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Friday, May 30, 2008

Simply Spanish

It's Friday, and I'm home today! This is not a fun at home day, this is more I'm home because there's tradies on my roof and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NOISE? Are they fixing the roof or whacking pigeons with a baseball bat? It sounds like the roof is going to cave in. Hopefully a spot of food blogging will take my mind off it...

I think I may have mentioned this previously, but South Melbourne Market is my favourite place to go for fruit and veg. It started operating in 1867, and went through a refurbishment and upgrade over the past couple of years. As part of the upgrade, new food stalls opened up on the Cecil Street frontage.

We popped into one of those newish ones, Simply Spanish, for brunch a few weeks back. The brunch menu had all the usual favourites, but with a little twist. For example, bacon and eggs came with a caramelised onion and tomato relish, scrambled eggs were served with sliced chorizo and eggs benedict had a saffron lime hollandaise.

Unfortunately we arrived too early for paella - a massive pan had just started cooking when we were seated. The smells kept wafting our way as we had our brunch, making me wish we had shown up just a little bit later!

Simply Spanish

Instead of paella, I had the Gypsy Eggs - soft poached eggs rolled in a Middle Eastern dukkah served with wilted spinach on grilled sourdough and a romesco spread ($15.50).

Simply Spanish

The eggs were perfectly poached - check out that oozy goodness! The sprinkled dukkah helped lift the eggs and complemented the capsciumish tasting spread on the toast.

Simply Spanish

Both of the boys had the Spanish claypot eggs with smoked chorizo ($16.50). This was a poached egg in a tomato and herb salsa, served in a claypot with toasted sour dough. This looked rich and full of flavour, although I noticed that the salsa seemed quite watery.

Simply Spanish

Unfortunately the coffee was a little lacking - I found it too sour to drink, much less enjoy! But the food was fine, and I'm sure that we will visit again. Perhaps next time we'll time it right and try the paella!

Simply Spanish
116 Cecil Street,
South Melbourne 3205
Phone: 03 9682 6100

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Buffs - Apollo Bay + the 12 Apostles

Loch Ard GorgeLoch Ard Gorge

When my parents were here for a visit, we did the drive down the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles. The weather was lovely when we set out in the morning, and also when we stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch. However, by the time we got to the Twelve Apostles, it was pissing down and bitterly cold. We hadn't been expecting the weather, so hadn't bought heavy coats with us. The wind and rain meant that we piled out of the car, quickly walked to the look out, took a couple of photos and then high tailed it back to the warmth of the vehicle!

Twelve ApostlesThe Twelve Apostles (or however many are left)

On the way to the Twelve Apostles, we stopped in Apollo Bay to stretch our legs and have some lunch. Normally when we're in an unfamiliar place we wander around looking at the cafes/restaurants for a while - and then end up back at the first one we looked at! Strangely, on this occasion we were very decisive and stepped into the first cafe we came across - Buffs.

As it was still early for lunch, we got a table without any problems. The cafe/restaurant looked comfortable rather than stylish, with lots of wood panelling, a few funky lamps, and strange art on the walls.

Buffs - Apollo Bay

For my meal I had the spinach and ricotta gnocchi with roasted tomato, baby spinach, pinenuts and black olives ($15.50). Oh. My. God. Who spewed on my plate? Yes, that was my thought when the plate arrived at the table. Fortunately, while the presentation left a lot to be desired, it tasted much better than it looked. While the gnocchi wasn't the best I've ever eaten, it was perfectly acceptable – relatively light and the topping had strong flavours that helped balance out all that cheese.

Buffs - Apollo Bay

Bro had the seafood chowder with fresh local seafood cooked in a bacon and potato soup ($23). It looks great - I think he would've preferred it to be a little less watery, but it was full of tasty seafood and flavour.

Buffs - Apollo Bay

Alastair had the fish and chips - fish fillets in a beer batter with chips and greek salad ($17.50). The fish looked crispy but I didn't have a taste.

Buffs - Apollo BayBuffs - Apollo Bay

Mum had the warm chicken salad with a spicy plum dressing ($14.50) and my aunt had the open steak sandwich ($15). While they were visiting, my aunt and my mum kept encouraging me to take food photos. I think they thought it was a harmless exercise that kept me happy so they were keen to play along! Dad, on the other hand, was feeling contrary that day and wouldn't let me take a photo of his food.

