Monday, February 29, 2016

Plum and Walnut Cake

Recently, I bought a slice of the most wonderful plum and walnut cake from Luneburger.  It comprised a light sponge cake topped with sliced juicy plums and candied walnuts. Luneburger change their cakes all the time, and this was the first time I had seen that particular one. 

I loved it so much that I was inspired to try and re-create it at home.

First up was trying to find a recipe.  From Google images, I found a cake that most resembled what I was looking for, being this recipe from Baking Beash.

Next, it was time to try it out, so I bought the plums, and had all the other ingredients in the house. The cake came together very easily, and this was the result:

It received a number of appreciative reviews at work.  It is not quite the same as the Luneburger cake, but it is still pretty good.  If you have a surplus of plums that you would like to bake with, this lovely cake is the perfect way to use them.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aristos Waterfront Rottnest, Rottnest Island and Little Creatures, Fremantle

On our recent trip to Perth, we did a day trip to Rottnest Island. Rottnest Island is a small island, 18 kilometres off the coast of Fremantle, and literally means "Rat Nest Island" because the Dutch explorers thought that the island's native quokkas were giant rats.  You travel there by ferry leaving from Perth or Fremantle.

After a few hours spent exploring the various tracks on the island, we gratefully settled down for lunch at Aristos, a restaurant on the waterfront at Rottnest Island.

The owner is the guy who used to do Surprise Chef on Australian television, whose name is incidentally Aristos.  The menu at Aristos is diverse, covering seafood, steaks, pasta, burgers and pizzas.

We opted for fish and chips, a perfect choice for the beach atmosphere.  Tim opted for Panko crumbed fish and chips ($26) - it was meant to be garfish, but we don't think it was from the size of the pieces of fish:

I opted for the grilled fish and chips ($26), which was served with a lovely lemon butter sauce:

These meals were unremarkable but tasty enough.  Service was a little erratic, with Tim receiving his meal a good 15 minutes or so before me, despite us ordering at around the same time at the counter.  I started to wonder if I had been forgotten!

Here's Tim looking very happy with his pint of beer at Aristos:

Tim was a little worried lest he should not see a quokka.  I assured him that he would, and indeed, we saw several of the little fellas on the island, including this one:

Quokkas are very fond of tourists because they are seen as a source of treats - however, if you go there, please don't feed them.
Our ferry back from Rottnest Island landed at Fremantle, so we decided to visit the Little Creatures Brewery:


In addition to the mixed olives ($8) that we ordered, we received these very tasty kangaroo skewers with tomato chutney ($22) for free, presumably because we were sitting in the right place at the right time:


This gorgeous banksia was sitting in a bottle by the door on the way out of the brewery, so I could not resist taking a photo:

It was a very full day, but I enjoyed it.

Colebatch Ave
Rottnest Island WA 6161
Phone: (08) 9292 5171

40 Mews Rd
Fremantle WA 6160
Phone: (08) 6215 1000

Friday, February 26, 2016

Doughnut Time, Degraves Street, Melbourne

On the way home from work on Wednesday, my path was blocked by a huge line of people in Degraves Street.  I had no idea what they were there for, and assumed it was to buy concert tickets or get an autograph.  However, when I switched on the news that evening, I learned that they were there to get a free doughnut from Doughnut Time, which had just opened in Degraves Street.

Doughnut Time is literally a hole in the wall that sells doughnuts.  Their website states that they produce small batch, hand dipped doughnuts.  From that description, as you might expect, the doughnuts are not cheap - they are $6 each.  However, they are tasty and a little different to your standard cafe offering.  Here's a peek inside their doughnut cases:

I could not resist the Veruca Salt (salted caramel- filled doughnut dusted with cinnamon sugar). Because I wanted to try a few doughnuts in one go, I also bought a Freddo Mercury because of its cool name and crazy appearance (blue vanilla and milk and dark chocolate glazes with Freddo faces), and the Flinders Treat (a limited edition coffee doughnut with a coffee-glaze, cream-cheese frosting and sprinkled with chunks of Espresso Martini Tim Tams and coffee beans, to celebrate the opening of the Degraves Street store):

These doughnuts are huge, and there was no way I could eat three doughnuts, so I shared them with three friends.  Here's a peek inside:

Without a doubt, the Veruca Salt was my favourite (and was always going to be), but the Flinders Treat was also a nice surprise with its coffee overtones taking the edge off the sweetness.  I can see the Freddo Mercury appealing to children with its bright colours and very sweet taste.

Doughnut Time originated in Brisbane, and by all accounts, is sure to do a roaring trade here in Melbourne.

