Monday, 6 December 2010

kungfu ramen @ george st., sydney

I can't decide what I like more; eating or cooking - both have their perks, both are great past times, both can be social activities, although both seem to add to my waistline so taking that into account, I guess I can't really like one more than the other! When it comes to eating, lately I've been on the scout for some cheaper options which are slightly kinder on the wallet. Still loving my fine dining and still have plenty of places I want to visit but in between the dearer meals, the cheaper options seem to get me through the week and I've managed to find quite a few gems amongst them all.

I spotted Kungfu Ramen on George Street whilst on the bus to heading down to QVB. Actually, the place kept getting my attention and when the boy and I decided to grab dinner in the city one Thursday, it was a no brainer that we'd come here. When I saw the sign, I actually thought these guys offered Japanese Ramen but don't be fooled like me, this place offers up a Chinese style ramen (or what you'd refer to in the language as a pulled ramen).

Ramen in Soup with Chilli and Beef Slices. This was my preference out of the two types of noodles we ordered as the chilli masked the taste of the floury noodles more than the other dish did.

Ramen noodles with minced meat, sliced cucumber and a black bean sauce (served also with a bowl of clear soup).

Pork dumplings. If I see dumplings on a menu, I have to order it and I'm glad I did!

It was a really nice and quick dinner and if you're sitting facing the back of the shop, you'll get to see the guys pulling the flour and making the ramen which is really quite a sight. I'm always amazed how these chefs can transfer a blob of dough into thin strands of noodles merely by the continuous pulling and it all seems rather easy when you watch them! Anyway, I think I might give making a noodles a miss as it's much easier coming to the guys here and having them make me a bowl!

There's plenty of other items on the menu to try and it seems like people are starting to find out about this place so I suggest you get in here quick!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

apple & oatmeal muffins

Last month seemed to have whizzed by with the family on holidays so only baked a tray or too here and there. I tried to be healthy with my eating (no 2 minute noodles and keeping instant reheat meals to a minimum) and these Apple and Oatmeal muffins fit nicely into that plan.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line a muffin tray with baking cases. In a large mixing bowl, combine 150g wholemeal flour, 90g rolled oats, 90g brown sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Gradually incorporate into the mix 1 lightly beaten egg and 200ml milk. Fold in 2 grated green apples and 100g raisins. Fill baking cases with mix (you should get 10 in this batch). Sprinkle with a little extra rolled oats.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Too often you will find me with baked good in hand, cup of tea in another and surrounded by plenty of foodie reading material.

If you're used to a really sweet muffin (which I'm quite partial too), you'll find the first bite into these rather bland and it might actually be the next day when you give it another go that these end up tasting quite nice. Otherwise, if you're not too much of a sweet tooth, I think these will suit you quite well!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

charlie & co. @ westfield sydney

I've long been fascinated and read plenty about Justin North and his Wagyu burger at his cafe, Plan B. If only I worked in the CBD end of the city, I probably would've had my fair share of them! Well thanks to the new Westfield and the opening up of Charlie & Co. in the foodcourt, I finally got around to trying the Wagyu burger on my last visit to the new shopping centre.

The Wagyu & Co. Burger- Wagyu burger with beetroot relish, pickled gherkin and aged cheddar on a sesame bun. The burger doesn't look all that big but don't underestimate the size of that wagyu patty - you'll be full in no time!

Looking up the menu as I'm typing up this post, I think this burger that my mum had has disappeared off the menu. It was a chicken burger with cucumber and bok choy. Mum thought the bok choy was a little odd in the burger and I'm guessing could be why they've taken it off.

Very delicious herbed fries.

Our food!

Mum and I dined in at Charlie & Co. Dining in is slightly more expensive than sitting in the foodcourt and if you're on a budget and still want to try this place out, sitting in the new foodcourt is actually not a bad idea (as it's already pretty classy).

I thought the food was great (the burger buns are doughy and do fill you up so sharing one might not be such a bad idea) but I'm sure others will contest this. The table that was sitting next to us probably had one of their worse meals starting from the burger coming to them cold (at which point the lady tapped me on the shoulder to ask me how my burger was), then their replacements burger took ages to get to the table, then the replacement burger wasn't even the same burger that they originally ordered, then the egg on their burger was cold. The waiters/waitresses were definitely too new to handle the situation and well, we left before the two ladies finished their meal so hopefully things got a bit better.

