Sunday, February 26, 2012

Balsamic Lamb with Peach and Rocket Salad: Budget Edition

The March 2012 edition of MasterChef Magazine is just full of inspiration (in fact it's a must have) and this amazing salad by Kate Bracks caught my eye. However I couldn't justify the cost of purchasing 750g of lamb backstrap, verjuice and vino cotto so I've made some minor modifications for the budget conscious and I can say the results were quite pleasing to both taste buds and wallet.

Take 750g of lamb chops and marinade them overnight in 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of light soy and 1 finely chopped clove of garlic.

The next day pan fry the lamb chops until medium rare and set aside to cool. Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of dijoin together and pour over half a thinly sliced red onion, 2 halved, stoned ripe peaches sliced into wedges, 100g wild baby rocket and crumble 60g soft goats cheese. Toss the salad and then portion onto plates and layer the lamb over the top and serve.


I've just been spoilt by my gorgeous friend Mellie J, who sent this pair of cook books via her Mother (who also happens to be super awesome). Apart from the petite size and droolworthy photography, these books have inspiring recipes like S'mores Cupcakes, Spiced Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Pecan Mascarpone and Manchego Croquettes. I think my cooking might be downsizing to nibbles in the near future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cold Press Coffee

I was out at Pourboy Espresso yesterday when I spotted their cold press coffee brewing system. So what is it? Cold press coffee is a process of extraction using room temperature water over an extended period of time (usually 12 hours) and produces a sweeter coffee which is best consumed cold and black. It's absolutely amazing and I'm keen to include in a Tiramisu in the future.

Toby's Estate

The mood was dark and the heavy rain was blowing sideways as I staggered through the Queen Street Mall in a desperate bid to avoid supermarket tea. T2 and the Tea Centre weren't open, but Toby's Estate was and on a shelf in front of a counter sits a range of loose leaf available in attractive metal tins or silk pyramid tea bags. I triumphantly clutched my Toby's Breakfast Blend (a combination of Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and China Keemun leads), paid for it and started to dash out the door when a staff member thrust a card into my hands for a free coffee.

So that's my epic story of my obsession with tea and how I managed to score a free coffee before my morning catch up with Sam. Toby's Estate was originally suggested by Sam and I was keen to try it as Sam is quite canny about these things, being a keen cook and connoisseur.

The Toby's Estate began over 10 years ago out of one man's garage and you guessed it, his name is Toby. From those humble beginnings, Toby's Estate has now grown into a national empire supplying beans and servicing the caffeine depend with its own chain of cafes. Toby's Estate Brisbane discreetly popped up in November and has become a favourite of addicts travelling the migratory path between the Queen Street Mall and the Queensland University of Technology. The interior is modern, comfortable and no fuss much like the food.

This particular morning Sam purchased a bagel with cream cheese and I selected a ham and cheese croissant. No whinges from me, as I couldn't fault a hot meal, with melted cheese and garnished with hunger. But it was really the coffee that was the star, velvet consistency with a distinct and noticable bean. I enjoyed my Toby's Estate experience so if you're heading that way, do stop in for a coffee or grab a tin of tea.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 79 Albert Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000.
Open: Monday to Friday, Breakfast and Lunch.
Phone: 1300 679 750.

Toby's Estate Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Double Chocolate Freckles

Carmen of Awesome's birthday is upon us again and to help celebrate I decided to make these Double Chocolate Freckle Biscuits, as there are very few things happier than a bag of hundreds and thousands. This recipe is from the Australian Women's Weekly Cookies and you'll need to be prepared to giggle like a school girl as you bake as they are just so much fun Beat 125g soften butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 egg with an electric mixer until combined. Then sift in 1 1/2 cup plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and gently combine. To fully combine the dough you will need to knead it with your hands.

Take a sheet of baking paper, grease and gentle flour the surface and roll the dough until it 5mm thick. Cover it with baking paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced and cut the dough using 3cm round cutters and place them on grease cookie sheets.

Bake the discs for 12 minutes and when they start to firm up on the trays, move them to a cooling rack to complete the process. Though they appear soft and under cooked, I promise that the sugar will set them and you'll be left with delicious chocolaty slightly chewy cookies.

Melt 200g of 70% dark chocolate and pour 1/3 cup of hundreds and thousands into a shallow dish. Coat the plain discs with melted chocolate, dip it into your dish of technicolour goodness and allow them to set. Voila! The most amazing, happy biscuits ever! So simple, but so much fun!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Taro's Ramen and Cafe

Being absolutely food obsessed, I'm constantly studying, cooking and consuming the subject matter so it's a rare occasion that I haven't heard of an establishment before. So when a potential speaker suggested, Taro's Ramen and Cafe I was a little surprised as I often grumble that in the Financial/Legal district of Brisbane there is a distinct lack of cheap and cheerful options. Well, hello Taro's! What a revelation! A clean, modern outdoor setting that is perfectly positioned to catch the breeze and overlooks the Storey Bridge. But wait that not all, it's also got a range of amazing tasty options on the menu.

