Sunday, January 31, 2010

Duck a L'Orange & Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes

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I had to giggle a little bit about the fact that we were eating duck a l'orange for lunch on Australia Day. While others were enjoying barbeques and lamingtons around the country, we were preparing this classic French dish. BUT, it did happen to be from my Margaret Fulton Christmas book, which was given to me as a present from the lovely Karen from Citrus and Candy. And what could be more Aussie than Margaret Fulton?!
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We had originally planned to cook this duck for Christmas. We had a bacon wrapped turkey breast, a ham and prawn cocktails on the menu, it was meant to be a daggy, retro Christmas dinner. But our eyes were bigger than our stomach and we barely managed to finish just the turkey and the prawn cocktails. So we finally got a chance to use our duck on Australia Day.
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It was surprisingly simple to put this dish together. I don't cook often (this is the first savoury recipe on here in how long??), so I was happy to help my brother while he did most of it. Most of the energy goes into making the rich sauce, strongly flavoured with orange. And the sauce is the key to this recipe, you can't enjoy the duck without it. I found the meat on it's own wasn't orangey enough for me, but with the sauce it packed a nice citrusy punch.
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And OH MY GOD, how good are potatoes cooked in duck fat?! I hadn't had it in so long, and I had a foodgasm when I tasted them again. If you haven't tried duck fat roasted potatoes yet, you haven't lived. These potatoes were cooked to within an inch of their life, and then fluffed up and tossed into a roasting pan full of the fat that had dripped off our duck. All those little fluffy bits of potato on the outside crisped up into crunchy brown pieces of deliciousness.
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Duck a l'Orange (and duck fat roasted potatoes)
(from Margaret Fulton Christmas - I have halved the original recipe)
1 x 2.5 kg duck
Rind of one orange, pared
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/6 cup sugar
1/8 cup sweet red wine vinegar
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 tbsp arrowroot mixed with 1 tbsp port (we substituted the arrowroot for 1 tsp of potato flour)
Rind of one orange, cut into shreds,
1/4 cup port
1 tbsp orange liquer such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier
8g butter
Flesh from 2 oranges chopped into segments

Approx 1 kg potatoes, peeled
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Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Remove all the excess fat from the inside of the duck and insert the pared orange rind into the cavity. Season with salt and pepper and truss the ducks. (We didn't have any string so we just skewered everything together...it sorta fell apart but it didn't seem to matter). Pat dry with paper towel and place the ducks, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Bake for 20 mins until the ducks have browned lightly and released some of their fat. Remove the ducks from the roasting pan but keep the excess fat in the roasting pan. Lower the temperature to 190 degrees C and return the duck to the oven in another roasting pan for an hour.
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Boil the peeled potatoes in a large pot of water for approximately 20 minutes, until they are cooked through and just about to fall apart. Drain potatoes and very gently toss them around in the colander so that the exterior fluffs up. (If you have time, place the cooked potatoes into the fridge to remove moisture from them, this will make them extra crispy). Return the duck fat to the oven to heat it slightly, then remove from the oven and gently toss the potatoes in the roasting pan of hot duck fat. Roast potatoes in oven for around 45 minutes, or until they are crisp on the outside. Ensure they do not burn.
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Meanwhile, for the sauce, boil the sugar and vinegar over a high heat until it forms a thick syrup. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the chicken stock. When smooth, put back over the heat and bring to the boil. Gradually add the arrowroot mixture and the orange rind. Simmer the sauce for about 4 minutes or until the sauce is clear and thickened.
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When the duck is cooked, remove the trussing and place them on a serving dish and keep warm. As the duck is awkward to dave, it might be best to carve in the kitchen. Cut straight down through the breastbone and back (use scissors or poultry shears to cut through bone). Lay each half of board and make a slanting cut between ribs to separate the wing and leg, making two good portions of each half. With scissors or shears, trim away any carcass bone. The portion should be two wings and two legs with a good portion of breast attached to each wing portion.
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Remove all the fat from the baking dish which held the duck, leaving the juices in the bottom. Place over the heat and stir in the port, scraving up the pan juices, allowing it to reduce by half.
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Strain into the prepared sauce base and bring to a gentle simmer, then stir in the orange liqueur. Adjust the seasoning and when ready to serive, remove the sauce from the heat and swirl in the butter. Add the orange flesh to the sauce and spoon a little of the sauce over the ducks to give them an attractive glaze.
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Serve with the remainder of the sauce and your roasted potatoes. We also served them with peas and buttered carrots.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nanaimo Pops - Daring Bakers Jan 2010

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The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

