Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are You A Front Or Back Shucker? - How To Shuck An Oyster

Are you a front or back shucker?

I believe that quote came from @theprovenance, a fellow oyster fiend. It made me chuckle.

I absolutely love oysters. I could eat heaps of them, 48 being my record in one sitting. When I first started eating them, I used to eat them steamed, usually covered in black beans, ginger, spring onions and soy. Obviously you can tell that I first ate them at Chinese restaurants. Slowly, I started to try them in other forms, baked cheese, kilpatrick and finally, raw. And I found out that I prefer raw the most, with it's natural "taste of the sea". You can read up about my various oyster flavour combinations here and here.

When I taste raw oysters at restaurants, it always tastes so much better than the ones I buy from fishmongers. It's because restaurants open their oysters on the spot, retaining all the juicy goodness. Who knows how long an oysters sitting on the fishmonger's window shop has been opened for right? And even if you ask them to open on the spot for you, unless you're going to eat them right away, they still dry out when you get them home and the juice spills. I've always wanted to open my own but it looked quite difficult. It wasn't until my Steer Boot Camp experience where I learnt to open oysters that I made up my mind to buy an oyster knife.

Oyster knives aren't oyster knives as they say. There were so many different types. They vary in the blade material, blade length, handle material, handle size, handle length. After much research on various forums, I finally settled on buying the Dexter Russell Oyster Knife. This knife has a plastic handle and a 7cm blade. People were divided over whether to have a flat blade or rounded blade. Both parties claimed their knives worked better. I settled on the rounded blade knife as you can see from the photo below. Also people were divided as to what length is best. Some said the shorter 7cm is better as it works for more types of oysters while some claimed the 10cm gave better leverage. The problem with the longer knife is it's hard to use on small oysters, and that was the deal breaker for me as I love eating a number of varieties that are quite small.

Shucking an oyster is not super easy, but after a dozen or so, you'll get the hang of it and be shucking them quite quickly. As for the question of whether to shuck them from the front of the back, I found the back safer and easier for myself. I tended to miss the front thin lip and the knife go flying towards my fingers. The back is also not without risk so it's best to wear some gloves while also using lots of wet dish cloths to keep the oyster secure.

I attack the oyster by having the knife at about a 45 degree angle and then inserting it at the back tip of the oyster. I found that the triangular shaped back of the knife really made it easy to pry the back oyster tip open. So that's a plus for the triangular type shape. However, a negative was that when I went to twist my way to the front of the oyster to pry off the top shell, the triangular shape made it harder.

I did stab the oyster quite a few times when I first started and found that even when the back tip was unlatched, it was hard to push the knife all the way to the front. Finally, I found it was easier to go down one side of the oyster shell and release the abductor muscle at the front first, which then easily let me pry the whole top shell off. Once the top shell was off, I like to cut the oyster out of the bottom shell as it's easier to eat. A poke around with my fingers removed the little bits of shell, making sure to retain all that wonderful juices that make the oyster so so sweet.

And there you have a skill that I really think is worth learning. The oysters just tastes so much nicer when freshly shucked. Add a splash of lemon and tobasco and you get food perfection.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

PM24 - Degustation Meal Slightly Disappointing

I don't think there is a person I've ever talked to that didn't like Philippe Mouchel's old restaurant The Brasserie, especially the weekend lunches which were the best value in town I think. So it was with much sadness when The Brasserie closed and I couldn't get those weekend lunches anymore. However, when it was announced that monsieur Mouchel was opening a new restaurant, PM24, in the city, I was delighted.

I didn't rush out to the restaurant and instead gave it time to settle a bit before I went. There were a lot of glowing critic and blog reviews, so I felt a bit disappointed when my experience wasn't as good, especially when I was promising excellent things to everyone.

I visited on a weeknight with my work mates John, Jordan and Xiaofeng, who was visiting from overseas. He wanted French food so I suggested there was no better place to try that than PM24. We went with the degustation meal as suggested by the waitress, which I regretted. The degustation meal seemed to be the simplest dishes, bistro style, whereas the a al carte dishes actually looked a lot better. So I may try that next time instead.

The degustation meal started with a Soft Boiled Egg in soup, which as great as it was, I wished I had eaten less than a quarter of it. It was so rich and I was a quarter full once I had finished it. I wonder why they serve something so large and heavy as a starting dish. We then moved on to this very nice Charcuterie Platter for four. Again it was deceptively filling as there were two types of pate and terrine. It was good but extremely rich.

