Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Recipe: Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

A somewhat grown up version because I didn't have any cocoa in the house and had to settle for 70% cocoa chocolate.

Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

60g butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
75g dark chocolate
2 cups boiling water


  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease an oven proof bowl or dish lightly with butter or oil.

  • Melt the butter and milk together and then slowly melt in 50g of the chocolate.

  • In the oven proof dish mix the flour, sugar, milk mixture and 1 teaspoon of vanilla

  • Grate the remaining chocolate over the top of the batter.

  • Add the water to the bowl; it should sit over the batter prior to baking.

  • Bake for 40 minutes or until the centre of the crust is firm to the touch.

  • Serve with cream or ice cream. Serves 4 quite contendedly.

  • Because this is an eggless dessert this could easily be made with non dairy ingredients for a vegan delight.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recipe: Mousse de Foies de Volaille

This is a much finer paté recipe that takes a slightly defter hand. The recipe was donated by the Thierry Clerc the proprietor of Le Bressan in Brisbane some time ago when he moved his restaurant to the Montville/Maleny hinterland aread and renamed it Le Relais Bressan.

Mousse de Foies de Volaille

350 grams Chicken Livers
2 Eggs
5 tablespoons Sour Cream
2 Shallots (Spring Onions)
50 grams Butter
50 mls Cognac
Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 150C

With a very sharp knife take the nerves and grease off the livers and cut them in half. Mince the Shallots into a bowl.

Heat the butter in a non-stick pan, gently fry the minced shallots in it for two minutes, then add the livers with salt and pepper. Fry for a further 5 minutes and then place the livers and shallots into your food processor bowl.

Deglaze the pan (ie. remove stuck particles and fat from the pan) with the cognac and then put this mixture into the food processor with the solids. Be careful not to overheat while deglazing as this will cause flambe-ing.

In an electric mixer, blend the liver mixture with the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Add the cream and adjust seasonings to taste. Note the white in the picture is the cream, be careful if your mixture is too hot you should leave it to cool before blending to avoid the egg curdling. This recipe is best cooked on a low heat at all times due to the fragility of the butter and shallots.

Evenly share the preparation into ramekins or other oven safe bowls.

To ensure smoothness tap the bottom of the ramekins to release any air bubbles and let to rest for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake in a bain-marie (ie. place the ramekins in a large baking dish of water, and then place this baking dish into the oven). The oven should be preheated to 150C, bake for 30 mins.

Let the mixture cool and then seal the pate with melted butter or aspic. Refrigerate before serving.

Serve with toast or bread and include in an appetisers selection.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Review: Passionflower Dessert Cafe, Sydney CBD

Passionflower reminds me a lot of the Blue Lotus ice cream bar in Park Rd in Brisbane with lots of Asian inspired flavours and a number of hip Asians on dates devouring greedily.

Superstar sundae $15.50

Black Sesame (goma), Red Bean (azuki) and Sticky Rice flavoured "premium" ice creams with glutinous balls, roasted crushed black sesame and peanuts.

Generally I'm the biggest fan of red bean and sesame ice creams but these really left me flat, the red bean had been mixed too thoroughly and so was the ice cream was thick with bean protein and lacked the studded beans throughout that I like, the sesame just wasn't strong enough flavoured. Sticky rice ice cream which I can usually live without however was rice.pudding.ice.cream.mouth.gasm.tastic; as were the sprinkles on everything. Next time I'd be inclined to get a choice of different flavours with added nuts and sesame rather than this dessert especially given the price.

Green Tea and Coconut Ice Creams $9

I think the boy made the right decision here by going a la carte with his choice of ice cream. The matcha ice cream was silky and excellent, he found the coconut too sweet but not me I could eat a whole bowl of this.

Really Passionflower was a bit of a let down, it looked to be everything I ever wanted in a dessert bar and wasn't. The service was 'packed Asian hip eatery' style with waiters that didn't have the best English (and I suspect don't often need it) and it's plastic tables next to one of the busiest roads in Sydney. The ice cream is really quite good if you pick the flavours well but not IMHO good enough for the price tag. There are plenty of better sources of Asian sweets in the city that I would head to over this (and I guess should probably document so you know what they are... )

Passionflower Dessert Cafe

Shop G12 Capitol Square
730 - 742 George St
Sydney 2001

Open Monday to Thursday 8am - midnight
Friday 8am - 1am
Saturday 10am - 1am
Sundays and public holidays 10am - midnight

No bookings required
Coffees and soft drinks available

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recipe: Thai Vegan Curry Soup

Those who know my penchant for spicey food can't be surprised that I would manage to come up with a curry soup but this is sweet and tangy with orange vegetables and not overpowering. It's perfectly warming in winter and the Thai spices are great for a cold . This has the the added bonus of being Vegan and still quite special.

