Monday, 28 February 2011

simple apple & mixed berry cake

One of the chefs I really admire is Donna Hay. Her cookbooks were of the first lot of cookbooks I owned and many a recipe of hers has been cooked by yours truly, passed on and then cooked again. I really think Donna makes cooking simple and having used her recipes many times now, her recipes just get better. I love the fact that all the ingredients in her recipes are easy to find (if not in your kitchen pantry already), you can make do with equipment you have at home and flicking through her recipes, there's always a photo of what you're cooking so you know what to expect. Often, I have trouble deciding what to make because she makes everything look so good!

I was reading the The Sunday Life Magazine over the weekend and there was an article in it about Donna and her recent weight loss. Watching several episodes of Masterchef, I'd been a little curious to see why she'd dropped weight so suddenly (thinking it all had to do with losing weight for the show) and well, little did I know that she'd been suffering from severe back pain for months and as part of her recovery, she'd taken up running 9km a day, 5 days a week to strengthen her back. Donna - you really are an inspiration and on the side, you're looking great. Keep up the great work!

So in honour of Donna, here's her 'simple apple & mixed berry cake' recipe which I made a little while back. I'm very much in love with this recipe as I'm with Donna herself!

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place 225g sifted self raising flour, 165g caster sugar, 125g softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 125mL milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until just combined. Spoon mixture into a greased 22cm springform tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Top with 1 cored apple, thinly sliced. Add  3/4 cup mixed berries to the top and sprinkle with 2 tbsp demerara sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. Serves 8-10.

This teacake looked great going into the oven and even better when it came out! The texture of the cake was so soft and buttery and the combination of the mixed berries (this was a store bought Creative combination of wild blueberries, blackberries and normal blueberries) and the apple was a match made in  heaven. I've previously found this Creative combo rather sour but it definitely wasn't the case in this teacake.

This recipe comes out of Donna' latest cookbook 'fash, fresh, simple' which has taken a permanent place on my desk, within easy reach for when I'm looking for that perfect recipe to make!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

taste of shanghai @ rowe st., eastwood

I've lost track of the number of weeks (or months!) since I've been sick. I've spent this weekend mostly curled up in bed or sleeping on the go and I've hated every minute of it. In a nutshell, what started off as the flu developed into a secondary infection and despite a course of antibiotics, a dry cough lingered for about 2 weeks and I'm back with the flu and still coughing. I really think it's time for this sickness to go away! 

And whilst I've been sick, the backlog of photos and the blog posts have been building up and well, it's somewhat amazing the amount of food that I can still get through whilst I'm sick! For the record, I have resorted to slightly blander food in the hope of finally getting better and whilst this might feel like the worst thing in the world right now for someone that enjoys food, getting better is my priority - I can't stand another cough or another minute curled up in bed. Anyway, catching up on some eatings this year....

Taste of Shanghai has been in Eastwood for a good little while now and every night there seems to be the same queue that snakes out the door. That was also what put me off going there in the first place and good news for the restaurant (and perhaps not so good news for myself and other dining patrons), yes, you need to be prepared to wait for a table in that queue.

Seems like the renovating of the restaurant has also seen a revamp of the menu. I remember the food to be quite oily when the shop first opened but on this visit, the food was clean, crisp and certainly tasty. We tried this Pork with Bean Starch Sheet Noodle which is an ideal dish when you can't quite decide ordering between and entree and a main.

Steamed Pork Dumplings - how I love that slurp of soup when you bite into one of these but I always seem to be burning my tongue!

Noodles with sliced cucumber, pork mince and black bean sauce. 

Taiwanese Milk Tea - a lot milkier than a traditional Hong Kong Milk Tea (which I swear by) but still  a good cold drink for a warm day.

Seems like eating lunch at 2 or 3pm in the afternoon (or 8-9pm at night i.e. outside of standard meal times) is the only way to beat the queue here but otherwise, the usual 15-30 minute wait is worthwhile at the end of it - you just have to hang in there (as hard as it may seems). There's been times when I've grabbed a ticket and in the end, went elsewhere to eat whilst we were waiting. Other times, I've planned on going here and changed by mind at the last minute after seeing the queue. If only they could do something about it and then I could eat here a bit more often! 

