Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jamie's 15-Minute Meal (in ONE hour) - San Fran Quinoa and Blackened Chicken Salad

So this post should really be called Jamie's 1-hour meal - because that's how long it took me to make it! Oh Jamie, how you make all culinary undertakings look like a piece of cake (and sometimes they actually involve cake).

I was actually inspired to make this meal because:
  1. Jamie made it look amazingly easy - he did it in 15 minutes!
  2. It involved the wonderful marriage of mango and chicken *I lovee*
  3. It looked full of healthy goodness and I definitely needed some after eating like a pig in KL!
Fun fact - shopping for the ingredients took me more than 15 minutes!! (34 minutes to be exact)

But I was determined to give it a go. So after hunting down ALL the ingredients (no compromises at all), I was ready to embark on my supposed 15-minute meal-making journey.

Alas, it was not to be (15 minutes, I mean) :( 15 minutes after setting out to make my meal, I found myself still peeling my spring onions, and then peeling my mango, and then freaking out because my quinoa hadn't cooked in the 8 minutes that Jamie said it would. Oh life - why can't you ever be even the teeniest bit like what we see on TV?

The aim of this post, unlike what the previous few paragraphs may lead you to think, is not to belittle Jamie's 15-minute meals for taking longer than 15 minutes to make, but actually to share what I think is a fairly successful effort at replicating something from a cooking show (albeit taking 4 times longer). And it is indeed a nice, healthy little recipe that all you health freaks out there will love to death because, get this, it actually tastes and looks amazing! The contrasting flavours - sweet mango, spicy and smokey chicken, tangy lime-drenched quinoa; the lovely colours - reds, yellows, greens; the varying textures - soft, crunchy, chewy... Mmmm :)

I kept the quinoa, chicken, and capsicum separate and only assembled my salad in single serve portions. You'll be glad to know that the quinoa mixed with the herbs keeps well in the fridge for a few days and still maintains its lovely green colour. All components can be easily reheated (stove/microwave/oven). OH and also, I think the salad would work just as well with firm tofu replacing the chicken - blackened tofu! Yummayy.

So without further ado, here is the recipe as taken from Jamie's website:

Jamie's San Fran Quinoa and Blackened Chicken Salad


Quinoa salad
1 mug (300g) of quinoa (I used a mix of 3 types of quinoa)
1 fresh red chilli
100g baby spinach
4 spring onions
1 bunch of fresh coriander
1 bunch of fresh mint
1 ripe large mango
2 limes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ripe avocado (I omitted this just because I didn't feel like handling an avocado
50g feta cheese (I used Danish feta - it has a creamier texture than Greek feta)
1 punnet of cress (I couldn't find cress, so I substituted it with snow bean sprouts. Big mistake - sprouts taste weird in this salad. I would use real cress or nothing at all when I make it in the future.)

2 x 200g skinless chicken breasts
1 heaped tsp ground allspice
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
olive oil
2 mixed-colour peppers

To serve
4 tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt (I used Greek yoghurt - love the texture and tang)


Put the quinoa into the pan and generously cover with boiling water and the lid. Put the chilli, spinach, trimmed spring onions and coriander (reserving a few leaves) into the processor, tear in the top leafy half of the mint, then blitz until finely chopped. On a large sheet of greaseproof paper, toss the chicken with salt, pepper, the allspice and paprika. Fold over the paper, then bash and flatten the chicken to 1.5cm thick with a rolling pin. Put into the frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turning after 3 or 4 minutes, until blackened and cooked through.

De-seed the peppers, cut each one into 8 strips and add to the frying pan, tossing regularly. Peel and cut the mango into chunks. Drain the quinoa and rinse under the cold tap, then drain well again and tip on to a serving board or platter. Toss with the blitzed spinach mixture, squeeze over the lime juice, add the extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste.

Sprinkle the mango chunks and cooked peppers over the quinoa. Halve and de-stone the avocado, then use a teaspoon to scoop curls of it over the salad. Slice up the chicken, toss the slices in any juices and add to the salad. Crumble over the feta, scatter over the remaining coriander leaves and snip over the cress. Serve with dollops of yoghurt.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Divine Experiences @ St Ali

Sorry guys - this post is more about the food at St Ali than the coffee at St Ali... Just putting it out there right at the start so that all you coffee-fanatics aren't disappointed when you reach the end of it and realise that I've mentioned the coffee a grand total of THREE times. (Yup, it's been mentioned twice already in this paragraph - so expect one final mention later-on in this post, i.e. 2 + 1 = 3 :p)

So I'd never eaten at St Ali until 2 months ago when my housemates and I decided to try it out after our forage through the South Melbourne market. I'd never wanted to eat at St Ali before because I'd heard that the food was generally overpriced and overrated. Harsh.

But boy oh boy was I in for a surprise! It turned out that they had revamped their WHOLE menu and I found my eyes glazing over from the divine descriptions of each item on offer. Did I want a "My Mexican Cousin" or a "63 Degrees Above (Not Below)" or "The Full Spanglish"? So much to try, but so little stomach space... (Did I hear someone say "first world problems"?)

Sigh. Life is tough sometimes.

So after some serious life/death contemplation, I decided to give the 63 degrees dish a go. Eggs cooked at 63 degrees for 63 minutes, sprinkled with "migas" (crispy fried bread), topped with cauliflower puree, white truffle oil and candied prosciutto. It was like I'd died and gone to heaven. Seriously. The white truffle oil and prosciutto were the icing on the cake for this dish. I was one happy person :)

My housemate's mom, who had joined us for brunch, ordered the syphon coffee - I must say, for a person who really isn't into this whole scene, it's a pretty cool concept. Watching how it was brewed and passed through the filter using a siphon made me really miss my chemistry lab classes. Nerd much?

