Saturday, March 22, 2008

World's Greatest Shave - The Aftermath

Well here are the results after the World's Greatest Shave. I managed to raise over $200 so thank you to everyone that sponsored me. It's still not too late to put in a sponsorship. If you want to donate some money to the Leukaemia Foundation, follow the link.

Donate Money To Leukaemia Foundation

So here I am with a full head of hair.

And then there was none.

And in between I had this happening mohawk.

Basque Tapas and Wine

Basque Tapas and Wine is located on Chapel Street but at the Windsor end, towards Princes Highway. I went to Basque Tapas and Wine at lunch time and it was extremely quiet. It was extremely hot that day.

We walked into the restaurant and asked for a table. The waitress said we could choose any, so we chose one near the window and inside a bit so it was cool from the air conditioning. The interior would feel very cool at night, when its full of people and noise. It is defintely more like a bar than a restaurant. I could imagine live music in there and people standing at the bar drinking.

A look at the menu showed lots of tapas and some racion. Quite a lot on the menu sounded good so we decided to try the tasting plate, which the waitress said would contain a lot of the tapas on the menu. We also ordered a couple of tapas and fortunately, those did not double up on the tasting plate.

The Twice Cooked Pork with Apple was delicious. The crunchy skin contrasted with the very moist soft pork. The Lamb Meatballs was good too, with spiced meatballs covered in a tomatoe puree.

The Tasting Plate contained a lot, some were hits and others misses. I liked the Slow Cooked Beef so that it was still very pink. It was nice and moist. The prosciutto was good. The Fried Baby Squid was not good. It tasted very salty and chewy. Goats cheese was nice. My favourite thing were these Falafel type things with a chilli sauce. It totally worked and was the best thing on the platter. The Fried Squid was too oily. The Soft Shell Crab was also too oily and the red cabbage lettuce under it smelt and tasted like it had been doused with sulphuric acid, totally disgusting. Potatoe cubes and a corn ball were good. I don't like olives so didn't touch those.

The desserts were quite good too. The churros were good if you totally doused them in chocolate. Otherwise, I could taste the flouryness (ok I made up this word but you get what I mean) of it. The churros had also exploded (not the right temperature of oil causes this I think) and all looked like pregnant seahorses. The other three items on the Dessert Plate were all too sweet and not that good.

Service was good, as they weren't many customers. There wasn't an atmosphere to speak of due to it being lunch time. The price is a bit too expensive I thought, for lunch anyway. I think I might come back for a dinner, as there are definitely some good dishes on the menu.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Some good dishes.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Basque Tapas & Wine on Urbanspoon

Little Lamb - Part 3

I suggested a dinner with my work mates. It needed to be fairly close and cheap, so I suggested Little Lamb. It turned out to be a very good choice. Everyone enjoyed the food and it was nice and cheap. For a thorough review, go read my first post about it. I'm happy to report that service is still excellent. They brought out the food really quickly and requests were quickly fulfilled. Only a slight mix up with a baby being charged was the only problem of the night. It is a huge contrast to Sichuan Restaurant on the other side of Box Hill. The service at Sichuan was terrible, the choice of food so limited, no deesert, and to have a private room cost $15. We had a private room at Little Lamb since there was 10 of us and it didn't cost any extra. There was also air conditioning in that room which we could control so didn't get too hot. Such contrast in food and service and Little Lamb is cheaper even. So do yourself a favour, if you want all you can eat hot pot, go to Little Lamb and avoid Sichuan Restaurant.

Little Lamb on Urbanspoon

Lygon Charcoal Grill and Steakhouse

My friend had told me about the great Wagyu steak he had at Lygon Charcoal Grill and Steakhouse. Shortly after hearing about it, I tried a Wagyu steak at Ishiya Stonegrill and totally loved it. Hence, while I happened to be in Lygon, I met up with my friend to try some of the Wagyu at Charcoal Grill.

Despite what their online menu says, they do serve grade 7+ Wagyu steaks in two sizes. The 300g steak is $60 while the 400g size is $70. It is a lot for a steak, but we are talking Wagyu here. Rockpools grade 9+ Wagyu is $110 for only 200g as a comparison.

It was a very warm night so we asked for a table outside. Strangely, the outside area has plastic surrounding the tables so you didn't the full effect of the atmosphere of the street. This is good and bad. Good because it isolates all the noise outside, but that is also the bad side. I would prefer to have all the noise of the street given a choice.

