Monday, October 26, 2009

Orexi Cafe and Grill

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Orexi Cafe and Grill
7/220 Melbourne St, West End


When you're in the final leg of exams during a uni year, you find yourself grappling at any excuse to have a party. I endured 2 exams last week and never mind the fact that I have another 4 or so to go... the end of 2 exams is cause for celebration.

I grabbed one of my foodie mates and rather than argue over what we wanted or be completely indecisive (as is usual), we were both in the mood for GREEK.

There are plenty of Greek restaurants in West End and so that's where we headed. The idea is that if nothing caught the eye, West End is chockas with other dining options anyway.

I'd heard bout this new place called Cafe Orexi that opnned up where Cristos used to be. My friend and I had actually eaten at Cristos before so we thought - may as well give this new lot a go.


The atmosphere is quite casual but the staff are laid back and friendly. We scoured the menu for a bit and decided to make things simple and festive: 2 shared platters. One for entrees and one for mains.

Complimentary garlic bread

They're good at looking after people like us. We want to try everything and we hate narrowing down between good options! Platters are such a safe bet.

Orexi for more

There wasn't a huge wait for food at all. The entree platter came first.

We didn't get to chose a dip but whatever dip they chose for us (pretty sure it was the taramosalata i.e. fish roe dip) was freaking amazing. It was fishy and creamy and just great with the pita bread.

The haloumi was a win, as usual (I've never had bad haloumi). The octopus and salt and pepper squid were both crisp and tender. No stand-out flavors but just tasty all the same. We didn't particularly like the fried white bait though.

Mixed grill plata (their spelling, not mine)

Next came the platter of mains. This is meant to be for one very hungry individual to have on their own, I believe. We shared it and it was plenty for us.

All the components were quite tasty but again, nothing that really stood out. Besides, maybe the chips - they were done really well. Crunchy and a nice savory flavor.

Cakes on display

Cafe Orexi had a very impressive and cheap selection of cakes on display. Tempting. I pondered over the range for a while but the fact that they had a Freestyle nearby was just too distracting.

Otherwise, I think Cafe Orexi has decent food but nothing that's very different or superior to other Greek restaurants that I've been to. I'd go back to try their desserts though.

Orexi Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vietnam Corner

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Vietnam Corner
Shop 140, Sunnybank Plaza Shopping Centre, Cnr Main Rd and McCullough St, Sunnybank


Last day of clinic down in the Southside... we had a mini party with scones, cakes, chips and lollies (all the good stuff) but decided to go one further and stop off for Asian food on the way back to the city.


Vietnamese food is one of those cuisines where you have the option of going 'lighter' or at least, it tastes kind of light and fresh. So when you want more but barely have the room for it, this is not a bad option.


There are plenty of Vietnamese food offerings down at Sunnybank and I've been to most. I like Vietnam Corner because the environment is quite clean, the quality is reliable and there's a huge double-sided menu to chose from.

We went as a large-ish group and that just means more photos for me.

Drinks to start with - nothing real creative here. A glass of apple juice and one of lemon lime bitters.

Lemon lime bitters

Apple juice

Each of us ordered a menu item... photos are below:

Pho Tai - beef rice noodle soup

Banh Canh Gio Heo - pig's trotter with rice starch noodle soup

Hu Tieu Dai Ga Chien Don - crispy chicken rice stick noodle soup

Hu Tieu Dai Suon Nuong Xa - lemongrass pork rice stick noodle soup

Pho Dac Biet - beef special rice noodle soup

The verdict on the rice stick noodle soup was that the soup base was a bit too oily. However, the accompanying lemongrass pork was deemed extremely flavorsome and preferable to the crispy chicken. I actually order lemongrass pork a fair bit so the crispy chicken was a welcome change for me, especially with the dipping sauce.

The pho was quite good - what you'd expect really. There was a nice quantity of beef and the meat itself was thin and tender. The serving was way too huge for me to finish but that equates to good value.

I liked the rice starch noodles, or as I like to think of them: the fat noodles. I hadn't really eaten anything like it before so the chewy texture was novel and appealing. The notion of pig trotters in soup might sound grotty to some but really, in this dish you would hardly know they were pig trotters. Relax! Try it!

