Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from Boo and Tab

Click here to see more of Boo!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Partly vego - Miso Eggplant

Another day, another cookbook.  Yes, I bought another one, and I swear it will be the last (for this week, at least!).

My latest purchase is by Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, hosts of MasterChef Australia.  The book is titled 'Your Place Or Mine' and contains 86 recipes featuring 43 ingredients, with George and Gary each providing a recipe for each ingredient. But what really drew me to the book was the styling and photography - the food is set up by Caroline Velik, one of my favourite food stylists (and she cooks, too) and it looks amazing. The photos (by Mark Chew and Simon Griffiths) are bright, big and clear and just make you want to pick up a knife and pan start cooking.

The recipes themselves run the gamut of traditional (twice-baked Gruyere souffles) through to more contemporary (carrot cake with black olive caramel - this one looks really good, must try it soon). 
The dish I tried here is by Gary, from the Eggplant chapter of the book, and it's miso plopped on eggplant, served in a dashi/miso broth.  I've changed the recipe as it originally uses brown-rice miso and I only had white miso. I also adjusted the measurements because I found the original too salty, and the way he describes cutting the eggplant didn't make sense and didn't match the photo.  Despite the changes (or maybe because of them), the final result is a gorgeous, mouth-watering vegetable delight.

Postscript: I was just reading a thought-provoking post by Stella from The Witchy Kitchen on the reasons (and benefits) of becoming vegetarian.  Most interesting and quite motivating. 
Stella, this (vegetarian) eggplant's for you!

Miso with Eggplant
serves 2

1 heaped tablespoon white miso paste
1 tblsp caster sugar
75ml mirin
100ml boiling water
7g dashi powder or for vegetarian, use kombu (dried kelp) dashi; recipe here
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup fresh or frozen edamame (soy beans), removed from pods
1 large or 2 small-medium eggplant (aubergine)
200ml vegetable oil or rice bran oil
bonito flakes or fried shallots, to garnish

1.  For the miso sauce: Mix the miso and sugar in a small saucepan. Add the mirin a little at a time. Stir over low heat for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and forms a paste.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
2.  For the dashi broth: Transfer 1 tablespoon of the miso mixture to a bowl.  Mix the boiling water with the dashi powder then add to the bowl together with the sesame oil.  Mix and set aside.
3.  For the edamame: Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.  Add a pinch of salt and the edamame beans and boil for 2 minutes, then drain.  Season with salt flakes and set aside.
4.  For the eggplant: Cut the eggplants into 2cm (1 inch) slices, then score in a crisscross patten on the diagonal about 1cm into the eggplant.  Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to 180C, then lower the eggplant carefully into the pan and cook for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low-medium and turn the eggplants over.  Cook for a further 5 minutes or until tender.  Drain really well on paper towels.
5.  To serve: Spread the cooked eggplant slices with miso sauce, then place in a bowl.  Scatter with the edamame, pour a little of the dashi broth around it, sprinkle with bonito flakes or fried shallot, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Your Place or Mine (Penguin Books).
Ingredients, including eggplant, frozen edamame, dashi powder, mirin and white miso.
And the boys' cookbook.

The edamame are boiled from frozen; the miso sauce is a rich, salty mixture of miso, sugar and mirin.

Serve the eggplant in a bowl with the broth poured around.
Sprinkle with bonito flakes (or fried shallots, as shown here).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Perfect weather for sweet quinoa pudding with strawberries

Imagine we are standing together in an elevator, staring at the floors whizzing by.  I turn to you and say 'Strange weather we're having...'.  You nod your head a few times, 'Yup...'.

How's the weather where you are? Here in Sydney, it's supposed to be Spring, but it wants to be Summer in the morning and Winter at night. That makes it difficult to decide what type of dessert to have - ice cream or pudding, sorbet or pie? How about both? Or how about a warm quinoa pudding with fresh strawberries?  Perfect!

I found this recipe from Cannelle et Vanille that marries my current adulation of quinoa with the lusciousness of new season strawberries. And the quinoa is gently warming on those evenings when the you think, 'No, I won't put away the fluffy slippers just yet...'