A quick look at the menu and none of the entrees really captured me. Steak was going to be the highlight so we both got the Wagyu, done medium. A serving of chips was ordered, as well as some diced uncooked onions. My friend said that the onions really bring out the flavour. I rarely eat raw onions, although strangely I love it with Beef Tataki. Hence it never really occurred to me to try it with cooked steak.

Our waitress was fantastic. She had a strong Irish accent so we had to concentrate to understand what she was saying, but otherwise she was efficient and friendly. Also, when she noticed me snapping photos, she asked if she could help us take a photo. Now that is good service, noticing a need from the customer and addressing it without needing to be asked. She helped us take a photo and then went to get our meals. The other times when a waiter had shown some initiative were at Madame Sousou when a waiter got my friend a free honey and lemon drink since he was coughing really badly and at Isthmus of Kra where again the waiter offered to help take a photo. Why can't more service be like this. Service should be good at all places, not just restaurants where you pay a premium for the food.

Our steaks were served very simply with a mash and some chargrilled vegetables. We both didn't want any sauce as we wanted to taste the steak. And boy was the steak good. It was melt in your mouth stuff. The charcoal flavours gave it some more ooomph. But otherwise, the meat with its oils was so yummy. A little bit of salt on it just brought out more flavours. I tried some of the raw onions and again it helped to lift the steak even more. The steak was very filling, probably the fatty parts helped to make you full quite quickly.

We drank our wines and soaked up the residual taste of the steak and the atmosphere. It was Grand Prix time and I have never seen so many Ferrari's in my life. There were red, yellow and black Ferrari's zooming up and down Lygon street.

As we walked back towards the car, my friend said I had to see this bar on Faraday street. I immediately knew the bar he was talking about. I said "it's the one with all the gold statues right?". So we walked to Il Duce Si Diventa. I had never been in, nor had my friend, so I said, let's go in and have a drink. Before our drink though, we went downstairs to look around, then to the second ground level room and finally upstairs. Then we got our drinks and settled in the room upstairs. It really is sensory overload. You don't know where to look. At every corner there is something strange to look at. We even managed to find and read some books about Dictators of History. Totally ecletic place that you can't help but smile at. I even posed for a photo with a headless statue. I looked so silly and sheepish in that photo, so I'm not showing it.

Back to Lygon Charcoal Grill and Steakhouse. The steaks were delicious and the service was very good. I don't know what the atmosphere inside is like but it was slighted muted outside for my liking due to having those plastic around the perimeter of the tables. Otherwise, a very enjoyable dining experience, enhanced by good friendly service.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Steak was very good and service friendly and efficient.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Lygon Charcoal Grill & Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Korea Gardens - Part 3

I have been to Korea Gardens quite a number of times and have blogged about it twice already. To read a more thorough review of the food, read my previous post. Basically the food is good and cheap and I have yet to have a bad meal there.

Kin and I arranged to meet up with our uni friend Clayford who I hadn't seen for a good year. Jo joined us as she was just working down the road. Here is Clayford doing his best "stare into the distance" look. Clayford hasn't changed at all. In the 7 years that I've known him, he still looks exactly the same. In that time, I've gotten so fat.

We ordered some dishes, like Japchae, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Mixed Vegetables and BBQ Meats.

Here is the wonderful Jo cooking all the meats for us.

While we slowly ate our food, we all caught up on everything, especially reminiscing about the days of old, our uni days. We must be getting old, because only old people reminisce. There were retelling of many hilarious uni stories and discussion of who is doing what and where now. We also talked about where our careers are currently and how it is going much slower than we had hoped. The thing that everyone fully agreed on was how good it would be if we could go back to our uni days and redo that all over again. We were so naiive then about how the working world works. It was a simplier life where our biggest worries were during exam times. Other than that, it was a lot of socialising and being around friends. There wasn't the worry about money or responsibilities.

