Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Roast Pumpkin and Goat's Cheese Salad

Roast Pumpkin and Goat's Cheese Salad
Home Cooking

I have some trouble deciding what to call this salad. There are just too many good things to fit in the title. The main component is roast pumpkin, no issues with that. However, there are so many complimentary ingredients that make this salad work so well that it's unfair I just include goat's cheese.

For starters, one of my favorite parts of the salad is the candied walnuts. I also love the raisin and balsamic vinegar reduction that brings all the flavors together. There's also prosciutto here which gives any salad some extra body and substance.

I was inspired by a recipe from Bill Granger's 'Feed me now' (I've been using this cookbook a lot lately) but got quite derailed from the original dish. For starters, his was a pumpkin and grape salad. I couldn't find grapes at the supermarket so they must not be in season. Raisins were used instead and I also added some extra things here and there.

Roast Pumpkin and Goat's Cheese Salad
Serves 1 for main or 2 for sides

  • 250g butternut pumpkin, cut into wedges (it was about 1/4 of a whole pumpkin for me)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (I used semi-crushed whole coriander seeds)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 heaped tbsp sugar
  • 1 slice of prosciutto
  • 1 cup of salad greens, washed
  • 20g soft goat's cheese

1. Mix together the 2 tbsp of olive oil, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Toss the pumpkin wedges through it.
2. Bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees till tender (about 20min). Remove and set aside.
3. In the meantime, start the balsamic reduction. Heat up the 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the raisins until they plump up a bit. Add the balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp sugar and lower the heat - reduce down till slightly viscous. Set aside.4. In a small non-stick frying pan or saucepan, heat up the 1 heaped tbsp of white sugar on high until it begins to melt. Stir to make it melt evenly. Quickly toss the walnuts through to coat evenly and remove the pan from the heat to prevent the sugar from burning.
5. Spread the walnuts onto a piece of non-stick paper and let them cool down slightly before popping them in the freezer for a minute or so to harden completely. Set aside until needed.6. Pan fry the piece of prosciutto until crispy. Tear into smaller pieces.
7. Assemble your salad by layering the greens with some pumpkin, walnuts, goat's cheese and prosciutto. Drizzle the raisin and balsamic vinegar reduction over the top.

I thoroughly enjoyed this salad - it was absolutely delicious. The flavors and textures worked together perfectly, from the crunchiness and sweetness of the candied walnuts to the tart balsamic reduction, creamy pumpkin and salty, crisp prosciutto.

Who says salads are boring? I can't think of a tastier way to get some vegetables into my system. I had a slight Andre-from-MasterChef moment when I burnt the baking paper that the pumpkin was roasting on but aside from that, minimal fuss and top notch taste.

Adam's Oriental Restaurant

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Adam's Oriental Restaurant

We're on the hunt for a good Singaporean chili crab dish. Ever since Charlie and I ordered the chili bug version at Obsession, I've been tracking the net for a proper crab version.

I did find out that Kingsley's on the riverside serve Singaporean chili mud crab. We phoned up and asked for the market price which at the moment is around $100. Well... I want crab but I might save that for a special occasion later down the track.

Today, we settled for another chili bug, or as Charlie has nicknamed the dish, Shili bug (Singapore + chili... yes, lame I know). I knew that Adam's Oriental did a 'Malay-style' bug which from the description, sounded a lot like the Singaporean style of cooking it. There were also heaps of other things on the menu that sounded appealing to me.

A friend of mine once had a group banquet meal at Adam's Oriental and she told me it was kind of average. That sort of put me off but I couldn't think of a better alternative so we gave it a go anyway.

The restaurant is located on a dark street (literally no street lights) in an isolated part of West End. It's isolated as in - no other restaurants near by. We thought we had driven up the wrong street until I spotted a sign in the distance and thought 'that looks like it could have Chinese writing on it'.

When we went in (weekday night), the place was pretty quiet. It's a small restaurant with its own parking but the dining area is quite pleasant. What I mean is it feels more like a restaurant than say, an eatery or cafeteria.

The menu is pretty extensive and there were more dishes that I wanted than I could order. We settled for three: the bugs, a red duck curry and Shan Dong chicken.

Moreton Bay bugs - cooked in Malay red chili

The food didn't take too long to get served. Our bugs and duck curry came first. I dug straight into the Malay-style bugs. They tasted wonderful - rich spicey tomato sauce that perfectly compliments the sweetness of the bug meat. My only hang-up is that bugs don't have a lot of meat!! I wanted MORE MORE MORE.

