Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Uncle Tony!

Sarah's cake gets the thumbs-up!

A few weeks ago we celebrated my Uncle Tony's birthday at Asiana restaurant in Albert Park, which is a lovely restaurant with great service, a very impressive wine collection and tasy, inventive Asian food. I was honoured to bake the cake for this momentous occasion - Nigella's chocolate espresso cake - which I chose because my Uncle Tony loves a strong latté.

181 Victoria Av
Albert Park 3206 VIC
Phone: (03) 9696 6688

We got a 6-course meal, which involved, unsurprisingly, 6 small courses served one after the other. I only managed to get photos of some the courses,which are all here. Unfortunately, I don't remember what all of the other courses were, but one of them was Peking duck. And it was yum-my!

Prawns in a saffron and almond sauce

Steamed fish.

Long-life noodles and beef

The courses were all very nice, and provided a good variety of tastes and textures. The only problem was that they didn't give you any rice! All of us were seriously craving it throughout the meal, especially because of all the wonderful sauces, which would have been perfect with a nice bowl of rice. Oh well.

As for the cake, it makes a good dessert because it is not too heavy or sweet. I think the flavour improves if you leave the cake in the fridge overnight. For some reason, leaving the icing overnight (which is just made of cream, white chocolate and espresso powder), gives it a fragrant alcoholic taste, as if you'd added expensive liqueur to it. Bonus!

Happy birthday Uncle Tony!

Asiana on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 13, 2007


Münchner Schweinshaxe mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelknödel

18-24 Market La
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Phone: (03) 9663 336

I have visited the Hofbräuhaus twice in the past 2 months, which is quite unusual for me. I wouldn't normally visit the same restaurant so frequently - unless dirt cheap or conveniently located next to uni, home or work. Perhaps it's my new-found love for all things German, nostalgia for my all-too-brief visit to Berlin last year (photos here and here), or just the fact that I'm greedy as anything and the Hofbräuhaus does serious portions. And seriously delicious portions.

The Hofbräuhaus is located in Market Lane, opposite The Flower Drum and the modern Shoya, and next to the trendy Ding Dong Lounge. The Hofbräuhaus is neither modern nor trendy, but it is very good. It has been around for ages, and I'm pretty sure it's been serving the same food since it opened, "back in the 70's, Sarah!". Bratwurst, schnitzel, sauerkraut, senf, goulash, kartoffen, Black Forest Cake, apfelstrudel...

It is a really fun place. Think - unselfconsciously kitsch decor, including posters of German landmarks, beer steins, live musicians wearing lederhosen, and beer available by the litre. I think they do a lot of parties on the weekends. Weekdays tend to be quieter, with a large number of solo diners.

The first time I went, it was in a group of 8 friends, and I attempted to conquer their speciality - Münchner Schweinshaxe mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelknödel (photo at the top of this post). It was delicious; a juicily tender pork shank with a pile of sauerkraut and a fluffy potato dumpling. Sadly, I only got through about a third of it before I admitted defeat. The second time I went, with my family, I spotted a solo gentleman diner (the type who could only be described as a "well 'ard geezer") sitting down to the massive Schweinshaxe and a litre of beer. And finishing it! Sir, I salute you!

The mains run from $25 to about $30, and you get a lot of food for that price. Why have the schnitzel for $26.90, when for a mere $3 more, you can get the GIANT schnitzel!

Debreciner with sauerkraut and fries.

Salmon, made gluten free. Most of the menu items can be made gluten free, just ask the waitstaff.

Jägerschnitzel - crumbed veal cutlets with a creamy mushroom sauce, vegetables and Spätzle. German Sandra says: The Jägerschnitzel does taste like home.

Chicken schnitzel with real mashed potatoes (none of that Deb crap, thank-you!) and house-made mayo.

Rindsroulade - beef wrapped around a mixture of mustard, cornichons and bacon.

Mum says: I liked my rindsroulade, but I wouldn't have minded having that goulash!

If you have room for dessert, the offerings run from the standard black forest cake to cheesecake, to strudel, to cottage-cheese dumplings. At $11.90 each, I think they're a bit overpriced, but are OK to share.

Apfelstrudel. Unusually served with mango ice-cream instead of vanilla but still good!

Schwarzwälderkirschtorte - Black Forest Cake

Štrukli. I think these are actually Croatian or Eastern-European in origian rather than uncompromisingly German. It is a dumpling filled with cottage cheese and flavoured with tarragon leaves.

We had a great time, eating, drinking, and listening to the band. We left happy - full of yummy food and lots of beer. If you're not drinking, try the non-alcoholic malzbier. It's really tasty. Mmm... extra malty!

