It was Josh’s birthday last week. Unfortunately, Josh does not approach birthdays like I do. I like a little bit of birthday – not too much, mind. Not a big piss-up party or anything (okay, maybe, sometimes) but at least a nice dinner out to mark the occasion and a few nicely chosen presents from loved ones. That’s me. Josh? Nope. Don’t care. No, he didn’t want a party. No, he didn’t really care if I didn’t buy him a present*
But this is me, right? So I figured, it doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t think that highly of birthdays – he does like to eat. And I do like to eat. And we rarely get to go to a nice dinner with just the two of us anymore – so let’s just go out! And if there is a secret to Josh, it is that he is a little bit of a Italophile. And we live in Melbourne! How fortunate.
So after consulting a few blogs, Instagram and Twitter posts, I decided that Franco Choo’s it would be. It seemed like a nice little Italian place that Josh would like. I made the booking online (technology wins!) a week before hand, a phone confirmation on the day and everything was all sorted. Too easy.
We arrived at about 8pm on a Thursday night and took the last couple of seats. The place was already full and buzzing. Franco Choo’s is one of those tiny cosy restaurants – so tiny it must seat only around 20 people. It has that great small Italian hole-in-the-wall vibe that we both liked. Our lovely waiter (with his lovely Italian accent – let’s face it, we’re all suckers for Italian accent) went through the short menu on the blackboard (two choices of entree, two choices of main, two choices of side, two choices of dessert and a cheese platter). The menu, I’m told, changes often. The chef bases the menu on high quality produce that is readily available at the time.
Because there were only two choices of everything, of course, we ordered – well, everything. Because we were there on a week night and I had booked online, we were entitled to the fixed price set menu special ($35 for two courses and $45 for three.) We didn’t order any drinks because Josh doesn’t drink and I went on a complete bender the week before and swore off alcohol forever (at the time – you know how it goes) – we stuck to water. I always feel bad about not ordering drinks but our waiter was completely lovely about it (believe me the number of places that actually gives you attitude for not ordering drinks!)
Some fresh chewy bread and the fruitiest olive oil on the house were brought to us to whet our appetite. Followed by our entrees – I decided on the saffron risotto with asparagus and Josh on pork ragu and pasta (I think strozzapreti but I can’t remember that well.) My risotto was delicious – it was creamy while each grain of rice was still bitey and the asparagus was tender and sweet. Josh’s pasta was gorgeous with generous amount pork ragu (surprise factor being it wasn’t tomato-based) tossed through with radicchio and a few other bits and pieces.
For main, I had opted for the crunchy crusted barramundi fillet which was served with lemony potatoes and peas. The potatoes were gorgeous and the peas were sweet and poppingly fresh. It was amazing that the wow factor came from how well the simple vegetables were cooked and how amazingly fresh they were. Josh’s lamb was very tender and flavourful and the same can be said about the carrots and the mash – beautiful quality produce simply but perfectly cooked. Sure the meat and the fish were great but the veggies sneaked in and won the race.
The star of the show, unbelievably, was the sauteed broccolini with chilli and garlic that we ordered as an extra side. The broccolini were so fresh, tender and sweet. The fibrous stems were peeled back slightly to reveal the soft tender core. I was impressed by the care that went into this simple side dish. It was so delicious and well cooked that I actually ended up ordering two extra serves (3 serves in total.) – our waiter was very amused and I stopped feeling bad about not ordering drinks.
When it was time to choose desserts, I notice our fellow diners on both sides only ordered desserts to share. Weak. By then I was getting rather full but this ain’t a birthday celebration for no reason! So we said yes to a dessert each. Josh ordered the vanilla panna cotta which was served with pieces of figs that had been marinated in marsala and poached rhubarb. It was creamy and satisfying but light and refreshing at the same time.
I went for the dark chocolate semi-freddo with black olive caramel sauce. The sauce was rich, sweet and salty. Love the salt in desserts and the grapefruit, blood orange and orange segments balance out of the richness of the chocolate.
The meal was a lovely relaxed one and the courses were spaced out in that relaxed manner (I suspect there is only one person cooking) – so it is not a good place if you are after a quick in-and-out dinner. However, if you want a long lingering dinner in a cosy setting, preferably with someone you can really have a conversation with, and you want good simple Italian food then Franco Choo’s is definitely the place for you. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely be back.