I've been to Vietnam Corner plenty of times with friends and family alike and it's left a pretty good impression on me. There's a great range of food to choose from. If you're not in the mood for Vietnamese but your mate dragged you there, you can flip the menu over for barbecue meat options. There are also really cheap combo deals between certain time slots. Worth checking out if you're in the area.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Malt cookies

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Malt cookies
Home Cooking


Surely I don't need to elaborate on my current malt obsession in any greater detail? Well ok, maybe just one more time. I'll be brief:

Malt? I dig it.

Yehhhh...

So malt cookies sounded right on in terms of satisfying my cravings. I had malt powder. I had the other ingredients. Time to get the rolling!

Malt cookies
Makes approx 1/2 jar of cookies (see pic below)

Ingredients:
  • 100g plain flour
  • 60g cold butter, coarsely chopped
  • 20g pure icing sugar
  • 20g malt powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • sugar, for dusting
Procedure:

1. Process flour, butter, icing sugar and malt powder in a food processor until fine crumbs form.2. Add the egg yolk and process to just combine.
3. Turn the dough onto a work surface and bring the mixture together with the heel of your hand, using a pushing and rubbing motion.4. Form into a smooth disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (1.5hrs or so).
5. When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick.6. Use a cookie cutter to cut rounds from the pastry. Place these cookies on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Re-oil the scraps and repeat.7. Prick the cookies with a fork and brush lightly with water. Sprinkle on the sugar.8. Bake until light golden (5-6min) and cool completely.9. Dust with extra malt powder to serve.


The cookies turned out alright. The texture is very crumbly and crunchy but not at all crisp. I think that on their own, they're a bit lacking but sprinkled with extra sugar or malt powder (which is recommended), they're quite good.


I also like them dipped in condensed milk or crushed over the milk ice-cream I made. With the ice-cream, the end result is much superior to the sum of the parts. Try it.

Country comforts: Milk Ice-cream

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Milk Ice-cream
Home Cooking


It's kind of strange and interesting that people's taste in food changes over time, both in the short-term and long-term. I've mentioned on here numerous times, the various 'phases' I go through. This moment in time, I can't get enough milk.

Any kind of milk.


Soy milk has always been a regular for me but currently, I'm also quite partial to a glass of cow's milk. This might not mean anything to you but as a kid especially, I wouldn't go near cow's milk unless it was full cream. I just couldn't stand the taste! Not anymore. I'm drinking milk in smoothie form, milk with coffee, milk in milkshakes and milk with malt powder.

Ah yes, malt. My recently acquired can of Ovaltine is probably what triggered this whole thing in some round-about way.

So it happens that the September issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller features a section of milk recipes. Good? Very good.

There's a recipe for milk ice-cream with malt cookies and the accompanying photograph is to die for:

I decided it was time to take my ice-cream machine out of retirement and give that old baby another workout.

The original recipe is for 1 L of ice-cream. I divided by 3 to get um... whatever 1 divided by 3 is (1/3?!). I also substituted some of the milk and sugar with condensed milk (turned out fab-u-lous). Below will be an ingredient list directly copied out from the original recipe, as well as 'my' version using condensed milk that results in 1/3 L. The directions that follow are the same regardless of what method you use.

Milk ice-cream

Original recipe
Makes 1 L
  • 2 L (8 cups) milk
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • malt powder and/or malt cookies to serve (optional)
My recipe
Makes 1/3 L
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • malt powder and/or malt cookies to serve
Procedure:
1. Bring milk and 40g sugar to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat (if using my recipe, just combine the milk and condensed milk and bring to the boil - without any additional sugar).
Stirring the condensed milk into regular milk

2. Reduce the heat to low and stir frequently to prevent the milk at the base of the pan from burning. Heat the milk for around 30min for the smaller quantity recipe or 1hr - 1.5hrs for the full quantity recipe, or till the volume has reduced to about 1/3. Let it cool down slightly.
There's something so old-fashioned yet satisfying about watching milk simmer in a saucepan

3. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale and smooth.
4. Strain the reduced milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to combine.
5. Return to a clean saucepan and stir continuously on low-medium heat until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (5-8min).
6. Strain and refrigerate till cold (2-3 hrs).
7. Freeze in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. You might need to freeze before it's hard enough to serve (sometimes, the ice-cream is too soft immediately post-churning).
8. To serve, scoop out and sprinkle with some malt powder.

