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A Few of My Favourite Things!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

WCB 29

We are missing our babies!

Isabella & Natasha are staying with their grandparents (my parents) while we are holidaying in Europe. Grandma & grandpa love having them over and they go out of their way to build them little play areas and cubby houses so that they won't miss home too much. In return, the girls keep mum&dad amused by chasing each other around and by hunting down blowflies that happen to stray into the house when the door is momentarily opened. They have also been keeping mum company at night when she's curled up on the couch watching TV.

I love this photo of Bella sitting in my lap then turning to look adoringly up at me:

Head over to Eat Stuff to welcome Kiri back from his recent solo adventure.

Belgian Waffles in Prague

When we were in Belgium on our last trip, we missed out on trying waffles even though they were being sold on every street corner. Since returning home, we have heard from friends that Belgian waffles are pretty amazing.

Recently, an article on Belgian waffles appeared in our local paper and it included a list of the best places in Melbourne for these sweet, buttery delights. We have yet to check out these places back home, but seeing this Belgian-owned stand at Staromestke Namesti in Prague reminded me of the experience that we did not have.

These particular waffles are like giant versions of the Dutch stroopwaffles - thin, crispy waffles biscuits (cookies) with a caramel filling. The closely-guarded recipe for both the waffle dough and the buttery caramel was perfected by the guy's grandfather, who passed it onto his father, who then passed it onto him. He hopes to pass the tradition onto his own children in the future.

The waffle is made by pressing the dough into the waffle iron and cooking until done. The waffle then gets lifted out and carefully sliced horizontally through the middle in preparation for the caramel (this needs a light hand and some practice!). After spreading the caramel onto one half of the waffle, the top half is quickly slapped back on.

These waffles were so delicious when eaten immediately while still warm with the caramel oozing out with every bite. Perfect for a cold and snowy winter's night.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Images of Praha

What kind of images were you expecting? Of Charles Bridge, perhaps, or Prague Castle? But this is a FOOD blog, y'see. Okay, maybe just a couple of scenery shots in the next post...

But first, here are some pictures of the food scene in Praha.
There were numerous delis that drew us in with their warmth and their colourful displays of meat-and-cream cheese topped bruschettas and wide selection of cold meats. An item that appeared in every deli was meat/veg in aspic, which I don't recall having seen in Australian delis, but maybe because it's out of vogue now (?).

Quick lunch of tuna & tomato baguette at a cosy cafe:

Lunch at Caffe Sole at the end of Havelska, serving delicious Zuppa d'Aglio containing whisked egg and finely chopped carrots & celery and a Penne Puttanesca with salami:

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Prosciutto di Praha

The captivatingly smoky aroma from this roast pork stopped us dead in our tracks and had us watching the guy hacking chunks of meat off the roast to serve hungry passers-by. We had spotted this stall the day before but had been lured away by the the scent of cinnamon and almonds wafting through the market. Judging by the number of people having dinner here, however, we figured that we could not pass it by a second time.

So, a hunk was carved out for us and served with the ubiquitous Prague sourdough and a dollop of mustard and ketchup. The meat was moist and tender and oh-so-delicious in its saltiness. This was definitely better quality meat than the stuffed old bohemian piglet (although that was fun to eat) and really easy to cut into bite-sized pieces after having been roasted for such a length of time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stuffed Old Bohemian Piglet

Well, the Praguers certainly seem to like their pork! Most of the meat we came across at the market stalls were some form or other of pig. This Stuffed Old Bohemian Piglet (an oxymoron, right?) sounded and looked interesting. The meat was already shredded and was being cooked on the grill. And just to prove that it really was pork, they had the top half of the piglet sitting on the chopping board beside the grill - how attractive! The shredded meat was stuffed into a hotdog roll and we squirted mayonnaise on top (as recommended by the stallholder). The verdict? Delicious! :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Trdlo - crazy bread!?

After our snack, we wandered to the Old Town Square in the heart of the city where the biggest Christmas Market in town is held. The atmosphere here feels so much celebratory than home with stalls selling gingerbread, Christmas decorations, roasted chesnuts, candied almonds and so on. There is a large Christmas tree in the middle of the square and a nativity scene in front of it. Everyone is rugged up in thick jackets and scarves, wandering around with paper cups of mulled wine or grog (hot rum) in their mittened hands.

We came across an unusual-looking traditional Czech pastry called Trdlo. The stallholder told us that the word 'trdlo' means crazy - I guess because the bread is loopy? Any other ideas?

Anyway, the dough is wrapped around a steel rolling pin, baked over open flames then rolled in sugar, vanilla, rushed almonds and cinnamon while it's stil hot. Deliciously warm and fragrant but the bread is just a tad on the doughy side for us (as with most of the bread here, we find). It seems very popular here though - I wonder if you can only find it at this time of year?