63 Degrees Above (Not Below) - how precise...
So good was my experience that 2 months ago that I vowed to return to try the other dishes on the menu. And so I did, a few weeks later. This time I ordered the "My Mexican Cousin" with St Ali's home-made chorizo on the side. Warning: this is one massive meal - small bird-sized eaters like me will definitely be better of sharing it with another person. If the 63 degrees eggs had taken me to heaven, this meal was the god of all gods. I cannot remember being more blown away... (Except that time when the crazy Melbourne wind literally blew me away..)

Secret recipe corn fritters - so light and fluffy and corny (they are made of corn after all) on the inside and crispy deep-fried goodness on the outside. The beauty of it almost brought me to tears.. Topped with fresh tomato, salad leaves, grilled haloumi & kasundi (tomato relish) with poached eggs, and not forgetting the awesome chorizo on the side. Guys, if you only have one chance to check-out St Ali, THIS is the dish you want to be ordering. Trust me - you won't regret it.

My Mexican Cousin
The service was your regular hipster-style experience (i.e. more cool than warm). The ambience was great - giant warehouse, lots of natural sunlight, lively brunch crowd - you really can't ask for more.

Defs worth checking out. Mind you, expect to be around $25 poorer at the end of it.

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Breakfast Club Meeting Numero Cuatro @ The Duchess of Spotswood, Spotswood

After a looooong break, the BC is back in action!!

My musical forays are temporarily over, and so now I can focus on my love of food again!! (NB: I'm ABLE to multi-task, I just don't have the TIME to..)

So the Breakfast Clubbers (sans good 'ol Nintendo DS who was away partying it up in Singapore) happily trudged to Spotswood. It had been about 2 months since our previous meeting so we were naturally very excited! (And also slightly sad that DS couldn't make it). It had been EP's turn to choose a cafe - and The Duchess it was.

So MK, the walking map of Melbourne, and I made our way from Parkville to Spotswood through the secret back roads that we knew so well - zipping through industrial and residential areas that we knew like the backs of our hands (no need for GPS!). Until we reached a road closure... Uh-oh. Then the real test began... Using our natural sense of direction, MK and I managed to wind up in 2 consecutive dead ends before we finally conceded defeat and consulted the trusty iPhone navigator.

We managed to arrive at our destination only 15 minutes late! EP and AA were already inside and gave us amused smiles as MK and I giggled and guffawed recounting our journey. It was another 10 minutes before BNL (formerly known as BL - the newly added N stands for Ninja, coz he so stealthay!) literally stopped traffic as he crossed the road, en route to silently materialising in the empty chair at our table. We enquired regarding his secret ninja training, but he wasn't going to give up the secret that easily to us non-ninjas!

The service was laid-back and friendly - no super hipster types here. The ambience was bright and welcoming - I really liked the white walls and the glass door and windows that let plenty of sunshine in.

The menu consisted of interesting and quirky-named dishes like "Breakfast of champignons", "Poetry (in motion)" and "Duchess of pork". Loved the names! EP ordered the breakfast of champignons - mushrooms on a potato+barley hash with poached eggs and English stilton. Stilton is a type of cheese - it was very yummy. The poached eggs were poached to perfection, which was good because the first time I'd been to Duchess, my poached eggs had been overcooked..

AA ordered a more traditional eggs on toast with mushroom and bacon on the side, BNL had the Duchess of pork - crispy pig’s jowl with fried eggs, rich truffle sauce, and sourdough toast. Oh. Man. The. Pork. And that truffle sauce. What a combo. Yum. If I hadn't had so much pork the night before (birthday celebrations at Hoffbrauhaus), I would've ordered that dish too. So I decided that I was in the mood for some Poetry (in motion) instead. Poached seasonal pears, apricots, and prunes with puffed grains and vanilla yoghurt. The mix of soft, crunchy and chewy textures was absolutely delightful! 'Twas poetry indeed. MK had the Simple Pleasures - thinly sliced toast with roast beetroots, candied walnuts, goat curd and poached eggs. So easy to please.. Haha.

And so we talked and ate, and were (very) merry. I was particularly off my rocker that morning for some reason, much to the amusement of the others. Think lack of brain to mouth filter. EP kindly photographed each of us (except himself) to send to DS, to show her what she was missing (what a friend). To which DS replied "but where's EP?". Lollers. All-in-all, another fun BC outing.

And so with full bellies and light hearts, we parted ways, knowing that another BC outing was soon to come.

Already looking forward to the next one!

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Breakfast Club Meeting Numero Tres @ The Cornershop, Yarraville

The Cornershop!

It's actually at a corner!

(I only figured this out as we were leaving the cafe.. Brilliant minds can be a bit slow sometimes...)

It was MK's turn to choose a place for our next BC meeting and having a friend who calls Yarraville home, The Cornershop was suggested. Being a bit of a noob when it comes to suburbs other than South Melbourne, North Carlton, North Melbourne and a select few others, I hadn't realised that such a quaint-sounding suburb even existed! Well, I should have known better. Yarraville is the epitome of trendy suburban Melbourne. Its main street is packed chock-a-block with all sorts of weird and wonderful-looking shops, the roadways lined with cars on either side, leaving just enough room for only 1 car to drive through at a time... (wait for it...) on a TWO-way street!

