Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yum Cha at Rhodes Phoenix

I was back in Sydney last weekend, and FH Alphie and I went 'adventuring'. Adventuring is FH Alphies word for any short-ish car trip where we make a number of stops at any place that takes our fancy.

On Saturday the plan was to adventure to IKEA, with a stop at DFO. We started at DFO, looking for a few new polos for FH Alphie - unfortunately not much luck there, but the Oroton outlet was having a 50% off everything sale, and I picked up a leather coin purse and full size umbrella for $55!

By the time we left DFO it was after 1pm, and we were getting hungry. I suggested Yum Cha at Rhodes Phoenix before the impending IKEA challenge. We pretty much just ordered our standard yum cha fare... pork buns, dumplings, dim sum & greens with oyster sauce (excuse my ignorance of the proper names...)

pork buns

These were a bit of a change - we usually get the steamed pork buns, but these were offered to us, so we thought we'd give them a try. FH Alphies verdict was a preference for the usual steamed buns, he didn't like the filling of these as much.

fried prawn dumplings

Again, these were a non standard order, but they were offered, and the mention of prawns was enough to convince us to try them. They were served with a little bowl of mayonnaise, and were full of prawn meat, but I don't think I'll ask for them again - I much prefer steamed dumplings.

greens with oyster sauce

Greens are a must whenever we have yum cha - I have been known to leave a yum cha session stuffed full, but disappointed because we couldn't flag down the woman with the greens trolley! Unfortunately, these were a bit cold by the time the trolley came past our table, but they still satisfied my craving.

pork dim sum

Another yum cha standard!

prawn & chive dumplings

Dumplings! These were FH Alphies favourite, and I thought they were pretty good too! The skins were firm but not too thick, and the filling was juicy and flavoursome.

prawn & snow pea dumplings

Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings! The prawn & snow pea dumplings were my favourite. The skin was a bit thicker than the prawn & chive dumplings, but the filling more than made up for that. The soft juicy prawn meat offset by the crunchy snow peas made these the winner for me.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My food biography

I read this article/blog by Jill Dupleix a while ago (sometime in July or early August I guess...), and scribbled down my first thoughts for my food biography on a scrap of paper, with the intention of turning it into a blog post. The scrap of paper was ‘safely’ filed away in my diary, and not surprisingly, I totally forgot about the idea and the blog post I had planned. Cleaning out my diary last week, I found my notes, and started turning it into a readable post. So, with a little help from my sub editor sister, Ms Red, here is my food biography.

1. Gingiboat
image from

One of my first food memories is of homemade smoked trout pâté, affectionately known as ‘gingiboat’. Ms Red has questioned our parents on the origin of the word gingiboat, and the response is always ‘I have no idea, you just started calling it gingiboat, and it stuck’. So no real insights there. To this day I have a soft spot for a well-made smoked trout pâté and have been known to make a bee-line to the relevant stall at growers markets muttering ‘gingiboat, gingiboat…’.

2. Pikelets
image from

My Mum went back to uni while I was in primary school, and so was home a lot more. One of my main memories of this time is of mum cooking pikelets for afternoon tea, after school. I seemed always to be able to put away a scarily large number of pikelets for a 6 (or so) year old. On one particular occasion I managed to eat more than 20 in one sitting, and I regretted it pretty soon after. And now, I’m one of those weird people who don’t really like pancakes (although I make an exception for poffertjes).

3. Chicken with mustard sauce
image from nine msn/real living

One particular semester of Mum’s degree, she had a late afternoon/evening lecture. Ms Red and I used to go to my best friend’s house after school, then Dad would pick us up and make my then favourite dinner - mustard chicken with mash and veges. Every week without fail, the three of us had chicken with mustard sauce. And, while it might have been my favourite when Dad asked for suggestions at the start of the semester, I got over it pretty quickly. I asked Dad if we could have a break and have something else next week, and the look of hurt on his face was obvious even to a 7 year old, but he relented, and sadly chicken with mustard sauce has not made an appearance since.

4. Chocolate self saucing pudding
image from nine msn recipe finder

This was one of the first things I learnt to cook solo, possibly because it doesn’t require an oven, just a microwave – you might have seen my previous post on microwave puddings. I have numerous memories of whipping this up in Mum and Dad’s old kitchen after dinner. It has now become a staple last minute dessert at our house, as well as at Ms Red’s. Although, sadly I don’t think Mum and Dad have continued the tradition...

