Monday, August 31, 2009


Sensational value, beautiful flavours for a very reasonable $30 for 3 courses on Fridays, lunchtime only.

If you ever get a chance to do this on a Friday for lunch, it's well worth it. We were lucky enough to get in a last minute booking for their second sitting at 1.30pm. You can order from their normal a la carte menu, but most diners are there for the $30 special. You get a choice of two entrees, two mains and two desserts, so between the two of you, you can try the whole special menu. They are degustation-sized courses, so if you're expecting a full feed, you may be disappointed, but hubby and I were well-satisfied.

Curried parsnip veloute with crispy onion bjahi
I thought I was getting the lesser of the two entrees, but I was pleased that I got this one, it was sensational! The veloute was nice, smooth and creamy, and the curry was so subtle. And the crispy onion....salty, crunchy yum! (we ended up going halves on the entree because we agreed this was the better choice).

Cured salmon with beetroot duxelle and dill sour cream
It wasn't a terrible entree. The flavours were nice and fresh, and the dill sour cream accompanied the salmon so very well. But the veloute was so unexpectedly lovely, that it was the dish we fought over...


Roast chicken thigh with soft polenta and field mushrooms

The roast chicken was wonderfully crispy on the top, and the meat tender inside. It was just a very good roast chicken - how do you get it so crisp without deep-frying? The polenta was ok, maybe because we're not big fans of it...

Butternut pumpkin risotto with garlic prawns and candied pumpkin seeds
I was very happy with my pick of the mains. It was just a great example of the importance of good produce (prawns) cooked simply. The risotto was nice and buttery with the sweetness of the pumpkin coming through.


Crème Caramel with grapes, raisins and pinenuts
Smooth, creamy crème caramel with a mystery nutty ice cream. Presentation was beautiful. Husband was carefully guarding this dessert...

Strawberry Eton Mess
Meringue, cream, strawberries is just a magic combination. I don't care how simple this is, I can't go past this dessert. It was one of the better versions I've had (another good version was at Cafe Sopra). And the extra scoop of raspberry sorbet, melting into the dessert? Genius!

48 Albion Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

phone: (02) 9212 7979
hours: Tue-Sat from 6pm, Fri 12.00pm - 3.00pm

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tiramisu Challenge

Someone claimed that they could make the best tiramisu. As I've said, I work with several Italians who would claim such a thing. The gauntlet was thrown, a challenge issued, and the inaugural Tiramisu Challenge was created.

Five challengers; three of those Italian who are seasoned Tiramisu chefs, the other two non-Italians, never having made Tiramisu before. Three judges, and of course, a people's choice award.

These are the results of their efforts.

(Clockwise from top left; A, B, C, F, E, D)
A. Italian
B. Non-Italian
C. Italian
D. Italian (winner Judge's choice). The secret? He did not use mascarpone...mmh?
E. Non-Italian (winner of the People's Choice award)
F. Non-Italian, from the Shire, non-homemade, disqualified!

The rest of us tasters were completely stuffed with Tiramisu the whole day!

Now, any suggestions for the next challenge?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sticky Date Pudding

I've tried a few recipes in the past (some dry, some ok), but now I think I've finally found the best sticky date pudding recipe.

This is taken from If you want to read other comments on this recipe click here, but I've modified the original recipe a bit, but only very slightly and I've increased the measurements for the sauce. I think you can never have too much of the butterscotch sauce, and it sucks when you make the cake and find you've run out of the sauce...

The recipe serves 8, but what I've done is freeze* the leftover cake for a rainy day. I also baked the batter in a lined rectangular tin, which makes for easier serving and apportioning of the cake later on.

250g pitted dates, chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups boiling water
125g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract 2 eggs
1 3/4 cups White Wings Self-Raising Flour, sifted

Butterscotch sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
450ml thickened cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

90g butter

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23 x 30cm cake tin.

  2. Place dates and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Pour over boiling water.
    Allow to stand for 20 minutes.

  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy.
    Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    Using a large metal spoon, fold through date mixture and flour until well combined.

  4. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan.
    Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
    Turn onto a plate.

  5. Make sauce
    Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
    Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil.
    Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes.

  6. Serve warm cake with the sauce, and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
*Note: To freeze, slice up the cake, and wrap in baking paper, then in aluminium foil. Then put in a freezer bag. I wouldn't freeze the butterscotch sauce, so let that be a consideration when you're making a portion of the sauce.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Current Blend: Toby's Estate Sustainability Blend

Now we are armed with a new non-pressurised basket for my Sunbeam EM4800C coffee machine, we're looking forward to making better tasting coffees for many years to come.

