Monday, November 29, 2010

Love 'em or hate 'em......

It appears some ingredients and dishes are an acquired taste - taste often steeped in cultural upbringing. No amount of family meetups over yumcha will ever be enough to convince my 'Aussie' dad that gelatinous chicken feet might be worth trying.

Oysters with Tetsuya's Rice Wine Vinaigrette
There seems to be no middle ground on some foods, no take it or leave philosphy, when mentioned they illicit one of two simple responses, love it  - hate it! Here's a few of the love/hates I've found over the years and my own personnal feelings towards these polarising products:

  • chicken feet - eat them but just don't think about them
  • 'stinky bean curd' - the adjective says it all!
  • pumperknickel - dry cardboard!
  • eel - the Shira Nui way everytime!
  • donuts- doughy for some but heaven for me
  • brussel sprouts - really does depend on how they're cooked
  • kidneys - mmm, an organ that filters urine - what more can I say
  • vegemite - Aussie or not, its usually that simple, hot buttery vegemite toast - yes please
  • blue and washed rind cheeses - unlike stinky bean curd, stinky but good
  • anchovies - gorgeous hairy little salt punches
  • chocolate - well I suppose I don't actually hate it but I'm not a chocolate lover 
  • oysters - a taste of the sea

Tomatoes used to be on my list of hates now I love them. There was certainly the seasonal 'over' abundance issue which applied to the diet of my childhood - is it possible to overdose on tomatoes or pumpkin or field mushrooms? Followed by the sinful breading of vegetables and fruit that were great to transport but lacked flavour, dad still refers to most strawberries as 'appleberries' because of there firm texture and insipid taste. So it would seem there's always the possibility to shift from one camp to another.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A bit of crud, a plate of greens and fabulous duck!

Stir Fried Snow Pea Leaves

The Macquarie Dictionary defines crud as anything or anyone regarded as inferior. Despite an entire section on the menu featuring inferior items (all except the braised bean curd in chilli sauce!), there was nothing inferior about Glen Waverley BBQ Restaurant, in fact it was quite the opposite. Our selection of dishes were pleasingly flavoursome and the service efficient and professional, the later something which can be somewhat lacking when dinning at the 'local'. The stir fried snow pea leaves and steamed rice a fitting accompaniment to the aromatic & splendidly moist roasted duck. A dish of steamed eel in XO sauce divided the table but all agreed the sauce was a winner – poor old eel, it seems to be one of the commodities that diners have a love or hate relationship with.

Crab Claw
I noticed that there is no crud to be seen on the take away menu; perhaps a kindly printer has provided some editorial advice. I also observed that although this little treasure is listed in the The Age Cheap Eats Guide there is no signifying sticker on the door. On asking, our host said…’The Age didn’t send me one this year’. No matter the place was full.  

Glen Waverley BBQ Restaurant, 31 Railway Parade North, Glen Waverely

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Gado Gado Butty!

I awoke this morning with a desire for hot buttery toast with peanut butter. Given that this is not a completely foreign occurrence, I gave it little thought until it dawned on me that the yearn may well have been fostered by a foodie story from the previous day.

Once upon a time..... an eclectic cluster of dinners shared food stories over morsels of delectableness called YumCha. Despite my instinctive Anglo aversion to eating chicken feet I've learnt to push through the 'yuck' barrier and indulge anyway but I must say  it was enlightening to learn the process of preparing these little guys. First deep fried to remove the skin then slowly braised to all their gelatinous glory. They are a typical example of the fabulous result achieved by the technique of  'twice cooking' often applied in the Chinese kitchen.

But the tale of the day that typified not just the diversity of our dinning party but the rich tapestry of Melbourne cuisine was the anecdote of the humble sandwich or butty as our English companion would say. The request for a simple peanut butter sandwich, not at all unusual in a food court. The addition of lettuce was not too peculiar, however the subsequent fillings where a most curious combination. To the customers delight this sandwich maker, of Chinese birth, was no food slouch and instantly recognised the traditional ingredients of the Indonesian salad Gado Gado. Of course traditionally served with peanut sauce not butter and definitely not served between 2 slices of bread. But there you go.. a mixed marriage! A classic Indonesian salad in a sandwich, here in our culinary melting pot called Melbourne!