Red curry duck - red curry paste, or sour curry, coconut milk, spices, lime leaves, fillets of duckling a guaranteed unique curry flavour

The duck curry was also lovely. It was rich, creamy and very flavorsome. There were quite a lot of duck pieces there too. Charlie pointed out that although the duck curry was perhaps the 'weakest' dish of the 3 that we chose (in that we have had awesome curries at other places too, so it's less of a standout), it was still delicious.

Naked Shan Dong chicken - crispy skin chicken in a mild, sweet, sour & spicy sauce with garlic shallot and chopped coriander stem roasted sesame seeds

Just when I was beginning to forget about the chicken, it arrived. I had no idea what Shan Dong chicken was supposed to be. It's basically crispy skin chicken with a sweet, sour and chili sauce. This chicken was so good - I couldn't believe how crispy they got the skin! I picked up a piece that was drenched in sauce and thought 'here we go, this is gonna be all soggy' but it was still really crispy.

We were feeling really content at this point but I wanted something sweet to finish off an excellent meal. The 2 items we picked were for rarity value. I wanted a deep-fried ice cream but knew that I could get that elsewhere so instead, we ordered a deep-fried mars bar and a coconut cone with ice cream.

Mars Bar and Ice Cream - fried chocolate bar served with ice cream

I've actually had 'tempura mars bar' before at a sushi train so I know how good they can be. This was better than the one I've had previously. I realize that I was basically eating heart attack on a plate but man, there is something sinfully good about chocolate coated in sweet batter, deep-fried and then covered in more chocolate, caramel and ice-cream. I love sweet food and in my eyes, there is just no such thing as too much.

Witches Hat treasures and ice Cream - fried Coconut cone fill with nuts, chocolate, and ice cream

The coconut cone was a bit disappointing. I thought it was be crispy but it was sort of soggy - kinda like the batter part of a deep-fried ice cream after it's been sitting on the table for too long. That could be because I ate the mars bar first and then went to the cone... it might have been crunchy to begin with. Who knows.

Adam's Oriental was great. This was the best meal I've had in a long time. I thought that ordering 3 dishes + 2 dessert would have been over kill but we finished everything off and felt really satisfied. This translates to quite a costly feast but still... it was worth it. The service was just top notch and the restaurant wasn't loud and crowded when we were there. I would definitely go back.

Adam's Oriental on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chocolate and Oranges: Going Jaffa Cake Crazy! (Gluten Free)

Flourless Jaffa Cakes
Home Cooking

I was just lying in bed when a craving for jaffa cake hit me. When I think of jaffa cakes, I have a really PRECISE vision in mind: it's the they sell at McCafe. The cake is high and thick with marbled orange and brown. Spread over the top and sides is a thick, luxurious dark chocolate ganache. The texture is sticky but very dense.

The insides of my own jaffa muffins

It's hopeless when you have something in your mind to find a recipe that perfectly matches your memories. I SHOULD have just gone to McCafe and bought one. The problem is, most jaffa cake recipes online aren't marbled. There tends to be an orange and chocolate flavored thing in the ONE batter.

Inside of my jaffa cake - layered orange and brown :)

In essence, it probably wouldn't have mattered much. But I don't need logic. Logic can jump. I wanted TWO distinct colours.

The solution was to take the reigns and do my own thing. I decided to make 2 different cake batters and swirl them together. One is directly from Nigella Lawson's 'Feast' - it's her recipe for a flourless chocolate and orange cake. This provides the 'brown'. The other recipe is essentially the same as the first one but I omitted cocoa powder and added a bit of Grand Marnier (resembles an orange and almond loaf). I figured that if the 2 cake mixtures were similar, they'd cook at the same time.

I ended up with ALOT of batter. I played around and made cupcakes and larger cakes etc - with different combinations of the 2 mixtures. If you decide to follow my recipe, just keep in mind that the amount of orange and brown batter I made when used TOGETHER is about enough for about 30 muffins or 2 full-sized cakes. The separate quantities make 1 normal cake (i.e. the recipe for the flourless chocolate and orange cake makes a full-sized cake. Halve the quantities to make 8 or so muffins). It goes without saying that you can use the recipes separately or combine them like what I did.

Jaffa Cakes

BATTER 1: Flourless Chocolate and Orange

  • 2 small thin-skinned oranges, approx. 375g total weight (or 1 large)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g ground almonds
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 50 g cocoa powder

1. Put the whole oranges in cold water in a medium saucepan. Place plates on top to make sure they're completely submerged. Turn on the heat and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the oranges for an hour or so, or until the skin is tender when you gently push a knife in.
2. Drain the oranges when they're done and wait for them to cool. Slice them open and remove any big pips.3. Blitz the oranges (including skin, pith and all) in a food processor until it forms a reasonably smooth pulp.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.5. Add the orange pulp and stir through (alternatively, you can just add all the ingredients into the food processor and blitz into a batter... my food processor isn't big enough for that).

