took about 2.5 minutes on each side).
Dose with a generous serving of Nando's Hot Peri Peri Sauce.
The tricky bit is wrapping this up so you can eat it. The Lavosh bread rips quite easily - anyway I've left you with a nice picture of my meal before I had to grab it all together and have sauce dripping out all over the place.

J had two of these for dinner and well, he wasn't really in the mood for conversation because he was happily chewing away. FYI: Originally I'd made us one each and half way through his, he'd perked up and asked about another one so I actually had to get up and make the other one. Good to see though that he finished dinner looking content.

It's really quite satisfying when you've cooked something and people ask for seconds and finish dinner with a smile on their face. And well, even the lack of conversation is excusable when you know that those eating are holding back on the conversation to attack into the food!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

meeting beansprouts cafe @ din tai fung, world square

At long last, I got to meet the lovely Ja who happens to live close to where I work. It took us a couple of times to get dinner organised and finally on the day, I was still frantically texting her an hour to dinner time letting her know that I was stuck at work and running late. Sorry Ja! We'd originally planned to meet outside Din Tai Fung (where we were having dinner) but ended up meeting at the main bus stop near by work to catch the bus down together. I nervously waited and was glad to see a big smile that greeted me (like Chef Gena from Sweetness had told me - Ja is so petite and dainty and such a lovely girl!)

Ja had suggested Din Tai Fung and I was keen; it'd been awhile since I last went (probably a good couple of months/half a year). And well to top things off, Din Tai Fung is also in this year's City Entertainment Book so I was armed with a 25% discount voucher to spend.

Xiao Lung Bao (Steamed Dumplings), Drunken Chicken and a Vegetarian Tofu Salad (these are all recommended dishes on the menu). I've actually had two of these before but really, the oldies always turn out to be the favourites!
Spicy Pork & Vegie Dumplings with Noodles. You can also get the dumplings without the noodles. I liked how spicy this one was and it was good to know that Ja also shared a fondness for anything spicy.
Dessert - Steamed Taro Dumplings.
Inside a steamed taro dumpling. I was saying to Ja how this one could've tasted better with chunks of taro rather than the paste. For me, these dumplings also smelt overly of flour which could be improved.
Me & Ja. We set at a shared table (which was the only way to get in quickly and avoid the huge queue) and more than once, we attracted the odd glance/smirk of fellow diners when we whipped out our cameras to take pictures of the food. Bah!
And guess what, chocolate and caramel frosting cupcakes made by Ja for me to take home! Guys and girls, watch out for this girl - she is going to be an up and coming baker for sure! Testimony to this is that I got home late and the next morning, I had mum waking me up telling me how good these cupcakes were and asking me questions about who made them. These cupcakes weren't overly sweet which mum thought was fantastic and actually ate for breakfast which is not something she usually does. I had one later that day and as mum put it, these cupcakes were fantastic! They were moist inside, the icing wasn't overly sweet. They looked just as pretty as they were to eat. Tops Ja!
The conversation that night at the restaurant resolved heavily around food, from food at home, our respective time at LCB, our plans, our blogs, MasterChef, the restaurant, I'm pretty sure everything food related we managed to cover. I was overwhelmed to hear from Ja that she'd been inspired to study at LCB after reading my blog and well, a year on, she's actually gone even ahead of me and finished the whole LCB Patisserie Course. Would love you to stay in Sydney Ja and I'll have an eating buddy for life! Lol, anyway, I know you need to go home at some point but let's go a few more foodie adventures before then!

Great to finally meet you Ja! I thoroughly enjoyed dinner and I hope you did too!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

sakae yakiniku house @ hillview rd., eastwood

Sakae Yakiniku House has actually opened up in Eastwood for awhile and it wasn't till last weekend that I made my first visit. If you're new to Eastwood, you actually might miss the restaurant as it's quietly tucked above Eastwood Club and entry is through the door next to the club entry.

Usually I'm quite eager to try out Japanese places when they open up in my area and when this place opened up, I had a ogle outside the restaurant to check out their menu. Apologies to the restaurant but at first I did write this place off because I thought it was just way too expensive. That was until last weekend when mum went out for lunch with my aunts and came home telling me about the lunch and dinner specials they have ($22.80 and $28.80 respectively for a 4 course meal).

Ascend a flight of stairs to get to the restaurant. I think there's lift access but I think the entry is inside Eastwood Club.
Course 1: Entree. There's probably about 8 things you can pick from - J&I went for the Beef Tataki and Kimchi Pancake.
Course 2: Yakiniku. Our choices were the beef skirt and beef ribs.
Course 3: Mains. Again, there's a selection for you to choose from. We went for the Sashimi Salad Don and...
Korean style Cold Noodles - Neng Myun.
Course 4: Dessert - changes daily. That night we were given a vanilla icecream with chocolate sauce and sprinkles.
Green tea as well as a salad appetiser are also part of the deal. You probably don't realise at first but it's actually a lot of food for just under $30pp for the meal. All the food is immaculately presented and tastes fantastic -I enjoyed every course we picked out (and it's great to know that I can come back here for the same deal and there's still plenty of items for me to choose from). Much to J's delight, they have Sapporo Beer on tap and if anything, I reckon he could've done with just drinking the beer for the night.

