Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tassal Salmon Rashers - Perfect For Breakfast

I was asked whether I wanted to try the new range of Tassal salmon and cook up some recipe ideas. I love salmon, so was really excited to try the Tassal Salmon Rashers. Tassal Salmon Rashers are a thicker cut smoked salmon that you can eat for breakfast in a variety of ways. The salmon is smoked in Beechwood from Tasmanian grown Atlantic Salmon. You can eat the rashers as is, with just the smoking, or cooked quickly. As you know, salmon is a great source of Omega-3 and protein so definitely worth eating more of it.

When I opened the packet of Tassal Salmon Rashers, I got the smell of the smoking and could see how beautifully coloured the salmon was. I decided to try the salmon rashers in two ways, smoked as is and also cooking it.

For my first dish, I had to eat the Tassal Salmon Rashers with my favourite soft boiled eggs. I toasted some bread, put on the salmon and put on my soft boiled egg. Some cooked tomatoes and a few wedges of salmon finished off the dish. It was so easy to prepare this dish and took only a few minutes. It was absolutely delicious. The salmon has a great texture with the thicker cut, with a good bite. The smoking is perfect and I like the peppercorns rubbed on it. Smoked salmon goes perfectly with eggs so this is a great dish.

The second dish I made was to cook the Tassal Salmon Rashers quickly in a pan, only about 2 minutes so that it stays moist. Then I added some quickly boiled fresh asparagus and sprinkled over some feta and there is a fast and delicious breakfast. When cooked, the Tassal Salmon Rashers takes on a very different flavour. The smokiness is still there and almost more intense. Both ways of eating the salmon rashers are delicious and I'd definitely recommend you try them. So easy to use and so tasty.

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Son In Law

I went along to Son In Law in Collingwood for dinner recently with a friend. The restaurant is a small place, neatly tucked on Johnston street among a number of other eateries. The fitout is really nice and fun, with bright pops of colour being used to accent various features. The room is divided into a few different sections with some seating street level, seating a few steps up the stairs and some seat out in the courtyard. The room had a really good feeling and even when it got loud, I still felt like I was eavesdropping on my neighbours conversation at my table.

We shared a number of dishes, which included
* Son in law eggs
* Grilled chicken skewers
* Fried barramundi fillets
* Crispy soft shell crab and tiger prawn curry
* Twice cooked crispy pork belly
* Papaya salad
* Steamed coconut pandan pudding

The food was all really delicious but for me the clear star of the show are the son in law eggs. I guess that's where the restaurant name comes from. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the flavours added to it were super delicious. I'd recommend ordering two serves of it. The grilled chicken had a good smokey flavour and the barramundi fillets good crunch. The other dish I especially loved, and at $16 I think is a bargain, was the soft shell crab and prawn curry. Wonderfully crispy and flavoursome soft shell crab with a great curry. You can never go wrong with crispy pork belly and these were so good with a great sauce. The papaya salad wasn't the best one I've ever had and could have used more intensity in the dressing. Finally, I had to try the puddings and they were sweet and tasty.

The staff are very efficiently and polite. They were helpful in explaining the food and also telling me some recommendations they had. Overall, I had a really good time and ate some very tasty food. I'd definitely come back for more.

My guest and I dined courtesy of the restaurant

Sunday, November 15, 2015


There are lots of modern restaurant fitouts with exposed brick walls, metallic drain pipes and industrial lighting which are all very beautiful. There aren't many grand classical fitouts anymore but Syracuse is one of those places. The room is absolutely beautiful with the ornate details and super high ceiling. It has an air of grace and grandeur.

I haven't been back to Syracuse in a while (there's always something new and exciting to try right) so it was interesting to see how it was. Upon looking at the classical menu, we decided to try the following dishes:

David Blackmore pastrami and bresaola
Grilled octopus, aioli, chorizo oil and brioche crumbs
Duck liver brûlée and grilled sourdough
Dobson's potato gnocchi, porcini mushroom, sorrel sauce and truffled pecorino
Lamb shoulder and cracked wheat salad, broad beans and freeze dried yogurt
Vanilla crème brûlée with PX macerated prunes
Milk chocolate parfait, salted caramel, hazelnut and popcorn crumble

The David Blackmore cured meats were really good and a great way to start the meal. I was looking forward to the grilled octopus as not many restaurants serve it and it's one of my favourite dishes. However, this grilled octopus was a bit mushy in texture and not very distinct in flavour. Far better was the duck liver brulee, with a smooth pate and a nice crispy top.

Onto the mains, neither of us much enjoyed the gnocchi. We found it a bit stodgy and I found it extremely sour, although my dining companion didn't think it too sour. The lamb shoulder salad was much nicer and we both enjoyed the flavours. However, I wish it was made clearer on the menu that it was a cold salad. I was expecting nice hot lamb with a warm salad so felt a bit disappointed.

