Sunday, 28 February 2010

the book kitchen @ devonshire st., surry hills

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I made a trip to Peter's of Kensington only to find it shut on a Sunday. Well, I ended up going back there this weekend (on a Saturday of course) and after a good hour of ogling at everything in the shop (seriously you need to go in there; they range everything from food, bakeware, tableware, music, books, travel gear, they even house their own little restaurant inside), I did end up leaving with a shiny piece of equipment which I'm rather excited about! Anyway, all shall be revealed as I start to make use of it in the kitchen!

En route to Kensington was a stopover for lunch at The Book Kitchen on Devonshire Street (just across the road from The Bourke Street Bakery). Whilst the queues extended down the street for Bourke St Bakery, The Book Kitchen was slightly calmer and we grabbed a table inside to have a late lunch.

Dry aged Angus beef on sourdough with onion jam, tomato and chips. The chips are absolutely delectable with a generous sprinkling of salt flakes.

Avocado, sourdough toast, Persian feta, poached egg, rocket and lemon infused olive oil. I loved the clean cut flavours of this one; it was just so wholesome to eat and I felt great eating it. Later in the afternoon, it did leave me a bit peckish though so maybe an extra serving of above mentioned chips would've kept me going till dinner.

Beautiful coffee and tableware - just my kind of cafe.

We sat on the big shared table, next to the bookshelves of cookbooks (yes, I had it all strategically planned out). There's a good range of cookbooks to browse and buy, I had a flick through a few and was intrigued by some of the vintage cookbooks they had also on the shelf. I didn't buy any books over lunch and well, J sort of just shook his head when I started pointing out which cookbooks I already had (and were on the shelves). He thinks I already have more than enough cookbooks (I beg to disagree) but I think he knows that it's a pointless conversation to have with me. 

Lunch was extremely pleasant and I really can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Friday, 26 February 2010

anzac cookies

It was a bit out of the blue but I baked a batch of Anzac cookies last night (it just seemed like the celebratory thing to do after sorting out some of the curlier stuff at work). Mum seemed a bit surprised as I usually don't bake on a weeknight but didn't ask too many questions as she carried on with what she was doing. For me, baking is something I enjoy and I enjoy it even more when I'm calm and relaxed (and unfortunately, there's been very few moments of calm in the last couple of weeks!)

Anyway, since I've pulled Bill Granger's 'Sydney Food' off the bookshelf, I haven't quite been able to let go of it. The fact that it sits conveniently on my table means I'm constantly flicking through and bookmarking recipes to try and this happens to be another one of them.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place 1 cup plain flour, 1 cup dessicated coconut, 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1 cup rolled oats in a bowl. Mix well. (No need to sift anything - the roughness of the mix will give the biscuit texture)

Place 125g butter and 1 tbsp golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat and melt. 

Place 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp boiling water. Stir to combine. Add bicarbonate mixture to saucepan and stir. Pour over oat mixture.

Stir all the ingredients together.

Roll teaspoonfuls of biscuit mixture into balls and place on a greased and lined baking tray, leaving room for spreading.

Flatten each ball gently with a fork.

Bake biscuits for 15-20 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack. For me, this recipe made 32 bite size cookies.

The texture of these biscuits is chewy with a crunchy outer (exactly how anzac biscuits should taste). I find that the ones you buy from the supermarket are usually crunchy all the way through (which if you like crunchy, by all means, go for them). Recipe was super, super easy to make and all of it took less than an hour. Anyway, gobbled up 3 of these before I went to bed and I'm sure it won't take a long time to get through the rest!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

kazbah @ darling st., balmain

If you're looking for a place to have breakfast, look no further than Kazbah @ Darling St., Balmain. Sure, I'd read a lot about them and knew from reviews that they were good. Trying it for myself, I was completely wow-ed over - it was unquestionably the best breakfast that I've had and it was a breakfast eaten in a group; now how on earth do you cater breakfast to a group of people?

The occasion was Mrs Rookie's 25th birthday where she'd invited a group of us to join her for a breakfast banquet at Kazbah. The breakfast banquet is $25 per person and is designed as a shared menu and incorporates a broad range of dishes from the a la carte menu.

