Monday, August 31, 2009

Hello Cookie: Lacy Honey Wafers

Essentially, this recipe is an updated version of the classic honey snaps, the crisp biscuit that resembles a brandy snap. The updated bit is that these are studded with dark chocolate and almond chips, making them an extra bit special.

After trying these, my taste tester commented that white chocolate bits would have been a better choice. I have to agree, although the dark chocolate makes the wafers rich and sweet.

Another thing, make sure to spread the batter out very thinly on the baking tray, as this will produce a more brittle, lacy wafer. And the wafers keep for about 2-3 days – just pop them in a low oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up if they soften too much.

Lacy Honey Wafers
Makes about 20


50g butter, chopped
2 tblsp honey
1/3 cup (60g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
½ cup blanched almonds, chopped
½ cup dark chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
2. Place butter and honey in a small saucepan over low heat until melted
3. Place sugar, flour, vanilla and egg whites in a bowl, add butter mixture and whisk until smooth
4. Place 2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Spread out to a 10 cm (4 in) circle.
5. Scatter the almonds and chocolate into the batter.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.
7. Cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to harden completely.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay’s Simple Essentials: Chocolate

Key Ingredients: Egg whites, honey, butter

Adding the vanilla to the mix; dark chocolate, chopped

Spread the batter thinly on a baking tray; wafers cooling on a wire rack

Store the wafers between layers of baking paper to stop them clinging together

Another successful Hello Cookie enterprise!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A dark night at the Riverview Hotel restaurant

The restaurant at Balmain’s Riverview Hotel has become the latest dining destination in the inner west. This has been partly due to Simon Thomsen’s good review in the Sydney Morning Herald, and, I think, to the couple of weeks the restaurant has been advertised on the billboard on the corner of Victoria Road, Rozelle, just before the turnoff to the Anzac Bridge.

This has resulted in the Riverview’s restaurant being booked out on Saturday nights. We were lucky enough to nab a table tonight, so for once I’m riding on the wave of a restaurant’s success instead of visiting when it’s on the wane.

And because it was Saturday night, the Riverview Hotel was pumping. It’s located in a residential street, so the drinking and noise is pretty much confined to the inside of the pub, and gosh, it’s so loud! Fortunately, the restaurant is upstairs and is pretty much insulated from the noise. Lushly carpeted and with gold wallpaper, it’s got an old terrace house feel to it although the food and service are contemporary and polished.

However, it’s very dimly lit, and it’s one of my gripes with restaurants – you can’t see the food that the chef has obviously prepared with care, and any photos you take turn out grainy and poor. That’s why I don’t have any decent photos of our entrées ($17 each). And very good they were, too – barbequed quail (succulent and moist, served with an amazing witlof and walnut salad) and a tuna tartare (very spicy with Tabasco).

I managed to get my camera adjusted by the time the mains ($28 each) arrived, but it was still very dark. It wasn’t till I got home and lightened the photos that I could really see what we had eaten.

The Rabbit Sheppard’s [sic] Pie was filled with tender pieces of rabbit, parsnip, kale and beans, and topped with pecorino and pancetta. I was expecting my organic Berkshire pork to be one of those little cubes, but it was a large chop, on the bone. It was served with pumpkin, some delicious carrots with cumin, and pears with basil sauce. We also ordered a side of hand-cut chips with aioli – delicious, but we couldn’t finish them.

Rabbit pie

Organic Berkshire Pork

Both mains together - rather pleased with this photo, as it's not too dim and dark

The servings are large (hence the lack of interest in the chips), but I have a different stomach when it comes to dessert ($13 each). So we had a fantastic yoghurt panna cotta, and a chocolate pavlova. I think the pavlova would have been better as a ‘normal’ pav rather than chocolate, but it was pretty good regardless (especially the marinated strawberries).
Top: Meredith yoghurt, honey and rosemary panna cotta with mango, pineapple jelly and quince
Bottom: Chocolate pavlova with mascarpone cream and balsamic strawberries

