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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tuna pâté on chive pikelets

Tuna pâté on chive pikelets

This was another item I brought to our orphan's Christmas. The recipe makes about twice the amount of pâté required, so you could double the pikelet recipe. The original only gives you around 20 pikelets. The cookbook said about 30, but I don't know what kind of planet they were on. I only managed 19 from my batter, which actually suited me because I didn't want too many pikelets considering I was bringing other stuff too.

I really tried to avoid making too much food this year. I didn't want to be eating leftovers for days or having to throw stuff out.

My only leftovers this year was a bit of tuna pâté and a small amount of seared beef (coming up in my next post). I ate the left over tuna pâté in a toasted sandwich. I love tuna toasted sandwiches!

Tuna pâté on chive pikelets

Tuna pâté on chive pikelets

Adapted from Kitchen Classics: sweet and savoury bites

Makes about 20

Tuna pâté
125g cream cheese
400g can tuna in oil, drained
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Chive Pikelets
60g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
125ml milk

Caviar and chives to garnish

In a food processor, work the cream cheese until smooth. Add the tuna, capers, chives, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture until roughly combined. Taste for seasoning, add more salt, black pepper, cayenne, or lemon juice to taste.

To make the pikelets, sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Stir in the chives and make a well in the centre. Gradually whisk in the egg yolk and enough milk to form a smooth lump-free batter, the consistency of thick cream.
Set aside for 15 minutes, then lightly grease a non-stick frying pan and drop teaspoons of the batter into the pan. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pikelets, turn them over and brown the other side. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Spread teaspoons of the pâté on to the pikelets, garnish with some caviar and more chives.

Note: The pikelets may be assembled up to 3 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Roasted garlic and white bean dip

Orphan's Christmas

Our traditional Christmas (if you can call doing the same thing for the past 4 years traditional) is to drink until we pass out. Okay, not really, although each year I do tend to have a wee nap in the middle of the afternoon. For the past few years, we've had an "orphan's Christmas". We don't have any family in Melbourne, so we spend the day with some friends who are also Christmas orphans.

Each year there's lots of food, lots of wine, a bit of cricket and my nap in the middle of the afternoon. There's always tons of food left over, and this year, I decided to make nibbles rather than food for a full meal.

One of the items I made was a roasted garlic and white bean dip. This dip is all about the garlic, and baby, is it good! I adapted the recipe from the current issue of Donna Hay Magazine - essentially I halved the recipe except for the garlic and onion. If you don't like garlic as much as us, just halve the garlic and onion.

The dip is very garlicky, but as it's roasted it's not overpoweringly so. It gets a lovely mellow, buttery and sweet taste.

PS: The basil came from my garden which is why it looks a little sad. My plants are still alive (!) except for the coriander which expired as soon as we got some hot weather. Stupid coriander.

Roasted garlic and white bean dip

Roasted garlic and white bean dip

Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 36, Dec/Jan 2008

2 heads garlic
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
400g can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degree C.
Slice the tops off the garlic, and place with the onion and oil on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and toass to coat. Roast for 25 minutes or until the garlic is soft.
Let it cool slightly, then squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins into a food processor. Add the onion, beans, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper and process until smooth.
Serve with crudites or bread sticks and crackers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oriental Spoon

Oriental Spoon

While some people crave chocolate, my cravings tend to be for savoury items like hot, fat chips or alternatively for spicy food. Food Safari the other night claimed that spicy food is perfect for hot, humid countries, as all the spices help stimulate the appetite. I don't know if that's true, but last Friday it was unseasonably wet and humid and all I wanted the entire day was spicy food. Lunch was with colleagues at a Korean restaurant, which kept me happy for a couple of hours. After work though, a few drinks with my Bro, Alastair and a couple of his colleagues started up my craving again. I had read Mellie's review of Oriental Spoon a while ago, and it had been sitting on my list of places to try for months and months. Everyone seemed happy with my suggestion for Korean food, so we braved the heavy rain and headed to Latrobe Street.

Once there, everyone glanced at the menu, but they were happy to let me pick the food. I love doing the ordering, because I get to pick things that I want to try! After conferring with my Bro, we decided on three dishes to share amongst the five of us.

Oriental Spoon
Jap chae

We didn't wait long for things to start arriving. Soon the wait staff was filling up our table with rice and banchan, and we had to shuffle things around when the mains came so we could fit everything on. The first main to come out was the Jap chae – clear potato noodles pan-fried with thin slices of marinated beef and assorted seasonal vegetables in a sesame oil sauce ($16.90). Yum, yum, yum. The noodles were light in texture and carried the flavour of the sesame oil and the slightly sweetish sauce.