Just in case you were wondering where to have YumCha, we were at TaiPan Restaurant - one of my favourites in the east.  TaiPan Restaurant, 237-239 Blackburn Road, Doncaster East
Tai Pan on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making Risotto.......

In an era of fancy 'high-falutin' cookin' I think it's the simple dishes that are worth perfecting first. So what's to making a wonderful risotto?

The ingredients:
  • Aborio rice
  • Stock and a little wine
  • Flavourings
  • And plenty of practice
The method: 250g of Aborio rice will need about 1 litre of stock - depending on how 'wet' & 'firm' you like your risotto. The better the rice the better the risotto, the better the stock the better the risotto. If you're in the area (also worth a special trip) Roma Deli has Aborio rice and all things Italian at fabulous prices. If  you're not making your own stock you could be, if you don't know please ask.Once you've sauteed some onions in olive oil with the rice and any flavourings e.g. garlic, saffron, vegetables etc add a little wine. The 'trick'is to stir consistently to stop the rice from sticking and add more liquid (stock) in small amounts (about 200ml) once the last lot is absorbed. That's it really - add any pre-prepared meats/fish/poultry towards the end (these can also be sauteed in the pan at the beginning, then removed before adding the rice, leaving behind the flavours to enhance your risotto) season well, add a touch more oil or a little butter and probably some shaved parmesan or pecorino.

Roma Deli, Shop2/32 Gladstone Rd Dandenong

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What colour is a carrot?

Carrots are orange right? Typically the carrots we get in Australia are orange but much has been made of late of the more varied hues of the humble carrot - white, yellow, red, and now purple. The Age newspaper, August 8 2010 focused on a study suggesting "purple carrots ....being positioned as the next superfood .... high in anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants." Just for the record eating a broad variety of different coloured vegetables and fruits and including plenty in the daily diet is a much sounder health choice than focusing on a few 'superfoods'. And of course there are many countries around the world where white, yellow, red and purple carrots are not exotic but rather the ‘norm’. I’m sure this must create bemusement for visitors who see us seeking out and paying premium prices for their ‘everyday’ vegetables.

It is wonderful to see some of Melbourne’s excellent restaurants including a balanced approach to menu composition with dishes that embrace vegetables and fruits as the feature rather than just the second rate accessory. Cutler & Co's winter menu featured a raw, cooked and pickled carrot salad with walnut cream and shanklish (shanklish is a herbed, dried and aged cheese made from cows or sheep’s milk used in Middle eastern cuisine). And Embrasses meli melo’ a ‘mishmash’ of cooked buttered vegetables accompanied by vegetable/herb emulsions and purees, flowers, stems and leaves may well have become a signature dish.

These dishes are generating lots of discussion in the blogger community with one blogger voting the carrot salad as “clearly my favourite of the night” and at the same time another listing it as the least favourite thus far at about course 6 into the 11 course degustation menu. With a dining community accustomed to animal protein based dishes such varied dialogue is not surprising.

P.S. Cutler & Co’s carrot salad has a wonderful  treat hidden amongst the carrots, little explosions with a mouth feel like rice bubbles; on asking these are overcooked fregula pasta which is then dried and deep fried! – Yum!

Cutler & Co, 55 – 57 Gertrude Street Fitzroy
Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Upstairs, downstairs

Well its 25 years since I graced the kitchen at Kew's Restaurant in Kew, working with some enthusiastic young uns who now run their own successful establishments and occasionally star on the small screen - celebrity chef's that is! These days Kew's is Estivo and I thought I should go visit. And of course after so many years the faces are not those of colleagues but another generation of talented hospitality devotees slaving over 'a hot stove' and passionately plying the craft.