The service here is spot on – it may have something to do with our early dining time (6.30pm), but when we left 1 ½ hours later, the place was full and the efficient waitstaff and kitchen seemed to be managing well. So all up, I think it deserves its hype. I’d like to go back when it’s lighter and brighter outside, though, maybe for Sunday lunch, where I heard the roasts are worth going for. Bet my photographs will be better then, too.
The Riverview Hotel is at 29 Birchgrove Rd, Balmain. Ph: 02 9810 1151
Riverview Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Playtime with Chicken Noodle Soup and Legs

I've been subsisting on Continental Cup-a-Soup (chicken noodle) for the past day or so because I have a cold. But I thought it might be better to try some 'proper' chicken noodle soup, which is where this recipe comes in.

I had been given some hokkien noodles and gai larn vegetables by mum (her radar probably knew I was coming down with a lurgy), so I threw them into a saucepan with some chicken thigh pieces and chicken stock and consomme. The result was a delicious, filling and healthful Asian-style soup.

Gosh, I feel better already!

Ooh, Look: Chicken Noodle Soup

serves 4


1 tblsp minced ginger
1 tblsp minced garlic
1 tblsp vegetable oil
2 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
2 cups chicken consomme
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets
2 tblsp reduced-salt soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp brown sugar
1 bunch gai larn or baby bok choy
450g fresh thin hokkien noodles


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic and stir for about 15 seconds. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add chicken thighs to the stock. Cook for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Remove chicken and slice.

3. Add consomme, soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar to the stock. Increase heat and bring to the boil.

4. Add green vegetables and heat until wilted, about 1 minute.

5. Add the hokken noodles to the saucepan and loosen with a fork. Simmer for about 2 minutes until they soften slightly.

6. Return the chicken to the soup to heat through

7. Serve the noodles in bowls, sprinkled with spring onion, if you like.

Ingredients, including hokkien noodles, ginger, garlic, sesame oil,
chicken stock and consomme, greens and chicken thighs

Add greens to the boiling soup, then the hokkien noodles. Stir in the chicken

Chicken noodle soup - perfect for feeling better.

Another thing that helped my recovery was a cake from Adriano Zumbo. It was the 'Legs' cake again, and this time, I had a bit of a play with it.
I had to stop eventually, when someone yelled 'Will you stop playing with those legs and cut it up'. Oh, well, that's enough fun for one day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lean Green Pesto Pasta

It's that time of month when a new batch of food magazines is due out (delicious, Gourmet Traveller, Vogue Entertaining, etc), and one of my favourite past-times is tagging each one with the recipes I want to try. I estimate that I end up making about 15-20% of the tagged ones...

Not great stats, so it's a good thing that this dish actually ended up on the dining table last tonight. It is a fairly light dish from September delicious magazine, redolent with garlic and almonds, and a vivid green in colour. It is also a good source of calcium - what's not to like?

This is not exactly Project HealthKick material, but please give me credit for trying.

Penne with Spinach and Almond Pesto
serves 4


120g baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp almond flakes, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup (120g) fresh low-fat ricotta, crumbled
1/3 cup (25g) grated parmesan
400g penne rigata


1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain and refresh under cold water, then drain again. Squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible, then chop roughly.

2. Put spinach in a food processor with the garlic, almonds, olive oil, ricotta and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain the pasta but save about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

4. Add the pesto to the pasta in the pan and mix together.

5. Serve pasta in bowls with remainin parmesan sprinkled on top.

Recipe adapted from delicious (Sept 2009)

Mix the spinach, almonds, garlic, oil and ricotta in a food processor

Lovely green pesto!

Spinach and Almond Pesto with penne

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paddington Alive and some Mexican food

Another visit to Paddington on the weekend, and this time, it coincided with the Paddington Alive Fashion Festival, an offshoot of the Rosemount Australian Fashion Festival.

William Street is one of my favourite shopping destinations because it has unique clothing and shoe shops in what is a residential street. Today, the Oxford Street end of the street was closed to traffic which allowed for some relaxing window shopping. They even had free popcorn!