I think the BMW or Mercedes ad is quite right. If only life worked backwards. You start off old and fragile and not having to work. Then as your mental abilities improved and you got stronger and fitter, you work hard. But you are already rich and can afford to do the things you also want to do. Then as your life progressed, you got younger and fitter still. You became poorer, but you already knows what it feels like to be rich. Instead, youth and vitality meant you don't care as much about money. You are having the time of your life socialising and making friends. Finally, as you have had all your fun, you become an innocent child again. You end your life on the ultimate high where you literally don't care about anything except having fun. You get looked after and finish off your life being totally cared for as a baby. Now who wants that life? I do.

Anyway, I am dreaming away again. Back to reality. So we all had a great night catching up and promised to see each other more often as usual. Even if we don't, the beauty of good friends is that when you do catch up, it's like no time has ever passed and you all click along so easily again.

Hodori Korean Garden on Urbanspoon

Malaysia Gardens

I must have been to Malaysia Gardens at least 10 times, but never remember to bring a camera. Finally I remembered so I thought I would write it up. I have only ever been here for lunch, Friday work lunches. The only time I came here for dinner, it was fully booked.

Malaysia Gardens is located on the Clayton Railway intersection. It is above the TAB. You walk up a set of metal stairs to get to a rather plain looking restaurant.

I have to admit that my review of the food may not be that thorough, seeing as I've only ever had one main dish here. One time I tried another dish, but then came back to my favourite dish again. That's unlike me as I always want to try new things. However, this one dish is very good and nothing else on the menu really tempts me. I can try most of those things at other restaurants, but I can't get this dish at other places, not as good anyway.

The dish I speak of is the Nasi Lemak. I always get the chicken nasi lemak. The dish has a good chicken curry, fried eggs with sambal, pickled vegetables, peanuts, fried anchovies, fresh cucumber and a bowl of coconut rice. The mixture of flavours and textures works really well.

Service here is definitely more miss than hit. You really have to ask them many times to have anything done. In fact, sometimes we just go up to the front desk personally to get menu, water, or ask them to take orders. But despite that, it is good passable for lunch and I will come back for the nasi lemak.

Overall Rating: 11/20, Nasi Lemak is good and cheap. Service is not good.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Malaysia Garden on Urbanspoon

Thaila Thai - Part 2

The last time I went to Thaila Thai, it was a beautiful summer evening and I sat on one of the outside tables having dinner with my good friend. This time, different friend, but same scenario.

We watched the traffic, both people and automobiles, go past Lygon street, the East Brunswick end. There is a real buzz at Thaila Thai as it is always so full, full of unpretentious people enjoying the surroundings, the company of their good friends, and simple, cheap, tasty food.

My friend and I enjoyed a good wine we bought at the bottle shop down the road while we pondered about all things. We had started our dinner quite late (about 9pm) and noticed that by the time we finished eating, we were one of a few remaining tables left. We were so engrossed in our conversation that we totally lost track of time and only when the wine finished did we notice we were the LAST table left. And I could clearly see the waiters waiting to clear up. Not wanting to hold them up any longer (I've been a waiter before and you just want to pack up and go home after a long night), we paid the bill and apologised for holding them up. The two waiters were really nice about it and we all had a joke about it.

Usually, during most meals, food is one of the main focus. This time, food was just a secondary focus. I was having a meal with a friend who I rarely dine with, so we were more concerned with our conversation than the food. We did stop to say, "mmmmm, this is nice" quite a few times though.

We enjoyed the mixed satay sticks like last time. The beef ones were still a bit chewy so I will remember to get just the tender chicken ones next time. The fried rice still had the nice "wok" flavour. The hoi sin beef had the same "wok" flavour and was delicious. The green curry was fiery hot, unlike most places more tame green curry. I liked it hot and between drinks of ice water, was saying how good it was.

The atmosphere was very good as I mentioned early. It is noisy, so don't go here expecting soft banter. The service is good but you really have to catch the waiters attention by waving at them. I have given them the same score as last time as nothing has really changed. Again, I had an extremely relaxed meal with a good friend.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is good and cheap. Come here for a relaxed, easy meal with friends.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Thaila Thai on Urbanspoon

Buttermilk Scones

I had an urge to make something late one night. So I thought I needed something easy and something I would have the ingredients for. Scones popped into my head and I remembered about Ellie's recipe over at Kitchen Wench. However, when I looked more closely, it needed buttermilk. I was feeling too lazy to go out and get some buttermilk. Luckily, as I read the recipe more, you can do a substitute for buttermilk. I still didn't have soymilk substitute that Ellie suggested, but a quick Google search came up with another substitute, just adding vinegar to regular milk. That sealed the deal and I made the scones.