BATTER 2: Flourless Orange and Almond

  • 2 small thin-skinned oranges, approx. 375g total weight (or 1 large)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 220 g ground almonds
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)

Same as Batter 1 (above photo shows all the ingredients just before they're mixed together)



Option 1 - baking batter 1 or batter 2 on their own

1. Pour whichever batter you chose into greased and lined muffin trays.
2. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30-40min depending on your oven strength (if making a full-sized cake, you may need to bake for an hour).
3. At some point, you may need to cover the cakes with some foil to prevent the tops from burning. If necessary, you can reduce the heat to 170 degrees.
4. The cakes are done when an inserted knife comes out reasonably clean and the inside is set.
5. You can chose to decorate the cakes with some dark chocolate ganache and garnish with some orange zest.

Option 2 - creating marbled jaffa cakes

1. Fill your greased and lined muffin trays halfway with batter 1. Top it up with batter 2. Swirl a chopstick through the mixture. The same principle applies if you're making a full-sized cake - to create a marbling effect, just layer the 2 cake batter mixtures and swirl slightly (not too much or they'll muddle up).
2. Bake the same way as above.
3. Decorate with dark chocolate ganache and a bit of orange zest.


I made some plain choc-orange muffins using batter 1 alone:

I also made a mini jaffa cake with the 2 different mixtures marbled together:

The inside of this cake is shown at the start of this post (it was cut into rectangular slices).

I also made some jaffa muffins using both the mixtures:

I did a chocolate ganache using Green & Black's organic dark chocolate with a hint of orange and spice. I couldn't think of a better type of chocolate for what I was baking!

To make the ganache, break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a small non-stick saucepan. Add a tablespoon of milk or cream and turn on the heat to low. When the chocolate starts melting, add a little more milk or cream and stir it all together. Once the chocolate is a smooth mixture, add more milk/cream till you get the consistency you want. Set aside and let it cool before using.

The jaffa cakes were delicious. The texture is just right: sticky and dense. The chocolate and orange flavors are really strong. The cakes aren't really 'marbled' but the orange and brown layered together looks lovely anyway. My method was fiddly but that's just because I chose to do it this way - you can easily omit the marbling and make one batter to bake.

Broadwalk Bar + Bistro

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Broadwalk Bar + Bistro

I spotted Broadwalk along Eagle St pier back when I was walking to Jellyfish. It had a nice, open and welcoming vibe so I thought to myself that I'd visit later down the track. A friend of mine told me she had a 'so so' experience with the breakfast at Broadwalk but... I was still curious.

Last night, I was having dinner with a friend and after much debate/confusion/aimless driving, we ended up at Eagle St pier. The adventure started out at West End but because many West End restaurants are closed Monday evenings, we gravitated towards Southbank. There was the intent of going to the Chalk Hotel but an incorrect turn led us into the city so we thought we'd just go with the flow.

To be honest, I wasn't even going to stop at Broadwalk (we WERE going to Jellyfish) but the menu is huge and it caught my eye. I was in the mood for seafood so when I spotted bouillabaisse under the 'mains', I literally stopped in my tracks and decided I NEED to TRY THIS.

Food was ordered; we kept it simple with a main each plus the recommended wines. My friend is starting to get into wine. That's something I'm aiming for as well... I don't have an appreciation of wine AT ALL at the moment but if it's something that can potentially elevate my meal experiences, I'd love to acquire the taste.

Wine came first. Mine was a Riesling and tasted quite sweet; his was a Sauv/Sem and more sour.

Seafood bouillabaisse - selection of mixed seafood in a tomato and saffron broth served with warm sourdough

Our mains took a little while to come out but because we were chatting and sipping, that's not necessarily a bad thing. My bouillabaisse was quite a large serving. The stew was very flavorsome and aromatic. There was a lot of seafood in there and the serving size was just right for me. The accompanying sourdough was nothing special though.

Barramundi fillet - on warm potato salad with speck and spinach, mustard dressing

My friend had ordered the seared barramundi fillet. I tried a bit and wow... the skin was unbelievably crispy. To this day, though I'm trying to get 'into' seafood more, I'm still not the best judge of fish but I was assured that it was good. My friend loved the sides too and he was quite pleased with the dish. I thought it looked small but we agreed that it's important to eat to the point of satisfaction rather than just stuffing our faces at every meal. (Plus, it meant we had room for dessert).