5. Lasagne
image from nine msn/AWW

My dad is one of those cooks who finds something that works and sticks with it (see above). Lasagne is one of these dishes, and it has outlasted all others. Dad’s lasagne makes a regular appearance whenever the four of us get together, and is often requested by extended family when they visit. I’m sure it’s totally not traditional, and that any self respecting Italian would disapprove, but it is the best lasagne I have ever eaten, with perfect bolognaise to béchamel sauce ratio. He has passed his skills on to Ms Red and I, but neither of us can ever get it quite right.

6. Pho

I remember very clearly my first Vietnamese food experience. Near the end of my last year at school, Dad drove me to Wollongong for a scholarship interview. The night before the interview, we walked to the mall to find dinner. Not surprisingly, the mall is not really the best place to find food, so we kept walking and ended up on Keira St, in front of a Vietnamese restaurant, Monsoon (which I later discovered was a Wollongong institution), luckily, they had a table and ushered us in. Neither of us had any idea what to order, so a very energetic waiter sat with us and helped us decide. I can’t remember what we had, apart from the best fish cakes I have ever eaten, and that I had never had anything like it before. Once I moved to Wollongong, Monsoon became a regular lunch (and dinner) spot, and I almost always order the signature Vietnamese beef noodle soup, pho bo, regardless of the temperature outside. Pho has become my measure of a Vietnamese restaurant, and is my first choice when trying out a new place. I am so in love with pho, that I convinced FH Alphie to spend three weeks in Vietnam earlier this year, just because I wanted an excuse to eat the delicious noodle soup for three weeks straight.

7. Lebanese
image from

I had two food revelations in my first year of University, the first was my introduction to pho (above), and the second was an introduction to Lebanese. This happened around the time FH Alphie and I first got together. He was working at a Lebanese restaurant, and regularly brought things back to college to supplement the appalling food Eurest provided us. Also, FH Alphie’s Mum (FMIL), is Lebanese, and loves to cook, so she helped to open my eyes to Middle Eastern food – to think I once hated felafel! To this day, kibbi, hummus and baba ghanoush are some of my favourite foods. Oh, and flat bread! how could I forget that gloriously soft and stretchy flat bread!

8. Mum’s home grown lamb
image from

Growing up, we didn’t have lamb much at home; the occasional crumbed cutlets were about the extent of it. Then, about four years ago, Mum started raising her own sheep, and lamb became a hot commodity in our family. I now eat lamb at every opportunity (only Mum’s of course), from roasts to stir fries, slow cooked shanks to meatballs, and casseroles to those familiar cutlets.

9. FH Alphie's pizza

This has already featured here, but it deserves another mention. FH Alphie first started making pizza about 3 years ago, when we first started living together. Initially he didn’t make the bases, and it was an infrequent event. Then it became more regular, but he still wasn’t making the bases. After a couple of tries at making the bases, he finally settled on a recipe from Good Living and it became a Friday night feature. Even though I’m in Perth at the moment, the tradition is continuing with Mr & Mrs Pink, but I really miss my Friday night pizza hit.

10. Macarons

And, last, but definitely not least, macarons! Who would have guessed! As regular followers (all 9 of you...) will know, I’m suffering from a macaron addiction at the moment. And after a number of attempts, I think I’ve finally perfected them using a recipe, and am now getting excited about creating my own flavours.

So, now that I've shared, what would be in your food biography?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fish Pie

This is one of those recipes that I was strangely attracted to. If someone had told me about a pie made from tinned tuna, spinach and a white sauce I would have made a mental note to avoid it at all costs. But for some reason, when I saw this in the Good Living, I ripped it out and filed it in my mystical green folder to try later.

I tried it for the first time when FH Alphie wasn't feeling to good, and he opted not to have any, for the same reasons I did above. But, I loved it, so it made another appearance, and the second time, FH Alphie was a convert too.

Today I made if for semi-veggo (or pescetarian) FSIL and Mr FSIL, and omitted the parsley - I forgot to put it on the shopping list...

Fish and potato pie
from SMH Good Living, July 8 2008
(serves 6-8; I usually halve it)
  • 120g butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • 3tbsp seeded mustard
  • 120g plain flour
  • 750ml milk
  • 1cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 800g blue eye, diced, or 2x 425g tins tuna in springwater
  • 6-8 medium-large potatoes
  • extra butter
Put the whole, unpeeled, potatoes in a large pot of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked through. Cool, then slice into 5-10mm rounds.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic & bay leaves, and cook on medium-low heat until the onions are soft.

