Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Red Lantern, Surry Hills

Yay!!!! To celebrate, or perhaps commiserate, my last night on the east coast, for an undefined length of time, FH Alphie took me to Red Lantern for dinner (see my previous post on Red Lantern, Luke Nguyen, and the difficulty I have had getting a table). Admittedly we were after a Tuesday night booking, and when FH Alphie called the day before to book a table, I thought that our chances were slim. But I was surprised, and excited, when I found out we had a table for 2 at 8.15.

We turned up at 8.15 and were ushered inside to a table behind the door (much better than it sounds mind you - we were out of the draught when the door was opened, and had a great view of the rest of the restaurant). And I suddenly realised why it had been so difficult to get a booking in the past - this is a seriously small place.

Salad of spanner crab, pomelo and Vietnamese herbs

Our waiter explained the specials (spanner crab salad, and wagyu ribs), and how/what to order (think about the textures, something crispy with a fresh salad for example) and took our drinks order, although I think he was a bit disappointed that FH Alphie only had a coke! We also asked if photos were ok, after our last experience, and he looked surprised, but assured us that photos were not a problem - we could take photos of whatever we liked, as long as they weren't of him!

Goi Vit Cuon - rice paper rolled with roast duck, enoki mushrooms and Vietnamese herbs

We started with the spanner crab salad, and the duck & enoki mushroom rice paper rolls. The salad was very tasty, although considerably spicier than anything we had in Vietnam (maybe we were being served the tame, 'Western' versions?), with a good ratio of crab meat to salad. The rice paper rolls were delicious, and had cute little mushrooms sticking out the rolls, in place of garlic chives.

Con Dom Hap - mussels steamed with garlic, chilli & lemongrass and finished with coconut milk

We then had a 'middle course' of mussels steamed with garlic, chilli & lemongrass, which, given they were my first experience with mussels, were pretty tasty. The chilli was not too dominant, and the coconut milk mixed with the mussel juice to create a delicious sauce that meant I ate way to much rice at this point, given what was still to come.

Ga Chien Don - crisp skin pasture raised chicken cooked in master stock

We finished off with crispy chicken cooked in master stock, and some Asian greens. Although FH Alphie said that the chicken wasn't as good as the crispy skin duck we had at Billy Kwong, it was still really good. The master stock infused the chicken with beautiful flavours, and it was super soft, juicy and tender, with gorgeously crispy skin.

Possibly the only disappointment was the beer selection. There was only one Vietnamese beer on offer, although an impressive selection of other south-east Asian and internationals. We drank little else (apart from water & coke) while we were in Vietnam, and the beer they have on offer, 333, was one of the least impressive we had. We were both hoping to see either Hanoi or Larue, or even Saigon.

The next time you hear from me I'll be filling you in on my adventures in Perth!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Jamie's bacon-y cabbage

Sorry for the lack of posts of late - it's been a bit hectic at chez Alphie of late. I'm about to head off to Perth (for an undefined period) for work, so I've been busy packing and making sure FH Alphie will be ok without me.

Dinner tonight was lamb cutlets (lamb again? I hear you say, but I just can't help it, Mums lambs are soooo delicious), with mash and, Jamie Oliver's bacon-y cabbage. Which, as a side note, I am fairly sure is not what Jamie calls it, but my Ministry of Food cookbook has been packed away, so I can't check.

I tried Jamie's cabbage recipe about 12 months ago, on a whim, and it has been a regular winter side dish at chez Alphie ever since (we've had it two nights in a row now...). I have used both Savoy and regular (green?) cabbage, as well as Brussels sprouts (halved), and they have all worked well. If anything, the Brussels sprouts were probably my favourite.

Jamie's bacon-y cabbage
Jamie's Ministry of Food
serves 4-6
  • 1 small or 1/2 a large cabbage, shredded (or 500g Brussels sprouts, halved)
  • 4-6 rashers smoky bacon, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 2 knobs butter
  • 2-3tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 250ml chicken stock (hot works best)

In a large non stick fry pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and cook bacon until it starts to brown. Add the garlic, and once it starts to colour, add the butter and Worcestershire sauce (off the heat - it will spit). Then add the cabbage, and stir to coat.