Broadwalk was a pretty good experience overall. Above all else, I loved the environment - the thing that attracted me to it at first was how open and spacious the dining area is. It's a cross between a bar and casual restaurant/cafe so it manages to have the casual and social bar-vibe without the seediness. Service was pleasant and food was above standards when compared with other bar food.

As a plus, you order at the counter and pay upfront so there's no confusion with splitting the bill etc - great for larger groups.

Chicken and Cucumber Fried Rice

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Chicken and Cucumber Fried Rice
Home Cooking

Fried rice is a classic - simple but so very tasty. I think it's often forgotten about but in my eyes, a good fried rice dish can be absolutely dominating. The other bonus is that you can incorporate a lot of spare or left over ingredients you have sitting in your fridge.

I had some cooked chicken in the fridge so I wanted to use that up in my rice dish. You can use barbecued chicken or any other form of cooked chicken (as long as it doesn't have over-powering flavors). The idea is that you can add in any meat/veggies you like. I think chicken and cucumber is a nice combination. I kept this fried rice dish nice and clean as opposed to dark and heavily seasoned.

I know the ingredients list is long but it's fried rice; lots of the things are optional and the quantities are adjustable.

Chicken and Cucumber Fried Rice
Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp light soy
  • 3 green shallots (white only - reserve the green for garnishing), sliced
  • 1/2 large brown onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup of left over chicken
  • 1 cucumber, chopped into thick sticks
  • 1/3 cup bean sprouts
  • a few slices of canned bamboo
  • 1 cup of cooked rice (preferably day old rice because it's more dry and separated)
  • 1 tsp szechuan spice
  • 2 tsp dashi stock powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • salt (if required)
  • 2 tbsp fried onion
  • 2 small red chilies, chopped (for garnishing)
  • more fried onion (for garnishing)

1. Mix together the minced garlic and ginger.
2. Heat up a bit of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok. Throw in 1/2 the garlic and ginger mixture. Mix the tsp of light soy into the beaten eggs. When the garlic and ginger is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, pour the egg in and cook it as an omelet. Break up the egg into smaller pieces and reserve.3. Add a bit more oil to the wok and the rest of the garlic and ginger mixture. Once it's fragrant, start stir-frying the onion and shallot slices until just softened. Set this aside with the omelet.4. Stir-fry the rice with a bit more oil until starting to turn golden. Add the chicken, cucumber, bean sprouts and bamboo and cook till each element is heated throughout.
5. Return the omelet, onion and shallots to the wok. Add the fried onion and stir-fry everything together.
6. Sprinkle on the dashi seasoning and add a bit of soy or salt if required. Season with sugar and szechuan spice to your liking.
7. Garnish the fried rice with some chopped shallots, fried onion and sliced chili. Serve immediately.

Fried rice is all about getting the different components cooked and ready to go and finally bringing them all together in the end. If you're making modifications to my recipe, just keep that in mind and you'll be all good. Season as you go along and adjust once you've finished adding everything to make sure the flavors are perfect.

I thought this dish was delicious. The thing about fried rice is that each combination of ingredients has its own 'personality' and differs depending on what seasoning you use etc etc. I loved the flavors here - the dashi stock was subtle but added a unique edge that I haven't tasted in fried rice in the past. The szechuan spice also elevated the ingredients... I just dig chili and spiciness.

If I have one critical comment, it's that there wasn't enough CRUNCH. Maybe some crisp snow peas or capsicum would have provided a nice textural addition to compliment the other components of the dish.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Grill'd - Grilled Healthy Burgers

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Burgers are yum. Good burgers. Even bad ones. They were a genius invention. Thank you, inventor-of-the-burger!

The lone problem is of course relating to fat and kilojoules, the enemies of our modern day, health-conscious generation. When someone claims they're making HEALTHY BURGERS, my heart sings out for them.

Obviously it's not difficult to custom-make your OWN healthy burgers. Just put a salad and lean patty in between 2 pieces of a wholemeal bun. However, there's a unique satisfaction in ordering fast food that is hearty and delicious but still relatively guilt-free.

I've been to Grill'd a few times now, at various locations. They have a menu with a decent selection of burgers and sides.

On this occasion, I went to Grill'd at Rosalie. We ordered a burger each and a side of chips (not healthy, I know but... you win some and lose some).

I totally dig the style of the place - kinda like an artsy milk bar vibe. Pretty fresh.