Desserts were pretty good in flavour but both extremely sweet. The brulee top was a bit thick and the custard a bit curdled so the textures weren't spot on. The parfait was nice but very sweet so if you have a super sweet tooth, this is for you.

I really liked the space and more refined ambiance of the room. The service was friendly and efficient. I think this is a great place to have a meal where you can enjoy the conversation with your dining companion.

My guest and I dine courtesy of the restaurant.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Eat Now Online Food Ordering

This is a sponsored post.

You're frantically searching every corner of the fridge. Nope, there's no leftovers. You don't have anything in the house to cook dinner, not even your trusty Indo Mee packets. You could go out to eat, but you're all comfortable in your tracky pants and you have five episodes of House of Cards to watch on Netflix waiting for you. You have two choices, eat chocolate for dinner, or order takeaway. In the old days, you would go to look at all the takeaway menus magnetised to the fridge and make a decision on whether you wanted pizza or Chinese. That process has been modernised with the introduction of online food ordering. Eat Now is Australia's Number One Online Ordering site and allows you to decide between pizza or Chinese food when you want to eat a restaurant meal at home.

I trialled the Eat Now online ordering system one Friday night when I just wanted to go home and relax on my couch. I signed up for an account, which was really straight forward. The obligatory name, address, email and phone number got me an account immediately. That took about three minutes to do. From there, I got onto the main page, which is really simple and allows you to start your search by entering the location you want to search around.

A search for my suburb of Keysborough threw up a number of options. There was a variety of choices but obviously not as plentiful as in the city, where the Melbourne CBD food delivery options are huge. I decided on Thai and clicked into the restaurant to selection my meals.

There was so many choices and it took me a while to finally decide on what I wanted, adding things to the order and removing them a number of times. I finally chose a variety of options and then proceeded to decide on whether I wanted to pickup or get delivery. As the restaurant is on my way home from work, I decided to save myself the delivery fee and pick it up. I submitted my order and got a confirmation screen, email, and eventually an sms. With this particular restaurant, there was only one payment option of cash, but for other restaurants you can use card and Paypal as well.

I turned up at the restaurant at the time I selected and my order was waiting for me. I paid and took the food home. The whole process was really seamless. I transferred the food onto plates and bowls and made myself comfortable in front of the TV and enjoyed my meal.

The advantage of the Eat Now online ordering system is that it is a centralised location for all your food ordering. I also found it easier to take my time and tick whatever items I wanted and then process my order. Being able to see the costs in real time as I added each item is also one of the advantages I like as it's hard to get a running total over the phone talking to a restaurant. Placing orders over the phone can also result in some mistakes from time to time due to hearing the wrong thing.

An improvement that can be made to the system is to have photos of each item. This would give it an even bigger advantage over ordering on the phone as sometimes it's hard to visualise what a dish is like, or the amount of food, by just looking at the menu text if it's a new restaurant you have not tried. Otherwise, the system worked well and I didn't encounter any issues. The ability to leave a review about the restaurant and experience will also help to improve the system. I would recommend using Eat Now as it is the same cost as ordering directly but has made it easier as you can pre-order any time of the day, not have to wait on the phone, and you can oscillate in your selection when tempted by too many items and the phone operator won't get annoyed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Smoky BBQ Food Using Heat Beads Chimney Booster

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I love BBQ food. I currently own a gas BBQ, which I use a lot to cook chicken wings, sausages, lamb cutlets and beef skewers. It's a good BBQ but definitely not as tasty as when the meat is cooked over coals. I used to have this tiny coal BBQ which did great satay sticks with a beautiful smoky flavour, but the pain in trying to get the coals lit meant I only used it at most twice a year. I made a big fuss when I would use it as it would take all day and was just a pain that the benefits of the flavour was not enough to make me use it often. Hence I'm am over the moon with what Heat Beads have come up with. Their new Heat Beads BBQ Chimney is such a simple design but a massive game changer in my mind. As an engineer, I'm totally in love with the design and the funcationality that I'm surprised no one has done it sooner. Gone are the days where I'm lighting a newspaper and some twigs to put under the coals and then fanning it constantly to get the coals lit. Now, it's so easy to get the BBQ fuel lit. All you do is place four Heat Beads Firelighter onto the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney Booster, light the Firelighters, place the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney with BBQ Briquettes over the top, turn on the booster (it uses 4 x AA batteries) and voila, in 12 minutes, all the BBQ Briquettes are completely lit. You then just pour the Briquettes into your BBQ (a Weber Kettle BBQ in this case) and start cooking.

Just watching this short video and you will see how easy it is. You can see teh full range of Heat Beads products here.