The scones are very easy to make and since you have to squish (yes that's my techical term for working the butter through the flour) the butter into the flour, you could get kids involved and have it as a fun activity. You also get to roll the dough and cut out the round shapes, so a good activity for school holidays for the kids.

The taste of these scones are very nice. And yes, they were fluffy still. I'm not sure if they would be even fluffier with buttermilk. I'll make them properly next time. Next time, I would also substitute the wholemeal flour with self raising instead. I'm not a big fan of anything wholemeal and hence am tailoring the scones to my own taste. But otherwise, the wholemeal does add an extra dimension to the scones.

Buttermilk Scones

Ingredients (makes 10)
1 cup/150g self-raising flour
1 cup/160g wholemeal self-raising flour (or wholemeal AP flour + 2 tsp baking powder)
2 tbsp/25g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
80g cold unsalted butter, diced
100g natural sultanas (or chopped dried dates or other similar dried fruit)
1 cup/250mL buttermilk

I made a substitute for the buttermilk by using 1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed into 250ml of milk and letting that react for 10 minutes before using it. The milk was definitely lumpy after 10 minutes and smelt like buttermilk with the sour smell from the vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and line a baking tray with some baking paper, then liberally dust with flour and set aside.

2. Sift together all the dry ingredients (both flours, sugar and salt), then rub in the cold butter with your fingertips till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruit and toss well so it’s well coated.

3. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture, then pour in the buttermilk and quickly stir together till it holds together, then tip onto a floured chopping board and knead till just combined. Pat the dough about 4-5cm flat, then dip a round cutter into some flour and stamp out the scones, carefully placing the scones closely together on the prepared baking tray.

4. Lightly dust the tops with flour, then bake for 20 minutes, or till the scones are golden and sound hollow when lightly tapped on the top. Remove the tray from the oven and tightly wrap a clean tea towel around it for 5 minutes before serving with some homemade strawberry jam and freshly whipped cream.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had been wanting to make a stock standard chocolate chip cookie, so when I saw this over at Anna's Sharing My Interests, I thought I would give them a try.

In terms of making them, these biscuits are extremely easy. It does take a bit of time overall because you have to freeze and thaw it, so make these when you can do other things and then come back to them.

As for the taste, I think they are ok. They're like a brittle type cookie rather than a crumbly type cookie that I like. I've never been fond of brittle crunchy biscuits. However, a few of my work mates loved these and said they are the best cookies I have made. So it really depends on the person.

A note of caution. When the biscuit dough starts baking, they become like a puddle and really really spread. So leave at least 5cm between the discs of dough to allow for the biscuits. Otherwise you end up with squished square biscuits like I got. Tastes the same, but doesn't look so good.

Chocolate Chip Biscuits

125g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
120g roasted nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds), chopped
170g bittersweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips)
110g softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup raw or brown sugar
1 egg

Sift flour, salt and bicarb soda into a large bowl. Add nuts and chocolate. In an electric mixer, cream butter, castor sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg, then fold in chocolate mixture. Form into 2 logs about 4cm in diameter and wrap tightly in plastic film. Chill for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 175C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Unwrap logs and cut into 1.5cm thick slices. Place on baking tray, allowing room for spreading (LOTS of room for spreading), and bake 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

The recipe lists a handy hint for freezing the mixture - slip each log inside a cardboard tube from a roll of kitchen paper to prevent the log freezing with 1 side flattened. Thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

World's Greatest Shave - Sponsor Me

I will be taking part in the World's Greatest Shave again this year. The World's Greatest Shave is run by the Leukaemia Foundation and all money raised goes towards research into and helping out patients with cancer and their families.

So if you feel like sponsoring me to shave my head, please folllow the link below and make a donation. Any donations over $2 is tax deductible.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gold Coast Holiday

I have never been to Queensland before and had wanted to go since last year. When my friend Keiran alerted me to ultra cheap Tiger Airways tickets, I was definitely going to go. I was going to try and find other people who wanted to go. When Keiran asked if I wanted to go with him, I said for sure. So we bought our $9.95 (taxes included) each way tickets and went to the Gold Coast for a quick 3 day weekend trip.