Quinoa Pudding with Macerated Strawberries and Pistachios
serves 4

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy (thickened) cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup quinoa

1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 tblsp sugar
chopped pistachios, to serve

1.  Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the quinoa and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 30 minutes stirring every few minutes.  When done, leave to cool very slightly.
2. Meanwhile, place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Toss and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
3. Spoon the quinoa pudding into glasses or bowls. Top the puddings with the strawberries and chopped pistachios and serve.

Recipe adapted from Cannelle et Vanille

Ingredients, including the versatile quinoa, lush stawberries, fresh cream.

The stawberries are macerated in a spoonful of sugar for an hour.  When cooking the quinoa, don't let it boil over (like I did, hence the atrocious state of the saucepan...)

This beautiful dessert could also be served for breakfast, instead of oatmeal.

Whatever the weather, it's warming, sweet and fresh all at the same time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Melbourne Eating: The Hardware Societe

 If there's one city in Australia with the perfect cafe society, it's Melbourne. And the perfect cafe in Melbourne is the Hardware Societe.

Our last day in Melbourne and the sun made a miraculous appearance although it was still freezing cold (this was on Caulfield Cup day, so you can imagine how the racetrack fillies in their Spring racing dresses must have been feeling).  I'd been reading how The Hardware Societe was a great place in the CBD for breakfast and was keen to check it out.

 The cafe is located in Hardware Lane, which runs for several blocks from Bourke Street (or to Bourke St depending on which end you start at). Hardware Societe is near the Lonsdale Street end, and it's open and packed on weekends, which is no mean feat when the business district is normally deserted. I did try to check out Earl Canteen at 500 Bourke St, but it was closed on this Saturday.

Continuing with the theme of dining at the bar/counter during our trip, we were lucky to get a place at the counter that overlooks the kitchen, separated by glass shelving. This gave us the opportunity to spy on the chefs and observe their cameraderie with each other and the barista and waitstaff. They were so efficient, with one chef starting a dish and the other chef finishing it off, they worked like a well-oiled machine.

What did we order? Of course, English Breakfast tea for me, and iced coffee for him.
Everyone loves a tea cosy and a dainty teacup...
 I also had the baked eggs ($13) with chorizo, valdeon blue cheese and olive bread.  Alternatively, you can also order the baked eggs with basil pistou and confit tomatoes.  I ordered this because the guy next to me was having it and it came in a cute blue cocotte with a lid - apart from the lovely presentation, the eggs were fantastic, piping hot with a spicy chorizo and mild but distinctive blue cheese. The olive bread was also gorgeous.
The day's special was like a big breakfast ($16) - poached boudin blanc, black pudding, onion jam, tomato and potato rosti. This was done really well, particularly the boudin blanc, which was a very smooth mixture of chicken, beautifully seasoned.  I'm also informed by he who ate it that the black pudding was one of the best he's ever had. Good rap.

The Vibe: The Hardware Societe lives up to its stellar reputation. The staff are charming and efficient and know what they are doing. The food is spot-on. The tea cosies are homely. What more could you ask for?
The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon

And a summary of our previous Melbourne eats are on the map below:

And that's a wrap from our Melbourne sojourn.  We boarded our afternoon flight back to Sydney and reflected on the majorly fabulous meals we ate and the owl socks that I bought.  And we were HAPPY.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Melbourne Eating: Shoya Japanese restaurant

 Shoya's business card states 'fully licensed' and 'nouvelle wafu cuisine'. Just how nouvelle wafu is it? Well, there are enough classic Japanese elements in its dishes to satisfy traditionalists, plus a couple of surprising desserts to keep things interesting.