We've just finished our Crave beans (Espresso Blend), which we were quite happy with.

We are now currently using the Toby's Estate Sustainability Blend, which has been proving quite strong but we're getting that satisfying caramel aftertaste (yeah to the new basket for making non-fake crema!).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Burgerfuel versus Burgerlicious

I'm glad this blog post came out in the smh. It was timed nicely, as I recently had a conversation with someone about which burger place was better - Burgerfuel or Burgerlicious.

Having not tried Burgerlicious at the time of the conversation, I could say nothing but what I knew - that Burgerfuel made the best burgers in Newtown.

After having tried Burgerlicious, I can now say what I know - that Burgerfuel make the best burgers in Newtown!

I apologise in advance for the pictures - but believe me, the burgers are good!

Cheeseburger from Burgerlicious
Bun was mediocre, cheese was not melted. Meat was ok, but what was disappointing was the sauce - it was just regular tomato sauce and mustard. Nothing wrong with these two sauces, but when you're paying more than $5 for a burger...

Hamburgini from Burgerfuel
A nice light meal, flavoursome beef patty, cheese melted, toasted bun, tomato relish. YUM!

Classic burger from Burgerlicious
Same issues as the cheeseburger. Will not be in a rush to go back.

Fuel Burger from Burgerfuel
Bigger beef patty, tomato relish, fresh ingredients, toasted bun. Comes with beetroot. I think the toasted bun with the sesame seeds on top just makes the burger.

Kumera chips with aioli from Burgerfuel

I'll only bother giving you the details for's definitely worth a visit!

172 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
phone:(02) 9519 4700
hours: Sun-Thu 11.00am-10.00pm, Fri-Sat 11.00am-11.00pm

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pempek Clovelly

I must admit this dish is an acquired taste. When I first had it (not here), it didn't quite take, but maybe it was because I didn't have a very good one.

I'm talking about Indonesian deep fried fish cakes. I mean, they're deep fried, so that's a good start right?

At Pempek Clovelly, that make all kinds of shapes of fish cakes. Fish cakes with boiled eggs in the middle, long fish cakes, flat fish cakes, fish cake balls, the list goes on.

My favourites are the long fish cakes (Pempek Panjang) and fish skin fish cakes (Pempek Kulit). Noodles and vermicelli are an optional extra and I'd recommend having them with the dish.

The fish cakes are served with a sweetish sour sauce. It's a unique flavour, made with Indonesian palm sugar and tamarind.

The fish cakes are $2.50 each, except for the one with the egg, which is more expensive. Three $2.50 fish cakes is enough for a good meal.

(Also, if you can ask for them to put the fish cakes on a separate plate, it's even better (to avoid soggyness) - but if you're not so particular...)

The service can be a bit gruff, and you're definitely not there for the ambiance, but it's all about the food. Only gripe is that it closes so early, 8.00pm!

198 Anzac Pde, Kensington NSW 2033

phone: (02) 9697 0009
hours: Mon-Fri 12.00pm - 8.00pm, Thursday closed, Sat-Sun 11.00am - 8.00pm

Monday, August 17, 2009

2-minute snacks : Parmesan Crisps

This is one of my favourite snacks - it's quick, it's easy, it's inexpensive.

You will need:

  • finely grated Parmesan cheese
    (the pre-grated Parmesan you can get at Coles is fine as well)
  • baking paper
  • optional: cracked pepper

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of grated Parmesan onto a small piece of baking paper.
    Optional: Season with some cracked pepper if you like.
  2. Place the baking paper and cheese in the microwave.
  3. Turn the microwave on high for 90 seconds.
  4. Take out of the microwave and leave to cool for 30 seconds.
  5. The result should be a crispy Parmesan disc. Break into small pieces and enjoy!
Parmesan Crisp
Parmesan and cracked pepper crisp

Mystery Box Challenge August 2009

Four people for dinner. Two people cooking (and it's not me or my husband!).

I buy the ingredients, and my friends come over and cook - I think it's a pretty good deal. don't you think?

The ingredients are (from top left, clockwise):
hazelnuts, truss cherry tomatoes, sweet potato, fresh cherries, passionfruit pulp, dark chocolate, chicken thighs, scallops, leek, parsley, thickened cream, fresh pappardelle.

The process:
It took about an hour for the main meal, and half an hour for the cake. (very impressed!)
The result:
Creamy leek sauce, poured over the fresh pappardelle. Sweet potatoes were fried off, and scallops and chicken thighs well browned. The truss tomatoes were slow-roasted in the oven, and this made the tomatoes deliciously sweet and soft. They were artistically placed on top of the pasta dish. Great presentation!