Anyway, the place is still new. I'm sure after a few more weeks when they've gotten use to the crowds (yes, be aware of the queue!) it'll a much smoother operation.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

le pain quotidien @ lvl 4, westfield sydney

I think most people have made their way over to the new Westfield to check it out and if you haven't, I'm sure you would've heard enough about it to make an effort to go or stay well away. On my first visit, I took a very brisk walk through the various levels and did two very memorable things: 1. had a raisin toast macaron (which was rather expensive at $3.50 a pop but very yummy and which I've subsequently recommended to others) and 2. spotted Le Pain Quotidien (where I bagged myself a jar of Rhubarb Jam just because and it is the best jam ever!). I had every intention to come back here to Le Pain Quotidien and when I had a day off work (just before my parent's went on holidays), I thought I'd take mum here to check it out. 

It's a little quiet inside on a weekday morning when everyone's at work but not that quiet - there's the sounds of drilling coming from outside where they are still building the Westfield.

Our coffees came in bowls. Mum was a tad confused and thought we'd ordered soup! The coffee was suitably strong and a great kickstart to the morning.

Mum went for the Egg Soldiers. Surprisingly the soldiers didn't come toasted and the dish came with a lot of extra bread.

I had this towering construction - a fruit, muesli and yoghurt parfait. The muesli was nice and crunchy, just wished the yoghurt was a slighly sweetened yoghurt.

These jams that were at the table came in nice and handy for all the bread that we had. I really do recommend their jam!

Mum and I pretty much had the whole place to ourselves (well, we were the only in house diners). There were plenty of people at the counter ordering coffees and pastries as they were making their way after the work (and by that point, it was surely after 9am!) There's a really good range of breakfast items on the menu, they serve lunch also and I believe dinner too (but didn't think there were that many dinner items on the menu). Great thing is that the place is set away from the main food court which is quite a hustle and bustle - much nicer sitting here. Only wish that I had more weekdays to enjoy a nice breakfast like this!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

jimmy's recipe malaysia @ george st., galeries victoria

With the boy being Malaysian and having a grandma that cooks all forms of Malaysian food, I rarely go out to Malaysian restaurants and even when I suggest it, the boy's response will be that 'My grandma can make it better at home'.  There is however one Malaysian restaurant that the boy doesn't mind going to and it's a place that we've been going to since we were in uni - Jimmy's Recipe Malaysia in Galeries Victoria (just opposite The Arthouse Hotel). It's a bit of a funny shaped restaurant with a cafeteria type setting where you order and pay at the counter and then you wait for your food before you take it to your table. If you are new to Malaysian cuisine, I'd say that this is a good starting point - the meals are very reasonably priced and in the words of a fellow Malaysian - the food is authentic.

My favourite Malaysian dish is Hainan Chicken Rice. The boy tells me that most places serve a Singaporean style version of the dish. If you were ever to eat Hainan Chicken Rice in Hainan, the rice is usually moulded into little balls. I would love to go to Hainan and just spend my holiday there eating Hainan Chicken Rice but in all reality, Jimmy's makes a rather good one and I don't have to travel far to get hold of a plate.

A good couple of minutes of deciding whether to get the Ipoh Hor-fun or the Prawn Har-mee, the boy decides on the former. If you look at the menu, the two dishes are actually quite similar which explains why the boy took so long. I thought the Hainan Chicken Rice was nicer.

A dish each is actually more than enough to fill you up but when you're not eating by yourself, it's a good time to try a few things on the menu. Thought we'd give the Roti Canai a go; disappointingly it was flat and not a bit fluffy but the satay chicken that came with it was delicious.

If you're planning to come here, I'd say that the Nasi Lemak and Laksa are the other two dishes that are worth trying. The first time I came here I had the Nasi Lemak, second time was the Laksa and well, I've been alternating between these two dishes and the Hainan Chicken Rice since then. Anyway, it's been  awhile since I've been here, good to come back and find that the food is just as good as ever!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

wholemeal raisin scones

'Okashi' has been my go to cookbook of late and well, out of all the books on my bookshelf, it's probably been the most used. I'm flicking through the pages now and am finding little bits of food stuck to the pages (which isn't all that appetising) but well, I can at least say I've tried that recipe and tell you whether it was a good one or a bad one.

I've mentioned this book a couple of times now but here's what it looks like. Some of the recipes are a little convoluted and could do with a rewrite but nonetheless the proportions and the ingredients work out and so far I've managed to bake some rather tasty treats out of it. Coming home on a weeknight, I thought I'd give the wholemeal raisin scone recipe a go.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a bowl, rub together 50g wholemeal flour, 170g plain flour, 1 tbsp baking powder with 80g softened unsalted butter. Add to the mixture 30g caster sugar and 1/2 tsp salt and combine till the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in 110g egg yolk and milk mixture (combine 1 egg yolk with enough fresh whole milk to make up amount), 40g raisins and mix until a smooth dough is formed. 