Before getting to Shoya, however, I had my heart set on a trip to Chadstone shopping centre. Not quite so nouvelle, n'est pas?  The information centre in Federation Square told us there is a free shuttle bus straight to Chadstone each day (10am most days, plus another at 11am Thu-Sat). This was good, as the weather had turned frigid and I wasn't looking forward to the train and bus trip that it normally takes to get there.  We waited with other tourists (opposite Movida Next Door) for the coach to turn up, and travelled the 25 minutes in comfort.
Chadstone is a shopping mall on a grand scale. It has Australia's first Gap store, and a wing dedicated to high-end brands such as Miu Miu, Tiffany and Co, etc.  I bought a couple of pairs of baby socks for my owls from one of the many kidswear stores.  Want to know what a sock owl looks like? Check out my Craft blog, here. *end of cross-promotion

After a couple of hours of desultory wandering around, we caught the 3pm bus back to the city. The weather felt like it was in single digits. I didn't have a restaurant planned for tonight, and for some reason, my mobile internet access wasn't working.  Fortunately, my phone had access to an online version of The Age Good Food Guide 2011!  A quick search for 'Asian' in 'Melbourne City', and a good review for Shoya turned up. We were able to get a table straight away.
Shoya is opposite HuTong and next to Flower Drum. We seem to be spending a lot of time in this laneway lately...
Alrighty, enough chat. Straight to the food again...

 We were welcomed with hot towels (lovely on such a cold, rainy night).  I always order chawanmushi and agedashi tofu and the versions at Shoya are fantastic.  The chawanmushi had prawn and shiitake pieces in the bottom of the bowl, topped with the silken egg custard (with a lone edamame bean).  Absolutely delicious.
The agedashi tofu ($9) was steamy hot and piled high with bonito flakes. One of the better agedashi tofus I've had.

We also had two sushi - one with uni (sea urchin) and one with scampi. Both fresh and good.
And to drink, green tea and Asahi beer.

Our main dish was the sushi and sashimi platter ($65). It looked spectacular.
The seafood included kingfish, snapper, tuna, salmon, King George Whiting, scampi, scallop and a brightly coloured piece that the waiter described as 'cockerell'.  Japanese accent alert!!  I finally figured it was cockle! This platter was so impressive, and one of the best sushi/sashimi combos I've eaten.

Dessert time.
The menu quaintly describes the Kurogoma Pana cotta ($8.50) as 'Black sesame with panacotta to make smooth pudding covered with nostalgic soy bean and green tea powder'.  I can't go past black sesame anything, and the nostalgic green tea powder was a knockout with the smooth panna cotta.
The Sea Urchin Cheese Cake ($12) had fresh sea urchin baked into the cake. It was cheesey with the faint yet unmistakeable tang of the sea urchin.  Unusual, is how I'd describe it.

Shoya is actually four levels of dining areas and karaoke rooms.  We dined on the ground floor, near the open kitchen, and the table had a barbeque plate built into it. You can also eat at the sushi bar. Service was knowledgeable and the food came out quickly. The Age guide says that Shoya hasn't changed much in 5 years, but I suppose when you're on a good thing, stick to it.

The Vibe: An unassuming stayer. Great food, efficient and friendly service. Pricey, but the quality makes it worthwhile

Shoya is at 25 Market Lane, Melbourne, Vic.
ph: 03 9650 0848
Shoya Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Next up will be our final meal in Melbourne, at the popular Hardware Societe cafe. Why's it so popular, come back and find out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Melbourne Eating: Coda restaurant and bar

 Can't decide if you want to eat Asian or French tonight? Feel like a green mango salad with a side of fries?
 Then Coda is for you.

Coda Restaurant and Bar was the only place that I'd booked at on our Melbourne tour.  When I phoned a week earlier, they said they had a table from 6pm, but we had to be out by 8pm.  No probs, we were in!

I'd first heard about Coda after reading an article where designer Yeojin Bae recommended it because it served both French and Vietnamese cuisines, perfect when one of you wants one and the other wants another (I wanted the French!).  Coda is down another manky laneway, though it fronts Flinders Lane, a couple of blocks before Cumulus Inc.

