Sunday, December 25, 2011

Season's Greetings and happy New Year

Thank you for joining us at Ooh, Look...
on a food, restaurant and eating journey this year.

Have a wonderful holiday season and see you in 2012.

Tabitha cat does a little Mexican hat dance to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

mini lemon meringue pies a la Tea Salon

Has anyone ever asked you, "Do you prefer sweet or savoury?". Well, no one has ever asked me, but it's a hypothetical question I occasionally think about. After much deliberation, I think I prefer savoury/salty because it's so much easier to over-indulge in the sweet stuff, and I have zero will-power. Which is why I try not to make too many desserts here at Ooh, Look... except for now!

As if we will not be getting enough sugar at Christmas (bring it on!), I thought I'd try this delightful, quick dessert from the equally delightful Stonesoup blog.  While it took me a bit longer than the suggested 15 minutes to make these little lemon meringue pies, they were more than worth it for the amazing, tangy lemon 'cream' under a fluffy pillow of soft, lightly toasted meringue.

Oh, and to finish off, here's another question: Have you ever seen a bloke having high tea at a Tea Salon? I'm thinking of a particular place (the Victoria Room Tea Salon at Westfield Sydney) that is 'artfully framed by a curved picket fence and cheery blooms, [a] whimsical English-inspired tea salon', according to its website. Every time I pass by, it's full of ladies enjoying dainty sandwiches and scones and cups of tea. I've yet to spot any blokes there. But if they serve cuties like these, then I'm sure there would be a long queue of guys waiting to sink their fangs into a mini lemon meringue pie.

Lemon meringue pies
makes 8

100g (3 1/2oz) shortbread biscuits (about 6 Arnott's Scotch Fingers)
3 eggs, separated
1 can  (400g/14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
55g (2oz) caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Line 8 holes of a muffin tray with paper cases.
2. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin. Press the crumbs into the base of the muffin cases.
3. Combine the egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and mix well.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then gradually sprinkle in the caster sugar and continue to beat for a few more minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
5. Pour the lemon filling on top of the crumb bases
6. Spoon the eggwhites on top of the lemon filling.
7. Bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Cool before serving.
Store in an airtight container (not in the refrigerator) for up to 2 days.

recipe adapted from

Some of the ingredients, including lemons, condensed milk, eggs and Scotch Finger biscuits.

Smash up the bikkies and press into muffin cases. To make the crumbs stick together more, you could mix in a couple of tablespoons of melted butter before pressing into the cases.
Amazingly, condensed milk plus egg yolks plus lemon produces a delicious lemon curd.

Whip up the eggwhites and dollop onto the lemon filling.

Golden brown from the oven.
My oven is super-hot, so to stop them browning too quickly, I turned the oven off after 5 minutes and left the pies in the oven for the remaining 5 mins, to firm up the filling.

Very pretty pies, worthy of a tea salon

If you like, serve with fresh raspberries to counteract the sweetness

A perfectly cute dessert

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Heirloom tomatoes are worth inheriting

While dodging the almost unbearable Christmas shopping crowds on Saturday, I popped into the Westfield Sydney food court for some sustenance in the form of parmesan truffle fries from Charlie and Co - with extra cheese, pleese!

Then strolling over to the Quarter 21 shop afterwards, I noticed they were having a 'farm gate' event with trestles set up and produce from suppliers for sale. It was a bit unsettling, given that it's held inside a glossy shopping centre rather than, er, at a farm gate, but the quality of the fruits, vegetables, cheese, jams and oils on display were of the highest quality.

I picked up a punnet of baby heirloom tomatoes from the stall, and some lamb shanks from inside the Q21 shop.

Beautiful, jewel-like baby tomatoes

A salad of heirloom tomatoes, simply dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
The yellow tomatoes were the sweetest, although they were all juicy and luscious.

The lamb shanks are anointed with olive oil and thyme, and come vacuum-wrapped in plastic, and were the most fragrant things ever! I don't know how they can get so much flavour with just oil and thyme. Anyway, the shanks were roasted for 45 minutes and served with the tomato salad and some rocket leaves. Delicious.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

tofu mushroom soba noodles for the optimistic

Look out, the end of the year is racing up to slap us in the face, yelling “Hey, what have you been doing all year? 2011 is almost over, and what have you got to show for it, eh?”.

Well, not wanting 2011 to get the better of me, I’ve been trying – somewhat unsuccessfully – to fit more into each day, and that includes eating a decent breakfast, feeling more inspired about work, working smarter not longer, not skipping lunch, going to the gym, leaving work at a reasonable hour, preparing simpler, healthy meals, not watching too much television, reading more, and going to bed earlier.

Two out of ten ain’t bad, is it???

This is an example of the ‘simpler healthy meals’ ethic. So simple that even a hungry, time-poor, gym-avoiding, avid reading blogger can enjoy it. And she does.

Soba noodles with mushrooms and tofu
serves 2

4 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
180g dried soba noodles
2 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tblsp light soy sauce
100g silken soft tofu
1 small long red chilli, sliced
½ tsp sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced

1. Soak the mushrooms in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and slice.
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add soba noodles. Cook for 4 minutes, then drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.
3. While the noodles are boiling, heat a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Mix together the oyster sauce and soy sauce and add to the wok. Gently add the tofu, mushrooms and chilli and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the sesame oil and heat for another 1 minute.
4. Place the soba noodles in serving bowls then top with the tofu and mushrooms in the sauce. Top with sliced green onions to serve.

Ingredients, including reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, silken tofu, chilli, green onions and soba noodles

The longer you simmer the tofu in the sauce, the tastier it should become.

Then just spoon it into a bowl and dig in.

This is an excellent dish for devouring while reflecting on the productive day you've had and looking forward to the next one.