Estivo could almost be two different restaurants, one walks off the street into a busy modern dining area, lots of glass, a few seats at the bar, contemporary decor and a modern vibe. Climbing the stairs one enters a very different space - more conservative perhaps a touch of the romantic. I'm normally watching EVERYTHING - the dishes other tables have ordered, the wait staff and even the kitchen operations if that’s on view, so I felt a little isolated.  But upstairs in the 'attic' I was able to focus on the conversation; only occasionally distracted by the arrival of each course - each worthy of the attention, delicious duck & beautiful beef. I'm sure my dining companion appreciated my attention for a change!
The menu reflects the trends with not just entree's, mains (& sides) and dessert but a selection of smaller 'starters' - offered as a selection also; which is how we started. Mains where the aforementioned duck and beef  - I’m a sucker for duck every time – and a stunning side of green beans with white anchovies; sometimes it’s the simplest dishes that are the standout! The flavours of all the dishes were adeptly balanced and the components skilfully prepared; the service professional - Estivo ticks the boxes particularily for a 'night out' rather than casul dining but I think I'd prefer to dine downstairs.
Estivo, 330 High Street, Kew.  
Estivo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Food writers

Roast Suckling Pig
For many years I have looked forward to the weekend Age newspaper for my regular hit of victuals scrutiny. This weekend’s article, I have to say, is a tad on the pretentious side. While I have always struggled with the fact the most food writers have a pedigree in journalism rather than in the culinary arts, I do understand that at times cooks lack the linguistic style to make what they have to say an easy or delightful read. And I may well be showing my age or perhaps I'm just biased against the 'new' breed of food writers, but there seems to be way too much focus on ‘inventive’ experiences to the detriment of informing the more rounded gastronome. The resourcefulness of peasant pasts lead to some food marriages that are hard to beat.

Barley Risotto
Claire Winton Burn (A Masterchef finalist) laments the decision to choose the signature suckling pig belly at the expense of what she labels comfort food – whiting with prawn vinaigrette! The roasted suckling pig is great but only if you prefer pork to whiting and fatty cuts to something a little leaner. And even at the Cutler & Co end of the market one can include a more rustic treat, like the barley risotto. I had grown rather accustomed to Matt Preston taking me in all manner of directions in the foray of fine fare exploration. So I say mix it up a bit Claire and friends, a little grungy dining may well help to make decisions that will balance emotional and culinary appetites .....and desserts do not always need to follow an entrée and main course; be daring and have dessert only occasionally!

More on Cutler & Co soon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy birthday!

 Hip hip hooray - its EatThis's first birthday today! Let's eat cake!

Fresh mango and cream sponge.
It all started…….with a consciousness that after 30 years immersed in the hospitality industry I knew all matter of stuff about food, cooking & dining - sufficient to be of interest to others! And what better way to share my food adventures than putting them ‘out there on the web’. Like many others I think there's a book or two in me but with the characteristic attention span of a cook (that’s a little longer than a goldfish but relatively short as one pushes through roughly 100 covers (diners) in a typical service - next!) perhaps I'm more suited to the more succinct nature of the blog - my daughter 'the grammar dynamo' certainly agrees. But with a somewhat sociable character blogging away to the unknown sometimes still seems a bit peculiar. I’d love a little more interaction from happy customers – hint hint leave a comment now and then.

So EatThis has become a way of responding to questions from students, colleagues, friends, friends of friends..... which restaurant? where do I buy? how do I cook? what goes with? Sometimes planning the next post has provided me with a prompt to keep exploring - new food discoveries yeah! Now I want to get better food shots so I am about to upgrade from my basic point and shoot Canon IXUS to a Cannon G11/12 - not ready for a full on DSLR quite yet ( I would have to spend too much time learning how to use it and I’m too busy fooding!). And now Urbanspooners get a peek through direct links - Urbanspoon rocks!

So here's (bubbles is the toast of choice) to another year of culinary capers! Cheers Rumbaba

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How much is a loaf of bread?