Franco Choo’s Italian [ Website ]
Address: 179A High St Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: (03) 9529 7310
Hours: From 6pm – Tuesday to Saturday
- 1 knuckle
Clean the knuckle well. Blanch with boiling water and scrape with sharp knife to remove any remaining hair (or is it fur? Do pigs have fur?) Grill the knuckle on all sides on browned and slightly smokey using either the grill or a grill pan. This is just to brown the outside rather than to actually cook the meat. This should take a few minutes. This step isn’t really strictly necessary but I enjoy the subtle smokiness in the broth. Alternatively, you can use a blow torch or hold it over your gas stove as they do in Thailand.
- 3 fresh coriander roots (or 10 long stems, leaves removed and 1/2 tsp ground coriander), sliced finely
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 tsp white pepper corn (substitute with black if unavailable)
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tablet palm sugar (approx. 2-3 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1.5 litres chicken or pork stock (or water and stock cube)
Note: this post is about the visit I made to Sydney last April – I wrote it a year ago and never got around to finishing it. Until now.
Let’s get this out of the way. I am one of the biggest Jamie Oliver’s fangirls out there. And while I’m well aware that Jamie’s Italian is a chain restaurant that’s not even owned by him, I simply had to eat my words (‘I don’t queue for anything other than toilet’) and waited almost an hour on a Friday night to get into the restaurant.
I landed in Sydney quite late and we didn’t get to the restaurant until about 10pm. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to convince the Auntie Brigade (which comprised my mother and her two besties who were in town from Thailand for a long weekend – yes just for the long weekend. These ladies are crazy.) that we should get a cab to Jamie’s Italian and we may perhaps have to wait up to an hour before we are seated. Luckily, my Mum and her easy-going friends knew how crazy I was about Jamie Oliver and were okay with the wait (honestly, if it were me in their position, I would have cracked it.) I think the fact that they have already been to a Jamie’s Italian in London helped a bit as they had enjoyed their previous visit and knew what to expect.
(Antipasto plank – meat $13.0)
Once we got there, we were told that the wait would be about an hour an a half – biting my tongue, I said yes we’d wait (at this point for those of you know who me would understand how entirely uncharacteristic of me this would be) and so we duly put my name and wandered off (yes me + three aunties) to a bar nearby. Luckily, the bar had Australian Open live on to the keep the aunties amused and about 40 minutes later, they rang and said our table was ready. Hallelujah.
(Complimentary house bread served with fruity olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar)
We were led upstairs to share a tiny cafe table which I knew would present a space problem when all the food arrived. Starving, we decided on a serving of complimentary bread (I do believe you have to ask for it), a serving of meat antipasti plank and crispy calamari to start. My order of Bellini came a little on the warm side but it didn’t bother me so much as the food started arriving.
(Crispy calamari with garlicky mayo $12.00)
The calamari arrived slightly on the not-so-hot side (or was it that I spent too much time fiddling with my aunt’s SLR that I had no freaking idea how to use?) but it had a really good crunch and fastastic flavours with lots of crunchy garlic. The Auntie Brigade couldn’t get enough of them and lamented that I should have ordered two servings.
(Mozarella with herb dressing and shaved root vegetables)
The antipasto plank also arrived and placed on top of two tins of tomatoes (cheap stand, I see, rather awkard to try to not tip the whole thing over.) The cured meats (prociutto, bresaola and other things I couldn’t name) were lovely but I wasn’t blown away. The pickles (olives, caper berry, chilli) however, were fantastic. And so was the mozarrella (the Aunties couldn’t get into them upon finding out it was made from buffalo’s milk, score me).
(Crab and Squid Ink Risotto $15.50 – photo from lunch)
For mains, we decided on a few mains to share. By this time, I had given up on using my aunt’s camera in such low light. We started with mussels linguine, which were beautifully made. The linguine was perfectly cooked and the mussels fresh and sweet. Simple and beautifully done. The lamb spiedini was absolutely massive but well presented. The lamb seemed to lack of the lovely lamb flavour (but I suspect it must be a NSW lamb thing as I ran into exactly the same problem at Momofuku) but the bed of smashed potato with minted yoghurt and chilli dressing ($25.00) was great and I normally am not at all a potato girl. My mum opted for her usual steak – their rib eye ($38.00) was perfectly grilled and mum loved the peppery leafy salad on the side. Our final main was the crab and squid ink risotto was absolutely gorgeous. Salty, creamy, seafoody rice with crunchy garlicky crumbs and fresh crab meat. A little squeeze of lemon really lifted the whole dish.
