Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cherry Coconut Brownies

Donna Hay was so right when she said that brown doesn't photograph well. I had a bad day with the camera with these brownies, but they tasted so damn good that I had to tell you about them anyway. The main problem I had was that I didn't have the right sized tin and I was making up the recipe in my head, so my brownies were too thick. So I had to cut narrow, tall pieces of brownie rather than fat, short rectangles. Oh well, no one seemed to mind.
I was making a big tin plus a small ramekin of the mixture because I had a tiny bit left over and I got so excited about tasting the ramekin brownie that I forgot about the big tin and managed to slightly burn the very top of them. It was very upsetting because it meant I lost that lovely crackly top that you expect to see on a good brownie. But just to prove the recipe works, I'll show you the lovely texture of the mini brownie I was testing:
See?! If only I hadn't forgotten about the big tin! Oh well, luckily I remembered to rescue them before they tasted burnt, so they were still great to eat. It was fudgy without being raw or too dense which is something I'm not a huge fan of in brownies. The tart cherries and crunchy bits of coconut were amazingly good in this super moist brownie. I always knew it would be, I mean bloody hell, these are the ingredients of a Cherry Ripe. I was obsessed with Cherry Ripe as a child when I was stuck in the Middle East and Malaysia for years without any access to them. My brother used to bring me them over from Perth and one time he brought so many that I overdosed on them and haven't been able to enjoy them with the same gusto since.
Cherry Coconut Choc Brownies
250g dark chocolate
245g butter + 5 g for greasing tin
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped cherries (fresh, frozen or canned, whatever you can get. I used canned)
150 self-raising flour
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 20x30cm baking tin. Drain cherries if they are in syrup and chop into halves.
Cut butter into cubes and roughly chop up chocolate and place both in a heatproof bowl. Melt chocolate and butter together over a double boiler and then set aside to cool.

Mmm chocolatey...
Beat eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer on low speed until they are well combined. Beat in melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Stir in cherries. Fold flour and coconut gently into the mixture until just combined, taking care to not overmix. Pour into prepared tin, smooth over with a spatula and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with moist crumbs and no raw batter stuck to it.
Cool completely in its tray on a wire rack then turn out onto rack and cut into squares.
These were a huge hit with everyone, I'm happy because these days I get permission from the boyfriend to bake as much as I want because he can feed it to his workmates as well as mine. It's funny how nothing seems to get people more excited than super chocolatey things. The boy being his usual tactful self mentioned that the dark fudgy brownie with the bits of white coconut looked like worms or maggots crawling through the dirt. Thanks. But then I thought, this could be a great thing to do as part of a halloween dessert! Ooh yes, going to have to brainstorm this idea...
Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Food Blog's Secret Dinner, Element Bistro, Sydney CBD


Olive oil tasting
Secret dinners. The intriguing world of underground dining. I remember reading all about these secret dinners with great interest recently. A secret dinner at a secret location with mystery chefs and an unknown menu. How exciting! That's why Lisa and I jumped at the opportunity to be part of one of these secret dinners after Lili mentioned that she would be preparing the dessert for a five course meal organised by her friend Fouad (of The Food Blog).

Fouad making his introductory speech

It was a wonderful, intriguing experience from start to finish. At first we got emails, telling us a few details; 30 diners would come together for a 5 course meal inspired by the Mediterranean, showcasing some fantastic local produce. We provided our mobile phone numbers and were smsed the secret location at 3pm on the day of the dinner. That night arrived at Element Bistro in the CBD, a small French Bistro with a bottle of wine and an empty stomach.

Fouad explains that Trish (www.forque.com.au) has prepared the first course for us along with some olive oils to taste. Trish goes on to tell us that to try the four olive oils in front of us we had to cup the small glass in our hands and swirl it around to warm it up a bit, then smell it and drink it. I remember there was a chilli olive oil, plus one infused with blood orange and another with lemon and lime. I admit to being completely clueless when it comes to olive oils, so found it a bit weird drinking olive oil on its own, I'm used to having it with at least a bit of bread!

Course #1 - Buffalo Mozzarella with Tomato and Oregano, Labneh with Beetroot and Honey and Vinegar drizzle, Buffalo Fetta with Fennel and Orange Potato Pancake
The first course is a selection of local cheeses, as since I'm a big fan of cheese this was always going to go down well with me. The mozzarella was light and chewy, encrusted with lots of oregano and the labneh was definitely my favourite of the three, rich and super creamy. It was balanced out well with a sweet slice of beetroot and honey. The feta was really intense it definitely needed the sweet fennel and orange salad and the potato to go with it.