To further add to the richness, we were served two massive Cheese Souffles next to share between the four of us. Oh man, what is going on I was thinking. Everything was so sickeningly rich that I was losing my appetite. Again the souffles were good but we hardly touched them as we just needed something a bit lighter and fresher. Following the souffles were my favourite Snails in Garlic. These were so good, just like the old days at The Brasserie.

By the time the entrees were done, I think we were all completely full already. When the Fish of The Day arrived, a Barramundi, we all just nibbled at it. While the fish was cooked extremely well, it was doused in this super rich hollandaise type sauce. What was happening here. When did Philippe's food become some one dimensional and super rich? Luckily I told myself, there was the lamb to come. Visions of Cumulus Inc or The Point or The Brasserie's lamb perfections were filling my mind. Instead, everyone was super disappointed. The lamb was not cooked well and quite chewy. Worst still, it had no ounce of flavour in it at all. So despite there being three lamb fiends at the table, we didn't get through even half of the lamb and just left it there.

Luckily desserts perked us all up. The Creme Caramel was super smooth and good. The Chocolate Marquis was amazing, luscious, velvety and intensely chocolate. The Pastries with Fruit was crispy and moreish. And the sorbets were refreshing and light, perfect finish.

We were seated in the small area near the front bar. It felt a bit isolated from the rest of the main room at first but after a while it felt quite private and nice, at least at night. I think I would hate that spot in the day time. Service, was excellent and staff were friendly and knowledgeable.

Overall, I must say I was slightly disappointed with the food. I was expecting big things and I don't think PM24 delivered. The degustation meal at least seemed to be quite lazy bistro standards, not all done perfectly either. I was expecting more from a Philippe Mouchel restaurant. I would go back to try again as it's Philippe Mouchel, but if it was based on this meal alone, I wouldn't.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Food was good at times but also extremely rich and quite plain at other times.

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.

PM24 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Easy Tiger

So when The Age's Epicure, thy reputable culinary publication section, described Easy Tiger as below, I just had to go.

Remember the first time you tried Thai food? You’ll have that feeling again when you taste Easy Tiger’s. Put simply, it’s wow. Top-notch ingredients, fresh flourishes, smart service, funky little room, matching wine list: See you there for the Sunday night banquet.

When you read something like above, you can't help but go with high expectations. I love Thai food and eat quite a lot of it from cheap to expensive across Melbourne. I was expecting Easy Tiger to be something so experimental and different. What I found was good, but definitely not like eating Thai food for the first time again.

The four of us, Bruno, Sarah, Logan and myself started the meal with entrees of the Betel Leaf with Prawn and Spring Rolls. The betel leaf entree was good but I felt was inferior to Longrain's. The spring rolls, which I was ready to write off, was very good.

For mains, we went with a Green Wagyu Curry, a Red Lamb Curry, a Sticky Beef Ribs, Stir Fry Chicken Noodles and Rice Cakes with vegetables. The green curry with the wagyu was good, and quite spicy. The flavour was nice but nothing mind blowing different. In fact, I have since tasted a Thai Green Curry at Siam 1 that blows it out of the water. The use of wagyu beef didn't really add to the dish as you can't even tell it was wagyu. The red lamb curry was extremely spicy and I liked it. It was quite a dry curry and the meat was very tender.

The ribs that we had were super sticky and sweet and I rather liked them, but the others didn't much care for them. I liked the sweetness but I guess it's not for everyone. I do have quite a sweet tooth. The chicken stir fry was good, with excellent wok breathe. However, as I was telling everyone, at near $30, I could get three similarly good stir fry chicken noodle dishes at Springvale.

The final dish was a stir fry rice cake. Again, there was great wok breathe and the dish was tasty. I just think that I'm the wrong clientele. The prices are aimed at Smith Street types willing to pay for the latest funky restaurant rather than myself, where I'd rather pay a third the price to eat the same dish on a plastic table and plastic plate thrown at me by the waiter.

Desserts was a simple dish of mochi balls in coconut milk, a clear highlight for the night. Overall, I found the meal good but by no means so unique that I felt like I'd never tasted Thai food before. Many of the flavours are stock standard combinations now. It wasn't the restaurant's fault that my expectations were so high that they weren't met. While the food was good, I wouldn't go back due to the prices. The meal cost about $140 each, with 3 beers on average per person. For that price, I'd rather eat at a host of other cheap Thai restaurants, even if the service and ambiance at Easy Tiger is nicer.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Food is good but I'm unwilling to recommend it as I think there is far better Thai food for cheaper elsewhere.

