Latest

Chelsea Market + MSG

I went to Chelsea market for one thing – a lobster lunch. It was wet, cold and dreary, but once inside the market, with the heating at an almost uncomfortable level, we went in search of the Lobster Place. Here, you pick out the freshest shellfish, desired size (weight) and they’ll steam it for you, accompanied with clarified butter and lemon wedges. There is nothing better than to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers (with the French tourists next to us having a bout of food envy, either that or they’re scoffing at our barbaric ways), devouring our beautiful lobster.

Chelsea market is not quite has big as I had imagined. I was expecting a sprawling indoor/outdoor market, much like Borough Market in London, but it was much smaller and way more poshy-poshy. There weren’t food stalls per se, instead, you get individually segregated shops, some with a few stalls within. There’s even a very civilised gallery, which was showcasing a food photography exhibit at that time. What a bonus!

Chelsea-market

And on a totally unrelated note, I went to my very first ice hockey game! The hubs booked tickets a couple months in advance and we got pretty decent seats at Madison Square Gardens. I’m not a huge sports nut, but my rule thus far, is that I would support the very first team I watch live, with the exception of New England Patriots, which I picked first because I liked their logo best. (Cue the hubs rolling his eyes right about now.)

Rangers-MSGChelsea Market
75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16 Streets),
New York, NY 10011

Madison Square Gardens
4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001

Central Park + Ramen

No one should visit NYC and miss out on the vast beauty of Central Park. The first time we were there a few years ago, we only saw an eighth of it. This time round, I really wanted to check off a couple of the key sights on my list and so off to the park we went on a freezing cold February morning.

CentralPark

To thaw out, we thought a nice, steaming bowl of ramen would hit the spot. Ippudo is a global phenomenon. We visited one of the restaurants when we were in Kyoto and we knew what gloriousness lay ahead as we waited in the tiniest wait area jam-packed with hungry diners. A part of me was a little skeptical, thinking that a branch of the famous Japanese ramen store may not be quite the same in NY as it would be in its home country. However, when I took my first slurp of the umami broth, I knew everything was going to be alright – the ramen king has done it again. If you’re big on ramen, Ippudo’s a great place to start.

IppudoNY

 

Ippudo NY (East Village)
65 Fourth Avenue,
New York, NY 10003

New York: Katz’s Deli

The last few months have been hectic but in a very good way. First to San Francisco, then an East Coast road trip from NYC to Charleston, then Chicago then Hawaii. I am so grateful for these travel opportunities. New York is still a favourite destination of mine. So much to see, explore, do and eat! I’m culling and editing my photos and will share some of my holiday highlights along the way, starting with Katz’s Delicatessen in New York. An institution loved by many, locals and tourists alike. It was certainly an experience for me and I loved every moment of it, chaos and all.

We were greeted by the ‘hostess’ who asked if we wanted table service or self-service. We looked over to the self-service counters with hoards of people yelling over one another and promptly opted for table service. We were just not brave enough to face all that after a 20+ hour flight. No thanks. We went with matzo ball soup (just because you gotta have some Jewish penicillin to recover from the long journey), meaty platter of pastrami, corned beef and brisket, mediocre bread to go with it, tons of tangy pickles all washed down with house-brand iced lemon tea. – couldn’t have asked for a better start to our trip. I love New York City.

KatzDeli

Basic crepes for World Pancake Day

bananacrepes

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, also known as World Pancake Day. For a long time I thought it was just another made up “food day” and wondered ‘why pancakes?’ why not world fish and chips day or world baked potato day? Who made the decision on pancakes? Then my dear friend Wiki told me the origins of Shrove Tuesday and I was enlightened.

Apparently, Shrove Tuesday came about as the last day of indulgence before Lent. Lent is the preparation period (around 40 days) for Christian believers before Easter. This is a time of repentance, prayer and fasting. This is where the word ‘Shrove’ came about – from the word shrive, which mean absolution from one’s sins.

The day before the start of Lent, folks in the past would normally use up all their rich food such as eggs, milk and sugar (in essence, food that gives pleasure) because during Lent, one is supposed to fast, eat plainly and basically not indulge. So I guess the easiest way to use up eggs, milk and sugar led to pancakes, which then led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesdays, which then became World Pancake Day.

