Thursday, 30 August 2012

yama japanese cafe @ qvb

When we were sitting down going through our wedding cards, one of the messages that stuck out amongst the rest was a lovely reminder from Char that we shouldn't forget date nights; it's something she swears by with her hubby and something that I'd pass on to any soon to be wed. The last couple of months of married life have gone by in a bit of a blur and sometimes the boy and I really have to make a conscious effort to treat ourselves (sometimes being too good and eating home can get quite taxing!)

This particular weekend we treated ourselves in the city and stopped by Yama Japanese Cafe at the top of QVB for lunch; it was actually a chance find after seeing a sign for the Chinese restaurant that was next door but Yama managed to get our attention.

With a wide selection of teas on offer, a pot of sencha seemed to be fitting.

Hands down, the Green Tea Battered Fish and Chips was the dish that got our attention. Mildly flavoured by the green tea powder, this was a refreshing take on the classic fish and chips - definitely crunchy but could've done with some thicker fish fillets.

Second after the Green Tea Fish & Chips was this Teriyaki Beef Burger and yes, it looks as good as it looks - plenty juicy and well and truly touching the sides in serving size.

There's some more traditional Japanese dishes on offer including sushi and bento boxes so will have to go back and try at some point. It's actually quite relaxing sitting up the top of the QVB; it's a lot more quiet and also away from the hustle and bustle of the city crowds which you'll find if you head back downstairs. Let's just say it's an unsuspecting oasis dining at Yama Japanese Cafe.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

transparent noodles with prawns

The average Asian supermarket is full of wonders, you never know what you might find down those aisles and well, I probably spend too much time perusing those shelves and buying way too many things (as one does of course). So you see, I was particularly excited to discover the big bags of dried black fungus on a recent shopping trip to New Yen Yen Supermarket in Eastwood. First of all, I love mushrooms and black fungus is one of those things I've grown up eating in stir fries, braises, casseroles and to this day, it's one of those things I'd pick out of a dish just because I love it so much. Put me with a dish of black fungus, I can polish it off for you too easily.

So it was that I wandered off home with my bag of black fungus in hand and found this recipe for transparent noodles with prawns - thought I'd throw in a bit more black fungus than the recipe actually asked for; which makes perfect sense when you love black fungus.

Defrost 200g medium-large raw prawns. Soak 125g Korean vermicelli in boiling water for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Drain the noodles and set aside. Soak a big handful of black fungus in boiling water for 4-5 minutes or until soft, then drain. Heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil in a wok and stir fry 2-3 cloves chopped garlic over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the prawns with 3 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the prawns turn pink. Add the vermicelli and fungus and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add 2 tbsp of lemograss paste, 3-4 finely chopped shallots, 2 chopped chilliies, and mix together.

Top off with coriander leaves and a few slices of red chilli.

This dish is like a salad (refreshing and comes with a slight chilli bite) but yet decently filling to serve up as a meal at dinner time. Recipe has been tweaked slightly from Hamyln's '200 Thai favourites' which is my latest go to book for meals - going through a bit of a Thai food phase at the moment and absolutely loving all the recipes in this book; everything has turned out spot on and they're quick recipes to make too. Anyway, more recipes/cooking adventures to follow!

Monday, 20 August 2012

banana caramel muffins

When I was younger, I loved shopping with mum at the supermarket and discovering what new products were on offer. If there's one thing Mum and I share, it's that we both love trying new products and giving things a go. Though sometimes I have to admit, writing a list is probably the best way that the two of us shop; otherwise more often than not, we'll come home with a bagful of that day's specials rather than the things we actually need. And well after all these years, neither of us have really changed one bit!

A recent trip to Coles saw me come home with a bag of Nestle Caramel bits. They say they're new but I swear Nestle have sold and marketed these in the States for ages (as usual, it's taken Australia a little more time to catch on).

And it just happened to be that I had my copy of Nigella Express out and about that I found the recipe for Banana Butterscotch Muffins which was perfect to accommodate these caramel bits. I've rejigged the recipe a little to accommodate the ingredients I had at home. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line 6 holes of a muffin tin. Mash together 2 bananas. In a jug, combine 70mL vegetable oil and 1 egg. Place 125g flour, 50g caster sugar, 1/4 tsp bicarb soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder in a large bowl. Add in the beaten egg and oil mixture followed by the mashed bananas. As Nigella would put it, fold in 75g caramel morsels and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

I made 6 out of this recipe; which works out perfect for the boy and I to chomp over for a few days. Found that when I bake a full dozen, we just don't get through them all.

It's a rather good looking muffin but unfortunately didn't keep so well in the fridge. The texture seemed to harden despite reheating in the microwave (which usually softens most muffins). 