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.

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Portello Rosso - Banquet Meal

Even though I've lived in Melbourne for most of my life and I love to eat so read up about many restaurants, I'm still forever being surprised by great restaurants hidden amongst one of Melbourne's many laneways. Portello Rosso is such a restaurant, and my friend Hien has been raving about this restaurant to me for ages. We finally met up to eat there when she could squeeze me into her busy jet setting career.

We went on a Sunday night and had the banquet meal. I think the cheapest banquet (which was $40 when we went but is now $42) is only available on Sunday, but I may be wrong. I think this banquet is more than enough food and it's insanely good.

We start the meal with some fantastic garlic bread, where you rub the garlic in oil into the bread yourself. Lovely marinated olives also accompanied the bread. I'm not a big fan of olives so let Hien eat most of that. Entree were classic Spanish tapas of Tortilla, Prawns in Oil and Grilled Scallops. All were great, especially the prawns and I don't really like prawns that much.

Beautiful massive Meatballs (2 each *snigger with childish laughter*) and the most moreish Pumpkin and Beetroot Salad were next up. By the time I finished these two dishes, I was getting quite full already. But there was much more yummy food to come so I pushed on as the next dish was Pork Belly. And these pork belly were super moist and crispy, served with a almond and garlic puree. On the side, there was also a brilliant Potato Bravas.

By this point I thought I was completely done, but then this ultra fragrant Seafood Paella arrived. Somehow I managed to push on...AGAIN...and eat almost half of this wonderful paella. The rice was just the right consistency and had the crispy bits at the base which I love. There were nice chunks of seafood and meat mixed through it.

Thankfully, while the rest of the meal was paced quite quickly (we were on a 2 hour sitting), the dessert was delayed for a bit to let all the wonderful food settle. The dessert that arrived was some simple churros. I really love churros but don't find too many good ones around Melbourne. I would have to say that these are the BEST (yes, big call) churros I've had in Melbourne. They were so crispy and soft inside. The flavour was just that perfect golden brown (if you could taste a colour that's what these taste like). And while most places serve a dark chocolate sauce for churros, this thin white chocolate sauce was stunning.

We were seated upstairs in this cosy nook and I loved it. Although it was cramped up there, I loved the atmosphere and it felt like I was eating in a small tree house with the sloped ceiling. The waitress we had was very friendly and joked and laughed with us while efficiently removing our dishes. She even helped us select the sparkling cider which was awesome. I wish I remembered the name of that cider.

I would happily recommend Portello Rosso as the dishes I tried were all excellent in flavour and perfectly cooked in texture. With drinks included, the meal only came to $50, which is a great price.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Beautiful simple Spanish food done extremely well.

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.

Portello Rosso on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cupcake Central Workshop - Masterclass

First, stare at my foodporn cupcake for 30 seconds.

Have you done that? Did you look for a full 30 seconds?

Is your mouth salivating?

No? You're crazy, get outta here.
Yes? I can tell you the cupcake tastes as good as it looks.

It looks damn fine I can hear you saying. Well yes it is, and I made it.

But you can't frost Thanh? Well that was the old me, who could only bake nice cupcakes but whose frosting looks like someone dropped it onto the cupcake. The new me can frost...a bit.

*** Adjunct: See the cupcake photo, that was shot on my iPhone 4S. Amazing quality isn't it. Love the camera on my 4S. ***

So where I have picked up my newly acquired frosting skill? It was from the Cupcake Central Workshop Masterclass. Thanks to the wonderful Sheryl at Cupcake Central Workshop, no home baker need ever hang their head in shame with their woeful frosting efforts again.

At the masterclass, you get to see how they make the cupcakes at the shop, with helpful tips to give you the best results. All ingredients are on show as Sheryl believes in her products and only uses the best quality ingredients and has nothing to hide. Her recipe, as she will tell you, is adapted from the Magnolia Bakery's and all baked fresh that day. Magnolia Bakery cupcakes are my favourite and default recipe for cupcakes. Their vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcake recipes produce divine light fluffy cupcakes. Cupcake Central's cupcakes are just as divine and light, with the red velvet my clear favourite and the best I've had anywhere (I've yet to taste the Magnolia Bakery red velvet made from the actual shop).