After some deliberation I decided to order the Red Tonkotsu Ramen. The Red Tonkotsu provides you with gorgeous strands of chewy ramen in a rich pork bone stock, topped with soft slices of pork, seaweed, egg and a dash of chilli. Apart from the presentation, I was really impressed by the flavours, it was an extremely elegant meal and the chilli added a nice final accent to the dish.

My companion ordered Shio Ramen which you will note features a more moist curly noodle and a stock made from chicken, dried seafood and vegetables. He just so happens to a Taro's tragic as he admitted that it was the third time he had been back this week and I'm not surprised as the noodles really are very good. At the moment, Taro has a limited edition offering of Truffle Ramen for $35 a bowl. I must admit I'm intrigued so if anyone want to join me on this culinary tasting adventure let me know as I'd love an excuse to return to this lovely niche offering. Meals on average are approximately $15 and you will be receiving an authenic dish, made with passion and delivered with speed which makes Taro's a perfect location for a business lunch, or if you have time, stay a little longer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Address: 363 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, QLD 4064.
Open: Monday to Saturday: Lunch and Dinner.
Phone: (07) 3832 6358.

Taro's Ramen & Café on Urbanspoon

I Dream of Biscotti: Update

Since I mentioned Spensley in my previous post, I suppose I ought to update you on how my Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti adventure went. Unfortunately, no detailed blog post will be available at this junction as I lack photographs of the finished product due to a tight time frame and the mortal need to sleep (pathetic, I know).

However I can inform you that this recipe from the Joy of Baking and passed onto me by Yens was met with approval. It retains a wonderful chocolate taste and I replaced the instant coffee with two tablespoons of finely grated orange zest. Despite how disgusting biscotti dough is, I would recommend that you make the time to halve the dough and place it on two lined baking sheets as this recipe expands quite a bit. So if you like your Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti with a light crisp finish, this recipe is for you. But since I prefer mine slightly harder and chewier, the quest for perfection continues!


The first time I attempted to visit Anouk it was closed for the Christmas/New Year period, the second time I made the attempt, Mister Spensley slept through his alarm and upon reaching consciousness apologised profusely. But by this time I had boarded a bus and was heading into work, so we made plans to visit this Brisbane breakfast institution the next day. Third time lucky as the boy wonder managed to awaken from his slumber and find some suitable attire.

The first thing you notice when you enter Anouk is the ample space, light sand blasted bare brick walls and maple tones. This makes Anouk a pleasant place to fully wake up in, coupled with the wait staff's understanding that the first coffee of the day is imperative. Though our coffee was delivered promptly, it took a little while longer to place a food order but this could not be helped with only one staff member to man the coffee machine and another to take orders and deliver food. Spensley decided to order the breakfast hash with a side of poached eggs (pictured above) and when it arrived I must admit I had a bit of food envy. The potatoes and spinach looked amazing but like Spensley, I wasn't certain if it was able to shine without the viscous yolk to help it along.

I decided to order the omelette and it was beautifully fluffy in texture, well presented, generous and filled with crumbly prosciutto and accented by cherry tomatoes. I really enjoyed the additional options of herb butter and lemon, but thought the tomatoes could have been halved to make it more user friendly and allow for a more even roasting to promote the fruit's natural sweetness. But these comments are just a minor technicality as I really enjoyed my breakfast and Anouk experience over all. The menu changes seasonally so I strong suspicion that I will be back.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 212 Given Terrace, Paddington, QLD 4064.
Open: 7 Days a Week. Breakfast and Lunch.
Phone: (07) 3367 8663.
Price: Breakfast: $3.50 - $16.80.

Anouk on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 6, 2012

Extract Espresso Bar

I love the city, the hussle, the bussle as people go around their business and make the bold decisions, the lovers, the power, the smoke and the sex. It's all there but blink and you'll miss unique little spots like Extract Espresso Bar nestled between Flowers by Jane, Children of the Revolution and Chocolates to Die For. Extract Espresso Bar opens at the crack of dawn, Monday to Friday for those filthy addicted addicted to sweet caffeine and also makes a range of simple, homestyle sandwiches and sweets that catering to those with special dietary requirements. The friendly staff are happy to arrange take away or bring your purchase to your table. Yes, your eyes don't deceive you, the establishment is bigger than it appears from the outside as there is a sneaky side passage that opens onto a quiet office building foyer. So if you're looking for a change of scene from your office or a uni bum looking for somewhere a little more stylish than the library than Extract could be the solution (psst they also offer free wi fi, talk the staff).

