Tuesday, May 31, 2011

$5 dining in Sydney

Ever since I discovered cheap lunches near my uni, I've been eating out relatively often, and I have quite a few restaurant I need to blog about now! A couple of months ago, the Sydney Morning Herald had coupons for $5 dining deals in Sydney, I couldn't resist trying them out! So here I present you with the cheapest of all the lunches I've had so far this year (in Sydney)!


Chicken Pad Thai- $5 (normally $8.90 on the lunch menu)

My first trip was to Home, though I had no idea where it was and ended up taking a lengthy walk down Sussex street. To be honest, I was expecting some cheap food court like place- afterall, the coupon was offering a pad thai for $5! So I was surprised when we arrived to find a really nice restaurant which was already packed but we were lucky enough to get a small table straight away and had our order quickly taken by the waitress....with an ipad!!

The prices on the menu itself were also pretty low, and there were many items on the menu I'd love to come back to try. I salivated over the satay skewers and the beef salad the table next to us had ordered, and wowed at the beautiful dish served in banana blossom that we saw taken from the kitchen.

My Pad Thai was equally as tempting, with its beautiful presentation and its taste did not dissappoint either! I would have liked it a little sweeter, but I do like my pad thai's to be very sweet, but I still loved these noodles!
Malacca Straits

Deep Fried Tofu with Minced Chicken- $5

I've walked past the Malacca Straits sign many times when walking down Broadway and after reading about it on many food blogs, I was looking forward to trying it out. We arrive quite early (as we usually do), to find the restaurant empty, but luckily, open. It could really do with an open/closed sign ;)

The coupon for this restaurant was a for a fried hand-made silken tofu with minced chicken dish. It's something I wouldn't have ordered if I'd seen it on the menu, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The dish arrived so hot and steaming that I couldn't manage to take a picture without the lends fogging up (hence the ugly picture!). The tofu was deliciously unique- it was extremely soft and silky though not to the point that it didn't feel like tofu and had a distinct tofu taste. It tastes a lot better than the packaged tofu we usually buy from Asian supermarkets! The sauce and the vegetables were a great accompaniment, but I didn't notice the chicken mince until we'd almost finished the dish!

Garlic Prawn Stir Fry $11

After deciding we didn't want chicken (since the above tofu dish already featured it), we decided on seafood as the best alternative, since it was nothing like chicken, and settles for the garlic prawns. A generous serving of prawns, accompanied with a selection of vegetables nicely stir fried with plenty of garlic, there was nothing not to like about this. I however, found it a little ordinary- I guess was expecting something a little different, after reading some interesting dishes on food blogs. Oh well- I guess I'll have to try out other dishes another time!

La Casa Pasta

Spaghetti Bolognese- $5
Lured by the promise of a $6 pasta, I decided to take my friends to try out La Casa Pasta. Though the website showed various locations, we arrived at each only to find they were no longer in business, and ended up taking the long walk down Glebe Point road to find this store- which looked more like a take away shop than restaurant, but we'd made it so far, we went in anyway.

The pasta turned out to be $5, which was even better though just judging by the looks of the place, we weren't really expecting that much. We ordered anyway (and paid at the table....which I found quite strange) and waited. And then we saw a cockroach on our table......

My friends ordered a spaghetti bolognese which was okay, though the pasta was a little soft and it was not really flavoursome enough.

Primavera ravioli- $5
My primavera ravioli was a little better in terms of taste- the primavera sauce was not too bad, and more flavoursome than the spaghetti bolognese with its hint of garlic and herbs. The ravioli however, was definitely overcooked and was much too soft- my friend thought it tasted like a dumpling ;)

Home Thai Restaurant on UrbanspoonMalacca Straits on UrbanspoonLa Casa Pasta on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mini Sable Viennois


If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my cooking/baking adventures this year, it would be that I am still a very bad multi-tasker. To make up for the weekends where I don’t bake anything as a result of an assignment/test, or because we’ve run out of milk or eggs or some other important ingredient, I usually end up making many things in one day.

Most of the time, it ends up in disaster.

I attempted to make these cookies following a cookie craving, thanks to Shirley's beautiful pictures and delicious description of these :) I've never actually made cookies like these before, because I'd always known they would have a really high butter content- I generally avoid recipes with a lot of butter ;) But these looked too good not to make, and they were quick too so I made them....whilst I was making lunch.

It should have only taken me a couple of minutes to whip up and bake- but being the cookie noob I am, I didn't realise that the mixture would be too thick to pipe through a plastic bag (I don't have a proper piping bag...) and so, of course, the mixture broke the bag before it got through the nozzle. I also forgot that I didn't have a big nozzle, so I ended up making mini cookies with my cookie press but gave up quickly because rolling them into balls was so much faster :)

In the end, I accidentally left these in the oven too long as I was trying making lunch whilst they were baking. Then I forgot to add flavouring to my lunch, so I ended up with the blandest noodle omlette ....woops? :D But the cookies were so good! They were light and crispy just as I'd imagined them to be. The recipe doesn't make a very big batch, and I found it pretty difficult not the to eat the whole batch up in one go ;) Next time, I'll definitely doubling the recipe!

