Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Macaron madness

Pink: Coffee macaron filled with white chocolate & coffee ganache
Purple: Mandarin macaron filled with gelatine-set mandarin cream
Green: Violet macaron filled with gelatine-set violet cream

Last weekend saw myself, Sandra and Thanh descending on Duncan's home for an afternoon of crazy macaron making. Now, as many of you will know, Duncan is the macaron master, so I am not even going to attempt to provide you instructions on how to make them. Click here for a proper guide.

Sandra & I provided a mostly storebought picnic lunch - including baguettes, cheese, Brazillian guava paste, cornichons, salami, and avocados (only $1.25 for a big bag of 'em at Aldi!). Don't worry, gentle readers, I also brought a lovingly homemade dip - Eggplant, yoghurt and saffron, from Nigella's Feast. (I last made it 4 and a half years ago!!!) The guys seemed to like it, so I was relieved!
Thanh supplied the ricotta!

The cheese was an organic Paris Creek Nuage blanc - it was a mild tasting, easy eating cheese. Interestingly, we picked it up at Safeway for $6 on sale (well before the use by date), but we saw it at Leo's for $12!!

Then it was time for sugar overload. We made white chocolate and coffee (I wanted a "normal" flavour), mandarin (also "normal"), and Thanh really, really, wanted violet. The bizarre colour choices were Thanh's too, hehe. Purple for the mandarin flavour, green for the violet flavour. I think Duncan said they were cognatively dissonant.

Baking in such a precise manner was very new for me - who knew you were supposed to weigh egg whites? (Check out my previous ramshackle attempts at macarons here and here.) The macarons were a lot of work, but so rewarding. The white choc & coffee were my favourite flavour - and they happened to be the strongest, structurally. Mandarin was also delicious, and *gasp* I actually liked the violet! The mandarin and violet shells turned out quite wet (I think because we mixed them too vigorously?), and over time seemed to absorb liquid from the filling, becoming more wet and breakable, whilst the fillings became firmer and jellied. Boo. We made about 30 of each flavour, which is an insane amount of macarons to have. No, we didn't eat them all at once, but we were on a massive sugar high, hehe.

Thank-you to Duncan for great instruction and to everyone for a super-fun sugary afternoon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


118 Elgin St
Carlton 3053 VIC
(03) 9349 5008

On Monday, Hookturns commented on my post about the North Fitzroy Arms, asking if I'd tried Muttis, the new-ish mod-Austrian restaurant in Carlton. I hadn't, but I certainly wanted to, and made a booking for the following Saturday. Thanks for the heads up!

Muttis is located near the corner of Elgin and Rathdowne streets, where the old Chinta Ria R&B used to be. (It then became Gardenia's, I think, and has changed hands a couple of times since.) They serve a mix of modern European and traditional Austrian fare, just like your Mutti used to make. The restaurant section is located at the back, whilst the front is a bar. There are some outdoor tables too, which will be mighty inviting once it stops being so cold! (There are heaters though, so fear not, committed smokers).

They have Austrian and German beers on tap (wahey!!!), but I was driving, and we were most definitely there for the food. The restaurant is quite spacious and modern, with red leather banquettes and dark wooden tables. I loved the round water glasses and big bowls of salt (see picture above) - very cute.

We decided to skip entrees, to leave room for dessert. There were some interesting entrees - goulash soup and pork rillette, for instance, which I would have liked to try - but there is only so much one can eat.

Giant steak knife!

Porterhouse steak with garlic beans and Bratkartoffeln (we asked for these as a substitute to plain chat potatoes) - $28.

Fazit: lecker! The Bratkartoffeln looked different to what I remember as Bratkartoffeln - the version I know and love consists of thin slices of potato fried with bacon and onion. This version, however, had the potatoes in chunky pieces, with a sprinkling of Hungarian paprika over. Also delicious. I don't think you can go wrong with fried potatoes.

Goulash with Spaetzle and Kaiser bread roll - $21

I went for the more traditional goulash mit Spaetzle. The meat was a little too fatty for my liking, but very tender. The sauce was spicier than expected, in a good way, and the Spaetzle were amazing! Tender and buttery and flecked with chives. The serving was huge too - even I couldn't finish all that meat.

Now, dessert. There was a choice of four desserts: apple strudel, Omas Buchteln, affogato and assorted ice-creams. We chose the first two.