The caramel bits actually weren't quite what I'd expected. In a way, I was expecting them to be a little bit sweeter and hold their shape a bit more. Biting in to them when the muffins were straight out of the oven, they were molten on the inside but didn't really have that caramel bite to them.  Good to see though that Nestle are releasing a few more baking goods to their portfolio; picked up a bag of mini dark chocolate melts which were also new so will no doubt have a little bit of fun with those!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

yogurberry @ railway pde., eastwood

Admittedly I've been a little slow to catch on to the frozen yoghurt phase that has swept Sydney. It was just the other week that mum was telling me that that two places selling frozen yoghurt had opened up in Eastwood; and only just metres away from each other too! And well who could resist; with bright pink neon signage alerting us that they were open for business, the boy and I stopped by Yogurberry to check in on all the hype.

For their first week, Yogurberry in Eastwood were offering 50% off their standard prices. It was a pretty good deal considering after filling up my container with all the frozen yoghurt flavours I wanted to try and the corresponding toppings, this little baby weighed in at $7.90 and I was even in the midst of finding enough spare change in my wallet till I realised that I was reading the wrong price (yes, sometimes I can be a little bit of a dope!)

The pricing is worked out based on the weight of the frozen yoghurt and the toppings. As you walk in the store, you pick up the size of container you're after, top it up with frozen yoghurt followed by the topping and then pay when you're happy with your selection.

There's ample seating at the Eastwood store so if you're not in a hurry, it's quite a nice place to sit and hang with friends. Lately the boy and I have found it quite hard to get a spare moment to ourselves so was glad to sit down and enjoy this one (though it did get a little cold eating frozen yoghurt in the middle of winter).

My favourite frozen yoghurt had to be the Taro (even though it didn't really go with anything else we'd picked, I still loved it). There were 6 flavours on offer the night we went but now that I think about it, I wonder if they rotate the flavours otherwise you can pretty much try it all in the one go with no real need to go back. Also, I'm not too sure about the pricing after the special, do people really pay $7.90 for a small container of frozen yoghurt?

Anyway, will get around to try the other place and report back on which one is better!

Monday, 6 August 2012

korean style ddukboki spicy rice cake

Married life has certainly taught me a thing or two about food; how to shop for groceries, how to get the best prices, how to cook for two but most of all, how to be adventurous and cook up restaurant meals in the comfort of your own home. The boy and I have tried to be good and tend to cook dinner most nights; main reason being that if we cook enough we have lunch to bring to work the next day which ends up saving us a tonne of money (and it's healthier too)

Korean Spicy Rice Cake is one those things which I always order if I see it on the menu at a Korean restaurant. Usually it's only the boy who is brave enough to eat this with me because depending on how heavy handed the cook has been with the chilli, this one can come with some serious bite. Cooking it myself, I could see why.

Soak 1 package Korean rice cake in boiling water until softened. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp chilli flakes, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp ginger powder, 1 tsp salt and 3-4 tbsp gochujjang (Korean red pepper paste). In a large pot, boil 2 cups water, stir through the sauces until all dissolved. Add 3 sliced green onions, 1 pack sliced fishcake, 1/3 head of cabbage, and the soaked rice cakes and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Once the sauce has thickened, the dish is ready to eat.

I'd say on a scale to 1-5 (5 being hot), this is probably a 4.5!

Surprised how easy this one was to make and reheated really well the next day in the microwave at work. A colleague of mine even commented how gourmet it looked and how adventurous I was but really, it takes just over 10 minutes to make from start to finish.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

carrot & chorizo soup

As I was growing up, my mum's advice to me when it came to looking after myself had always been to know how to cook. She'd say 'You need to cook for your future husband otherwise what are you going to eat?' Fortunately, it seems mum and I have both been somewhat lucky and married husbands that are quite handy in the kitchen and actually don't mind doing a bit of the cooking; my own has been doing a disproportionate amount of the cooking over the last couple of weeks (which I'm ever grateful for).

To make this Carrot & Chorizo soup, heat 30g unsalted butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook 2 finely chopped onions and 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add 5 coriander roots, 2tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground tumeric and 2 tsp cumin seeds and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 kg chopped carrots, then cover and cook for 10 minutes until the carrots start to soften. Season with salt and pepper and then add 1.25L chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender.

Cool slightly, then blend in batches until smooth. 

Always a tip to place your hand over the blender cover to make sure no nasty accidents happen (though I suggest a towel in between the hand and cover when you're dealing with hot soup).

The boy and I actually made this the night before we actually ate it to save a bit of time. 

To serve, heat a frying pan over medium heat, add 150g chopped chorizo and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Serve the soup with chorizo and coriander leaves. This soup is absolutely divine and actually reminds me of a curry because of the spices; great for this winter weather and worked out well to take to work.

A huge thank you to M for the blender wedding gift. It's taken us a little while but we've finally cracked it open and have it sat proudly on our kitchen bench. Looking forward to breakfast smoothies, soups and other blended goodies - thanks again!