Friday, December 10, 2010

Spanish Terrazas

There are so many of these group buy voucher websites popping up in the last few months. Whilst it saves you a lot of money buying the vouchers, I also go out a lot more than I should to use these vouchers! On this occassion, I finally got to try Spanish Terrazzas.

Gambas al Ajillo - Garlic Prawns

When the prawns were put down, me and my friend immediately gave each other a look. The prawns gave off a very strong fishy smell that hit both of us at the same time. We decided to try it anyway, and surprisingly, the prawns didn't TASTE off. Hard to explain. It could have been a combination of other smells. We ate the prawns anyway and had no ill effect.

Patatas Bravas - Spicy Potatoes

Nice salty crispy potatoes. Just wish there was some aioli with it.

Albondigas - Meat Balls

Meatballs were nice and juicy, although slightly lacking in flavour. Needed a little more salt and garlic, or maybe I'm thinking more italian food now haha


The tapas is smaller than I expected. Usually when I visit Encasa, 4 tapas is more than enough to fill me and my friend up. We weren't that hungry and thought 3 dishes would be enough, but we were still hungry. We were slightly put off ordering more food since there were about 4 fruit flies buzzing around my head. We decided to cut our losses short and went to find more food at Chinatown instead.

Spanish Terrazas
541 Kent Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 02 9283 3046

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cafe Strada - Summer Hill

From the outside, the place looks cold stark sandwich shop. The menu is simple and the inside is actually an internet cafe. Definitely not your run of the mill cafe, but they do serve some of the best food in the Summer Hill area!

Burger with the lot

First up, their burgers. Previously I talked about how I value a good greasy corner shop burger with the lot, and Strada falls straight into this category. Its not a gourmet burger made with sour dough bread and wagyu beef with goats cheese or anything fancy, but it is a good burger. Beef, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, onions, bacon and a perfectly fried and still runny egg. Can't ask for much more than that.

Ontop of their burgers, Strada has some of the best chips I've ever had. The trick is to always order them "extra crispy". You can hear the clink clink clink of the chips as they get tossed in a big bowl for good salt coverage. You know those chips are going to crispy.

Big Breakfast

Mixed Grill

If you can wake up early enough, Strada also does a decent big breakfast. Its nothing to write home about, but its big, filling and good value. For an extra $1, you get a piece of steak as a part of their Mixed grill. Great value in my books.


For such an unassuming shop front, you wouldn't expect Strada to do one of the best Spaghetti Cabonara's I've ever tasted! Unlike a lot of other Italian restaurants who douse their cabonaras with copious amounts of cream, Strada does it the traditional Italian way with eggs and cheese only. No cream. And the result is heavenly. The strands of pasta are lightly coated with a creamy eggy sauce so it won't leave you feeling bloated and gluggy after eating. Unfortunately I've only had it take away and don't have any photos :(

Their Boscaiola however, I've had eat-in and it was just as good. Whilst the boscaiola contains cream, its not swimming in a pool of cream. Another thumbs up from me.

Cafe Strada
12 Lackey Street
Summer Hill NSW 2130
Ph: (02) 9798 5691

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Quay Tasting Menu wannabe with a magnificent Snowegg

Its been over 2 decades, but we finally went ahead and renovated our kitchen. The only thing that didn't get changed in the kitchen was.....well, actually, we gutted the entire kitchen out and put a brand new one in there! Obviously with a new kitchen, I had to cook something special to break it in. And nothing is more worthy than the famous Quay Snowegg! Actually, after my first Quay visit when I saw the recipe online, I knew I wanted to attempt it!

Of course, if you're going to serve a Quay Snowegg for dessert, you can't just have any old food beforehand. So in the spirit of a Quay feast, I decided to hold a degustation dinner. Preparations started a week before the big day, trying out various recipes. As the day got closer, I started making the various components for the snowegg, starting with the ice cream and the granita. And just like MasterChef, I had a bit of a Callum moment when I was scraping the granita. A huge chunk of it flew out of the pan and onto the floor! Luckily I had plenty of granita left, so it wasn't an utter disaster. But I did have to get onto my hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor and cabinets clean!

On the day of the actual dinner, I tackled the poached meringue, which was surprisingly easy to make. I left the maltose tuile as the very last thing to tackle, which was probably a bad idea. Don't get me wrong, I made the maltose toffee no problems. But the recipe then tells you to blend the toffee to a fine powder, so you can seive it to make the maltose tuile. Everything was going fine, until I crammed a MASSIVE hunk of toffee into my crappy little $15 stick blender with a tiny food chopper attachment. I hear a massive CRUNCH as I hit the pulse button. I press the pulse button again, and I can hear the motor whirring away, but it didn't seem to be blending. Sometimes the food gets stuck and you need to give the chopper a little shake and everything will be fine. On this occassion, as I lifted the chopper up to give it a shake, my hand slips and next thing you know, shards of maltose toffee flies out of the processor and lands all over the brand new kitchen bench top, cabinet doors, floor, my clothes and even in my hair. There was a full 5 secs of silence as everything sinks in, before I start screaming in panic.

There's about 2 hours before everyone arrives and I've just scattered shards of toffee like confetti all around the kitchen. 20mins of mass panic sets in as I try to contain the mess. When I finally managed to remove all traces of sticky sugar from all my orifices, I sent an emergency sms to all my friends begging/praying for someone to have a food processor. Looks like my $15 crapola was broken, and no food processor = no snowegg! Luckily my friend had one and offered to bring it over! *phew* crisis over. For now.

Strawberry, lychee and lime cocktail

Everyone finally arrived and dinner was served!

The menu

Amuse Bouche - Vichyssoise

I started the evening off with a Vichyssoise amuse bouche. Its essentially a chilled potato and leek soup. It was incredibly velvety and smooth. Of course, all the milk and cream I added would've helped.

1st Course - Smoked salmon and avocado pearl with potato rosti

First course was a play on the Quay sea pearls. I did a smoked salmon and avocado pearl, although its was more pingpong ball than pearl. I wrapped smoked salmon around a mixture of lemony avocado, diced smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese. This was served on a lightly dressed rocket salad, crispy potato rosti and fresh lemon juice.

2nd Course - Seared Scallop, cauliflower puree and chorizo crumble

Second course was inspired by Peter Gilmore. He's the first chef that has convinced me that Cauliflower is edible without having to be deep fried or covered in cheese. I did a simple seared scallop on a cauliflower puree topped with a lemony chorizo crumble.

3rd Course - Crispy fried potato prawns with garlic aioli

This was a purely experimental dish that went quite well. Large king prawns wrapped in wafer thin slices of potato, panfried til crispy, served with salad and an aioli dressing.

4th Course - Leek, mushroom and Camembert Flammenbrot

A simple leek and camembert flammenbrot served with sauteed garlic mushrooms. This got a big thumbs up and was one of the favourites of the day! If they liked what I served, they would've loved the bacon version! Maybe next time. (Forgot to take a photo so stole this from my friend! hehe)

5th Course - Beef Steakington

Fifth Course was a Beef Steakington with red wine jus. Basically a play on a Beef Wellington. Instead of a giant fillet of beef, I made individual portions out of steak. Except my portions were a bit off, and instead of being degustation size, these babies still turned out to be like a main course! The steak was a bit cooked for my liking, but perfect for my friends. (I do like my steak still mooing...) The red wine jus was a bit salty for my liking, but the beef steakington turned out quite tasty. But then, considering I've never eating a beef wellington in my life, I'm not sure how it compares.

The maltose tuile disaster did have a silver lining, as it meant a big break between courses as we tackled the last of the snowegg preps. Most of us were full to bursting! It took us about an hour to make all the maltose tuile and actually assemble the snowegg.

DIY Stencils

Since Strawberry Guava and custard apple wasn't in season, I made a Watermelon, lime and lychee version instead. And here is the final result!

6th Course - Watermelon, lychee and lime snow egg


Oh man, I was thoroughly impressed with myself even if I do say so myself!!! The maltose tuile covered the meringue perfectly. The meringue was soft as clouds in your mouth. The lychee ice cream was incredibly smooth, decadent yet light! Watermelon, mint and lime granita give a much needed freshness and tang to the dish, all nicely rounded out by the lychee fool! Success!!!

There was silence at the dinner table as we all dug into the snowegg. I can confidently say, my snowegg will kick Quay's Jackfruit version ANY DAY. Although, I must admit, the Strawberry Guava and Custard apple version will abolish my take in a second!

We demolished the dessert and sat around contently when one of my friend meekly said "ummm....can I have a little more granita?". Too full to move, I told them to help themselves from the freezer. Next thing you know, there were yells of "Bring the ice cream too!", "Oh! Can I have the leftover maltose?!", "Did anyone want the meringue?!". In a whirlwind of flying spoons and containers, everyone had taken the leftovers and assembled themselves another snowegg! hahaha

DIY snowegg

If only we weren't so greedy, we would've had room for the 7th Course, strawberries cookies and cream cake I made. But that extra serve of DIY snowegg just pushed us over the edge.

7th Course - Cookies and cream strawberry cake and Raspberry White chocolate macaron petite fours

I packed the cake into little doggybags for everyone before I bought out a container of white chocolate and raspberry macarons. These were meant to be the petite fours, but I packed a few into each doggy bag instead. That is, until one of my friends tried one before moaning out loud. Like a pack of wild animal, my friends grabbed one each, took a bite and then proceeded to grab, snatch, scratch and slap their way to the rest of the macarons! I almost lost a finger trying to salvage a few macarons for myself. Needless to say, they loved the macarons!

After 3 solid days of cooking, the dinner party was an absolute hit! But I think I need a few months off before having another dinner party. I was exhausted! But atleast now I can say I made the snowegg!! Not too bad when you compare them to the Quay ones!

For those of you who want to attempt the recipe, here's a few tips:
  • When piping the meringues, fill the mould about 3/4 of the way up. The meringue puffs up quite a bit and you will be able to make more meringues as backups with the remaining mixture.
  • Do not throw away any of the meringue trimmings! They make a great DIY snowegg afterwards!
  • The vanilla custard base makes almost 500g, but the recipe only requires 100g. I halved the recipe to reduce wastage. BUT, with that said, the custard is amazingly good and I did regret not making the full amout! (Although my waistline didn't!)
  • Put the tub of maltose into hot water before using. It'll be easier to work with when its more runny.
  • Do not over bake the maltose tuile. In my oven, it would form the tuile in 1-2mins. If you bake it any longer, the maltose will bubble leaving an uneven texture. Not a big deal, just not as pretty.
  • The maltose tuile once out of the oven, can be gently peeled off after about a minute. The tuile is quite durable and can be peel off like a sticker. I tried to lift it up as an entire piece and it made the tuile very uneven and ugly.
  • When you blow torch the tuile, start from the outside and work your way in to the middle in a circular motion. Any uneven bits you can use a blow torch and gently pat down with a fork/spoon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Giorgio's Cafe Bar - Belmore

"Dinner in a Mechanics Garage? What the hell did you agree to?!" I yelled at a friend. But the plans were made and we couldn't back out now. Driving along Kingsgrove Road, we eventually find the closed Mechanics shop and park in one of the side streets. The whole time we walked from the car to the Mechanics, we kept arguing about why we're going to a Mechanics for dinner, and why would it serve awesome Greek food?!

Turns out, we're NOT eating in the Mechanics Garage. The garage was apparently cut in half and converted into a Cafe/Restaurant. My friend having driven by many times, assumed it was just a coffee shack you sit in whilst your car gets serviced. Thankfully, with the encouragement of our Greek friends, we find ourselves seated at Giorgios Cafe. The decoration is a bit of a mish mash of assorted things, but was cosy and comfortable, even though it was freezing outside.

Since our friends frequent Giorgio's, we left all the ordering up to them. Apparently it was a very simple choice. Mixed platter for 4 (Minimum 2 people).

The wine is poured, conversation is flowing, laughter erupts around the table before dead silence when the food is delivered.

Errrrrr.....This must be the whole meal right? We're having a dinner of just salad and dips and bread right? I'm not complaining, because the soft warm pita bread went fantastic with the hummus, taramasalata and babaganoush. The Greek salad had a lovely soft and creamy fetta, not the hard blocks of chalk you usually get. But....look at the size of it? And look at the size of it compared to the second course:

The silence was punctuated by the gasps and squeals that was apparently coming This thing was HUGE. Its Gianormous! Its... its like being presented with a whole cow. Except the cow is wrapped with haloumi and calamari and more cow and then the whole cow is put on a bed of chips!