I couldn't bring myself to buy the Tiptop sliced bread, even if it was cheaper and would have left enough money to get some chips, my child recently proclaimed. She had chosen another factory produced bread but one with a little more substance and a higher price tag. One more bread lover has been 'bred' - please excuse the pun! The bread I refer to as 'fluff' is not often found in our house although I have to admit to one of my guilty sins here - fresh white sliced bread with plenty of butter, sliced Pariser and tomato sauce (I have just recently discovered that I share this fetish with one of my long time foodie buddies - snap).

Good bread in my view has a dense wheaty tangy crumb and chewy crust and best baked in a wood fired oven. It is made lovingly by the hands of a baker whose day starts before I even go to bed. Thankfully finding this type of bread has become easier over the years, however it does come at a price, literally speaking. And the cost for all the love? (quality ingredients, skills and time too of course) - the average price for artisan bread is around $6.00. On a recent excursion to one of my favourites I came home with a luscious fig, pear and walnut loaf that cost $9.50, probably a bigger cost was the lashings of butter that I applied to the thick toasted slices the next morning. Note to self - don't buy house around the corner for good bakery!
Denches Bakers, 109 Scotchmer St, Fitzroy North
Dench Bakers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin

'No more pumpkin', pleads the child after I serve up pumpkin gnocchi, a creamy pumpkin sauce and roasted pumpkin with crispy pancetta & parsley. 'Actually this is really good she contends after tasting'. I think she's lucky because, despite my obsession with pumpkin of late, at least I vary the offerings. Unlike my mother who dealt with a bumper crop of self seeded pumpkins by serving the family pumpkin pancakes - over and over. In fact thinking about it it's rather surprising pumpkin has become one of my favourite vegetables, along with cauliflower, eggplant, beans - okay truth be told I just love vegies! So the pumpkin trilogy was just one incantation, a few weeks back I included a similar dish of roasted pumpkin seved with soft polenta.
Bubble and Squeak - Red Cup Cafe

Recently I've had a very tasty pumpkin/potato bubble and squeak with sauteed spinach, poached egg and hollandaise at Red Cup Cafe (see earlier post for details) and a great Pumpkin Masala at a new find for wonderful Indian cuisine.  
Kerala fish curry, lamb saag & pumpkin masala

Ragam,  841 Doncaster Road Doncaster. The decor at Ragam is elegant, service delightful and curries are fragrant and flavoursome without being too oily from excess ghee.
Ragam on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eating in the burbs...

Whilst there are many little gems tucked away in shopping centres, next to community libraries and other out of way places these are more often than not Asian, Middle Eastern and the like. Finding good 'modern Australian cuisine' in the suburbs has been a tough call so it's lovely to see a few more slowly making it up the list of places worthy of a visit.

Establishments that use good quality ingredients, cooked well and  with balanced accompaniments. Cooks who know that more is not always better, that flavours need to be carefully matched and combining unusual ingredients requires more than just 'creativity'. Service staff who know not to clear plates before the table have finished and don't just pay lip service to ' how was your meal'? When visiting family in rural Victoria our dining experiences are still often peppered with, '"How's ya dinna luv?". Thats not to say that fabulous food cannot be found in the country but while I know where to travel for culinary treats or where to find a decent parma  its high time for the average to step it up a notch .
Here's two that are a cut above the average:
Tender Trap 2/266 Blackburn Rd, Doncaster East
Worth pacing oneself to include the sweet Loukoumathes (Greek donuts) with baklava ice-cream. 
Tender Trap on Urbanspoon 
Barrio 77 Upper Heidelberg Rd, Ivanhoe
Great bastilla and falafel even if they are a slightly  unusual inclusion on a 'Mediterranean' tasting platter .
Barrio on Urbanspoon 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Subcontinent Delights!