We also had a couple of side salads to share and they were both very good. Desserts were absolutely fantastic: our choice of creamy panna cotta ($8.50) was indeed creamy and delicious and not too sweet. Our second dessert was the ‘ultimate brownie’ was rich and chocolatey but unfortunately we were very, very full. A fantastic first meal in Sydney.
(The bread counter at Jamie’s Italian)
So good, in fact, that two days later, the Aunties wanted to go there for lunch again (‘Also, you can get better photos at lunch!’ – how can you not love them?). This time though, we decided that we would go there for an early lunch and right on the 11.30am mark, we got there and were promptly seated. No queuing. Hallelujah Number Two.
(Almost empty dining at 11.40am on a Monday)
To my dismay, the Aunties had insisted on ordering some of the same dishes again. It was looking to be a repeat of the Friday night meal until I had to intervene to order one of the daily specials:
(Monkfish with tapenade and radish, fennel and rocket salad at Jamie’s Italian, Sydney)
The monkfish was fresh and lovely but I was slightly disappointed with the overall flavour. The tepanade didn’t compliment the fish. We also ordered the calamari, risotto and the antipasto plank again as the Aunties loved them so much. They were good the second time around. Especially the crispy calamari that was served hot this time.
(Monachelle puttanesca – $12.00)
The puttanesca, on the other hand, was spot on with its lovely dots of capers and crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs to liven up the pasta.
(Travise and gorgonzola salad – $9.00)
My mum had also ordered the rocket salad again but our waiter made a mistake and put through the travis and gorgonzola salad. She realised her mistake and offered to bring us the correct salad. Frankly, I was quite happy she made this mistake because I never want to order the same dish twice at a restaurant. I was pretty happy with this salad. Mum, on the other hand, had her first taste of blue cheese. Suffice to say, it’s not an experience she cared to repeat.
We finished off with a really good tiramisu – which everyone enjoyed. Mum, who generally doesn’t like strong coffee taste, still thinks it was one of the best tiramisu ever. I was quite pleased with it too. The lemon zest really added the fresh zing to the dish which I loved – it also combat the richness of the tiramisu and made it somehow lighter.
The other dessert – gelato con brioche, brioche ice cream sandwich, wasn’t as good. I found the brioche slightly dry and didn’t really work with the gelato. Overall though, we absolutely adored the food and it was surprisingly good for the amount of money you pay for it. So basically it ticks the good and cheap box. I just wish there wasn’t a long wait for it.
(I clearly didn’t take this photo because that’s me punching my PIN into the EFTPOS machine in the corner)
And then it was time to bid the lovely Sydney good bye and we packed the Auntie Brigade off to the airport and I walked myself around town for a bit and then took myself back to Melbourne, where rain and wind chill greeted me.
I’ll be back soon, Sydney. I love you.
Jamie’s Italian, Sydney [ Website ]
Address: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 8240 9000
Hours: Open 7 days, 11.30 AM. – Late
One of the rules I have in life is that when you find a good place to yum cha (or rather from my point of view, eat a bucket load of steamed dumplings) – you stick to it. And this is the case with Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant.
(Pork spare ribs in black bean sauce)
According to my blog, I first went to Imperial in 2009, and basically it has been our favourite yum cha haunt since due to a really good balance between food (excellent), price (not too expensive) and service (waiters are actually attentive and are not rude ever.)
(Prawns in soy milk skin)
Since about a year ago, Imperial went through a transformation. It dropped Kingdom and added the word Seafood to its restaurant name (I’ve always wondered how you have an imperial kingdom – turns out I’m right, you really can’t.) It seems to now focuses its dinner menu on live seafood. It was completely redocorated (posh much for a suburban Chinese restaurant) and had a change of management. More importantly though, the dim sum are still as good as ever.