 We were one of the first to arrive, just after 6pm on Thursday night.  We had a nice table at the end of the restaurant, below the street-height windows.  Enough of the build-up, let's just get straight to the food, shall we?  PS: The menu is divided into 'Smaller' and 'Bigger' dishes. We ordered just Smaller dishes, though some of the Smaller dishes are also meant to be shared.
I loved the pot of Rabbit Rillette pickled cucumber, cornichons and sour dough ($20). The meat was so shredded and tender and it went well with the crunchy cornichons.
We each had a Hervey Bay scallop with pearl tapioca and Yarra Valley salmon caviar ($7 each). The scallops were beautifully seared, and the egg-y tapioca on which it sat was unusual but tasty.  Peeking out behind the scallops is are Pomme Frites ($8), a massive bowl of shoestring fries, just the thing for picking at.

An Asian-inspired plate of Quail lettuce delight ($7.80) was next. It's like a sang choy bao, with bits of lup cheong sausage, shiitake mushroom and water chestnuts wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Nice big serving, too.
That's a blackened quail with daikon and shiso salad ($7) - a caramelised grilled quail leg that's perfect for picking up with your fingers to chew off the meat.
Then there's a trout fritter with a paprika aioli ($6), a fried ball full of trout and shallot, moistened by the sauce.
A salad was next, of Fremantle octopus with green mango and kaffir lime salad ($20). Gosh, the octopus was super tender, and the green mango was beautifully sweet.  
Together with the fries, I think this was enough food for us. Except for dessert.

Ah, dessert!
I love fruity desserts, so I ordered the passionfruit mousse ($15), with rose nectar jelly, strawberries and orange lace. I think the description also made me order this gorgeous-looking confection. The mousse was tangy, the rose jelly was fragrant, and the whole thing was just beautiful.
We also had the souffle ($17). Tonight, it was a mixed berry souffle, served with yoghurt sorbet, on a berry shortcake. The souffle was so light and redolent with berries. The shortcake was also baked to perfection and married really well with the sour/sweet sorbet.

I was surprised at how lovely Coda is.  From the time we were seated to when the bill was presented, the service was just right. Our sweet waitress explained the menu and was always on hand to top up our water and drinks even when the place filled up later.  And the food... you wouldn't think that the strange medley of dishes would work, but because they are served separately (no 'fusion' junk here), it just makes for a great night of well-prepared, 'I wonder what's next' enjoyment.

The VIbe: Nice, different, unusual. Like the friend who's really popular but also a lovely person.

Coda is in the Basement of 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Vic. Entry via Oliver Lane.
Ph: 03 9650 3155.

Coda on Urbanspoon
We had only one more full day in Melbourne. What did we do? What did we eat? Stay tuned.  Hint: It involves a coach ride to a shopping centre and a meal at Shoya Japanese.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Melbourne Eating: Cumulus Inc

 Another day in Melbourne, another meal at a hip restaurant. So, how does breakfast at Cumulus Inc stack up?

Cumulus Inc is part of chef Andrew McConnell's mini empire (including Cutler and Co in Fitzroy). It has a 'no bookings' policy in keeping with the treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen philosophy of so many popular restaurants.  I was keen to try Cumulus Inc, so rather than risk missing out on a table (or worse still, have to wait), we decided to give it a go at breakfast.

When we turned up just after 10am, the morning rush was in full swing. Cumulus Inc is a popular coffee spot for local office workers, and also for yummy mummies with prams and babies in tow.  We were lucky to score seats at the kitchen counter, where we could see staff preparing food for later in the day.

The waitstaff were a bit all over the place: after sitting down, we had to flag someone down for a menu, then had to wave over someone else to order.  The breakfast menu is extensive, with muesli, toast, sardines, baked eggs, sandwiches and even a watermelon salad with mint and yoghurt on offer.

We ordered the Full English ($18) - slab bacon, blood sausage on toast, fried eggs and smoked tomato, and a long black ($3.50).
Also, the Cumulus Inc Breakfast ($16) - boiled egg, toast, preserves, yoghurt, orange juice and tea or coffee.  There was some confusion with the tea which was originally delivered without milk. But when I poured it into the cup, it turned out to be mint tea instead of the English Breakfast I'd asked for. So it had to be replaced (with a bit of huffing and eye-rolling from the waitress!).
The food was fantastic, with the farmhouse slab bacon of a decent size.  I love a soft-boiled egg for brekkie, and this one was spot-on: perfectly cooked and great for dipping in the toast.  The toast comes with a range of 3 preserves, raspberry, orange and strawberry. The raspberry was my favourite, tart and sweet and sharp.