Turn the heat up to high, add in the stock, and shake around a bit to combine. Put a lid on the pan, and leave for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally. Take the lid off, and continue to cook, until the cabbage is soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Capsicum & sausage stew

How appetising this sounds! I think I need to find/make up a new name for this creation, because to be honest, it is particularly tasty, but the words 'sausage stew' don't really do anything justice.

This was inspired by a capsicum and potato stew I have made before, combined with a wish to try some of the goat sausages FH Alphie bought back from Totally Local. It made way too much for two people (even though I only used 6 sausages), so I upped the sausages to 8 for the recipe, and that will still leave more than enough sauce for four people.

FH Alphie rates it: 8/10

Capsicum & sausage stew
Serves 4

  • 8 (or two per person) good quality sausages
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed/finely diced
  • 2 red capsicums, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2x 400g cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
  • salt & pepper

In a large (preferably non-stick) pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausages, then remove and drain on paper towel. Add the garlic & onion to the pan (you might need to get rid of some of the oil first, if your sausages were particularly fatty), and cook over medium heat until soft. Add the capsicum and cook for a few minutes until jut soft.

Stir in the tomatoes and half a can of water, and bring to the boil. Add the diced potato, and top with the sausages. Make sure the potatoes are fully submerged in the sauce, and leave to simmer (lid off) for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce, and something green - we had steamed beans, but a simple salad would be good.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lentil and spinach soup

Another vegetarian recipe! I'm on a roll this week!

FH Alphie and I have soup for dinner at least once a week during winter. We have a few staples that make regular appearances, but I like to try out something new every once in a while. This is one of the new ones. Jamie's Ministry of Food gets a pretty good run for its money at our place, especially during the week. The recipes are generally simple, and a lot of the recipes are quick and tasty (we've had a few failures, but I'll save that for another time).

I thought that this soup was great, if maybe a bit spicy (only 1/2 a chilli next time I think), full of flavour and very filling.

FH Alphie rated it: 5.5/10

Lentil and spinach soup
from Jamie's Ministry of Food, pg 137
(serves 6)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, roughly diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • a thumb size piece of ginger, finely sliced
  • 1/2 - 1 chilli, sliced (to taste)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2L chicken or vegetable stock
  • 300g dry red lentils
  • 200g baby spinach

Heat oil in a large pan, over medium heat, add the carrot, celery, onion & garlic. Cokk for about 10 minutes, with the lid on, but askew, until the vegetables are soft, and the onion is starting to colour.

Add the ginger, chilli, tomatoes, stock and lentils, stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the lentils are cooked. Stir through the spinach until just wilted.

Serve with a dollop of natural/greek style yoghurt.

I made a few modifications, just to suit what we had to hand. I used 2 tomatoes, instead of the cherry tomatoes, and cut the into eight. Also, I only had 200g of lentils, and 120g (one box) of baby spinach. I reduced the stock to 1.5L to suit, as I didn't want the soup to be too watery.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sonoma Bakery Cafe, Paddington

Breakfast at Sonoma in Paddington is a Wednesday ritual for me. My chiropractor is just across the road (yes, I see a chiropractor weekly), and given how early I have to get up to get there, I don't have breakfast before I leave. So after seeing the chiro, I stumble across five-ways, in the cold, and lately, in the rain, in to the welcoming hole in the wall that is Sonoma Bakery Cafe. There are only 7 or 8 tables (for two) inside, which, added to the friendly, chatty nature of the staff, makes it feel like you are having breakfast at a friends house (a well stocked, barista trained friend, but you get the idea).

Toast with tomato & ricotta ($4+$2+$2)

I almost always order the same thing; toast with tomato and ricotta, with a skim flat white. If I'm feeling particularly hungry, I replace the tomato and ricotta with two boiled eggs.

Toast with boiled egg ($4+$3)

Other toast options (all mix & match) include avocado, cured meats, Danish (?) fetta and jams. There are also a few museli/porridge variants, served with rhubarb and yoghurt (I tried them a while ago - these are delish), some breakfast rolls (I have had one of these too - also fab) and a selection of muffins and pastries.