(Garlic chive dumplings)
And wouldn’t you believe it – THE SERVICE IS FANTASTIC. I know. I’m still shell shocked. A large suburban Chinese restaurant where no one throws at the menu at you and the waiters seem like they really want you to be there and that they want you to have a great time? Wow.
(Prawn rice noodle rolls)
Anyway, suffice to say, really good dumplings – espcially the steamed variety (except the congee – still pretty average – always been average and yet I always order it, I just can’t help it) out in the burbs and definitely worth a visit. As all popular yum cha places in the Eastern suburbs, always book on the weekends.
(Salt & pepper white baits – fish AND chips!)
(prawn siu mai)
What is everyone’s favourite yum chan place?
Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Address: 546-554 Waverley Road (cnr Blackburn Rd) Glen Waverley, VIC
Phone number: 03 9802 6787
How to get there by public transport: Train to Syndal station on Glen Waverley line and 1 km walk (there are also buses from the station but what do I know about buses?)
Hoorah for date nights! Since they are a bit hard to come by, Josh and I decided to really party it up big… by going to the theatre. I know. Old age happens when you least expects it – with a young child. So to be able to fit in dinner and a show, I was tossing up between a pre-theatre menu somewhere nice or a tapas bar and by chance had a look on the MoVida website which happens to also house Paco’s Tacos
And since Mexican is, you know, in (how very 2012 of me) – I drew Josh’s attention to the MoVida Group’s new(ish) taqueria. The man I married, unfortunately, had a childish streak that even a marriage to a mature, no non-sense woman like me cannot cure. Okay, I may have encouraged this one by saying ‘Paco’s Tacos’ in my silliest Mexican accent possible but once the man got an idea into his head and especially that idea is Paco’s Tacos (say it with me in the lamest Mexican accent possible), it couldn’t be scrubbed out.
(Pimm’s Fruit Cup – $10)
So off to Paco’s Tacos, we went straight from work on a sweltering hot day. It was a very pleasant day – being an under cover, outdoors venue, it was a perfect day. Luckily for us, it was perfect. It was hot but the cool change was just beginning to come in, hot enough to still enjoy their Pimm’s Fruit Cup but cool enough to be comfortable. What can I say? I love me cheap, fruity cocktails.
Nevermind that it was 5.45pm and the after-work drink crowd was still going in full force, we proceeded to get into the tacos (did I mention we’re old?) since we wanted to take a leisurely stroll to the State Theatre to pick up our tickers and catch the 7.30pm Warhorse.* So after I went through my drink, we started ordering tacos – two at a time.
(L: carne asada, R: pascado – all tacos $6.00)
First up were Carne Asada and Pescado – i.e. a meat taco and a fish taco. The meat was quite nice and tender and the spicy sauce (described as ‘Braised Beef, Pica de Gallo, pickled Cactus and Chipotle sauce‘ on the menu) worked well. The fish, on the other hand, were a little bit on the disappointing side. Slightly bland and underwhelming.
(BBQ corn – $6)
But why stop at two? (or as you found out, we only stopped after 6 + 2 side dishes.) Next up, I ordered the BBQ corn, which we also quite enjoyed as an intermission to the taco craziness that we were about to continue on.
(Camarones – prawns, with pickled cabbage and pepitas)
The prawn tacos, I’m happy to report, tasted much better than it looked – good balance of prawns, cabbage and pepitas adding a good crunch. The salsa verde was also complimentary. Our next up was my personal favourite, the chorizo tacos (first picture of this post). I’m quite partial to the strong, spicy chorizo with lots of zesty cabbage and the corn salsa balanced out the flavours nicely.
(Chicharron – $10)
I also interrupted going through the entire menu with the chicharrones – which basically the Latin American answer to pork crackling. This picture doesn’t quite do it justice but it was basically a massive pile of crunchy fried air. That’s right, it was so fluffy and light, it was almost like eating air. I loved it. Let’s face it here, it’s deep fried pig’s skin – what is not to like? The next table was so intrigued after seeing it (it was quite impressive looking) but once they found out it was deep fried pig’s skin, they ordered nachos instead. Disappointing.
