Monday, June 28, 2010

Meatballs and Mash

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Meatballs and Mash
Home Cooking

Here's a brief summary of recent life events to put things in context:
  1. I have just finished 1 semester's worth of placement and for the first time in several months, am sitting through lectures as part of our week of block learning
  2. Once again, I've packed my things and moved. Bye bye, share house and expansive, industrial-style kitchen. Bye bye, sporadic meal options consisting of either edible dirt (i.e. cuppa soup and frozen bread) or indulgent, boyfriend-provided home cooking. Hello to my parents' generous supply of fresh fruit and pantry items
  3. Third important change of late is that it's freezing. Maybe not to international standards but I'm a Brisbane girl. I've been chilled to the bones and constantly wishing for a chance to hibernate. Alas, life is too busy
Given these facts, I can set up the scenario that lead to our meatball creation. It was the day after I moved and I was sitting in a lecture. Someone (ahem, mum) had accidentally packed a lamp that did not belong to me. It was then my responsibility to return it and that was what I was planning to do later in the afternoon. Since I was stopping in the area, I was going to visit Byron and drop a few things off. I thought it'd be nice to do a meal thing and he agreed but said I'd have to decide what to make.

I spent the rest of that lecture Googling such phrases as 'winter warmers', 'fast and hearty recipes' etc. Somewhere, the word 'meatball' caught my eye and that was that: I wanted meatballs. I sent him the request via SMS and started brainstorming ingredients to pick up.

Because I'm deficient in the brain cavity, I forgot all about this by the time afternoon rolled by but he had an idea of what to get. We didn't follow any recipe - it was a purely creative process (80% him, 10% me, plus a bit of luck) but the result was purely AWESOME.

Meatballs and Mash

Serves 3-4

  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 sml brown onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp powdered beef stock
  • 2 sml wholegrain breadrolls processed into breadcrumbs (~1/2 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce (we used Bertolli)
  • 1/2 tin of condensed tomato soup
  • bechamel sauce and mashed potatoes to serve

1. Mix together the mince, chopped onions, stock, breadcrumbs, egg and parsley until combined. Season to your liking.2. Roll the mixture into balls approximately an inch in diameter. You want them to be reasonably equal in size for even cooking. Coat with olive oil if they're sticking.3. Sear the meatballs on high heat to brown the exterior.4. Reduce the heat and add the pasta sauce and tomato soup. Simmer until meatballs are cooked. Alternatively, you can cook in a slow-cooker until tender (3-4 hours).5. We made mashed potatoes with boiled potatoes, butter and cream.6. As well as this, we put together a quick bechamel by cooking a knob of butter and some flour in a small saucepan until it formed a dough and slowly mixing in milk until it was a saucy consistency.7. Serve the meatballs over the mash with some bechamel ladled over the top. Garnish with parsley.

We LOVED the meatballs. Full marks on flavor and texture. What a great combination with the mash and 2 types of sauce. Good Winter food? Hells yes. More like good ANYTIME food.

I think I'm quite humble (read: self-defecating) about my cooking skills. That's because, let's be honest here, I'm not a good cook. And this is why I'm going to cling on to the following moment of glory and have it forever recognized on this blog.

When I am in the kitchen with Byron, I believe his greatest struggle comes from forcing himself not to critique my every action. Every now and again (actually, quite frequently), something will leak out in a carefully articulated manner so as to not cause me any offense. In this case, it was: "Usually, when you're making meatballs, you chop the onion up really finely". I responded with a dismissive "yes, I know" which really means "I don't care" and "too bad".

Melty close-up

The next day, he admits to me that the larger chunks of onion made the meatballs taste better. WOOOO. Seriously though, I was aiming for a fine dice. For once, poor knife skills carries some benefit.

Enough pseudo-bragging. I urge you, make some meatballs this week. Today in fact.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oishii Sushi Bar

Oishii Sushi Bar
Shop 2, 70 Pinelands Road, Sunnybank Hills

About 2 weeks ago, I discovered that restaurants, like many other things in life, can be very 'trend-based'. I first heard about Oishii Sushi a while back... my goldfish memory forbids me from recalling the exact source but comments that prompted interest included 'have you been to that new sushi place in Sunnybank Hills?' and 'oh, so good'.

I then forgot all about this. I mean, come on, I absorb an average of 3 restaurants weekly that make it to my 'must visit' list and I end up going to maybe a quarter. Oishii Sushi faded from my mind until Byron mentioned he saw appealing photos taken there on Facebook.

I don't know if this happens to other foodies but my interest in a restaurant always soars if I hear recommendations from a diverse range of sources. Suddenly, Oishii was re-elevated to the peak of my 'go to's. However, my expectations where somewhat squashed when I asked Mochi about it.

Mochi has been mentioned numerous times on my blog and she's a restaurant fiend like myself. When I asked her 'have you been to that new sushi place...', she scoffed 'it's not new!'

Apparently, I'm waayyyy behind with the times. According to her, people have already 'gotten over' it. Ah well. I guess I'll never be a foodie trend-setter.

Despite all this, I was still slightly curious so when my other friend Hien was craving sushi (or was it me that was craving sushi... I can't remember), we decided to give it a crack.

I got him all excited about this 'new sushi place' but once we got there, he proclaimed 'oh THIS place. Yeh, I've been before'... *sigh*


Well I hadn't been before so this is my first taste (no pun intended) of Oishii Sushi.

Firstly, we got there before it was open and there was a drove of people loitering outside, waiting for them to open their doors. This is usually a promising sign. When the curtain was finally raised, we flocked in and were seated. I noticed several reservation notices on the larger tables - another indicator of popularity.

The menu comprises some usual Japanese snack items: miso, edamame, tempura etc. What was different to most other Jap eateries and yet expected from a restaurant with the word 'Sushi' in its name was a whole selection of sushi. They aren't served in rolls like ordinary sushi places but rather, arranged decoratively on a plate with a few blobs of condiments. Oh, and they're much pricier too.

Hien decides to go all out and we order a selection of things to share. He also got a miso soup for himself but I just don't dig miso.

Salmon sashimi

Food didn't take very long to come out. The salmon sashimi was very fresh and it was a good quantity too. It's been some time since I went through my salmon craze and I'd forgotten how lovely it is on it's own with a touch of soy.

Tempura soft shell crab

I was really looking forward to the soft shell crab tempura and this did not disappoint. It can be argued that soft shell crab is difficult to get wrong: it's crab, which is good and it's deep-fried, which is also good. This is unfortunately, a naive misconception. I've had soft shell crab in the past that was too oily or too 'fishy'. This contained neither of those flaws and was quite tasty to munch on. I wasn't crazy about the sauce though... would have preferred a dollop of mayo.

Dragon roll

Finally, my verdict on the sushi. We chose the dragon roll. Or was it 'black dragon'? It was meant to be spicy but we both agreed that this was blatant false advertising. I found the sushi extremely underwhelming. My usual lunch sushi from the city leaves a better impression and it's only $2 a roll. We paid a 2-digit figure for this plate.

I thought Oishii Sushi was a reasonable Japanese eatery. We enjoyed our food but was disappointed with the sushi itself. For the price they're asking, you expect something extraordinary, not something that is on par with or even, less impressive than your average sushi train.

Oishii Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
Home Cooking

This post does nothing to dispel any notion that my food cravings come solely from MasterChef. Yes, there was a stroganoff challenge and yes, that's why we ended up making this. In an effort to reclaim some kind of independence, I'll say that we didn't follow the recipe on the MasterChef website but did our own thing instead.

The basic components of a strog are beef and mushrooms and the sauce is finished off with a sour cream. Aside from that, it's open to interpretation. The show featured beef that was coated in flour and paprika. I had paprika but stupidly forgot to bring it so we went without.

Basic Beef Stroganoff
Serves 3-4

  • 600g beef fillet
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • salt and pepper to serve
  • chili powder (optional)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 can of condensed tomato soup (use 2 tbsp tomato paste if you have that)
  • 200g sour cream (I suggest you stir in less than this to begin with)
  • steamed rice or to serve with
  • chives, to garnish

1. Trim the beef to rid of really fatty/gristly areas. Cut into chunks and season with salt and pepper.2. Seal the beef on high heat with some oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook until browned. Add the mushrooms.3. Lower the heat and add the stock and tomato soup. Simmer until the beef is cooked.4. Add the sour cream and stir through the sauce. Season to your liking.5. Serve with steamed rice and a garnishing of chives.

Pouring in the whole tub of sour cream was a bit of an 'omg' moment. After it was all mixed through, the sauce lightened significantly and well, you could really taste the sour cream. I didn't mind so much because I have somewhat of a soft spot for sour cream being smooshed through sauce. Byron complained that it was sour cream overkill. Maybe that is so for normal palates... so let that be a warning: go easy.

Otherwise, this was an awesome winter dish and I hear the leftovers were even better. We had it with rice but strog is often served with pasta.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Melbourne Index

Slow and steady... I have finally finished my Melbourne posts. It's taken me 2 + weeks to finish 3 day's worth of eating. Typical lazy self.

On my trip to Melbourne, I discovered that:
  1. Kat and I are perfectly in sync as travel buddies
  2. I'm more cold-tolerant that I thought. But...
  3. I'm not at all rain-tolerant
  4. Eating can be more exhausting that shopping
  5. Good food can make me forgive questionable service
  6. I'm growing in favor of cheap bubbly wine
  7. Other cities might be fun for the weekend but I like nothing more than Brisbane for living
Now, onto my list of food experiences for easy perusing.

Index of Melbourne Restaurants:


Melbourne Day 3: Lunch at MoVida


This is my last Melbourne post and if not my favorite part of the trip, then at least the peak of the culinary aspect. It's no coincidence that MoVida was featured on MasterChef during a celebrity chef episode. I will admit that my desire to go there initially came from the show. However, after reading everywhere that reservations were necessary, I decided I didn't want to bog myself down since Kat and I didn't have a clear idea of how our days were going to be planned out.