Thai Vegan Curry Soup

1 large brown onion
1 large carrot
1 large sweet potato
1/2 butternut pumpkin
400ml can of coconut milk/cream
3 tablespoons green curry paste
1 sprig coriander
1 spring lemon grass
2 tablespoons vegetable (Olive) oil


  • Heat the vegetable oil in a good soup pan, add the onions and fry slowly while preparing other vegetables. First peel and dice the carrot and add to the onion, stirring occasionally.

  • Cooking vegetables at the right speed is usually about density - hard vegetables take longer to cook.

  • Then peel and dice the sweet potato and add to the existing vegetables, by now the carrot should be looking reasonably softened. Dice the pumpkin into large pieces as pumpkin disintegrates quickly.

  • Add a little water and the green curry paste and stir until all the vegetables are coated. Be very careful when choosing a Green Curry Paste as many of them contain fish sauce or shrimp paste Lee Kum Kee which you can buy in all Asian supermarkets and some larger Western supermarkets is animal product free. Otherwise you can make your own paste to this recipe - Galangal and lemon grass are key, do not substitute these spices as the taste is unique.

  • Now add the coconut cream and enough hot water to cover the vegetables; should be at least 2 more cans worth of water. Allow to boil until the vegetables are soft and the pumpkin begins to misshape when you poke it with utensils.

  • Take the soup off the heat and add the minced coriander and lemon grass; if you do not have easy access to fresh herbs many good quality varieties are available in jars in the Asian section of supermarkets.

  • With a stab mixer blend the soup until smooth, the sweet potato and coconut should lend this a creamy consistency once mixed.

  • This is great on its own or with toast, or for a crunchy topping try a small amount of bamboo shoots, fresh lemon grass or strips of capsicum.

Easter Marshmallows

When I was a kid these were a real seasonal treat because they only ever appeared at school fetes in my life. Accordingly I get unreasonably excited about them in a way other people don't understand. Most people I talked to about this didn't actually have such things in their childhood so I wonder why it was so big in mine; and enough for my local Coles to have it at the bakery also.

Junior Bunny Mallow 3 for $1.50 Coles Bakery

They're soft fluffy marshmallows poured into a bunny shaped mould and covered in coconut. Often these would be loathesome Easter colours of yellow, pink or green, some would even have little red piercing eyes dotted on in food colouring. They're totally horrible empty calories and I love them as I love all foods that only come once a year.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recipe: Roast Lamb

A nice simple one but hard to beat; I got jibed about my Catholic education when I suggested we have a roast lamb at Easter but it was tasty as anything so here's a guide for those who aren't sure how to roast meat well.

Roast Lamb

1 bundle fresh rosemary
1 lemon
1 tbspn sea salt
1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
water for roasting


  • Buy a large piece of lamb preferably on the bone and with skin; if this is not possible buy a rolled shoulder piece that has been properly strung by the butcher.

  • Preheat the oven to 180C

  • Rub the skin with good quality sea salt and leave large grains on the skin.

  • Pierce the skin all over and place small bundles of fresh rosemary under the skin with the leaves poking out as seen here.

  • Drizzle with the juice of the lemon and the olive oil

  • Place on a roasting rack with plenty of space underneath to collect the drippings lamb is a fatty meat and large amounts of fat will come out of the joint.

  • Pour 1 cup of water into the roasting tray under the meat; this will ensure that the meat stays moist.

  • Place the roast into the oven uncovered and roast for 1 hour.

  • Take out the meat, pour another cup of water into the roasting tray and then cover the joint with aluminium foil.

  • Roast for a further hour and then remove the meat, take off the foil and then roast uncovered for a further 30 minutes.

  • If you are unsure of the size of your meat then use a meat thermometer and this doneness guide.

  • When the roast is done take it out of the oven and leave to rest while covered for at least 15 minutes before serving.

  • Serve with gravy made from the drippings and plenty of vegetables.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Real country breakfast

Free range eggs, thick rashers of bacon, grain toast and tomato and basil lifted straight from the garden

What a spread!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recipe: Leche fritta - Fried milk

In my house these were called "pellas" but I can't for the life of me find a reference to that name online so I suspect that's the Basque (Euskadi) word for the dish. Leche fritta is "fried milk" in Spanish but really it's a very thick roux based custard which is fried and dusted with sugar and spice. Not an every day dish by any stretch of the imagination but creamy and light textured with a crisp shell it's a winner with kids and parents alike. A real childhood sense memory for me and a real Spanish classic that's common in most of the Latino world.

Leche fritta

1 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
4 cups (1 litre) full cream milk
1 cup cream
3 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
1 cinnamon quill
1/2 tspn nutmeg
Rind of 2 small lemons
50g butter
1 tspn vanilla extract (natural)

For dredging

2 cups plain flour
2 eggs

For dusting

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tbpsn ground cinnamon


Lightly oil a glass baking dish or slice pan or line with plastic food wrap.