Being the engineer that I am, I actually timed how long it took to lig the BBQ Briquettes and it was 12 minutes plus minus 10 seconds. Obviously if conditions are different (more wind for example) it may be faster or slower give or take a minute. You know when the top Briquettes turn grey, it's all ready to go. From that point, the fun starts. You now can cook a million different things on the BBQ. Depending on what the items are, you can cook over direct heat or indirect heat. I tried a mixture of both.

My first test was to start with my favourite thing, chicken wings. There is no better thin in the my mind than smoky chicken wings. All I did was take the raw chicken wings and put it into the BBQ over indirect heat. Closed the lid of the BBQ and 30 minutes later they were all done. I brushed the wings with some Louisianna Hot Sauce mixture and put them over the direct heat for a minute or so just to help the sauce become stickier. The chicken wings were simply amazing and so tender. My mum couldn't believe it as normally we cook the wings until they're a bit burnt and dry on the gas BBQ.

Next up, I tried some pork ribs. Again I cooked it over the indirect heat for about an hour before coating it in a layer of BBQ sauce and cooking over direct heat for a minute. A second layer of BBQ sauce and some more cooking resulted in really beautiful ribs. The ribs are more like a pork chop texture if you cook for an hour. If you want the meat falling off the bone, another hour to hour and a half would do the trick.

The next week, I was so enthused that I threw everything at the BBQ. Again I got the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney Booster out, loaded it with the Firelighters and lit them, loaded up the BBQ Chimney with BBQ Briquettes and turned on the chimney. Second attempt, again about 12 minutes. On this week's menu was more seafood orientated. So there was prawns (5-10 minutes on direct heat), blue swimmer crabs (I lost track of time on this one but around 30 minutes I feel on indirect heat), Chinese lup cheong (just a few minutes on direct heat), corn (forgot to time) and Vietnamese pork skewers (15-20 minutes on indirect heat and finished off for a minute or so on direct heat for a bit of charring).

The food was all so good. I'm not a big fan of prawns but these BBQ ones were smoky goodness and really juicy still. The crabs were excellent. Normally I boil the crabs and they're a bit waterlogged but these weren't at all. My favourite by far were the chicken wings, pork ribs and Vietnamese pork skewers. These really benefit from the indirect heat as they didn't dry out at all and stayed super juicy and tender. The smoky flavour also really shines through in these items and I love it so much.

Once all the cooking is well and truly done, I used the cleaning brush to scrub the BBQ metal plate while there is still heat. All the black bits come right off so easily. Then when the Briquettes have all burnt out, you can just pour them into the bin, making sure they're completely cold as you don't want to start a fire in your bin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sake Restaurant at Hamer Hall - Delicious Food With a View

Sake Restaurant has been somewhere I've wanted to go after reading April's blog post about it. You know the story, so many new places in Melbourne that you tend to never get round to visiting the older places. So when I got an invite to try it, I was really excited to go. Sake is located in Hamer Hall of the Arts Centre and somewhere lots of people go for pre-show meals. It's also great for a lingering meal as the setting is so beautiful. Right next to the Yarra River, the restaurant gives you stunning views as there are floor to ceiling windows to maximise that view.

Photo courtesy of Thrive PR.

The style of food served at Sake is what you would say is modern Japanese. Use of classic Japanese flavours and techniques to create both traditional dishes and some newer dishes. My friend and I sampled a few different items from the different sections of the menu to get a feel for the overall food style.

We had the following food:
Sushi set
Kingfish jalapeño with yuzu soy
Pacific oysters served 3 ways
Chicken karaage with spicy mayo
Miso-cream scallops with baby corn and asparagus
12 hour braised pork belly with 64°C egg and truffle oil scallions
Seaweed salad
Momo umeshu - poached peach, blood peach fool, candy shards, shaved granita
Goma - caramelized white chocolate, chocolate mousse, sesame praline, sesame ice cream

Everything was of a really high standard and I liked it. Starting with the entrees, the sushi was very fresh and clean. The kingfish with jalapeno was a nice take on a fish dish, with great flavours. I absolutely loved the oysters served three ways, each very different and delicious. Lastly, the chicken karaage was beautifully crispy.

For the mains, the scallops were the real highlight. Plump, perfectly cooked scallops was served in this really silky cream. We both loved this dish. As for the braised pork belly, I rather liked it as it had a very distinctive flavour, but my friend wasn't as keen on it. To go with the mains, we had a seaweed salad, which was like none I've had before. Five styles of really different seaweed was presented, four of the five I liked. Really interesting to taste them back to back and see how different they were and the different flavours you can taste.

For desserts, they were both really different but both good. I think I got the better dessert of the peach with refreshing granita but my friend hates poached fruit so definitely thought she got the better dessert with the chocolate mousse and sesame ice cream. We were both happy thinking we got the better dish, so no food envy.