(pollo taco – BBQ chicken with picked cabbage)
The last few tacos went by as a bit of blue as this point I was getting full and starting to give up. Josh on the other hand was still going. He order a serve of the chicken taco (pollo) which was also served with the pickled cabbage. He liked this one so much, he ordered another one. By this time I had given up completely and contemplated going over to MoVida for a couple of rounds of dessert but unfortunately had no room left in my stomach. So we left it and took a needed walk to the State Theatre in Southbank.
Overall, while the tacos weren’t blow-your-mind-wow, they are cheap(ish) and decently prepared. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit. A great place to go for a few drinks and pick up a few tacos (or massively puffed up pig’s skin) on a lovely day.
Paco’s Tacos [ website ]
Address: Level 1, 500 Bourke St., Melbourne 3000 (next to MoVida Aqui)
Phone number: 03 9663 3038
How to get there by public transport: Train to South Cross station and a short walk up Bourke St. or tram #86, 95, 96
* What can I say? It was a war story. I’m not into war stories. Give me a singing, dancing, air-headed musical any day.
I am incredibly excited to have to inform you – that I may have found the best won tons in Melbourne. Of course this is an anecdotal evidence only. No scientific research has been conducted into the availability of won tons in Melbourne. But having had way too many won tons (Cantonese-style prawn and pork dumplings), I’m going to call this as being one of the best I have had.
Grain Asian is one of the many available Chinese cafes situated in the Centro Shopping Centre in Box Hill. It seems to start as a cafe on its own and become so popular that most of its tables spill out into the shopping centre area in the middle. As with the rest of Chinese cafes in Box Hill, it’s noisy and cluttered but damn, have I mentioned how good their won tons are?
(‘Dry’ won ton noodles – $9.80)
The menu seems rather short compared to your typical Chinese cafe menu – a few noodles and rice dishes They also seem to have all-day Hong Kong style breakfast set – including congee (savoury rice porridge) served with Chinese doughnuts (yau ja gwai), hot soy milk drink, steamed rice noodle rolls with prawns (chee chong fun), steamed buns (bao) and lotus sticky rice (lor mai gai). I have tried any of the above as the won tons just kept getting in the way, but one day. I just absolutely love the menu – it feels like being Hong Kong again (except no-one yells at you for failing to understand basic Cantonese or read the Chinese menu.) They also have luncheon meat and scrambled eggs sandwiches (no thanks!) and Hong Kong style tea and coffee. It seems like this is the only place in Melbourne where you can get a breakfast set for $4.50!
I ordered the ‘dry’ won ton noodles – i.e. the noodles were tossed with a soy sauce mixture and with soup served on the side. The won tons were massive (I would say it’s cricket ball size but that will be an exaggeration) and bursting with prawns and fatty porkiness. So good! The noodles itself had a firm bite to it, which I think makes it perfect. It also came with generous amount of bok choy. I recommend you get there very very hungry and plan to skip the next meal because the serving of this noodle is massive. Having said that I do have to pay what I come to think of as the ‘Mini Me Tax’ – which means giving up a portion of whatever I’m eating to Mini Me (who is now 2 and will eat demand to eat anything I’m eating) who will easily polish off about two of these massive won tons and a bit of the noodles. So it works out well.
(Braised beef and won ton noodle soup – $9.80)
Josh decided to go for the braised beef won ton noodle soup – which is very similar to mine – same noodles, same won tons and same bok choy saved for the addition of tender, braised beef cubes. So fatty, so tender and oh-so-delicious. The braising liquid was mild with just a touch of the five spice flavour (as opposed to the strong Taiwanese braised beef I have had at a few other places) but the over all dish was quite good. As mentioned earlier, we have been back twice and we both ended up ordering the same things twice.
Will have to give the other items on the menu a go. But oh the won tons!
Grain Asian (in Box Hill Centro)
Address:Cnr Main & Market Streets, Box Hill VIC 3128 (opposite to the Reject Shop)
Phone: 03 9899 6533
Getting there by Public Transport: Train to Box Hill Station (Belgrave/Lilydale line). The cafe is in the same building as the train station.
Hi! Sorry it’s been a while with the blogging – full time work, toddler child, etc. etc. the usual excuse.Will make of an effort now though, I promise.
I’ve recently been experimenting with baking bread – not too sure what brought on this surge of baking madness. I think it’s mostly the fact that I don’t have a TV and ABC iView has been a bit crap lately – too many docusoaps rather than actual documentaries and no good food shows at all. So I’ve spent my night doing a bit of bready things – mostly because I never have enough butter on hand to make cakes!