Oriental Spoon
Soft tofu casserole

Next was the soft tofu casserole with seafood ($35.90). This was soft tofu with mussels, pipis, prawns, squid and vegetables prepared in a spicy soup. Alongside the seafood were enoki mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, spring onions, green chilli and a good dollop of spicy red chilli paste. Also sitting grandly in the broth was a raw egg. The casserole came out on a little gas burner, which was turned up at our table to let the soup heat. We got a bit distracted by the jap chae and other items arriving on to our table, and the egg quietly disappeared, slipping into my Bro's stomach. Apparently he was doing us all a favour, as the egg had overcooked by the time he got to it.

Oriental Spoon

But the star was the tofu, hidden underneath the seafood and vegetables. It was magnificent – so silky and smooth, and the kind of tofu that could even win over a tofu hater (not that I am one!). The soup was spicy and fishy and well worth the eating sweats that everyone got. Mhmm, finally my spicy cravings were sated.

Oriental Spoon
Meat cooking on the stone

Last was the combination marinated set – a combination of marinated beef, pork and chicken, stone grilled ($37.00). The stone was bought out to our table on a portable gas stove along with a small basket of red coral lettuce and sauce (that tasted like a slightly spicy hoisin sauce).

The waiter turned the stove on, returning later with a plate of meat that he laid onto the stone, along with two mushrooms. The mushrooms looked sad and lonely next to all that meat!

Oriental SpoonOriental Spoon

You're supposed to smear some sauce on the meat and then wrap it in the lettuce, but the lettuce leaves were a bit small and not really suited to rolling. I preferred the meat and the tangy, salty banchan eaten with rice.

Oriental Spoon

The remnants of the meat and marinade caramelised into a sweet, sticky sauce. We scraped as much off the stone as possible!

Oriental Spoon
Well fed

We rolled our way out of the restaurant to find that the rain had finally stopped. With my craving finally satisfied, I was a happy gal.

Oriental Spoon
254 Latrobe St, Melbourne
Phone: 9654 9930

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Plane food: Singapore Airlines

We had four flights on Singapore Airlines. Our first leg was from Melbourne to Singapore, then from Singapore to Capetown. This was the longest we had to travel, about 24 hours all up. It was 8 hours to Singapore, with 4 hours in Singapore airport, then 12 hours to Capetown. Neither of us slept on the flights, and by the time we got to Capetown we were pretty tired. Unfortunately we arrived very early in the morning (5.30am) and couldn't check into our room. We had to face our exhaustion and do tourist stuff until 2pm. It was quite amusing trying to stay awake!

From Melbourne to Singapore there were two meals – dinner and a "refreshment".

Singapore Airlines

Our first meal was an early dinner, served around 5pm. The appetizer was potato salad with beef pastrami. The potatoes were quite bland, but the pastrami was rather salty so they balanced each other out.

DSC_904820071225-01Singapore Airlines
Green curry chicken and Savoury beef-tomato casserole

The main courses were Thai style green curry chicken and vegetables with steamed rice or savoury beef-tomato casserole with oven-roasted vegetables and potatoes. Alastair had the green curry, and this was pretty good! It was very fragrant and actually better than the takeaway Thai we had eaten the night before we left. I had the beef casserole. The meat had a firm chew to it but it wasn't too chewy. The vegetables were nice, and retained a bit of firmness.

Singapore Airlines

As always with plane meals, there was cheese and crackers and a bread roll.

Dessert was ice cream – the flight attendants handed out mango and passionfruit Splices.

Singapore AirlinesSingapore Airlines

The refreshment was a choice between a chicken and leek pie or braised shanghainese noodles with seafood and seasonal greens. I went for the chicken and leek pie, which was a tad salty but the pastry was nice and light.

Singapore Airlines

Alastair had the shanghainese noodles which looked okay.

After a four hour transit in Changi Airport we boarded the flight to Capetown (what a fabulous airport by the way, we had a shower, used the internet, had some food, used a free foot massaging machine and could've shopped shopped shopped if we wanted). On this flight we were served a refreshment when we got on the plane, and then breakfast a couple of hours before we landed. This felt like the longest flight in the world. In the 12 hours on the plane I watched 4 movies and a couple of TV shows as I was too uncomfortable to sleep (damn cattle class!). Anyway, on to the food.

