Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mandarin, Polenta and Macadamia Cake

The whole pack are off to visit Carla and her little one tomorrow so I thought I would make a cake. I was looking for something no fuss and would travel well so I decided to make this Mandarin, Polenta and Macadamia Cake from the Australian Womens Weekly Bake cookbook. Before you begin you need to cover four small mandarins with cold water in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Repeat this another two times before leaving them to cool to room temperature. Then take a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup of polenta, 2 cups of coarsely ground macadamia nuts and one teaspoon of baking powder.

In a smaller bowl whip 250g room temperature butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 cup of caster sugar until light and fluffy. Then add three eggs, one at a time.

Take your small bowl of cream and eggs and combine them with the dry mixture. At this point you are ready to preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C for a fan forced oven as it will take you a little while to prepare the mandarins. Peel your cooled mandarins, blitz them with a stick blender, strain the juice and carefully remove the seeds before adding the pulp to the cake mixture.

Here is a photo of the completed batter in a lined and grease 23cm springform pan. I then cook the cake for a little over an hour. There is some variance depending on how juicy your mandarins are.

Here is the finished product with a dusting of icing sugar. I can only hope it tastes as good as it smells!

Hanaichi Sushi Bar + Dining

Thousands of individuals pass, converge or meet daily in the Queen Street Mall and perhaps a hundred or so will take the Wintergarden escalator to seek out Hanaichi Sushi Bar + Dining. Though this busy sushi bar often has a line spilling into the corridor it moves fairly briskly and you soon find yourself at the Sushi Bar.

The Sushi Bar gives you prime position to view the chefs crafting nigiri or slicing sashimi. I began my journey with a classic Salmon Nigiri, before moving onto something more modern ... the California Roll. The California Roll is a style of sushi engineered for the American palette. It replaces the traditional tuna with a seafood stick or crab salad, adds avocado and places the chewy nori inside. The Hanaichi version uses crab salad and comes served in a set of three. You only see two pieces as I forgot to take a photo until I halfway through my first piece. Oopas!

I've always been a fan of the texture and smokey flavour of Eel Nigiri but on this occasion I found this particular dish to be somewhat dry. It is disappointing as traditional Japanese preparation of eel is really interesting. The flesh is grilled over hot charcoal, then steamed to remove excess fat, then seasoned with a sweetish sauce and grilled a second time.

As I was locked into hosting an event that evening, I decided to have a naughty Tempura Prawn Nigiri. So what can I say about Hanaichi Sushi Bar? It's easily accessible, fresh and good for an instant hit of sushi or a lightning fast catch up with a friend.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 171 Queen Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000.
Open: 7 Days. Lunch: 11:30am - 3pm. Dinner: 5:30pm - Late.
Phone: (07) 3221 1450.
Price: Sushi: $3.50 - $7.00.

Hanaichi Sushi Bar + Dining on Urbanspoon

Era Cafe

Southbank is a lovely whimsical place, you can stroll through bougainvillea covered archways, wet your feet on the shore of the artificial beach, indulge yourself in the arts, explore the markets or numerous boutiques and even pop into a movie. Despite this world of wonder, the biggest issue I have with Southbank is lack of free parking spaces as almost ever single spot is $12 per entry paid parking. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that Era offers two hours free parking to customers (enter via Grenier Lane).

Era Cafe is the casual offshoot of the more formal Era Bistro and offers diners the flexibility to have relaxed or moreish pick me up breakfast or lunch. So when the lovely Brianna flew down from Townsville we decided to catch up there. Era Cafe make their danishes, muffins and scones on site and Bri couldn't bypass the scones and they came served with double cream and soft blackberry jam. I'm more of a savoury breakfast kid and selected the Autumn Vegetable Hash with Watercress Shoots and Poached Eggs (pictured above). The eggs were perched proudly on top of the Hash and the yolks were bright orange and viscose. While I thought the hash had spent a tad too long in the fryer, the vegetables were harmonious and the smaller portion size was well executed. A large fried style breakfast can leave you feeling queasy ... which is not my preferred way to greet an activity filled day.

No matter how good breakfast is ... your drink can make or break the experience. But I'm pleased to announce that my coffee was great. It was beautifully glossy and went down real smooth. So in summary, I rather like Era Cafe ... it's not as polished as its sister Era Bistro ... but she's a charming little scamp.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 102 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane, QLD 4101.
Open: Monday - Friday. From 7am. Saturday - Sunday. From 8am. Breakfast and Lunch.
Phone: (07) 3255 2033.
Price: Breakfast: $5.20 - $17.50. Lunch: $6.50 - $22.50.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life Beyond Strawberry Pocky

One of my favourite Asian snack foods is Strawberry Pocky. Strawberry Pocky is a Japanese snack comprising of a thin biscuit stick traditionally coated in chocolate. Since its original introduction, the product has grown to include a number of varieties such as mousse, green tea, coconut and banana. The snack also has a number of seasonal variations and of these my favourite would have been lemon cheesecake! It was amazing so I can understand why this snack reached cult status. I have set out to ask the big question ... is there life beyond Strawberry Pocky?