It is one year ago today that I began my Northern Indian culinary discovery. Soupy curries of lentils, black beans and chickpeas are the mainstays - the base for many, a braised onion & tomato 'gravy'. This gravy underpins a diverse array of curries from heady goat to the more delicate fish as well as the vegetable and legume versions. And being northern, roti is the staple accompaniment rather than rice, although for guests a caramelised onion basmati pilau is often added to the menu. No point including a recipe for the roti as it is just atta (wholemeal flour) and water, the magic is in the method - something learnt through years of daily practise I feel. But one of my favourite dishes is Aloo Gobi - like all curries many versions exist but I just love this one:
  • 1 tbl  oil (ghee for the purists)
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger/garlic
  • 1/2 cauliflower cut into medium flowerettes
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced approx. 3 cm
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • optional - chopped fresh chilli
Heat the oil in a high sided pan, add the ginger/garlic and saute lightly. Add the cauliflower, potato, turmeric and salt and continue to saute a few minutes. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid. Allow to cook slowly until the vegetables are cooked, not too soft -you may need to add a small sprinkle of water to stop it from sticking. Stir in garam masala and serve with fresh coriander and chilli if you like a little heat. This makes enough for 6 as part of a meal with a meat and/or legume curry, bread and raita. So unpretentious, even simple yet so delicious especially if you are a cauliflower fan as I am  - I've even been caught snacking on it cold for breakfast!

I'm still the apprentice but am allowed to make the raita unsupervised and have replaced the pre-prepared garam masala in my pantry with the family’s own freshly ground version. Thank you Jas for inviting me into your kitchen and sharing the richness of your culinary culture!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's Sunday evening so what shall I cook?

Its raining and very wet outside and the Italian parsley is almost flattened with the weight of precipitation and whilst the little I added to this dish did not do much to lighten the burden it did provide the flavour and texture contrast this dish needed.

A few simple components on creamy soft polenta - that’s 5 parts chicken stock to 1 part polenta stirred for about 20 minutes topped with a little sugo (or Italian passatta), roasted seasoned pumpkin, fresh curd cheese, crispy grilled prosciutto, a little grated pecorino and the parsley.

A glass of Pinot Grigio and Bob’s your uncle (and Betty’s your aunt!). Cheers and Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Is that breakfast or lunch? What makes for a good brunch? I think it’s all in the diversity.

Dragging myself out of bed on any day, especially a non-working day is always going to be a battle so by the time I make brunch most of my dining pals are ready for round two (culinary speaking that’s lunch). So while I’m choosing baked ricotta and poached rhubarb compote they’re looking for a wagyu steak. And the real early birds might be hankering for apple and cinnamon muffins and a chai! So a great brunch menu needs to include something light, something substantial. something savoury and something sweet... preferably not always all in the one dish!

For breakfast. eggs and bacon will always fill the spot for me better than even the most outstanding congee (rice porridge), so cultural preferences and comfort foods is also a factor. However the mixture can be fun if done well like dishes such as Sri (Lankan that is) scrambled Eggs, Viet fried eggs and roti omelets at one of my favourites - Tom Phat.

The pic is the Feta, zucchini, corn fritters with avocado salsa, bloody Mary dressing , and a fried egg (a little of everything), on the menu at Churchill Cafe and Larder - 13 Hamilton St, Surrey Hills (experiencing some very mixed reviews since making changes to the business a few months ago).

Always a goodie - Tom Phat, 184 Sydney Rd Brunswick
Tom Phat on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A few of my favourite things....

...a last minute dash to indulge in the richness of winter cooking has bought together some of my joys. Chatting to Mr Malouf recently about his next book on the cuisine of Iran provoked a return to Turquoise. Sultan's delight (a robust Turkish lamb stew on creamy cheesy eggplant puree) seemed perfect for a chilly Sunday. Of course, getting up early enough to get the lamb from the local farmers’ market was always going to be a struggle - the price for my sleep in, the choice of cuts, so home I came with way too many kilos of beautiful lamb shoulder nicely rolled for a Sunday roast. Some for the Sultan and perhaps an Aussie roast to keep the child happy! Well the roast turned a tad Mediterranean, studded with garlic, rubbed with olive oil and slow cooked to melt in the mouth deliciousness and teamed with lemony potatoes (and steamed greens!)- the child was happy even though it wasn’t what she expected. But the Sultan's delight was magic, the combination of lamb, red onions, red pepper paste, oregano, garlic, honey, tomatoes and stock was just glorious, the left over sauce was rapturously mopped up with fresh bread the next day. And what great lamb; worth getting up for. An excellent marriage with the eggplant (yes, the same one I served with the koftas back in June). Yum.