While the cupcakes are baking, Sheryl will show you how to frost them and mould icing. She will show you a variety of frosting styles and does it so expertly that you fall into the false assumption that it's easy. Her shops signature frosting is the "blob" as I like to call it. I'm sure there's a nicer name for it. It's a very elegant frosting style, but you can also do small spikes, flat swirls, ridged swirls or as Sheryl says, if all else fails you get out a knife and spread the frosting on. You will also get to knead icing in various colours and make your own shapes. Then you decorate your own cupcakes, which you get to take home. The cupcakes below are done by Sheryl and her team.

These.....are my cupcakes that I decorated. So I did a few classy ones with single spikes and elegant sprinkles. But I also went fun, fun, fun with a massive big rose and three XXXs.

When you leave, besides taking your own frosted cupcakes home, you get to take a Devil's Food Cupcake mix too. That's what I used to make the cupcake above. The mix is so easy to use, a child could do it. Everything is clearly written and you're given all the tools and ingredients. You just need to supply your own milk, butter and eggs. How easy is that. The results of the devil's cupcake are stunning. The cupcake itself is super moist and light, and the frosting, oh man, you'll be licking that off your fingers. Just one tip, the small bag really is the cupcake mix and the big bag is the frosting. The labels are correct.

The workshops are ideal for any amateur bakers. It's heaps of fun and you also learn something along the way. They can also make great gifts for friends and family as gifts.

Thanks to Sheryl and the Cupcake Central Workshop team for inviting me to the class.

Cupcake Central Workshop on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Point - Exceptional Degustation Lunch with Executive Chef Justin Wise

If you have been reading this blog for a while or know me in real life, you would have heard me raving constantly about The Point restaurant in Albert Park. It is one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne, delivering exceptional food, service and one of the best views in a city restaurant. Chef Scott Pickett was also one of my favourite chefs, for his food and personality. I even got to see another side of the funster when he got serious in the kitchen on a Saturday dinner service. Hence I was both excited to hear that Scott was leaving The Point to start his own small restaurant, The Estelle, but also disappointed that I would to no longer taste his food at The Point. When I was invited by The Point to speak to, and try the food, of new Executive Chef Justin Wise, I must say that I worried. I was worried about what I would have to say to Justin if the food wasn't as good.

However, all my fears did not surface. I feel almost like I'm cheating on Scott when I say, *whispers* "the food is even better at The Point with Justin in charge". There, I said it. The food, in my opinion anyway, is even better now at The Point. That's a tough call considering The Point is already a two hatted restaurant, but yes, that's my opinion. Let me explain my thinking a bit later.

First, let me introduce you a bit to new Executive Chef Justin Wise. With the rise of the new "celebrity" chef, a lot of people, including myself, choose to go to a restaurant based on the name of a chef alone and his previous work. I must admit that I have never *gasp* (how can I call myself a chef groupie) heard of Justin before. But speaking to Justin during lunch I found out that he has been head chef of The Press Club for a number of years. So hence I felt rather silly asking him how he felt about the pressure of heading a two hatted restaurant. However, Justin just answered the question genuinely and said that since his name is now behind the restaurant, it was still more added pressure.

Having the privilege to speak to Justin for about 4 hours was a real luxury. I think through those four hours, I got a small glimpse into Justin's motivation, work ethics and creativity. Asked to define his style, Justin believes his skill lies in using classical techniques, but interpreting the food in modern ways that appeal to a large audience, and above all else, always using the best quality produce in season. Justin has already made immediate changes to the menu and insisting on using the best produce. This though, does not mean he is so focused on the food such that he loses sight of the business side. In fact, he is one of the most business savvy chefs I've spoken to. He has grand plans for The Point and has already put them into action. He is trying to appeal to more females in the main restaurant with his change in menu, shedding The Point's "blokey" reputation. He has also redone the decking in the cafe, changed the menu and working on drawing crowds to an exceptional space in what is currently a mostly unoccupied cafe on weekends. With the lake as a backdrop and traffic everywhere, for the cafe to be empty is a crime. With the functions areas, he's also insisted on updating the interiors, while also improving the food by directing for all function food to be created in the main kitchen. That was always one of my gripes, that the reputation of The Point was soiled when people said they didn't enjoy the food, when what they tasted was the function room food prepared by the B team. Justin fully agreed and said the brand as whole needed to be consistent.