Buffs - Apollo Bay

We finished off lunch with a round of coffees. I was expecting the coffee to be terrible. I have no idea why (maybe because I'm a city snob??) but I was very pleasantly surprised.

51 Great Ocean Rd
Apollo Bay VIC 3233
Phone: (03) 5237 6403

Monday, May 26, 2008

Middle eastern orange cake / flourless orange cake

Flourless orange cake

This flourless orange cake is really quite amazing. The cake is unbelievably moist and has a wonderful, deep orange flavour that is quite surprising. Once the oranges have been boiled, it's very quick to put together (The recipe says to boil the oranges for two hours. I only did about one, and they were fine).

Flourless orange cake

Rather than making a big cake, you can see that I made little cakes. Half of the mixture I poured into heart shaped moulds, but the bases stuck when I turned them out and they all broke! Damn delicate things!

On top of the cakes is candied rind (recipe below). Unfortunately, I had too much of the pith and the rind was quite bitter. Well, at least it looked cute.

Flourless orange cake

Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern Orange Cake

From Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion

2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds
250g sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Boil oranges, barely covered with water, in a covered saucepan for 2 hours. Allow to cool, then cut open, remove pips and chop roughly, including the rind.

Preheat oven to 190°C and butter and flour a 24cm springform tin. Blend oranges and eggs thoroughly in a food processor. Mix ground almonds, sugar and baking powder in a bowl, then add orange mixture and whisk to combine. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour. If cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in tin before gently turning out.

Candied citrus peel and syrup

From Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2

Place 1 & 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/2 cup shredded orange, lemon or line rind, increase the heat and boil for 6-8 minutes or until the rind is glossy and transparent. Use the rind on its own for decoration or pour over with the warm syrup for deliciously moist cakes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ladies who Lunch: Journal Canteen

Isn't it annoying how life always gets in the way? When I first started working in the city, my friend Emily and I had the intention of having lunch about once a month. With lots of stuff happening in both our lives, it was difficult to set a date and we skipped a couple of months. In April, we finally managed to get together again, and headed to Journal Canteen.

Journal Canteen

Journal Canteen is located in the Centre for Adult Education building, and used to be a vacant first floor classroom. The menu, written on a couple of blackboards around the room, changes often but generally comprises antipasto, a couple of main courses and a dessert.

On our visit, the main choices were orrechiette with peas, pancetta and fresh ricotta, chicken coletta with cucumber and tomato, stuffed peppers with green beans, and spaghetti with three meat ragu.

Journal Canteen

I had the spaghetti with three meat ragu ($18). The braised, shredded meat in the rich, tomato based sauce was nothing fancy, but it sure hit the spot.

Journal Canteen

Em had the stuffed pepper with green beans ($18). I'm not sure what the pepper was filled with - we were too busy yakking for me to find out!

Journal Canteen

And we got a wee salad.

Journal Canteen

To finish off, we each had a freshly filled ricotta cannoli ($4.50 each) and a complimentary stovetop espresso. The cannoli was perfect - the fat tubes, dusted with icing sugar, were wonderfully crunchy with just a touch of sweetness. A lovely end to a long overdue lunch.

Journal Canteen
253 Flinders Lane
Phone: (03) 9650 4399

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Banana Cake

Bananas are breeding in my freezer.

Looking inside my freezer recently, I realised I had almost a dozen ripe, blackened bananas in there. The problem is, I don't like eating bananas once they have passed that perfect yellow stage. So they get stashed in the freezer.

After I realized that bananas were taking over, I had to make something with them. After a pot roast one Saturday night, I made this banana butterscotch pudding for dessert. I read through the recipe quickly and had in my head that it was a self saucing pudding. After pouring the liquid topping over the batter, I suddenly had second thoughts. Had I read the recipe correctly? Was it a self saucing pudding? Or was it a cake with syrup poured over to serve? Uh oh. I had already closed my laptop at that stage (and I had poured the liquid over already!) so I threw it in the oven and hoped that my memory wasn't failing me.

Banana pudding

Fortunately, the ole memory held up and it was a self saucing pudding. Unfortunately, it was so so sweet that we couldn't eat much of it. It would've been good if we had cream or ice cream to cut through the sweetness, but we didn't have anything of that sort in the house. It was a bit of a shame - if it hadn't been so sickly sweet it would've been really good!