And so fate would have it, that just as DS and I were trawling through this treacherous narrow twig of a road space thing, we came face-to-face (as close as road vehicles go) with a giant Land Rover! Seriously?! Yes, apparently so.. So after some nifty maneuvering by DS, we finally managed to get past and drove on to find a parking spot.

BC newcomer AA was at hand to get us a table. What a chilly morning it was! AA, DS and me waiting at the corner of The Corner Shop, shivering in anticipation of our 3rd BC escapade (and also the cold). Oh what fun. There was however, a very cute beagle puppy that made waiting outside so much more bearable. It was absolutely adorable! But was unfortunately whisked away all too quickly by its owner who expertly packed it into the lower rung of his baby's pram! Yes, the little beagle puppy has its own little pram spot. I nearly exploded from the cuteness of what had just unfolded before me.

We were soon joined by good 'ol BL, all smartly dressed, looking like a local who had just strolled down to the cafe for his regular cup of coffee. And then we were given a table! Yes, finally.

Our table was around the back, in a very interesting enclosure that consisted of timber columns and beams supporting a frosted roof and transparent plastic walls. It felt like were outdoors, but not really. I thought it was pretty cool. The inside is quite different in that it has a bit more of an old school charm - perhaps it was the wooden shelf behind the counter, lined with bottles and jars that made it feel so (or the ladder leaning against the back wall, or the ceiling fans hanging from the dark timber ceiling, or a combination of all of the above..). Yes, I will stop my (somewhat poetic) rambling now.

You must be waiting to hear about the food.

Ok, so about the food:

I ordered myself the (erm...) potato cake thingy on some yoghurt other thing, and I think there were tiny bits of cucumber in there somewhere? Definitely drizzled with olive oil... Yes, I have left this post for too long, and alas have forgotten the name of the dish I had ordered! But all's good - a picture does paint a thousand words. So I shall say no more about this dish of mine, and let the pictures do the talking. Hah!

BL's scrambled eggs looked gooood - nice and fluffy and soft and packed with eggy goodness. YUM.

'Twas a nice meal indeed - and good service too. I was happy. And relaxed. And full. And so were my fellow BCBs.

And so, with our hearts warmed, and our bellies filled, we made our way out of this precious cafe, back to where it all started - the corner. And it was at precisely at this time that it occurred to me why the place was named so.

And with that ended our 3rd BC meeting. More fun times ahead!!

BC meetings have been put-off for a while due to my musical commitments, and the fact that everyone else seems to have something on on Saturday mornings. Those social butterflies.

But they will be back soon :) Hopefully in 1 month or so. The 5/6/7 of us will be gathering to share our love of Melbournian breakfasts once more.

But until then, more random blog posts :D

The Cornershop on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 2, 2012

Famous Restaurants = Great Expectations?

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a few friends and recounting my dining experiences at the restaurants that previous seasons of Masterchef had opened my eyes to. Being completely objective on the matter, I had to admit that most of those experiences had failed to meet my expectations. Expectations that had been built up by watching the famed chefs of famed restaurants cook on the oh-so-popular Masterchef, be it the celebrity chef cook-off, or an Adriano Zumbo-style "replicate my amazing 8 layer vanilla cake" challenge.

There was The Press Club - I was pretty impressed by it the first time I was there. I had lunch there with my aunt and uncle, and I remember the lamb dish where each bite was like a little mouthful of heaven. This was in 2009, i.e. pre-Masterchef. Post Masterchef, I would be lying if I said that I was blown away by my degustation meal... It was really tasty and well-presented, but somehow just wasn't quite the nearly life-changing meal I was expecting it to be. And yes Masterchef is to blame for this. Don't get me wrong, I love watching Masterchef, as I do any other good cooking show. But this show really built up my expectations of what amazing food would taste like. And the reality of the meal just didn't match how I had imagined it would taste.. For those who don't know - George Calombaris, one of the Masterchef judges, is the owner and head chef of Press Club. Press Club was featured in a group challenge on the show in 2010 where contestants had to prepare the degustation menu for the re-opening of the restaurant. The food looked a lot tastier on TV...

The other restaurant that surprisingly didn't quite meet my expectations was Quay in Sydney. Best restaurant in Australia and some amazing organic farm up in some hill/mountain where they get their fresh produce from, I was expecting a van Gogh-esque experience of culinary art. Didn't quitee meet the mark there. Sad, but true. The food was amazing, but was let down by little things that I was surprised a place like Quay would have overlooked. There were a few very strong tasting pieces of tuna sashimi in one of my dishes, I had been expecting each dish to knock my socks off - but the explosions of flavour were more Molotov cocktail than nuclear bomb.. Underwhelming. I had the famous guava snow egg desert that became famous for being the ultimate final challenge on Masterchef - it was amazingly tasty, but the meringue had a flat egg white taste that didn't appeal to me. My baby cousin's banana porridge probably has more flavour.

Now I know that you must be thinking "wow, those are some crazy expectations!", but hey - I only built them up to be what they were based on what I saw and heard on TV... Can you really blame me?

The point of this post isn't to complain about each and every flaw in these restaurants' dishes, it's just me voicing my thoughts on how our expectations can be inflated so much by what we watch on TV.

