Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!! (Double Chocolate and Pecan Brownie)

Wishing all readers a very merry christmas! Hoping your xmas is filled with good food and xmas cheer.

I've not posted much this past weeks mainly because I've been busy working, researching wedding locations and racking up my brains for xmas pressies that won't break the bank. I finally decided on baking brownies and giving this to friends and colleagues as gifts.

Double Chocolate and Pecan Brownie
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These brownies are a life saver whenever I have to bring a dish to a potluck or team lunch. Everyone seems to love it and I've never had a bad review so far :)

Ingredients

600g good quality dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
375g unsalted butter, chopped coarsely
400g caster sugar
6 eggs, beaten lightly
450g plain flour
110g self-raising flour
200g good quality dark chocolate, extra, chopped coarsely
200g roughly chopped pecan
Cocoa powder or icing sugar to dust

1. Preheat oven to 180'C (160'C fan-forced). Grease a 30cm x 40cm shallow cake pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper, extending the paper 3cm over the sides.

2. Place a heat proof bowl over boiling water. Add the chopped chocolate and butter to the bowl and stir until smooth.

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3. Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and eggs, then sifted flours, extra chocolate and pecan. Spread into prepared pan.

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4. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pan. Dust with cocoa powder or icing sugar and cut into portions.

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I ran out of icing sugar and cocoa powder so I've just cut the big brownie into 2cm x 2cm squares and wrapped them up in clear plastic and a ribbon tied at the top.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Mr Chow's Peking Restaurant

For my birthday the girls at work treated me to Mr Chow's Peking Restaurant at The Rocks and I must admit that they have the best Siu Long Pau in Sydney that I've tasted so far. Thanks girls especially KK for recommending Mr Chow's.

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Steaming Siu Long Pau. They are twice the size of the ones in New Shanghai in Ashfield, and oh so tasty. Like I said, the best I've tasted in Sydney. However, these babies are also almost triple the price of the ones in New Shanghai so I doubt I can afford it as often as I would like.

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Pork Bones Soup with Chinese Cabbage. OK I confess - I don't know what this dish was called but it was made by boiling the pork bones until the soup turned white and sweet. All of us couldn't say no to seconds and made sure there was not a drop left by the end of the meal.

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Cold Dish - Sliced Lean Pork w/ Chilli and Soy Sauce and Flat Vermicelli. This dish, typically served with jelly fish, came with Flat Vermicelli noodles instead. I couldn't believe how similar the vermicelli tasted like jelly fish, texture too was very close. It came with a lovely garlic, chilli and spring onion infused soy sauce poured over the lean pork.

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Tea Smoked Duck w/ Chinese Buns. I loved the smell of this dish and the mild tea aftertaste infused into the meat. Also, I was gnawing away at the bones once all the meat had been eaten up. hehe. However if you're looking for Peking Duck this isn't it.

Overall, I found Mr Chow's one of the best Chinese restaurants in Sydney. I can't believe it took me this long to find it.


Mr Chow's Peking Restaurant
33-35 Kent Street
The Rocks Sydney 2000

(02) 9252 3010

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brasserie Bread

Tucked away towards the end of Botany Road is Brasserie Bread. Brasserie Bread is a baking school, a wholesale business (supplying artisan breads, pastries and cakes to the wholesale market), a retail shop and a cafe all housed in an old saw-tooth warehouse a stone's throw away from the cranes of Port Botany.

My first visit was three Saturdays ago, accompanied by Miss SK and Ed. I loved it so much that I dragged a visiting friend from Melbourne out with me to Brasserie Bread the following Saturday.

First visit

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The first dish that caught my eye was the Soft Omelette with Gruyere Cheese and Prosciutto ($10). The pancetta was just melt-in-your-mouth divine. Omelette was smooth and creamy. Yum!

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A photo of all three combined into a mouthful. Yum!

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Miss SK had the Sourdough Pancakes w/ Stewed Berries and Honeycomb Cream ($12). Unlike sourdough bread, the pancake version was light and fluffy, and combined with the tartness of stewed berries and the fresh honeycomb cream made this dish the table's favourite.