Add the mustard and flour, stir well, and cook for five or so minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat, and add the milk a bit at a time, stirring well between additions. Put the saucepan back on the heat, and bring to the boil.

Once volcanic-like bubbles start to come to the surface, turn off the heat again, and stir in the parsley and spinach.

Gently stir through the fish, and spoon into a baking dish. Layer with the potato slices, overlapping each one, and dot with some extra butter.

Bake for 30-40minutes, until potatoes are golden, then allow to cool for 10 minutes (or more) before serving.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Macarons, take 4

So, I'm pretty heavily on the macaron bandwagon now... today was my third attempt since FSIL gave me that awesome macaron book.

piping templates - thanks to FSIL!

I decided to try a few new things today though. I increased the size of the macarons, from the 3cm suggested in the book to 4cm (yay! for FSIL's graphic design talents, making me piping templates). And I also only make half batches, as I wanted to make two types, and didn't want to have an excess of macarons, as has happened the last three times I've made them. This combination kinda backfired on me, it turns out that a half batch, piped to 4cm, only makes about 24 shells (12 macarons), which felt like a lot of effort, for not much of a result. So, batch two was back to the full recipe.

pink egg whites

I made coloured shells this time, which was a first (for this recipe) for me, and I'm still getting the hang of it - even though my egg whites were quite obviously pink, the shells were less so. Also, when we increased the size of the piping template, we forgot to increase the gap between the circles, and the first batch was quite soft... three piping attempts later and I had a set of non touching shells. Lesson 1 - they will spread! leave room, and gauge how runny the mixture is.

not so pink shells (dusted with cocoa)

And they only got paler in the oven! Lesson 2 - use more colouring than you think is necessary.

raspberry & chocolate macarons (note the super pale shells!)

The filling for the pink shells was simple - raspberry puree and dark chocolate, and is surprisingly tasty, I was doubtful of the combo, but it is very moorish, and the raspberry is the perfect counter to the rich chocolate.

chocolate & orange macarons (also pale shells, but not so bad)

The second, orange shelled, batch caused more trouble though. Something in the chocolate/cream mixture split, and it became oily and strangely textured. Some serious beating once it had cooled slightly pulled it back together. Then I left it in the fridge for too long while skypeing with FH Alphie... after trying to pipe some seriously hard ganache, I put it (piping bag and all) in the microwave for 15 seconds, which was enough to send it back to the weird oily stage. Back into the fridge again, and a call from my parents later, and it was getting to hard to pipe, again.... But, It all came good in the end. Lesson 3 - don't think that it's all easy once the shells have been baked - pay attention to your ganache!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Taste Food Store & Provisions, Mandurah

Apologies, for the delayed post, and general lack of posts lately...

Last weekend I made the trip south to Bunbury to catch up with Ms Red. Public transport all the way is pretty average so we compromised, and met halfway - at the end of the train line. This left us in Mandurah at 9am looking for breakfast. After walking past a few of the options found on my urbanspoon app, our hopes were not high (it's been a long time since I've seen a Robert Timms umbrella!) On our way to check out the last urbanspoon recommendation we passed Taste Food Store & Provisions, and a claim to serving 'Melbourne's best coffee' was enough to pull us in.

As always, we started with coffee, a skim flat white for me and a soy latte for Ms Red. And although the coffee was good, it wasn't Melbourne's best (Ms Red's call, as a pre-WA Melbournian).

After deliberating for a while, looking for a lighter (and I think sweet...) option, Ms Red chose the eggs florentine. I went with the scrambled eggs, which is fast becoming my favourite way to have eggs, and mushies, as I'm suffering from severe mushroom withdrawal as FSIL doesn't like them.

Both were quite tasty, and the eggs were perfectly cooked in both cases, although the 'plating' leaves a bit to be desired. Ms Red's plate in particular looked quite bare. And, we are still not sure where the 'food store and provisions' part comes in, because it was really just a cafe, with no food store or 'provisions' (whatever that means) to speak of. But it was pretty good, and we'll probably go back there if we're in the same situation again - as I said, it was much better than we were expecting to find.