Turquoise – A chef’s travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Sultan’s delight recipe p.174)
Killara Rise Lamb

Friday, July 30, 2010

Foraging for falafel

So where does one get the best falafel in Melbourne?

Its seems that the answer to this question may well depend on what sort of falafels you are looking for, the Egyptian version made from fava beans or the Lebanese style using chickpeas or varieties which have an each way bet with half half fava & chickpeas. All seem to add chopped onion, garlic, spice (cumin and coriander) & finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley & coriander. What ever your choice the aim seems to be to make sure they are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and a little springy to the touch – although it appears bicarb soda helps this last quality and that can leave one with a little slightly unpleasant after taste. And as for how you have your falafel - neat - or wrapped in flat bread with greens, vegetables and sauce. And that too will require decision making, yoghurt or baba ganoush, fresh or maybe pickled cucumber. 

here's a taster of the little critters frying away

So where to go? I’m working on the list but number one at the moment is Half Moon Café in Coburg -13 Victoria Street. Half Moons falafel are the Egyptian fava bean variety and the variety of accompaniments are all those listed above together with more choices like spiced cauliflower or what about something a bit funky like rocket. $6.00 worth of deliciousness. You'll find some seriously good photo's of Nabil Hassans falafel @
Half Moon Café on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Sorry no pic's - too busy enjoying the evening; it was, after all, a celebration. It was the lack of the pictorial that had me procrastinating about publishing this post. But for the average punter a trip to a restaurant such as Momo isn't a weekly occurrence so I thought it worthwhile putting my penny's worth in the foodie blogosphere. Having enjoyed Greg Malouf's wonderful feasts at the original Momo incantation downstairs at 115 Collins Street, I was most curious to see what was on offer at the new (yes it's taken a while to get there!) location set in the Grand Hyatt. It is indeed a different experience, whilst still in the 'basement' this dining room is more reflective of the sophistication of its 5 star hotel environment rather than the exotic appeal of a Middle Eastern caravan as one headed downstairs to the old Momo. The food too has a more sophisticated focus with some marvellous dishes so I’m not sure if I'm attracted to gordy decor or maybe the original was more ‘authentic’ or I’m just hard to excite but I think the ‘old’ was more me than the ‘new’. But that’s not to say the experience was in any way disappointing it wasn’t.

The highlights:

• Veiled quail covered in leaves with chorizo-pine nut stuffing and mustard-whipped feta

• Button mushrooms with shankleesh, spring onions and house made porcini-flavoured prosciutto

• Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon and Momo's fabulous Sommelier who recommended it

• the lush ambiance of the dining room

• a chat with a past colleague, Greg (Malouf, that is!)

• and of course the wonderful company of my dining companion

Momo, Lower Plaza Level 123 Collins St, Melbourne

MoMo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Simple and smart

Quality ingredients maketh the coffee, the focaccia and the cafe. The menu is neither funky nor overly creative - it is the quality of the components that make up the small 'bill of fare' here that are the star of this business and their sister ventures. If you are seated near the kitchen you will see the paper thin slicing of the Prosciutto di Parma or the grating of the Grana Pandano from its wedge as they are needed to grace a toasted focaccia or top a freshly tossed pasta. Traditional uncomplicated dishes such as Spaghetti Pomodoro are fabulous. Another winner on my list of preferences is the incy delectable sweets, no ugly great 'slabs' here, with flavour equally as important as sweetness.

The service is typical 'Italian', efficient and consistent although some describe this as brusque and even arrogant. With reasonable prices, it is not surprising that getting a table can be a challenge at anytime of the day but a much better bet than most Lygon Street eateries. And of course pizza or mozzarella around the corner at DOC is wonderful - haven't tried the Mornington establishment, but next time I'm visiting the peninsula's art galleries I shall.

