I heart SALADS

>> Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm no expert on salad and did you know that I didn't try my first one until I was around 8 years old as I didn't grow up in the 'western world' where salads are as common as bread.

Today, salads still aren't really part of my regular diet and my vegetable intake usually comes in steamed or baked forms ;) My 'problem' is that I prefer eating warm or hot food.

These days I only do make them when the ingredients are in their freshest state (e.g. no days off greens from the fridge and fruits are plump) and I have either fresh cheese or nuts (such as pine nuts or walnuts) available. Also, nothing beats homemade dressings! Then the challenge is trying to figure out what goes with what...

I think that if you have everything in your salad the ingredients that you love (eating raw), then it's a winner. Otherwise what I do is that I will start picking on it and end up with a plate full of raw onions or rockets.

Some pictures of salads I made in the past...no recipe with this post as they're pretty self explanatory. ;)


Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now I am not one to shop. In fact, most of the time I find shopping a hassle and just wish I have a personal stylist who would buy my clothes for me so I wouldn't have to walk aimlessly in the malls looking for clothes.

I've never had a shopping spree before where I go crazy with $2000+ Bottega Veneta bags.

But it's a different story when it comes to shopping for my kitchen...

My lastest shopping spree resulted in a damage of a couple of hundred dollars. Ouch.

Apart from a Bamix I also got a pot!

I'd like you to meet my very first cast iron cocotte:

This baby's heavy!

I've been wanting to get one for a long time (all of my stew pots aren't oven-safe!) and I knew before I purchased this what dish I will make to 'christian' this pot.

Julia Child's signature Le Boeuf Bourguignon of course!

That's right - I am finally able to stew and bake this French classic from the cookbook Mastering the Art of French cooking that has been gathering dust on my bookshelf.

But like every recipe, now matter how good it is, I like to tweak things here and there - depending on what I ingredients I have available. I guess you could say this dish is inspired by JC's Boeuf Bourguignon, but it is not really the same.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Inspired by Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Servings: Serves 6

Kitchen Supplies:
  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
Boeuf Bourguignon:
  • 6 ounces bacon (I used speck)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes (I used chuck steak)
  • 1 sliced carrot (I added sweet potato too!)
  • 1 sliced onion (plus zuchinni in my version!)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind (I omitted this)
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

You can see that I added sweet potato as well..hehe

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

...and zucchini too. I don't know if the French will approve!

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Boeuf Bourguignon on a bed of the creamiest mash using my new Bamix!

The verdict?!

Oh la la...c'est delicieux! ;) Even though I'm not sure if the real French version tastes the same since I played around with this recipe too much. I would make this over and over again if I have the time (as it takes hours to complete). The cut of beef I've chosen wasn't the best but because it was cooked for such long period of time, the meat was tender and the gravy like texture of the sauce was so harmonious in that everything just came together...


Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant - Rozelle

>> Sunday, April 18, 2010

"A vegetarian restaurant?!" I exclaimed as V explains what type of food is served at Harvest, as we attempt to settle for a place to eat on a Saturday night.

V and I have so much in common and one of them is that we love to try out new cuisines and new restaurants. And tonight is no exception.

Since I've never been to a vegetarian restaurant (that is not Chinese) and am not at all familiar with the vegetarian/vegan scene around Sydney, I was pretty excited!

This place is situated just off Darling Street in Balmain. It is in the middle of a quiet residential street and we spotted this restaurant straight away because of the lights in the middle of the dark. We loved the quaint deco of this place - and I told V that for some reasons I felt like I was in New York City.

It was quiet when we arrived at around 6pm however we were told we'd have to leave before 8:30pm as they are all booked out for the night.

The ambiance of the restaurant of warm and homey. The light was dimmed so apologies for the bad photos! Dim lights are obviously not a photographer's best friend!

I've seen people making twice baked cheese souffle on both MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules and have also bookmarked a cookbook for this dish. So as you can imagine how wide the smile was on my face when I saw it on the menu.

It was delicious - light fluffy souffle with such a strong kick of flavour from the goats cheese. It was a great way to start the dinner.

Twice baked goat cheese souffle $13.50

I ordered the sweet potato gnocchi with garlic cream for the main. The serving looks rather small but I could hardly finish it at the end! The gnocchi was lightly sweet and works well with the heavy garlic cream.