I seem to be suffering from baker's block at the moment. Perhaps it's a hangover from all the crazy Christmas baking, but I've been feeling too tired to bake. And it's been hot enough in Sydney recently that the absolute last thing that I felt like doing was turning the oven on. So I was slightly relieved to hear what this month's challenge would be, especially after the insanity of last month. I hadn't really heard of Nanaimo bars before this, so I decided to keep it simple and try out the recipe without too much tampering.
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It was quite a straight-forward recipe, unfortunately I left it to the last minute and had to use what was available so I did not make the gluten-free version of the Graham wafers. I was really looking forward to making them since I've seen them in so many of the slices and cheesecake recipes where I've had to replace it with Digestive biscuits. The Graham wafers were delicious, I loved the light flavour the honey gave them, and they tasted nothing like digestives.
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I thought it might be fun to serve the Nanaimo bar on lollipop sticks, like a cake pop. I ended up settling for popsicle sticks, which was probably better since I made them quite large and they needed a thick stick to hold on to. I was a little disappointed with how my Nanaimo pops turned out, but I should have known I was headed for disaster, because anything that is chocolate covered is going to end up a big fat mess if I'm the one doing it. I forgot to chill my pops before taking photos, but they firmed up nicely in the fridge afterwards. I still wish they were a little bit neater, but they were fun to dip into warm milk.
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While I adored the Graham wafers, I'm a little unsure if this is one of my favourite slices. The middle layer had a lot of custard powder in it, which has quite a strong flavour. I don't tend to use custard powder for anything other than biscuits, so I wasn't used to the flavour of it. It also seemed such a shame to crush up those lovely tasting biscuits into the base where you couldn't taste it anymore! I also replaced the almonds in the base with cornflakes, due to allergies, which worked quite nicely. It reminded me of afghan cookies, which I have had a major craving for recently.

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
Ingredients:
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour (I replaced all three flours with plain flour)
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract
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Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
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Milk, honey & vanilla (The geek in me was reminded of physiology labs when I saw this)
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
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4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
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7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
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9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, forceforce all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.
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Nanaimo Bars
Ingredients:
Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped) (I replaced this with an equal amount of slightly crushed cornflakes
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
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Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

Directions:
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
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For the pops, I pressed them into heart shapes using a cookie cutter, and then pressed them firmly into the tops of the popsicle sticks.
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2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
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3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
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I placed my pops over a wire racks so any excess chocolate could drip off. After chilled, serve with hot tea or warm milk...or whatever you feel like! Thanks to Lauren for this month's challenge, I'm going to go munch on some Graham wafers now!
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Frank's Lebanese Restaurant, Fairfield

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I was excited. I don't get to eat good Lebanese food very often and I had heard so much about Frank's, so I was excited. It was my first time visiting Lisa's lovely home in Fairfield and she was eager to bring us to her favourite restaurant in the area, which seems to be a bit of an institution. And so our awesome group of five finally organised a date at Frank's, which is no easy feat when trying to coordinate 5 different schedules (we had to plan this 2 months in advance!).
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Fattouch salad (Larger $8.90)

We start off with something quite light, the fattouch salad. I dive into it with gusto after all the photos, since I am absolutely starved. It's the perfect summer salad, light and crunchy with crusty pieces of bread throughout.
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A basket of warm bread is placed at our table and soon all our main dishes follow. The felafel has a satisfying crunch to it's exterior and it (along with all of our mains) is accompanied by a huge dollop of hommos and baba gannouj and tons of fresh salad. All that greenery makes you think you can totally pig out without feeling particular guilty, which can be quite dangerous.
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Felafel main meal ($11.90) - 5 pieces of felafel with chefs own garlic sauce
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Charcoal chicken ($11.90) - Half chicken served with hommos, tabouli & baba gannouj and garlic cream
The charcoal chicken is a winner with everyone at the table. It's crisp and mouthwatering, the kind of food that makes you throw your table manners out the door so you can grab it up with your hands and get every morsel off the bone.
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Mixed Plate ($13.90) - Lamb, chicken & minced meat
Finally we have the mixed plate, which is meat heaven. The three different skewers are moist and full of spices and flavour. My favourite is probably the lamb, and all the meat is great when it's wrapped up with some of the warm bread and dips. We ordered just the right amount of food, so we were fully satisfied and it barely made a dent in our wallets. The service was excellent, extremely welcoming and the waiter even insisted on arranging the dishes neatly for our photo taking. We didn't stick around for dessert, since we had such a delicious dessert waiting for us back at Lisa's. It was hard being so close to Cabramatta and not getting the chance to stop by to shop and eat myself silly, so I know I will be back to the area very soon.
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Frank's Restaurant
16 Smart Street
Fairfield
(02) 9724 3000
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fennel Seed & Orange Cakes