Having said that, you will be glad to know that as a result of this philosophical exercise, I now know not to let my expectations build up too much. Food is food - it may look amazing on TV, and the TV people may talk them up to be the amazing concoctions that they may potentially be, but I'm not buying half of it until I've tried the food for myself. Hah!

Also, it is important to note that these expectations that I refer to in this post are only in relation to certain fine dining experiences I've had. Give me a good ol' Malaysian char kuay teow from the road-side hawker any day and I will not even think of complaining. Street food is gooood - cheap, simple, and packed with flavour (and also some other ingredients best left unknown..). It's the expensive stuff that I reserve my harsh judgement for.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chicken Pad Kra Pao!

Yes, I'm doing it - 2 posts in as many days!! "What is this?!" you may ask? Well, I think I'm on a bit of a roll :)

And, I figured that there's no point putting-off this post till later because I'll have to write about my Breakfast Club Outing Numero Tres soon, and I can't have this in the way!

Oh and also, I'm a little bit VERY kinda proud about how my pad kra pao turned out! It tasted pretty authentic too if I do say so myself. See, I'm actually 1/16th Thai (my great-great grandma was Thai), so maybe it's the teeny bit of Thai blood in me that made me so naturally good at producing this dish... *coughselfpraisecough*

The reason why I chose to make this dish was because I have sweet basil growing in my little herb corner. True, it's sweet basil and not Thai basil, but hey, as they say: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade! My herb corner gave me sweet basil, so I made pad kra pao with sweet basil. True story. I was a little worried that the flavour of the basil wouldn't be strong enough to cut through the fish sauce and chilli, but I was pleasantly surprised.

So here's what I did:

Pad Kra Pao (Minced Chicken Stir-fried with Basil)
  • Minced chicken (surprise!) - I used one breast and one thigh, so roughly 350g
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced (or diced)
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely (I like it a little spicy, so I left some seeds in...)
    **Warning** DON'T scratch/rub your eyes, nose, or any other body part after slicing the chilli... even if you've washed your hands, it will still sting. I learned the hard way. Not fun.
  • A few sprigs of basil, should be Thai basil, but I used sweet basil (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 2 stalks of spring onion, sliced finely - not traditionally included in the dish, but I had some leftover so I just threw it in (literally)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of light soy sauce (depends on how salty you like your food to be)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for frying
  • Pinch of pepper (I didn't add any pepper in this version, but I will next time!)
So to start, just heat the oil up in a frying pan and, over a medium fire, fry the garlic, onion and chilli until fragrant and browning (not burning!).

Then add the minced chicken, fish sauce and soy sauce and stir vigorously (at this point, my arm started to ache...), once the chicken is cooked (i.e. it doesn't look like raw meat), add the spring onions and basil and keep stirring until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates. MOST of the liquid, not all of it. About 4/5 of the liquid should evaporate, in my opinion.

Then just serve it with some steamed jasmine rice and a fried egg! :) You can also make this dish with minced pork. But I prefer chicken.


Peace out (homies).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Indian-style Deep-fried Eggplant

So I was craving some home-style deep-fried eggplant like my mom used to make. Being in Melbourne, far away from anyone who could/would make it for me, I endeavoured to make some myself :)

I loveeee lebanese eggplants - bought some from Woolies a few days back. Yummay! I also happened to have some spring onion shoots and half an onion rolling around the vege compartment in my fridge. Perfect :) My mom never used spring onions in her version, but I figured that I might as well throw them in to add some colour and extra flavour to the dish.

So about 30 minutes later (I'm still quite slow in the kitchen!), my eggplant dish was finally ready. Taste test: It tasted pretty darn good! (Phew) I ate is with steamed rice, but it should taste pretty good with any type of bread or couscous as well. And it will be a really good side dish to be served with lamb curry (or lamb kebabs, or lamb anything!). Lamb and eggplant seem to go so well together!

Indian-style Deep-fried Eggplant
  • 2 Lebanese eggplants, halved lengthwise and finely sliced (2-3mm thick)
  • 1/2 large red onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of spring onions, sliced in 5mm bits
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced however you like (I like chunky pieces)
  • 5-6 dried red chillies
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli powder (omit or reduce as you like)
  • Salt - used to soak the eggplants in before frying
  • Oil for deep-frying
First, I soaked the sliced eggplant in a bowl of water with about 1 tablespoon of salt in it - this prevents the eggplant from discolouring and also makes the eggplants less bitter. I left it to soak for about 20 minutes while I sliced my onion, spring onions and garlic.

Then I drained the water from the eggplant bowl and threw in the cumin, turmeric and chilli powder and gave the concoction a good mix to coat each piece as evenly as possible.

Got my oil heated up in a wok - it needs to be really hot or you'll get soggy, oily eggplant pieces. I test if the oil is hot enough by 'sacrificing' a piece of eggplant - if it sizzles vigorously when dropped into the oil, it means the oil is hot enough. (Deep-frying for dummies :p)

Deep-fry the eggplant in batches (note: overcrowded wok = soggy eggplant) and set it aside - you know it's fried when it turns a golden brown.

In a separate frying pan over a medium fire, with a teeny bit of oil, I fried the dried chilli and curry leaves till fragrant (about 30 seconds), then threw in the garlic and onion and fried them for 3-5 minutes until soft and just turning a nice golden colour.

I then threw in the spring onions and fried the mixture a little bit more (about 2 minutes), and added the eggplant back into the mixture. Stir for a few more minutes, and voila! The dish is ready :)

And then the best part - serve and EAT!