If you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth a stop in, even if only for the coffee. And if it happens to be a Wednesday morning - I might just see you there!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fat Noodle, Star City, Pyrmont

I have been dreaming about eating at Red Lantern for some time now. Something that only intensified with our trip to Vietnam earlier this year. However, thanks to MasterChef's love affair with chef Luke Nguyen, it is now nearly impossible to get a seat. Last time I tried, after Luke's first appearance on the MC juggernaut, I was greeted with a pre-recorded message telling me that Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights were booked out for the next 6 weeks, but to leave a message if I was after a mid week booking (which I was). I then found out that the only time they could fit us in was at 9.30, on a Tuesday! Which, unfortunately, was just too late - we wouldn't have made it home before midnight, and we're early risers in the Alphie household (not by choice let me tell you!).

So, when I stumbled upon a review for Fat Noodle, only to find out that Luke is the consulting chef (not really sure how I missed this in the first place, but oh well), I was pretty much sold. The mixed reviews scared me a little, as did the description location (main gaming floor), but by that stage, it was too late, I had already decided.

Fat Pho noodles

We arrived just after 6.30, and there was already a line forming. Once we were seated, the service was prompt, if a little cool. We started with the salt & pepper silken tofu, and the Byron Bay grilled pork neck skewers. The chilli dressing on the tofu was surprisingly punchy, and tended to overpower the salt & pepper elements of the tofu, however if you could get past the chilli, the crispy salt & pepper batter perfectly offset the creamyness of the tofu. While researching this restaurant, the pork neck skewers were given rave reviews by almost everyone (even thos who had few positive things to say!), so it was a must order. We were not dissapointed. The pork was sweet and tender, while still having some of those crispy chewy bits that you expect from a grill.
On to mains (not that things came out in that order - as the website says, 'dishes are brought to your table as soon as they are ready'), I had the fat pho noodles (I couldn't resist!), while FH Alphie had the roast duck. The pho broth was incredibly beef-y and full of flavour - more so than any other pho I have had, even those in Vietnam - it was so good, I'm not sure I'll be able to return to my usual pho without feeling like I'm missing out. The beef was soft and tender, even the brisket cut, which has a tendency to be tough and unappetising, and the noodles slippery - just like they should be!
I was surprised by FH Alphie's choice, I thought he might go with the turmeric chicken curry or the XO prawns, but he mad the right choice. The duck was crispy tender and succulent served with a rich chicken broth, unlike any I have tasted before.

As I suspected, the location left something to be desired. Fat Noodle is located between the baccarat area and the poker machines, the soundtrack of top40 hits interspersed with the tinny tunes from the poker machines, and people mindlessly hitting that button. Never the less, it seems to be quite popular, with people making a special trip to Star City just to eat there.
If anything, this trip has just made me more determined to get to Red Lantern - if this is what we see when Luke is only the 'consulting chef', I can't wait to see what he can do when he's actually in the kitchen!

PS. sorry about the lack of photos, but that was all I managed before I was asked to put my camera away (just like in Vietnam!)


Monday, July 19, 2010

Mexican beans

My younger sister requested I include more vegetarian recipes (not that we don't eat veggie things, I just haven't blogged on many of them), so here it is. This is based on a recipe from a very 90's cookbook called Meals without meat, which I picked up from a garage sale for about 50c, and I have used a lot - more than some of my more expensive cookbooks (V, I hear ya!).

This is a quick & easy vegetarian take on chilli con carne, and can be used for burritos, tacos, nachos, or just eaten with rice.

Mexican beans
adapted from meals without meat, pg 32
serves 4

  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2tbs rice bran oil
  • 2 capsicums, seeded and diced
  • 1/2tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
  • 1/2tsp chilli flakes (or more to taste)
  • 3tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp sugar
  • 3tbs tomato paste
  • 2 x 400g cans red kidney beans

Heat oil in a large pan, and cook the onion and garlic until just soft. Add the capsicum, and sauté for a few minutes, then add the spices (chilli, cumin, oregano, salt & sugar). Stir until fragrant, then add in the tomato paste and stir to coat.

Add in one can of beans, liquid and all (I know it sounds crazy, but it helps to thicken the mixture). Drain the other can, add to the pan and add half a can of water.

