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A Few of My Favourite Things!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

WCB 42

Bella is giving me her usual bedroom eyes look while Tasha is curiously trying to figure out what's going on from the back. Spending afternoons with them is so much fun because they try to cuddle up as close to us as they can, then settle themselves down into a comfortable position.

Check the other cuddly creatures out at

Yoghurt and Pistachio BabyCakes

Has anyone else been enjoying fresh pistachios lately?

I've just discovered these at Victoria Market this season and love peeling off the soft pink-green outer shell to reveal the harder shell of the nut that we normally associate with pistachios. The same colours are reflected on the inside, with the paper-thin pink skin covering up a bright green kernel.
I had some fresh pistachios in the fridge and knew that I wanted use them in this recipe as soon as I came across it. Although Gini used labne (Middle Eastern strained yoghurt), I just went with a natural fat-free yoghurt.
:-o I just realised, as I'm typing this recipe out, that I completely left out the 1/2 cup of EVOO that shold have been mixed in together with the yoghurt! Trust me to get a recipe wrong, but hey maybe it was actually right this time because the cake turned out to be light, fluffy and moist. It reminds mw of a chiffon cake. I think I may just leave out the olive oil again next time :-p I didn't grind the pistachios so finely that it was like using pistachio meal, so it was lovely to get the crunch of some pistachio pieces as you eat the cakes.
Yoghurt & Pistachio BabyCakes
1 cup raw unsalted pistachios, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 6 eggs (separated), 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup yoghurt
  1. Roast pistachios at 150C for 10-15 min then rub in the folds of a clean tea towel to remove the outer skins (like Gina, I didn't go out of my way to get all the skin off and it didn't seem to pose any problems). Increase oven to 175C.
  2. Grind finely in a food processor then add flour, salt and baking powder and process briefly to mix.
  3. Beat egg whites with 3/4 cup sugar to form stiff peaks. Remove to another bowl.
  4. Beat egg whites with rest of the sugar until pale yellow. Add yoghurt then mix in pistachio-flour mix with a spatula.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into batter and pour into lined cake tin. I used most of the batter in a 20" round tin and the rest into my new silicone mini muffin tray.
  6. Bake for 40 - 50 min until skewer comes out clean. With the babycakes, I baked for around 15 min.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Victorian Producers' Market & Culinary Pro AM

Melbourne has certainly been churning out the festivals & events while the Commonwealth Games are on. On the weekend, mum & I strolled up to Carlton Gardens where the Victorian Producers Market had been set up, next to the heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building.

There were lots of local produce on show and on sale but we didn't pick up much as most of these stalls are the same ones that participate at the farmers markets around town but it was a beautiful day for wandering through, sampling and smelling and chatting.

There were even some prehistoric creatures keeping us company as we checked out what they were cooking on stage:

Obviously, I was not the only one who thought that it was a good idea to check out this event.

On Monday, I also popped down to the Culinary Pro Am competition they are holding. Kind of like Iron Chef without the quirky host and the terribly bad but hlarious voiceovers. I watched one of my hero-chefs, George Calombaris, who is about to open his new restaurant The Press Club in a few months, take on and defeat Teage Ezard with his Cypriot-inspired dishes. Check it out if you are in the city area - the finals are coming up on Saturday.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ten Ren Tea Noodles

A number of tea houses have popped up around the city recently, most of them selling just tea but there is one that also serves tea-based hot meals and desserts. We tried the pork noodles served in a tea broth and some tea-flavoured dim sum, serving it with a simple salad once we got the food home. the broth was lovely and had just a hint of tea-smokiness about it. The dim sum was okay, the skin being slightly too think for my liking. We also bought their plum jelly for dessert, but for the life of me I could not taste any tea flavour in it at all. We may think about trying the black tea jelly next time.

Ten Ren Tea (Melbourne) Pty Ltd
146 Swanston St Melbourne 3000

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Marathon in Melbourne!

Well, the crowd is certainly of the opinion that the marathon runners are all tiny people, both the men and women. Does being compact help you to be faster I wonder? I'm heading back out now to watch the end of the race.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Passionfruit & Mango Pavlova

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a farewell picnic for some friends who are returning home to Strasbourg after spending a couple of years working here. For the afternoon tea, I made the very Australian (or New Zealand depending on who you listen to) dessert - a pav.

I followed Stephanie Alexander's recipe, which she promises will result in a crisp shell with a marshmallow interior. I got the crisp shell but not much in the way of marshmallowiness so I should probably reduce the cooking time from 1.25 hr to 1 hr. To decorate, turn upside down, dollop some softly whipped cream then top with luscious mangoes and passionfruit pulp.

Stephanie Alexander's Pavlova
4 egg whites, pinch of salt, 250g castor sugar, 2 tsp cornflour, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, few drops of vanilla extract, 300 ml cream, passionfruit pulp & diced mangoes
  1. Preheat over to 180C
  2. Beat egg whites & salt until satiny peaks form
  3. Beat in sugar, a third at a time, until stiff and shiny
  4. Sprinkle in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and fold lightly
  5. Spread onto baking paper within 20cm radius circle and smooth tops & sides
  6. Place in over and reduce temprature to 150C. Bake for 1 - 1.25 hr (depending on your oven)
  7. Turn oven off and leave pav to cool completely.
  8. Turn upside down and top with whipped cream & fruit

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Welcome to Melbourne!

There are exciting things happening in Melbourne right now. The Commonwealth Games opens tomorrow night and there are a number of events taking place as part of the cultural activities of the Games. One of these events is the Urban Dream Capsule, where four men will reside in the Bourke Street Myer windows for 14 days. Their lives will be on display to the public 24 hours a day. This display takes up four windows, the left most is decked out as a kitchen, the next as their dining area, then their bedroom followed by the bathroom.

The Baton Relay ended with a street party yesterday evening:

And if you can't get a good spot to film what's happening in stage, on top of a bin is as good a place to set up your camera as any:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My First Meme...

Sarah has tagged me for this meme and it's the first one that I'm actually posting about. Here goes...

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life:

  1. Waitress at Malaysian restaurant
  2. Waitress at Indian restaurant (for about 3 shifts until a. they took a big tip from me to share with the girl who worked not on the same night but the night before, b. I saw them cutting the mouldy parts off strawberries which were then served with kulfi, c. they scraped the uneaten basmati rice from the guest's plate back into the rice cooker)
  3. Service assistant at Myer
  4. Research scientist
Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:

  1. Pride and Prejudice
  2. Eat Drink Man Woman
  3. Love Actually
  4. can't think of a last but I used to watch Anne of Green Gables every school holidays if I could!
Four Places I've Lived:

  1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. hopefully somewhere in Europe in the near future (are you ready this, A?)
Four TV Shows I Watch:

  1. Iron Chef
  2. Cold Case
  3. NCIS
  4. Sex and the City (when it was still on but now I watch the series on DVD)
Four Places I Have Been on Vacation:

  1. Bintan, Indonesia
  2. Calgary, Canada
  3. New York, USA
  4. Sicily, Italy

Four Websites I Visit Daily:

  1. The Age
  2. Food Porn Watch
  3. Blogger
  4. work website
Four of My Favourite Foods:
* this is a hard one because I don't know where to start. I have so many favourites...

  1. Char Siew Bao
  2. Roti Chanai
  3. Pretty much any fruit (esp tropical)
  4. Sashimi
Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

* Of all the places I've visited, nowhere would be as good as where A. is right now :-(

Four Tags to Continue This Meme:

* Has anyone NOT done this one yet? Let me know...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

WCB 40

When you're lazing in the sun, what else can you do but clean yourself?

The round up for this WCB, can be found

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ispahan Tiramisu

My entry for this
SHF, hosted by spitoonextra, focussess on cream. Cream is made by allowing full-fat milk to settle, allowing the higher-fat layers rise to the surface and be skimmed off. When I was little, I did not like cream in the least. Ice-cream was fine, but cream on its own? Uh uh, not for me. On the other hand, A. thought cream was the bee knees and one of the treats he used to buy at fairs was a cylindrical waffle cone filled in the middle with pure white, creamy cream.

Now, although I still don’t love cream the way A. does, I can see how it can add depth to savoury dishes such as beef stroganoff (not that I've ever had this before). And of course, as most of us would know, cream is an essential component of many desserts. Imagine chocolate ripple cake without cream. It would just be…um, a pack of chocolate ripple biscuits. Okay, you can dunk it in milk and it would be pretty good but once you sandwich a row of these biscuits with whipped cream, it turns from just a pack of dry chocolate biscuits into something wonderful – a dessert that would not be out of place at a birthday celebration.

I was flicking through my copy of
Yoshoku when I came across their Tokyo Tiramisu, which sounded perfect for a summery dessert. After pondering upon this for a couple of nights, I was inspired by the memory of the Ispahan from Pierre Herme. Why couldn’t I make an Ispahan Tiramisu instead?

I didn't have time to make any rose macaroons so I had to make do with the normal savoiardi biscuits. The sponge fingers were carefully placed on the cake tray and brushed with lychee syrup until fairly well saturated. Whipped cream flavoured with some Eau de Rose from Fauchon was piped on top of the row of fingers, then raspberries and lychees scattered over the cream. This was topped with another layer of savoiardi biscuits and rose-flavoured cream. For the decoration, I piped out the outline of a heart in Valrhona Ivory chocolate and once set, placed this gently on a pile of red rose petals. Mmm, lovely, light and a wonderful melding of subtle flavours.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lo Han Vegetables

I imagine that black fungus, aka cloud ear mushroom, is one of those foods that I would not have enjoyed much as a kid because I don't remember eating a lot of it. Now, however, I love the crunchy bite it adds to stirfry dishes and the satiny feel of it on my tongue. In Chinese herbal medicine, this fungus also has a reputation for improving circulation and thinning the blood out - kinda like wine, I guess. The black cloud ear fungus also has a close relative known as - wait for it - white fungus which is much more frilly in appearance and can be used in sweet soups as well as savoury dishes.

Both black and white fungus can be found in dried forms in any Asian grocery store and are reconstituted by soaking for 30 min in warm water. The woody parts can then be trimmed off before cooking them. This dish is my version of Lou Han Vegetables and I've listed the ingredients that I used below:

A few pieces of reconstituted black and white fungus, some shitaake mushrooms, a can of button mushrooms, sliced carrots, green peas, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, cornflour
  1. Sitr fry garlic
  2. Add carrots and peas, followed by shitaake & button mushrooms. Add some water or stock and simmer for a few minutes
  3. Add black and white fungus and simmer for a little longer
  4. Thicken sauce with cornflour mixed with a few tablespoons of water
  5. Serve on top of brown rice (or whatever you prefer)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mum's Banana Cake

Mum is a wonderful cook, excelling in both savoury and sweet dishes. However, in the days before I had developed any interest in food, I did not have a real appreciation of this. I ate her food everyday so it just seemed normal to me and, in fact, my brother and I use to beg for the meat-and-3-veg dishes that all our friends had for dinner or, horror of horrors, even McDonalds! (I can't even remember the last time I had burgers from there)

As good as she is now, I still remember the story from mum's teenage years of when she attempted a banana cake for a friend's birthday (or something). She had baked this before, to acclaim, however she left out the eggs by mistake this time. The banana cake rose beautifully and smelled delicious however, to her utter embarassment, it promptly crumbled and fell apart when they tried to slice it. If only her friends could see her now!

She has, of course, mastered the art of baking this cake now and I can certainly remember this being baked on a regular basis when I was younger. I think it must be particularly popular in Malaysia as I've seen it in a few cookbooks. I love the moist 'banana-iness' of this cake and it has remained one of my all-time favourites.

Mum's Banana Cake
125g butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 large eggs, 1.5 cups SR flour, 1/4 cup milk with 1/4 tsp bicarb soda and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence added, 2 ripe bananas
  1. Cream butter and sugar until pale.
  2. Add eggs one at a time
  3. Add flour and milk alternately
  4. Mix in bananas and pour into 20cm lined tin
  5. Bake at 180C for 45 min (bake for 20-25min for cupcakes or for 1 hour for double batch)

WCB 39: Beauty Shot

I've been watching 'America's Next Top Model' and I think this is what they call a beauty shot. A closeup photo of the face. Tyra Banks says that it's all in the eyes, that they should be fierce.

Do you think Tasha has what it takes to be America's next top model?