Course #2 - Young Organic Lamb Shish Barak with a Goats Milk Yoghurt Sauce and Silverbeet
Fouad was serving up the next two courses, first up were spiced lamb dumplings. They were so tasty; a fairly dry lamb mince with very thin which went perfectly with the pool of lovely yoghurt sauce and toasted pinenuts. The other diners also had theirs with toasted almonds which I'm sure would have matched well. The silverbeet was soft and moist and the fried dumpling skins were thin and crisp.

Course #3 - Chicken and Black Pudding Moghrabieh with caramelised onion and chickpeas
The next course was was equally interesting to me, I have to admit I am a little bit lacking in Mediterranean style food but I was enjoying it immensely. This course was essentially a pasta dish, moghrabieh which is also known as pearl couscous because of its size, is a large couscous made from semolina. These firm little balls of semolina were fantastic in texture and fun to pop into your mouth by the spoonful. They were accompanied by a very rich slice of spicy black pudding, chicken, chickpeas and a lovely caramlised onion. It all went extremely well with the rich sauce, a reduction of chicken stock, gewürztraminer, burnt sugar, butter, star anise and caraway. It was rich and filling, but I still managed to eat most of it.

Course #4 - Beef fillet stuffed with bone marrow & cavolo nero, Soubise Sauce and Potato and Thyme Croquette
By this point I was slowing down a bit, as the previous course had been so darn rich and filling, but I welcomed the classic flavours in this dish. This course was done by the chef of Element Bistro, Matt Barnett, who had been so kind to let Fouad, Trish and Lili into his kitchen on a Saturday night when the bistro is usually closed. The beef was tender and pink, matched with the soubise sauce which was light and creamy. I loved the potato and thyme croquette (you may remember I have an ongoing love affair with croquettes), with it's crunchy golden exterior and fluffy potato innards.

Course #5 - Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake with Orange Blossom Pannacotta and Pine Nut Praline
I was struggling to fit in the beef fillet, but of course I pushed my fullness out of my mind and my ever faithful dessert stomach kicked into gear as soon as Lili's flourless chocolate cake was brought out. She did us food bloggers proud I tell you! The dessert looked gorgeous and it tasted just as good. It was a fantastic mix of textures and flavours; with the rich but not too heavy chocolate cake and the light as a cloud pannacotta. My favourite was the crunchy pine nut praline, I could have hugged her for using pine nuts instead of a real nut, so I didn't miss out on a single part of the dish. Oh and the little candied flowers were so pretty, as well as beinga tasty addition to the dessert. I, and pretty much everyone else in the room scraped their plates clean.

Full of good food and wine, Lisa and I left that night very glad we got the opportunity to participate in this unique experience. Many thanks to Lili for offering us the spots and generally being awesome, and to Mark Barnett for providing the venue and a great course. Huge thanks and congratulations to Fouad for putting on a successful, interesting and delicious event, it was truly an entertaining and tasty experience and I hope there are many more to come! P.S. Check out Fouad's blog to read a wonderful first-hand account of the secret dinner.

Element Bistro
163 King St,

Sydney 2000 NSW

(02) 9231 0013


Lunch

Mon-Fri: 11:45am - 3pm

Dinner

Tues-Fri: from 5:45pm

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dry Wonton Mee


If you've ever read the earlier posts in this blog, you will know about my obsession with Malaysian style dry wonton mee. It's a dish you can really only find in Malaysia, and even in Malaysia there's only certain places that do it well. Very different to the Hong Kong style of wonton noodles, these are served in a thick, dark, pork fat laden sauce with lots of pickled green chillies. It's one of those things I get the worst cravings for and make me extremely homesick for Malaysia, even if I do call Sydney my home. I have yet to find a place in Sydney that sells an authentic version.

My mum used to pick me up this dish from a nearby hawker stall for lunch all the time, and it would come packed up in plastic freezer bags, held together with pink plastic string. It doesn't feel the same without the plastic, or the pork fat, but this version that we try and make at home is about as close as I've managed to get to the real thing. Anyway, it's just a really tasty dinner.