Chocolate torte with cherries and hazelnuts, drizzled with a passionfruit cream and vanilla ice cream. The hazelnuts that were placed on top of the cake ended up being nice and toasted in the oven.

The least we could do was wash the dishes. Well done, girls - it was an absolutely delicious meal!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

bills Surry Hills

I picked up a travel guide for Sydney and was curious to see where the guide recommended to eat around the traps. I've had some mediocre experiences with recommendations from travel guides - I ate at very average "highly recommended" places in Venice (Italy), Arrowtown (NZ) and Christchurch (NZ).

I do agree with this one recommendation for Sydney though. It's an oldie, but a goodie - bills. My brother and his wife kindly took me out for lunch one day....

We share three dishes amongst three people. I must admit that I haven't managed to get past ordering at least two out of three of these dishes when I go to bills, because;
1. they're iconic and characteristic of bills and
2. they are always consistently very very good!

From the top left (clockwise):
Ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter $16.60
fluffy, soft, almost cakey hotcakes, with the not-as-sweet-as-you-would-think honeycomb butter. I must admit that I've come to bills just to get this for dessert (yes you can and it's cheaper, but for a smaller portion)

Sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon $17.50
corn kernels fresh off the cob, in a crispy fritter with a really nice avocado salsa.

Hot chocolate with Callebaut $4.00
See those little chocolate bits? You mix it with the hot milk and ta-da, there's your rich, dark, hot chocolate.

Sunrise Drink $5.00 (small)
mix of orange juice, banana, yoghurt and berries

Scrambled organic eggs with sourdough toast with a side of bacon $12.80 (plus $4.50 bacon)
The best scrambled eggs in Sydney. Super creamy, soft - never overcooked. Served with sourdough toast you can slather with good quality butter - ok, I should stop here!

It is a Sydney breakfast/brunch/lunch must. Avoid coming here for Saturday brunch - be prepared for a long wait.

359 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
phone: (02) 9360 4762
hours: daily 7.00am to 10.00pm

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Toby's Estate Coffee & Tea

My favourite thing to do is to go out and have a good breakfast (most often ends up brunch really!). It doesn't have to be a particularly big breakfast, but it must be a good, quality breakfast. And coffee is a must.

Toby's Estate in Chippendale is one of my favourite breakfast cafes. Not only is the coffee always spot on, but they have a great range of breakfast items. Watch out for their specials on the blackboard.

Special: French Toast with Berries and Bacon $11

Look at those massive chunks of french toast drizzled with maple syrup! This has got to be the best french toast I've ever had. The waitstaff tell me they use ciabatta for the french toast, unusual but perfect. Served with a berry compote and crispy bacon on the side, and a sea of maple syrup.

Scrambled eggs with bacon, roast tomato served with toast $11
Creamy folded layers of scrambled eggs, sourdough toast, crispy bacon. This is a good old-fashioned breakfast done well.

Piccolo latte $3
I love the taste of their roast. It's strong, and the crema provides a nice toasty, caremelly flavour.

Other favourites (all under $10):
Sourdough toast with avocado, tomato and basil
Sour cherry toast with a side of ricotta and honey

On a side note, I have great success in making good coffees at home using their beans. I take their Broadway Blend ($11 for 250g).

32-36 City Rd, Chippendale NSW 2008
phone: (02) 9211 1459
weekdays 7.00am-4.00pm; weekends 8.00am-4.00pm

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mamak (supper)

There are not many Asian places I like to go to to have dessert. About a decade ago, I used to be excited about getting some pearl milk tea - now easyway is around almost every corner, and Tea Inn at Kingsford isn't really up to scratch anymore.

I am so glad that Mamak is open til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. There is nothing like a sweet Roti Tisu (sweet, thin, crispy) with vanilla ice cream, and a side of condensed milk (thanks to chocolatesuze for the tip!) to satisfy a late night sweet craving.

What we had that night..:
Roti Tisu $9
What else can I say? I always have it when I come here and it's also so fun to eat!

Teh Halia $3.50 - Teh tarik with a hint of ginger
The ginger is subtle, and you feel the warmth of the ginger at the back of your throat as you swallow. Perfect for a cold winter's night.

Milo tarik $3.50 - Malaysia's hot chocolate
Just milo, you say? I say definitely worth the $3.50 - better than some average hot chocolates I've had in some dodgy cafes across Sydney.