Scenes from William Street: Bunting over the street, arty shopfronts

Still on William Street: Good dogs, flowers from Ruby Slipper

Later, while walking down Oxford Street towards Darlinghurst, we stumbled on the opening of a new clothing store, High Tea with Mrs Woo, a collaboration of three sisters from Newcastle NSW. The store has a vintage-y feel and is filled with jewellery, Asian-inspired clothes. For the opening they also had delicious canapés including savoury mini cupcakes which are an idea worth copying! Shopping-wise, I bought a wooden brooch to add to my growing animal brooch collection.
Opening of High Tea with Mrs Woo, including ginger and Chinese mushroom mini cupcake; purchased a cat brooch

Much later, hunger set in (that cupcake was pretty small, after all). We stopped by Mad Mex in Crown Street for sustenance – soft tacos for me and burrito for him. Great flavours, and fairly authentic, by all accounts.
Lunch from Mad Mex: soft white tacos (top) and beef burrito (bottom)

Finally, we made a visit to Thomas Dux Grocer to pick up some stuff for out dinner. Why don’t they have this store near where I live? It’s fantastically laid out, with some of the fruit displayed in straw-filled wooden boxes. They also have food samples to try, and we ended up getting some Maltese sausage after trying the delicious sample. More on that another time…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Still on the HealthKick wagon - just

I thought I'd show you what prompted me to begin Project HealthKick. As I will prove, I was forced into it by a devilish pastry that has no shame.

This is the Black Forest Brioche from Adriano Zumbo Patissier.

Soft, spongey brioche cake base - check.
Fresh cream whipped around tart, juicy red cherries - check.
Lashings of grated chocolate - check, check.
Light dusting of fine icing sugar - check.

- "Jury, what is your verdict?"

- "Guilty, as charged!"

PS: I am still doing Project HealthKick but have fallen off the wagon for the weekend. Put another way, I have about 3 fingers of each hand clutching the back of the wagon as it speeds round the corner...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Project HealthKick: Seafood Paella

Surprise, surprise, I'm still on my healthkick. Well, it has been 2 days...

The CSIRO Wellbeing Diet book recommends two serves of fish per week. My dining partner dislikes cooked fish, so going down that avenue was always going to be difficult. Fortunately, the book has a quick recipe for seafood paella that is ideal for hiding the fish (sneaky!)

I had to make some changes to the recipe because it's quite difficulty to shop for seafood after work, what with most shops being closed. Also, the local supermarket didn't have any short-grain paella rice, so I substituted pre-cooked risotto rice instead.

The final result was brilliant - easy to make, didn't take too long, and the fussy, non-cooked-fish-eater lapped it up. My only other recommendation is to increase the seasoning with a sprinkle of salt, though healthwise, that is another ingredient that I should be cutting down on *sigh*.

Seafood Paella
Serves 2


· 1 tsp saffron
· 1 tsp paprika
· 1/4 cup boiling water
· 2 tblsp olive oil
· 2 cloves garlic, crushed
· 1 onion, finely chopped
· 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used 250g diced canned tomatoes)
· 200g short grain rice (I used risotto rice base)
· 500ml chicken stock
· 400g white fish fillets, prawns, calamari (I used fresh marinara mix from the fishmonger)
· 200g mussels (optional)
· 50g green beans, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges to serve


1.Mix saffron and paprika with boiling water. Stir to dissolve then set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 5 mins, or until soft. Add tomato and cook for 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring to combine, for a further 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring stock to the boil in a saucepan. Add the stock and the saffron liquid to the rice mixture, stirring well to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
4. Place fish, prawns, mussels and calamari on top of rice. Cover frying pan with foil and cook for a further 10 minutes.
5. Add beans, re-cover pan, and cook for a 5 minutes.
Season with pepper and serve with lime wedges

Ingredients include green beans, saffron and seafood.
My saffron was admitedly a bit old and therefore not very flavoursome. Good colour, though.

No, there is no Tabitha cat in the paella.
She was just curious about the cooking process... and the seafood... mmm...