Carlton Espresso 326 Lygon St, Carlton  Carlton Espresso on Urbanspoon
and DOC 295 Drummond Street, Carlton South
and DOC 22 Main St, Mornington

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roast duck and dumplings -Yum

Nutritionally not a fabulous combination I know.....too much protein and starch and distinctly lacking in vegetables. But for a birthday treat I like nothing more than gathering a few of my favourite foods and enjoying an unbalanced feast. (Look away students who are currently studying nutrition with me.)

The gathering is half the enjoyment, visiting my favourite food outlets, chatting with the 'chopper' of the duck, the dumpling maker or the grower at the farmers markets. There is always something new to learn or experience or just soak up the aroma's or espy what others are having - that last one usually gets me in trouble with dining mates who say making eye contact with me is a battle, when there is interesting food about! And today I learned that one of my favourite yum cha haunts has 143 different varieties on offer, that's quite a lot of dishy eye candy - so to speak!

But a birthday is also unlikely to pass without a 'big night out' and just to drag the celebrations out a bit longer that's happening next week  - Momo here I come, its been quite awhile since my last visit and much has changed! No doubt I'll have a few words to say.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meatballs by any other name...would be Kofta

They're Lebanese so the meat is lamb, the flavouring allspice and the accompaniment bread! These ones where made lovingly with lamb, spice & pomegranate syrup but you can buy Kofta mix at Middle Eastern butchers - Lebanese rissoles! But the highlight of this dish was the eggplant hiding beneath these moorish meaty Kofta.

Whole eggplants are blackened over an open flame in the way Baba Ganoush is prepared. Once cooked and cooled the skin is carefully removed in chilled water and extra juice is squeezed out. Then finely chop the eggplant and warm it in a pan, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg add lemon juice to taste. To finish fold in some soft goats cheese - I used my favourite, Meredith marinated goats cheese. Absolutely delicious!

I know its winter but the contrast of crisp salad was perfect for this dish - cos, tomato, cucumber, freshly picked and chopped parsley & mint, dressing and some spicy little Lebanese pickled wild cucumbers just for fun!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Better Roll?

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
...and the debate continues. I have noticed many converts amongst my foodie friends and dining partners, that is to say that the Vietnamese version of the springy with its extra lettuce and fresh herb 'twist' has become a popular alternative to the more widely accepted Chinese version. Perhaps it is its pretence of being a healthier option or maybe it is as I feel offering more balance! 

But where does the fresh rice paper roll fit into the argument??

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
I decided it was time to ask some 'experts' and sort counsel from a group of spring roll regulars. A quick vote didn't answer the question but with further discussion we did discern that tradition, global availability, health and balance of flavours and textures were all decision making factors.

Any suggestions on where to get a great Chinese version in Melbourne? For Vietnamese there's always:
Tien Dat 3 Carrington Road, Box Hill
Thanh Hga nine 160 Victoria St Richmond

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Flavour & Texure

I just love duck! But tonight as I tucked into a few old favourites I was conscious that it was not only the rich succulent duck meat with its crispy skin that was the main attraction but rather the heady mix of duck and aromatic Chinese five spice (cassia, clove, fennel seed, star anise, and Szechuan pepper) that was demanding my attention. Chinese five spice is such a defining flavour of Cantonese cuisine and this dish in particular is testament to valuing and honoring the classics.

Equally with another of our regular choices - bean curd stuffed with prawns. The coveted prawn not the feature in this dish but rather the luscious texture of the bean curd with its capacity to absorb all the complexity of the sauces, fillings and accompaniments.

Fabulous flavours and textures combine, such is the splendour of cooking and eating!

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, 8/240 Victoria Street Richmond - Make sure you take your umbrella on a rainy day/night as you might have to wait on the street to get a table - or go early! 
Pacific Seafood BBQ House on Urbanspoon