Sunday, 31 July 2011

cafe sydney @ customs house, circular quay

June and July are the busy birthday months and when it comes to birthdays, it's always nice to celebrate over a meal. For Amz's birthday this year, she picked Cafe Sydney overlooking the harbour (it's a view you can't complain about, particularly on a sunny/blue skied Sunday afternoon), our meal was absolutely sumptuous and well, it's not often that we girls (and our respective boys) get to sit down and catch up.

A non-alchoholic Elderflower Smash - Fresh mint and coriander shaken with organic elderflower, clear apple juice and lengthened with tonic water. I heart this mocktail - delicately sweet yet refreshing with my meal.

Garlic Naan to share. You'd order naan at an Indian restaurant but who's to say you can't order it as a starter at Cafe Sydney.

Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters on ice with eschallot and caramelised cabernet vinegar. I actually didn't think the oysters needed the vinegar sauce, they were simply perfect with a small squeeze of lemon juice.

There's non-seafood items on the menu but as we were looking over the water, it only made sense to give seafood a go. Here's my choice of W.A. barramundi with goat cheese ravioli, butternut pumpkin, pine nut, raisin and sage brown butter

The boy chooses the Grilled swordfish with tomato braised octopus, chorizo, borlotti bean, fennel cream and lemon.

Crunchy chips on the side to share.

I'd say the birthday girl made a good choice for a birthday venue. We had a live band to accompany lunch, sunny skies which showcased a spectacular view of the harbour and above all else, fantastic company to spend the afternoon. Hope you had a wondrous birthday chick!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

abhi's indian restaurant @ concord rd., north strathfield

I've only been to a handful of Indian restaurants in my lifetime but I've been told that Abhi's Indian Restaurant is definitely one to try. And after being on my list of places to try for a good while now, the boy and I made our way over there on a Friday night in the dual interest of checking it out and simply grabbing a bite to eat. We made a booking just an hour out of us getting there and the restaurant was able to accommodate (there's two levels of seating space but if you're planning to come here, best that you make a booking as the restaurant fills up very quickly). 

Overall impressions as I walked in - very modern and very organised. We were acknowledged as we stepped foot inside the restaurant and was briskly whisked upstairs to our table. Service was prompt, menus were in hand straight away and being quite a late dinner at the time, we quickly ordered our food.

Masala Dosa (somewhat like a samosa) - Light and crisp rice flour pancake accompanied by lentil sambar' and onion & tomato chutney with a filling of spiced potato and onion 

 Patiala Goat Curry - Punjabi style slow cooked goat with milled chilies, tomato, mace and garam masala, finished off with fresh coriander

Chicken Varutha A spicy South Indian chicken in a sauce of tomatoes, tamarind, black pepper, fried cinnamon and star anis 

Served with Plain Rice.

A side of Garlic Naan.

The goat curry was our favourite that day. When our waiter asked us how our meal went, and we mentioned that the goat curry was absolutely delicious, he kindly went to explain to us how the goat is prepared and cooked. To be honest, I don't remember everything he said at the time but then again, how easy is it just to pop in again and order it again - leave it in the very capable hands of the chef!

I'd have to say that Abhi's Indian is very unlike other Indian restaurant I've been to - whilst the menu features most of your Indian cuisine staples, there's actually a whole suite of other dishes which I just haven't heard of and would be keen to try. Their selection of sweets looked enticing but the boy and I were belly up with food by the time we finished all our dishes. Good thing the table next to us ordered their share of desserts so I could take a sneak peak at what they were - they looked good!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

buttermilk berry muffins

One thing I've discovered is that you can make an awful load of recipes when you buy 1 litre of buttermilk. I used buttermilk for both batches of Fortnum's scones and in an attempt to use up the rest of the buttermilk, it only made sense to find a recipe that called for buttermilk as it's main ingredient. My friend Mashi was perfect in pointing me in the right direction. She actually suggested both a savoury and sweet recipe and well, it wasn't a tough choice; my choice would always be sweet. This recipe is from Joy of; if you haven't come across this site, let me just say that it's an absolute treasure chest of recipes for keen bakers.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Line a 12 hole muffin tray. In a jug, whisk together 1 egg, 180mL buttermilk, 160mL canola oil and 1 tsp vanilla extract. In a large bowl, combine 325g plain flour, 150g caster sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and zest of one orange. With a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry mix until just combined. Stir in 2 cups frozen berries. Fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. 