The kitchen and chefs, have also been whipped into further good shape. The kitchen, and restaurant, is spotlessly clean, with Justin insisting that all equipment and surfaces be thoroughly clean in his first few weeks at The Point. The chefs have also been cut into a lean mean machine, with only those chefs who could perform still there; Justin bringing in a lot of his own team. I think the new discipline was most apparent when my favourite apprentice chef, Johnno, used his finger to taste a sauce and Justin pointed out a spoon to him for food hygiene purposes. I'm not saying that Justin is a humourless drill sergeant who is barking at everyone. Instead, at least out of the kitchen, he seems like an easy going fun guy. He does admit, and very few chefs do until you see them in action, that in the kitchen, he is a tough task master. He said he will help out chefs and teach them, but if they haven't learnt it after 4-5 times, they do need to be talked to.

I could cover a further 5 pages about Justin about his childhood ambition to always be a chef, about learning to cook from his Ukrainian mum, but you would be bored by then. Let me say that, despite not having a resume studded with stints all over Europe in Michelin restaurants, Justin has had very sound working experiences as head chef at The Press Club and Maze. He seems to have a very level head and balances both the food, but more importantly, the business side very well. He has long term plans to stay at The Point, so you know he's putting all his efforts into turning the restaurant into the best it can be. It's early days still, but from the food that I sampled and the discipline and enthusiasm I saw, I think he's well on his way to making it even more successful.

Let me now start on the food. I sat down to an assortment of dishes which feature on the degustation and a la carte menus.
The first three entrees I had were

Roasted quail, braised leek, black garlic and truffle dressing
Hiramassa kingfish tataki, finger lime and nuoc nam dressing
Spanner crab, grapes, fennel pollen, horseradish and walnuts

The quail was my favourite dish of the day and that's saying something. I'm not much of a fan of quail, eating deep fried quail but cooked to nonrecognition, but this dish still tasted like quail and was simply sublime. The quail was crispy on the outside, but so smooth and tender on the inside still retaining wonderful flavour. The pairings with the acidic leeks, soft potatoes was great, with the black garlic and truffle peaking through. The other two entrees of kingfish and crab were again light and bright. I was worried the nuoc nam would be too heavy for the kingfish and dominate the dish and told Justin this when he talked about the dish earlier in the day. But luckily, Justin only used small drops to help lift the super sweet kingfish. Crab salads can be totally destroyed when chefs slap far too much mayonnaise in it such that you drown the crab flavour but again, the light touch by Justin ensured the highlight was definitely the super sweet Queensland crab.

As you can read in my previous posts, Scott's Lamb Assiette was my favourite dish at The Point. Justin has also done a lamb dish

Murraylands grain fed spring lamb, charred baby leeks and vincotto dressing

This lamb dish was excellent, of equal deliciousness to Scott's. Three cuts of lamb, loin, saddle and rump I think, were cooked in different ways to highlight each of their flavours. Justin has also included sweetbread and peas. A very light vincotto sauce lets the meat shine through. Whereas Scott was more into heavy sauces, which were nice, I prefer this lighter touch with a softer sauce. Even the addition of a bloody mary wafer added to the lightness of what is a heavy meat dish.

Kangaroo. Uuggghhh I hear you say. That was my thoughts too. I can't say I've eaten any good kangaroo meat before, all super tough charred lumps of protein. I was very skeptical but Justin assured me customers were liking it. I was served the

Kangaroo loin, Tasmanian native pepper, bush tomato, cardamom and carrot terrine

The kangaroo was so tender and had good flavour. Obviously it is gamer than beef. I liked it, but would still prefer a steak. I found the kangaroo a tad on the salty side when eaten alone, but when I ate it with the carrots, was perfect as that was sweet. Bush tomatoes are excellent and people should use it more.

My first dessert (I do love dessert so two is better than one) was the

Candied and pickled beetroot, blueberries, coffee, sheep's milk yoghurt

Oh. My. Goodness. This dessert blew my mind in the same way as Attica's Terroir did. The mix of sweet and sour and texture was sensational. Using red and yellow beetroot and cooked in two manner provided an amazing contrast. The beetroot were the foundation and then built upon layer by layer. There were frozen blueberries, mint granita & frozen mint leaves giving a cold and fresh element. There was a hard pistachio cake giving crunch and nuttiness. There was a raspberry sorbet and sheeps milk yoghurt giving an acidic and sour element. There were soft chocolate squiggles, chocolate dirt and popping candy for a rich taste. Amazing. I would rate it one tiny bit under the Terroir because I wanted more acidity to further cut through the sweetness. But that's being extremely nit picking. It is an amazing dessert and a must try. It's like art on a plate as well.