The decor here is gorgeous; most of the tables are wood partitioned offering privacy if you're dining in a group. J&I sat at one of the tables by the window (which looked out onto the street) so were a little jealous of the tables that got their own booth. I guess next time we'll come back here with a few more people!

Service was friendly and the waitresses were extremely attentive. We managed to find street parking outside so it was quite convenient to finish up dinner, get back into the car for the drive home.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

cooking with ikea meatballs

It was reading Suze's post and then Trisha's post that I finally resolved to pull out the bag of Ikea meatballs from the freezer and actually give them a go. Mum had bought the bag when she and dad were on an Ikea phase and kept making trips to Rhodes to pick up bits and pieces and they'd been eating the breakfasts and meals at the Ikea restaurant. Apparently they both like the meatballs at Ikea and hence the kilo bag they brought back home. For me, I had my first taste of Ikea meatballs when I cooked this pasta on the weekend.

Ikea meatballs with Pasta Italia Macaroni & Napoletana Sauce (from the Good Food & Wine Show). I'm a big fan of Pasta Italia - fresh pasta is the way to go!
It took me no more than 15 minutes to cook up this batch of pasta. I used about a quarter of a bag of meatballs, microwaved them for 3 minutes and then pan fried in the saucepan for a minute. Added the Napoletana sauce and heated through.
The instructions on the box of pasta say that the pasta takes about 3-4 minutes to cook. It took me about double the about of time to get it al dente.
Toss the pasta with the meatballs and sauce.
Serve with parmesan.

Ikea meatballs aren't bad at all! With pasta, they make for a satisfying meal and I reckon I could just microwave them and eat them by themselves with tomato sauce as a snack. It's great that they don't take long to reheat (there is the option of heating in the oven which takes about 15 minutes) but 3 minutes in the microwave cooked these meatballs just fine.

I wouldn't exactly call Ikea meatballs gourmet but they were great for cooking up a quick meal. Been busy lately, have no idea where my time goes so it's great that I can whip up something to eat in a flash!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

nutmeg slice

Whilst baking the banana and maple syrup muffins in my last post, I flipped through 'In The Kitchen' to re-bookmark recipes for cooking and somehow or other, decided to make the nutmeg slice as well. So out came the banana and maple syrup muffins and in went a nutmeg slice. Usually mum discourages me from doing more than one lot of baking in a weekend (we just can't eat it all) but thankfully, we were having family over that night and more people could help us eat. I also had all the ingredients for the slice at home and it was just a matter of measuring everything out and it worked out well that baking the nutmeg slice, I used up ingredients that were nearly finished anyway.

Admittedly, making the slice was a bit more work than usual. Muffins - you don't need to do a whole lot (actually it's best that you leave muffin batter lumpy). With the slice I was making, there was a base as well as the filling. Probably the most time consuming was this biscuit base (combo of flour, butter and brown sugar) which took some time to crumb together so that it resembled fine bread crumbs.
Line a tin with baking paper and assemble the base. Try to keep it thin.
The filling is actually half the biscuit base with all the wet ingredients (milk + eggs). Don't forget the key ingredient - 1 tsp of ground nutmeg.
Pour over the biscuit base.
Top with flaked almonds.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool before slicing into squares.
To be honest with you, I was quite nervous baking this slice. It wasn't that the recipe was hard, if anything it was easy to follow as are all the recipes. My main concern was around the key ingredient - nutmeg. The bottle of nutmeg was floating around in one of the kitchen drawer (the last time I used it would've been to make Nigella's Cabonara) and well, nutmeg just isn't a common ingredient for baking (well not for me anyway). Mixed with the fact that I come from an Asian household, it just isn't one of those ingredients that we're familiar with.

As the slice was baking, I caught the scent of the nutmeg and even when the tray came out of the oven, I was sniffing at the slice to see whether it was edible. Nutmeg has a very distinctive taste which I'm not sure will actually attract you to the slice if you're just smelling it but I took my baby steps and had a taste of it. OMG - this recipe produces the lightest of biscuit bases and such a moist topping. The flaked almonds just top the cake! I was out that night but mum gave me some very positive feedback when I spoke to her the next day. Apparently everyone loved it and well, there wasn't even the slightest mention of using nutmeg!

Anyway, that makes it Recipe #10!

Monday, 13 July 2009

banana & maple syrup muffins with maple syrup frosting

I learnt something new this weekend and I wonder if people actually know that there's 'Maple Syrup' and 'Maple Flavoured Syrup'? Up till two days ago, I would've thought that both were the same thing until I had a good look at the supermarket and realised that Maple syrup was almost 5 times more expensive than Maple flavoured syrup. And well, a bit of marketing works and it was actually a wobbler on the Maple syrup bottle that caught my attention.