Separate the egg yolks and ensure that the eggs are left to reach room temperature. In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 cup of the sugar.

Slowly whisk in the cup of cream. Add the egg yolks and 4 whole eggs and whisk until smooth.

In a medium saucepan combine the milk, nutmeg, cinnamon bark and lemon rind. Heat the milk over moderate heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the surface.

Strain out the bark and then gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, mixing constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly once it reaches the right temperature; do not stop stirring with a steady hand or the custard will become lumpy.

Once it is as thick as porridge take the custard off the heat and stir in the butter and the vanilla; do not add the vanilla before the mixture is off the heat as it will lose much flavour if added too early.

Scrape the custard into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface; let cool slightly. Refrigerate until very firm, at least 3 hours or overnight or place in the freezer for 90 minutes.

In a pie plate, whisk the remaining 2 eggs with a little milk. Spread the flour in 2 more pie plates.

Cut the custard into 4cm squares. In a large, deep nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working with 6 pieces of custard at a time and keeping the rest refrigerated, dip the custard rectangles in the beaten eggs, then dredge in the flour.

Fry the custard over moderate heat, turning once or twice, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack lined with paper towels and immediately sift cinnamon sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of custard. Serve warm or at room temperature, can be served with ice cream but it really doesn't need it.

Note for this recipe I use all lactose free products; do not substitute for soy or other as the taste is too strong for the subtle citrus and cinnamon flavour.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Ichi-ban boshi, Sydney CBD

Let it be said that Ichi-ban Boshi has the ramen that all other ramens are held against; I have yet to find tantan ramen as good anywhere in the world that compares to theirs even in Japan.

Ichi-ban Boshi is a little piece of home for a constant stream of Japanese students, it's about $10-12 for a bowl of authentic fresh ramen and that's about all that anyone is here for. The service is fast but very unfriendly, though often it's better if you know enough Japanese to get requests out to the wait staff as often the language barrier is a significant issue. There is one surly looking Western girl that works there but she can be seen nattering to the staff in Japanese and I suspect she lived in Japan for some time. When we first started going here it was unusual to see another Westerner in the room, now it's about 50/50 and the word is out. I'm very happy for their success however the wait times are becoming crazy and it's no longer a before movie dinner option due only to the queues.

A very common sight, people sitting on the floor after waiting significant times to be served.

As with many Asian eateries in Sydney you can't book a table so expect to wait in a utilitarian fashion regardless of your stature in society, and wait people do. If you come up at a standard lunch or dinner time you can expect to wait about half an hour for a table. If you are willing to share a table this can shave significant time off the wait, and depending on the nationality of your dining companions this can be very inobtrusive regardless. Keep an eye out for the "sign up sheet" because without a number you will not get a table.

Sharing a table I get a slightly innappropriate photo of my dining companions; note the Tokyo ramen and grilled ox tongue.

This is a 'churn and burn' restaurant and they are eager to get the waiting crowd in the door and back out as soon as possible. Often waitresses will flutter by for empty plates before you've even finished your meal and if you dare to sit and talk after the meal they will promptly deliver the bill to your table as a hint. This can be a little brusk but really, at these prices for this food they can afford to be rude, and really... ramen is often eaten standing at bars in train stations... ceremony can be skipped.

Probably the largest draw card for me here has to be the noodles. Hand made in huge quantities on a daily basis the noodles have a fresh chewy body that is lost in the drying process taken on by other restaurants. Combined with cheap prices, fresh vegetables and excellent stocks you just can't beat a great version of a simple meal.

Cold tofu with shaved bonito, ginger and shallots $5

Plenty of ginger, fresh shallots, large shavings of good quality dried bonito. I'd have preferred a little more soy but after the disappointment of recent outings at other eateries this will do me fine!

Gyoza with Ponzu sauce, Japanese leeks and chilli jam $6.50

The gyoza here are quite good quality. The meat and vegetable ratio is well balanced and good shallots are used throughout, the dumpling skin is soft but holds its texture. The addition of leeks, chilli and a fresh light ponzu make a "classier" feel to a common dish.

Tantan tsukemen $12

Tsukemen if you're not aware is "dipping noodles" - often referred to in Chinese restaurants as "dry type" soup noodles. Wet noodles are tossed in light oil and left to cool on a bamboo presentation tray, served with a smaller bowl of soup. The idea being that you pick up a small quantity of noodles and dip them in the soup before eating. This isn't really a meal recommended for those who aren't practiced with chopsticks but for those who are it's a nice twist on a delicious traditional ramen.