A few years ago for Shrove Tuesday, I made Okonomiyaki – a Japanese pancake filled with cabbage and bacon. Mmmm, talk about indulgence. And talk about not adhering to pancake rules, but Japanese pancake is still pancake right? Anyway, this time I’ve inched a little bit closer and gone with crepes. Hey, to many people in various parts of the world including the UK, pancakes are essentially crepes. I think I’ll be okay. Don’t judge me.

Here’s a Nigella Lawson crepe recipe that has served me quite well.

BASIC CREPES
Makes 6 20cm/8 inch crepes

30 grams (2 tbsp) unsalted butter melted (plus more for frying)
150 grams (1 cup) plain flour
325 ml (1 1/3 cup)milk
1 large egg

Melt the butter and let cool a little.

Put the flour into a bowl, whisk in the egg and milk and finally, just before making the crêpes, the melted butter.

Heat your fry pan (melt some butter in one first, and then wipe it all off, no need to re-oil again after) and ladle 2–3 tablespoons of batter into the pan then quickly hold it up and swirl so that the batter forms a quick, thin pancake covering the base of the pan. This will cook in a minute so flip it and cook for 30 seconds to a minute on the other side, then remove the pale crêpe.

Continue with the rest of the batter. Serve with caramelised banana and maple syrup or with other delicious combinations like cream and berries or lemon and sugar.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

blackout2

I’ve just returned from a wonderful whirlwind trip to the US and I have so much I want to share with you. If only I didn’t have thousands of photos to sort through and edit first!

So to make up for being such a slacker on the blogging front, I’m sharing a recipe for this luscious, to-die-for Brooklyn Blackout Cake, which I made over the New Year. (Yeah, I’ve been sitting on this for a month!)

Some people simply call this the chocolate blackout cake, but according to many sources including this amazing blog, the origins of this cake led all the way back to World War II and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

blackout3

There was a chocolate confection maker and bakery known as Ebinger Bakery that thrived before and during WWII. They were located next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During that time, the whole city was subject to blackout drills and it was during this time that Ebinger decided to name its chocolate-on-chocolate cake in honour of it’s Brooklyn neighbour.

It’s more of a retro cake now as not many places (even in Brooklyn or NYC) sells it. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the key features of a blackout cake includes rich chocolate cake with chocolate cream (or custard) layers and topped with chocolate cake crumbs. It’s all dark and gooey, looks totally sinful and mysterious but tastes like heaven.

I got my recipe from one of my favourite London bakery cookbooks – The Hummingbird Bakery. As I flipped through the pages of cake recipes, this Brooklyn Blackout Cake stood out because of its unique crumb covered frosting.

There’s cake on the inside, with the yummiest custard cream and then cake on the outside. What’s not to like??

Instead of a round, tri-layered cake as the recipe stated, I used a large rectangle pan instead, split the cake in half and made a double layered version, cutting off the sloping edges for the crumbs. Worked well, I had loads of custard leftover but one happy hubby who gladly licked the bowl clean.

This moist, decadent cake is definitely a winner for all chocolate cake lovers out there.

blackout1

blackout4

Brooklyn Blackout Cake
From The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

100g unsalted butter (room temperature)
260g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
45g cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
170g plain flour
160ml whole milk

chocolate custard
500g caster sugar (I only used 300g to cut down on the sweetness)
1 tbsp golden syrup
125g cocoa powder
200g cornflour
85g unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

three 20-cm cake tins based lined with greaseproof paper
(I actually baked one cake in an approx 45cm rectangle baking tray and split the cake in half and made a two layered cake)

Preheat oven to 170C (325F).

Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt until well mixed.

Add half the flour, then all the milk and finish with the remaining flour. Mix well until everything is well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate custard: Put the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder and 600ml water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Mix the cornflour with 120-200ml water, whisking briskly as you add the water. The mixture should be the consistency of thick glue so add more water if it’s still too thick (do not exceed 250ml).

Whisk gradually into the cocoa mixture in the pan over medium (not high) heat. Bring back to the boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, for a few minutes, until quite thick. Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and chill until very firm.

Slice a thin layer off one cake and put in a food processor. Process into fine crumbs. Put one cake on a  cake stand and spread one quarter of the custard over it. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the custard over it. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining custard over the top and sides. Cover with the crumbs and chill for 2 hours.

Wontons in Sichuan Spicy Sauce

chilliwontons

There’s a dumpling restaurant in my neighbourhood that I’ve walked by so many times without even the slightest desire to try it out simply because the restaurant had a somewhat tacky name. “I Love Dumplings”. Really now? Living in Melbourne, we are definitely spoilt for choice with dumpling houses and yum cha restaurants all over the city and suburbs. To me, I love dumplings sounded like another run of the mill joint.

