Saturday, November 28, 2009

Market Lane Coffee

I had a wonderful late breakfast this afternoon (eep!) at Market Lane cafe, Melbourne's newest coffee temple in Prahran market. It was supposed to be a quick bite and sip before food shopping, but we ran into Claire, and so ended up having a nice chat whilst enjoying the coffees. How did I know I'd run into another food blogger there?

Market Lane
Shop 13 Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road
South Yarra VIC 3141
(03) 9804-7434

Market Lane Coffee is located in the corner of Prahran Market where an organic grocery shop used to be. It's on the Elizabeth street side, near Aldi and Fuji mart. Or for those of you who are less gourmet-inclined, it's on the side street where the Chapel street KFC is.

It is run (and owned?) by Fleur Studd, she who loves coffee like Will Studd loves cheese. There are a lot of nice touches that give you a sense that they really care about their cafe and their product.

For example, each table had a jar of Costa Rican Rapadura sugar. It was medium-dark in colour, and softly granular, quite like light muscovado sugar. I don't take sugar in my coffee, but I could definitely handle some of the rapadura!

Loved the chalkboard describing the milk. I didn't get a picture of the milk fridge, but it seemed to be the same yellow and black-labelled brand as the unpasteurised "bath milk" that I have bought at farmers' markets. *Wink wink*.

Oh oops, I only just noticed that there's a guy standing under the "pick up here" sign. A coincidence, I assure you!

My coffee of choice was the Brazillian Cachoeira de Grama, done in the pour over style, for $3.50. This means it's hand brewed using what looks like a ceramic version of a paper-coffee filter, and "is the gentlest way to brew coffee", providing "good clarity of flavour".

The coffees we ordered came with cute postcard-sized tasting notes, with information on the beans, the production and the farms. I told you the guys here really care about their coffee!

I'm not very good at picking out individual flavours in coffee, but the tasting notes said it was creamy and sweet, with a soft orange acidity and notes of milk chocolate, cocoa and toasted hazelnuts. To be honest, I was enjoying the coffee so much that I was halfway through it before I thought to look at the notes and compare it to the actual taste.

Claire had a Costa Rican Geisha coffee (pourover), whilst Barbara had a La Pira (cup of excellence), done in Clover style.

Action shot! I thought the jug and cup were very cute.

What I really enjoy about pourover coffee (or Clover or Siphon, for that matter), is that you get a consistenly good cup of black coffee, without the harsh bitterness of espresso, or the muddiness that you can get with plunger.

At home I officially ditched the plunger a few weeks ago, and bought a very daggy drip coffee machine, beloved by American housewives and only $20 from Target! It's, obviously, a different league from the pourovers and the clovers, but it is easy to use and makes a consistent, clear-tasting cup.

Of course, Market Lane do normal espressi as well.
Cafe Latte - $3.80

Sandra said it was very, very strong. A good dose of rapadura sugar and extra steamed milk was required to adjust it to her taste.

The food menu is very limited, but of good quality - just a few pastries on offer, and bread and jam.

A very lemony, moist and fluffy blueberry friand. I don't remember the exact price, but I'm gonna assume it was about $4.

I was after a proper breakfast, and was very tempted by the baguette, served with jam and Lescure butter. From memory it was $4.50??

Breakfast of Champions - baguette, jam and Lescure butter

Everything about this breakfast was proper. The baguette was crusty and chewy, requiring real effort to chomp down on it; the jam tasted of real fruit and wasn't overly sweet; and the butter was, well, wow. It's a good thing they only provided those 2 thin slices, because otherwise serious artery damage could (and would!) have occurred.

I don't hang out at Prahran market a lot any more, but now I'm really thinking that I should!

Market Lane Coffee on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Victoria Sponge with Hazelnut Crunch Buttercream

And now for something completely different...

Yes, there are a *lot* more photos from Vanuatu to share, but I thought I'd change it up a little. Remember my blog's 5th birthday? I wanted to make a a very funky cake to celebrate, and having just received my copy of Warren Brown's Cake Love to review for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, I decided to try a recipe from there.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote, back in 2004 (can you believe it?!) was about the Cake Love bakery in Washington DC. I saw the bakery featured on Tyler's Ultimate, and was inspired by the story of its owner, Warren Brown, the one-time lawyer-turned cake baker. What an inspiration!