Yummmm

I like to crumble malt cookies in too - it makes this godly amazing cookies and cream spin-off : malt cookies and milk ice-cream!

Topped with crumbly malt cookie pieces

The ice-cream is quite the awesome. I don't know if it's my addition of the condensed milk or what... but milk on it's own (without vanilla flavoring etc) is just so understated but GREAT.

I just used skim-milk too but it came out really creamy (I guess the addition of egg yolks and having a reliable ice-cream machine helps too). This is a great after-meals comfort dessert that everyone will love.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Date Scone - a 2 method comparative analysis

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Date Scone - a 2 method comparative analysis
Home Cooking


Yes, yes, I really shouldn't harp on about the things I love and am obsessed with but in my defense, this IS my food blog so what better outlet am I going to have?

Judging by the number of scone recipes I've posted on here, you probably have a fair idea of my attitude towards scones; i.e. they rock my world.

I don't even disagree with people who say plain scones are bland. If I had a limited range of adjectives, I'd probably use 'bland' too! But they are bland in such a good way. Add cream and jam and you're set for win.


Now... onto date scones.

I have a girlfriend and whilst we share very similar taste in clothes and shoes, our taste in boys and scones are at opposite ends. The former is a good thing. The later is more baffling. We argue about the different properties of scones: cakey, fluffy, light, dense, creamy, buttery... and can never seem to agree on which are good/bad.

However, all that ceases to matter because we're both huge fans of the date scones at Cool Beans Cafe, Adelaide St in the city. They are huge and goodness (and great value).

During our scone debates, we discuss the different methods of making scones. From what I can see, there are a few basic recipes that you can modify/add to. There are the recipes with butter, and there are the recipes with cream. Some use lemonade.

Usually, when I make scones I just bang together whatever I have in the pantry until I get a good consistency of dough - no measurements, no nothing. This isn't because I'm so pro that I just 'know' instinctively how to arrive at the perfect product. It's more out of laziness than anything else and I do get better and worst batches.

For the purpose of this post, I actually followed 2 different date scone recipes VERY accurately so I could give a good verdict.

One uses butter.

The other uses cream.

Which comes out on top? Read to find out...

Date Scones Batch 1 (using butter in the dough)
Makes 12 (I halved this recipe to make 6)

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 30g chopped butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
Procedure:

1) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
2) Sift flour and all spice together in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with fingertips.3) Stir in dates and sugar.
4) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add combined milk and egg at once (reserving around 1 tsp for glazing).5) Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface (if too sticky, add just enough flour to make it a cohesive dough). Press out till about 3cm thick.6) Cut into rounds. Place close together on the baking tray. Brush with the reserved milk mixture and bake for around 12-15min until the scones sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.7) Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Scone 1 texture shot


It is recommended to serve date scones warm with butter but I think they're fabulous on their own. These ones look quite cute and I cut the dates up really finely so the dough itself has a strong date flavor. The texture is dense and sweet.

Date Scones Batch 2 (using cream in the dough)
Makes 9

Ingredients:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 1/2 cup of milk (or 1/4 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of date water, which is what I used)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
Procedure:

1) Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2) Put dates in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 10min. Drain and let cool.
3) Stir together the flour, sugar and salt.
4) Combine the liquids and stir into the flour. 5) Mix with a spatula (or butter knife, as I did)6) Stir in the dates.
7) Press the dough onto a board (I found it was still sticky at this stage so I just added more self-raising flour until it just came together) and cut into rounds.8) It wasn't specified in the recipe but to be fair (when comparing with the previous recipe), I egg-washed these as well. You don't have to though. Bake for 10-15min until golden on top.


These scones come out with a lovely crumbly, dense texture. Just perfect for me.

Scone 2 texture shot

The verdict?

I think I prefer the cream scones simply because I hate crumbing butter into flour. HATE IT. The cream scone dough was stickier and harder to form into a nice shape but... I'm not too picky about appearance.

The butter scones weren't hugely better in terms of texture so I might as well opt for the easier method. Also, I learnt that cutting the dates up smaller makes them more integrated into the dough (which for me, is a good thing). I liked the addition of allspice, though, so I might do that for the cream method.