Apple Strudel served hot with vanilla cream - $9.50

Apple strudel can often be dissapointing, but Muttis version was very nice, and served warm. The vanilla cream was a good accompaniment, with flecks of real vanilla bean throughout.

I went for the more exotic (well, it sounded exotic to me) Omas Buchteln (literally Grandma's dumplings). These were an Austrian brioche dough, filled with plum jam and served with hot vanilla custard. (Wikipedia article!)

Omas Buchteln - $12

The Buchteln were lovely, and I especially liked the soft dough. I definitely want to try making this at home one day. However, the serving was just too big for me, and I was defeated about halfway through. It could have easily been shared between 3. (That plate you see it sitting on was the size of a dinner plate!)

***EDIT: Found a recipe for Buchteln in my Dr. Oetker's Backen Macht Freude book!! Score!!***
Utterly defeated.

Muttis was a great find, and I recommend it for anyone who is into this type of food. Prices are reasonable, and the service was very friendly and professional. I overheard a waitress say that they will be open for lunches soon, and are about to change their menu. Can't wait!

Muttis on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Match Bar & Grill, revisited

The Nicola Six - A girl's best friend - Stolichnaya raspberry vodka shaken with lemon juice, summer berry cordial, strawberries and cucumber topped with local fizz

Match Bar and Grill
247 Lt Lonsdale St
Melbourne 3000
(03) 9654 6522

You may remember that I had my birthday drinks at Match Bar and Grill earlier this year. And what a lovely evening that was. Shortly after, I received an email from the owner, Chris, who wrote:
As you mentioned you haven’t tried the bar and wine side of our business, I would like to invite you back so you can try some of our famous cocktails...

It took a while for me to organise a suitable time to visit - work commitments and a nasty bout of (non-swine) flu stood in the way - so it was only about a month after that email that we got to go. We (that is, myself, Su and Sandra) arrived on a Friday evening, after a hellish week of work, and bought ourselves a round of drinks as we waited to meet Chris.

I had a Silver Angel (left), Su had the Grapefruit Julep (right), and Sandra asked the bartender to make "something non-alcoholic", which turned out to be a refreshing mix of different fresh juices.

Silver Angel - Zubrowka vodka shaken with passion fruit, peach and fresh apple juice, topped with Champagne
Grapefruit Julep - Finlandia grapefruit vodka shaken with fresh pink grapefruit, lime and pomegranate juices and a drizzle of honey syrup

A short while later, we did indeed meet the lovely Chris, and had a short chat with him as he ordered us even more cocktails (eep!).

That massive glass you see at the top of this post was definitely my favourite of the evening, the Nicola Six. Champagne and strawberries, how could you go wrong? You can also get it in a regular single-serve size, if the big one is just too much for you.

Fa'afafene - 42 Below vodka shaken with lime and apple juices, honey and passion fruit syrups and a dash of grenadine
Match Spring Punch - The infamous Champagne punch - Wyborowa vodka, shaken with lemon juice, raspberries, cassis and framboise, topped with Champagne
Sosho Cooler - Finladia mango vodka and sauvignon blanc shaken with muddled red grapes, lemon and apple juices
Big Appleberry - Cognac shaken with muddled red berries and pressed apple juice

My favourite cocktails were definitely the champagne-based ones, followed by the Sosho Cooler, as I love anything refreshing and clean-tasting. I wasn't a fan of the Big Appleberry, but only because I'm not keen on Cognac. What we tried was only a small selection of their extensive cocktail and drinks list - click here for the drinks menu.

We also had dinner there - the pork chop for Su, beef burger for Sandra, and Leon's Original Superfood Salad for myself. That's right - I hear you gasp in disbelief - Sarah ordered a salad. It was delicious and, surprisingly, filing. And all the antioxidants must cancel out all the cocktails, right? Right...? Guys?

.... tumbleweed rolls past...

Well, maybe not, but it's a great salad regardless. I have since googled the salad recipe and have been making it endlessly, but that is a story for a future post!

The "chocolate something" on the menu turned out to be, again, a chocolate fondant with coffee ice-cream, and I was super-excited that I got to have my own one this time!

Match Bar is getting really popular - at least 3 people I know have had their birthday drinks there in the last couple of months - and it always gets packed on the weekends. It's easy to see why.