Firstly, I have to say that we didn't have too many problems with our Tiger Airways flight. We did have to go out to a tin shed both at Melbourne and Gold Coast airport to catch our flights. And there was a one hour delay on our flight back from Gold Coast. But otherwise, it was all smooth. The plane was fine, check in went fine, no luggage was lost and the ride very smooth.

So having never been to the Gold Coast, of course I had to visit the theme parks as well as the famouses beaches. This pretty much took up the whole three days. We stayed at the Neptune hotel in Broadbeach. This was a great choice by Keiran. The hotel only cost us about $55 each per night. It was a fully furnished apartment with a fully stocked kitchen, a bathroom with spa bath, flat screen lcd tv with cable, fully air conditioned, pool and gym downstairs, and a great view from the balcony. Here was the view outside at night. The night times were perfect, cool without being cold.

Our first theme park was Movieworld. I totally loved Movieworld. The rides were all really thrilling and what I like. My favourite ride was the Lethal Weapon ride where your feet are dangling on the roller coaster and you do some awesome 360 loops around. The Superman ride wasn't bad too, with forces of up to 4Gs.

Here is Keiran and I at the Western section of Movieworld.

The best looking ride was this Mountain Ride, with flowing water and a huge drop where you get soaked.

The Police Academy Show was truly spectacular. There were so many stunts and the way they could drive the assortment of cars, motorcyles around in such a tight spot and not crash.

Seaworld was a totally different vibe. It wasn't as hectic and we went around slowly looking at everything. The acquarium, dugong habitat, polar bear habitat, shark habitat etc was all great. But nothing could beat the dolphin show. People were oohing and ahhing at the amazing things the dolphins could do. The dolphin show was thoroughly entertaining, with a touch of cheesiness. They tried to make it this whole mystical thing that didn't really work for me. The dolphins are the stars and they didn't really need to add this story to it.

The waterski show was fun too, with lots of tricks and a few stacks. The rides at Seaworld were quite lame in terms of excitement. It's more for little kids. Even their roller coaster that went 360 was very tame for me.

In terms of food, I found that things were quite expensive. I guess it is a tourist destination and they will rip you off. I didn't really eat anything good the whole trip. It was adequate at best. Food court food was always way overpriced compared to Melbourne. The quality wasn't great either.

Probably the best meal we had the whole time was the bacon and eggs I made myself.

A Tom Yum I had for lunch wasn't what I was used to here in Melbourne. It was also really expensive at $14.

Oysters at a restaurant were totally ruined by this horrific sauce they put on it. On the menu they had Oysters with Chilli and Lime. I'm thinking, fantastic, the oysters will have a tangy Thai type sauce on them. Instead, I get oysters drenched in sweet chilli sauce and this weird grey coloured sauce that I can only assume is some lime sauce.

The Steak was ok. They cooked it more or less how I asked. It was eatable but lacked flavour in the actual steak. There was also heaps of chewy bits that I couldn't chew through at all. This was a bit strange for a scotch fillet as usually those cuts don't have much chewy bits.

A buffet dinner we had at Jupiters Casino was totally forgettable. There was not one item they did well. Everything tasted so strange and even simple things like a roast beef was done so poorly.

So in terms of food, I don't think the Gold Coast is good for that. Things are passable at best, and awful at worse. But otherwise, the trip was so much fun and really good value.

Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

I had bought this really cool looking Bundt tin, and was thinking what I could make with it. Then what should I come across than a recipe from Ellie from Kitchen Wench for an apple and pecan crumble cake, which you can make using a Bundt tin.

This cake is really easy to make. You mix the dry ingredients, you mix the wet ingredients, you add the apples and pecan and stir. The hardest part was peeling the apples and cutting them into small chunks. Ellie suggested that you should use either Royal Gala or Fuji apples. I would have preferred using Fuji and I like to eat Fujis normally anyway. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Fujis so used Royal Gala. It turned out good but I think Fuji's would have been better. Fuji's with their firmer flesh and a slightly tartness to them would make the cake even better.

The cake texture is very light and moist from all the water in the apples. The pecans provide a good contrast. But I just love crumble and steusel type toppings and this one was no exception. It tasted so good in one mouthful with the rest of the cake.