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It's funny to remember what a fussy child I was. I hardly ate anything, believing that I didn't like most things without even really trying them, and my Mum gave up pretty early on trying to push me to try new things. But then I moved to Sydney to live with my brother, and very quickly learnt that if I didn't want to starve, I would have to eat whatever he made for me.
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Thanks to my brother, I rejoice in the discovery of a unique, exciting flavour on my tastebuds, strong ones that would have made me wrinkle my nose when I was younger. It probably has something to do with getting older and getting less sensitive tastebuds I suppose. One of those flavours that I'm slowly learning to love is the anise/liquorice flavour. Star anise is one of my absolute favourite ingredients to add to any meat dishes, and I'm starting to be obsessed with fennel and aniseed. On our food tour of Surry Hills a while back, I randomly picked up some colourful sugar-coated fennel seeds at the Indian grocery store. These are usually used like breath mints after a meal (and apparently fennel seeds help to aid digestion) and I love them. And being me, I couldn't look at the beautiful colours of the coated fennel seeds without thinking, 'Cupcake decorations!".
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So here's something a little different. I used a moist french yoghurt cake recipe that I tested out a long time ago on this blog, but paired it with an orange buttercream rather than a marmalade glaze. The addition of fennel seeds in the batter infuses it with a very light, fragrant aroma of anise, not the least bit overpowering. Even if you don't like liquorice, you will like these. I've had this recipe waiting in the sidelines for a while, I made it for my brother's birthday but then all the hectic Christmas baking came straight after it. I mucked up the buttercream slightly when I made it for him, but have since improved it. But it seems appropriate to try something new on my brother, since he's the one who taught me to get over my silly fears.

Fennel Seed & Orange Cupcakes
(adapted from this Dorie Greenspan recipe)
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal (can replace with another 1/2 cup plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such canola or safflower (I used about 2 tbsp less of this)
1 tsp fennel seeds
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For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, softened slightly
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp sugar-coated (or regular) fennel seeds to sprinkle on top (available at Indian grocery stores)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
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Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisking vigorously until the mixture is very well blended. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula and fold in the oil. You'll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Spoon batter into a lined cupcake tray, filling it about 3/4 full.
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Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
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Beat butter at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sift icing sugar into bowl, then beat in orange juice.
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Pipe or spoon on to top of cakes and then sprinkle a pinch of candied fennel seeds on top. Can be stored for several days in an airtight container.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flying Fajita Sistas, Glebe