Usually I would order the Tantan ramen as per normal but after many rounds of the same meal at different restaurants I thought it would be more interesting for me to talk about the tsukemen, and the tsukemen at Ichi-ban Boshi is excellent. The soup is slightly thicker and richer than their standard tantan ramen. I think perhaps they water it down or water is taken on from the noodles when it is given in soup format. In this version it is thicker and clings to the noodles when dipped; I feel it is also saltier than normal as a warning and they add small blanched tomatoes for unknown reasons that I always pick out.

What's there to say about this meal? It is one of my favourite meals at one of my favourite kitchens without a doubt. The soup is rich and filling, spicy but not overpowering so that you can taste it the whole way through. An fresh free range egg is boiled and takes on the soup well, the vegetables are plentiful and fresh. The noodles are fresh, chewy and delicious. The meat is good quality but fatty enough to dissolve into the soup. It's good, it's all so very good. Upon discovering this restaurant I once went there 3 days in a row for lunch because I simply could not stop thinking about it.

Miso ramen $9.30

If you're expecting miso as it comes with sushi you will be surprised by this dish. It has a strong pork stock and rich miso paste which has a lot more body than the thin white miso soups often served at Japanese restaurants. It is served with a slice of roasted pork, sweet corn and fresh bean sprouts and plenty of thick chewy noodles. As one of their "basic" soups you can order this dish as part of a set for quite cheap although the servings here are such that even our favourite Japanese starters are questioned before ordering.

I will later post other dishes from their menu, as everything on their ramen menu is excellent. Prior to discovery of tantanmen I was strongly obsessed with their geki-kara ramen Ichi-bansuper hot chilli ramen) and frequently order their fried tofu ramen which is a miso based pork stock soup. One of the best things about their menu is their willingness to alter it. The ramen menu comes with a list of extras that may be ordered from kim chi, buttered corn, karaage chicken, extra vegetables, extra chilli or even fried tofu squares... meaning you can take their delicious base soups and alter them to your wishes.

Highly, highly recommended, it's worth the wait.

Ichi-ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries Victoria Bldg (Next to Kinokuniya bookstore)
500 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
(Note there is another location at Bondi, Please refer to their website for details)

7 days a week 11am - 9pm
Serves Japanese beer and sake only
Bookings are not taken

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: Caesar's, Leichhardt

We live in the Italian Forum in Leichhardt so we get a bit unexcited about Italian food and local eateries however it was the boy's birthday and we needed somewhere family friendly as he has a 6 year old niece and 2 one year old nephews.

We settled on Caesar's as we've liked them in the past. Being a resident of the Forum you have a few added requirements when eating out in the area - are they respectful, do they have an irritating hawker at the door, is the restaurant full of the kind of drunken idiots that keep you up at 2am. Caesar's is one of the only restaurants that reliably remembers we are residents and doesn't screech at us about coming in for dinner every time we want to go to the post office. We went in early to ask about the family aspect and the manager was extremely helpful. He reserved us a table outside with enough space around it for prams and organised two high chairs for us.

Stupidly I was too taken up with family moments to remember to take pictures of the entrees but I will add that the mozarella they use on their caprese is excellent as is their bruschetta, classical based breads/pizzas and I've yet to work out their brand of olive oil but it's wonderful (for reference I use Carbonell Extra Virgin because... well old habits earnt from my parents).

I had intended to go and get the prices for the restaurant as we'd lost the bill, but it's been a while and I haven't posted enough recently so instead you get it without the prices. Pizzas are all $15-20 and pastas are much the same from my recollection. Fairly reasonable but not a cheap cheap bargain.

Spaghetti Calabrese

This was my dish and excellent, a not heavy sauce mostly oil and chilli pan fried with the sun dried tomatoes and italian sausage. For some reason they added ham in that I could have done without but the rest was filling but not overly so and an excellent autumn lunch dish.

Wiener Schnitzel, Chips and Salad

Good large schnitzel and plenty of chips and salad, it's hard to convince yourself to order restaurant schnitzel with the price of decent pub meals in Sydney but this was a real winner and came with plenty of lemon and enough chips for the kids to steal.

Risotto al funghi

It gets the thumbs up for approval! This was thick and beautiful with wild mushrooms, not my cup of tea but the owner of the dish was fighting off others so I gather it was good.

Gnocchi Napoletana (with added chilli)

The gnocchi are all hand made and shaved or crumbled parmesan is available at request; they were also more than happy to alter the meal on request with this added touch of chili.

Gnocchi Gorgonzola

This is the real star of this restaurant and I suspect the main reason the boyfriend wanted to come here. It's really best as a meal to share though with another main as the chick creamy cheese sauce is very heavy on the stomach but the kind of luxury really worth going for in cooler weather.

Caesar's Cucina Italiana
The Italian Forum
Shop 30 (At the bottom of the stairs to the Piazza)
23 Norton St
Leichhardt 2040 NSW
Phone: (02) 9569 0444

Fully licenced
Booking not necessary but does get busy on weekends so consider reserving