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 

Transfer to a wire rack and let to cool. Makes 12 regular sized muffins. 

When I was mixing this batch, I actually worried about how the muffins would turn out as even with a slight combining of the ingredients, the batter was quite firm and dough-like. I needn't have worried because the muffins came out of the muffin absolutely fine - bursting with berries (I probably used a bit more than two cups as I was trying to finish the bag of frozen berries we had) and the texture was perfectly moist and very tasty. 

If you go to the original recipe, it actually tells you how you can make buttermilk from regular milk. I think I'll try that one day just to see how it goes - it would save me having to find more recipes which use buttermilk; I think I might've exhausted them already!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

fortnum's scones

If you are new to baking, scones are a good starting point - there's only a few ingredients and you can hardly go wrong - the only thing to remember is to never overmix. I've dappled with a fair few scone recipes and to this day still haven't come across any two which are exactly the same; and I'm talking about just a plain scone here. Of course, the 'fluffy' ones are by convention the most popular but lately I've really taken to the Fortnum & Mason recipe which produces a slightly flatter and crunchier- surfaced scone. Curious as to what you guys think if you try this recipe.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, rub 85g softened unsalted butter into 250g sifted self-raising flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp caster sugar. In a jug, whisk together 150mL buttermilk and 1 egg, then make a well in the centre of the flour mix and bring the ingredients together with a spatula. Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead together and roll out to 2.5cm thickness. Cut out 5cm rounds with a cutter. Transfer to the baking tray and brush the tops with milk. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until risen and golden.

Cool until warm on a wire rack.

And as the book will tell you, served with clotted cream and jam (otherwise I've mentioned this before - jam and butter works a treat too).

In case you're wondering, there's one more scone recipe in this book which I'll get around to trying - it's a savoury scone though (which doesn't seem to quite so appealing as simply a plain scone - again my weird brain working). At the rate I'm going, it shouldn't take me long to get through all the recipes which should be exciting!

Monday, 25 July 2011

good food & wine show 2011

The one event which I do my utmost best to get to each year is the Good Food & Wine Show. I love anything to do with food, I love celebrity chefs, I love food freebies and the showbags of food that I'm more than likely will walk out with. I hear people say how it's the same every year and to a degree yes you'll have most of the same exhibitors at the show but in the end it's what you spend your time looking at. If it's the same as last year, I just move on and focus on something new - makes sense doesn't it?

New to this year's show was The Restaurant sponsored by Oxford Landing. The two lovely ladies from Masterchef - Poh & Marion were the featured chefs (no males in sight this year - well I suppose they were busy in the Celebrity Theatre). I love both these girls heaps so ended up trying a dish of each. Here's Poh's Dong Do Pork with Fried Rice. The skin of the Pork was quite chewy so I didn't end up eating it but the pork absolutely melts in your mouth!

Marion's Eight Hour Lamb Roast. 

I discovered this year that the boy had no idea what Sippah straws were so I made sure he tried one - we were taste testing the Cookies & Cream flavoured straws which were really quite nice.

And who could miss the pallets of goods which formed the Costco display! It was actually the pallet of Kitchenaid mixers which caught my attention but here's me with the pallet of supersized mayonnaise jars.

This year I got tickets to see Matt Moran who always delivers an entertaining and informative show. The boy will think otherwise but I left the show with just a small handful of bags to end the day - a resubscription to Delicious magazine, a selection of Dilmah teas, some cheap goodies from Chalet, a selection of jams and a cooler bag of dessert goodies from the brand Gu.

In amongst all the food tastings, I entered competitions for cars, dinners and kitchen renovations - unfortunately I get a whole lot spam each year and never actually win anything but all in good fun. There's some stupid photos of me posing in photos which have made their way to facebook and well, that's it for this year! As usual, will eagerly await next year's show!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

cafeism @ wilson st., newtown

It actually doesn't make a whole lot of sense that Newtown is so close to my work yet I never make my way over there. Add to that I can actually walk there (it's about 15 minutes) and well, obviously the walk is too much of an effort. So I find it rather ironic that I actually spend one of my days off work trekking to Newtown (in the car) to pick up $200 worth of macarons - the macarons were very much worth it you see and really, the conclusion is that you should never ask me why I do the things that I do!

The macarons will be a story for another day. En route to the macarons was a pit stop for lunch at Cafeism on Wilson Street (actually just round the corner of the place we were picking up the macarons). Being a school day, it was reasonably easy to get a table (although I imagine it to be very different on the weekend with all the residential apartments nearby) and all in all, a rather relaxing choice for lunch (or even if you are just after a spot of coffee).