Though I'm quite partial to their Chocolate Croissants, there was a period a couple of years ago where their Toasted Vegetarian Sourdough Sandwiches were my breakfast du jour. They are really something to behold, grilled capsicum, zucchini, onion, spinach and the perfect amount of cheese to keep hundreds of taste buds happy. The fact I'm raving about a vegetarian sandwich is really saying something because given half the opportunity I'll always opt for half a side of the biggest animal within a 50km radius. So have a special dietary requirement? Looking for that perfect Toasted Vegetarian Sandwich? Or a Di Bella Coffee? Then hop off near Central and look sharp for Extract.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 7a/ 200 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000.
Open: Monday - Friday. Breakfast and Lunch.
Phone: (07) 32213166.

Extract Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Food Porn

Sam Clifford, all around good bloke tweeted this afternoon, "Hey. Hey Jo. Hey. Hey. Hey hey hey hey hey. Heeeeeyyyyyyy. Jo. Jooooooooo. JO! HEY! HEY JO! HEY JOOO!!!" At first glance I wondered it was was virus but then curiousity got the better of me so I clicked the link and out folded the most glorious piece of food porn. I don't have a soul left to sell, so I'll just have to make this Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake myself. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dandelion and Driftwood

A catch up with Miss Sarah was overdue so we decided to head out to Dandelion and Driftwood at Hendra. Though we had both heard great things about the establishment, we were blown away by its modern but warm interior filled with long wood tables complimented with ghost chairs and the formally attired staff. The establishment's passion for coffee and tea passion is noticeable and it was refreshing to be offered a variety of coffee and tea blends and be provided with notes with each cup. Miss Sarah has trained her palette to accept her coffee black, but I'm still inclined to have mine with milk. My mocha was very well balanced, with the coffee as the shining star and the chocolate merely a lingering after taste.

Dandelion and Driftwood has a lengthy sandwich menu but I was looking for something a little different and selected the Salmon Two Ways. There was a lovely vegetable dense pattie, smoked salmon and rocket dressed with lemon and tiny capers. This was a wonderful flavour combination and filling without making you feel bloated.

Miss Sarah selected a filled croissant which left room for investigate the beautifully displayed range of treats. We followed our savoury course with a dainty lemon yoghurt cake and a moreish red velvet cake. The red velvet cake was brilliant in colour, moist and topped with a vanilla icing and shaved flakes of chocolate. It's a wonderful place for a Sunday morning breakfast, or anytime you'd like to escape for something light to eat or drink with great company. Parking is a breeze, so grab a friend and start up the car.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: Shop 1, 45 Gerler Road, Hendra, QLD 4011.
Open: Monday to Saturday - 8am to 4pm. Sunday - 8am to 2pm.
Phone: (07) 3868 4559.

Dandelion & Driftwood on Urbanspoon

Saving the Planet One Coffee at a Time

Though I am unashamed lover of Consumerism, I'm also a huge advocate of implementing common sense methods to be more environmentally friendly. This includes simple things like growing your own herbs, raising poultry, rehoming your unwanted preloved clothes and my latest thing, the KeepCup. My boss kindly gifted me one the day I started with my role and apart from pushing the brand, I'm pleased to say that I'm eliminating approximately 10.4kgs of landfill a year (that's if I purchased one beverage in a disposable cup a year) and saving myself a bit of money. It's a tad inconvenient that I have to drop into work to fetch it every time I want a coffee, but it's a small price to pay when you consider the following facts:

  • Every year 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured globally which equates to 75 disposable cups per person on the planet.

  • If your cup is made Styrofoam it will still be clogging up landfill in 500 years to come as it is resistant to photolysis (the process of breaking down materials by protons originating from a source of light). Styrofoam is also the main component of marine debris and as a coffee/tea connoisseur you shouldn't be drinking from that cheap and nasty material anyway.

  • The usage of paper globally has increased by 400% in the last 40 years. That equates to 4 billion trees culled for paper industries for every continent.

  • It takes 98 tonnes of resources to make just 1 tonne of paper, which is mainly made from virgin pulp.

  • Half of the plastic used in the world today is for single use items.

So after reviewing these statistics, will you be using a reusable cup? It's worth considering and makes you feel a tiny bit better about your filthy morning drug habit.

Coles and Heider's Balance Theory

Dan Beeston, 30 something, one half of Smart Enough to Know Better recently announced that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never had him grinning with delight in the back of a 737 with tears running down his face. He tweeted this morning that he was left disappointed that people thought less of him after reading his post and I responded with what marketing geekery I could fit into Twitter's 140 character limit. A random stranger congratulated me on my comment and posed the intriguing question: how would this mean for Coles, Curtis Stone and fresh food price wars. So interested in the dark arts? Let's find out about Heider's Balance Theory:

Developed by Psychologist, Fritz Heider in 1958, Balance Theory proposes that three factors shape our attitudes towards a product or service and these are:

  • likes and dislikes,
  • the shared values and opinions of a group and
  • the relationship between individuals (Carson, Carson, Knouse & Roe, 1997, p102).