So while the previous dessert was complex in taste, texture and styling, this dessert was equally brilliant in its simplicity executed perfectly. I had a

Banana souffle, caramel fudge and condensed milk ice cream

So I'm not the biggest fan of sweet souffles. I rarely find them appealing as they seem to be thin airs of nothingness, a bit like eating a Krispy Kreme donut, and I hate those. Now I finally know why I haven't loved souffles before. Restaurants were making it wrong! Justin explained most restaurants made their souffles by just using egg whites, as it was a more stable mixture and easier to make. Instead, the correct method was to use a cream patisserie. So Justin insists his team make their souffles with a cream patisserie base. And what a difference it makes. While still light, there was a bite to the souffle. Lashings of banana is swirled through the souffle and tastes so good. Then to my surprise, there was a centre of oozing caramel right at the base of the souffle. Woweeeee, I felt like a little kid finding a surprise. Coincidentally, that's exactly what Justin said he wanted to do, to remind people of their childhood days when they ate lollies and were surprised with the centres. A condensed milk ice cream on a chocolate dirt accompanies the souffle. While great, I think the souffle alone is all that is needed, such is it's simplistic brilliance.

That wraps up a sensational chat with Justin Wise and an equally sensational meal at The Point. I give full marks to the food and the direction it's going. I believe it's better than the previous menu even. So if it's a two hatted restaurant before, where does it put it now? 2.5 hats is my opinion. It still needs some extra oomph in other departments (service, table setting, interior design) to lift it into the three hat realm, but that can definitely be done. I will continue to go to The Point and spend my money to have a wonderful dining experience. I highly recommend you try out the new menu as well.

I thank Justin and The Point for giving up their time to host me and feed me. I ate complimentary of The Point.

The Point Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Giveaway - Bodum Glass Teapot and Glass Cups

As I wrote in my post for Dahon Tea Lounge, there's a severe lack of tea lounges in Melbourne. While Melbourne is well known for it's coffee culture and you could visit a different cafe each day for a year and drink a great coffee, you would be hard pressed to say the same for tea for a one week duration. As I'm Asian, I really love my tea. And by tea, I'm not talking about Vanilla Creme Brulee flavoured tea. I like my tea to be from actual tea leaves that I put into a teapot or cup and taste of the real leaves. I love Asian teas the most. Give me green, red, black, white and flower teas any day. I drink 2-3 big glasses of tea every day without fail.

When I was asked by Kitchenware Direct if I wanted to road test any Bodum kitchenware, I gladly accepted. I picked a super funky glass teapot and double walled glass tea cups.

Let me start with the teapot. It's a really fine glass teapot, so looks amazing. It holds 4 cups of tea (about a litre I think) and has a stainless steel strainer with a plunger, like a coffee infuser. The strainer forms a seal with the pot, and the plunger forms a seal inside the strainer. What this means is that you can put the tea leaves into your pot, and when it has gotten to the concentration you want, you push the plunger down and it seals around the tea and stops it brewing. Genius. I don't like super thick tea so I really love this feature. But you know what the best feature of this pot is, IT DOESN'T FREAKING DRIP. Seriously, I've lost count of the number of times I've cursed at teapots because they dribble more than a 6 month old baby. How hard is it to design a spout that doesn't drip. I mean, I've seen it in some pots so it's definitely possible.

To drink the tea, you can use the double walled glasses. They are all hand blown so there's a unique look and feel to every glass. I love how they look and the double walls really do work in keeping them cool enough to hold when there's hot tea in it. I also use them to eat yoghurt and ice cream. I guess if you really must, you can use them for coffee too.



Thank you for your wonderful entries. I've learnt the following from everyone

* I don't want to be near Vivian when there are animals around
* A lot of you seem to have fears based on bad childhood experiences
* I now know the word "scandalicious"
* I think Georgia and Karen are even more accident prone than I am
* Kim can spell her way through a tap dance
* I don't ever want to be stepped over by a cow

After all of those fun stories, the random lucky winner is....Agnes.

So here's the deal. You see the teapot and two glasses in the photos, well, you can win them.


How do you enter I hear you asking loudly? As I love finding out more about people and their weird ways, just post a comment below and tell me anything about yourself. One random winner will be drawn.

For example, you can tell me how you hate traffic light car windshield washers, or tell me about how you placed 1st in your grade 4 chess tournament, or that you were once on Deal or No Deal. Oh wait, that's all me. Tell me something about you.