I was wrong. This is truly a case of not ‘judging a book by its cover’ or better yet ‘judging a restaurant by its name’. We finally went to check out the restaurant after seeing a high rating on Urbanspoon. (By the way, whoever doesn’t believe in social media for their business is not doing themselves any favours.)

There’s more than just dumplings, although those meaty parcels are totally rad. There are fan favourites like crispy lamb ribs and spicy fried beans. All hearty, flavour packed and very reasonably priced.

One of the dishes that I loved the most was the wontons in spicy sauce. Succulent pork wontons served in a dish of spicy, sweet, tangy sauce. It’s supposed to be a Sichuan specialty. Sichuan dishes are famous for it’s high chilli factor and can usually cause a blazing riot in the mouth. This dish was surprising subtle, despite how red the sauce looked.

I loved it so much I had to replicate it at home. This was a recipe that I adapted from Epicurious.

Quick and easy to make, low in carbs (yes!) and totally delicious. This is going to be a regular dinner option for the hubs and me in this new year!

WONTONS IN SICHUAN SPICY SAUCE

WONTONS

1 packet wonton pastry (available in Asian grocery stores)
150g minced pork
50g minced prawns (optional, replace with 50g of minced pork if not using)
Handful of finely chopped spring onions (scallions)
1 tsp light soy
1 tsp Shaoxing wine (chinese cooking wine)
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chicken stock powder
Dash of white pepper

Mix all the ingredients together.Cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes to marinade. Wrap wontons with half a tablespoon of meat mixture each. A quick way to wrap the wonton is to fold the square pastry over the mixture in half and make a triangle. Moisten the edges with a bit of water and seal edges tight.

SAUCE
Prepared in an individual serving dish, good for about 6-8 dumplings per serve.

2 tsp sweet, sticky dark soy sauce (kecap manis)
½ tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp black vinegar
2 tsp (or to taste) of chilli oil with course ground chilli bits (available in Asian grocery stores)
Drizzle of sesame oil

Garnish (optional)

finely shredded fresh ginger
finely chopped spring onions
ready fried onions

Add all sauce ingredients into a serving dish. Mix well, taste and adjust to your liking.

Boil up wontons (once they start floating, they’re cooked), drain and serve directly in the dishes with the sauce. Garnish with ginger, spring onions and fried onions.

Happy new year and spinach and ham filo pie

spinachhampie2

It’s the last day of 2013.

I’m not one to make new year resolutions. However I read an article online “Busy isn’t respectable anymore”  that speaks about how we’re always trying to be busy and more often than not, “busy” is the first thing we say in response to someone asking how we’ve been. I’m so guilty of that. To me, saying busy just helps to cover up a life full of work and other mundane stuff and saves me going into detail with others. Not good. Have a read of the article and see if you’ll join me in rejecting the “busy” in us for the new year.

So back to 2013. I’ve had a great year and I would normally say it’s been a busy one. But instead, let me say it’s been a year where I’ve gone a little berserk with projects at work but there were successful and good results, I’ve travelled to new places, experienced new things, made new friends and enjoyed building my little community and family here in Melbourne. I’m grateful for all the love, good health and countless blessings. I’m thankful for a continued loving relationship with my husband of seven years and still going strong. I’m extremely overjoyed that my parents are healthy and loving retired life and God!

So there you go 2013. Thanks for the good times.

All these ramblings have nothing to do with the pie. I just had this recipe in my draft folder and thought I’d just share it with you. What’s a drool post if there’s no food porn right?

Have a safe and happy new year everyone!! xx

SPINACH AND HAM FILO PIE

Ingredients

250g frozen spinach thawed, water squeezed out
100g finely sliced champagne ham
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
olive oil cooking spray
6 – 8 sheets of filo pastry

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

2. Saute onions and garlic with a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat until soft and translucent.

3. Add spinach, mix well and season to taste. Remove from heat, let it cool slightly then stir through beaten egg.

4. Place spinach in a small/medium ovenproof dish – depending on how thick you want the pie.  Spread spinach out evenly. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

5. Layer champagne ham on top of the spinach.

6. To create the pie covering, scrunch up single sheets of filo pastry and place on top of the filling. Spray with oil.

7. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until pastry is nice and golden.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 265 other followers