Sarah Cooks dined & drank courtesy of Match Bar & Grill, with thanks to Chris.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Trolley Dogs and Old Town Kopitiam

Two weeks ago some friends and I participated in the MS Walk & Fun Run, to help raise money for MS research. This year they've already exceeded their goal for fundraising - over $500,000 - yay! You could either choose between 5 or 10 kilometres, and walking or running. I think y'all can guess which option I chose, haha.

So, after our leisurely 5 K stroll around Albert Park Lake, my bro decided he'd make it 10 K's, and did another lap, while the rest of us went to peruse the stalls.

Trolley Dog stand - look out for one next time you are at a festival.

Trolley dog with sauerkraut, mustard, cheese and tomato sauce - $5

Yum! The sausage itself was delicious, and better than the Wagner's sausage stands that you commonly see at festivals here. I also got a cappuccino from the back of a van (a Van Go Franchise van, if you're interested). It was, well, drinkable, but I was more interested in the novelty of the whole thing.

Walking sure can build up an appetite, so even after Trolley Dogs, we decided to try out Old Town Kopitiam in Chinatown. We've been meaning to try it forever, but never got around to it before.

Old Town Kopitiam
195 Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 6098

While we're on the topic of building up an appetite, let me share with you some little titbits about being Malaysian. Number 1: We eat a lot. (Duh). And Number 2: We don't like things to get in the way of us eating a lot. Take, for example, my 40-year old cousin who lives in KL. At his age, and with all the rich food available in Malaysia, you'd expect him to start eating less. Nah-uh! He's on the treadmill for an hour a day (!!!) so he can fit in all the food he wants and not gain weight. (And he eats a lot).

One more example. A few years ago, when I went back to Malaysia for a holiday, I was having a chat with an "aunty" at dinner about how much of a struggle it was to eat such gargantuan quantities of food in the heat. Her response was, "Oh yes, my daughter felt that way too when she came back from overseas. It's probably because you're on holiday and aren't moving enough. You should try doing a bit of exercise during the day so you can eat more at night!" I love it how the thought of eating less never crosses our minds, hehehe.

Old Town Kopitiam is set up like a very clean canteen, and is super-duper Malaysian - from the waiters, to the menu, to the round stools we sat on (much like this one!).

Hot milk tea - excruciatingly sweet, but they were really nice about adding some more plain milk to it.

Left: Kickapoo (hehe) soft drink. Right: I think it's coffee with grass jelly inside.

Roti canai with Sambal and curry sauce

The roti was great, hot and flaky, definitely a step up from the usual roti that you get around town at Malaysian restaurants. The curry (chicken based) had a very homestyle flavour, yum yum. The sambal was very different from what I expected - when I think sambal, I think "sambal blachan", i.e. super-addictive burning-hot chilli paste with stinky shrimp paste. Of course, sambal just means chilli sauce, and this one was more of a saucy sauce than a paste. (Still very hot though!)

My bro's gf Su ordered this noodle dish, and was really excited when she saw it on the menu. I'll have to double check with her exactly what it was; I just remember it had a Chinese name. I hadn't heard of it before, but I reckon that's because she's a Canto-speaking KL girl, whereas we are Hokkien Penang-ites!

Nasi Goreng, no prawns.

It tasted, again, like the style a Malaysian mum would make.

Nasi Lemak with squid curry and chicken curry

This was my one - the chicken curry was the same one that came with the roti canai, delicious. I wasn't so keen on the squid curry - it was a bit tough - so I left most of that curry uneaten. The rest, however, was great! I think it's like $2 less if you don't get a seafood curry, so next time I'll do that.

My bro likes the classics...
Nasi Lemak with beef rendang

Some hits, some misses, but overall I liked Old Town Kopitiam. The prices weren't bad, about $8-$12 for the mains, and the service was friendly and reasonably fast.

Old Town Kopitiam on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 22, 2009

North Fitzroy Arms

Kassler w bread dumplings, sauerkraut & horseradish 24.00

Next in my search for German/Eastern-European food places in Melbourne...

North Fitzroy Arms
296 Rae St
North Fitzroy 3068
(03) 9489 8519

This dinner was so long ago that I barely remember the details; but I do know that we had a great time at the North Fitzroy Arms, which is a pub-slash-restaurant in, duh, North Fitzroy. Catch-ups with my school/uni friends don't happen as often as they should, what with all the commitments of being a grown-up - full-time work, boyfriends, girlfriends, new dogs and interstate relocation, to name a few.