Place dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out to a thickness of about 2cm. Instead of cutting my scones into rounds, I simply sliced mine into squares with a knife. Remember to push the scones right up next to each other so that each scone pushes the other up when they expand. You'll find that you'll also get a scone that is more moist than when you spread them out.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until scones are golden brown. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.

Serve scones warm with butter and jam. Otherwise if you happen to have cream at home, make yourself some freshly whipped cream which I think is the best, but in the absence of cream, I think butter (a good dollop of it) makes a rather good substitute.

The texture of this scone was unlike any other I've made in the past - very short and crumbly and a tad salty even (although it could've been me being a little heavy handed with the salt). I know this will sound a little silly but it tasted very much like an Asian scone - the texture and taste is what you'd expect out of most Asian baked goods. Mum absolutely loved it (as it wasn't sweet at all) and well, I'm of two minds - it's so different to the scones I'm used to, it still tasted good but is it really a proper scone? Anyway, I've recently come across a stack of scone recipes so a bit more testing, I might be able to answer that question!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

the swiss cottage restaurant @ lurline st., katoomba

Just another quick post about my recent weekend in the Blue Mountains - we were there for 4 days so you can imagine, at lot of food and meals to get through! Dinner on the first night was at The Swiss Cottage Restaurant on Lurline Street in Katoomba (just a very short drive from where we were staying). We found out about it when we were at the Info Centre picking up pamphlets and looking for a cheap to mid range place to eat, The Swiss Cottage seemed like just the right place!

We were promptly at the door at 6pm which is when they start their dinner service.We actually made a booking beforehand and to be safe, I would make a booking as the restaurant filled up very quickly after we sat down. It's an absolutely gorgeous restaurant and I think this photo speaks a thousand words - need I say more?

A side of crunchy French bread and butter served in a very adorable mini basket.

Our entree of Stuffed Mushrooms - mushrooms stuffed with ham, cheese and parsley. It was a luscious serving of cheesy goodness and despite the small plate, it ended up being quite filling.

The boy's choice of White Farm Rabbit - farm rabbit in a basil sauce served with rosti. In so many ways like chicken but not.

I think this was the first time I'd eaten out at a Swiss restaurant and decided for a more traditional dish. Veal A La Creme is apparently a Swiss traditional meal - a combo of veal fillet and button mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce and served with rosti.

We were considerably full after entrees and mains but thought why not, we were there anyway and it only made sense to get some dessert. Unable to decide on one, we ordered four! Le Petit Naughty - named for four mouthfuls of their best desserts.

The bill comes to the table in this rather cute little cow!

Really great place for dinner, staff are incredibly friendly and there's so many more items on the menu that I want to try! Saw a couple of tables next to us having the fondue which seems like one worth trying but otherwise the Veal a La Creme and the Le Petit Naughty were the ones ordered by most.

There's a selection of housemade produce available at the counter and I was tempted to buy what looked like a bag of rolled waffle cones; if I only I'd bought it! Anyway, Katoomba isn't too far a drive from Sydney, I'll definitely be coming back here soon!

Friday, 19 November 2010

katoomba st. cafe

I can't believe how quickly this year has gone by! And in the mad rush of work and not realising that I had so much leave saved up, I was lucky enough to take a few days off and have a nice and relaxing weekend in the Blue Mountains with the boy . We stayed at a gorgeous B&B (Edgelinks) and had a rather food filled weekend. It was a definitely a holiday that went by too quickly and I could only wish it were longer!

In my world, hot chocolates should always be served with freshly whipped cream and big marshmallows.

Giving the Ploughman's Lunch a go - it's toasted bread with cold roast meat, boiled eggs, pate, cheese, caramelised onion and relish.

A hearty pie with wedges for a particularly cold day up in the Blue Mountains.

I love this print!

So that's lunch at Katoomba Street Cafe!

After lunch we had a good wander down the road and looked in all the antique and second hand shops (of which they are many). Managed to be good but trust me, it was awfully tempting! 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

sweet expressions @ SWEETNESS - the patisserie

This post comes a little late but I guess late better than never! Sweet Expressions @ SWEETNESS was one of the events I attended as part of this year's Crave Sydney International Food Festival. I didn't make it to any of the Sugar Hits (which is what I usually scout out) but I think I more than well made up for it by going to Sweet Expressions which was one of the two events Gena (owner of Sweetness) hosted this year for the first time.