The first product I tested was a bite sized Mille-Feuille inspired snack by Bourbon called Mille-Fers. Each square contains puff pastry, wafer and cream encased in a chocolate shell. Its actually quite pleasant when chilled in the fridge but is quite an expensive snack for the number of pieces you get in the box. I'd say this is a gift or a one off novelty event for your taste buds.

Meiji are the company behind these little mountain mushrooms (known as Kinoko No Yama) and Hello Pandas so it shouldn't come as any surprise that these biscuits taste deliciously similar. Though Hello Pandas are adorable, I actually enjoy these little fellows more as the biscuit isn't as dry or as crumbly. Meiji Kinoko No Yama are worth the purchase and make a delicious alternative to Strawberry Pocky. My Mother raised an interesting point that all these products are Japan and asked if they were safe to consume with fears of nuclear contamination. For those individuals who are concerned, the World Health Organisation is monitoring the situation carefully and has declared there is no risk. If your still wary ... well I also rate Irish Jaffa Cakes, so perhaps you need to look to your local Irish food supplier?

Sushi Kotobuki

Tucked away in an alley way, behind Fish 53 is Sushi Kotobuki. It's a unassuming shop front with one small counter and an awful misspelt laminated menu which will leave you with a sense of trepidation. However your fears will sooth the moment your sushi arrives. I ordered two dishes and when my Salmon Nigiri arrived, I was delighted to find it was beautifully fresh.

However the revelation was their fusion sushi which is a eight piece, dinner offering. I selected the Spider Roll which contained evenly distibuted soft shell crab, crab meat, cucumber through the center before the staff added fish roe and a spicy sauce. It was amazing, well priced at $9.00 and was quite filling. I can highly recommend braving all the one way streets and making the trip out to East Brisbane.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 53 Lytton Road, East Brisbane, QLD 4169.
Open: Tuesday - Friday: 10am - 9pm. Saturday: 11am - 9pm. Sunday: 12pm - 9pm.
Phone: (07) 3392 2301
Price: Entrees: $3.50 - $5.00, Sushi: From $2.20. Mains $8.00 - 11.00.

Kotobuki on Urbanspoon

The Jubilee Hotel

Unless I've been called away by work or am dying from Ebola, you will find me on Monday nights at the Jubilee Hotel waiting to inflict audiences with my bumbling brand of humour. The Speakeasy is ImproMafia's free theatre-sport style comedy show and allows new improvisers to refine their craft with a few seasoned performers to keep things moving along nicely. Since the start of the year I've watched the Jubilee Hotel attempt to shift their offering to something more upmarket with items like Salmon Rissoles and provide more choices than you could poke a stick at. Luckily the Jubilee Hotel kitchen has seen the light and returned to focusing on good, ample pub food and are now offering 10 meal choices for $12, all day Monday to Thursday. Miss Amy and I can attest to the fact it's good, the Beef and Guinness Pie (pictured above) is large enough to feed two and comes served with creamy mash potato and a puff pastry lid. The beef is moist, flavoursome and perfect rainy weather cuisine.

However if you're looking for something a little more naughty, my pick is the pan fried Chicken Schnitzel served with mushroom sauce, thick cut chips and salad. There is ample space to dine, plenty of free parking if you enter via Gregory Terrace and best of all there is free comedy on a Monday. So roll up! Roll up! Enjoy some ample pub food and watch me openly embrace and full frontal snog failure on stage in the face.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 470 Saint Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006.
Open: 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Phone: (07) 3252 4508
Price: Entrees: $5.50 - $9.00, Mains $12 - $28, Desserts $7.50.

Jubilee Hotel on Urbanspoon

Know your Instant Noodle

If you moved out of home to attend university it is likely you spent your allowance on bulk boxes of Mi Goring and the rest on alcohol. Sadly being a rather straight laced university student, means I didn't get the opportunity to expand my instant noodle knowledge. Most of my instant noodle knowledge was accumulated while I was growing up but as I've gotten older, I've had little opportunity/desire to consume instant noodles. Thus I've gotten lazy and the only instant noodle variety I generally purchase is Nongshim's Kimchi Ramen. It's hot, savoury and as far away from health food as you can get. During our recent shopping adventure, my brother and I felt inspired and purchased a couple of different varieties and styles of noodle to road test.