J&I were the first to arrive. J takes the opportunity to do some artistic photos. He's getting pretty good with that camera of his!
The b'day girl with her present (a Jamie Oliver flavour shaker from J& I). Char - let me know if it works!
To start - Date & Banana Porridge with Stewed Rhubarb.
Sweet Couscous with nuts and dried fruits.

The sweet couscous is served with a side of stewed rhubarb, brown sugar and cardamom milk on the side (both hold and cold milk). It was my first time eating sweet couscous and it was delicious!

Warm rice pudding, saffron poached pear, cinnamon and hazelnuts. I always thought rice pudding was an after dinner dessert but arguably, it tastes just as good, if not better first up in the morning.

A banana and strawberry smoothie - note that these drinks are not part of the banquet menu. In hindsight, I probably would've ordered myself a cup of tea for all the food that was yet to come to the table. 

My favourite that morning had to be these tagines - here's the Lamb Mince, sucuk, feta, spinach, roast capsicum, caramelised onion, roast tomato, eggs tagine. The other was a pumpkin, feta, spinach, roast capsicum, caramelised onion, roast tomato, eggs tagine. I can't even describe how delicious these were! If anything, I've been so inspired that I've walked into Myer a couple of times almost buying one of these tagine pots to cook my own (only thing is, they're actually quite expensive!)

The tagines are served with a side of turkish toast and lebanese bread.

Poached, scrambled and fried eggs on turkish toast (all bases covered!)
Merguez sausage, bacon, halloumi, roasted tomato and hash browns.

Mushrooms, spinach and baked beans.

And if you thought that was all the food - here come the pancakes! Banana and strawberry with maple syrup and double cream.

Chocolate and raspberry with butterscotch sauce and chocolate fudge icecream. Both pancakes got picked at - we were just too full to eat it all.

I think I had at least 4 times my usual breakfast that morning. Having started at 11 in the morning, we finished up sometime past 2pm (by that time, we were all so full and couldn't really move!) If I didn't have to drive, I would definitely had slept in the car on the way home.

Highly recommend group functions here. Keep in mind that it can get a little warm sitting inside on a hot day (as the restaurant opens out to the street and you only have the overhead fans to keep you cool). Service is wonderful, the food is fantastic and well, the food just keeps coming!

Thanks Char for the invite, hope you had a fantastic b'day!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

banana & soy muffins

If I had to choose between a cupcake and a muffin, I would most definitely choose the latter. I love muffins; love how they can be so versatile (you can make them savoury or sweet), there's ever so many combinations that you can experiment with and in most cases, you don't have to feel too guilty about about eating one too many of them. Don't get me wrong, there's moments where a cupcake is the only answer but when I have free time to do some baking, I almost always make myself a batch of muffins.

Part of my love of muffins comes with an addiction for muffin liners. These ones are probably my favourite - found them in House and if you've got a handful of cookbooks at home, you'll notice that these muffin liners feature in the styling of a lot of them. Anyway, let's start off by lining a 12 hole muffin tray with liners. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Mash two bananas in a large bowl. Everytime I go shopping for bananas, I always buy that extra few so that I have them sitting there to ripen.
Sift 280g plain flour, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tsps baking powder over the bananas. Make a well in the centre and add a pinch of salt. In another bowl, whisk together 250ml soy milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp natural vanilla extract, 80g firmly packed soft brown sugar and 125g melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and lightly fold togehter.
Spoon into the prepared muffin holes. Cut a banana into 12 slices and top each muffin with a piece.
Combine 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 3 tbsp caster sugar and sprinkle over the muffins.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Remove to a wire rack for the muffins to cool.

This recipe is from Michele Cranston's 'Marie Claire - Comfort Real Simple Food'. Michele is another one of my favourite food authors; I love how she presents food and well, seems like I almost have everyone of her cookbooks! (Comfort was one I recently picked up at Basement Books for $20 which I thought was a bargain).