Golden Prague - our first bite to eat

Just several hundred metres out of our hotel, we came by a very tiny Christmas market consisting of about 6 stalls. We were particularly drawn to this one by the wafting aroma of sausages being barbequed. We noticed that several Czechs, who appeared to be on their way home from work, were stopping by this stall to pick up a sausage and two pieces of sourdough bread as a snack. We figured that this couldn't be a bad idea and, in fact, it turned out to be quite a good one. The sausage skin was so crispy and you could feel the globules of fat bursting in your mouth as you chewed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ortiz Bonita del Norte

So. We tried a high-quality Spanish tuna the other day - Ortiz Bonita del Norte. We picked it up from Simon Johnson and it is waaaayyyyy pricier than normal canned tuna. However it has placed first in a couple of different tastings and is apparently some of the best tuna available so we had to try it.

Now, I love to eat canned tuna anyway but I also value the health benefits that the omega 3 fatty acids provide. However, whilst googling up on the Ortiz brand of tuna, I came across an article which mentions that commercial canners cook the whole fish first (before skinning, boning and pressure cooking in the can), then they sell the oil that is drained from the fish, which contains most of the flavours and omega 3 fatty acids, separately. Well, that has somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for comsuming canned tuna!

Anyway, back to the Ortiz tuna. The first thing we noticed upon opening the jar were the huge chunks of snowy white tuna. I ended up placing the tuna on a very simple salad of lettuce, spanish onions and tomato dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. We also opened a can of Greenseas tuna in spring water in order to compare the taste. The verdict? The Ortiz tuna is served in much larger pieces, appears whiter and does not taste as fishy. Assuming that it is cooked only once in the jar (and I'm not sure whether it is), then it may also be healthier.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fish Ball Noodle Soup!

Given the choice, A. & I will almost always choose to have a really simple meal over an elaborate one that includes three or more courses. Our favourite cuisine is Asian and A. often requests noodle soups for dinner, both when we go out and when we stay in. Some weeks ago, I made this easy udon noodle soup featuring fresh shitake mushrooms, tomatoes and parsley. I decided to skewer the fishballs and serve it with a side of hoisin dipping sauce. Yum!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Suggestions please!

Image of St Vitus Cathedral from Lava.
We're going away!!!
A. and I are spending Christmas and the lead up time in Prague, Strasbourg and Paris! SO, I thought I'd ask for some suggestions of THE places to visit - including, of course, the not-to-be-missed eating places and markets. Please drop me your suggestion - I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I did it! and Baker D. Chirico

Here is what I did this morning - the Sussan 10km Fun Run! I was pretty chuffed to (a) complete the whole 10k without stopping to walk; and (b) come in at just over 54min. Although my husband often questions why they would name events like these 'fun runs', I have to say that it really was fun to be running on such a beautiful sunshiny morning along the St Kilda foreshore and look out onto the blue, blue waters. So, how was your morning? :-)

After completing the event, we headed to Baker D. Chirico, an artisan bakery on Fitzroy Street, to pick up a loaf. There are many delicious-looking treats just waiting to be had: lemon creme brulee, strawberry custard tarts, almond biscuits, baby meringues, little flourless chocolate cakes. We left with a loaf of rye bread and a slice of pear custard tart for my hubby, who sat reading patiently while waiting for me to complete the run. The loaf was just out of the oven, and we waited (im)patiently for it to cool before cutting some slices to have with lunch. Mmmmm, talk about yummy bread - so moist and fragrant.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

WCB 26

Summer is here! (kinda) We've had some really warm, summery days in Melbourne of late although we're currently experiencing a cool change - that's Melbourne for you. We were wilting under the heat at 31C just several days ago, and our cats have been getting completely sun-drunk.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Char Siew Chicken Bao & Miso Eggplant

For dinner tonight, we had some homemade chicken char siew bao, which A loved because it had real chunks of chicken in it! My mum will be very impressed to hear that I made the dough from scratch according to the recipe for Leavened Dough from a book called 'Making Dumplings' by Amelia Liang that she had brought back from Malaysia for me. I kneaded together 250g plain flour&250g wholemeal flour (it's what I had), 40g sugar, 2 tsp dry yeast mixed with 260-280ml warm water and 1 tbs baking powder, then added 20g oil. The dough was left to proof until doubled in size before using to wrap the char siew chicken. It was left to rise again for 30 min before being steamed for around 15 min. I can tell you that it was delicious and a lovely change to be able to identify the type of meat that you were ingesting- LOL! (Sigh - just had a look at my photo of the bao and realised that I prob should have placed it onto a diff coloured plate...)

I also cooked some eggplant flavoured with miso. I started by heating up some chilli flakes then stir-fried the diced eggplant until softened before added the usual mix of shoyu, mirin, sake and sugar. After stirring through for a few minutes, I added some instant miso soup mix (hey, it's what I happened to have in my pantry) before dishing it up.

Melbourne Food Bloggers Dinner - finally

Ed and Sarah above;
Some guy and Jamie below.
This post is a little tardy given that our Melbourne Food Blogger dinner was held the Wednesday before last, but better late than never, right? Anyway, Ed and Sarah had already posted about the night so it wasn't like anyone was really waiting for this post to be posted, but I thought I'd load up the photos that I took on the night anyway cos they turned out pretty well.

Suckling pig (above) and chinese broccoli, aka kailan (below) from the Supper Inn - always a great place to stop by for a late supper (or at any time, really!).