As it’s near Easter, I have decided to try my hands at baking hot cross buns based on the ingredients I have in the pantry (I have a ridiculously full pantry) and here’s an adapted recipe that has worked well for me after trial-and-error, so I’d like to share it here. Bear in mind that this recipe takes about 3 hours in total – so don’t start this at 10pm on a school night like I did.
Hot Cross Buns (using a stand mixer)
- 1 x 7g packet yeast
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 1 1/2 cup milk
Place milk in a large bowl and heat on medium for about 2 minutes until hand-hot. Add sugar and yeast. Stir gently until dissolved. Leave in a warm place for about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is frothy and it begins to smell yeasty.
Dough – makes 15 hot cross buns
- 4.5 cups plain flour
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
- 2 cups dried mixed fruits (I use leftover random dried mixed fruits from Christmas pudding attempts from 2 years ago)
- Zest of one orange (optional – my mixed fruit contained citrus peel but if yours doesn’t, add orange zest)
- 60g butter, cut into small 1cm cubes
- 1 egg
If your butter cubes are fridge cold, warm them in the microwave using the lowest setting possible in 5 second bursts i.e. only let the microwave on low for no more than 5 seconds at a time until they are soften. Be very careful as it will take mere seconds between perfectly softened and melted butter. If you are organised, obviously you can leave your butter outside the fridge until it’s soft but really, who thinks ahead that far!?!
Add flour, spices, dried fruits and, if using, orange zest into a mixing bowl. Attach the dough hook of your stand mixer and turn it on low and let it mix the dry ingredients for a few minutes until well combined. Add the yeast mixture, egg and butter and allow the mixer to do its thing. Magic really. Didn’t even have to get my hands dirty. I have a KitchenAid artisan mixer and I had it on at speed 1 all the way but adjust according to your mixer’s instructions.
It should take about 10 minutes for the dough to come together properly before the mixer can really start to ‘knead’ it. You may need to give it a helping hand by scraping the dough mixture away from its side until a ball starts to form. The dough will look rather sticky – keep going. Allow it to ‘knead’ for about 10 more minutes (about 20 minutes in total but it is more important that the final product looks right rather than the actual time spent) – until the dough comes off the side of the bowl cleanly and springs back when pressed.
While the dough was kneading, I turned on my gas oven (much faster to heat up than an electric one) and let the oven come to about 100′c before turning it off so my dough can rise in the warm oven.
When the dough is ready. knead it a few more times by hand. Place the dough in a lightly oiled thick glass bowl (Pyrex bowls are perfect.) and cover with a slightly wet tea towel. Place it in the oven until doubled in size. It is important that if you are proofing your dough in the metallic mixing bowl, you need to ensure that the oven temperature does not exceed 50′c as metal bowls transfer heat much faster and if your oven is at 100′c in a metal bowl, it will be way too hot. Also ensure that the bowl is oiled on the side so that the dough is allowed to rise rather than gets stuck on the side of an ungreased bowl. Alternatively, you can always just leave it at room temperature. How long this takes obviously depends on the room temperature at the time.
Once the dough has doubled in size, knock out the air in the dough and knead it briefly a few more times by hand to bring it back to almost the original size. Divide the dough into 15 balls and line them on a greased baking tray against each other. Place them back in the hopefully-still-warm-but-definitely-not-lit oven to proof for another half an hour or so. Take the dough out and turn up the oven to 200′c.
Flour Paste for Cross
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp water
Mix the flour and water into a paste – this should a really, really thick batter consistency. Pass it through the sieve if it remains stubbornly lumpy if you have too (totally messy). Place in a piping bag, cut the tip off to make about 1/2 cm line. Once the dough has proofed the second time, pipe the cross across all the buns rather than one at a time. Bake in the preheated oven at 200′c for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. When in doubt, just pull out the ugliest looking bun and have a taste.