The owners are, I believe, Hungarian - expect hearty, tasty food with lots of meat!

Kassler was on the menu, so I had to order it. *Jumps for joy!* I loved the smoky, salty meat, the creamy sauce, and the sauerkraut. Unfortunately, the bread dumplings were cold on the inside, but there was more than enough on the plate to keep me occupied.

Fried Goat's Cheese - $12

To share between us. Fried cheese = happy times.

Traditional Hungarian Beef Goulash - $23

Bread bowl! Cute!

This one was a special (and thus not on the online menu, so I can't find out the price) - I believe it was kangaroo with beetroot and risotto.

Grain fed aged Porterhouse 350g Char Grilled & Served with potatoes, quick fried rocket & garlic jus - market price

It's almost impossible not to order dessert when a bunch of us get together.
Home Made Apple Strudel - traditional slovenian recipe - $10

It was warm, it was crispy, it had vanilla ice-cream. Yum.

When I saw the cheesecake, my first thought was, "Dude, you've dropped some ice-cream on your cheesecake", hehe, and I didn't think it would be any good. But oh boy, was it delicious! So dense and creamy, with a lovely crispy base.

I really enjoyed North Fitzroy Arms, and would definitely come back again. It's a little bit pricey for a casual meal (you know I am all about the $8 dumplings & noodles), but I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the tasty food.

Like this type of food? You might also enjoy Koliba (Czech) and Hofbräuhaus (German).

North Fitzroy Arms Hotel Haskins Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mexican lunch or "Por que no los dos?"

Where is my flan? I want my flan!

A couple of weeks ago we had my cousin Catherine (AKA Cuz) and her muy guapo chico Mexicano Oscar over for lunch. Anytime Cuz and I meet up for coffee or dinner or whatever, we refer to it as "Cousin fun time" (geeky, I know, but we find it funny). There were six of us, including my bro and Su, so it was Mexican cousin and partner fun time. Yay!

Catherine, a true Mexico-phile (if there's a proper word for could someone please enlighten me?), brought fish tacos (can't stop laughing at that), cabbage salad and pico de gallo, whilst we supplied guacamole, margaritas, nachos and flan!

Here is a summary of our conversations the week leading up to the lunch...

Sarah: Shall we have Mexican cousin-fun-time this weekend?
Catherine: I'll make fish tacos!
Sarah: Hehehe!!
Catherine: No really!
Sarah: Oh, ok! *stops laughing* Hard or soft tacos?
Catherine: *death stare* There's no such thing as a hard taco in Mexico.
Sarah: Oops.

I made the flan the night before, as it needs a long rest in the fridge before serving. The recipe is from Nigella Express, and is super-duper easy. All you do is melt some sugar, and use it to line a dish. The filling involves stirring together some condensed and evaporated milks, eggs and vanilla. Pour the filling over the caramel and bake in a water bath. Ta-dah. My pie dish didn't fit into a roasting pan, so I put it on the shelf above the water-filled roasting pan, hoping that the steamy atmosphere would have the same effect. As you can see from the above photo, it ended up a bit rough-and-ready looking, and had quite a few bubbles. I'm not sure if this is because of the water bath, or because I overcooked it. Either way, the end result tasted good, so I'm not complaining.

And here is the savoury food...
Pico de Gallo - tomatoes, red onions, coriander and lime juice

Cabbage salad with white onions. Notice the matching brown terracotta Graupera serving bowls. Half price at Minimax - love them!

My poor, poor attempt at margaritas - couldn't be bothered squeezing too many limes so I made short ones, haha.

Guacamole - finely chopped spring onions, salt, lime juice, avocado and fresh coriander. Freshly-made guacamole is absolutely addictive, and now I always buy avocados whenever I see ripe ones on special.

Nachos - more "Tex" than "Mex" but still tasty.

Barbecued fish with coriander, olive oil and chipotle chilli. Cuz prepared these and barbecued them.

On our soft tacos (also barbecued, placed in a bowl and then tented with a tea-towel to keep warm) we placed combinations of the fish, the salads, the guacamole and sour cream. So delicious! Cuz and Oscar brought Safeway homebrand tacos, which weren't spectacular, but they were the only ones they could find on short notice. Usually they prefer the Mission Brand soft tacos, so I'll definitely be trying those when I can find them.

