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A Few of My Favourite Things!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Chocolate Fix

Take a walk down Lt Collins Street, heading towards Elizabeth St. When you spot the Ay Tea House, turn right into Hub Arcade, mosey right down to the end and you will find the Chocolate Fire Cafe. Most of the produce seemed to centre around dried fruit dipped in chocolate but the very chatty owner is looking to introduce 6, yes count them, SIX new lines each week. Where Koko Black is dark timber, elegance and ganaches nestled neatly under a glass counter, Chocolate Fire Cafe is colourful and bright with the dried fruit forming straggly lines. They also offer pringles thickly coated with milk chocolate and plan to feature chocolate-dipped pretzels soon. I didn't try the hot chocolate but the ower assures me that "...it's very popular with the Asian students" and that some have claimed that it's better than
Koko Black's, which was voted Melbourne's best hot chocolate by the Herald Sun - big call!

My small selection of chocolate-dipped fruit took a loooonnnng time to purchase and for once this was not due to my indecision. The lady behind the counter resolutely kept her back to me, determined to show a very inexperienced new girl how to get a box ready for delivery before actually serving a customer in front of her. After waiting patiently for 10 minutes then asking her if this was a bad time and should I come back later in the afternoon, she replied huffily "Oh, are you in a real hurry?" then sent the new girl, who was absolutely clueless, to serve me. Hmmm, me thinks this area needs some improvements before they are ready to compete with all the other great chocolate places around Melbourne.

Go to Chocolate Fire Cafe if you have a really sweet tooth because you will need this to enjoy the combination of concentrated sugars in the dried fruit and chocolate. Or, go there if you want to test their claim about having the best hot chocolate. Koko Black is just around the corner so you could even do a head-to-head comparison!

Chocolate Fire Cafe

Shp8/ 318 Little Collins St Melbourne 3000
(03) 9663 5881

I had heard about Monsieur Truffe before but I only got the chance to visit his stall at Prahran Market two weeks ago. Charming us with samples of decandently dark truffles, the lovely Monsieur Truffe encouraged us to try the various flavours but we quickly fell for the chocolate caramalized almonds and brought a pack home with us. A. reckons that these are the best chocolate almonds around - big thumbs up!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Antipodean Blogging

I love receiving packages in the mail! The feeling of anticipation when you know a parcel is on its way, especially when you don't know exactly what it will contain.

I was fortunate to receive not one but THREE great packages, although I have to apologize for only having photos of the contents of TWO. Barbara's was the first to arrive: pinapple lumps, sea salt flakes, Whittakers Peanut Slab, candles & mud soap from Rotarua, dried blueberry snacklets, freeze-dried Kiwi fruit nectar all wrapped up in a hand-woven red basket. the package arrived at work and everything edible was gobbled up so quickly that I didn't even get a chance to take a photo. Sorry Barbara! And thanks for the lovely parcel.

Nicola's parcel arrived not long after that and I was so delighted to receive a huge tea towel with a recipe for pavlova (who really invented it first?), organic coffee, some Whittaker bars in white, milk and dark chocolate, a Pinapple Lumps and a Giant Toasted Marshmallow chocolate bar and a Cotterill & Rouse Tamarillo Chutney that I can't wait to use. And look at the two great food magazines! I was so tempted to pick up the Dish magazine the last time I was at the newsagents but I'm so happy that I resisted now.

And today, a hefty little pack from Jules! His blog focusses on wine so I wasn't sure what to expect but look at the bottles; EVOO from Hawke's Bay, an interestingly named Rocket Fuel sauce which I'm really looking forward to tasting (is it like a sweet chilli I wonder), Telegraph Hill Lemon & Herb olives, Kaitai Fire chilli pepper sauce and Gernot's Gold lemon & ginger marmalade. Wow! My husband has already claimed the chilli sauce and olives :-) Thanks so much, Jules!!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chicken Dumplings

Dumplings are ubiquitous in Asian cuisine, from the dainty steamed morsels that we enjoy at dim sum lunches to the oversized tai pau filled with chicken, pork, mushrooms and egg. As I am starting to realise with a number of other food types though, dumplings are not unique to Asian cuisine. We found this out on our visit to Prague earlier this year whereupon ordering houskove knedlíky with our goulash, thinking that we were be tasting a unique Czech dish, we discovered much to our surprise that they tasted (& looked) exactly like mantou buns.

A quick search reveals that dumplings abound - there is the Russian perogi, German klöße, Austrian knödel, Japanese takoyaki and British dumplings just to name a few. Of course, this list does not even start to cover dumplings of the sweet variety. Chinese steamed paus filled with sweet red bean paste, lotus paste or egg custard (A's favourite!) are also popular, especially as a dessert following yum cha. In other cultures, sweet dumplings often consist of fruit wrapped in dough.

My personal favourite in the world of dumplings is char siew pau (also known as roast pork bun), both the steamed and baked variety. Whenever I walk past Nam Loong Restaurant on Russell Street, the stacks of bamboo steamers cradling warm fluffy char siew paus call out my name. My head turns to gaze in through the window as I move past and it takes real strength not to succumb.

I had some chicken fillets in the freezer to use up so I pulled out the trusty 'Making Dumplings' book to look up the dough recipe again. Last time, I made it with a mix of whoel wheat and white flour, but this time I followed the recipe straight - 500g flour, 40g sugar, 2 tsp dried yeast, 1/4 tsp dough improver, 260-280ml water and some oil. Knead and leave to prove until double in size. Meanwhile, I cooked and cooled the filling of chicken with corn and peas in char siew sauce.

The fun part is filling the dough! I remember watching mum expertly dollop a spoonful of filling before nimbly wrapping the dough around and pinching it together at the top. I guess it must have eventually sunk in because I don't think mine look half bad :-) They tasted pretty good too - nice meaty bits of real chicken.
I used the two pieces of left-over dough to make kaya paus - mmmm, these were great too, especially for dessert!