(Would've loved to add some mustard seeds - about 1 teaspoon - to the dish, but alas, I had run out!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Elceed(s) Expectations :)

Is the title too much of a fail at wordplay??

Well, it's going to have to do because I can't seem to think of anything better at this point in time. Meh.

So Elceed opened just a few months ago, and I stumbled upon photos of its food on my Facebook newsfeed (I know what you're thinking - no, I wasn't stalking!). And it was put on my list of breakfast places to check out. Yes, I have a list for that. I also have a list for anything else that lists can be made for. I love lists. It makes my scattered and constantly confuddled mind a bit less so.

So I did get a chance to check it out (hooray!), and I loved it! This place, like Mixed Business, also has a cosy little backyard eating area with lots of potted plants and wooden tables and stools. It is more spacious than the backyard at Mixed Business, but has a similar vibe. I was really happy that we had the chance to sit there. The place was fairly quiet for a Saturday afternoon... which was a bit of a pity because it is a really nice cafe! So naturally, it should have more patrons... *hint hint*.

The food was very good - well-presented (passes the initial "needs to look like something you'd actually want to eat" test), each dish had a very good mix of components that contrasted and balanced well with each other, and (most importantly) the flavours and cooking methods were well executed (e.g. the grilled haloumi, candied prosciutto, poached eggs).

I had the Meredith goat's cheese with mushrooms, rocket and candied prosciutto on toast. This is a dish that I would highly recommend - that candied prosciutto - oh man. Delicate thin slices of prosciutto, candied to perfection with just the right amount of fat marbled through. It was practically singing out to me from the paddle it was served on (think Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma). Every bite made a soft crunching sound, the texture of which contrasted so well with the creamy goat's cheese and the soft, juicy mushrooms.

The other dishes sampled were the poached eggs (which JWT - the Matt Preston of poached eggs - pronounced to be perfectly poached) with spinach, yoghurt and dukkah on toast; the poached eggs with grilled haloumi and bacon on sourdough; and the upside down apricot and mandarin teacake served with clotted cream. I lurved the teacake - it was moist, and soft, the pieces of apricot and mandarin on top were sweet and tangy, and that clotted cream on the side was the cherry on top of the cake, so to speak.

And of course, I ordered myself a chai latte. Seriously, I've been having random and uncontrolled cravings for chai latte over the past few days. Damn female hormones.. On that note, I'm not entirely convinced that this beverage should even be called a chai latte because it literally translates to be "tea milk" (chai means tea in Hindi, and latte means milk in Italian)... ?? And then there's the obvious fact that it's a term that is an amalgamation of 2 completely different languages. Catch my drift?

But anyway, back to my chai latte/spiced tea with milk thing:

I'm pretty sure that I actually squealed out loud in amusement and delight when my chai tea was served, not exactly because I was that excited about the tea (there's only so much you can do with the drink), but because the teapot that it was served in was sooo quirky!! It looked like something from a chemistry lab that had been modified to vaguely resemble a teapot - a beaker with a lid and a spout, little bits of coiled metal in it (to strain the tea), and a handle that is effectively a spring bent into a hyperbolic curve! An endearing combo of cute and geeky. *Squee* The engineer in me found it very appealing and worthy of further examination and appreciation.

Seriously, the place is worth checking out. Now, don't all go at once - I think part of its charm is also the fact that it isn't packed and hectic like most other Melbournian brunch spots. It's the kind of place that, on a good day, you could sit at the back, in the sun, amidst the hanging flower pots, with your favourite book, while you sip your tea/coffee and lazily consume (or devour) your meal of choice.

Elceed on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 17, 2012

White Chocolate and Almond Fudge

So I've just been to the gym (actually 3 hours ago), and I swear that I can still feel an ample amount of endorphins coursing through my veins. Either that, or I'm just feeling super happy for no particular reason... (Yes, I thought so too - the former is the most likely explanation :p)

While I'm in the mood, I figured that I might as well share what I whipped up last week after being inspired by an episode of Masterchef.

I came across the recipe for white chocolate and almond fudge on a friend's blog, Bake Cook Eat, and had been meaning to try it ever since I'd read the recipe. This was my first attempt at making fudge. I was unable to identify the "softball" stage that Sam talks about in her post... But my fudge did set very well in the end :)

Evaporated milk, sugar and butter. Mmmm... :)

Next on my list is to make a dark chocolate and almond fudge, when I find the time... I think the bitterness of the dark chocolate will offset the sweetness of all that sugar very well.

P.S. I think the endorphins are wearing off... starting to feel sleepy..

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breakfast Club Meeting - Numero Dos @ Mixed Business, Queens Parade, Clifton Hill

So it turns out that I have a combo of a congested nose, sore throat and an ear infection. Score.

It's 6.30pm - too early to go to sleep. So the next best thing I can do is *drum roll* *cue suspense music* write another blog post! :) The other thing I could do is finish reading "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"... but I'm already nearly at the end of the book, so I'm trying to read it as slowly as possible to make it last longer :p

Which leaves me in my present condition - all warm and snug under my awesome doona with my awesome new doona cover, sipping my green tea with lemon and lemongrass, and typing this post.

So anyway, enough with the random facts.

BC meeting numero dos (I like saying the number bit in Spanish coz it just sounds cooler... and slightly silly as well - a charming combination, kinda like me..). DS suggested that we check out Mixed Business in Clifton Hill. I had never heard of the place before and therefore wasn't really sure what to expect. Thus I had no expectations (just in case you didn't get that from the previous sentence).