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via Twitter, a blog or an email. If you don't want to publish your email in the comments, please email me at and let me know which comment was yours. If I do not hear back from you after 2 days upon contacting you, I will redraw the prize.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Australian readers only.
- Competition closes Wednesday November 23rd 9pm AEST. The winners will be announced on Thursday 24th and published on this same post.
- I will contact the winner directly to inform if you have won.

Thanks to Kitchenware Direct for providing the prizes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Passionfruit Melting Moments - Bill Granger Recipe

Having flicked through Bill Granger's books before, I knew that his recipes were quite simple. I used to think that equated to not being tasty, but when we did the Bill Granger Holiday cooking the books, I found some of the dishes quite good. I gave the Holiday book a more thorough read and when I saw the Passionfruit Melting Moments, I knew I had to try making them.

I have made melting moments before when I first started to bake. The results were awful. Dry, tasteless pieces of pastry. However, fast forward 4 years and my baking skills have improved immensely. I found this recipe to be super easy to make. And the results, magnificent. I've made these over 10 times now and always get people asking me what the "secret" is. I tell them there's no secret, just butter, flour, icing sugar and cornflour. Bill writes that he doesn't use custard powder in his recipe as the flavour and texture is compromised for the sake of the colour. I haven't tried adding custard powder to see what it tastes like, but definitely the colour is more muted rather than the fluorescent yellow you see in cafes. Taste wise, these melting moments are sensational. They're very short and crumbly and go perfectly with the passionfruit cream. I've made them as Christmas gifts and other gifts and people love them.

Tips wise, I recommend a few things:
- Do not overbake them. They will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven. So when they have the slightest hint of colour, take them out immediately. They taste far nicer without that slight burnt flavour.
- Try to divide the batter evenly into small balls otherwise some will burn while others are not yet cooked. I find it easiest to place all the balls on the tray and then with my fork continuously being dipped in flour, squash them all in one go.
- They're extremely fragile once baked so handle them carefully. Get them off the tray immediately and onto a rack to cool down.
- A little bit of passionfruit cream goes a long way. Don't try to put too much icing in. Just the smallest teaspoon of icing is enough.
- I used canned passionfruit so it's a bit sweeter but that seems to work perfectly. Strain the seeds out of the passionfruit pulp and just use the flesh as you don't want chunky bits in the biscuits.
- I find the biscuits keep well in an air tight container for about a week, if they last that long. I usually make 3 batches at once rather than just one batch.

I hope you enjoy these as much as my friends and I do. They are so easy to make and I'm sure you will have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. I always keep two cans of passionfruit handy in the pantry at all times when I'm in need of an "emergency" hit of sugar.

Passionfruit Melting Moments
From Bill Granger Holiday book.
Makes about 15.


250g unsalted butter, softened
60g icing sugar
225g plain flour
80g cornflour

Passionfruit Cream

60g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
1 tablespoon passionfruit pulp, strained to remove seeds


1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
3. Sift together flour and cornflour, add to butter mixture and beat well.
4. With floured hands, take a small tablespoon of mixture and roll into balls. Put balls onto tray and flatter slightly with the back of a fork dipped in flour.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden, then cool on a rack.

To make the passionfruit cream

1. Beat the butter until completely smooth.
2. Gradually add sifted icing sugar and continue beating until smooth and creamy.
3. Add the passionfruit pulp and beat well.

Assemble the melting moments by sandwiching the passionfruit cream between two biscuits.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Cooking The Books - David Chang's Momofuku

In the continuing Cooking The Books (CTB) meetups, someone, let's call her Penny for arguments sake, suggested that we try David Chang's Momofuku. While a challenge sounded like a good idea before looking at the book, once we all saw the recipes, we were cursing like mad. All the recipes took numerous days to make and lots of ingredients, some hard to find. Anyway, we soldiered along and did our best.

You can check out previous Cooking The Books meetups below:
Cooking The Books - Jamie's America
Cooking The Books - Bill Granger's Holiday
Cooking The Books - David Thompson's Thai Street Food
Cooking The Books - Nigella's Kitchen

The cast for this meetup were:
Michele, Cherrie, Agnes, Kat, April, I-Hua, April and Penny.

Here is what David Chang's Momofuku book looks like. A simple cover masks the complexity that lies beneath it.