The 'ISM' Burger served on turkish bread.

Salmon scrambled eggs with sourdough toast and fresh avocado.

We were perched up on the seats by the front window so caught a glimpse of what it would be like to live around the area - a fair few people riding their bikes or walking their dogs or simply popping in for some takeaway coffee. It's actually a huge difference to King Street which runs parallel to Wilson Street further up (definitely quieter and not as much traffic here). 

If only I had more days off during the week to sit down and enjoy a cafe lunch, read magazines (of which there are plenty on offer at Cafeism) and not have to think about work! Would definitely like to spend a bit more time discovering Newtown; not only are they hope to some yummy macarons but there's some awesome secondhand bookshops which did keep me busy for the rest of that afternoon.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

fortnum's classic shortbread

It all started back in December last year when mum bought me a tin of Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Tea for Christmas. I knew very little about Fortnum & Mason back then; just knew that they were stocked in the DJ's Food Hall in Sydney and the tea came in a very pretty tin and if anything, it was the tin that got my attention but it was ever so expensive (well not wallet breaking but still expensive for tea) that mum kindly bought it for me for Christmas. Well the afternoon tea is an absolute treat for the afternoon - delicate in flavour but just the perfect pick me up but this post isn't about tea. It's actually about the Fortnum & Mason cookbook which I subsequently picked up after I discovered the tea. 

Fortnum & Mason (according to my manager) are quite big in the UK - they're a tea shop; known for the lovely hampers you can organise as gifts but they also operate restaurants/tea houses. Sounds like a place which I can spend the entire day in if you ask me! And before I sidetrack to much, their cookbook is something I've been addicted to since I bought it. The previous post I made on the cranberry and lemon scones came out of it as did this recipe for shortbread. So far so good - if you're after an afternoon tea recipe book, this is certainly one to pick up. 

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Line a 17cm square tin. In a large bowl, cream together 150g softened unsalted butter with 60g caster sugar. Add in 150g sifted plain flour and 60g rice flour. Knead lightly. Press the mixture into the tin, using the back of a spoon to smooth out the surface. Use a butter knife to draw a line down the middle vertically, then mark 6 lines across horizontally to make 14 fingers. Prick each with a fork.

Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and mark again. Return to the oven and continue to bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is set.

Mark into 14 fingers again. Cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, then cut into pieces and carefully ease out of the tin. Finish cooling the shortbread on a wire rack.

My shortbread turned out pretty close to the ones pictured in the book.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days (well I packed mine and took it over to a friend).

This was my first time making shortbread and was pretty happy with the overall texture and taste. I'd probably make smaller fingers next time - found that I was snapping them in half to eat (and well ended up eating the whole finger anyway plus more so there's really no logic there). Very buttery and short in texture and surprisingly not too greasy; was thinking that it might be cause of the amount of butter. Quite honestly, it's hard to go wrong with this recipe - only 4 ingredients in it!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

cranberry & lemon scones

With the crazy cold weather over the last week, I've been drinking record cups of tea. I reached four earlier in the week and this time yesterday, I decided the cup just wasn't quite big enough and made myself a whole pot to sip away at. I've really grown to love tea and seem to buying a lot of it too. There's two boxes in my drawer at work, one sitting on my desk at home and countless boxes in the pantry drawer. And well, perfect with a cup of tea is the ever humble scone - easy to make and guaranteed deliciousness in a quick 25 minutes!  I've been making a fair few scones lately to tie in with the tea drinking.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Line a baking tray. In a large bowl, rub together 85g cubed butter into 250g sifted self-raising flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 50g dried cranberries, zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg and 200mL buttermilk and then add to the dry mix. Lightly, use a spatula to bring the ingredients together to make a soft dough. Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured board and roll out to a 2.5cm thickness. Stamp out rounds using a 5cm cutter and transfer to a baking tray (push them together). Lightly brush the tops with milk.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until well risen and golden. 

Cool until warm on a wire rack.

I highly recommend you eat scones with jam and cream but in the absence of cream (unless you are one of those people who perpetually have a bottle sitting in the fridge), jam and butter make a satisfactory substitute. Love how the butter goes all melty on a warm scone! Raspberry or Strawberry jam are my preferred jams. And I love how the brushed milk on the surface of these scones makes them that little bit crunchy in texture - I think I'll brush all my scones with milk from now on!