So took a leisurely tram ride, the number 86 tram to Bundoora, down Smith Street and Queens Parade to Mixed Business. It was a gloomy day with no blue sky in sight, and quite cold too. But I had volunteered (images of the scene from The Hunger Games where Katniss Everdeen frantically yells "I volunteer!!" pop into my head as I type this) to go earlier to get us a table.

I was determined not to overshoot my stop, and ended up getting off one stop too early instead!! Epic fail - when am I ever going to get this right? But anyway, it was actually a good thing because I then had the chance to walk through the quaint shops and cafes that line the start of Queens Parade in a setting that is an intriguing combination of a little bit hipster, a little bit granny, and a little bit Modern Family. Well, at least that's my take on it :)

And so I walked, and walked, and walked a bit more... Past all the nice little shops, past some slightly dodgy-looking houses, past some nicer looking houses, past some abandoned shop lots (think eerie, broken windows)... And finally! After all that walking, like an inviting tropical island getaway in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, stood Mixed Business! Spilling out onto the five-foot way with benches and seats for those more inclined to enjoy the (at that time, non-existent) sunshine in all its bright, UV-filled glory.

So I had to wait about 25 minutes to get a table large enough for us 5 Breakfast Clubbers. But I didn't mind at all, because right next to Mixed Business, equally random in it's location, was a flower shop! A very quirky, artsy flower shop. And they sold very cool seedlings of fruits, vegetables and herbs that I happily rummaged through while waiting for a table, wishing that I could be fortunate enough to have a garden to plant them in.

So finally everyone arrived, except for EP who was a little late from his basketball session. We sat down, and I ordered myself a soy chai!! The others got all sorts of coffees...

The crowd was very interesting - there were the hipsters, the cheerful retirees, the lone guy with an interesting tattoo on his arm, the soccer mom with her 2 sons sitting at the counter right by the window, and there was us. The cafe also has a neat line of two-seater tables lining a little lane around the back, in a cute, unkempt and enduring garden. There was also a table for 4 nestled amongst the plants - I would have loved to sit there had we been fortunate enough to arrive at a time when the table was clearing. Next time!

The service was prompt and efficient. Simple, no fuss - just the way I like it to be.

Chai! Soy Chai :)
On to the food!

DS faced a very serious dilemma in choosing between the smoked salmon, pickled beetroot, dill & creme fraiche with poached eggs on toast and the gingerbread waffles with maple syrup, baked apple, vanilla bean ice cream and candied walnuts. But yours truly, the super problem-solving machine, suggested that she have the smoked salmon as her main meal, and we could all share the gingerbread waffles after. That way she would have the chance to try both and not have to worry about finding space in her stomach to finish 2 full-sized dishes. Yay!! Problem solved!


This time, we were more adventurous and ordered a different dish each. So DS had the smoked salmon dish mentioned above, I ordered the roast field mushrooms with goat's cheese, hazelnuts and greens on toast, BL had the minute fillet steak with smoked tomato sauce, mushroom, and greens with free range eggs on sourdough, MK had the avocado and house marinated fetta (with a poached egg on the side) on organic sourdough toast, and EP had the grilled pancetta, slow roast tomato and parmesan with free range poached eggs on sourdough toast.

Everyone really enjoyed their food - the bread was awesome, my mushroom dish was very yummy, and EP's pancetta looked like little crunchy strips of bliss. And then the pièce de résistance: The gingerbread waffles that came not only with maple syrup, but also baked apples (do I hear your tummy say YUM?), vanilla bean ice cream AND candied walnuts. Yes - it was all that we expected it to be, and more. It was a lovely construction of warm, golden-hued components, topped with a scoop of that delectable vanilla bean ice cream. I couldn't think of a better way to end our meal :)

And now, you can feast your eyes on the food. Enjoy! (P.S. I cropped some of my photos in a new and cool way...)


Smoked salmon heaven

Avocado n eggs.. Mmmm :)

Mush"vroom!" Mushroom, hazelnut and goat's cheese *sigh*

Artsy photo crop - grilled pancetta

To Die For - Gingerbread Waffles


Look at allllllll the space!

Mixed Business on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Breakfast Club Meeting - Numero Uno @ Proud Mary, Oxford Street, Collingwood

Recently, some of my workmates and I realised that we share a passion (yes, passion is the right word to use here) for trying out new breakfast places around Melbourne. The natural next step was to (OBVIOUSLY) form a Breakfast Club. At that time, I was unaware of the fact that this was the name of an 80s movie that was apparently quite big in the 80s... Not that I would know.. The DVD is still sitting on my desk waiting to be watched (courtesy of fellow Breakfast Clubber, DS).

So anyway, back to the subject matter of this post: Armed with a copy of The Age's Cheap Eats Guide, we decided upon Proud Mary as the venue for our first ever Breakfast Club meeting. *Life changing moment* (Not really... but kinda a little bit...) So on one slightly gloomy, slightly chilly Saturday morning, me and my fellow Breakfast Club Buddies (BCBs) trudged down to Oxford Street for the exciting event that was our inaugural club meeting!

Proud Mary is housed in a very cool industrial-looking building, on the corner of a misleadingly quiet street just off Smith Street. Being the tram-ride junkie that I am, I kinda got carried away daydreaming on the tram and missed the stop and then had to struggle with the annoying GPS on my phone to direct me back to the correct street! (My brain was faster than the GPS... That's how slow it was :p)

There is something about that area that I took an immediate liking to. If you want to get a table quickly, you HAVE to go early. Even then, quickly may well be a 10 minute wait... The good thing is that, there is plenty of off-street parking for those who drive.