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Taco Tuesday. Could anything sound more appealing to someone like me who is incredibly povo right now and looking for all opportunities to save a little money? I really haven't been eating out much these days, in case you couldn't already tell by the lack of restaurant posts recently. But when Lisa first mentioned that they did cheap taco platters at Flying Fajita Sistas on Tuesdays, my immediate response was "YES. I'm THERE.". A happy group of eight of us ended up at Glebe to enjoy some cheap tacos and a bit of sangria (or $3 tequila shots for anyone who was willing).
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(Sorry it was a blurry photo night)
The restaurant is still incredibly busy when we arrive at 8.30pm, and as a small line begins to form at the door as people wait to be seated, I hear a passer-by murmur to her friend "Ooh there's a line, it must be good". Well it's not always true, but it's usually a pretty good sign. We get to sit upstairs, though the atmosphere upstairs is almost identical no matter where you are seated. It's warm, busy and there's a lot of tacos.
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Strawberry & White Wine Sangria (1 Litre - $19.50) - A light and refreshing Sangria made with brandy soaked strawberries, white wine, pineapple juice and dry ginger ale
We start off by ordering some jugs of sangria (of course). It's very light and cooling and you can definitely pick up the flavours of the strawberries and the ginger ale, though Lisa still reckons it doesn't beat the one they serve at Gazebo.
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Trio of pepian, queso fundido and frijoles ($14.90) - with blue, white and yellow corn totopas, lightly salted
The eating commences with dips, very cheese ones. I'm a total sucker for melty, oozing cheese, so I am quite happy to plow into all the dips. The pepian is the Mexican pesto made with pumpkin seeds and fresh green chilli, then there's the frijoles (pinto beans blended with traditional spices, grilled with cheese) which I really enjoy, though I think everyone is in love with the queso fundido (charred tomato and ancho chile salsa melted with cheese). It's rich in flavour and packed full of gooey cheese, yum.
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Beef tacos
Then we were on to the tacos. For $12 per person, everyone gets 4 different tacos (beef, chicken, pork and bean) and complimentary sides to share. All the different types of soft tacos come out on separate platters, begging you to dive in with your hands.
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Complimentary sides (guacamole, salsa & crema)
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Extra chips
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Bean tacos
These tacos make me think that I haven't really eaten proper tacos in my life, the with is tender and shredded (giving it a texture that I really enjoy) and topped with lots of cheese. The tacos are quite thin and soft, so they aren't too doughy, though it does mean that all our photo-taking lets them get a little soggier than they would have been when they first came up.
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Chicken tacos
The beef tacos are quite strong in flavour and is nicely moist, and the chicken and bean are a little bit drier but have some good flavour, but my personal favourite was definitely the pork tacos. I hadn't had pork in a taco before, but it was delicious, and now I want pork in all my tacos!
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Pork tacos
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Mmm porky...
The pulled pork was super juicy and tasty, I kept nibbling on bits of pork that I could find with my fork even after I was full and happy to stop eating. Piling up the tacos with guacamole and salsa made it even better.
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While we are here, I have to try some of the chilli sauces they have on display, from the so called "Wall of Pain!!!". We start off with some of the not so scary stuff from the middle shelf, and you have to love the name of this one:
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The Rectum Ripper
Oh yes, it really was called the rectum ripper. But it didn't really live up to it's name since it only registered a delicate tingle on my tongue. I am a chilli fiend after all, I was expecting much worse with a name like Rectum Ripper! (Not looking forward to the random Google searches that will find my blog thanks to this) My friend had even warned of people who had cried at the table after trying some of their top shelf chilli sauce, so I had to try one that had a big scary looking Z on the front of it. It was alright, it burned happily at the back of my throat and lingered for quite a while, but it wasn't the worse I've had! I love chilli :D
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Dessert time. Gosh I love it when you can order every single dessert on the menu, and thanks to our large table we were able to do that easily. The five desserts on offer sounded equally appealing, so I was glad that we didn't have to choose.
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Orange, Coffee and Caramel Brulee ($12.90)
The brulee had that toffee layer that gave a satisfying crack as Karen broke into the surface. The custard was smooth and creamy, and rich with the flavour of coffee, which slightly overpowered the orange that was present in the mixture. I'm not always a lover of coffee desserts but I liked this one.
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Mexican Bread Pudding ($13.90) - Brioche, spiced pecans and chunks of Mexican chocolate baked in a rich custard, finished with a cinnamon anglaise
I had to miss out on the bread pudding since it had nuts in it, but I loved the sound of the brioche and bits of chocolate. The others said it was alright, but not the favourite of the desserts.
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Banana and Chocolate Chimichanga ($13.90) - A flour tortilla wrapped around banana and chocolate then lightly fried. Served with cinnamon anglaise, caramel sauce and a coconut creme
This was definitely my favourite dessert on the table. Fried, with banana and chocolate? Win! I loved the generous sprinkling of cinnamon on top, and the browned tortilla wrapped around soft slices of banana and melted chocolate.
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Platano Frito ($11.90) - Fried banana finished with fresh coconut creme, toasted coconut and white chocolate
After we got over the phallic jokes, we were expecting this dish to be as tasty as the previous. I mean, it didn't sound too different, it was fried and had the banana, but was just missing some of the other stuff. Unfortunately it was pretty disappointing, the banana was unnaturally dry and hard, almost crunchy. The texture was a little bit powdery and was lacking flavour. Not sure what happened here, maybe the banana was too unripe?
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Chocolate Mousse Cake ($12.90) - Chocolate genoise brushed with kahlua topped with a Mexican chocolate mousse, finished with an espresso anglaise and creme
The chocolate mousse cake was pleasant, it had a lovely fluffy texture that made it very light. It was quite sweet but not very rich, compared to the slight bitter, rich dark chocolate mousses that I am such a huge fan of. A thin disc of sponge cake down the bottom went nicely with the tall pile of mousse on top.

We finished late, lucky to get our dessert order in before the kitchen closed, and happily paid the bill after finding out it was a measley $30 a head. Consider all the desserts, drinks and starters we ordered, I thought it was incredibly good value. And the service and ambience was faultless, as far as I can remember. The povo in me rejoiced. More Taco Tuesday or other similar cheap feeds are needed in the near future please!

Flying Fajita Sistas
65 Glebe Point Rd

Glebe NSW 2037

(02) 9552 6522

Open 7 days 6pm until late


Taco Tuesday - $3 tacos and $3 tequila shots, taco platters (4 ppl min) - 4 per person with complimentary sides
Flying Fajita Sistas on Urbanspoon
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