Wonton Mee
(Recipe adapted from Lee Sook Chings 'Cook Malaysian')

Water Chestnuts
For the wontons and soup:
1 tbsp water chestnuts or yam bean, finely diced
1 knob ginger (approx 1 cm)
100g minced pork
2 tsp chopped spring onion
1 tsp tapioca flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg white, beaten
White pepper
Wonton skins (1 pack, 25-30 pieces)
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or olive)
3 shallots, sliced
6 cups stock (I used chicken stock)
1 pack wonton egg noodles (I recommend the Double Merino brand shown below)
Optional: Chinese vegetables (e.g. choy sum or bak choy), char siew (bbq pork) to serve

For the serving sauce:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp kecap manis
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
white pepper, to taste

Cut off two thin slices of ginger and pound the rest to extract the ginger juice (I squeezed the pounded ginger through a fine sieve). Mix minced pork with water chestnuts or yam bean, ginger juice, sping onion, tapioca flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp light soy, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, egg white and a good shake of pepper.


Knead well to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Get your hands right in there!


Spread out a wonton skin and moisten the edges with some water on your finger tip. Spread out a wonton skin and place a spoonful of this filling in the centre. Press wonton skin together to enclose filling completely.

I know, there are a million pretty and better ways to fold a wonton together but when I'm in a rush I just twist the top together, it's quick and it stays together, which is good enough for me!

These dumplings can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until they are ready to be boiled and served with the noodles. Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil and brown the shallot and ginger slices. Add the stock with the remaining salt and light soy with a good shake of white pepper. Keep the stock hot.

Prepare your serving sauce ahread of time: heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan until hot and then add the diced garlic. Remove from the heat and stir fry the garlic until it is brown. Remove from the pan before the garlic starts to burn and place in a small bowl. Add all other ingredients, feel free to adjust the ratios of all the sauces to your taste.

The sauce should be thick and black, salty and sweet with a strong hit of garlic. The original recipe only uses regular soy instead of kecap manis and no garlic, but I love the extra flavour you get from these two ingredients.

In a saucepan, boil water and add the wontons and cook for 4 minutes or until they float. Lifed the cooked wontons from the water and plunge them into a basin of cold water. Drain well and keep aside.

Allow water to come to the boil again in the saucepan. Loosen the stands of your pack of wonton noodles and drop it into the boiling water. Stir with chopsticks and cook for 1 minute. Use a large slotted spoon or a sieve to lift the noodles from the boiling water and plunge them in a basin of cold water (I just run it under a cold running tap).

Remove, shake out excess water and plunge into the boiling water again (I usually skip this step due to laziness). Lift out at once, drain well and place in a large bowl or pot. Pour serving sauce over the noodles and mix through well using chopsticks until all the noodles are coated in the sauce.

Boil chinese vegetables in the stock prepared earlier, when cooked serve vegetables, sliced char siew & noodles with some pickled green chillies. Wontons can either be served in a bowl of the stock or mixed into the noodles.

The type of noodles that you use for this dish will make a big difference. At the chinese supermarket they usually sell egg noodles and wonton noodles. Make sure you get the wonton noodles, they should be firmer. Try and get the brand I mentioned if you can find it, I see it at most chinese supermarkets and it's the best brand I've tried so far.
Print Friendly and PDF

Mamak, Haymarket


Finally, I returned to Mamak. I've had roti on the brain ever since I heard Mamak had closed for a few weeks for renovations. Once I realised it wasn't there to have any time, I really really wanted it. So as soon as we heard the news of it's grand reopening, I was itching to go. We arrived early, wary of the lines that we always heard about. Note to self, Mamak doesn't open for lunch until 11.30am. Oops. Anyway, we were in line before the doors had even opened, so we were assured a table!

I take note of the changes to the restaurant while waiting in line with Leona and Betty. It's pretty much doubled in size, but it's hard to believe that it ever was as small as it used to be, it still looks fairly small and crowded. We get in and order fast, but so does everyone else so there is a short wait before our food starts to arrive.

Milo ais ($3.50)

I usually get the iced milo or the lime juice, though recently I get the milo as I can no longer justify paying $3.50 for lime juice and sugar syrup. Oooooh someone has improved on their milo ice because it is SO thick and malty. It's so packed full of milo that I actually suck small clumps of milo up with my straw, sweetened with condensed milk. YUM. I also really like Betty's teh halia, a teh tarik with a lovely hint of ginger, and am definitely getting that when I come back next time.

Roti canai ($5.00)
I don't know if I had been building it up in my head how amazing the roti is here, but several visits to Alice's and a long break from Mamak has left me feeling underwhelmed with the roti canai here. It still looked as fluffy and crispy as I remembered, but the inside was slightly more greasy and soggy than I thought it would be. It's still the best in the city though. And their sambal is still great + the two curry sauces are just as I remember, spicy and intensely full of herbs and spices.