My review of Cake Love has been published at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, so I will just talk about the cake! After much reading and indecision, I chose to make a Yellow Buttercake, filled with Hazelnut Crunch Buttercream.

Let's start with the buttercream. I realised it's a German-buttercream, which means it is a crème pâtissière, with cubes of butter whipped through. Intense stuff.

To get the hazelnut flavour, you heat hazelnuts in hot milk, and let it steep for 10 minutes. The drained, hazelnutty milk is then used to make the crème pâtissière, as below.

Once it's thick enough, you turn it into a mixer, add some other flavourings and whisk until room temperature.

Then you add cubes of room-temperature butter, one by one, whisking all the while. Then something quite magic happens...

WOW. Check out that cream! I have no idea how adding butter to custard results in something that looks and feels like a cloud, but there you go.

The recipe calls for you to crush the hazelnuts and fold them back through the buttercream, (hence hazelnut-CRUNCH buttercream), but a very vocal contingent in my house wanted smooth filling, so I saved the hazelnuts and toasted them in sugar to decorate the top.

Now, the cake. I'm not sure if it was the American measurements that I'm not used to, or Brown's super-wordy, highly detailed recipe, but something went wrong. Look below:
Argh! What the hell is that?! Check out all the creepy vertical air hole tunnels! It was so dense and heavy, and it took forever to cook through (about twice the time stated in the recipe). I think it could have hurt someone if I threw it at them. Very disappointing, but I couldn't bear to let all that buttercream go to waste. Instead, I whipped up a Victoria sponge in 2 sandwich tins.

Humped, but reliably delicious.

I flipped the cakes so the flat sides were outermost, and filled them with the buttercream...

...topped it with ganache....

... and spread it out smoothly with an offset spatula.

A crown of sugared hazelnuts (with a few judiciously taste-tested first!), a little candle, and my birthday-blog cake was done!

I was very pleased with this cake, and we ate it happily over the next few days. The hazelnut flavour was very delicate, and went well with the buttery Vic sponge. The ganache was made with dark chocolate, and a little too intense for the cake, actually. I thought choc and hazelnut would go well together, but I didn't realise how delicate the hazelnut flavour would be.

If I were to make this cake again (any takers?), I'd pare it down a little, and just layer up the cake with thick swathes of hazelnut buttercream. Heaven on a plate!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vanuatu: Port Vila Market

Port Vila Market is a rather wonderful place. Located smack-bang in the centre of town, it sells an eye-popping array of local fruit and vegetables, flowers, delicious meals, laplap and other Ni-Vanuatu dishes. Business starts at 7am on Monday mornings, then continues around-the-clock until midday on Saturday. Yes peoples, that means it is a 24-hour market! Prices are clearly marked, there is no haggling, and no-one hassles you to buy anything. It is awesome.

And now for some close-ups of the produce...

Flowers, Stove Charcoal stoves

Coconuts; Eggplants and Capsicums
Papayas; Ginger

Guavas; Local Nuts
Woven baskets of yams; Taro and banana chips (oh yeah!)

Only 200VT for a whole punnet? Yes please!!!

These wild raspberries were gorgeous! I read that the season ends at the start of November, so we were lucky to find them. They were a little tart, the drupes were a lot finer than regular raspberries (it's a real word, look it up here), and they were also a lot firmer. (Most of them survived the day in a plastic bag in my backpack, without a proper container).
Lettuce and other veggies; some sort of root vegetable
Bananas; Pomelos with the prices written in marker pen

The LapLap Stands

Laplap, as I will have told you before, is the national dish of Vanuatu - a doughy paste of different root vegetables, wrapped in local cabbage and banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven. They will usually be cooked with coconut milk, and possibly a small piece of meat. A lot of work if you were doing it yourself, but luckily for us they can also be purchased for 200VT at the market. There is a whole row of tables selling various types of laplap, lined with banana leaves, and staffed by ladies wearing the traditional Mother Hubbard dresses and hairnets.

Laplap with chicken wing

Mixed root veggies with one chicken wing


Laplap with island cabbage and chicken wing - that's the one I chose!

I was very keen to try one, but also a bit nervous about eating them in front of the locals. What if I didn't like it? Or couldn't finish it? Or just made a douche of myself eating it the wrong way? In the end I took mine down to the nearby park to eat in relative privacy.

Here is the lady wrapping up my laplap:

And here it is!