I chose the easiest recipe I could find in the book, the Pan Roasted Rib Eye steak. As it was, the flavours of the steak were good but I overcooked it so that it was a tad dry. In contrast to my dry steak, Kat made a delicious Hanger Steak with red kimchi puree. The hanger steak was so tender and moist and had a wonderful flavour. I must try to get my hand on hangar steak from the butcher and cook it in future. Kat also made some brussels sprouts with bacon, which weren't too bad. Penny went for a high difficulty task and made Brick Chicken. This required boning out a whole chicken, not easy. It tasted good, but I didn't think it was worth the effort. For me personally, I'd rather just roast a chicken on the bones and get a similar result.

Pork featured a lot. Agnes made the Pork Buns, roasted pork belly sandwiched inside mantous with pickled cucumber and hoi sin sauce. It was indeed good, but I think the buns themselves were more a highlight for me rather than the pork. The way the pork was cooked is inferior to simply roasting it with an oven and getting that crispy crackling.

April also made a pork dish, Pork Sausage with fish sauce vinaigrette. The pork is like Vietnamese nam, minced pork mixed with herbs and spices. The dish was quite good, but inferior to Vietnamese nam which is grilled on a BBQ to give a wonderful smokey flavour and eaten in the same way wrapped in lettuce and with a fish sauce vinaigrette.

I-Hua outdid herself and contributed with three dishes. A Roasted Rice Cake was good, but it was the Pork Belly with mustard seed sauce and Momofuku Ramen that stole the day for me. The pork belly was pickled I believe, so had a sour note to it. Eaten with the pickled vegetable, it was a slow burning dish that got more and more addictive. The ramen on the other hand, was sublime and sensational from the outset. The broth was extremely rich, the way I like it.

We finally get to desserts, my favourite part of every meal. There was much anticipation as Michele and Cherrie had spent two days to make Cereal Milk and Fried Apple Pie. On paper these things had me drooling. However, the final results were a case of trying to reinvent a classic that failed for me. The cereal milk was a funny sour tasting thing and the caramelised corn flakes and avocado puree didn't really make it any better.

With the Fried Apple Pie with Cinnamon Dust, Miso Butterscotch and Sour Cream, again I was underwhelmed. The frying really didn't add anything to the dish. The traditional method of baking a pie means the apples are much softer and the pastry equally crisp. You can't go wrong with cinnamon and apple pie, but the miso butterscotch sauce was a weird thing that didn't work. Sour cream is not nearly as good as vanilla ice cream.

Finally, when you're out in the wild, beware of bloggers that attack....with their cameras.

So that wraps up another meetup. While there was much anticipation regarding the Momofuku recipes, I found that quite a few of them paled in comparison to similar dishes cooked in more traditional methods for less effort. Maybe our execution wasn't up to scratch and I'll only know if I get a chance to dine at the restaurant. But for now, I'm happy to bake my apple pie and eat it with ice cream.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Christmas In July

Christmas. What does it mean for most people? Celebration of Christ, reconnecting with family, exchanges of presents, a time to review the year that's passed. Well for me, Christmas definitely means food, and lots of it. So imagine the wonderful idea of Christmas in July. A perfect excuse to eat indulgent food and drink lots of alcohol.

So when Agnes and Kat decided to have a Christmas in July party, I was there. Others to come along were Kat, I-Hua, Adrian and Celeste. My post on this wonderful gathering is so late that it's now relevant to use a guide for food ideas for the real Christmas. See, I knew what I was doing.

Our wonderful Christmas in July hosts, Agnes "Nigella" Sporkette and Kat "I don't want my photo on any blog so take MiniKat instead" Spatula.

We decided to go all traditional food for this event. That was fine with me, as it meant wonderful meaty items like Roast Pork with Crackling, Turkey Drumsticks and succulent Roast Chickens. Look at the beautiful butt on that chick.....en hehe. I'm available for hire as a comedian for any parties or corporate events.

If you must, you can have some vegetables too. Red Cabbage with Apples, Carrots in White Sauce, Minted Peas and "the Devil's vegetable" Brussels Sprouts disguised in bacon bits. Lastly, maybe you can try some Roast Potatoes baked in duck fat. Technically that's still a vegetable right? Yummmm.

If you're a talented cook like Agnes, you can also make a wonderfully delicious chestnut stuffing that you can serve as well. Look how enticing all the food looks. Wash downs all the amazing food with some egg nogg and mulled wine, or any alcoholic beverage of your choice really.

If all your efforts don't go so well, just douse it all in alcohol and set the food on fire. It's sure to make it delicious.

Huge thanks to the wonderful hosts Agnes and Kat. I hope the real Christmas meals are as good as this one.