Once the initial shock passes, and we've finished taking photos to document this monster, we dig in. The mixed platter contains perfectly squeeky haloumi, rissoles, souvalaki sticks, sausages, fish cocktails, fried squid and potatoes. Heaps of potatoes in 2 forms. Crunchy shoe string fries and the most amazing hand cut wedges. Crunchy, yet incredibly soft and fluffy in the centre.

Now anyone who knows me, knows my weakness for chips. Especially hot chips. I don't care if they're crunchy, soft, limp, fluffy or hollow. Heck, I even love stale chips! And now I'm presented with a platter that contains roughly 2kgs of pure potato starchy heaven topped with a greek meat feast that's supposed to feed 4 people...and 2 of them are small eaters....what do I do? I almost fall face down into the platter and gorge myself til I was sick. Did I mention we though dinner was going to be crap (because it was in a "Mechanics Garage"), so we stopped by red roosters earlier to gorge on some chips first? Gosh I'm so classy.

As much as we tried, we didn't get half way through the food. I regrettably had to leave half of the chips behind even though I was about to explode from the potato expansion that was happening in my stomach. Not being able to move (Which is always a good sign of a Greek feast), our friends decide to teach me to play backgammon. It was an intense 1hr battle, and in the end, we won. I don't know how we won, but we won. And I still don't know what backgammon is about. I do know, however, that Giorgios has an iced coffee on the menu, where they write their name in chocolate syrup! But when I questioned the waiter if they 100% write the name on the coffee, he said no. So with a little pleading, he took our special requests to get the name written on the coffee:

The whole feast cost us less than $30 each and we practically had to waddle out of there. Looking at the other diners, they will have to do the same even though they didn't get the platter!

Giorgio's Cafe Bar
104 Kingsgrove Rd
Belmore NSW 2192

Ph:(02) 9718 8555 ()

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bored = Focaccia

What happens when I'm at home with nothing to watch, nothing to play, nothing to read and just plain bored? I hit the kitchen to keep myself occupied! On this occasion, I did a late night raid of my neighbour's rosemary bush to try and make up a batch of garlic, olive and rosemary focaccia!

10mins of kneading, some light chopping of rosemary, garlic and olives and voila! Instant focaccia! I should've covered the focaccia in more olive oil to give it an extra light and buttery texture. But since I was eating this on its own for lunch, I decided to cut down on the oil for a healthier version. Thank goodness I did that, because I ate most of it the next day! hehe

Friday, October 15, 2010

Martin Place Bar

A quick catch up lunch with my friend led us to Martin Place bar. Since we were more concerned with chatting than eating, we ordered the standard fare off the menu.

Chicken Schnitzel, chips and salad

Tempura flathead, chips and salad

I was surprised how huge the servings are! I love my chips and almost never leave chips behind. But even this was too much for me and about half was left uneaten. The flathead was tasty, but the batter was a bit soft and tasted of oil. My friend really enjoyed the schnitzel, but again, left a heap of the chips behind!

Martin Place Bar
51 Martin Place (corner of Elizabeth street)
Ph: (02) 9231 5575

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Singapore Chilli Crab

Cheap crabs meant I get to mess around with recipes I usually wouldn't when they're at full price. I've always wanted to make Singapore Chilli crab and used this opportunity to try out Alex Lee's recipe.

The recipe was such a great success, that I offered to cook up a meal of Singapore Chilli crab for my sister's birthday dinner. Now although Singapore Chilli crab is a great dish, its not exactly a birthday party with only one dish. A sudden impulse lead me to cooking up a huge vat of beef rendang.



Melt in your mouth rendang goodness! It needed more chilli, but since my nephews can't eat that spicy, I had to keep it fairly mild.

Now, Singapore Chilli crab AND beef rendang is starting to sound like a better birthday dinner.....but you need something to mop up all that gorgeous sauce don't you? How about a side of roti prata. Made from scratch of course!

You can see through it!

Not much photos of the roti making process since I was covered head to toe with flour and oil! But I did get the nice flip/toss action going! Along with a little gentle careful stretching, I ended up with paper thin roti!

Roti Prata

I used about 1/4 of the oil needed to give it an ultra crispy flakey roti, but the layers are all there once you tear it apart!

4kg of Singapore Chilli Crab

Who needs to go out for dinner when you can cook up a feast at home?