Pierre Herme's Sable Viennois
from directly from Kokken69

95g Unsalted Butter
1g Fleur de Sel
1/8 tsp Vanilla paste (the recipe originally asked for 2-3 pinches of Vanilla powder)
40g Powdered Sugar
15g Egg White
115g All purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk unsalte butter with Fleur de Sel until creamy.
3. Add in powdered sugar and whisk until homogenous and creamy.
4. Add in egg white. (The mixture may curdle a little but it will smoothen out after flour is added)
5. Add in flour and mix until well combined.
6. Scoop batter into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe circles/wreaths on a lined baking tray.
7. Bake at 180C for 10 -12 mins or until golden brown.
8. Cool down and store in air tight container.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Easter Break

The Easter break- my first ever uni break- has come and gone in a flash. (and life after break has been so busy that I haven't had a chance to blog about it until now). To be honest, I was never really looking forward toward this break, knowing that many things were due in after it. Nevertheless, I managed to have some fun and take a break from the boring (but terribly time-consuming) uni work I've been stuck with for quite a while.

Easter Sunday was spent on a little trip to Bilpin for some apple picking- something we do almost every year, though this was the first time we'd come during such a busy period. There wasn't too much variety- mainly pink lady apples, which, I admit, I'd never particularly liked. However, fresh off the tree, they had an amazing texture a deliciously fresh apple taste (I have since been addicted to these apples!).

We also organised a surprise party for our friend, which didn't end up being too much of a surprise, but we all had fun- which is what really matters. We spent a few hours making this rainbow cake, and ran into a few hiccups along the way. But it was well worth the effort- the cake looked amazing! Though it tasted....not quite as spectacular as it looked ;)

We also spent an afternoon at home playing with my new toy- an egg waffle mould that I'd been planning to use since the beginning of the year. It wasn't as hard as I'd imagined it to be, and we managed to produce some pretty great tasting egg waffles, though we have still quite a while to go to master the techniques- I shall get back to you with a proper post on these when I get more practice :)

And lastly, I made this beautiful blueberry cheesecake which I'd actually been meaning to make ever since my first attempt at a blueberry cheesecake. Whilst I was very pleased with the result (surprised, even), and had no problem eating it all up, I wanted to recreate the first cheesecake I have memory of eating, and which made me start liking cheesecakes.

This was the blueberry cheesecake from the Cheesecake Shop- a simple baked cheesecake with a blueberry topping, but with a texture so light, it was only a little firmer than non-baked cheesecakes. To create this light texture, I decided to use this recipe, which incorporated whipped egg whites to give it a lighter texture. The cake was very easy to make, and didn't take me too long to whip up. For the topping, I improvised by heating a punnet of blueberries with a tablespoon of sugar until the consistency looked topping-like.

For the base, I decided to use ginger nuts instead of Marie biscuits, because I wanted a crunchier base. Unfortunately, they were a pain to crush because they were so hard- maybe I should have just used a blender to crush them :) And when I finally crushed them and made my base, I accidentally spilled water onto it :( I tried baking it to evaporate the water off but the base didn't end up tasting that great.....

BUT the cheesecake itself was delicious- I'm starting to think that cheesecake always tastes good, no matter how you make it :) As anticipated, the texture was light, though it was slightly different to the texture of the cheesecake I was trying to recreate. The taste was also slightly different, I think, because there was less sugar in this one, though I found the sweetness to be just right for my tastes. Overall, I was very happy with this cheesecake and I would make it again, although I think I actually like firmer baked cheesecakes better!

Blueberry Baked Cheesecake
taken from Anncoo's Journal

Base - 8" cake tin, grease tin all over and line
100g Marie biscuits, crushed
100g Butter - melted

Mix all the above ingredients and press onto the cake tin base.

250g Cream cheese (keep at room temperature before use)
65g Whipping cream

60g Sugar (half portion to egg yolks and egg whites)

3 Egg yolks

3 Egg whites

1/2tsp Vanilla flavour
1/2tsp Lemon juice or lemon oil

1. Cream the cheese and half portion of sugar together and slowly add in the whipping cream together with vanilla flavour and lemon juice. Beat the mixture till light and fluffy and smooth at medium speed. Scrape bowl and egg yolks one at a time until all combined and transfer to a larger bowl.
2. Whisk egg whites and balance sugar till peak form. Use spatula to fold egg whites to cheese mixture. Mixture must be light and not watery.
3. Pour cheese mixture into prepared cake tin.
4. Steam bake at 160C for about 1 hour and leave to cool.
5. Spread blueberry topping (I made my own) onto the cheese cake.
6. Put Blueberry cheese cake in fridge for at least one hour before serving.
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