Anyway, don't let me deter you from coming here. I definitely recommend the food. It's the sensible me that says don't bother waiting in a queue for 30 minutes for food which I think is open for debate. I'm personally not a big fan of it but you may think otherwise.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

kazbah @ top ryde shopping centre

I was eagerly awaiting the opening of Kazbah at Top Ryde Shopping Centre and to mark their opening, they were offering 20% off meals in the month of January. The boy and I managed to check the place out in the last week of January (I'd momentarily forgot about Kazbah opening up and am now kicking myself for finding out so late cause I could've made much more use of that discount!) Anyway, it's open now and it's so much closer than the one in Balmain that I'm satisfied, really I am.

A berry frappe that was refreshing and a somewhat mini Iced Chocolate.  Don't ask me why but the boy has a weird addiction to ordering Iced Chocolates and chocolate milkshakes wherever he goes. 

There's the option of picking and ordering one dip served with bread or getting their whole selection of dips served with bread. Much more colourful ordering the latter! Within the bread basket are slices of toasted turkish bread, lebanese bread and the tastiest thing (after hot chips with chicken salt), fried lebanese bread! The bread was so very crunchy and tasty that I was tempted to send back the un-fried lebanese bread for them to make some more.

Tried to order a couple of things to try their menu. We had a goat tagine, fried lamb cutlets (which I highly recommend ordering) and a side of haloumi with lemon and rocket. Managed to get through all the food and everything was lovely as I thought it would be.

Admittedly, service was particularly slow that day. The restaurant wasn't that full, there were plenty of waitstaff and kitchen staff but food seemed to get to the table very slowly. Noticed that they were quite quick with the breakfast items but the mains just seemed to take forever. Can only guess that it's a new restaurant and everyone is still fumbling their way round trying to learn the ropes. There's 3 hours free parking at Top Ryde and both of us were quite surprised to find that after eating lunch, we'd already spent a good 2 hours (which is a rather long lunch!) Hopefully the next time I'm back,  it won't take quite so long!

Monday, 21 February 2011

eastwood korean restaurant @ rowe st., eastwood

I came here with my good friend Mashi for dinner one night and it ended up being such a good night (well when you put two hungry girls together who seem to be able to chat about just anything), we ended up leaving the place and forgetting our pancake which we were meant to takeaway. It was a rather good pancake too! Poor pancake, I really could've eaten you the next day!

Crazy talk aside, Eastwood Korean offers a good selection of side dishes to start the meal - a balance of spicy, sweet and ones that are neutral tasting to complement what you might order. My favourite side dish of all time is Kimchi (and I imagine it would be for most people too), I wonder why it doesn't come on a bigger plate?

We ordered the Spicy Sausage & Noodle Hotpot to share - it looks just like the one on the menu! I know it's a pack of 2 minute noodles on top but there's something so very enticing about it.

The hotpot could've adequately fed the two of us but an extra dish for a bit of variety never hurts. We managed to get through half of this and decided to take this one away. If only we remembered to take it away!

Here are the noodles cooked in the spicy soup - delicious!

Really enjoyed the meal and can see why the restaurant is always so packed out - food is fantastic and the service is quick. Actually quite surprised that we managed to get a table this time and well alas, we couldn't sit for too long as they were keen to clear up our table for the next as soon as we were done. Both of us were really intrigued by the big plates of fried chicken that the bigger tables nearby seemed to be ordering - well you'll know what I'll order the next time I'm here!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

morello cherry & custard chocolate tart

I'd call myself resourceful when it comes to baking at home. I try to make the most of the ingredients I have and do my best to make sure that nothing gets wasted. Partly it's also being lazy and not being bothered to head to the shops to grab that last ingredient; I just substitute it with something similar I have at home. So far it seems to work ok; I'll let you know if it ever doesn't!

This Morello Cherry & Custard Chocolate Tart was one I made with the remaining half jar of morello cherries I had. I also had the Chocolate Careme Pastry sitting in the fridge so it worked out quite well that everything was at home and I could concentrate on simply assembling the tart. Making tarts is quite a stressful business - no matter how many times I make a tart, something always goes wrong. My shortcrust pastry almost always shrinks when it goes in the oven, occasionally the liquid will seep out of the tart from the tiniest of holes where the pastry has been rolled out to thin and more often than not, I'm prone to burning myself moving the tart in and out of the oven.