Back to the muffins, I loved these! After baking, the muffins have a slightly caramelised top and if you've sprinkled enough sugar, you'll also have a caramelised piece of banana. When eaten straight out of the oven, the muffin seems to stick to liner a bit but after it's cooled (and also after placing in the fridge overnight), the muffins peel away from the liner nicely. After fridging, I took one into work as a mid morning snack. Didn't have to microwave these at all; the muffins retained their soft texture and well, they were scrumptious! I actually really enjoyed making this recipe and I think soy milk works really well with it (gives it that slighly nutty taste).

Monday, 22 February 2010

taste of shanghai @ world square, city

Reading food blogs often comes in handy. Whether it's learning about new places which have opened up, dishes to try at certain restaurants, what not to try, what to expect, where to shop for food, what's new in food; there's so many food blogs out that that provide this information that you wouldn't find anywhere else. I'm constantly seeking out new food blogs to read and then there's also those select few which I've gotten quite attached to. Amongst those select few is missklicious who I remembered when looking for a place to eat last Thursday night.

There's a Taste of Shanghai in Eastwood (which I've been to a couple of times), the original store in Ashfield (which constantly has a queue) and there's now a new store in World Square (downstairs opposite Coles). J&I were at the store in World Square at about 6.30pm on a Thursday night and were given a ticket to wait in the queue. The wait wasn't too bad; just 5-10 minutes before we were seated at a table.

Pork & Crab Meat Xiao Long Bao. If you come here, you must order this dish. From all the Xiao Long Bao's I've had in Sydney this is arguably one of the best. The skin is just thick enough to hold the dollop of soup that's inside (and don't worry, that soup won't cook your tongue, it's at just the right temperature).
Originally we were going to try the Cold Dumpling & Sesame sauce noodles but was told it was unavailable at the time. Ended up having the Pork Mince Noodles with the fresh sliced cucumber. It's a very generous serving and I suggest you share this one between two.
J loves the Chinese Sweet & Sour Soup and insists on ordering the medium serve. The medium serve is actually quite good value ($9) as opposed to the small serve ($5). The medium serve works out to be at least 6 individual bowls - I suggest you only order this if you're like J and can stomach all that soup. I had the one and was already quite full. Also some advice, make sure you mix up the soup before you drink it. I had a nasty surprise with my bowl having all the pepper in it!
Salt & Pepper Pork - pieces were bite sized and well seasoned; I could've kept eating this one! (but had to stop for fear of a sore throat)

For two people, I admit that 4 dishes is a lot of food. J&I were both quite hungry but J was insistent that he was hungry enough to get through all 4 dishes and he did end up eating all of it. And well, I do have more than average appetite when it comes to food so I'm probably not the best person to advise on how much to order. I guess my motto is that always order what you want to eat and well, you can always take it away if you have too much.

Anyway, I do think that this Taste of Shanghai branch is much better than the one in Eastwood. Service is a lot faster and the food is much better (not sure what's happened with the Eastwood branch because the food is definitely not as great as when they first opened up).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

chocolate chip cookies

Somehow or other, trips to the supermarket seem to end up in me buying yet another bag of choc chips - and well, it's usually the dark choc chips and at last count, I seem to have at least 3 packets sitting in the pantry. Then again, I could say that about the blocks of butter, the flour, and the caster sugar. And let's not forget the cookbooks, the food magazines - I'm sure you get the gist of it.

Whilst I had Bill Granger's 'Sydney Food' sitting around on my table, I got around to making his recipe for 'Chocolate Chip Cookies'. Quoting Bill, these are simply 'irresistible eaten fresh and still warm from the oven' - the cookies maintain a soft chewy centre with nice external crunch to them.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place 125g softened butter and 1 1/4 cups brown sugar in a bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence and 1 lightly beaten egg and stir to combine. Stir in 1 1/2 cups sifted flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt until combined. Fold through 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.
Place spoonfuls of cookie mixture on a lined baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Here I used a fork to squash them down slightly (also to give it a nice pattern on top).
Cook for 15-20 minutes until they turn a nice golden brown.
Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes.
Place on a wire rack to cool further.
Recipe says it should make 16 cookies, I made at least 32. To be honest, I think I could just empty the pantry of chocolate chips and bake more of these cookies. They were delicious! I gave these away for Chinese New Year (so every family got a little bag of cookies). With the warm weather, the chocolate chips did melt a little which was a bit of a shame but otherwise I can't really find a fault with this recipe!