Soba is a thin Japanese Noodle made from buckwheat and valued for its chewy texture. I was drawn to this variety as it promised to deliver me an instant hit of my favourite Soba. Though it looks unappetising and needs a little more work than the usual instant noodle, I can assure you it is quite tasty. It's lower in fat than our standard choice and you can have it served hot or cold ... well that is if you can read the Japanese instructions. My brother and I went with the hot option as we knew we couldn't fudge up the process of boiling water, adding a sachet and noodles.

Nongshim Potato Noodle Soup is a fine noodle comprising of two flavour sachets, one for the chili soup base and another for vegetable garnish. I really can't say I enjoyed it ... the noodles were rather slimy in texture and the flavour lacked punch.

The final Nongshim Udon was far more promising. Nice fat udon noodles, with a mild soup base and seafood and vegetable garnish. If you're after an instant udon hit on a rainy day, this will fill the void. Out of all the noodles, my brother and I agree that the Soba was our favourite. We will definately be adding those to our pantry.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The lovely Kath decided to host an Easter Barbecue at her abode so I put up my hand to make dessert. I decided to make the Flourless Chocolate Cake from Australian Womens Weekly Bake. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fanforced and then grease and line a 20cm spring form pan. Take a large mixing bowl and blend 1/3 cup cocoa powder with 1/3 cup of water.

Then stir in 150g melted dark chocolate, 150g melted butter, 1 1/3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup of almond or hazelnut meal and four egg yolks. Mix until combined.

In a separate clean bowl beat four egg whites until soft peak form.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for an hour. When the baking is complete stand the cake for 15 minutes before removing the collar and allowing it to cool completely.

I must apologise for such an unflatting shot of the cake but I assure you it's beautifully fudgy and goes down well with a generous dollop of double cream and berries.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Biota Dining Opens

A couple of months I mentioned Carmen who hails from the kingdom of Awesome and her super star chef brother. Well Biota Dining is now open for business! So why not make me super jealous and pop down there to the quaint little town of Bowral for a meal? I'm correct 99.9% of the time and Gourmet Traveller agrees with me. Huzzah!

Australia's Biggest Morning Tea

Yesterday Brisbane's Queen Street Mall burst with energy as a Flash Mob converged to promote Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. The official date is May 26 but you can hold your event anywhere between May and June. Visit the website to find out more and to access some delicious recipes from the likes of Callum Hann and Adriano Zumbo.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A TARDIS took my finger!

"I need you to close your eyes. I need you to imagine the impro workshop has started and you're a Mum. Your child has zero artistic talent and has presented you with a REALLY ugly drawing but because it's your child, you're going to love it." - Actual dialogue.

My friend Amy is smart, gorgeous and amazingly has put up with me for the best part of a decade. Today is her 26th birthday and being a huge Doctor Who fan there was only one gift that would do ... a Gingerbread TARDIS. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space is a fictional piece of technology used by various time lords in the series. Here is my TARDIS template which I constructed from thick cardboard ... so far so good.

I decided to follow the same Gingerbread recipe I used for my Ninjabread. So here is a photo of 250g butter with 1 cup of brown sugar beaten until creamy.

I then combined two egg yokes, 1 cup of golden syrup with the mixture before adding five cups of plain flour, 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, 2 teaspoons of mixed spice and 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate soda.

I then kneaded the dough until it combined before resting it in the fridge for half an hour. Here is the dough rolled out. Note I've decided to used a dough slicer. After laying all the pieces out carefully, I baked all the pieces for 11 minutes and even had enough left over to make a batch of gingerbread for the Improvised Theatre Class. I then lay all the pieces flat to cool, before cling wrapping them overnight. I then rose at 5am to melt the sugar, burn my fingers and glue the pieces together.

So here is the finished result. It's super ugly, but she loved it. As I said earlier, Amy has put up with me for the best part of a decade and I hope to continue to be a part of her life. Happy birthday, gorgeous girl!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've mentioned the gorgeous Andrew and Misty in some of my previous food adventures, but it was young Andrew's 31st birthday on the weekend and a trip to was arranged. Anise is a cosy 21 seat bistro and a world away from the hustle and bustle from Brunswick Street. By stepping through the door and hopping up to the bar, you are choosing to begin your culinary adventure immediately. Anise offers an extensive selection of Absinthe, tempting cheeses, a wine flight, knowledgeable and accessible staff and oh my goodness the food! The food is gorgeous and the menu has kindly included an English translation for those kids who decided to forgo their French language education. Pictured above is one of Andrew's degustration dishes - a Local Scollop Mousseline Stuffed Zucchini Flower with Celeriac Remoulade and Chilli Jam.