Banana cake

My stash of frozen bananas also yielded two banana cakes. The first one I made for us, and we (mostly I) enjoyed it for morning tea over a few days. The second one I took into work. We constantly have morning tea at work – any excuse will do – staff leaving, staff starting, staff getting engaged, staff having babies, staff having a birthday, and even staff going on leave (seriously!). So my colleague and I decided that we would bring in cake one day – just because. Our pod got a lot of visitors when people slowly realised that there was cake on offer!

Banana cake

The recipe that I used is from Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2. It's probably the cookbook I've used the most. Not all the recipes in there are good – in fact, I have made a couple that are absolute duds – but the banana cake recipe is brilliant. The cake is soft and moist, with a pleasant banana flavour and a hint of cinnamon. I always reduce the total amount of sugar to 1 cup, but have left the recipe below as is.

Banana cake

Banana Cake

From Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2

Serves 8-10

125g (4 oz) butter, softened
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sor cream
1 cup roughly mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture. Add the cinnamon, sour cream and banana and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into a greased 26cm (10 in) fluted ring tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Blacksmith's tea loaf

Blacksmith's tea loaf

This so called loaf is basically a cake. It's pretty quick since all the ingredients get thrown into a saucepan before being baked. Chock full of dried fruit, it's very moist, rich and rather sweet. As you can see, mine looked like it was rather dense, but it didn't taste heavy, possibly due to all the fruit.

Blacksmith's tea loaf

You could use any dried fruit - I used a mixture of apricots, sultanas and dried apple. I didn't have any mixed spice either, so used a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

I took some to work, and popped them into the sandwich press before spreading the slices with butter. It smelt SO GOOD and was a great morning tea snack, particularly with a strong cup of tea. I thought the loaf was a touch too sweet, but spreading on loads of butter helped!

Blacksmith's tea loaf

Blacksmith's Tea Loaf

From Linda Collister's Quick Breads

Makes 1 medium loaf

300ml strong black tea
115g unsalted butter
350g mixed dried fruit
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
100g light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
225g spelt flour or plain wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 450g loaf tin.

Put the tea in a non-reactive saucepan that is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the butter, fruit, spice, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Add the flour and baking powder to the pan and mix briefly, then stir in the eggs. When thoroughly mixed, scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

Bake for about 40 minutes until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool, then turn out and remove the lining paper. Cute into thick slices to serve.

Best eaten within 4 days. Can be frozen for up to one month.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sticky chicken wings

Sticky chicken wings

I made these chicken wings the other night for a quick and dirty dinner (dirty because Bro and I gave up using cutlery and chowed down on them with our hands!).

The recipe is simple and easy - pop the wings in a marinade for a couple of hours and then roast them until cooked. The only variation I made to the recipe was to add some Tabasco sauce. I thought the wings were a touch sweet though and would leave the sugar out next time.

The recipe is from here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hong Kong BBQ & Seafood Chinese Restaurant

Phillip Island - The Nobbies

Phillip Island - The Nobbies

The Nobbies - Phillip Island

As mentioned in an earlier post, my mum and dad were over for a visit recently. Mum did manage to find the three surfaces that I had neglected to clean, but since she cleaned up as she complained, that was a-okay! Along with cleaning my poor neglected house, mum and dad also did our laundry... and the vacuuming... and took us out for meals... so I was sad when they left!

Phillip Island - The Nobbies

Phillip Island - The Nobbies

The Nobbies - Phillip Island

They entertained themselves most of the time, but we did a couple of touristy things with them. One of those things was driving down to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade. We got there quite early, and sat on the cold, hard, wet steps for an hour in the intermittent drizzle. Fortunately it didn't rain too heavily, and because the sky was quite overcast the penguins came clambering out of the water on schedule. They were gorgeous little things, and it was very amusing watching them waddling up the beach.

And, of course, we ate. One evening we all headed down to Chinatown and ended up having a very uninspiring Chinese meal. The food was boring and cliché (think sweet and sour pork, and lemon chicken), prices were expensive for what was received, and service was disjointed and forgetful. Fortunately, mum and dad picked the restaurant, so we didn't have to bear the complaints about how terrible it was. We only ate there because mum was fixated on eating lobster. After entering the restaurant, we realised that the lobster in the tank was too small, and decided not to have it after all! Goodness!

A different evening found us stopping in Footscray for dinner. Pat and I choose the Hong Kong BBQ & Seafood Chinese Restaurant merely because we have driven past many times and admired the roast ducks hanging in the window.