Combine the rice with the tomatoes, and simmer

Add the seafood to the pan and cover with foil while it cooks;
add green beans 5 minutes before the end of cooking time

Seafood paella - a successful result from Project HealthKick!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Project HealthKick: Spiced Lamb with Broccolini

I've been *ahem* stacking on the kilos lately, and I blame the lack of Zumbo cake for messing up my metabolism. I just can't win...

So, to compensate, I dug out the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet book to find a recipe that is deemed to be 'healthy'. I tried some of the recipes a few years ago when the book first came out, though personally, I'm not sure about the diet as such, given the large amount of red meat in the weekly meal plans. But I will try to cut down on the fats and sugars I eat, and the recipes in the book are a good starting point for meal ideas.

Let's see how long this lasts...

This first effort was Spiced Lamb Fillets with Broccolini. I used some amazingly good (and expensive) lamb backstraps and they turned out beautifully tender. And I loved the sweetness of the raisins in the accompanying jammy onion mixture.

Spiced Lamb Fillet with Broccolini
Serves 2

· 1 clove garlic, crushed
· 1 tbsp olive oil
· 400 g lamb fillets (try and keep the fillets whole)
· 1 brown onion, sliced
· 1 tbsp tomato paste

· ¼ cup (60ml) red wine vinegar
· ¼ cup raisins or sultanas
· ¼ cup shredded mint
· ½ tsp paprika
· 2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
· 1 tbsp lemon juice
· 1 bunch broccolini
· 2 tbsp tzatziki, to serve

1. Place garlic and oil in a bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat thoroughly.
2, Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Brown lamb in batches, about 1-2 minutes each side, then remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add onion to pan and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft.
4. Stir through tomato paste, vinegar, raisins, mint, paprika, pine nuts and lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes. Return meat to pan to heat through.
5. Meanwhile, microwave the broccolini for 1 ½ minutes on high.
6. Top the lamb with onion mixture and a dollop of tzatziki. Serve the broccolini alongside.

Recipe adapted from the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Merivale Laneway Dining at Ash St Cellar

I’ve been meaning to visit Ash St Cellar ever since the Merivale Winter Feasts launch. Then the urge was compounded after reading about visits by Jenius and eatshowtell (among others).
Well, my turn finally came yesterday. My delayed visit was caused in part by the weather reports – as Ash St Cellar is situated in a rather shadowy laneway between tall buildings, I made sure to pick a warmish day for it.

I needn’t have worried, as they have some pretty good outdoor gas heaters to warm up the area. The food is delightfully warming, too. We had the Winter Feasts menu, where you get 3 courses for $35 pp. This also includes a glass of house red or white wine or beer.

Glass of sauvignon blanc and shiraz.
Bread served with lovely fruity olive oil, salt flakes

I wanted to have the soup to start, after hearing rave reviews about the fennel soup that was on previous menus. This time, there was a cream of mushroom soup which sounded good, but the cured tuna belly sounded better (so much so that we both ordered it). The tuna looked a lot like prosciutto (a bit dried), but it went well with the accompanying salad of capsicum and mayonnaise.

Cured tuna belly with fresh capsicum and lemon mayonnaise

Next, my friend ordered the ocean trout (moist yet firm, nicely grilled), but I think my marinated chicken was better. The thigh meat had been marinated in rosemary and garlic, then grilled, leaving a gorgeous crusty coating. The flavours were great in this dish.

Ocean trout with zucchini, lemon and crouton salad

Rosemary and garlic-marinated chicken thigh with corn

I wonder if anyone ever orders all savoury dishes for their 3 courses? Personally, I would not want to miss out on dessert, and the poached quince sounded fantastic. It came in one of those Spanish tapas dishes, all cracked brown glaze and all. The cream underneath was flavoured with cinnamon and the homemade honeycomb was satisfying shatter-y and slightly burnt-tasting (in a good way).
Poached quince with spiced cream and honeycomb
Because it was so good, here's another picture of it:

All up, it was a great place to have a quick midweek lunch. This venue would be really pleasant in summer, as well, for a meal (or something) after work. I like that it’s away from the bustle and crowdedness of the ivy bars, though the laneway it’s in is not the most salubrious.