Furthermore Heider also believed that it is human nature to attempt to reduce emotional discomfort or imbalance caused by social interactions through self persuasion (Hummon & Doreian, 2002, p18-20). Examples of this might be:

  • Two individuals find a product/service they dislike and as a result their bond is strengthened.

  • An individual initially dislikes a newly released product but their favourite celebrity endorses the product, the individual may alter their attitude to a more favourable view in order to emulate the celebrity they admire.

  • However the reduction of discomfort or imbalance can also have negative effects for example if a celebrity’s brand isn't strong enough to combat the negativity of the consumer brand, the result would be damage incurred to the celebrity's brand. Celebrities must be wary of this fact as to the public they too are a brand and while the values may fit initially the world of a celebrity is always evolving at a rapid rate (Hummon & Doreian, 2002, p18-20).

It would be easy to assume that dashing chef and Coles poster boy, Curtis Stone's brand would have been damaged by the $10 feed a family campaign and even more irritating down down TVCs, but the decision of where we purchase our groceries is not merely made by the face. We're not going to shop at a Woolworths further down the road simply because Margaret Fulton is wooing us with a luscious pavlova. When it comes to fast moving consumer goods, we'll shop where it's convenient. So Coles, Woolworths, Curtis Stone and Margaret Fulton will probably keep tap dancing on our screens while the consumer looks on apathetically. It's going to take something a lot bigger like solving world hunger or every local manager molesting the neighbourhood children to radically change the behaviour of the shopper. So you're safe Curtis, carry on making the big bickies.


Carson, P., Carson, K., Knouse, S., & Roe, C. (1997). Balance Theory applied to Service Quality: A focus on the organisation, provider, and consumer triad. Journal of Business and Psychology. 12(2), 99-120. Retrieved December 12, 2010 from Springerlink Contemporary.

Hummon, N., & Doreian, P. (2002). Some dynamics of social balance processes: bring Heider back into balance theory. Social Networks 25(1), 17-49. Retrieved December 31, 2010 from ScienceDirect.

Valentine's Day at The Cupcake Parlour

Photograph courtesy of The Cupcake Parlour

Up until the age of 17, I was fairly certain boys had cooties so would cringe ever time Valentine's Day came around. I still retain a percentage of that reflex as I believe you shouldn't need one day to tell someone that you love them. But if you must cave into society's norms and do it on the day of commercial love then these cupcakes from The Cupcake Parlour are just adorable! $45 for 12 regular sized or $25 for 12 bite size pieces. Orders must be in by the 12th of February and delivery is additional.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Black Forest Cake

Photograph courtesy of the talented Ryan Barlin

Many moons ago, I was absolutely desotted with a boy so I promised him an amazing birthday dinner: Silverbeet and Salmon Rotolo with lemon cream and Gary Mehigan's Black Forest Cake. No, not the one on the website, but the one featured in Masterchef Magazine Issue 2, and note there are a number of differences. Mainly the latter removes the need to purchase semi candied pitted cherries, which I think makes the sourcing of the ingredients easier and in my opinion the simpler presentation actually improves the look of the cake.

It's a gorgeous cake and actually quite easy to make if you start the mascarpone cream and chocolate praline mousse components a day ahead. For the chocolate praline mousse I recommend purchasing dry roasted hazelnuts as it eliminates the fussy step of roasting the nuts and removing their skins with a tea towel. Also it's important you ensure that the cherry syrup isn't over cooked or you'll end up with a strange toffee mixture that won't penetrate the sponge as you really need a viscose syrup to make the cake moist. Be generous with it and keep zen. If you remain calm you'll pull off this gorgeous creation with ease.

For those curious I did end up delivering on my promise, created a divine feast and he still left me to pursue his career ambitions in a far away town. I've never made a cake for a boy since.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Dream of Biscotti

Mister Spensley is turning 27 in eight days, which has given me numerous opportunities to reminding him of morality by pointing out all his grey hairs and informing him how another year older means more responsibility etc. Though I've enjoyed this exercise immensely I'm actually fretting about the birthday dinner with his family ... what should I wear, how should I act and more importantly what should I cook?

Due to time constraints, I'm thinking of making biscotti. As avid readers of my blog know, I'm fantical about these treats and though I've tried numerous recipes I am yet to find a Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti recipe that comes close to the wow factor of Phillippa's Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Biscotti. I feel my downfall is the lack of melted chocolate and/or additional chocolate pieces. So are you a gun biscotti maker? Do you have any suggestions on how to really infuse that chocolaty taste into this Italian treat? Then I want to hear from you!