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

The bustling, brightly lit room painted with large murals won't win any interior design awards, and there was a touch of griminess about the place. But there was a Chinese version of the menu, and the wait staff spoke Chinese, so Pat and I hoped that we had made a good choice. The fact that the restaurant was completely full was also a good sign.

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

Mum noticed a large lobster in the tank as we walked in. She hadn't satisfied her lobster fixation yet, so we had to have it. The 3 pound lobster was cooked in XO sauce and noodles were $3 extra ($101.40 all up). My mum's a smartie – before we ordered we had agreed that Alastair and I would pay for the meal!

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

We also had to try the roast pork ($19) and roast duck ($11.80). I didn't eat any of the duck, but the roast pork was good! The skin was very crispy and the meat was flavoursome and porky.

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

Another dish was the deep fried flounder with spicy salt and chilli ($13.80). Oh boy, this was good. The entire fish was battered, deep fried and then covered in chilli laden salt and coriander.

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

We had a plate of stir fried water spinach (around $12 I think). Pretty simple, but tasty.

Hong Kong BBQ Restaurant

And our last dish was a plate of pickled duck's feet and jellyfish ($14.80). The duck's feet (at the bottom of the plate in the photo above) were deboned and pickled and I must admit that they were kind of strange. The feet were firm and chewy, and pretty tasteless. I found the webbing between the toes odd too - perhaps because most of my bird feet eating experience is with chicken's feet, which obviously doesn't have webbing. Still, the jellyfish and the pickled vegetables were good!

Even with the lobster, the total cost of the meal was still less than the dull one we had in Chinatown. There was a touch too much msg for my liking though, as I had the worst msg thirst that evening - it was like all the moisture had been sucked out of my mouth. Gak.

Hong Kong BBQ & Seafood Chinese Restaurant
118 Hopkins Street
Footscray VIC
(03) 9687 8488

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Little orange poppyseed cakes

Little orange poppy seed cakes

I had a free health check at work today. There was good news and bad news. The bad news is that my height was 3cm less than I thought it was. Some might think that's not really bad news, but when you're not very tall, every centimetre counts!

The good news is that, along with my glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol being normal, I was also a couple of kilos lighter than I thought I would be. I've been eating a lot of cake recently, so this was a surprise.

I actually think that I may have been under measured and under weighed, but I can't decide which outcome I'd prefer – to be taller but heavier, or shorter but lighter. Hmmmm.

Little orange poppy seed cakes

The other week I felt like cake. Did I mention I've been eating a lot of cake recently? I went and bought a slice of poppyseed cake and felt very under whelmed as it seemed to have a nasty, chemically sweetness. It inspired me to do better! A google search unearthed a diabetic recipe for orange poppy seed cake (or so the website said). I made a few adaptations to the recipe, and rather than a big cake I baked several little ones.

My little cakes were strangely compelling. They weren't too sweet, nor too orangey, and the texture wasn't particularly cakey. In fact, they reminded me of scones. And they were SO moreish – I found myself eating a couple at a time because one wasn't enough!

Little orange poppy seed cakes

Little orange poppy seed cakes

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

Adapted from Fitness and Freebies

½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3 eggs
¾ cup unsweetened yoghurt
Zest from one orange
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180° C.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and margarine until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs, yoghurt, orange juice and orange zest until smooth.

Mix in the cake flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin. Pour batter into the moulds and bake for about 15 minutes, or until skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Passing on the Excellent!

I'm rather hopeless with picking favourite things. Ask me what my favourite colour/movie/song/meal/fruit/etc is, and I'll list ten items.


So it's taken me a bit of time to think about it, but I'd like to pass the E is for excellent award on to two great blogs: to Towser from Spot4Nosh and Danny from Food in mouth. They're both far better writers than me, so check them out!


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Money Order Office (MOO)

In the middle of a long article in Epicure last Tuesday about what's cutting-edge in haute cuisine, was this intriguing quote:

"Blumenthal has a PHD student at Nottingham university researching taste perception.

'She's found that when we are excited we taste far more acutely - this is good for the dining experience. Conversely if stressed chefs taste salt and sweet up to 50% less clearly they could easily over season.' '"

Perhaps this could explain the rather salty experience that we had at Money Order Office (MOO) recently?