English spinach & wweet potato gnocchi with garlic cream $20.50

V ordered the pancake with mushrooms. The flavoursome mushrooms were roasted very well but the pancakes were a bit on the hard side. But it was still enjoyable nevertheless.

Savoury Mushroom Pancake Stack with an English Spinach Sauce $21.50

We were also given a refreshing salad to go with our mains! Nice!

Complimentary salad

Entrance to the restaurant

Harvest Vegetarian is a place I'd go for a special occasion - the warm ambiance and hearty vegetarian food is what makes this place stand-out. I'm also keen to explore more vegetarian restaurants from now on too!

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant
71 Evans Street
Rozelle NSW 2039‎
Tel: (02) 9818 4201‎


Vintage cafe at the Rocks

Where do you go to get a big hearty breakfast in the city? That was the question I had when I had to organise brunch on a lovely weekend morning. Since a bunch of us were all meeting up from different areas of Sydney, it had to be somewhere in the Sydney CBD.

How we ended up at the Rocks I don't know (since we met up at Town Hall). There were an obvious lack of options for outdoor brunch in the quiet CBD and so the touristy Rocks was definitely the way to go.

Vintage Cafe is in the quiet alleyway of the Rocks and an ideal place for catch-ups as it is away from the main areas of the weekend markets and shops.

I settled for a hearty Vintage breakfast with a latte while my friends had the omelette and the vegetarian eggs benedict. The food was reasonable - I love the scrambled eggs and the portuguese sausages I had on my plate.

I could just sit there all day and listen to the live jazz musician playing in the background. What a relaxing way to spend the beautiful Saturday.

Full Vintage Breakfast - $17.90

Vintage Cafe on the Rocks
Shop R2 Nurses Walk,
The Rocks NSW 2000‎
Tel: (02) 9252 2055‎


Wakana - Artarmon

I am lucky to have my exercise buddy P living in the same building as me. Without her I would probably not have been so motivated to put on my sports shoes each week (it's 4 years old and looking brand new).

One fine day after work, I decided to meet P at St. Leonards Station (close to her workplace) and walk back home with her as a form of exercise that is so much better than the gym ;-)

As we'd have to walk past Artarmon on our way home, we stopped for a dinner break (I know what you're thinking, but one must have energy in order to continue walking ;-) )

Wakana is a Japanese restaurant well-known for its BBQ style cooking. You can cook your own cuts of meat (big selection - e.g. beef tongue, harami, pork, chicken), seafood, vegetable on the grill on your table. Their dipping sauces for the BBQ is lovely! However today we weren't in the mood for BBQ.

Complimentary starter salad. Love the special Wakana dressing

Wakana salad $15

Yes, you saw it correctly. It's got your breakfast cornflakes on the salad (just think of it as croutons in caesar salad and you'll be alright) as well as fish roe, avacado, sundried tomatoes and raw salmon. Delicious!

Wakana salad $15

Wagyu Beef Curry $10

I've been to Wakana countless times, and everytime I have to order Wagyu Beef Curry. It's massive serving and good to share with someone else. The beef is what I love about this dish. It's sooo soft - melt in your mouth soft. Hmmmmm.

Yakinku Restaurant Wakana‎
2A Broughton Rd,
Artarmon NSW 2064‎
Tel: (02) 9419 7499


Raspberry buttermilk cake

As much as I love baking, I don't bake cakes very often as you might have noticed. I'm just not a huge fan. Don't get me wrong, I do like a lovely slice of cake occasionally and I enjoy baking and decorating cakes for a group of people, but I just rather deal with banana bread, muffins, or even souffles if I get to choose. Maybe it's because I rarely come across a really good slice of cake...they're all either too sweet, too much cream (I usually scrape them off), too dry, not enough chocolate...I know, I am picky.

So it just happens that 2 months ago I had some buttermilk left in my fridge that was waiting to go bad...I hate it when it happens! So it was time for me to look for recipes which requires a decent amount of buttermilk as well as the ingredients I have in my pantry.

Then I came across this simple Raspberry Buttermilk cake from another food blogger. It looks simple. Ordinary. It didn't make me particularly excited to be honest...but I had all the ingredients and they were the ingredients that I was hoping to use up!

It took no time to whip up and before I know it, this simple tea cake was ready to be consumed.