Check out the different colours of the red kidney beans - Aldi v Annalisa from BiLo

Simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until desired thickness.


Curried lamb pasties

These were a bit of a mission to make. I started dicing the lamb shoulder just after lunch, and we didn't start eating until 8.30 or 9.00! Admittedly it was a late lunch, but I did not expect these to take that long. The recipe is one I ripped out of a SMH Good Living about 2 years ago, and has been languishing in my 'green folder' ever since (much like the Moroccan lamb meatballs). Now that I have such great lamb to work with, I thought it was time I gave it a try.

Just a few hints, so that maybe it wont take quite so long... Use a non stick pan - I made a 'shocking mess' of the pot I used, which wasn't non stick, and I haven't attempted to clean it yet (I made these yesterday)... Cooling the lamb mix will take a couple of hours (unless, like me, you are in a total rush, and are crazy enough to cool it in an ice bath...), so I would suggest you start this either the day before, or at least 8 hours before you want to eat them... And lastly, don't try to put too much filling in the pasties, they wont seal well, and will probably burst open during cooking.

FH Alphie rated them: 8.5/10

Curried lamb and winter veg pasties
from SMH Good Living, 8 July 2008.
makes 6

  • 600g diced lamb shoulder
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3tbs curry powder
  • 2 birds eye chillis
  • 500ml beef or chicken stock
  • 200g pumpkin, diced
  • 200g parsnip, diced
  • 200g celeriac, diced (swede also works well if you can't find celeriac)
  • 6 sheets/600-700g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Toss lamb through the seasoned flour. Heat oil in a large, preferably non stick, pan and brown the lamb in batches.

Then add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, curry powder and chillis and cook until soft (about 10 minutes). Return the lamb to the pan, and add the stock. Simmer, stirring often (another reason I made such a mess of the pan...) for 90 minutes, or until the lamb is soft and the sauce is thick.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine the pumpkin, parsnip and celeriac/swede on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season, and bake for 15 minutes. Stir into the lamb mix, and cool completely.

Cut pastry into six, 20cm circles, brush with egg and spoon mix (about 3/4 cup) into the centre. Bring sides together at the top, and pinch sides together to seal all the way around. Place on a baking tray, and brush with more of the egg. Bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees, then 20 minutes at 170 degrees.

Enjoy! But be careful, they will be hot.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bills, Darlinghurst

We had some friends stay with us on Friday night on their way to a wedding on Saturday in Watsons Bay. They had planned on catching public transport to the wedding, but thanks to the trackwork on the South Coast train line, and the generally difficult-to-get-to nature of Watsons Bay, it was going to take them at least 3 hours to get there, so FH Alphie and I offered to drive. We reasoned that it wasn't that far from the city, and we hadn't spent a day in Sydney for a while...

Then I had a brainwave. One of FH Alphie's close friends, who I'll call Mr Navy, lives in Rose Bay. We don't get to see him that often, so we arranged to meet him for lunch once he slept off his hangover. Since we were going to be in the inner-east area, I suggested Bills. FH Alphie and I have been to Bills once before, however it was for dinner, and at the Surry Hills restaurant (it was the night FH Alphie proposed actually!). So I was keen to try something from the iconic breakfast menu.

sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach & bacon

Once Mr Navy finally decided what he wanted, (we had to ask the waiter to give us more time because the boys were talking to much to read the menu...), we were ready to order. I went with the infamous sweet corn fritters, while both the boys went with something from the lunch menu. I've had a number of reproductions of Bills fritters at various cafes across Sydney, and even attempted them myself at home, but nothing really comes close to the original. The salty bacon offsets the sweet corn so perfectly, that although it was a huge serve, I finished the lot, much to the disbelief of FH Alphie and Mr Navy.

Wagyu beef burger with beetroot, zucchini pickles, and fries, with gorgonzola dolce latte

FH Alphie chose the
Wagyu beef burger and an iced coffee. Which, in his words 'was fantastic, and the gorgonzola was sooo good', and managed a 9/10, which is a high score for FH Alphie, it is not uncommon for him to rate a great meal 7/10.