Alastair's mother, Annette, and her husband, Terry, came for a visit a few weeks ago. Not only did we get the pleasure of their company, but they also insisted on taking us out to dinner before they left. Annette's only requests were for a place with a view – perhaps by the river or the ocean. We took that into account... and ended up going to a restaurant that could not have any less of a view if it tried. Whoops!

MOO, is located in a laneway off Little Bourke Street, and occupies a basement area of the Old Money Order Office. The dining area is separated from the bar by wrought-iron gates, and despite the fact that the restaurant is down in a basement, it doesn't feel small or claustrophobic. The decorator obviously knew the tricks of preventing the room from being a dim, enclosed space. There is a large mirror on the far wall of the restaurant, and rather clever rectangles in the booths against the walls are painted alternating stripes of a dark and gold/yellow colour, which creates an illusion of blinds covering a window.


For my entree, I ordered the scallops, which were seared and presented with Chinese whitebait and onion bhaji, hummus and shaved fennel ($20). There was rather a lot going on with this dish! The scallops were cooked nicely, but I wasn't sure about them with the onion bhaji and hummus AND fennel. It was also a touch too salty.


Alastair had one of the specials that evening - fresh oysters. There were two different types - Sydney rock oysters and the other was Pacific oysters from Tasmania. I can't remember which one was which now (Sydney large, Tassie small or was it the other way around?), but Alastair said that the smaller ones were tastier.


Everyone else had either the scallops or the pork belly. The pork belly was braised and seasoned with cumin, and served with a pea pannacotta, crackling and pork jelly ($18). The long, thin stick in the picture was the crackling - rather novel, I thought! I'm not a big fan of peas, but I tasted some of the pannacotta and it was smooth and silky. The others mentioned that the pork belly was also a bit salty but otherwise good.


For my main, I ordered the rabbit – a braised leg and loin of rabbit, brioche, leek and field mushroom puree ($36). Like the scallops, there was a lot going on with the meal and again, it was just a bit too salty. But the rabbit was cooked well, and although the mushroom puree looked a bit... um... gross... it had a strong, pleasant flavour.


Alastair had the roast lamb cutlet with lamb hotpot and curly kale ($38).


Annette had the gnocchi – and received rather large pan fried potato gnocchi with parmesan roast root vegetables ($32). This looked really interesting, although someone was rather generous with the salad garnish! You can just see a piece of gnocchi peeking out from under the greens in the left of the picture.


My Bro had the quail – a boneless quail wrapped in proscuitto with grilled cotechino sausage, quail egg and pedro ximenz jus ($35).


And last, Terry had one of the specials of the evening – a confit of rabbit leg. Again, someone was rather generous with the salad leaves. I can't even see any rabbit in this picture!

Across the board, everyone found that their food was a bit too salty. Alastair and I have eaten at MOO before (about a year ago now) and didn't have a problem with over seasoning at our previous meal, so I'm not sure if the saltiness was just a problem on this night. And let me clarify - it wasn't salty to the point where the food was inedible, it was just enough for everyone to say, "This is a bit salty!" We still had a good meal, but it could've been a really good meal if the seasoning had been toned down.


For dessert, I had a fig tart tartin with red wine ice cream and muscat reduction ($14). When the dessert came out, the waiter advised me that they didn't have any red wine ice cream and substituted it with coconut. That was fine by me, and I rather enjoyed the coconut ice cream. The fig tart tartin was slightly too caramelised, and damn hard to eat with a spoon!


Alastair and Pat both went for chocolate - a rich chocolate and expresso marquise with fresh raspberries and raspberry sauce ($14). It looked very decadent. I don't know why I didn't try any since I normally steal a bite from what Alastair's eating. Perhaps I was kept busy by trying to cut my fig tart tartin with a spoon!


Annette and Terry skipped the sweet stuff and shared some cheese instead. With the selection of cheeses, came fresh grapes, quince paste and apricot and walnut bread ($22).

Apart from the glitches mentioned, we did have a wonderful time. The ambiance there is great - not too dark, not too bright, not too loud, and not too quiet. Service was friendly without being overbearing or too casual. Oh, and I almost can't believe that I've gone the whole post without mentioning the wine list. The menu is 4 pages long but the wine list stretches to something like 18 pages. It would help to go to MOO with someone who knows something about wine!

Money Order Office (MOO)
Basement 318, Lt. Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9639 3020

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