Unlike 'Tea on Tuesdays' which I also attended, Sweet Expressions was an art cross marshmallow evening spent in the Sweetness Kitchen - sounds a little cryptic so maybe a few photos might give you a better idea. To be quite honest, up until the day, I was actually unsure of what we were doing or what to expect but in the true nature of Gena and her patisserie, it was a most pleasant surprise and I had a really lovely evening!

The view from outside - the window display was created for the night by Yumi Takahashi who was co-hosting the evening with Gena.

Meeting Yumi - artist/water colour painter. Her work is stunning and part of the goodie bag we took home that night was one of her limited edition prints. I framed mine straight away and have it sitting on my table and it's ever so pretty!

In a nutshell, the evening was about marshmallows and art. We didn't actually get to make our own marshmallows but used Gena's marshmallows as a canvas for artwork. Here's an assortment of nibbles which we helped ourselves to over the 2 hour session.

It would've been good to have a hands-on session making marshmallows but nonetheless we did get to ask questions about making them and Gena was more than happy to explain the technicalities of making her best-selling product (and little do I need to explain why; try her marshmallows and you won't be eating any other marshmallow for good!) Here's artwork that the boy and I created that night, inspired by the lovely Yumi who I think is extremely talented and I would love to have more of her work to hang up at home! The colours we used were non-toxic pastels mixed with a little grappa - in case you're worried about non-toxic pastels, these are used for cake decorating also and are actually safe to eat.

The two hour session quickly drew to an end and the class of six of us had managed to create some very different and unique pieces of artwork. We also had tour through the kitchen and I just remember asking Gena a lot of questions and me falling in love with her and her patisserie! Here's the goodie bag we got to take home, the boy gave me his print so now I have two!

I really have a big girl-crush on Gena - her story of how she came to open up a Patisserie is both amazing and inspiring. She is so friendly and personable, stepping into her kitchen is like being welcomed home and there's so many things in her kitchen to look at, I could very well entertain myself for a day in her kitchen. Anyway Gena, please run more sessions next year; I thoroughly enjoyed both Tea on Tuesday and Sweet Expressions!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

green tea cookies

If I had to pinpoint my favourite baking ingredient, it would be none other than green tea powder (also known as matcha). It actually took a bit of trial and error before I got to know how to use the powder properly. I started buying what must've been a sugared green tea powder drink thinking it was right for baking (it wasn't, it barely has any flavour) and then finally came across the 50g tin cans of matcha (which is the right thing for baking being so green in colour but also rather expensive), but I started off using the powder ever so sparingly that my cakes would look hardly look even green, let alone taste like green tea.

Then I went to baking school and learnt that recipes which use weight measurements e.g. in grams and litres are much more accurate than your teaspoonfuls and tablespoonfuls and that explained a lot. A lot of the green tea recipes I was using asked for levelled teaspoons and similar measurements and simply, there just wasn't enough green tea to give the recipe flavour. As a guide, I wouldn't use any less than 5g of green tea powder if you are after the green tea flavouring in a baked good.

These green tea cookies are packed with flavour. The recipe is from Keiko Ishida's 'Okashi' which also has a recipe for green tea sable cookies (which I've previously posted about) - personally I think the sable version is nicer, this one is very crumbly in texture and doesn't keep as well (best eaten the day it's made). Preheat oven to 150 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together 100g plain flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 5g freen tea powder and 50g ground almonds. Add to the mix 15g rice syrup, 45g maple syrup, a pinch of sea salt and 25g grapeseed oil. Fold together until combined (it will be quite crumbly even at this stage).

Don't ask me what I was thinking. I individually rolled each cookie by hand when I could've just as easily rolled it into a log, chilled it for a bit and then slice much quicker, but I didn't.

Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes on a lined baking tray, then remove from heat and leave to cool on a wire rack.

FYI: I decorated my cookies by stabbing them in a criss cross manner with a fork just before they went into the oven to bake. Completely unnecessary and personally I don't think the hole marks look as a great on a round cookie as they do on square cookies (which is featured in the book).