Greek salad with haloumi, black olives and garlic yoghurt

A hungover Mr Navy went with the herbed fries, a Greek salad with 'squeaky cheese' (also known as haloumi) and an orange juice.

herbed fries

To put it simply, the fries were fab. Perfectly salted, and the garlicky aioli was so moreish that we had to ask a waitress to take the bowl away before we finished, as we were all over full, but couldn't resist them.

My only gripe is that it so far away! I would love to be able to walk t0 Bills on a lazy weekend morning for breakfast. Ah, well, I'll just have to be content with random trips to the city.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Moroccan lamb meatballs

This is a recipe that has been languishing in my over-full recipe folder for some time now. Mostly because I haven't had lamb mince for a while, and I can't bring myself to pay exorbitant prices for average quality lamb at the supermarket (the local butcher is not much better, mind you!). Now that we're all stocked up on the lamb front, I thought I might finally give this recipe a go.

I served this with cous cous and steamed green beans. I probably wouldn't bother with the cous cous next time, the chickpeas give it enough of a 'carby' feel. The meatballs were delicious, although I guess that relies pretty heavily on the quality of the lamb you use ;) FH Alphie thought that the sauce was a lacking something.

FH Alphie rated it: 6/10 (I think that's a bit mean, I'd give it 8/10)
Moroccan meatballs & chickpeas
from SMH Good Living, August 2009
serves 4

  • 2 thick slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 100ml milk
  • 500g lean minced lamb
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2tbs parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2tbs coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2tsp ground cumin
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2tbs tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 400g canned chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 2tbs parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2tbs coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Soak the bread in milk for five or so minutes. Combine bread, lamb, onion, herbs, spices and salt in a bowl, and mix (with your hands) until well combined.

Roll into golf-ball sizes balls, place on a lightly greased baking tray, and bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, start the sauce. In a large frypan, cook onion in oil over med-high heat until just colouring. Add garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes and water and bring to the boil. Add chickpeas, herbs, spices, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes. Add meatballs and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Sorry all my loyal followers (all 5 of you!), I had (another) crap day at work today, and couldn't be bothered going out for dinner, let alone cooking, so no post for today.

So, I'm going to relax on the couch, watch MasterChef, and, inspired by lovely Faux Fuchsia, I'm actioning a soothing gin & tonic.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Orange & Blue Mountains produce

FH Alphie has just returned from a weekend with his parents (well, Sunday and Monday, so not quite a weekend). His parents live in Orange, about 4 hours west of Sydney. FMIL collected a few goodies for us from the monthly Farmers Market on Saturday, and FH Alphie topped it up with a trip to Totally Local, a produce shop based on the 100-mile concept of eating locally grown and produced foods.

The Haul

As well as shopping in Orange, FH Alphie also dropped in to Hominy Sourdough Bakery in Katoomba on the way home, and FMIL gave us a few treats from her garden.

Trunkey Creek bacon & chorizo, mmmmm bacon....

From the farmers market we got Navel oranges, lemons, Fuji apples, potatoes (three types, but FMIL can't remember what they are!), Trunkey Creek double smoked bacon and 'cheeky' chorizo. FH Alphie picked up goat sausages and Orange Mountain verjus from Totally Local.

FMIL gave us half a dozen eggs from their chooks, and a few branches of bay leaves from her bay tree (and a pumpkin pie and some blueberry mini muffins!).

Lastly, FH Alphie and his mum stopped in at Bills Beans for a cup of coffee, and FH Alphie got two bags of beans, 200g each of the Byng Street Blend, and the Brazil Santa Clara.

I got home from work today to find FH Alphie unpacking all this from the car - what a way to start the week!!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Almond biscuits

I have made these a couple of times, usually when we have an abundance of almonds - thanks again Mum & Dad! The recipe comes from either the Sydney Morning Herald's weekend magazine, Good Weekend, or their weekly food lift-out, Good Living. I'm not really sure which, as I lost the original recipe, and now have a typed out copy from FH Alphie's mum.

They are super easy to make, and as long as you have the almonds, the rest of the ingredients are staples, so I can usually whip them up pretty quickly.

Almond biscuits
makes 35-40
  • 125g butter, softened, and chopped
  • 135g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 125g whole almonds
  • 35-40 whole almonds, extra
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

Blitz the almonds in a food processor, leaving the extra ones out, until fine and crumbly, but not as fine as commercial almond meal.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixmaster until pale. Add egg, and beat to combine.