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Ed had the Eggs Benedict which was made up of Poached Egg, Pan Fried Smoked Ham and Hollandaise ($10). I didn't get a chance to try this dish but Ed raved about the Hollandaise sauce. After having the poached eggs Ed kept asking SK and myself how he could make them at home. This started a debate over which was better - using the traditional vinegar and swirl method or the specially made microwavable egg poacher to create the perfect poached egg.

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Iced tea ($5) - Brasserie Bread version has mint leaves in it which was delicious. A fantastic drink to have on a sunny Sydney Afternoon. Sadly, during our second visit, the Iced tea wasn't as good. It was lukewarm and pretty bland. Third visit was better then the second visit but lacked sugar. Yes, I visited Bread Brasserie three weekends in a row!

Second Visit

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I decided to go for something sweet and tried the Sourdough Pancakes w/ Banana and Maple Syrup ($12). The banana pancakes weren't as fluffy as the stewed berries and honeycomb version but this had actual bananas in the pancakes and was as delicious as the first one. Only drawback was that the maple syrup was super super sweet.

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Croque Monsieur ($10) w/ a fried egg on top. I found this pretty disappointing compared to the rest I've had in my last two visits. The bread was normal and so was the ham and cheese. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the dish had gone cold by the time I had a bite of it as the dish seemed pretty popular amongst Bread Brasserie patrons as two other tables had ordered this dish while we were there.

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For dessert we had the Strawberry Tart and the Lemon Tart. I have to say that the shells let both this dessert down as it was quite hard and bland although I loved the addition of pistachios to the strawberry tart.

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The Lemon Tart was the weaker of the two as the lemon filling was pretty sweet for a lemon tart.

Third visit will be posted shortly.

Brasserie Bread
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeadow NSW 2019

(02) 966 6845

www.brasseriebread.com.au


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iron Chef, Cabramatta

My first visit to Iron Chef in Cabramatta. Actually the only other time I've been to Cabramatta was with my aunt six years ago when she went to buy some fabrics; no food involved. However over the last 2-3 years, I've been wanting to drop by as a certain friend kept raving about the food and cheap groceries! This trip almost didn't happen as the initial plan was to visit the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition. Cloudy skies changed our minds and we ended up in Iron Chef.

We didn't have to wait long to get a table. This was because I got lost on my way there and my colleague K had to wait 45 minutes by himself before the rest of us arrived. The rest of the gang was waiting for me you see... Sorry K! My bad.

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Prawn Dumpling

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Pan Fried Rice Roll

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Chicken Feet

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Vegetarian Roll

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Pork Dumplings

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Beef Tendons

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Steam Prawn Roll

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Deep Fried Taro Ball

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Soy Bean Dessert


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Egg Tarts

Overall, the food was pretty similar to what you would get in Chinatown but way cheaper. Service was pretty good too although I've heard some stories against this. Will go back if I'm ever in the area.


Iron Chef
84 Broomfield St
Cabramatta NSW 2166

(02) 9723 6288

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chophouse

I first heard about Chophouse in Chocolatesuze's blog and since then I've been waiting patiently for an occasion to visit. Last Saturday, 11 of us dined at Chophouse to celebrate a birthday.

When we arrived we were shown to the private room upstairs. I would have preferred eating downstairs, dining under the huge rib like structure, but the private room was nice too. The walls were covered with cow hide, fur still intact, a private bar (but unattended) and dark wood furniture.

When we arrived we noticed that it was pretty warm in the private room. The waitstaff informed us that they had switched on the air-conditioning and it would take a few minutes to start up. In the mean time, they opened the windows to let the cool air in but that was a bad mistake as the hot air from the kitchen (window was directly above the kitchen) made the room even warmer. Not a good start.

Another peeve (since I've started on this train) was that they served bottled water without even asking what we wanted. I do understand that a restaurant needs to make money, and we usually get bottled (sparkling) water anyway, but the right thing to do would be to ask first? Is it just me or am I being paranoid?

Well, enough about that, lets get on to the food.

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We started off with warm, soft and yummy bread with loads of butter spread on top. Heaven.