Andrew and Luke decided to have the degustation, so after salivating over their petite dishes, it seemed like an age before our mains arrived. I selected an entree size Pan Fried Potato Gnocchi with Wood Mushrooms, Morel Cream and Truffle Pecorino. It more than ample for dinner and the texture of the gnocchi was amazing. Smooth, light and easily the best example I have had for some time.

I know she doesn't look like much in the dark but you're looking at something gorgeous. This is Anise's Fig Napolean layered Puff Pastry with Almond Cream and Raspberry Pruee. The figs are beautifully caramelised and well matched with the cream and pruee. So did I enjoy my trip to Anise? Absolutely! I loved the atmosphere, the concept and its unpretentious nature. But most of all I was happy to share the experience with friends and hope you will too.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Address: 697 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006.
Open: 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Phone: (07) 3217 9809
Price: Entrees: $16 - $23, Mains $36 - $45, Desserts $14.

Anise on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Otello on Oxford

As the older, slightly mad grandchild I was tasked with taking a gaggle of younger cousins rifle shooting. The pay off was a lunch allowance so after a morning on the range, I took the boys to Otello on Oxford. Otello on Oxford is a small Italian restaurant in Bulimba. The restaurant is mainly alfresco dining and offers a range of savoury and home made desserts. In my youth I used to dine there quite regularly and admired the consistency and balance of their creamy pasta sauces. The sauces always had enough taste and body, but were light enough to leave you feeling full, without feeling bloated. The photo above is their Gnocchi with two cheeses and mushroom.

Maybe I was inspired by the gorgeous Italian waiter but I decided to select something different and ordered the Fettuccine Tricolori. This dish was tomato fettuccine enveloped in a cream sauce, served on a bed of pureed asparagus with flaked salmon and pecorino. Though I really adore asparagus I felt it was a touch over powering but the salmon was amazing. So moist and flavoursome.

My brother on the hand decided to be a little more homely in his tastes and ordered an Irish Coffee and the Roast Chicken Risotto and each grain had the perfect bit of spring that can only come from experience. I've been dining on and off at Ortellos for more than five years and am yet to have a bad experience so if you're after pasta and a slice of Tiramisu, it's well worth the visit.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 1/180 Oxford Street, Bulimba, QLD, 4171.
Open: 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Phone: (07) 3217 9809
Price: Mains $15 - $30.

Otello on Oxford on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Cake House

I've got some really fond memories of great street food from my travels around China and they include everything from portable waffles, wheel barrows stuffed with coals to keep petite chestnuts hot and toffee served between crackers from the back of a bicycle. Since Australia doesn't have the population to sustain this sort of practice, it is rare to see street food but it is there if you search hard enough. One of these examples is Hot Cake House in Sunnybank Plaza and they serve warm chewy Taiwanese pancakes. These pancakes come served warm and in a variety of fillings ranging from custard, red bean, cheese and corn, chocolate etc.

Here are some little stacks just waiting for customers to devour them but it's a joy to watch the talented staff make these little pancakes. The batter is poured into the mould and just before it is set, a dollop of filling is added before a skewer lifts the half from the mould. They then the staff quickly add another bit of batter before flipping the cooked half on top. Magic!

Here is one of these magical creations being held by my little big brother. Check out those manicured hands! So much nicer than mine and he has better eye lashes to boot. I hate you boys! So the basics, hot Taiwanese Pancakes in a variety of fillings for 80 cents. I say yes please!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Address: Shop B/315-317 Mains Road, Sunnybank, QLD, 4109
Open: Monday - Friday, 9am - 5:30pm, Thursday, 9am - 9pm, Saturday, 9am - 4pm, Sunday, 10am - 4pm.
Phone: 0403 266 287
Price: From $0.80 each.

Hot Cake House on Urbanspoon

Date and Walnut Loaf

My first job out of the family business was working at the former Eagle Street Pier Muffin Break. Though I love the hospitality industry, you tend to feel a little mechanical in this setting as you aren't as connected to your product. So my favourite jobs were icing the muffins, making beverages or cutting up raw ingredients. Still to this day I enjoy the sensation and smell of cutting up dates and when my Mother asked me to make a cake for Ching Ming (the clear bright or tomb sweeping festival) I decided to make a Date and Walnut Loaf. Here is 100g of butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1 1/2 cup chopped dates in a saucepan set on a medium heat.

Here is the combined mixture with 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda. Looks rather unappetising.

Added 1 cup of walnuts, 1 1/2 cup self raising flour, teaspoon mixed spice and one beaten egg before spooning the mixture into a lined and lightly buttered silicone loaf tin.

I then baked the mixture for 45 minutes at 180°C. I think this loaf should have been baked another 10 - 15 minutes more as the center sunk. :(

Here is the finished result. It is an extremely fragrant and easy going cake as there is no beating and all you need is one saucepan. It's a winner if you are in a hurry to bake something for a workplace morning tea.