The verdict? This is my type of cake - not too sweet and it's soft (in fact, it stayed soft and moist for days because of the buttermilk) and it was just simple. It's an everyday cake. Kind of like a simple summer dress that is nothing fancy but you wear it all the time just because it makes you look good.

I'll definitely be making this again next time I have buttermilk sitting in my fridge.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009

You can just ignore the word “raspberry” up there and swap it up with any which berry you please, like blackberries or blueberries or bits of strawberries or all of the above. This is a good, basic go-to buttermilk cake (not unlike a lemon yogurt cake before it) — moist and ever-so-light — a great jumping off point for whatever you can dream up.

Makes one thin 9-inch cake, which might serve eight people.
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 large (57 grams) egg
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)
Preheat oven to 400°F (or 204°C) with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter (see Note) raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


Making your own Marsala Chai

>> Friday, April 16, 2010

If coffee were perfumes, chai latte would be the one I'd wear in Autumn. I love the smell of it and perhaps someone should invent chai perfume. I'd buy it for sure. Not surprisingly chai latte is one of my favourite drinks to order at cafes. Then I came across marsala chai at this amazing Indian restaurant when I was in Taiwan on holiday - it was rich and creamy, full of spice and sweet. Hmmmmmm.

I found a recipe online the other day and have been experimenting with it by tweaking it here and there. Normally at home I'd make my chai over a pot on a stove using cardamon pods and real ginger amongst other spices - but since I plan to take these to work, I had to settle for the ground spices which is not as strong in flavour.

I found these tea bags at the $2.50 Japanese store near work (Maruyu on Clarence Street)! Perfect for my instant chai tea experiment!

Tea bags $2.50

For my chai tea mixture, I also added milk powder so I wouldn't have to add milk as it cools down my tea. I like my tea really hot!

Mixture of all the spices + tea and milk powder

Tea bags all ready to go!

Marsala Chai Tea
Recipe adapted from AllRecipe

  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
  • 1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer (I omitted this)
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea (I used Dilmah's black tea)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves (I added whole cloves instead)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (I added 2 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel

In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. In a blender or food processor (or by hand), blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.

Add them to the empty tea-bags and store in a air-tight container.

The verdict?

This mixture is pretty good and addictive. I love it with an extra teaspoon of honey too! Because they are 'instant' and not cooked over the pot, I find that I'd need to add more spices next time for the spices to be more dominant in the taste.


Sushi Tengoku - Kensington

>> Sunday, April 11, 2010

Have you ever discovered a really good place and know that it is before long before other people discover it too? This is the case for me with Susi Tengoku.

I came across this place more than 6 years ago as it was the closest Japanese restaurant near my apartment back in the university days. I didn't want to try it at first - as from the outside, this Japanese eatery does not have the most welcoming entrance. Situated next to a dry-cleaning service on the busy Anzac Parade, it looked a bit run-down and uninviting.

But this place as I have discovered, is not about its interior/exterior design or service.

Take for example, my pot of tea with a lid which does not close:

It's all about the quality (and portion) of the food. After my first visit, I knew I'd come back again as the food is unlike any other Japanese restaurants I've tried in Sydney. The serving sizes are huge (although pricer) and more authentic than a lot of other places.

I love tomago (egg omelettes) and the ones served here are so good. It's juicy and eggy ;) It is not plasticky or dry like the ones I've had around Sydney.

Tomago + Scallop sushi

Salmon Belly + Fish Roe sushi

Aburi scallop

Fried chicken

Soft shell crab roll

Unagi (eel) + Salmon Handroll

Yasai Tempura roll

This place used to have hardly any customers back in the days and I never had problems getting a table. But now, if you don't have a reservation or come after 5:30pm, you'd be lucky to get a seat! The service is not that great as they have a small team of staff but the food is worth it!

Between the 3 of us, the bill came up to around $80. But we had to doggy bag some of the rolls as it was too much. Still delicious the next day at work ;)

Sushi Tengoku
121 Anzec Parade
Kensington NSW 2033
TEL: 02 96633388

Reservation recommended.


Apple crumble at home

>> Sunday, April 4, 2010

So my visit to the Meat & Wine Co. last time had me craving for crumbles ever since.

It was towards the end of my Easter break and I was sick of being in bed with the flu once again, so with all my strength I got out of bed and into the kitchen. Apple crumble time! It felt like sunshine after a rainy day just being up and cooking.