The Maple syrup bottle with the wobbler. Yes, I work in advertising and I still get sucked in by marketing! This was almost $10 for the bottle.
The plan for this weekend was to make the banana & maple syrup muffins with the maple syrup frosting from 'In the Kitchen'. FYI: This was actually the first two recipes I'd put a post it against when I got the book and well, it ends up being the 8th and 9th recipes that I'm cooking (it'll be awhile till I get to the 1000 or so recipes that are in this volume). 

Start by mashing the bananas and caster sugar. The mistake I made here was that the bananas just weren't ripe enough. I nearly doubled that fork over trying to mash the banana - somehow managed in the end but I urge you to wait till your bananas are ripe and browning.
Unfortunately, muffin mix doesn't look that great especially when you've got banana in it.
Into the muffin cases for baking. Again, true to its word, the recipe gave me 10 equally sized muffins.
The muffins took about 20 minutes to bake. Whilst the tray was in the oven, I got started with the Maple syrup frosting - basically 3 tbsp of maple syrup with 100g of soft cream cheese.
It doesn't look like a lot of frosting but trust me, just a little bit of frosting is enough to top the muffins.
The muffins are done!
When my uncle came over, he asked me whether I'd filled up a piping bag just to ice the 10 muffins that I made. Yes I did - he thought I went to a lot of effort just for 10 muffins but it's well worth it in the end.
Look how pretty they are! The piping isn't the best but I think these muffins with the piped icing look better than just smearing the frosting on with a knife.
I knew already that banana wasn't ripe enough and when I had a taste of one of these, you could easily taste the rawness of the banana. However, the texture of the muffin was moist as has been all the muffin recipes I've used out of this book - the maple syrup frosting went down as a treat with the muffins (gave it a sweetness which I think is just right).

There's still a few more muffin recipes yet to go in the book. I do love a good muffin and so far, the recipes just seem to get better!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

happy birthday kl!

This weekend has been a whirlwind of eating and baking and it all started of with KL's b'day dinner on Friday night. The b'day boy didn't have any dinner plans and whilst we were already getting together the next day for hotpot, 9 of us thought we'd go for dinner with the b'day boy. The Counter in Crows Nest was suggested and whilst J rang to try and make a booking and couldn't, we were reassured that a table for our size would be available.

Getting to The Counter, there was quite a crowd lining up and when I spoke to the guy at the door, we were in for a half hour wait. It wasn't a huge hassle as we were all coming from work and half of us had turned up at that point. To be honest, the wait ended up being 15 minutes and by the time we were seated, we were still waiting for some of our friends to arrive. 

It was my second time at The Counter. The first time I went for one of their standard burgers, this time I thought I'd have a go at building my own. The waitress gets us to put our times on the order to help service.
Without having to look at the drinks menu, I'd already decided I was getting one of these - the Apple Pie Milkshake! (I hear that a whole slice of apple pie gets blended into this). Actually, J decided he wanted one so...
Between us we also got the Peanut Butter Milkshake (lusciously thick and surprisingly not too overpowering - I was half expecting the shake to get stuck to the roof of my mouth which is what usually happens when I have peanut butter but this shake has all the flavour of peanut butter without it sticking!) Anyway, they have a Shake of the Month which I noticed a minute to late else I probably would've gotten it, it's a Cherry Pie Shake (which hopefully will be there the next time I head over).

We got entrees for the table to share. Here are the Sweet Potato Fries which I think are a bargain - only $3.25. We got chips and onion rings also - we all had our favourites but my one tonight were these sweet potato fries.
The Counter Burger (which is what I had the first time I was here).
My custom built burger which in hindsight, is not so different to your regular burger. It took me awhile to select everything and I'm ashamed to say, I built a rather boring burger (it was tasty though!) - my combo was a 150g beef patty (cooked medium), imported swiss cheese, beetroot, dill pickle chips, grilled onions, lettuce blend served on a hamburger bun and served with a roasted garlic aioli. I'd have to say that my friend P was a bit more adventurous and went for a hard boiled egg, olives and brussel sprouts combo - hats off to you and your burger!
Speaking of boring, J doesn't do much better. His combo looks much like mine except that he's gone for a 300g beef patty (cooked medium rare). He struggled with it as did all the other boys that went for the 300g patty. 150g is decently enough.
We were there from about 7.30pm till when the kitchen closed (which was probably about 10pm). We weren't hassled to leave but around us, tables came and went - this place sure is busy! Our waitress was friendly and attentive - when she saw that our meals hadn't come out, she dashed into the kitchen to check and little things like asking for a few glasses of water, without asking she got the whole table water. 

I do enjoy coming to The Counter and yes, I might have a slight obsession with burgers at the moment and yes, I'm not real creative when it comes to building my own burger, but I think this place has got something going and it turned out to be a great place to celebrate a friend's b'day.

Hope you had a great b'day KL!