Monday, 15 February 2010

granny mac's shortbread

I was starting to enjoy the slightly cooler nights but alas, summer is not over and doing any baking can be a bit of a workout. On one of the cooler nights we've had, I did bake a batch of 'Granny Mac's Shortbread' from Bill Granger's 'Sydney Food'. If you are new to Bill Granger, well let me just say that his recipes are fantastic. I can easily pick up any one of his cookbooks and whip something up - the ingredients he lists and uses are commonly found in the pantry, which is how this batch of shortbread came about after I came home from work on a weeknight.

Sift 2 cups plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 cup caster sugar into a bowl. Add 125g softened butter (try let it soften at room temperature) and rub in with fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in 1-2tbsp of cold water to form a dough. Add 1 lightly beaten egg and combine to form a stiff but workable dough.
Roll out the dough on a sheet of greaseproof paper to form a 20x30cm rectangle. I debated whether to put this in the fridge to let it harden up a little to make it easier to roll but decided against it fearing there would be cracks.
Spread 1/3 cup jam evenly over the dough and sprinkle with 2 tsp ground cinnamon.
Roll up the dough swiss roll style, peeling away the greaseproof paper as you go. At this point, I thought it might've been good to stick the dough in the fridge for a little while just to let it harden up slightly and make it less difficult to roll. Ah well, next time!
Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into 1cm slices. Place shortbreads on a lined baking tray.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool on wire racks.
When I saw the word shortbread, I was expecting this recipe to be quite buttery and 'short'. The final baked product was neither, it tasted more like a mini cake; not too sweet and actually quite light. J happily gobbled a handful of these with a cup of tea.

Next time I could probably roll these up a bit tighter and cut the slices thinner so that these don't turn out so big. For the first time ever, I made less portions than what the recipe said it would make. This recipe is meant to make 24 pieces of shortbread where I made the 21.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

penne with chorizo & peas

It's been awhile since I've done any proper cooking; I've either been baking or eating out. And well, my dad has been going insane in the kitchen; he's quite addicted to the pressure cooker and has been boiling and cooking things in it every hour and hogging up most of the kitchen so I'm left with the oven only to do some baking. I tried to share the stove space with him once and nearly ended up in an argument. Thought it best to leave him to it; dad is just as passionate a foodie as I am.

Anyway, did manage to grab hold of the kitchen last Sunday and cooked up a batch of pasta for lunch (with leftovers taken to work the next day). Not to boast but I cook pasta consistently well and if anything, I do a good job of improvising each time.

Recipe has been adapted from The Good Food Magazine '101 Pasta & Noodle Dishes' cookbook. I had every intention to get all the ingredients but at the last minute, decided that I didn't want to trek all over the suburb and made do with everything that was available at Franklins and the grocery shop nearby. Almost half the ingredients have been altered from the original recipe.

Start by cooking 1 bag of penne pasta in a pan of salted boiling water as per the instructions on the pack. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, tip in 100g of frozen peas and cook with the pasta. Whilst the pasta is cooking, split open 6 chorizo sausages and squeeze out the meat.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan and stir fry the meat for 3-4 minutes until golden.
Add a pinch of chilli flakes, grated zest of 1 lemon to the meat and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in 1 tbsp of english mustard and 200g low fat cooking cream and simmer for 2 minutes.
Drain the pasta and peas.
Chop up a handful of parsley.
Stir in the pasta and peas into the chorizo mixture. Toss through the chopped parsley.
You can add salt and pepper to taste but I found the chorizo already gave the pasta a lot of flavour. If you like parmesan like me, do add a generous serve of it!

This pasta was great taken to work the next day. It reheated well in the microwave and despite the lack of sauce, the pasta wasn't dry at all and remained just as tasty as after I'd cooked it. The light cream is something you can hardly taste and unlike previous cream based pastas I've cooked, the light cream didn't leave an oily mess after being reheated.

So far, every pasta recipe from this book has turned out spot on so if you're looking for a pasta recipe book, do give this one a go!