We also ordered two salads to share.
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Warm Peking Duck Salad ($24.90) which had lotus root, yam bean, cucumber, black bean and shallot dressing was awesome. The clean taste of lotus root, yam bean and cucumber accentuated the flavours of the duck. The shallot dressing was delicious too that I wished they sold it in a bottle.

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The best salad of the night was the Crisp Pork Belly and Sea Scallop ($25) which was made with chinese cabbage, coriander, pea shoots and soy vinaigrette. Imagine warm crispy skin and soft melt-in-your mouth fatty meat inter-mingled with fresh chinese cabbage and peat shoot. Everyone's favourite salad of the night.

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A side of Cauliflower Gratin ($7.90) with sourdough, gruyere and parsley. I liked how the cauliflower was slightly crunchy with baked gruyere cheese on top.

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Double Double Lamb Chops w/ mint jelly ($26.90). The lamb, 30 day Grain-Fed from Margaret River, WA, was awesome. The lamb was superbly cooked, pink on the inside and super tender while still retaining the meaty taste of lamb.

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350g Rib Eye Hereford Beef ($26.90) which was from the Special Menu. I love a good steak and this was very good. For me, a good steak starts with the taste of the meat. I've had a number of bland steaks where sauces are used to hide the blandness but the steak at Chophouse packed a punch taste wise. They were also cooked perfectly as the meat was pink and melt-in-your-mouth with an "almost" burnt aftertaste which I love.

By the time we finish our mains and two bottles of wine the room was hot! Some of the boys were sweating from the humidity in the room. The upstair hallway was also very smoky which I guess was due to poor ventilation. Due to the heat we decided not to stay for dessert although I was very tempted by the chocolate block!

Overall, I would go back to Chophouse because the food was so good. They do need to fix their air-conditioning and ventilation though.

Chophouse
25 Blight Street
Sydney NSW 2000


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lemon @ Surry Hills

H and I had brunch at Lemon recently. It was our first time and I loved how they served each dish with a slice of lemon (per the name of the cafe). The walls were also covered with pictures of lemon and there was a petition to save the big lemon that was above the signage of the store. I guess the council won in taking the big lemon off the roof, OH&S you see..

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H's Skinny Flat White ($3.30). His verdict - good coffee.

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Lemon's version of Salmon Benedict ($14) - Poached eggs served on smoked salmon, wilted spinach, grilled tomato, avocado and a toasted bagel, topped with hollandaise sauce... and it came with a slice of lemon! H said the Hollandaise sauce tasted like it came from a packet and the smoked salmon rather fishy. I guess he won't be ordering this the next time round.

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Mango and Orange Smoothie ($5.50) - I detected only a hint of mango and overall it was pretty sour.

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I had Eggs on Toast - Scrambled ($6) w/ extra Mushrooms ($3.30) and Spanish Sausage ($3.30). I loved the mushrooms. It was cooked just right. The scrambled eggs was pretty good too; soft and milky.


Lemon
393 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010

(02) 9380 5242

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gia Hoi

A new addition to the numerous eateries on George Street (Chinatown side) was Vietnamese restaurant Gia Hoi. This place opened its doors sometime in May and the banner advertising a 10% opening special is still hanging above the entrance to the shop when H and I visited. The whole shop was outfitted in bright orange which brought a smile to my face. I love the colour and even own a bright orange jacket but that's a story for another time.

Service was warm and welcoming and we were quickly shown to our seats (which by the way was bright orange) and provided with bright orange coloured menu. We quickly decided on our dishes as we were famished but I was still undecided if I should order the Durian Shake or be good and have water instead. The durian shake won in the end and it was the best durian shake I've had in Sydney. It tasted exactly like a D24 (Malaysia's grading / name of a particular durian breed). Click to find out more about Durians.

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Durian Shake ($4.50)


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H's Vietnamese Ice Coffee ($4.50)

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Gia Hoi's Special Beef Noodle Soup ($9) - One of the better ones I've tasted in Sydney. It had generous servings of rare beef and noodles. The broth was full of flavour however, it was pretty oily as you can tell from the picture above. Still, a great dish to warm you up on a cold wintry day.