Crumbles are relatively easy to make and can be done within 15 minutes. However the baking time is long - takes roughly 50 minutes but this just tests your patience and really you should do something while waiting (like cook dinner) unlike me looking into the oven like a child excitedly looking into the windows of a pet store.

I like my crumbles piping hot with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (preferably Blue Ribbons). That is exactly the way I had it, while watching The Princess and the Frog.

I *love* this recipe. It is the best crumble I've made - the apples slow-cooked with cinnamon were not too soft and mushy and the crumble on top was just the right texture and sweetness. The tray of crumble was demolished before the movie got anywhere.

Sit and Stay Awhile Apple Crisp
recipe from Ann of Fidget

bake in an 8×8 baking dish or double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 dish
Note: I half the Topping and used 2 large Fuji apples instead.

5 to 6 medium-size apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices. (About 7.5 cups)
3 tbsp granulated sugar (I omitted this as Fuji apples are sweet enough).
1.5 tsp cinnamon

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 cup quick oats

Preheat the oven to 350 (~176C). Generously grease an 8×8 baking pan with butter.

Place a layer of apple slices in the bottom of the pan and dust with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Continue layering apples and dusting with cinnamon/sugar until done. Toss the apple mixture until evenly coated in cinnamon sugar. The apples should be just about to the top of the pan (they will cook down).

For the topping, place the flour, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until evenly distributed. Take one full handful of the topping and toss it into the sugared apple mixture. Spread the rest of the topping evenly over the apples. (I usually end up with a dough-like topping that I just lay on top of the apples).

Bake the crisp in the dish on a baking sheet on the center oven rack until the topping is crunchy and the apples are bubbling, 55-60 minutes.

Serve hot.

Sprinkled with cinnamon

Crumbled top before going into the oven

Nom nom nom...


The Meat & Wine Co.C

>> Saturday, April 3, 2010

Creme brulee has been on P's mind ever since we dined at The Meat & Wine Co. a few months ago when she saw it on the desserts menu after the mains but didn't get the chance to sample it.

So we decided to make a trip back to the restaurant - just for the desserts.

After a few slices of pizza courtesy of work on a Friday, we made our way towards our 'backyard' - Darling Harbour - to satisfy our sweet cravings.

Creme Brulee

P and K both ordered a creme brulee. This elegant dessert classic always reminds me of 'My best friends wedding' - the movie, when Julianne tries to explain to Kimmy why their love interest (Michael) would prefer Jello (Julianne) to Creme Brulee (Kimmy).

Julianne: I'm better with food. Okay, you're Michael, you're in a fancy french restaurant, you order... creme brulee for dessert, it's beautiful, it's sweet, it's irritatingly perfect. Suddenly, Michael realises he doesn't want creme brulee, he wants something else.
Kimmy: What does he want?
Julianne: Jello.
Kimmy: Jello?! Why does he want jello?
Julianne: Because he's comfortable with jello, jello makes him... comfortable. I realise, compared to creme brulee it's... jello, but maybe that's what he needs.
Kimmy: I could be jello.
Julianne: No! Creme brulee can never be jello, you could never be jello.
Kimmy: I have to be jello.
Julianne: You're never gonna be jello. Now you have to come clean with your parents, because if you're waiting for that "Do you take this man" part, it's considered poor form.

This dessert, according to P after scraping her ramekin squeaky clean, is the best she's had. It might as well as how Julianne described it - irritatingly perfect!

Bruschetta + Garlic Bread

The boys also shared this platter of bread as an entree. The bruschetta looked lovely - slices of wood-fired bread topped with chunky tomatoes and olive oil.

Apple and rhubarb crumble (with cinnamon ice-cream)

A crumble to me, is so very homey and rustic - my idea of a comfort food. So when they brought out this plate, I was rather surprised by the way it was presented. I've never seen a crumble plated in this manner before. Very elegant and definitely not rustic.

One bite and I felt like I was transferred back to my living room - all curled up in front of the T.V. Comfortable and familiar. The apple and rhubarb were slow cooked with cinnamon and the cinnamon ice-cream added an extra kick to this crumble (as normally vanilla ice-cream is served with this).

The Meat & Wine Co.

31 Wheat Rd
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9211 9888

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