Our waiter was very enthusiastic and animated and happily bustled about serving us our drinks to start. I ordered a chai latte and was slightly upset that it wasn't served in a teapot. But still, it was good chai - I can't complain. The others had the coffee, which is apparently pretty good. So after my chai, I had a weak flat white. I can appreciate that the coffee was good (well-roasted, good source? I have not idea how to describe good coffee apart from saying that it tasted good..) Despite it being a weak flat white, it was still too strong for me. Talk about unnecessary energy... and no outlet for it...

My Chai Latte
MK was running late but still managed to get there before our food was served. She ordered her heirloom tomatoes, avocado and feta on toast, and it was served before all our orders, that we had put in a good 20 minutes before she'd arrived! After picking each and every piece of tomato out of the amalgamation of vegie and cheese, she finally commenced her eating. I was slightly upset that our super-efficient and dedicated waiter cleared her plate so quickly that I didn't get the chance to eat the tomatoes that were left in a neat pile on her plate!

Avocado, heirloom tomatoes and feta on toast
My other 3 BCBs - BL, DS and EP - ordered the potato hash, a dish that is one of the most popular at this joint. I opted not to order it for my meal because it was served with a sauce called "bagna cauda" which is made from garlic, olive oil, butter and anchovies. I'm a bit very fussy about anchovies... The only ones I eat are the deep-fried salted and dried anchovies called "ikan bilis" in Malay. To be fair, I tried a bit of DS' bagna cauda and found it to be quite tasty. Just not really my thing though. It kinda reminded me of the unfortunate time that my mother had made ikan bilis soup (blegh!) and I had no choice but to consume it... :s But the others really enjoyed the hash and everything it came with - so it was obviously a winner! Another dead giveaway as to the quality of the food was the fact that our whole table was silent when the food arrived - being the foodies we are, we were just revelling in the haze of awesome tastiness that was the dish that had been placed in front of each of us. (That, and also, we were absolutely famished!)

I ordered the pork belly sandwich instead. It was pretty darn tasty! Loved the flavour combination of the sweet and smokey paprika, with the slightly charred pork belly, and the salty and slightly tangy aioli. The sandwich bread was also very, very yummy. So gooood :) It filled me up from 12pm all the way to 7pm!! (Yes, I have a fairly small stomach. I know.)

Overall, a very good start for the Breakfast Club! I think it's fair to say that everyone really enjoyed the meeting, company and the food (and coffee). Success!! :D

Stay tuned - a post about our second BC meeting is coming soon!! :) :)

Potato hash, poached egg, bacon, spinach and bagna cauda

Pork belly, smoked paprika relish and aioli

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Melbourne Through Fresh Eyes #2

Burch & Purchese, Chapel Street, South Yarra

We trekked down to Chapel Street to visit Burch & Purchese because I insisted that my sister just HAD to try their desserts (and also, it was on Masterchef!).

My sister apparently doesn't like ginger in desserts (amongst other things), so we couldn't have the awesome-looking green-themed piece of (dessert) art that I so badly wanted to try, the COCONUT | GINGER | PASSIONFRUIT | MINT - coconut mousse | passionfruit curd | coconut caviar | passionfruit jelly | salted oat & ginger crumble | white chocolate mint wafer | ginger macaroon | brilliant white chocolate spray. To be fair, I've tried it before, but wanted to have it again! Another time then.

Instead we tried the more conservative chocolate, mandarin and salted caramel "dessert thing" (Burch and Purchese never actually say what the dessert is, only what flavours are in them...) and the RASPBERRY, WHITE CHOCOLATE, HONEY, LYCHEE - white chocolate & raspberry mousse | raspberry & lychee jelly | museli & honey nut sponge | raspberry & hibiscus jam | honey lychee syrup | exaggerated raspberry cream | chocolate velvet spray.

See what I mean?

Funny :p

Had our desserts at the Alexandra Gardens in true Melbournian fashion. Both were very good, too much to have together in one meal though. But that's just me and my moderate (eating) ways.

Sorry for the lack of photos - my sister has them and she's not the best at sharing them! :D Go to the Burch and Purchese website to see their photos instead.

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio on Urbanspoon

Melbourne Through Fresh Eyes #1

I love showing people around Melbourne - taking them to my favourite food haunts, chilling in my favourite parks, ogling at my favourite buildings. And that's just what I did when my sister came to visit last week - we literally ate our way across the city, and spent the rest of the time either digesting all that food we'd eaten or absorbing the ambience of all the wonderful places we had visited.

Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch at De Clieu, Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

First food experience! I've personally been wanting to properly sample De Clieu's food properly since the last time I was there, I was too full to have anything more than a cup of coffee. So naturally, it was the perfect opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone, so to speak - show my sister one of Fitzroy's most famous cafés and get a chance to finally sample their food for myself :)

Caramelised pork neck and fried egg on roti - how pretty does it look?!

Heirloom tomatoes, avocado and buffalo mozzarella on toast
 We managed to get a spot inside, right by a large window, with lots of sunlight shining through and a cool breeze keeping us nice and fresh, countering the heat from the sun.