On our way out, we noticed some beer steins which were "Free to good home - slightly damaged". This impressed my brother greatly.

Daniel: Woah! Free glasses! This place ROCKS!

Hofbrauhaus on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter and a BBQ

This Easter Sunday I had a little BBQ at my house, to relax with some friends. Having any sort of soirée during the Easter weekend requires precision planning. Pretty much all the shops (except for bakeries and Fish & Chip shops) are closed on Friday and Sunday, so you'll need to buy supplies in advance, or do your shopping on Saturday. (I work on Saturdays, so was unable to shop). I bought all my meat and bread on Thursday and froze it.

I didn't really prepare anything special, apart from an Eastery chocolate Guinness cake. I made this cake, rather than, say, Nigella's Chocolate Easter Cake for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to use up the leftover Guinness from last time I made this cake, and because I wanted to see the chocolate Guinness cake in its full size. The last time, I made cupcakes and a half-size version of the cake, which meant I missed out on what Nigella describes as the cake's "black majesty". Anyway, to make this cake more appropriate for the occasion, I studded the icing with sugar eggs from the inside of a Cadbury Dinosaur egg.

Now, for the actual barbecue part of the barbecue, here is what I served...


15 x Bratwurst Sausages
4 x Super-duper Marinated Steaks
1 kg Grated Tasty Cheese (I'm a classy girl)
12 x Hot Dog Buns
1 loaf Wonder White Bread
Lettuce and Tomato Salad
Baked Feta

For the steaks and onions, I used a method supplied by a German friend. You marinate the steaks overnight with a bunch of finely sliced onions, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. The next day, you remove the steaks from the marinade, and BBQ them as per usual. With the onions, you wrap them up in foil, making a baggy but secure package, and cook them like that on the BBQ. This combination of steaming and barbecueing makes them meltingly tender.

The baked feta, the idea for which came from the same friend, follows a similar principle. Take a wide, flattish piece of feta, and wrap it up in foil with a little bit of oil, paprika and a sliced pickled chilli. (Available in any supermarket next to the jalapenos). Then place it on the barbecue, and cook until heated through and soft. This was delicious!! It was also a good vegetarian alternative for my cousin who doesn't eat red meat.

Check out the Living Kitchen cake dome. I bought it for my parents for Christmas, and it has made a welcome addition to our kitchen table. Perfect for serving pretty cakes, or just to house the random half-loaves and rolls of bread that we seem to accumulate each week.

The cake really does look nice when it is baked in a large tin. It looks very black and dramatic in such a large size. It is sweet though, so thin slices are essential.

Happy Easter everybody!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Coca-Cola Brownies

Earlier this week my work was giving away some free cookbooks to the staff, (I know, SCORE!), and I picked up this fabulous little book: The Ultimate Brownie Book, by Bruce Weinstein. It's got dozens of brownie recipes in it - blondies, applesauce brownies, cheesecake brownies, frostings, brownie waffles, brownie pancakes, low fat brownies (but seriously, what is the point?), black and white brownies...

... but the one that caught my eye was the recipe for coca-cola brownies. I've made coca-cola cupcakes many times before, and always loved them, so I was very keen to try these brownies. Unlike Nigella's coca-cola cupcakes, you don't melt the butter with coke and then add the other ingredients. Rather, you make the brownies like an ordinary cake, creaming the butter and sugar, then adding eggs, melted chocolate, and then the dry ingredients. At the end, you fold in a cup of coke and vanilla extract. As you can see from the above picture, after adding the melted chocolate, the mixture is very, very beautiful. It looks a bit lumpy after adding the flour and coke, but it all comes together in the end.

According to the recipe, this brownie is more "cake-like" than a normal brownie. But... it also says that you can make it more dense and fudgy by taking it out of the oven halfway during the cooking time and rapping the tin sharply against the oven racks. Which I did.

I sliced it while it was still warm, let it cool a bit more, and dredged it in icing sugar. There is a coca-cola frosting recipe in the book, but I didn't have the time to try it. And occasionally, I like to exercise a bit of restraint. Occasionally.

I ate some of the brownies the day I baked them, sharing them with my family and some friends. As for the rest, I packed them away in a container, to be frozen and eaten whenever I deem necessary.

I also served some up as a frozen dessert, with home-made vanilla ice-cream and raspberries.

These brownies were very nice - not as intensely dense as Nigel Slater's very good chocolate brownies, but a bit lighter, and still very chocolatey. As is the case with all brownies, the ones from the centre of the pan were more moist and more delicious than the ones from the edge.