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Grilled Chicken w/ Rice ($9) - I loved the chicken as it was well marinated in lots of herbs. The marinade penetrated through the chicken pieces beautifully and you can taste the flavours not just on the skin and outer layer of the chicken but infused into the meat as well. Call me fussy but I dislike grilled meats that have been marinated only on the outer layer and when you reach the middle or towards the bone they taste bland. All that gorgeous flavours on the outer layer gets me excited for more and when you hit a bland patch it's just.... off-putting (is that a word?). I digress, the grilled chicken here at Gia Hoi was beautifully marinated and tasted gorgeous.


Gia Hoi
709 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000

(02) 9211 0221

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alchemy Cafe & Restaurant, Christchurch

Recommended by the friendly staff at our B&B, we didn't realise that Alchemy is a multi-award winning restaurant until after we had tasted the food (more on that later). Alchemy is located in Christchurch's Art Gallery, situated next to the Art Centre and we didn't suspect a thing as it looks like a normal cafe. Service was slow (we had to wait more then 20 mins to put in our order all the while trying to get the attention of the 3 staff on the floor) but more than made up for it by the food.

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H's Works Breakfast w/ Cressy Farm bacon, 2 free range eggs, venison sausage, sauteed rosemary potatoes, grill tomatoes, mushrooms and ciabatta (NZD $21.50) was awesome. The bacon was succulent and meaty and I loved, loved, loved the venison sausage. All was cooked perfectly and you can really taste the difference when good quality produced are used.

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I had ordered the Seared Akaroa Salmon on mushroom filled french toast with sauteed spinach and watercress (NZD$22.50). This was an award winning dish and I agree full-heartedly. The mushroom filled french toast was gorgeous with meaty mushrooms and eggy goodness. The Akaroa salmon was cooked perfectly, slightly pink in the middle and looked awesome on top of the french toast.

H and I both agreed that we would definitely be back for more the next time we are in Christchuch. Just fabulous food, quality produced and "outside the box" cooking.


Alchemy Cafe & Restaurant
49 Worcester Boulevard
Christchurch 8001 New Zealand

+ 64 3 366 3018

www.alchemycafe.co.nz

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mu Steakhouse, Christchurch

Mu Steakhouse, recommended by a colleague of H was situated smack bang in the city centre. We decided to rock up and try our luck as we did not ring before hand to make a booking. Once there we were told that they could seat us but we would have to leave by 7.30pm. An hour and a half for dinner was fine by us. Just feed me a decent meal.

Mu Steakhouse has a bar section and 3 floors for food. It was all dark wood illuminated only by dim red lighting (a nightmare for photographs so please excuse the poor quality pics).

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A picture of meats on display at the front of the kitchen. This got me salivating but alas I had chosen the wrong dish for the night (read more to find out).

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For entree we started off with Mu Steakhouse Tart which was made up of creamy blue cheese & onion on top of rocket with confit of tomatoes. H loved blue cheese so when he saw this on the menu he just had to order this dish. I'm not a big fan of blue cheese but this was quite good as the blue cheese wasn't that pungent.

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The best of the night though was the Chicken Liver and Cognac Pate topped with white truffle butter and accompanied by hazelnut wafers. The pate was made absolutely more delicious by the white truffle butter topping. I just couldn't stop eating this although I could feel my arteries clogging up.

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H's 500g Rib Eye on the Bone was awesome. The meat was just superb; full of natural flavour and cooked to perfection.

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Unfortunately my dish which was the special Lamb Trio wasn't my cup of tea. I'm not a big fan of offal and 2/3rd of this dish was made up of 'em. The lamb chops were pretty good but sausage which was made with liver ...eik!

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Dessert made up for my main though. We had ordered the Espresso Brulee which was delicious. A slightly burnt crust which cracked with a flick of the wrist revealed coffee infused, creamy, delicious innards. The brulee was accompanied by olive sorbet made in house which was also delicious.


Mu Steakhouse
92 Lichfield Street
Christchurch, NZ

(03) 377 0681