The food was amazing - simple, fresh, and oh-so-tasty. One of my friends had the cured kingfish on toast, I had the tomatoes, mozzarella and avocado on toast, and my sister had the pork neck on roti. I liked how all their dishes were light and fresh - perfect food to have in the stiffling heat on that day! We all left De Clieu feeling just the right amount of full, and very satisfied with our experience :)

De Clieu on Urbanspoon   

Vegie Bar (I LOVEEE VEGIE FOOD), Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

We then adjourned to the Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street for some good 'ol vegetarian/vegan/gluten free smoothies and desserts. We shared the sticky date pudding with vanilla ice cream - it was a mound of soft, golden pudding, drizzled generously with caramel sauce and perfectly complemented by 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream.

I had to try the Raw Shake (cacao, agave, and almond milk) - it was interesting... All the health food freaks out there would absolutely LOVE it. I found that the almond bits were a bit annoying - they kept getting stuck in my throat, but overall really enjoyed how healthy the shake tasted. It is probably the most guilt-free drink I've ever had in my life (apart from good ol' H20)!

I would love to go back and try their other food someday - it sounds like my cup of tea :D

Vegie Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne Through Fresh Eyes #3

The South Melbourne Experience - Brunch at Dead Man Espresso, followed by Dessert at Chez Dre = BLISS

Meal #1: Brunch @ Dead Man Espresso

Deadman's was the setting of probably one of my first few brunch experiences in Melbourne a good 4+ years back. I love the setup of the place, and the outdoor dining area at the front of the cafe with the high stools and wooden counters facing the street.

To be completely honest, the dish I had ordered (pork sausage et al) didn't really stand out for me - it was good, but was just missing something (I'm not entirely sure what). Having said that, the grilled bread was amazing. I love bread, and I love grilled food. Thus naturally, I loved the grilled bread. (There's some simple mathematical logic for you!) And the heirloom tomatoes were very yummy. I think the let down for me was the pork sausage that could have been a bit more exciting in terms of flavour..

JWT had the pork belly BLT which is apparently always superly duperly finger-lickingly, lip-smackingly good. And the gazpacho is apparently equally tasty. I trust his verdict - we have similar standards when it comes to food :)

My sister had the herbed rosti - she seemed pretty content with it, so I think it's safe to say that it was probably pretty good, but not mind-blowing. Too harsh?

Apparently the coffee here is amazing, but I wouldn't know - I had the chai tea :D JWT had a glass of "Magic" that was apparently quite magical..

Herbed rosti with poached egg, avocado and bacon

Pork belly BLT with gazpacho

Pork sausage, tomato, basil and poached egg on grilled bread
Dead Man Espresso on Urbanspoon  

Meal #2: Dessert @ Chez Dre

After our delightful brunch experience, we strolled down to Chez Dre. (I love how the two places were close enough to permit us to literally "stroll down" from one to the other).

I absolutely love looking at the desserts on display at Chez Dre. They really do make them very pretty, and display them very well.

Sooooo many desserts, soooo little space in my tummy!

Eye candy - pun intended

I also love the fact that it's a converted warehouse, and has an outdoor garden-style dining area.

The interior of Chez Dre

The gorgeous outdoor dining area at Chez Dre

My sister and I shared the salted caramel eclair and the jasmine tea crème. Both were truly amazing. I'd heard pretty good reviews about the desserts here, but never allowed myself to form any expectations until I had a chance to sample some of them for myself. And boy was I impressed!

Everything about each dessert was perfect - from the presentation, to the textures, to the flavour combinations. *Sigh*. I was in dessert heaven. The salted caramel eclairs were salty, sweet, soft, crunchy and gooey all in one! It had walnuts in it. Yum. The jasmine tea crème was a fondant-shaped chocolate mousse structure with a jasmine tea flavoured cream centre. Who would have thought that jasmine tea and chocolate would go so well together. My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All in all, I would highly recommend Chez Dre if you are looking for a place to have amazing dessert, in an equally amazing setting.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Place Called "Home"

Home is a Thai restaurant in Sydney, that I'd heard good things about and decided to check out whilst I was there a few weeks back.

I liked how they have their kitchen out near the front of the restaurant, and while waiting for a table, you can watch the kitchen staff prepare the food. They have a large selection of Thai food on offer - I had trouble picking just one dish for my meal!

To my delight, I noticed that they served mango with sticky rice!!! My FAVOURITE Thai dessert. No points for guessing what I had for dessert then :)

Had the Thai fish cakes ($8.90) as an entree, the seafood pad thai ($12.90) for my main meal, and the mango with sticky rice for dessert (I think it was $6.50). My stomach was filled to the point of exploding by the end of the meal (probably from expecting 3 food babies - food triplets). Still I was very happy and very satisfied :)

Initially I was told that they had run out of mangoes and so weren't serving the mango with sticky rice any more. I felt like a part of me had died. But then midway through my pad thai, the waiter happily announced that they had mangoes again! So my sticky rice dessert was back on the cards :) Yay!! Fate had reunited me with my mango with sticky rice.

The pad thai whilst tasty, was not the best that I've ever tasted. I still really liked it though. I liked that they served the chilli, sugar and peanuts separately on the side, just like they do in Thailand! The fish cakes were very yummy. And the mango with sticky rice - LOVED it! I haven't been able to find a Thai restaurant in Melbourne that serves it. Was over the moon that they served it at Home.

Very reasonably priced, tasty, with fast service. I highly recommend it. Only thing is that you need to set aside at least 30 minutes to wait for a table... Or try rocking up before 6pm.

Thai fish cakes

Seafood pad thai

Mango with sticky rice!!! :D

Home Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon