Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Unblogged Files: February 2015

Phew! It feels like we have raced to the end of the month! February was really busy for me! Let's take a look.

First up: breakfasts. I am clearly making the most of the last shipment of Reed avocados for the season! (Don't forget to check out my tutorial: "How to Slice an Avocado".)

Avocados on Toast, Toast with honeyed ricotta and berries

Avocados on toast, Toast with a hardboiled egg

But I do occasionally eat non-avocado breakfasts too, honest! You may remember the crumpets with honeyed ricotta and berries I made earlier this month, well, I also enjoyed them savoury, with spinach, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and hot habanero sauce. Some plain old peanut butter on toast made an appearance. By the way, Darryl's fresh roasted peanut butter is The Best, and well worth shelling out for. Also, more green smoothies.

Top left: Toast with Darryl's Fresh Roasted Peanut Butter (BEST)
Top right: Crumpets with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, spinach, hot sauce
Bottom left: Crumpets with honeyed ricotta and berries
Bottom right: Green smoothie (1 c spinach, 1 frozen banana, 1 peach, 1 c milk, 1 tbs oats, 1 tbs peanut butter)

As I told you last month, I'm still trying to eat out for lunch only once a week... I'm still loving the beef bimbimbap from By Korea (1/222 La Trobe Street, Melbourne VIC 3000), and Rice Workshop in Emporium is always reliably tasty. And right now I'm super into the crazy cheap and super filling boreks from The Borek Bakehouse (481 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000). That spicy lamb borek in the picture? $3. Boom!

Left: Spicy lamb borek from The Borek Bakehouse, (481 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
Top right: Beef Bimbimbap from By Korea (1/222 La Trobe St, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
Bottom right: Spicy Teriyaki Chicken Don from Rice Workshop (Emporium, Level 3 321 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000)

Mamak (366 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000) does great nasi lemak, roti canai and - my favourite - icy Malaysian drinks. Kopi ais for me!

Left: Nasi Lemak w Curry Chicken - $12
Top right: Nasi Goreng - $12
Bottom right: Roti Canai - $5.50

With my homecooked dinners this month, there was a clear division between comfort food...

Top left: Cheese platter
Top right: Beef goulash with potato dumpling
Bottom left: Baked pasta with eggplant, meat and cheese
Bottom right: Baked crumbed pork chop and roast veggies

... and lighter dishes. Salmon, soba and broccolini is such a good combo! (See my old post for the recipe!) And in the bottom left pic you see a Thr1ve-inspired dinner: chicken meatballs (with cayenne, spring onions, egg, parmesan and some breadcrumbs), with marinated zucchini salad, baby spinach with pepitas, boiled broccoli, mashed sweet potato, roast capsicums and avocado. So many veggies!

Top left and bottom right: Marinated salmon with soba & broccolini
Top right: Egg and spinach fried rice
Bottom left: a Thr1ve inspired plate

But lest you think I was getting too healthy (hardly!), I also did a bit of baking in February. Chocolate pound cake (from Joy the Baker's Homemade Decadence book)...

Joy the Baker's Chocolate Pound Cake

...and my all-time favourite, Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cheesecake. You gotta make this cheesecake! It's the best.

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cheesecake

My parents took me out for a couple of fancy meals this month: dinner at Kenzan (45 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000), where we enjoyed a giant sushi sashimi platter and fabulous tempura...

Dinner at Kenzan

...and Lantern Garden (608 Station Street, Box Hill VIC 3128), for lobster noodles and pippies in XO sauce with crullers.

Dinner at Lantern Garden

Another night, I cooked a Chinese dinner for my parents - all Fuchsia Dunlop recipes, of course, all from Every Grain of Rice. There was braised chicken with shiitake mushrooms, twice-cooked pork with garlic stems and Chinese brocolli stir-fried in garlic. #awesomedaughter

Chinese feast

I didn't explore many (any!) new cafes this month, but found myself at Plantation (Level 2, Melbourne Central, 300 La Trobe Street, Melbourne) more times than I care to mention. Yum.

Plantation

One night I caught up with some girlfriends for drinks at Romeo Lane (1 Crossley St, Melbourne VIC 3000). My friend Alaina suggested it, and the bar was awesome! Excellent cocktails, great decor and friendly staff. Winner.

Romeo Lane

We then headed over to nearby Spring Street Grocer (157 Spring Street Melbourne, VIC 3000) for gelato! I had chocolate sorbetto, salted caramel and walnut gelato, and hazelnut gelato - all fabulous.

Spring Street Grocer gelato

Of course, we celebrated Chinese New Year in February. Happy new year everybody! We had reunion dinner at my parents' house on Chinese new year's eve, with all our favourites - roast pork, roast duck, salted vegetable and duck soup, loh bak and chicken curry. What a feast!

Reunion dinner

And on Chinese New Year itself, I caught up with my friend Alaina for our annual tradition of bubble tea at Gong Cha! Iced green tea, half sugar, extra pearls, salty milk foam.

Iced green tea with salted milk foam and extra pearls, half sugar

And for dinner on Chinese New Year, Sandra and I did our annual CNY tradition: "Two Girls One Duck" - sharing a whole Peking duck at Simon's (197B Middleborough Road, Box Hill South VIC 3128). So crispy, so tasty, so delicious.

Peking Duck

We also took a little weekend away this month, going to Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. The beaches were stunning, and we discovered a couple of great foodie spots - blogpost to come!

Murray's Beach

As you may have noticed, I haven't been doing many events lately, but I couldn't resist attending a Taste by Appointment evening hosted by Grey Goose Vodka at Saint Crispin (300 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066). The event included a three-course meal and a cocktail-crafting masterclass. The food and cocktails were delicious, and most importantly, the evening was really fun! Blogpost to come.

Grey Goose "Taste by Appointment" at Saint Crispin

The next morning, and in no way related to the previous evening's activities (ahem), I desperately wanted something salty and greasy. This ham and cheese croissant from Plantation totally hit the spot.

Ham and Cheese Croissant, Magic

Plans for March - one or two events, spending time with family and friends, work, gym, the usual. Quiet yet fun!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cambodia 2014: Street Food Tour

Final post from our Cambodia trip! Today imma tell you about the Street Food Tour we took!

On our first day in Siem Reap, we visited Pre Rup for sunset, and on the way back to the hotel, our tuktuk driver drove down this incredibly busy long road with stalls on either side. (I later realised that this was the famous "60 Road"). There were lights, there were dozens and dozens of food stalls, selling BBQ, noodle soups, sweets, fruits and more. There were stalls selling clothes and other nicknacks, and there were people. Lots, and lots of people! Walking, cycling, in cars, in tuktuks, in motorbikes... buying food, eating, shopping, hanging out with friends. It looked amazing and so fascinating!

Fruit stall

We totally wanted to get down and start exploring, but we had no idea where to begin. We don't speak Khmer, we didn't know what all the food was, whether or not it would upset our sensitive Western stomachs, and we didn't even have any of the local currency of riels. (Everywhere else we'd visited up until then only used USD). So we resigned ourselves to the idea that this world was cut off to us tourists.

Fresh Fruits

However, when we took that "Cooks in Tuk Tuks" cooking class at the River Garden Hotel a few days later, we saw that they also offered a street food tour which takes adventurous foodies to 60 Road. The idea is that you "get to walk with the locals, eat amongst the chaos of the street and experience the unique way the Khmer people enjoy the delights of their Street Food". Perfect! We booked ourselves in for a tour the next day.

Deb, the (Aussie!) owner of the River Garden Hotel and tour guide, took us to visit Psar Leu Market to pick up a few snacks, then took us to 60 Road, where we wandered up and down the stalls to buy more food, before enjoying it as a little picnic. All the while, she gave us an insight into Khmer food culture and explained what the stalls were selling. The food, transport and tour guide were all included in the $25USD price per person. Deb was great, very passionate about Khmer food and culture, and clearly loves living in Cambodia. She speaks Khmer and had the knowledge to advise which foods are safer for tourists. (Obviously, she doesn't own these stalls so can't guarantee the quality of every single food item, but she has the knowledge to advise which items are generally safer).

At Psar Leu Market, we started by picking up some steamed rice cakes with fresh shaved coconut, peanuts and sugar to eat later (picture at the bottom of this post). Based on what we ate during our trip, I find Khmer desserts to be very similar to Malaysian desserts - lots of sugar, coconut milk, glutinous rice and peanuts! Deelicious.

Rice flour, coconut and peanut dessert

We also got some of these fantastic fried rice cakes and noodles to eat straight away. The rice cakes were made of glutinous rice flour, formed into a dough, with chopped spring onions mixed through. The little patties are fried on a hot griddle, and served with a fried egg and hot chilli sauce. The noodles were fat and short, and stir fried with lots of bean shoots. I loved both of these!

Egg noodles, rice and chive cakes, fried egg

And then we were off to 60 Road...

Insects!

Insects appear to be popular in Cambodia - apparently they're a great source of protein. I wasn't adventurous enough to eat these, but Deb said we should avoid them anyway because she could see they had been refried quite a few times in lukewarm oil. Have any of you eaten insects before? What did you think? I hear that deep-fried grasshoppers are just like crunchy popcorn!

There were heaps of stalls selling unripe fruit, covered with chilli, and sold with a variety of chilli sauces and pastes, sugar, salt and lime juice. We bought a few different ones to try.

Sticky fruit

Fruits and chilli sauce

Below was a variety of corn I'd never tried before - it looks like regular corn but was super chewy!

Chewy Corn

Below we have some grilled snakes, with the intestines popping out as a feature. Deb offered to buy these for us but I wasn't adventurous enough to try, as I found the appearance a little offputting! (I actually had eaten snake prior to this, back in 1997 as part of a Chinese banquet where the snake meat was served, all shredded up, in a soup, so I have no problem with the idea of eating snakes, it was just the presentation that threw me).

Grilled snake

A bit more "foreigner friendly" were these deep-fried pieces of baguette with school prawns. We bought a piece to try, which came with a lime wedge and a mixture of salt and kampot pepper. (By the way, Cambodian Kampot pepper is The Best! It has such a wonderful peppery flavour and aroma, but isn't harsh at all).

Deep-fried school prawns on baguette

Deb also suggested we try Khmer sausage.

Sausage stand

This stall sold a few different varieties of sausage, including kinda normal processed sausages (like frankfurters), but the traditional Khmer sausage to which she was referring was a skinless pork sausage, made with preserved meat. It had a strong, salty and slightly sour flavour. I really liked it.

Khmer sausage

These steamed eggs were a bit of a novelty for us. A hole is carefully pierced in either side of the raw egg, the yolk and white are allowed to come out, and then whisked with salt and pepper. After this, the whisked egg mixture is carefully poured back into the shells and then grilled until cooked. After all of that... it just tastes like a boiled egg!

Grilled eggs

Now we get to what I think is the highlight - the grilled meats! There were dozens and dozens of stalls selling various grilled meats - frog, chicken, quail, fish, and more. Interestingly, all the stalls up and down the road each seemed to sell the same selection of meats. This was a bit of a change for me from the hawker stalls of my hometown of Penang, where stalls tend to specialise in one thing and the good quality ones get really famous and popular. Here in 60 Road, all the barbecue stalls were practically identical.

Barbecue

In terms of food safety for our sensitive Western stomachs, Deb suggested that we choose the skewers with the least amount of charring, as the meat tends to get re-grilled throughout the evening and potentially the next day (don't be a judgmental douche; Cambodia is still a third world country), and obviously the skewers get darker with each re-grilling.

Snake, Frog

From this stall, we bought two skewers of frog (I've eaten frog before, I have no qualms about eating it), and a barbecued dried snake. The dried snake here looked a bit more like jerky, and less confronting than the barbecued fresh snake we saw earlier, so I thought I could give it a go. Also, when was I going to be eating snake again? Live a little, Sarah!

Skewers! With different types of meat, offal etc.

Barbecue!

Okidoki! After all of that, we took our bags of food to one of the little picnic areas (picnic mats on the side of the road, with thick plastic sheeting as a roof) and got stuck into our food!

You can see the grilled frogs below - these were stuffed with a lemongrass pork sausage mixture, which I think had some cartilage mixed through it. I normally don't like this type of texture so much, but I loved the lemongrass pork flavour so much that it didn't bother me. They were really delicious, and I ate two frogs! (Deb said afterwards that few of her tour participants are so adventurous, muahaha. I'm so hardcore!)

Grilled frogs

In the next photo you can see a little prahok wrapped up in a banana leaf. Prahok is a uniquely Khmer condiment, a salted fermented fish paste. It has a really pungent salty-sour aroma, like Malaysian belacan, stinky tofu, or strong blue vein cheese. I think it's a love-it-or-loathe it type of food, but I loved it! (Unsurprisingly, I also love belacan and blue cheese!)

Grilled frogs, snake, prahok, grey bits of egg

You can also see the grilled dried snake in this picture, and the grey cubes are pieces of those grilled eggs I wrote about above. (They're grey because of the pepper in the mixture!) Regarding the snake, I'm glad I tried it, but wasn't a huge fan - it was chewy and had a fishy aftertaste (this is because they're water snakes, apparently).

Ok, onto sweets! Here are those steamed rice cake cylinders that we'd bought at Psar Leu market. These were topped with sugar, crushed peanuts and fresh coconut shavings. Unsurprisingly, they were delicious.

Rice dessert!

And then we were almost done! We cleaned up, and walked back to the tuk tuk. On the way, we bought these steamed rice stick snacks. They're a mixture of white glutinous rice and beans, unsweetened, and steamed in bamboo. I found these more interesting than tasty - very chewy and bland, when I was expecting (hoping for!) sweetness.

Rice stick "dessert"

But if you want sweetness... there were quite a few cake stalls as well! These all looked very similar to Malaysian kuih to me, so I was ok with not trying these, but I was really intrigued by those big pancakes at the back that you can see the lady preparing.

Cakes

These coconut pancakes are a little hard to describe - the outside pancake, served cold, was pliable but still a bit stiff (kinda like a stale prawn cracker in texture), and filled with sugar, peanuts, glutinous rice, beans, and shaved coconut. They were seriously awesome!

Coconut pancakes

We didn't try the honeycomb, but I thought it was interesting to share. The honeycomb is sold (and eaten) complete with bees and larvae, which are a good source of protein.

Honeycomb

And that was the tour! We really enjoyed it, and I would absolutely recommend doing it. As a food lover, I found it totally fascinating, and it really gave us an insight into contemporary Khmer culture that we certainly didn't see in our hotel or on our temple visits. (Both of which were still awesome, and totally worthy of my precious time and hard-earned money, in my opinion).

At the time of our visit, the tour cost $25USD per person including tuktuk pickup from your hotel, tour guide, and all food. See the River Garden website for latest information.

And now I'm done with the Cambodia posts! Here are the other posts from my trip to Cambodia:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crumpets with Honeyed Ricotta and Berries

Crumpets with Honeyed Ricotta and Berries

So... I made crumpets! This was my Valentine's Day brunch... but I don't think you need to wait for a "special" occasion to make them.

A Mountain of Crumpets

I'd been meaning to make crumpets for ages - Sandra had gifted me some crumpet rings over a year (!) ago, which were gathering dust on our cake tin shelf - but it was seeing Cara's blog post about CH James cafe in Fairfield that spurred me into action. On her second visit there, Cara ordered crumpets with whipped ricotta and berries, which looked nice but were... um... a little sparse with the toppings! (If I counted correctly, each crumpet had exactly four and a half blueberries and three eighths of a single strawberry on top). Despite the meanness of the toppings, the ricotta and berries seemed like a great flavour combination, and I thought that if I made them myself at home, I could go totally nuts with the toppings! All the berries! Lashings of ricotta!