Ayam goreng ($3.50 per piece/$12 for 4)
I love the fried chicken here. I don't bother eating KFC fried chicken, or any other chicken for that matter, because why would you bother when you can get ayam goreng like this (or at Ayam Goreng 99)? I get a little worried seeing all the oil that is glistening on the brown skin of the chicken, but breaking open the skin reveals juicy pieces of meat, not as greasy as I thought it would be. (For the record, I haven't eaten at KFC in nearly 5 years. Isn't that kind of awesome?)

Maggi Goreng ($10.50)
Mmmm I have a soft spot for maggi goreng. It always brings me straight back to coffee shops in KL. I know it seems odd paying for a dish cooked with instant noodles, but there's something so wonderfully street-style about it. It's pretty good here, full of chilli, egg, prawns, crunchy fried onions and bean sprouts, and pillows of deep fried tofu.

Sambal sotong ($16.00)
On a whim, I chose the sambal sotong for us, probably since it was one of the dishes on the menu that I had never tried before. It was different to what I expected, I'm not sure why, but there were super soft and moist slivers of calimari in a thick sambal sauce. I love sambal, I just eat it by the spoonful on its own when I go back to Malaysia, though I'm not completely sold on this style of sotong, as the texture was quite soft and slimy.

Roti tisu ($9.00) with sweetened condensed milk
The pièce de résistance, the roti tisu. We see people having it with curry, we see people having it with ice cream. NO! Sweetened condensed milk is the only way to go with roti tisu! Okay, it may only appeal to the hardened sweet tooths amongst us, but those paper thin slivers of roti, encrusted with butter and sugar crystals become even more amazing when dipped in the super thick, super sticky condensed milk. It just crumbles in your mouth and leaves you with an intense sugar high. I could eat this all day.

I could haved lingered here for longer chatting with the girls who I always have so much fun with, but I can see the line of hungry looking people starting to build up at the front of the restaurant, so we hustle out of the restaurant. Mmm it's definitely worth the wait in line for that roti tisu, but I'm quite pleased to have a very good alternative in Alice's near my home (without the lines!). Thanks again to Betty & Leona for helping me satisfy my roti cravings!

Mamak
15 Goulburn Street,
Haymarket Sydney 2000
(02) 9211 1668

Open 7 Days
Lunch: 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm-9:30pm
Supper: Open til 2am Friday & Saturday
Mamak on Urbanspoon
Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lemon Cherry Delicious


It's cold. You have a lot of lemons leftover. Lemon delicious is the answer to all you problems!! I have to admit, I am completely in love with this recipe. Anything with a golden top, fluffy middle and gooey, saucy bottom is a winner in my books. The addition of cherries gives it some colour and tang and I think it was even better than a regular lemon delicious.

Lemon Cherry Delicious
(Adapted from this Gourmet Traveller recipe)
1 cup (220 g) caster sugar
90 g unsalted butter, softened
2 lemons, finely grated rind and juice
3 eggs, separated
120 g self-raising flour
3 cups (750 ml) milk
1/2 cup cherry jam
To serve: pure icing sugar and pouring cream (Optional)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Beat sugar, butter and lemon rind with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add egg yolks, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately in batches and beat well until a smooth batter forms. Add citrus juices and beat until just combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggwhites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form, fold one third of the eggwhites through batter to lighten, add remaining eggwhites and fold in until just combined. Divide mixture among six 1¼ cup-capacity buttered ovenproof dishes (I used lots of little ramekins), and drop blobs of cherry jam over the tops, or swirl into the mixture.

Place in a deep roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake until puffed and golden (30-35 minutes). Dust generously with icing sugar and serve immediately with cream.

A was his usual blunt self and said the cherry bits looked like wounds. Yeah thanks. I do see what he means though. But please don't let that put you off, the cherry bits go so well with the sweet lemon pudding! Some icing sugar dusted on top will get rid of any 'wounds'. I just always forget to dust off the tops with icing sugar because they smell so good that I impatiently dug into them as soon as they came out of the oven! Anyway, A shut up as soon as he tucked into one of these, he loved them.

The best part is all the different textures you get throughout it. It's very wet down the bottom, like a self-saucing pudding, and the lemon sauce goes so well with that crisp top. I may have left mine in for a liiiittle bit too long so you can see some of them got a bit brownie than I would have liked. I was surprised by how many serves I got out of this recipe, I ran out of ramekins. It's a light, heart-warming dessert which is sure to please any lemon lover.

Print Friendly and PDF