Apple & Pecan Crumble Cake

300g all-purpose flour
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking soda/bicarb soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 medium-sized firm apples, peeled, cored and cut into thumbnail-sized chunks (Royal Gala or Fuji)
110g roasted pecans, roughly chopped
250mL light olive oil
3 medium-sized eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Crumble topping
75g all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
55g firmly packed brown sugar
60g cold, unsalted butter cut into small chunks
45g coarsely chopped roasted pecans

Icing sugar, for dusting

All the pecans in this recipe can be replaced with walnut for a cake just as tasty, just slightly less crunchy

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and butter and flour your ring/bundt tin and set aside for now.

2. Make the crumble by mixing together the flour, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl or food processor, then add the butter and rub in with your fingertips or process till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the pecans and mix in, then set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to mix together, then put the chopped apples and pecans into a small bowl and add a few tablespoons of the flour mixture and toss to coat and set aside.

4. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and vanilla till evenly combined, then tip the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir till just combined. Add the apple & pecan mix and stir through, then carefully and evenly spoon into your cake tin to 3/4 full. Lightly scatter over the crumble topping and give it a bit of a shake to even it out.

5. Bake for 45min - 1hr, or till a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cook the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, then invert onto a flat plate and invert again onto a rack so that the crumble layer is on top. Leave to cool completely.

6. Serve with a generous dusting of icing sugar.

Chocolate Mud Cake

Any long term readers of this blog will know I love chocolate. So when I saw Ellie's Chocolate Mud Cake recipe, I had to try it out. I've made many different recipe chocolate cakes before but hadn't done a mud cake yet.

This cake was really easy to make. The resultant cake is indeed an extremely rich chocolate cake. When combined with a chocolate ganache frosting (I used a slightly different ratio of chocolate to cream for the ganache compared to Ellie), it is chocolate heaven. I gave some to another chocolate cake lover and he said it was excellent. Strangely, this cake really does get better with time as Ellie mentioned. When you first make it, it is not as moist or dense yet. But after leaving in the fridge for 2-3 days, it becomes this dense moist rich cake. So I too suggest you try to leave it for a few days before eating, if you can resist.

Chocolate Mud Cake


200g butter, chopped
200g good quality dark cooking chocolate, chopped
30g cocoa powder, sifted
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
60ml (1/4) cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence
220g caster sugar
3 eggs (room temperature)
115g self-raising flour, sifted

100g good quality dark cooking chocolate, roughly chopped
120ml thick cream

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line cake tin with baking paper.

2. Combine butter, chocolate, cocoa, coffee powder, water & vanilla essence in a medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat till smooth & well combined. Set aside mixture till it is lukewarm.

3. Beat sugar & egg together till pale and creamy. Slowly add the lukewarm chocolate mix whilst continually beating with an electric hand whisk, then add the flour and beat till combined and the mixture is light and fluffy.

4. Pour mix into prepared cake tin and bake for 55 mins, or till a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

5. Set cake out to cool in tin for 15, then remove from cake tin and turn on a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make ganache, combine chocolate and cream in heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir occasionally, till mixture is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for around an hour, stirring occasionally till it has cooled and thickened to a spreadable consistency.

7. Spread ganache over cooled cake.

Phi's First Birthday

The last couple of weeks have been so hectic. I haven't had time to post anything. Being sick as well meant that I didn't really feel like writing up things. But with some more time now, I'm going to share some of the things that I've done lately.

The first thing was attending a raging party...... of a one year old. There was a jumping castle as well as swings to play on. Some of the more solid grown ups got onto the castle and swings and lets just say, the equipment was not in the same shape as it usually is.

Hien and Trung's little boy Phi was turning one. Being Phi's "uncle" Thanh, I was there early to help a bit. There wasn't much to do when I got there. Hien and Trung had all the food under control. I just helped shift a few things outside.

There was so much food that at the end of the night, I even got to take a huge plate of food away. There was Vietnamese food like Nam, a spicy pickled prawn salad, spring rolls, bei cuong, fried rice and noodles. There was also chicken nuggets and fish nuggets. My favourite was the bei cuong, but another unexpected highlight was a totally delicious goat curry made by Trung.

The birthday boy didn't cry all night, until it was time to cut his cake and blow out the candles. He started to cry like someone who had just lost the winning lotto ticket. Despite dad's best efforts, he was still wailing away. Only when mum picked him up did he slowly stop crying.