What tipped the scale was a recommendation by another friend who actually lives in Melbourne. I got proactive and called MoVida to make a booking but was told that all 4 restaurants were booked out. The restaurant 'system' is a bit confusing to me but I believe there are 2 locations - the 'original' location at Hosier Lane (which is what they're known for) and another that was closer to our hotel on Little Bourke St. At each of these locations, there are 2 restaurants? I'm not sure what the differences are... maybe casual vs formal or something? I'm sure someone could explain it better than me. In any case, there were no tables all weekend but the lady told me to try the bar, which is more of a 'walk in' system.

I didn't have my hopes up after our horrible experience trying to get a seat at the bar at Gingerboy but nevertheless, I wanted to check out Hosier Lane which is famous for Melbourne graffiti.

Upon stepping in, we were told that the bar was full (surprise, surprise) but we could be given a seat 45min later at 2:45pm. That wasn't actually bad for us since we were still full from breakfast (I don't remember feeling hungry the entire duration of our trip) so we headed off to Federation Square. They were playing old episodes of Seinfeld on the big screen so that kept us entertained until it was our time to go back to MoVidas.

The waiter remembered us and seated us at the bar. It was a lovely space... very warm, rustic and comfortable. Even though we haven't eaten at a table there and thus don't really have a point of comparison, I think the bar was a great way to enjoy their tapas.

Complimentary bread and olive oil

We ordered wine to start off with and watched the bar lady cut us a few slices of fresh bread with olive oil. I rarely say this but the olive oil was delicious... beautiful, intense flavor that was amazing when soaked up by the bread. We had 2 different types of bread to try too.

I had so much wine on the trip that I don't even remember what I had but Katie got a dessert wine (after asking for something sweet) and I think I chose a champagne. That plus the bread would have been enough for a great time. But, food was still to come.

I've been saying this a lot but at MoVida, I was VERY undecided about what to order. They have tapas or full mains and I couldn't pick between ordering a few tapas or one main that I KNEW was a 'must try'. Katie convinced me to go with the smaller options just so I'd have more things to write about.

Ultimately, I'm glad I went with her decision. It was so fun seeing the little individual plates being brought out one at a time. I guess it drags out the excitement? I'll run through our food picks:

Croqueta - fried silky croquette flavoured with leek and mahon cheese

Inside of croquette

Pollo escabache - spiced chicken escabache tapa on crisp crouton

Tortilla - traditional tortilla with confit potato and onion

Costilla con sobrasada - roast lamb cutlet encased in a Catalan pork & paprika pate

The lamb was my favorite out of the food items.

Bite shot of lamb cutlet

It was tender, juicy and cooked perfectly. Second favorite was the chicken on crisp crouton. The flavors were incredibly complex and I just thought it was a very special, well-thought out creation.

Helados de la casa - homemade ice-creams served with fig bread

For dessert we shared the homemade ice-creams. As expected with my poor memory, I've forgotten the flavors. One was saffron and date (my favorite of the three) and another was pineapple (Kat liked this one but I'm more into creamy flavors). We didn't hear what the 3rd was but didn't bother to find out. It was rather plain though. Each flavor of ice-cream and a smooth, creamy texture.

We had a REALLY GREAT time at MoVida. No, it's not all hype. As far as I know, we went to the actual 'original' MoVida that they're famous for (the MasterChef episode was filmed outside the front door). The environment was perfect for a chat, drink and nibbles and the service was not at all pretentious. Even though they are very busy, the restaurant didn't seem noisy or crowded. The food was, on a whole, excellent but I reserve a special place in my mind for their bread and olive oil.

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

Melbourne Day 3: Refreshments at Stuzzichino

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This will just be a short post because it was a quick trip. We were trawling down Lygon St and I decided my core body temperature was fast becoming insufficient.

A hot drink rest stop is indicated for such events.

Which is why it's silly and ironic that I ended up getting an iced frappe.

Logic isn't everything, OK?

We selected Stuzzichino at random, on the basis that it had an enclosed seating area and hence more protection from cold and wind.

I stared at the menu for a long time before trying to invent a drink. I made a special request off the menu (it involved using the pear nectar in something that it wasn't originally involved with on the menu) and the counter girl looked at me like I was mad and promptly told me "I can but I can't be held accountable if it tastes weird".

Fair enough... I took the risk anyway but it turned out to be pointless because they didn't even have pear nectar in stock.

I asked for the Frullato instead which is basically a berry frappe. It was too tart for me and one of my pet hates in these kinds of drinks is picking raspberry seeds out of my mouth. It's REALLY annoying.

Frullato and Nutella Calda

Kat ordered the Nutella Calda. We were complaining about menu items that weren't in English and this drink, we believe, would be better described as 'Nutella frothy milk drink'. It was delicious. Warm, chocolatey and very rich. Needless to say, I was incredibly jealous of her.

The staff were lovely and we spent some time gossiping (amazing how there was never a lack of things to say) and regaining energy before recommencing our journey.
Stuzzichino Caffe Bar Spuntini on Urbanspoon