These were made for the catering do I did a couple of weekends back. I'm curious if there was anyone at the catering do who ate my previous green tea cookies and also these ones, if you read this blog, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

chefs gallery restaurant @ george st., regent place

It's not hard to get to know me. I like food, I love baking (and will bake at all hours of the day), I like cooking (but rarely get the chance to cook up anything lavish), I have a lot of of cookbooks, I collect recipes, I strangely have a large number of food soft toys and well, last but not least, if I see a place serving pig shaped buns, I'm more than than likely going to go there to try.

That's more or less my story about going to Chefs Gallery which recently opened at Regents Place in the city. I saw their pig shaped buns and wanted to go their to try and I did. I was catching up with my a good friend of mine who I haven't really caught up with since high school and well, I don't think she found me too weird for wanting to go there because of their buns! FYI: The buns are actually part of their dessert menu, there's plenty more other things you can try!

Diced chilli chicken tossed with handmade noodles. I didn't find this chilli at all but had a good level of spice in it to make it our favourite dish of the night.

Chef's own golden snowflake chicken which is a lightly crumbed chicken fillet (very crispy, tender and moist) and served with noodles in a pumpkin soup. Whilst I was intrigued about the 'snowflake' chicken, I actually found the pumpkin soup a little more different and something I didn't quite expect in a Chinese restaurant.

Lightly pan fried cabbage and pork dumplings - bit disappointed with this one as they were merely dumpling wrappers loosely coiled around the filling and not enclosed. I like my dumplings enclosed so that they retain all the soup goodness which I think a dumpling should have.

Our 2 desserts - Steamed pumpkin pastry dumpling filled with lotus paste and the highly awaited Steamed sesame 'piggy face' bun. The 8 year old at the next table (could've been younger) gave me an odd look as I gushed over which piggy to eat (there's a boy and a girl pig) and no doubt, he thought I was a little strange in the head (I think he was just jealous!)

Overall, a very attractive and yummy dinner. In the footsteps of Din Tai Fung, the service is efficient and it seems like they've doing a pretty good job with the line outside the front door extending a fair way down the street. With the queue outside, it's understandable that you'll be hurried along to finish your dinner a bit quicker but as long as there's food on your table (giving you a big hint here), they tend not to disturb you. The seating is a little tight so expect to hear the conversation at the two tables beside you (even if you try not to) and well, if you're like me, stare down little kids that make odd faces at you when you are trying to eat your 'piggy face' bun!

Monday, 8 November 2010

cream cheese brownies

Call me crazy but I think some cookbooks talk to me - they beckon me to buy them and they do so quite relentlessly. This latest addition to my cookbook collection was one I picked up at Kinokinuya when they recently had 20% off cookbooks. I'd actually strolled in one day with no intention to buy and end up going back into the shop the next day and heading to the counter with it. I blame the cookbook.

The cookbook is 'Home Bake' by Eric Lanlard. I didn't actually pay much attention to who he was but was more flicking through the cookbook and deciding that I wanted to make every recipe. It just happened to be that I flicked on Foxtel one day and here Eric was with his show 'Glamour Puds' (which I've been religiously following since I've discovered it (those with Foxtel, new episodes are on 7.30pm Mondays on the Lifestyle Food channel). I wish more of his recipes on his show were actually in his cookbook!!

FYI: I doubled the following recipe to make a big tray of Cream Cheese brownies for my recent catering event - these smell absolutely divine as you're making them. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a baking tin with butter and line with making paper.

Melt together 150g unsalted butter and 200g chocolate in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally (the bowl should not touch the water). Remove the bowl from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in 250g caster sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt into the butter chocolate mixture, then whisk in 3 eggs and beat until smooth. Stir in 100ml freshly made strong coffee, then sift in 100g plain flour and carry on beating till glossy. Set aside.

For the marbling mixture, in a bowl beat together 150g cream cheese until smooth, then stir in 60g caster sugar, 1 beaten egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the tin first, then add the cream cheese marbling mixture and use a knife to cut through to create a marbled effect. Bake for 30 minutes (covering in the last 10 minutes of cooking)

Allow to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

I have to say this again but this brownie smelt absolutely divine whilst I was mixing it together, when it was baking in the oven and even when it came out of the oven. Unlike the last Donna Hay cream cheese brownie I made (where the cream cheese sank to the bottom), the cream cheese in recipe was artfully marbled all the way through the brownie. I had a tiny nibble of this one (as I needed every slice I could get for the catering, as this was a last minute addition due to my failing lemon polenta mini cake) and wow, how deliciously rich and decadent did it taste! 

There's a recipe for ricotta, apple and cinnamon cheesecake in the book which I slobber over everytime I flick to the page and well, I think I will very much make that recipe next!