Doughnut Time
5 Degraves Street, Melbourne

Mon to Fri 7.30am–11pm
Sat & Sun 8am–11pm

Thursday, February 25, 2016

EwE - I've Got a Sweet Tooth - Pears Baked with Sweet Pecan and Brie Topping

For Eating with Ellie this week, Peggy chose the theme of "I've Got a Sweet Tooth".  That is very fitting, because I do have a sweet tooth.

I chose Pears Baked with Sweet Pecan and Brie Topping from Weeknight Wonders.  This dessert was super quick and easy to make, and was absolutely delicious - sweet and savoury, soft and crunchy.

I served my pear with a dollop of plain yoghurt, which went nicely with the other flavours.

To see how the others interpreted this theme, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TWD - Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta

For Tuesday with Dorie this week, the recipe was Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta, being the second alternate February recipe.

I wasn't particularly excited about making this, particularly when the mixture looked like chocolate milk (I hate chocolate milk).  When it set up, it tasted OK, but despite some vigorous sieving, the mixture still had a slightly grainy texture, and I wasn't keen on the gelatine in this application.

I decorated my panna cotta with a dollop of plain yoghurt and a raspberry to give it some visual interest.

To see what the others thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the TWD website

Monday, February 22, 2016

Indiana Cottesloe Beach, Cottesloe

I first visited Indiana, the iconic Cottesloe beach front restaurant, in 2008.  Fast forward seven years and I am back in Perth on holidays, so a return visit to Indiana was a must.

The interior of Indiana is designed so that every table has a majestic ocean view:

Indiana has first built in 1910 as the Indiana Tea House, an icecream parlour.  The bright and colourful paper menus outline Indiana's story:

We started with glasses of cool bubbles, which perfectly suited the bright, airy, summery atmosphere of  Indiana:

We ordered, and chatted while admiring more of the gorgeous interior of Indiana:

Our first dish was beef cheek terrine, house pickles and sesame mountain bread ($18):

This was my favourite dish.  The gorgeous spicy jam on the board paired with the terrine, pickled onions and gherkins on mountain bread was devine - a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, a little bit soft, a little bit crunchy.

Our next dish was wood-fired Turkish break with hummus and dukkah ($12):

I am not normally a fan of Turkish bread, but I was sold on the saltiness and softness of this one.  Of course, the hummus and dukkah were the perfect accompaniment.

Dish number 3 was seared scallops with avocado, chorizo, tomato, chilli and espresso ($24): 

I am a fan of scallops, and these were very fresh - they tasted of the sea.  The chorizo crumbs on top added a pleasant zing to this dish. 

Next on the menu was the prawn and onion pakora with red onion vinegar, black garlic and curry leaf mayo ($18):

These had a definite kick to them, and tha black garlic (hidden beneath the pakora) was an unusual accompaniment that went well with the zing of the pakora and the sweetness of the mayo.

While at the seaside, who could resist calamari, in this case served in an unusual leaf cone with szechuan salt and kimchi ($18):


To feel like we were getting our greens, we ordered a garden salad ($10), which had become our ubiquitous friend on our Route 66 trip:

We ordered way too much food for two people, but we polished it off, and it was excellent.  The atmosphere and service were also good.

This is the view from the hall of Indiana out onto Cottesloe beach:

You cannot get more iconically Australian that that.

So you get a better idea of the beautiful pavilion in which Indiana is situated, this is a shot of the pavilion from the beach front:

If you go to Perth, do yourself a favour (Molly is playing on repeat in my head!) and head to Indiana at Cottesloe, which is a short train ride and a lovely stroll from central Perth.

99 Marine Parade
Cottesloe WA 6011
Phone: (08) 9385 5005

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Nigella's Liquorice and Blackcurrant Chocolate Cake

I am an admirer of Nigella Lawson's books and cooking shows, and having met her once at a book signing, I think she is a lovely and gracious person as well.  When she was in Melbourne again recently for a live chat, there was no question that I was going to be there:

Luckily, because I already had her autograph, I did not have to endure the book signing lines, which were absolute bedlam.  People were lined up outside the door of the Town Hall and the line was snaking down the street.

Nigella's latest book is called Simply Nigella.  Tim gave it to me for my birthday last year.  While we were waiting for Nigella to appear at Nigella in Conversation, I was intrigued by a gorgeous looking chocolate cake that came onto the screen, which I thought was topped with blueberries.  I subsequently discovered that it was actually a Liquorice and Blackcurrant Chocolate Cake, and the berries on top were blackcurrants.  Apparently, the unusual flavour combination is meant to imitate sweets that Nigella enjoyed growing up. 

Regular readers will know that  I have an affinity for cakes that are slightly off the beaten track, so I had to make this cake.  Getting liquorice powder was not easy, and I ended up having to buy it from eBay, and it was not cheap ($7 for the sachet).