Recipe is from the Careme Pastry website here. It's a pretty straight forward recipe but here are some tips.

The Careme Pastry sheet isn't quite big enough for a long thin tart pan like this. You'll need to cut and join the pastry to get the length. Make sure you roll out so that the join isn't thicker that the rest of the pastry.

Use your fingers to press the pastry into the corners/sides of the tin.

If you haven't discovered pie weights, these are miraculous little things. Line your tart base with these and blind bake in the oven. Pie weights can be reused unlike recipes which get you to use beans and rice for blind baking.

Whisk the custard filling so that there are no lumps. Make sure you strain the morello cherries so that that they don't colour the custard filling too much.

In go the morello cherries (so very adorable and plump!)

Top with the custard filling. Please, please don't overfill the tart shell like I did. It will be difficult to move into the oven.

The recipe says to cook for about 25 minutes. Mine took about 40 minutes to cook. At 25 minutes, the filling was still runny and was nowhere near close to setting. Let the tart sit in the tin to cool when it comes out of the oven. Refrain from trying to take it out as the tart shell is likely to crack and split whilst it's still warm. 

I love, love, love morello cherries and currently considering stocking up on jars in bulk. They are gorgeously yummy and this morello cherry tart made a great treat at my family's christmas dinner. Careme Pastry is something I swear by (great for when you can't be bothered making your own and it's very easy to use - just take out of the freezer and defrost for about an hour to two). Tastewise, this dark chocolate shortcrust pastry was quite rich and mum did find it overpowered the custard a little bit but on the whole, the tart was yummy and I think that's the most important thing!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

poh's 'the best banana cake in the world'

It's pretty gutsy of Poh to declare in her cookbook that this is 'the best banana cake in the world' but after making the recipe myself, I'm convinced. It's a rather good recipe; the banana cake is fluffy and moist with just the right amount of sweetness through it to tempt you to eat that extra slice (or if you are like my uncle, you might sit there and keep cutting off slice after slice!)

Preheat oven to 150 degrees fan forced. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper. In a large bowl, cream together 125g softened unsalted butter, 115g brown sugar, 115g caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Add 2 large eggs one at a time. Add in 185g sifted plain flour, 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb soda and 1/4 tsp salt and fold until fully incorporated into the mix. Add 60mL full cream milk and 3 overripe mashed bananas and fold in. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before release the cake from the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, combine 50g softened unsalted butter (ideally room temperature/don't go crazy melting it the microwave - you need the butter still a little bit firm so that the final icing keeps its shape), 60g icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp lemon juice with an electric beater until pale and fluffy. Spread over the top of the cake.

Poh suggests a dusting of 35g roasted and chopped hazelnuts which I didn't have at the time but can imagine it to be quite handy to give the cake a little bit of crunch. The cake is perfectly fine without the hazelnuts and well, this is the second recipe I've made from Poh's cookbook and so far the recipes have been spot on. So easily to follow and use, and I'm constantly tempted by all the other recipes in the book; all fighting for me to look at them and cook them!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

red spoon @ top ryde shopping centre

I've been so busy at work lately that I can hardly hear myself think. Everything has become rather robotic and seems like I go through the motions of doing something but I have no idea what I've actually done! Can't be good!

Anyway, channelling my thoughts to things that make me happy - food! Loving all the restaurant additions to Top Ryde Shopping Centre and in particular Red Spoon. Have been here twice now for dinner and the food is absolutely scrumptious. There's plenty on the menu for me to come back for but in the meantime, these are a few things which are worth trying...

Duck Green Curry.

Seafood Pancake.

Chicken Chilli Basil Noodle.

Banana Blossom Salad.

And my favourite of them all is the Sticky Beef Ribs - could eat this anyday!

To accompany the meal, I suggest you order one of their mocktails - The Lemongrass Smash (it comes served with a stalk of lemongrass) and is rather refreshing. Should your stomach allow, dessert is an option. There's only a few to select from but they are a good size (won't leave you too full) and definitely worth trying. 

The service here is really friendly. Only downside is the lighting at the back of the restaurant. You might need to squint at the menu a little bit and as the night progresses, you might get this feeling that you are eating in the dark.