15 Goulburn Street, Haymarket Sydney 2000
phone: (02) 9211 1668
hours: Open daily, 11.30am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 9.30pm, Supper to 2am on Friday & Saturday

Friday, August 7, 2009

Coffee & Ladyfingers

I work with a lot of people who enjoy food, whether it's cooking it or consuming it. It makes life at work a lot more pleasant when you all share the same interests!

Within this group of people at work are a bunch of Italians that are passionate not just about any food, but are also passionate about what is "good" Italian food and what is "not good" Italian food, and what we non-Italians do to ruin good old Italian ingredients and recipes. (apparently Parmesan on seafood is a no-no?)

Here's one of the practices that apparently all Italians do (a practice that they've kindly shared with me and I have quickly adopted!).

Some nice ladyfingers (this brand is apparently especially good for making Tiramisu) dunked in your morning/afternoon coffee. Yum!

A big pack of Sweet Italy Ladyfingers are $3.99 at the Haberfield IGA.

(The packet of biscuits in the picture may never make it into a Tiramisu, but will make themselves into many cups of coffee in the near future!)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sydney Food Awards

Time Out Sydney has just published their Sydney Food Awards. They've done a great job!

Here are the ones I can comment on:

Restaurant of the Year : Marque, Surry Hills
Do I agree? I've never been but I've heard from people who have and they haven't been inclined to go back. So although it's a good deal on Fridays (3 courses for $45) are we saying it's nice because it's a much-lauded restaurant? Jury's still out on this but happy to be proven wrong.

Where is Restaurant Balzac on the list? Even though it's not a 3-hat restaurant, I think the food and service is sensational.

Glad to see Est. made it on the list (no.7). I still think of the passionfruit soufflé I had there many many moons ago...

Best Cafe: Cafe Sopra, Waterloo
I do like this place. I think they are one of the best users of seasonal ingredients (advantage of being situated on top of Fratelli Fresh). Get in early (before 12noon), I agree with the review. Must have their battered zucchini flowers stuffed with four cheeses, penne bolognese and their tiramisu made with panettone.

Bitton Gourmet Cafe, Alexandria
Bitton didn't make it on any list, but it's my pick as a great cafe. They serve good Grinders coffee, and a great one pan bacon and eggs. Must try their crepes with orange jelly - it's a small serving but deliciously buttery. They also do a great dinner service on Wed-Fri evenings for $20/main meal. (the garlic bread is a must!)

Best Burger: Rockpool Bar and Grill
Would you really spend $22 on a burger, even if there is wagyu in it? I don't think I could convince my husband to shell out that much for a burger. I definitely think Plan B by Bécasse, should be no.1!

Best Cheap Eat: Black Star Pastry, Newtown
This is a nice cafe. Fantastic coffee, unusual cakes & pastries. But is it the Best Cheap Eat?
Bring on the Bourke St Bakery Pork and Fennel roll (which does get a mention in Best Patisseries) or Chicken Roll from Hong Ha, Mascot($4 or $5 with a drink). Great spring rolls there as well! Or $6 Thai in Newtown....

Glad to see Mamak on the list. I crave Roti Tisu.

Best Thai: Spice I Am Surry Hills
Yes, yes yes! I definitely agree with this one. There are some dishes here that I haven't seen at any other Thai restaurant in Sydney (Basil Crispy Pork Belly, the fermented vermicelli noodles), but even the regular things (red curries, pad thai, green papaya salad) are done extremely well here. Around the corner from the popular one-hatted Longrain, and given the choice between the two, I would choose Spice I Am any day.

Best Yum Cha: Fisherman's Wharf, Pyrmont
I haven't been here, although I've passed by it and been curious.
Without having tried this restaurant, my favourite yum cha has to be Fook Yuen in Chatswood. The only Yum Cha I know that does has trolleys of "beer" as "dish" to be stamped on your card.

Best Desserts: Universal, Darlinghurst
I haven't been here, so I can't comment, but I've heard good things about it.
Again, without having tried this restaurant, my favourite dessert is the bread and butter pudding at Restaurant Balzac. I love the fact that the top of the pudding comes to the table slightly brûléed.

Longrain's banana fritters with palm sugar ice cream is just too good. I have come to Longrain just to share the dessert platter (with 2 or more people!). Glad to see it on the list as a runner up.

Sweet Potato Chips

These are the best chips, so easy to make, but it does require deep-frying. It won't work if you put the sweet potato strips in the oven - you will never get that level of crispness you get from frying in a wok full of oil!

I served it with a wasabi dill dip.