My main criticism was that the food took over 30 minutes to arrive.  While there were heaps of staff looking busy behind the counter, it looked like only one was doing the short order breakfasts.  Everyone else seemed to be making biscotti or buttering and flouring dariole moulds, or mixing eggwhites for the cakes and friands.
Because we were there for over an hour, they were setting up for lunch when we called for the bill.

The Vibe: Cumulus Inc seems like the place to be seen.  I wasn't too impressed with the service we had, and the staff appeared inexperienced. The breakfast food, though, was very good, when we eventually got it.

Cumulus Inc is at 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Vic.
Breakfast is from 7am (Mon-Fri) and 8am (Sat-Sun).
No bookings.
Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

After, we had planned to go to Bridge Road for some discount shopping, but the skies were grey with rain. So we walked over to Crown Casino instead.  The brown Yarra river looked ominously dark...
We also passed by a building behind Crown, with a wondrous display of golden bees hiving up the exterior. A queen and her drones.  Does anyone know why they are there, and what they mean? They are quite intricate and lovely.
Onto the Casino, where I threw away my customary $5 on a poker machine (what a waste of time and money).  I spent the same amount on some gelato in the Casino food court: lemon and chocolate, very nice. If I had another $5 to throw away, it will definitely be on some more icy gelato refreshment!

Dinner tonight was going to be early, at Coda, so I didn't want to fill myself up.  That meal, next, on Ooh, Look... Don't change the channel!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Melbourne Eating: Movida Next Door

 Feel like eating some delicious tapas in a warm, convivial atmosphere?
Then Movida Next Door is for you.

Weeks prior to our Melbourne trip, I was my usual prepared self and had booked
i) cheap flights,
ii) decent accommodation in the city centre, and
iii) tables at the city's most popular restaurants.
Well, two out of three ain't bad

Some restaurants are popular for a reason, and I found that booking 3 weeks in advance (for a weeknight) was not enough - for example, Press Club and Movida were both fully booked (GFC? What GFC?).  Fortunately both these restaurants have casual offshoots nearby, so my plan B was to visit Movida's little sister, Movida Next Door.  Yes, it's cleverly(?) named because it's next door to the original Movida in Hosier Lane, opposite Federation Square.

Because of our late lunch at HuTong, we were happy to dine a bit later, so we landed on Movida Next Door's doorstep a little after 8pm.  There were 2 seats available at the bar, and this set the scene for most of our meals on this Melbourne trip - sit at the bar/counter and share dishes.

Movida Next Door is popular with the after-work office crowd, and also single diners, because the dishes are small (serves one).  There's a quite extensive menu, with imported beers and wine a feature.  We had an Alhambra and a Moritz ($9 each).

Sitting at the bar gave us the opportunity to covertly observe the other diners, and everyone looked like they were having a fun old time.  The fantastic food may have had something to do with it.  This is what we had:

(from top to bottom, left to right)Escabache Mussels (mussels in vinegar) ($16) served in a sardine can with toasted bread; special of Scallops in shell ( $5 each); Anchoa con Mato (Cantabrian anchovy with fresh curd) ($4.50); Bomba (chorizo-filled Catalan potato bomb with spicy sauce) ($4.50 each).
My favourite of these was the anchovy, as the fresh curd was cold and refreshing against the salty fish.  But really, the other dishes were all really good, also.

 We also had Gamba a la plancha con refrito (flat-grilled prawn with garlic and chilli) ($3), and the Jamon Iberico Paletilla ($25).  Can I just say that the jamon was INCREDIBLE - melt-in-the-mouth front-leg ham that had been aged for 24 months. It was served with pan Catalan, which is bread topped with tomato, like bruschetta.  There is another Spanish ham available, Jamon Serrano ($14), but my decision to go with the pricier option certainly paid off.