I opened it up on my lap, and tore small pieces of it with my fingers to eat. This left my hands terribly sticky, and I later realised that you're supposed to wrap the banana leaf around the dough, like a pocket, and take bites off the side, like a sandwich or a souvlaki. D'oh! The dough had a slightly grainy texture, which reminded me of one of the kuih my mum makes with grated taro in it. It also had coconut milk soaked into it - delicious!

The dough, as you can imagine, was very dense. I could only get through about half of it before I admitted defeat. I have come to the conclusion that the Ni-Vans can do serious carbs.

The Food Stalls

Towards the back of the market are several hot food stands, with long benches and communal tables. We weren't quite sure at first how it all worked, as there are no signs or menus. We discreetly asked some Aussie tourists what to do. Each stall sells something different, just ask what's on offer and sit down! It was usually meat or fish, with gravy and rice, 350VT for a plate. (And if anyone is wondering, yes, this is the same price that the locals are charged - I looked!)

Please, please don't be like the snobby old couple we met on a kayaking tour. When we asked them, rather enthusiastically, "Have you eaten at the market yet?", the lady scrunched up her face in disgust and said, "Oh goodness, no!"

I don't get why you would go on holiday just to eat restaurant meals at your five-star resort. I mean, I know we don't all have iron stomachs like me (heheh), and it's important to be careful, but seriously, live a little! Or at least don't look so disgusted at what the locals eat. Sheesh. That lady does not know what she is missing.

On our first lunch-time visit, we went to this guy's stall, for veal chops.
I know, how good does that look! One plate was more than enough for 2 of us to share, and had meltingly soft veal chops, onions, deeply flavoured gravy and a starchy vegetable. (Possibly white sweet potato?) It was extremely tasty and comforting.

I loved his giant pot of stew, and thought it looked so cool! I was overcome with a sudden desire to wave a 1000VT note in his face and scream "ME ME ME!!!!", but I restrained myself, haha!! Anyway, he was super friendly, and letting us know that if we wanted any more rice or gravy, all we had to do was ask.

We noticed that the locals' plates looked a bit different from ours - for locals, he just plonked the rice and stew on the plate, but for us he made it all pretty, with the rice in an upended bowl shape and the stew arranged around it. How sweet!

Next time, we tried the food at this lovely lady's stall.

Her name is Malena, and we discovered that she makes the BEST steak. During our trip, we came back twice more!

She also has some pretty kick-ass chilli...

The top picture is Malena's chicken, with veggies and rice. She said she didn't have enough chicken to make up a full plate, so added some beef. (I'm not sure what part of the beef it was, I'm thinking it was something like knuckle - heaps of gelatinous bits and soft, soft meat). Below is her steak - one large thin piece of beef, with a delicious savoury sauce. Malena also served pickled veggies with her meals, which were delicious.

Like our first guy, Malena was really nice, offering us extra rice and gravy if we wanted it. She also made our plates pretty too, and sat down and had a chat with us. I've been to some countries where you get treated pretty shabbily if you're a tourist or foreigner, and I thought it was just lovely that these guys at the market were so friendly.

Another thing we tried was peanut butter bread. Odd, I know, but seeing those stalls just really reminded me of Penang and I had to try some. For 100VT you get 2 massive slices of bread with margarine and peanut butter (or jam), and a stein of (instant) coffee. Very simple, yes, but it made my heart sing.

Two massive pieces of bread after slicing.

The stein - you can see the stall in the background.


Coconuts are everywhere in Vanuatu, and super-duper cheap at the market! Depending on the size, they range from 20VT to approx 60VT.

These ones below are drinking coconuts. They're a bit older than the green "fresh coconut" we get in Penang, and you can't scoop out the insides with a spoon. They are, however, full of delicious coconut water!

If you ask, they will cut a hole in the top so you can drink it straight away.

This young dude, below, didn't cut our coconut, but I just had to share this picture with you. He was preparing coconuts. See that massive knife he's wielding? I was absolutely petrified that he'd cut his fingers, but of course, no such thing occurred. I'm in awe of his skill!

We couldn't finish the whole coconut at once, so we took it back to our resort, and Steve the barman very kindly cut it open for us. He split it in half along the middle, and cut the flesh into a big spiral shape. I wish I had that kind of dexterity!

Of course, we poured the rest of the coconut water into a glass first.

We took the coconut back to our room and ate it on the porch, watching the waves come in.
Very juicy, sweet coconut.

No thick brown skin on the flesh!

I miss the market now that I'm home!