Sift flour, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder and salt then fold into butter mixture. Add the almonds, and fold to combine.

Roll dessertspoonfuls of mixture in to balls, and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press a whole almond into the top of each, then bake for 8-10 minutes until they just start to brown.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Lunch - Haloumi salad

Haloumi is one of FH ALphie's favourite foods. So when I dropped by the greengrocer on my way back from a physio appointment, and saw the masses of haloumi in the cheese fridge, I knew I had to buy some. I then thought, that since dinner would be a bit of a non-event tonight (we are going to see Sydney FC v Everton ant ANZ stadium), I might make something for lunch. This is a bit unusual for me, as we normally have leftovers for lunch if we are going to be at home - a chance to use up all the strange things left in the fridge.

I remembered Not Quite Nigella writing a post on a haloumi salad not to long ago, so I thought I'd try something similar.

Haloumi salad
serves 2
  • couple of handfuls of baby spinach, or other salad leaves
  • punnet cherry tomatoes, halved (I used Kumatos)
  • red capsicum, chopped
  • Lebanese cucumber, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250g haloumi, sliced
Combine the salad ingredients (baby spinach, tomatoes, capsicum & cucumber) in a large bowl, season to taste, remembering that haloumi can be quite salty, and toss well.

Combine the dressing ingredients (balsamic, olive oil, dijon & sugar) in a small jar, and shake to combine. Pour into a small saucepan on high heat, and bring to the boil. Once it has started bubbling, remove from heat, and return to the jar. Let cool for a few minutes, and shake again to combine.

Fry the haloumi slices in a dry, non-stick frypan, over high heat. Once they begin to colour, about 2 minutes, turn over, cook for another 2 minutes and remove from pan.

Divide the salad between two plates, top with the haloumi and drizzle with the dressing.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Self saucing puddings and Nigella Lawson

One of the first things I learnt to cook as a child was a chocolate self saucing pudding. It is a recipe my sister and I still make, whenever the need arises... usually a last minute request for desert with dinner or a late night chocolate craving. I saw Nigella Lawson make something similar on an episode of one of her TV shows, at some time in the distant past, when we had the Lifestyle FOOD channel, and stored the idea away for another time.

A few months ago, I thought I might have a go at Nigella's version of a self saucing pudding - most likely because we were out of cocoa. It turned out ok, but it wasn't great. Something was just not quite right about it. After a bit of pondering, I determined that it probably wasn't the recipe, but the method of cooking. You see, the simple chocolate self saucing pudding I learnt to make as a child was cooked in the microwave. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works, and it works well. Cooking the pudding in the oven gives you a different type of cake, and it's not really what I associate with a self saucing pudding. So this time I thought I'd try Nigella's recipe in the microwave.

Nigella's Holiday Hot Cake

serves 6
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g light muscovado sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 125ml milk
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 200g light muscovado sugar, extra
  • 1 tsp ground ginger, extra
  • 1 tsp mixed spice, extra
  • 6 tsp butter
  • 500ml boiling water

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices, milk, oil and egg in a microwave safe dish (pyrex or ceramic work well).

Combine extra sugar and spices, then sprinkle over cake batter in the dish. Dot the butter on top, and carefully pour the boiling water over the top.

Cover dish with a loose fitting lid (or gladwrap with a few holes poked in) and microwave on high for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your microwave. Our old super duper one would cook it through in 10 minutes, we now have a smaller, less powerful microwave, and it takes 15 minutes.

Once cooked, it will look pretty weird, ugly even, but trust me, this will work. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes - or as long as you can resist! Then serve with cream or ice cream.