Also, the menu has changed from the previous months, so it’s worth visiting again even if you’ve been before. The Winter Feasts menu is available 12-2pm and 6-8pm.
Ash St Cellar is in Ash St, Sydney.
It’s behind the ivy complex, in the laneway between George St and the City Recital Hall in Angel Place/Pitt St. It doesn’t take bookings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You have 1 new message: Zumbo Squeeze

This lack of Zumbo action lately has really put the pressure on our household, and the word is out – if you see some, get it!

So I was pleased to get this phone pic sent to me, indicating that a midweek foray to Adriano Zumbo Patissier was successful. Yes, the picture is a bit fuzzy and it’s upside down, but I got the message loud and clear: “Tonight, we’re havin’ cake!”.

This is the Squeeze, an orange-based cake with an unusual combination of flavours.

I’m not sure about this one, as the orange marshmallow is quite bitter and the crèmeaux is rich but not sweet, and I’m not keen on the cardamom in it, either. I think you’d have to really like the spices to ‘get’ this cake.

The textures, though, are lovely, especially the almost chewy marshmallow with bits of 80% chocolate chips.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Another 2-recipe wonder: Fritters and Tartlets

I get really excited when new issues of the glossy food magazines come out. This month, Gourmet Traveller, delicious and Donna Hay magazines all came out within days of each other. It’s not so much which one to buy (all of them), but which recipes to try out from each issue.

As usual, simplicity rules, which means that good ol’ Donna Hay won the chance for me to give an interpretation of some of her magazine’s recipes.

The August/September 2009 copy of dhm contains “mix ‘n’ match starters, mains, sides and desserts”, according to the cover, and I picked two starters/sides for a Friday night meal.

The dhm recipe for Zucchini Fritters came with a feta and pancetta salad. I left out the feta because there was already enough cheese in the accompanying tartlet dish. I also dressed the fennel salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and it’s a refreshing complement to the fritters.
Here’s my adapted version:

Zucchini fritters with pancetta and fennel salad
Serves 4

½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
¼ cup (60ml) milk
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped dill leaves
1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
20g butter
4 slices pancetta
1 bulb fennel, finely sliced
1 cup rocket leaves
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp lemon juice

1. Put the zucchini in a large bowl with the sifted flour and baking powder, egg, milk, dill and lemon rind and stir until well combined.
2. Heat the butter in a frypan over medium high heat. Put 2 tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown (make sure you do cook it, otherwise you may get the taste of uncooked flour). Remove from pan when cooked and drain on paper towels.
3. Increase heat to high and add pancetta and cook for 1 minute until crispy.
4. Put the rocket and fennel in a bowl and dress with olive oil and lemon juice.
5. Serve the fritters piled on a plate with the salad and pancetta.

Slice the zucchini and mix with flour, egg, milk, dill and lemon. Fry until golden

Zucchini fritters with fennel and pancetta salad

Then, because I thought we’d still be hungry, I tried some onion tartlets. I had some leftover cheddar cheese that I added to the recipe, and it made the tartlets deliciously rich. I should have pressed the onion rings into the pastry a bit more – they fell off the tartlets when puff pastry started rising. It still tasted divine, though.

Caramelised onion and blue cheese tartlets
Makes 10

1 tblsp olive oil
1 brown onion, thickly sliced (try to not loosen the rings)
1 sheet puff pastry
50g soft blue cheese

Preheat oven to 220 deg C.
1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and onion and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden.
2. Cut 7cm rounds of puff pastry and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Use a 5cm cutter to gently press a border into the pastry.
3. Spread each round with cheese (I also added some tasty cheese) and a wedge of onion ring. Press it down so it doesn’t fall off.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Recipes adapted from donna hay magazine (Aug/Sept 2009)

Cut pastry rounds from puff pastry; spread with soft blue cheese; caramelise the onion

Caramelised onion and blue cheese tartlets - lopsided but still good