- Marmalade or commercially prepared spreadable jelly
Many recipes will tell you to mix sugar, water (and optionally gelatine) and use this syrup mixture to glaze your lovely hot cross buns. You can that of course, but I was far too lazy. So I found at the back of my fridge the very end of a rose petal jelly spread – there hadn’t been enough left to do much with it but I couldn’t bear to throw it away because it wasn’t finished. I removed the lid, place the (glass) jar in the microwave for a few seconds on high until the jelly melts and bubbles. I used a pastry brush and brush this hot sticky rosy syrup on the hot cross buns right after they came out of the oven. Magic. I ended up with the shiniest, glossiest hot cross buns with very little efforts. The glaze made them look twice as good so I urge you not to skip this step. Marmalade will also work well. Simply spoon a couple of tablespoons out and warm them up in the microwave as the above instructions.
Happy Easter. Yay for super long weekend. Enjoy.
A lunch date. I can’t begin to describe these two magic words into something easy to understand to those without young children. While I personally get to go out fairly frequently while Josh is on sole parenting duty, we rarely get to go out together – just the two of us – anymore. So when my beautiful, generous friend (there’s no other words to describe this kind of friend) had offered to babysit Mini Me for the afternoon, I jumped at the chance of another Restaurant Express session at Bistro Vue.
(Bistro Vue MFWF Restaurant Express menu)
Bistro Vue is one of those places that were on my must-visit list since I had staggered through its gorgeous dining room after having consumed five full strength cocktails and told myself, ‘blimy, this place is noice. We have to come back for a romantic dinner.’ So when confronted which the which-express-lunch-do-I-go-for-just-the-two-of-us dilemma, I immediately picked out Bistro Vue.
We were left loitering around awkwardly at the entrance for quite a few minutes before we were seated into the packed dining room and presented with the Restaurant Express menu. The lack of choices in the menu was slightly disappointing. the services slightly more brisk, the tables were spaced more closely together than you would normally expect at a non-express lunch.
(Bread and butter on a very pretty dish)
What made this meal memorable are as follows:
- It’s like having a first date with a person you’ve just realised you’ve fallen in love with. Again.
- This person doesn’t drink his wine and gave me his.
- I am a cheap drunk. A very cheap drunk. Read the rest of this entry »
It seemed like a bad start to the 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival on the Saturday when the weather gods decided to absolutely soak the city with all manners of rain.
Sunday, however, proved to be a 360 degree turnaround and provided us with a glorious sunny day. And luckily it was the day we chosed to kick off our Melbourne Food and Wine Festival with an express lunch at Embrasse.
I like the idea of express lunches at this point in my life. Having a one-year-old toddler drastically cuts down your eating out time (sometimes, I honestly wonder how people with more than one child manage to go out at all when I barely do with just one) plus its affordability helps you decide whether you want to come back and try the restaurant’s proper menu. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Restaurant Express’s menu at Embrasse include two choices of entrees, mains and dessert, served with a glass of wine and a tea or coffee. You choose two of the courses for $35. Bargain.
(Squid cooked in red wine, parsley, zucchini and family, lemon, bergamot oil)
For the first time in a long time, I was running on time to a lunch date. Naturally, I had to encounter an accident on the Freeway and so ended up being twenty minutes late. This took a lot of eating time out of the 1.5 hour sitting that we were allocated for the express lunch. Oops. And I also forgot my camera and so had to make do with my phone camera. Read the rest of this entry »
A short and sweet post about one of my current favourite pasta recipes. This has become one of our favourite Summer dishes over the past weeks. It’s a warm pasta dish and there’s not much cooking required. Excellent for one of those hot days that you don’t want to do much cooking but a salad is just not substantial enough. Unfortunately I can’t claim credit for its recipe. This is one of the recipes from one of my magazines I’m subscribed to this year and it’s a really good one. Of course you can use any pasta but I find the short pasta works much better.
Pasta for Two (and maybe leftover for the lunchbox the next day)
- 10 green prawns, shelled
- About 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 Spanish onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 chorizo (from the deli but I’m sure fresh works as well), thickly sliced
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
- 2-3 servings cooked penne
- Plenty of chopped fresh parsley to serve
Start by cooking your pasta according to packet instructions until al dente. Meanwhile in a non-stick drying pan, fry the chorizo slices until slightly browned. Toss in the prawns and stir until they are cooked. Add the cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat immediately. Add the cooked pasta with a little bit of cooking water and stir. Toss in the olives and onion slices. Sprinkle with lots of parsley. Serve.
So simple and good.