The base cake is a delightful chocolate sponge-style cake, lightly flavoured with liquorice.  Two layers are sandwiched together with blackcurrant jam (which I was surprised to find in the Woolworths Select range for a song), and topped with a fudgy chocolate and liquorice flavoured icing.

Here's my cake, all cut up at work: 

This cake is so moist and delicious.  The blackcurrant adds a tart zing to the cake.  The liquorice flavour was really only barely there - it just leaves a slight heat on your palate, and is not really noticeable.  That is a bonus for liquorice haters, but  does make me wonder whether it was worth buying the liquorice powder!

I love liquorice, so now that I have the liquorice powder, I am going to tackle Linda Lomelino's  Chocolate Liquorice Cake.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

EwE - Cheesy Delights - Black and Red Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

For Eating with Ellie this week, Chaya chose "Cheesy Delights" as the theme.  I flicked through Weeknight Wonders and found several options, but settled on Ellie's Black and Red Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese.  Doesn't that sound intriguing?

The salad is comprised of red lettuce leaves, beetroot greens (I used baby spinach as the supermarket had chopped the greens off my beets), grated raw beetroot, black plums, blackberries, toasted walnuts and goats cheese, dressed with a honey and red wine vinegar dressing.

Ellie suggested serving this salad with fish or chicken, so I chose fish.

 I loved this salad.  There was crunch from the lettuce and the walnuts, sweetness from the plums and beetroots, tartness from the blackberries and creaminess from the cheese.  It's a fabulous salad that needs to be enjoyed while the summer fruits are still in season.  I'd make this again.

To see how everyone else interpreted the Cheesy Delights theme, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Painted Bird, Perth

We recently visited Perth for a four day weekend over the Australia Day holiday.  While we were there, we checked out some of the amazing food that Perth has to offer.

On our first night, we asked reception at our hotel where she recommended going.  She gave a few suggestions in the immediate area, but the one that grabbed us was The Painted Bird.  The name is intriguing, and some research revealed that is the name of the restaurant's signature dish of duck leg confit, ‘painted’ with mustard and orange, and wrapped in puff pastry.  

The Painted Bird is hidden in an enclave behind a grand church on William Street.  Inside, the furnishings appear Asian-influenced, but the food is "modern Australian with a European accent".

The service was friendly and efficient.  We started with an amuse bouche of polenta bites with pesto:

For entrée, we decided to have the charcuterie tasting plate (4 pieces for $18):

I have forgotten exactly what they were, but I enjoyed all of them except for the frittata (lower left), which was a tad dry.

While we were waiting for mains, a birthday party group started coming in, complete with these two beautiful cakes:

For main course, Tim ordered the pan fried gnocchi with pork, apple and cider ragu, topped with manchego ($33):

I ordered the crisp skinned Tasmanian salmon with gnocchi, prosciutto, peas, fennel and romesco ($36):

We both enjoyed our dishes.  My salmon was beautifully moist and pink inside, and the prosciutto added a nice touch of salt.

Our Painted Bird experience was enjoyable, and I would definitely go back.

This is the church which The Painted Bird hides behind:

For dessert, we went for coffee and cake at Koko Black further up William Street.  We shared this white chocolate raspberry cheesecake:

It was delicious, with more cheese filling than base.

10/93-95 William St
Perth WA 6000
Phone: (08) 9321 4685

Monday, February 15, 2016

Din Tai Fung, Emporium, Melbourne

On Friday, my friends Kamilla and Irina and I went to lunch at Din Tai Fung, in Emporium, Melbourne.  I was keen to try the Melbourne branch, having heard great things about this place and having visited the Sydney World Square branch many years ago. 

The interior of Din Tai Fung is bright and airy, although a little cosy.  The restaurant was buzzing when we arrived for lunch at around 12.15 for Friday lunch.

Instead of ordering food to share, we decided to order our own dishes.  I couldn't resist ordering the gem dumplings, in a rainbow of colours ($15.80):

Emerald is salad green, topaz is golden corn, pink diamond is seafood, ruby is bolognese, citrine is cheese, onyx is BBQ pork and sapphire is garlic pork.  All of them were good, but my favourite was the BBQ pork.  The only thing is that they didn't fill me up - although there were seven pieces, they were small.

Irina ordered the pork dumplings (6 pieces) (~$10):

Luckily we were still hungry because we had ordered dessert.  I could not resist ordering the monkey bun ($4.80), which was filled with a chocolate banana custard:

These are a limited special for Chinese New Year.

Kamilla and Irina ordered the mango pudding, which is apparently Din Tai Fung's signature dessert:

The only feedback I have on this is that they were both disappointed at its small size.
I enjoyed the food at Din Tai Fung, but the unanimous view of our party was that it was expensive in relation to the portion size. 
Level 4, Emporium, 287 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9654 1876