To finish, I had Churros con Chocolate (Spanish doughnuts with rich drinking chocolate) ($10). The churros were not too oily, and hot. The chocolate wasn't too rich and easy to drink, after dunking the churros.

The staff at Movida Next Door are great, friendly and efficient, getting the job done in a room that is quite small with not much room to move. The kitchen is also tiny, and it churns out the wonderful food at a snapping pace. In the end, I was glad that we missed out on Movida proper, as this dining experience more than made up for it.

The Vibe: Unpretentious, friendly place for a bite after work. Fantastic food and service. I wish I could eat here every night (or every second night).

Movida Next Door is on the corner of Flinders Street and Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Vic.
No bookings.  Closed Sunday and Monday.
MoVida Next Door on Urbanspoon

Hosier Lane, where Movida is situated, is one of the more famous laneways for street art in Melbourne. I was disappointed to see that the works by French graffitti artist fafi that I loved a few years ago have been painted over, with the new art not quite up to its standard.
A stroll down to the Chanel and Miss Louise boutiques in Collins Street later gave the opportunity to view art of a different type. Check out the adorable Chanel 'take away' bag.  And the Balenciaga motorcycle bags in sorbet colours are good enough to eat.

Do our meals on Day 2 measure up to our first day? Cumulus Inc and Coda both have stellar reputations, so stay tuned to find out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Melbourne Eating: HuTong Dumpling Bar

So, how do HuTong Dumpling Bar's dumplings compare to those of the global dumpling champions, Din Tai Fung? Whose xiao long bao reigns supreme?

HuTong Dumpling Bar in Melbourne city was the first stop on our Melbourne eating tour.  Fresh off the plane, we checked into our hotel, then made our way down Bourke Street to Market Lane, whose other famous inhabitant is Flower Drum, Australia's most lauded Chinese restaurant.  HuTong is more of a contemporary casual place. 
I'd heard first-hand about how good the food is here, as well as reading about HuTong's popularity in food blogs.  So I was a bit surprised to see that it was almost empty when we arrived. After we were seated by the window and given menus, we were told the kitchen was closing in 5 minutes.  Because fog in Melbourne had delayed our flight a bit, it was now 2.25pm and I hadn't realised the restaurant closes before re-opening at 5.30pm.  So I didn't have much time to ponder which dishes to have.

I quickly pointed to Spice Roast Beef ($11.80) and Shredded Turnip Pastries ($6).  The waiter said that the beef was served cold, is that alright?  Yes, I said.  The beef was indeed refrigerator-cold, and a bit dry, but tasty - a bit like corned beef.  The turnip pastries were brilliant, piping-hot spring rolls filled with Chinese turnip ('lor bak') - greasy and good.

Of course, we also had the xiao long bao soup dumplings ($9.80 for eight pieces).
The dumplings contain minced pork and mushrooms, very finely ground so that it's almost like a soft paste. The dumpling wrappers were a bit hard and 'plasticky', like they'd been sitting around for a while.  They tasted alright; given that the weather was cold and I was hungry, they filled the spot.  HuTong's dumplings are not as finely wrapped as Din Tai Fung's, although there is a good amount of soup in the dumplings that is heated to the requisite tongue-searing temperature. The dumplings are served with shredded ginger (unpeeled!) and black vinegar for dipping.

I would have liked to have tried more dishes, but the kitchen had closed by this time.  You can see into the kitchen from the front dining area, and the chefs clothed in black had indeed downed tools.  The waitstaff were relatively friendly though we felt a bit rushed when ordering and eating, but that was our fault for arriving so late.

The Vibe: For our first meal, HuTong was reasonable. The dumplings at Din Tai Fung are more delicate, in my opinion. Apparently, the noodles at HuTong are worth trying, so I'll have to order them next time. Just need to arrive before the kitchen closes.