Of course, if you prefer the oven method, feel free to do it that way (you will probably end up with a more attractive looking pudding), making sure you use an oven proof dish (again, pyrex or ceramic would work well). And bake in a preheated 220 degree oven for 30 minutes.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monkey Magic, Surry Hills

Tuesday night is usually 'restaurant night' at our place (don't ask). Last night we made the trek to Surry Hills (not really for me, since I work in the city, but it was a bit of a drive for FH Alphie). He had chosen Monkey Magic in Surry Hills for tonights adventure - don't ask me how he found it, FH Alphie rarely chooses. And I'll admit, I was skeptical, as I'm not usually a fan of Japanese food, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Monkey Magic style sushi

I was running quite late, quite ironic given the relative distances we had to travel, but I had forgotten that I didn't have a bus ticket, then couldn't find anywhere that sold them. Once I had a ticket, I had to wait FOREVER for a bus to Surry Hills to arrive, which was then super slow thanks to peak hour traffic, and when I got off the bus, I walked the wrong way down Crown street... you get the idea. FH Alphie wasn't too worried though, as 'they treat cripples well' (he's still wearing his sling), I joked back 'especially ones who look like they've been stood up on a date'!

When I finally arrived, the first thing I noticed was that it looks quite empty from the street, but don't let this decieve you, as when we visited, the upstairs/mezzanine area was much busier.

Crab Leaves

We started with the Crab leaves (crab, ginger, chilli and lime on betel leaves), which were good, and had lots of crab meat, if a little tricky to eat. Then shared the Monkey Magic style sushi selection (large), which was delicious! I was a bit scared of this, as I haven't had great experiences with raw fish sushi in the past, but this was by far the best thing we ordered. The fish was incredibly soft and just melted in your mouth. I could easily have eaten the whole plate, although FH Alphie felt the same way, so it would have been a battle!

Stuffed cabbage roll

Stir fried Asian greens

Next was the Stuffed cabbage roll and Stir fried Asian greens. The cabbage roll looked nothing like I expected (now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure what I did expect...), but it was quite tasty. Again, difficult to eat with chopsticks, although a knife and fork were provided. I loved the greens, FH Alphie would just roll his eyes and say that I always do. This time though, he agreed with me, which means they really were good.

We skipped on desert as we had to get going, and I'll be honest, I didn't even look at the desert menu, so I have no comments there.

The service was prompt (although it was a Tuesday - not really a busy night) and very friendy. All in all, a great night, it would be a great place for Friday night dinner & drinks with the girls I think (that would give me an excuse to try out something from the cocktail menu!). If you are dining midweek (Monday - Wednesday), theres a winter special - 20% of everything - but make sure you ask, as we didn't and despite it being a Tuesday, paid full price :(

Monkey Magic
3 & 4/410 Crown St
Surry Hills


Monday, July 5, 2010

Roast lamb

I mentioned yesterday that I brought lemons back from Mum and Dads. As well as the lemons, we also came home with a lot of lamb. Mum breeds sheep as a hobby, so there is always lamb to be had. She's just at the stage where she is getting too many for the two of them to eat, so she sells them to friends and family, and is trying to start selling them commercially. And, as Mum would say, it's not organic, but it is ethically raised.

FH Alphie and I brought (the equivalent of) one back with us - in cuts mind you, not a whole sheep in an esky! We now have two boned shoulders, four shanks, a boned leg, two 'half' legs (just the right size for a roast for two - but I'll get to that), a backstrap, 12 (or 18?) cutlets, a few chops, some mince, and stir fry strips in the freezer. So it seemed fitting that we had a lamb roast tonight.

I have never really been a big fan of lamb roasts, I generally prefer beef or chicken (weird, since don't like chicken all that much the rest of the time...). I find that roast lamb is often tough and frequently over cooked. So with this in mind, I turned to my cooking bible, Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery. If anyone was going to tell me how to cook a perfect lamb roast, it would be Margaret (p.s. she was on MasterChef last night, and was just adorable).

In the words of Faux Fuchsia, vegetarians, look away now. Everyone else, here's a shot of the gorgeous lamb on its way to the oven.

I used one of the half bone-in legs, about 850g, and cooked it for an hour - 20 minutes at 220 degrees, then 40 minutes at 180 degrees. The 20 minutes on a higher temperature was Margaret's suggestion, as was resting it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. And, no bias here, I promise, it was easily the best lamb roast I have ever had. The lamb was tender and super tasty, and I didn't over cook it, it was perfect, just pink in the middle.

As is customary for a roast, I served it with roast potatoes, carrots & pumpkin, steamed greens (broccoli & beans today), and gravy.