Chicken wrap and Tuna Croissant

The refreshment was a choice between a Roast chicken with mustard mayo and lettuce on flat bread or a croissant with Thai style tuna salad and tomato. I had the chicken wrap – BOO. This was the worst thing I've ever eaten on Singapore Airlines and possibly ANY airline. The "chicken" was processed meat and the whole thing was bland and uninteresting. Al's croissant seemed to be a better choice. I would definitely have preferred a dinner and breakfast and I assume the refreshment is served because it's cheaper than serving dinner. It was a 12 hour flight though – I think it's long enough to serve two proper meals. Admittedly there was snack service after the lights went out that I didn't partake of - ham rolls, tomato and lettuce ciabatta, peanuts, chocolate bars, chips and apples. Still. I wanted dinner!

Singapore Airlines

For breakfast, there was fruit, bread roll, and the main choices were fried rice with chicken, peas, shredded carrot and white cabbage, shrimp dumpling or a chive omelette with veal sausage, grilled tomato and potatoes. We both had the omelette, which was a regular plane omelette. Breakfast meals on planes don't impress much.


The pineapple and grapes were nice, but I don't like papaya. Ick!

On our way home, we flew from Johannesburg to Singapore. This was a slightly shorter flight than the one from Singers to Capetown, plus we stopped a couple of nights in Singapore to break up the travel. Unfortunately, again, we didn't sleep on this flight and ended up wandering Singapore in the early hours of the morning (as we couldn't check into our hotel). Luckily we were able to get our room at 9:30am and squeezed in a quick nap after checking in.

Singapore Airlines

On the way to Singapore we were served lunch and breakfast. For lunch, we started with a pasta and vegetable salad with the main choices being a stewed chicken with mushroom in coriander sauce, seasonal vegetables and potatoes or the braised fish fillet with black bean sauce, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice.

Singapore Airlines

Alastair and I both went for the fish, having been starved of seafood during our trip. The fish wasn't bad, although the black bean flavour wasn't that pronounced.

Singapore Airlines

As always, there was cheese and crackers as well as a bread roll.

Singapore Airlines

Dessert was a milk tartlet, which I found a tad sweet and kinda boring.

Singapore Airlines

Breakfast was fried egg noodles with chicken and vegetables or an omelette with pork sausages, tomato and potatoes. It was interesting having noodles for breakfast. They were a tad salty but a better choice than another omelette. As per usual, there was fruit and a bread roll.

And then on the final leg – from Singapore to Melbourne. We were served a continental breakfast and lunch. The breakfast was simply fruit, a bread roll and a muffin (no photos).

Singapore Airlines

For lunch we had marinated prawns with crispy romaine lettuce to start. Were the prawns marinated? I couldn't taste any marinade. Still - prawns. Not complaining.

Singapore AirlinesSingapore Airlines
Perch fillet and Braised beef

The main course choices were wok fried perch fillet in ginger soya sauce served with stewed vegetables and steamed rice or braised beef in red wine with spinach, roasted vegetables and mashed potato. The beef dish was exclusively created by Gordon Ramsay and finally! A great plane meal from Singapore Airlines! The beef was tender and in a tasy sauce. The mashed potato was nice and creamy and not too bland. Hooray! When I asked Alastair how his fish was, he said, "Good." He has lots of words about many things, but apparently not about food.

Dessert was ice cream – classic Magnums.

All in all, I wasn't that impressed with the food on Singapore Airlines. The food was better when we flew Emirates earlier this year. At least we got to eat some good food while in Singapore (posts still to come).

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Disclosure – one of the co-owners of Seamstress is my cousin. I don't "review", however this post might be more subjective than usual. Just for the record, no freebies were involved.

Last week was my b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y. I felt a teensy weensy bit glum about getting older but knew that dinner at a restaurant would perk me up.

Seamstress is located in a four-storey building on Lonsdale Street. In the building's past, there used to be an undergarment manufacturer, guilders, and a sweatshop. Nowadays, there's a basement bar, a ground floor kitchen, a first floor dining room and a top floor bar. We arrived around 8pm on a warm Friday evening and wandered upstairs to the first floor. I was a tad confused about where I was going (upstairs? downstairs?) and fortunately we were greeted by the staff on the first floor. It was still fairly quiet at that stage (it filled up later) and we were given a choice of two tables in the long room.


Excuse the terrible photos - I have a new toy and am still trying to get used to it!

As we perused the menu, we were bought a broth to sip while we decided on what to eat. I believe it was a lemongrass, ginger and chilli broth. I loved the little cups that they were bought out in. Too cute.

Service was very friendly and funky – and obviously kiwi. Our waitress was very chatty and recommended food and wines and explained how the menu worked. We took up a couple of her food recommendations and happily went with her wine recommendations.

Crispy calamari

We started with the crispy calamari ($14), the silken tofu treasure box ($14) and the pork belly ($16.00). The calamari was covered in a tempura style batter and served with a little bowl of five spice salt. It was presented on a piece of Chinese newspaper. The batter on the calamari was beautifully light and pale. I tried the salt but left it because I found it too salty and overpowering. In hindsight, it would probably have been a better idea to sprinkle the salt rather than dipping the calamari into it... duh.

Tofu treasure box

The tofu treasure box was a little hot pot of tofu and shitake mushrooms. I love those meaty shitake mushrooms. I liked it, but I would've liked the dish even more if the tofu was more silken than firm.

Pork belly

The last item we had before our mains arrived was the pork belly; long boneless strips that had been braised in a dark, sweet/savoury sauce. The sprouts sitting under the pork had absorbed some of the sauce from it and they were soft and tasty.

After our starters, our chopsticks were taken away and we were bought a knife, fork and a spoon. We ended up asking for our chopsticks back. :p

Braised beef cheek

Our mains were the braised beef cheek and the red duck curry. Rice came with the main meals. Now I know that the photo looks like a brown plop (must have lost my photo skills there) but the beef was gorgeous. It had been cooked for five hours with star anise and cassia (and possibly more spices) and was very tender, dark, sticky and fragrant. I grew up eating a dish similar to this, gnul nam, and it has always been one of my favourite things to eat. It was the first thing that I asked my parents to teach me how to make.

Duck curry

The red duck curry was served on a bed of beans and broad beans. The beans still retained some crunch and the duck was very tender and rather spicy! Fortunately, for this non duck lover, the meat didn't taste very gamey.

At the front L-R: Ginger jelly, pannacotta, pineapple jelly. Middle: rose petal fritters

We finished with a dessert tasting plate of desserts ($25). There was a pineapple jelly, ginger jelly, a pannacotta, rose petal fritters with mint cream and wild rice and coconut cream parcels in banana parchment.

At the front L-R: pineapple jelly, rice and coconut cream parcels in banana parchment, mint jelly.

By the time we got to dessert, we had downed a couple of bottles of wine. So my memory of dessert? Not that great. So, what can I dredge out of memory to tell you... I preferred the ginger jelly over the pineapple, the pannacotta was smooth and silky, the rice and banana parcels were creamy and the parchment was strongly banana flavoured (strangely enough). My favourite was the rose petal fritter which looks like a brown plop in my photo. I hope this brown plop photo phenomenon of mine isn't becoming a trend. It did look better in person!

All in all, I ended up having a good birthday dinner. It even made me feel better about getting older (the wine helped a lot). And I would go to Seamstress again, even if there wasn't the family connection.

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Ph: 03 9663 6363

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Coconut and raspberry muffins

Coconut and raspberry muffins

I had an urge to bake last week, and ended up with these muffins after a lot of flipping through cookbooks and browsing the internets. They could be the best muffins EVER. Sweet, moist, nutty, fragrant with coconut and with the occasional tangy raspberry - they were such a treat. Chocolate is so overrated - give me these any day!

Coconut and raspberry muffins

Coconut and raspberry muffins

Adapted from Super Food Ideas – August 2006

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)

1 3/4 cups desiccated coconut
1 1/2 cups coconut cream
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 2/3 cups self-raising wholemeal flour
1 cup frozen raspberries, putting 12 aside for decoration
Shredded coconut


1. Combine coconut and coconut cream in a large bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with muffin cases.
3. Using a metal spoon, stir sugar, egg and vanilla into coconut mixture. Gently stir in the flour until combined. Fold in raspberries.
4. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tins and put a raspberry on top of each one. Top with shredded coconut if desired. Bake for 20-30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool muffins in pan for 10 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 17, 2007

De Los Santos

We went to IMAX the other week to see Beowulf. Like Thanh, I think that the movie is worth seeing just for the 3D. It was quite an average movie, but the 3D was amazing and made it much more engrossing than a regular movie (despite the weak storyline).

Before the movie, Alastair and I had dinner at De Los Santos on Brunswick Street. We arrived around 7:30pm, and the restaurant was buzzing. The restaurant has exposed brick walls and hard floors, and with almost all tables full it was fairly noisy. As we hadn't made a booking, we took a seat at the bar to wait for a table. Fortunately we only waited about 10 minutes and it gave us the opportunity to peruse the menu and decide on what we were going to eat. Despite our short wait, the staff still took time to stop by to give us an update on the table.

Croquetas de Espinacas

Once we were seated at a table near the back of the room, we ordered two plates of tapas and the seafood paella to share. The first dish to come out was the Croquetas de Espinacas - Crispy spinach & cheese croquettes served with red pepper relish ($10.00). We got 4 largish croquettes – they had a crisp golden crust, with a very soft almost gooey centre. The red pepper relish was slightly sweet and spicy. Very delicious.

Costillas de Cordero

The other tapas dish was Costillas de Cordero - Roasted lamb ribs marinated with rosemary & cumin salt, served with a lemon & yoghurt sauce ($12.00). The ribs were salty, slightly smoky and fatty but the lemon helped cut through some of the fattiness. This was another good sized serving – there were 9 small ribs on the plate.

Paella Marinera

After the tapas there was a short wait for the Paella Marinera - paella with mussels, prawns, pippies, fish, caramelized onion, fresh green beans & roasted tomato finished with a Seville orange glaze & fresh herbs ($24 per person, minimum 2 people). It looks quite impressive with all the seafood laid out on the top. The paella was generous with the seafood and was quite a large serve, particularly after the two plates of tapas we had eaten! Some parts were a tad salty and some of the pippies seemed slightly bitter, but I really enjoyed the occasional bits of crunchy rice I came across.

All in all, it was an enjoyable meal. I was impressed with the size of the tapas that we had. I would like to go again but would skip the paella and instead just order tapas so I could finish off with dessert. I had wanted to have churros that evening, but unfortunately we didn't have time nor space in our tummies!

De Los Santos
175 Brunswick St , Fitzroy 3065
Phone: 9417 1567

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cafe Plum: 3

I like the idea of gardening. I love the idea of having a veggie patch and growing my own fruit and veg. Unfortunately, living in the inner city, we don't have enough dirt for a veggie patch. That's probably a good thing as I'm a terrible gardener.

I still persist though. Mostly I grow things in pots – I tend to get all excited when the weather warms up and go to the garden centre and purchase potting mix, plants, and other associated planting items. All goes well for a few weeks, then I start forgetting to water them. And it starts to get really hot. A few hardy plants survive my neglect, but mostly they shrivel and die.

It appears that I haven't learnt my lesson yet as I recently went out and bought some more herbs. But before I did that, I had to get myself into a gardening mood, and what better way than to go for brunch at Café Plum?

Cafe Plum

I ordered the mushroom bruschetta – roasted mushrooms mixed with fresh herbs and feta with a drizzle of balsamic syrup on sour dough toast ($9.50). I loved contrast of the salty feta against the sweet tanginess of the balsamic.

Cafe Plum

Alastair had something from the specials board - blueberry pancakes with vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup ($15.50). I had a taste – it was very sweet. I'm so not a sweet breakfast person. Al ate it all up though. It must've been good.

My Bro was there too, but I neglected to take a note or photo of his meal – I believe he had corn fritters which (gasp) he couldn't finish because he was too full. Terrible effort on his part.

The breakfast definitely helped get me into the gardening spirit – 2 weekends later my herbs are still alive! Gosh, it's amazing what regular watering does.

Read about our other visits to Cafe Plum here and here.

Cafe Plum
193 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne 3051
Ph: (03) 9329 8867

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eggplant, basil and feta rolls

Eggplant and feta rolls

I have had a strange relationship with eggplant throughout my life. When I was a young child, I loved eggplant. I couldn't get enough of it. Then one day I stopped liking it. I despised it, I hated the soft texture, the taste, the way it sometimes stings the tongue. And then, suddenly, when I got past my teens, I liked it again.

Eggplant and feta rolls

Maybe one day my love/hate eggplant relationship will switch again, but right now I'm in an I Love Eggplant phase. I prepared these eggplant, basil and feta rolls the other week and served them with salad. Not only was it a very satisfying dinner, but it was also a dinner chock full of vegies. I roasted the rolls with some home made tomato sauce, but you could also serve the rolls without sauce as nibbles.

Eggplant and feta rolls

To make them, thinly slice the eggplants lengthways. Brush lightly with oil, then put under a grill for 5 minutes or so until they soften and brown a little. Flip the eggplant slices over, brush with oil and put under the grill again. Let the eggplant cool slightly. Place a basil leaf and a spoon full of feta on the edge of each eggplant slice. Roll up the eggplant and secure – I tied them up with chives but you could just use toothpicks. You can eat them at this stage or you can roast them with sauce.

Note – if you are going to put some sauce on top and roast in the oven, leave out the basil when rolling up the eggplant and instead scatter on top once it's served.

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