HuTong Dumpling Bar is at 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne, Vic.
Ph: 03 9650 8128
There is also a branch at 162 Commercial Road, Prahran, Vic.
HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

After leaving HuTong, we turned a corner and found ourselves in a laneway covered with 'street art'.  This laneway was different, though, as it led to The Croft Institute, a trendy bar. But it was way too early for it to be open. And besides, I didn't want to dirty my boots by venturing into that manky laneway.

But I had other things on my mind, like where to eat for dinner. I had been unsuccessful at booking for Movida, but the lady I spoke to on the phone had suggested Movida Next Door. With meal strategies swirling through my brain, I snapped a few photos (to show I'd been there) and made my way back to Bourke Street, plotting and planning my next dining move...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Coming soon: Melbourne eating adventures

Excitement! Weight gain! 
I've just spent 3.5 days on a tour of Melbourne's fabulous eateries du jour!

Yes, I've just returned from a couple of days on a personal eating and shopping trip of the lovely southern capital of Melbourne.  It lived up to its reputation as a centre par excellence when it comes to good restaurants and top-class shopping.  Not that I shopped that much, mainly window-shopping, though I bought a Gordon Ramsay cookbook on sale, and a couple of pairs of owl socks (socks for making owls, that is).

I also showed immense self-restraint after eating at some popular restaurants and cafes.  I'll post about them in more detail soon, after sorting through the photos and memories. 

Here is where I ate:
Day 1: Hutong Dumpling Bar, Movida Next Door
Day 2: Cumulus Inc, Coda
Day 3: Chadstone Food Court (indifferent raisin toast), Shoya
Day 4: The Hardware Societe

I was also a frequent visitor to Brioche in Queen Street, a wonderful source of mid-afternoon baked snacks.

Please stay tuned for more, coming soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apricot madeira upside-down cake from missing magazine

A weekend afternoon is spent baking an old-fashioned cake. What's not to like?
I like it!

I realised recently that I don't bake many cakes. Mainly because, with just 2 moderately hungry people in the house (and one ravenous Tabitha cat), a large cake won't get finished in one day, and most cakes are best eaten the same day.  That's why I bake cookies. Hello cookie...

Then I felt like something old skool. Something that would make me feel like an honorary member of the Country Women's Association.  This recipe from super food ideas magazine ('only $2.95!') fits the bill.  And if you'll bear with me, I will tell you a story.

Well, I made this lovely apricot upside-down cake that the CWA would be proud of . The photos turned out quite pretty, too. Then I uploaded the photos to this blog I have, with the recipe to be added another time.  A couple of days later, I couldn't remember where the recipe was from (I hear shouts of "super food ideas!" and "he's behind the tree!" in the background).
I swear I went through every one of the 50 or so magazines that are strewn around my dining table and living room. Still couldn't find it.  Then a couple of weeks later, I spy the brightly coloured cover of the missing magazine, peeking out from under some (unpaid) bills.  The rest is history. The End.

Apricot Madeira Upside-down cake
serves 8

800g apricot halves in natural juice
200g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp finely grated orange rind
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup toasted flaked almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease a 5cm-deep, 20cm base square cake pan. Line base and sides with baking paper.
2.  Drain apricots, reserving 1 cup of juice.  Pat apricots dry with paper towel. Arrange cut-side up in the pan.
3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, caster sugar and orange rind until pale and creamy.
4.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine.  Stir in half the flour. Stir in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.
5.  Spread mixture over apricots.  Smooth the top of the batter. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Stand in pan for 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, place icing sugar and reserved juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil without stirring for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
7. Turn the cake out onto a plate. Pour over the sugar mixture and sprinkle with almonds.
Recipe adapted from super food ideas (August 2010)

Good ol' country ingredients, including tinned apricot halves, flour, raw caster sugar, eggs, butter, orange zest and flaked almonds

The apricot halves are placed in the base of the baking tin and the batter is smoothed over the top.  The baked cake is tipped out of the tin when cooked (hence the 'upside-down'!)

The cake is topped with flaked almonds and the syrup.

A moist, delicious cake.
Honorary member of the CWA?  Nah, how about life member??