1 medium sized sweet potato
canola/vegetable oil for deep frying

Dipping sauce
3/4 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 tsp wasabi
2 tsp chopped dill
1 tb lemon juice
salt & pepper to season

  1. Heat up the oil in a wok.
  2. Used a good vegetable peeler and peel sweet potato into thin strips.
  3. Fry the strips in the oil.
    Drain the fried potato strips well on paper towels.
  4. Mix the dip ingredients, and serve with the chips.
  5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Donna Hay Issue 46, Aug/Sep 2009

The latest Donna Hay magazine is fantastic.

I was flicking through it today, and it's great for a couple of reasons:

It's answered some questions I've had in my head recently:
  • How much gelatine powder do I need to replace gelatine leaves? (pg 71)
  • What's the best use of dried porcini mushrooms? (pg 67)
  • How to best make choc top ice creams (pg 70)
More than three recipes I'd like to try and I think are quite do-able (which is unusual), like..:
  • roasted haloumi, bacon and tomato salad (pg 45)
  • step-by-step creme caramel (pg 52), and variations
  • salt and pepper quail (pg 96)
  • roasted parsley lamb with cream potato gratin (pg 122)
  • crispy seafood with herb dipping sauce (pg 122)
  • honeycomb soufflés (pg 138)
As a disclaimer, I don't work for donna hay, or am in anyway affiliated with the publication.

Check it out, this issue has got to be one of their best. Watch this space because I'll let you know how the recipes turn out!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sweet Pork Noodle Soup

This is a dish my mother-in-law made for us when she came over for dinner one time. It was so tasty and simple to make that I have replicated this dish many times over. It's especially good to make for large groups of people, but here's the recipe for two. The recipe is something I've sort of made up according to what I think it should taste like.

The pork mince should turn out sweet (mostly from the kecap manis), with a good dose of ginger and garlic.


1 tbs peanut/vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbs diced/grated ginger
400g pork mince
5 tbs kecap manis**
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs shiau xing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 packet thin egg noodles*
1 cup chicken stock
sesame oil
2 shallots for a garnish
2 tbs light soy sauce

Pork mince
  1. Put oil, garlic and ginger in a cold frying pan and put on medium heat. Fry garlic and ginger until fragrant, but not browned.
  2. Add the pork mince to the pan and fry mince until cooked through.
  3. Add the shiau xing wine, then the kecap manis, oyster sauce and brown sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste (I like to add quite a bit of white pepper).
Chicken soup
  1. You can make your own chicken broth from scratch, which I like to do but you can just as easily heat up 1 cup of chicken stock and season to taste.
  2. Add a dash of sesame oil for a smoky flavour to the broth.
  1. Cook the noodles* according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Place 1 tbs light soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil in the bottom of each bowl.
  3. Place a portion of noodles in each bowl and mix through.
  4. Place a few tablespoons of the pork mince mixture on top of the noodles. Garnish with some shallots cut on the diagonal.
  5. Pour a bit of chicken broth over the noodle and mince, just to moisten the dish.
    (note: There shouldn't be too much soup in the bowl!). Just enough soup to soak up some of the sauces in the mince and make a tasty soup.
  6. Enjoy!
*Don't worry if you can't make it to the Asian grocery store for egg noodles - you can find some egg noodles or something similar near the fresh pasta in of your local Coles/Woolies.

** Below is my kecap manis of choice. The ABC brand is fine, but if you can find this brand it's worth getting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Newtown Thai

There are heaps of Thai restaurants down King St, and a few who offer $6 lunch specials. Thai La Ong, Thai La Ong 2, Thai Times 9, Newtown Thai & Newtown Thai 2 to name a few.

There's only one that's worth mentioning today, and that's Newtown Thai -not Newtown Thai 2, but Newtown Thai (full stop). They make the best Pad See Ew I've ever had (yes, big call), and for $6, it's pretty unbeatable value.

Pad See Ew $6 (Lunch Special)
Wide, flat noodles stir fried in a sweet, brown sauce, with your choice of beef/chicken/pork/tofu. My husband chooses pork, I choose beef (to ensure that they don't just cook one big batch and divide it in two - quality control!).

One of the best things about this dish is that the green vegetables that come in this pad see ew are vibrantly green and deliciously crisp. I usually finish other noodle dishes with a small pile of the limp green veges on one side of the plate, but not with this noodle dish.

Also, it's served with a mystery black powder on the top. Is it a type of pepper? Don't know, but it sure makes it taste good.

177 King St, Newtown 2042 NSW
phone: (02) 9557 2425
hours: Open daily 11.30am-3.00pm, 5.30pm-11.00pm


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