Hot chips

The chips came out first. They are flavored with rosemary and come with a dip. We chose sweet chili mayonnaise. These chips are fantastic; everything a chip SHOULD be: crunchy, fragrant and just the right cut. That's love right there in that little paper packet. Mmm...

Zen Hen - grilled chicken breast, tangy satay sauce, coriander, shredded carrot, salad and herb mayo

Burgers come out not long after. They're massive. I begin to doubt exactly how low in kilojoules they are but they're probably still 'healthy' (as in, not much fat and high in good nutrients). My chicken burger was pretty good. Loads of stuff inside. It was satisfying.

Hot Mama - grilled lean beef, roast peppers, dill pickle, tasty cheese, tzatziki, salad and harissa paste

Charlie had ordered a beef burger on this occasion and claims he prefers the lamb burger he had in the past (also from Grill'd). He 'says' it was a bit dry and bland but he 'says' that and finishes the whole thing.

Overall, the burgers at Grill'd don't give you that grease-lined feel that a Whopper or Big Mac does... and that can be a good or bad thing. They make a great meal complete with meat, veg and carbs and for the most part, taste pretty awesome too. I think I'd prefer something fattier for hangover food but Grill'd is the way to go for a day-to-day meal solution.

Midnight Snack: Oat Hotcakes with Stewed Apple and Raspberries

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Oat Hotcakes with Stewed Fruit
Home Cooking

I was having a bit of trouble sleeping tonight and my stomach was grumbling every couple of minutes. Finally, I decided that something had to be done. The trouble with midnight cravings is you tend to want to overload yourself with sugar and butter. I've done enough of that lately with my babka and all so I was determined to find a relatively 'healthier' option.

There's a recipe in Bill Granger's 'Feed me now' for oaty breakfast hotcakes. I didn't follow that particular recipe but it inspired me to make my own version.

These hotcakes are REALLY healthy - almost fat-free and very low on sugar. The fruit is stewed in sugar syrup but it's an optional accompaniment to the hotcakes. I thought the hotcakes also tasted great with just a bit of low-fat vanilla yogurt on the side. It's really up to you.

The recipe looks like it calls for a lot of ingredients but it's simple: a combination of flour and raising agent (baking soda) + wet ingredients of milk, yogurt, egg white and apple sauce. The rest is just flavoring (spices, sugar, salt and vanilla extract) which is semi-optional.

Oat Hotcakes with Stewed Apple and Raspberries
Makes 2 hotcakes


For the hotcakes
  • 2 tbsp wholemeal plain flour
  • 3 tbsp self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp apple sauce
  • 1/3 cup of milk (I used fat-free soy milk)
  • 1 tbsp yogurt (I used Jalna low-fat vanilla yogurt)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the stewed fruit
  • 1 small apple, cut into small wedges
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of raspberries (I used frozen)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Get the apples ready to go first. Bring the water and sugar to boil in a small non-stick saucepan. Add the apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Throw in the apple pieces. Reduce the heat to low and let the apple simmer away.2. To make the pancakes, combine the dry ingredients (wholemeal flour, self-raising flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg) in a bowl.3. Mix together the wet ingredients (egg white, milk, yogurt, vanilla extract, apple sauce) in a separate bowl.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir to combine. Set aside for 5min.5. Grease a non-stick frying pan. Let it heat up to a low-medium heat. Pour/spoon in the hotcake mixture to make an even round shape (I made mine BIG - approx 10cm in diameter).
6. When the surface of the hotcake starts bubbling a bit and the sides are set, flip it over.7. The hotcake is done when both sides are golden and the inside is no longer gooey. Repeat for however many other hotcakes you decide to make (I made 2 huge ones).8. The apples are ready when they sort of fall apart if you poke at the pieces with a chopstick. Turn up the heat to reduce the sugar syrup. Add in the spices and the raspberries. The raspberries go in last because otherwise, they just fall apart in the stew.9. Serve the hotcakes dusted with icing sugar and with the stewed fruit and some vanilla yogurt.

My verdict is that I'm really pleased with the recipe. I made my hotcakes huge and they were a bit tricky to flip but that's about the only challenge I came across. The recipe is really simple to follow and the quantity of hotcakes produced is perfect for breakfast or snacking.

You can obviously replace the stewed apple and raspberries with maple syrup, yogurt, ice-cream, chocolate sauce... anything that tickles your fancy. You can choose to stew different fruit, depending on what you have lying around the house. Hotcakes are so versatile.

I also loved munching on the hotcakes on their own or with a bit of vanilla yogurt. They're quite filling but I felt guilt-free munching on them because they're packed with good carbs from the wholemeal flour and the oats.

It's really settled my tummy now and I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep.