Sunday, December 25, 2011

IT'S CHRISTMAS!!! Mango Mousse Chocolate 'Gingerbread' House Cake

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It's finally Christmas!

I'd like to wish everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! Stuff yourselves silly with food, wrap your selves in tinsel, belt out as many Christmas carols as you can possibly think of...... and have a great time ;)

Can you sense my excitement??


To celebrate, I finally made a Christmas-themed gingerbread house cake!! The design was intended to be a little more elaborate, but I've been extremely busy over the past week and have only managed to just finish the cake so this'll have to do.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cigar Cookies

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As I write this post now, I have the smell of coffee stuck in my nose. You see, I've recently purchased a coffee machine and have been busy coming up with coffee-like concoctions and forcing them down my family's throats.

Just kidding. My coffee isn't that bad (I don't think).


I don't really like coffee (nor do I drink it), so it may seem a little strange that I have a coffee machine, especially since there are about a billion kitchen appliances which I really wish I had. But I've always fancied the idea of making my own frothy milk, even if I don't like froth, and making cute pictures on coffee......though it may be quite a while til I figure that out.

But because of this machine, I now proper coffee in the house, for the first time ever. And this means that I will no longer have to take pictures with empty coffee cups in the background- or even as the subject, as I did with these photos.

Woops? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sushi wow, Parramatta

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Fried Moneybags $3

The last time I ate out at a sushi train with my friends was at J.J Sushi, more than two years ago- a day I remember quite well because we were supposed to be studying for exams, but instead spent shopping and eating. Though I happen to be in Parramatta a lot, I don't frequent this area much, so by the time I found out that J.J Sushi had been replaced, it had already been old news.

We decide to drop in here one afternoon, to see what the new restaurant is like. The whole restaurant has undergone a considerable amount of renovation, making its interior a lot more modern looking, though we notice the conveyor, the kitchen and plates are still the same as they used to be.

Seaweed Salad Sushi $2.50

It's also considerably busier, and by the time we arrive, the place is packed, making it difficult to seat our group of 4, especially as the restaurant is quite small in the first place. After a bit of waiting, and much apologising by the friendly staff, we eventually get to sit down on the sushi train,which is filled with plenty of choices. We start with the seaweed salad sushi, a simple favourite of ours, which is done well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Macarons

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Is there ever a time when time doesn't pass faster than it seems?

It's been a almost a month since my holidays started. A whole month.

I know I always say time passes too quickly, but I can't help it when I look at the calendar and it's been another month but there's still about 10 things that I was meant to do that month which I didn't even get time to think about (for instance, blogging more than twice a month?).

Before I know it, it'll be Christmas!

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I feel like I should be doing more in preparation for Christmas since it's my favourite time of the year- like listening to more Christmas songs, starting to make Christmas themed foods or going to more Christmas events. Instead, I'm spending my holidays doing what I normally do- going out with friends, baking (and blogging), watching TV and just relaxing. It's quite busy actually!

Ever since the beginning of the holidays, there has not been a day when there has not been a bowl of left over egg whites, yolks or cream in the fridge. I'll admit that I do tend to leave stuff in the fridge for longer than they should be in there (I don't bake that much) but I am baking a bit more than usual, in hopes of catching up on my lack of baking this year and to get through my list of 'to try' recipes.

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Like most bloggers, I usually attempt a recipe only once or twice, not because they don't turn out great, but because I simply don't have enough time, nor the stomach space, to try all the new recipes I want to and to make things over and over again. Macarons are something I've only attempted once, but they don't completely fit in this category because the reason I haven't made them again is not because I had other things to make, but rather, out of laziness (of having to age the egg whites and making almond meal) and fear of failure.

If anyone has been following my blog for long enough, you may remember that the last (and first) time I made macarons was a whole two years ago, when I first started this blog- a rather surprisingly successful attempt too, which I have always considered a fluke. I didn't know what a macaron really was or how it was supposed to taste, so I had my second surprise when my sister bought me a macaron and we found it tasted exactly the same as the ones I'd made!

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I'd expected my second attempt to be a failure, so I was surprised again, as they actually turned out macaron looking- I'm thinking it's more because of the recipe than my 'skills' ;) They're far from perfect though, especially since they're lumpy and not nice and round, due to my lack of piping bag and piping tip. But they still tasted great though, which is, of course, the most important thing!

Chocolate Macaron Recipe
The original recipe can be found here

3 egg whites (preferabbly 'aged' egg whites)
50 g granulated sugar
200 g icing mixture (minus 2 Tb)
110g almonds
2 Tb cocoa powder

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won't work.
2. Combine the almonds, cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve.
3. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets.
5. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.

Ganache
1 cup milk chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a heavy saucepan over medium high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat, drop in the milk chocolate and let stand a couple of minutes. Gently stir the chocolate into the cream until smooth. Set aside until it cools down and thickens a bit (a trip to the fridge is ok)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Platform 7 Cafe, Sydenham

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Platform 7 Cafe

My experience with cafe breakfasts is minimal not only because I can never wake up on time, but also because I tend to go for the lunch menu items than the breakfast ones! So when the lovely people from Food Morning invited me to try out the all-day breakfast menu at Platform 7 cafe, I was only too happy to take on the offer.

The cafe is small and cosy, and by the time we arrive, it's already half full, making it a little difficult to seat our table of three (I've brought my parents along). The service is great though, and table is quickly cleared for us.

Platform 7 cafe
Caffè latte

I'm told that their coffees (Allpress) are great, and to be honest, I was a little afraid that I wouldn't have much to comment on, since I probably can't tell the difference between a good coffee and a bad one. My mum is not much of a coffee drinker either, but she enjoyed her caffe latte very much, claiming it to be one of the best coffees she's had.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kitty Cat Sushi

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I hate the feeling of going backwards.

Not physically, though I hate that as well (have i told of the story of how I got motion sickness after sitting facing the wrong way on a sushi train?), but as in the opposite of improving. We've been making a lot of sushi of all different types lately- simple salmon nigiri, California rolls, tuna rolls and whatever else we felt like rolling up or squeezing into balls. Try as hard as I may, all my rolls still end up loose and lopsided like they've always been :(

Okok, so I actually only personally made 2 rolls by myself- a little more practice may help ;)


What I'm really talking about is my progress with decorative sushi.

I used the leftover rice and nori  to make this cat shaped sushi (a design from the same book as last time). I coloured it with sesame seeds for the black, tomato sauce for the orange (tomato flavoured canned tuna was my original plan, but I didn't want to open a can of tuna just for this one roll) and also for the supposedly pink area around the mouth, since I couldn't be bothered finding something pink.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Golden Treasures Seafood Restaurant

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lol. 

Granville RSL doesn't bring any great food memories- the last (and only) time I was here to dinner was years ago, back when the restaurant was a buffet. Cheap and cheerful, it attracted hoardes of mostly Asian and old people but the food, as I remember it, was quite terrible- the only highlight for me was the hot chocolate from their coffee machine.

The buffet is gone now, and in its place is Golden Treasures Seafood restaurant which, to some extent, keeps with the cheap theme with its discounted yum cha lunches which still attracts many (mostly Asian) locals here on the weekend. The decor is not the most interesting and reminants of the old buffet still remain- there's a bright neon dessert sign just above the entrance to the kitchen and a drinks bar on the side, which is quite lonely as you would expect since the restaurants serves tea to its diners.
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Lobster with E-Fu moodles

We're here for dinner, and more specifically, to try out their daily dinner specials which we had previously noticed when dining here at lunch (for their yum cha). We are disappointed to find that they have since removed those offers, instead, replacing them with less interesting 'weekly specials' (i.e. available every single day of the week).

The lobster is the only thing on the specials menu which really captures out attention, but mostly because of it's price. At $68, the lobster is cheap, even if a little small (900g) but of that is, of course, expected. The dish does its job in satisfying those lobster cravings, but we find the overall flavours of the dish a little bland, and lacking in lobster taste.

Sweet and Sour Pork

I have claimed that I haven't come across a sweet and sour pork that I don't like, and at first, this wasn't an exception, with its crispy fried batter covered in the usual bright red, sweet and sour sauce. A little mediocre but enjoyable all the same.After a few bites later however, one starts to notice something isn't quite right with this dish............Where is the meat? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bear Cake

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Sometimes I'm just too good at putting things off.....

....and completely forgetting about them.

Replying texts, facebook messages or emails is the first thing which comes to mind, closely followed by  chores which I promise my mum I'd do (sorry mum!). And it's not just things I don't particularly like doing- this bear cake is a rather embarrassing example of this, as I'd promised my sister I'd make this cake for birthday..............2 birthdays ago!

Woops?


I've been thinking of the reasons why it's taken me so long to finally get around to making this cake and I still can't completely explain why. It's not because I didn't want to make this cake, or that I had better things to make.............. it just never ended up happening

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Panda Sushi

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Panda Sushi
Hello there! ;)

Can you believe that it's almost christmas?

My uni exams stole a whole chunk of my November, so I was pleasantly surprised to find Christmas decorations everywhere when I came out of my studying shell and entered the real world! Christmas and New Year is by far my favourite time of the year- there is something indescribably joyful about hearing the sounds of Christmas carols and seeing beautiful Christmas trees and other decorations everywhere!

With so much Christmas spirit in the air, I can't quite get it off my mind and have been making plans for a Christmas themed cake....but it's probably a bit early for that!

Panda Sushi
Meanwhile, I'm here tackling my list (of things to make) which you may remember me talking about. Since I realise that it is unrealistically long, I've brought it down to two main things 'skills' which I hope to master improve on before the end of the year:

1. Cake decorating- not with fondant and everything but just making them look nicer or more presentable.

2. Sushi making- which is of course, the subject of today's post.

I've been terrible at making sushi for as long as I can remember. Whilst I've had practice from helping my mother out since I was young, my rolls have always been much too loose, lop-sided and pretty much terrible no matter how much effort I put into making them. Even my friend's first attempt at sushi was better than mine!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let's Meat BBQ

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Uni exams have finally finished for me, meaning that my first year of uni is officially over! It feels so good!! (although my leg, which I hurt whilst running to uni for my psychology exam because my train was half an hour late does feel so good......) I haven't been baking much lately so I haven't got much to blog about now, but I'll be making my way through my enormous list of things to make soon so that should be fun :) I have been eating out a lot though and in particular I've been itching to blog about this dining experience.

That's because this was our second experience with group buy vouchers- and yet again, we chose a restaurant that was long drive from home (1.5 hours this time!). We couldn't resist though, because the deal was for a Korean BBQ buffet at Let's Meat for $39- and we love our buffets.

The reviews online are mostly quite negative, and to be honest, I wasn't too sure what to expect when I called up Let's Meat to make a booking for our family of four. The voucher was valid for any day of the week, so naturally we wanted to make a booking for the weekend, when they had their 'Ultimate Buffet' (normally $41) instead of their weekday option of 'Smart Choice Buffet' (normally $32). The person on the phone sounded a little annoyed when I kept asking if there were any vacancies for any weekend (turns out that they're booked out until after December....) but was a little nicer when I finally decided to visit there on a Tuesday night instead.

Pickled Radishes, onion and mashed potato
  
We arrived to find the restaurant quite empty (though the surrounding restaurants were also very quiet) but service was great, and we were quickly taken to a table- though it was a designated 'voucher holders' table. We were given an A4 sheet, stating all the terms and conditions of the voucher including that they charge a service charge for changing the BBQ plate and that there is a limit of 10 dishes per voucher (i.e. 2 people) which I thought were a little unnecessary and off-putting.

Before you all think that this place is terrible, I'll point out that the service throughout the night was excellent. Though there were only two people serving the diners (one of which I'm pretty sure was the owner), they were very friendly and attentive. The owner spent the night walking around from table to table, making sure that everyone was enjoying their meal and chatting about just about anything!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coconut Rolls

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Boo!

Hope you all had (or are having..) a great Halloween and did not spend the day like me, at home supposedly 'studying' but of course, not getting much work done ;) It's at these times of the years (right before exams) that my list of things to bake suddenly grows exponentially- and I'm not even kidding, I'm filling out pages of my notebook with 'things to bake after exams'. And I'm not even including the things that I might like to bake!

The list itself doesn't consist of much bread this time around. This is probably because I haven't been to an Asian bakery for a while now and lack a bit of inspiration- I love walking into Breadtop, looking at their overpriced buns and just imagining how easy it would be for me to make the same thing at home!!


I've said that I'm getting back into bread baking, but since I haven't been to an Asian bakery for a while now, these buns are taken from my second source of bread inspiration, cookbooks. I was surprised to find a recipe for baked coconut rolls in my mum's Chinese yum-cha recipe book, though a lot of the recipes in the book were for things you don't normally find at yum cha

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Alimento Cafe, Parramatta

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There's always that strange feeling when I walk into an unfamiliar restaurant for the first time, and don't know exactly what to do. I've experienced it in bistros, when there's a sign which tells you to wait there, but not a waiter in sight. Or in cafes, when you're not sure whether you're supposed to order at the table or at the counter.

We're at Alimento Cafe (after much indecision as to where to eat), and although there are plenty of nice empty tables outside, we're standing awkwardly at the entrance. Do we just sit down and hope that someone notices us? Do we go up to the staff at the counter? Or do we wait until a waitress notices us and takes us to a seat?

We finally capture the attention of the girl at the counter, who (after establishing that we are not voucher holders) tells us to just sit down anywhere and she'll get someone to bring us the menus.


I don't often eat at cafes, and would probably never have noticed this one, but I'd read about Alimento online after searching for Italian food in Parramatta for a dinner with friends.....which never ended up happening. The prices on the menu are quite reasonable, especially at lunch, with their $10 specials- which we're here for. The lunch specials come with the condition that you order a drink from their extensive list of drinks (which took me forever to choose from). I ordered a mocha, which was nice, though I would have liked it to be a little more chocolatey- but I'm not a coffee drinker (this would probably be about my 5th mocha I've ever had) so don't take my word for it ;)


Lemon Pepper Perch Fillet $10

I order the lemon pepper perch fillet, a delicious piece of fish, grilled until tender and crisp at the edges and covered with a layer of lemon sauce. The sauce is surprisingly pleasant and tasty, with the light taste of lemon not being too overpowering and also serves as a nice dressing for the salad. The chips are definitely the highlight of the dish for me, with their shattering crunch and ability to stay crunchy even when soaked in the lemon sauce. My only complaint is that there isn't enough of them!!



Chicken and Prawn Risotto $10

My friend's order of chicken and prawn risotto, was quite popular amongst their lunch customers- and hard to miss with the strange lettuce leave on the side. The tomato based risotto is delicious and creamy- I certainly wouldn't mind ordering it next time! :)

Alimento Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Strawberry Ice Cream

41 comments
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The first time I made ice cream was about 5 years ago, when I browsed upon the "shakey shakey ice cream' recipe on the abckids website which looked really fun to make. The idea was basically this-  mix a couple of ingredients (basically just milk and sugar), put them into a ziplock bag, and then put that bag into a bigger ziplock bag filled with ice and shake until it becomes ice cream. Fun right?

Unfortunately, the 'ice cream' tasted like sweetened frozen milk more than ice cream and did not freeze completely, so it ended up in the bin and that was the last time I attempted to make my own ice cream again! We actually have an ice cream maker at home (and we've had it for quite a long time!) but my dad is usually the one who makes ice cream. Not that we have homemade ice cream often- the last time he ever made any ice cream was at least 5 years ago!!
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With the warmer weather approaching, and the many tempting ice cream recipes I've seen on blogs, I thought it was about time I got the ice cream machine back out for a churn. I used a simple custard based recipe from a cookbook I've had on my shelf  for a while, added some strawberries to the mixture (it's our favourite homemade ice cream flavour so far!). It was actually surprisingly fun to watch the mixture slowly solidifying as it touched the edges of the freezer bowl and turning into ice cream. And almost impossible to resist sticking my finger in!!

Before long, I had a tub of delicious and creamy ice cream! The texture was softer and creamier than what I remember of my dad's non-custard based ice cream. I especially loved the fresh strawberry taste which was nothing like the fake strawberry flavoured ice creams you get at the supermarket (I don't like strawberry 'flavoured' things). And needless to say, it was quite addictive- just ask my sister, she couldn't get enough of it! Now I know what I'll be up to this summer ;)


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Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe
Recipe adapted from Delicious Ice Cream

300ml milk
1 vanilla pod
4 large egg yolks
115g caster sugar
250g fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
300ml double cream

1. Pour the milk into a large heavy-based saucepan. Split open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds into the milk, then add the whole vanilla pod too. bring almost to boil, then remove from heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
2. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until pale and mixture leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk, then slowly add the milk into the egg mixture, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Strain the mixture into the rinsed-out saucepan or a double boiler and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle. Remove the custard from the heat and leave to cool for at least 1 hour, stirring from time to time to prevent a skin from forming.
3. Meanwhile, puree the strawberries with a blender or by pushing them through a sieve. Stir into the custard mixture with the lemon juice.
4. Whip the cream until it holds its shape.
5. If using an ice cream machine, fold the whipped cream into the cold custard, then churn the mixture in the machine following the manufacturers instructions. Alternatively, freeze the custard in a freezer container, uncovered, for 1-2 hours, or until it begins to set around the edges. Turn the custard into a bowl and stir with a fork or beat in a food processor until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Return to the freezer and freeze for a further 2-3 hours, or until firm or required. Cover the container with a lid for storing.

* I also added a little bit of alcohol (rum) into the mixture with the strawberries because I read somewhere that alcohol makes ice cream smoother. 
This post is linked to Foodie Friday

I've submitted this recipe to the Power of pink challenge :)

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