I used a recipe from Gourmet Traveller for the crumpets, changing the proving time so that I could get to my freshly cooked crumpets faster in the morning! I made the dough the night before, and let it have a slow rise in the fridge overnight, rather than the ninety minutes in a warm spot that the original recipe suggested.

Here is the dough after the proving time. I love working with yeast! It's aliiiiiive!

Crumpet dough after overnight proving

To make the mixture even more bubbly, you stir in a mixture of bicarb and warm water and let it stand for half an hour. (This gave me time to prepare all the toppings and fixings).

With the bicarb mixture mixed in

After half an hour bubbling time

The mixture rises quite a bit when it cooks, so make sure not to fill the rings beyond three-quarters full. I loved the smell of the cooking crumpets - essentially it's just a plain yeasted dough (no sugar or other flavourings added), so it smells incredible when it hits the hot pan, like pizza (or blinis!)

Cooking crumpets

I only have four crumpet rings, so to save time I had two frying pans on the go - once the crumpets had set in the rings and were nice and bubbly, I removed the rings, flipped the crumpets, and moved the rings to the second pan before filling them with more batter. It went like this, back and forth, back and forth, until all the crumpet batter was used up.

It took me ages to cook all the crumpets! I forgot to read how many the recipe serves before I made the batter. It serves 12. It serves 12. Whoops. Anyway, check out my crumpets! (Not a euphemism).

Warm crumpets

I put out lots of toppings - butter, nutella, honey, berries, and of course the honeyed ricotta. The honeyed ricotta is one of my favourite recipes from one of my favourite books: Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings. (You may remember I served it with her fabulous whole-grain buttermilk pancakes last time - yum). To make it, you simply stir together ricotta with some honey, lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Crumpets with all the fixins

Crumpet, piccolo latte

Side note: I totally love this cup that I bought in Cambodia at the Shinta Mani "Well Made in Cambodia Market" - so pretty, and the perfect size for a mini flat white. It's even got little finger and thumb dents in it to make it easier to pick up. Love!

Homemade crumpets with honeyed ricotta and berries

Chomp!

Look how fluffy they are! They were also quite a bit more substantial than supermarket crumpets - two crumpets definitely make a decent, filling breakfast. Of course, we didn't finish all of them - I've packed up all the leftover crumpets in the freezer for future breakfasts. Yay!

Crumpets with Honeyed Ricotta and Berries
Crumpet recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller, Honeyed Ricotta recipe adapted from Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings

Ingredients
Berries of your choice, to serve
For the Honeyed Ricotta
250 grams ricotta
1.5 tablespoons honey, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of half a lemon
For the Crumpets
800 millilitres milk
40 grams butter, plus extra for greasing the pan and crumpet rings
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 sachet (7 grams) dried yeast
500 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method
For the Honeyed Ricotta
Whisk all the ingredients together. Loosen with a little milk if the ricotta is especially dry and crumbly. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with a little extra honey.
For the Crumpets
Place the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the butter is melted. Allow to cool until it is lukewarm.
Whisk together the caster sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Add 200 millilitres of the milk and butter mixture, whisk to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the mixture is foamy.
Place the flour in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the yeast mixture, stirring to bring in a little of the flour.
Pour in the remaining milk and butter mixture, stirring well until you have a smooth mixture. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
Whisk the bicarbonate of soda in 50 millilitres of warm water until dissolved, then pour the mixture into the batter, and whisk until combined. Cover and stand at room temperature until bubbling, approximately 30 minutes.
Heat a non stick frying pan over a low-medium heat. Grease the bottom with a little butter. Butter the inside of your crumpet rings (mine were 10cm in diametre and 2.5 centimetres deep) and place in the pan. Fill each ring to three-quarters full with batter. Cook for about 5 minutes, until bubbles appear on the surface and a skin has formed on top. Remove the rings, flip the crumpets over and cook for another minute or so, until the batter is cooked through and lightly golden brown on top.
Keep the crumpets warm under a clean tea towel while you cook the remaining batter. (This also keeps them nice and soft).
Serve warm with honeyed ricotta and berries.
Makes approximately 25 crumpets, serves 12