It turned out to have quite a few holes in it, but no-one seemed to mind too much. I thought it was ok, as I've never been a fan of that burnt-sugar taste, but the others quite liked it. And my Dad, when he came home and had the leftovers, really, really loved it!! Now I have an easy dessert to make for him, wahoo!

Gracias a Cuz y Oscar y todo por una dia muy bueno! (Y lo siento por mi espanol podrido).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Irish Buttermilk Pancakes

Judging from the labels in my sidebar, you'd think I make pancakes an awful lot. The Pancake-related posts in my blog so far total 12 (not including the present post). Muffins only has 10 posts, Brownies has 4, and Scones, just 1. It's not that I make them more often than other sweet treats (at least I don't think so), but they just appear in my blog more often because I love photographing them! Pancake stacks always look so appealing and decadent.

This morning, I made the most of my Queen's Birthday lazy morning by whipping up some Irish Buttermilk Pancakes. (From Irish Food and Cooking - a book I picked up in the bargain bin at Borders. One recipe to a page, step-by-step pictures, you know the type). It's a simple pancake recipe, with buttermilk used instead of regular milk. I thought it would be a great way to use up the buttermilk I had leftover from that chocolate mud cake.

To go with, I hulled a punnet of strawberries and macerated them in some vanilla sugar and a splash of vino cotto (a syrupy balsamic vinegar would work just as well). And, to take it over the top, a drizzle of milk chocolate sauce. I just melted a small M-Joy sized bar of Milka milk chocolate, and a couple of Lindt Easter chicks and lambs that were sitting in the pantry.
Hehehe... melt, my little chickies!

Because I couldn't be bothered with a double boiler, I just melted the choc in a stainless steel saucepan. I was a little distracted and some of the chocolate burned and turned lumpy (oops), but a splash of milk and some vigorous stirring set it (almost) right. I was worried that I might have ruined the chocolate, but the resultant sauce wasn't too bad. In fact, I quite liked the little lumps in the sauce - they tasted like the chocolate chips you find on the top of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, all melty and crunchy.

Irish Buttermilk Pancakes

(adapted from Irish Food and Cooking)

2 cups plain flour
2-4 tbs sugar (add to taste)
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
600ml buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in a blender, or in a bowl with a whisk. Heat a frypan over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with butter and/or oil, and fry ladlefuls of the mixture, flipping them over when bubbles appear on the surface. They should only take a minute or 2 on each side. Serve with honey, strawberries, chocolate sauce or however you like!

Makes approx. 20 small pancakes

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I recently received some Ardenne butter to try from the lovely Steve @Kirkfood, after he saw that I enjoyed Lurpack Butter with the pretzels we made with Duncan and Thanh. What deliciousness!

If Lurpack is a step up from the homebrand butter I normally buy (don't judge me!), then Carlsbourg Buerre d'Ardenne is in a completely different league. It has been given the appellation of protected origin "Buerre d'Ardenne", which guarantees the use of Ardenne milk, and that it is made in the Ardenne region itself. (Website).

To sample this butter, I decided to make a loaf of no-knead bread. (Yes, I know I'm about a year behind on the bandwagon!) Not sure what else I can tell y'all about the bread that you won't have read on a million other blogs, but it's very easy to make, and the result is real, proper bread! Love it.
My loaf turned out quite flat and misshapen, so I figure for next time I'll make it in my 20cm Le Creuset, rather than the 28cm I used this time.

It's very crusty on the outside, and chewy inside, rather like ciabatta.

Now, the butter...

I spread the butter on quite a bit thicker than I normally would, with a cheeky sprinkle of fleur de sel, sent to me by my good friend Clarice in Paris. Wow! The Carlsbourg butter is very rich and creamy, with a distinctly milky taste. Delicious! For me, simply enjoying the taste of butter spread onto good bread is a very special treat.

Luxury butter + a big loaf of freshly baked bread = dangerously easy to eat. On a quiet Saturday night in, three quarters of this loaf became my dinner. Oops.

I can't wait to try the rest of the butter. According to Kirkfood's Steve it has "brilliant baking properties" - I'm thinking shortbread, pastry, croissants, gateau Breton... but will definitely have to spread out the baking over a few weekends. Stay tuned!