Service wise, our waitress was lovely and funny too. She made some jokes at the right time while helping us to navigate the menu and provide suggestions, such as the delicious sake I had. I love staff who can do this as they help to make the dining experience even better.

The ambiance in the restaurant is good, although as they always says, some seats are better than others. We were right in the corner that felt as if it was slightly disjointed from the rest of the room. There were three lonely tables there and I was envious of the people near the window. But you know, someone has to have the less than optimal tables at a restaurant so that's ok. Our seats meant we could be really loud and laugh and no one would notice.

All in all, I had a really great dining experience there and would recommend it for a special occasion, a casual meet up or a pre-show meal. Somehow the setup of the space lends itself to all these things, which is a real plus.

My friend and I dined courtesy of the restaurant.

Sake Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Taste of Prahran Market - Great Event

I attend this event as a guest of Prahran Market.

This year, as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I was invited to attend the Prahran Market 'Taste of Prahran Market' event. I've been to previous year's events at Prahran Market and they've been wonderful. You can check out Prahran Market Event 2013 and Prahran Market Event 2014. The idea of this year's event was that you had a book of vouchers, which you use to go collect items from all over the market. Armed with the book and a paddle board to hold the drinks and food, I-Hua, Aaron, Agnes and I started to plot out our strategy to #eatallthethings at the market.

Our strategy was to start with all the deli and seafood items first as they're lighter. So off we went to collect all the deli items. We didn't think that each item would actually consist of so much food, so we had to find a table to first eat the deli items. As we devoured the really delicious cured meats, pickled vegetables and cheeses, each of us would take turns to go grab more food while the others held the table. The oysters were super fresh and so good with the sriracha and lemon. Equally good were the skewers of grilled scallops and prawns, again so fresh. As we were near the pop-up restaurant area, we also go the empanadas. They were good but a bit salty.

Cleo's Deli - mini chacuterie plate
Chaso's Deli - mini antipasto plate
Cheese Shop Deli - mini cheese board
Theo and Sons - 2 freshly shucked oysters with lemon
Prahran Seafoods - 2 cooked scallops with tartare sauce
El Alamo - Empanada with chimichurri sauce (beef or spinach and mushroom)

Next up, we ventured back into the Blanco demo kitchen area to eat all the meats. We sampled everything and I absolutely loved the beef shaslik and the lamb kofta. The meats were so flavoursome. While eating our meats, we sampled more Punt Road wines and Nepoleon cider. The apple cider I had was so refreshing and I really enjoyed the Pinot Noir too.

Gary's Quality Meats - free range Berksire ham with onion jam on a slice of Noisette baguette
Neil's Meats - pulled pork with a Kook's Kitchen salad
Ian's Quality Meats - lamb kofta with tzatziki
J & L Quality Meats - beef shaslik
Napoleon apple and pear cider
Punt Road wines

Lastly, it was time for dessert. By this stage we were all struggling badly. There was just way too much food. But we pushed on and had some refreshing gelato, before taking home the baklawa and chocolate. I had those at home and loved them.

Fritz Gelato - raspberry rumble gelato cup
Abla's Patisserie - traditional Lebanese baklawa
Cioccolato Lombardo - handmade artisan chocolate

Sadly we missed out on the pistachio ball and dolmade as we were just way too full to even more.

Naheda's Choice - Naheda's hand made date and pistachio ball served with Brie
Sweet Greek - Dolmade and Keftethe with tzatziki

The event was such a great idea as it made you explore the market and learn about all the vendors. Everything was absolutely delicious and the event was well run. There weren't any real hiccups and people were clearly enjoying themselves. I highly recommend attending future events the market holds and coming to the market to pick up really high quality produce and food.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pandan Kaya Lamingtons - A Delicious Twist On A Classic

When Australia Day was approaching, I wanted to attempt making a lamington as I had never made one before. But I didn't just want to do the typical one, so thought up an idea to combine both my Asian heritage and my Australian heritage. One night in my dreams (for real), I came up with the idea to make a pandan kaya lamington. It seems so obvious now as those two flavours work wonderfully together, and also the yellow kaya and green pandan would further signify the Aussie part as they're like the green and gold colours people use to support our sporting teams. I've tried two sponge recipes now. The first sponge recipe was too coarse. This second recipe gives a brilliant sponge but it's so fragile that it is harder to ice, but worth it I think. I've included the better tasting sponge recipe even if it is harder to work with.

Flavour and texture wise, this pandan kaya lamington creation is amazing if I say so myself. Everyone who I gave it to loved it so much I've re-made this a few times already. It's a very moreish cake and I find myself continually eating it.

You can eat the cake by itself or serve it with some simple vanilla ice cream, which makes it even more amazing.

* Beat the eggs for the sponge for as long as you can before you get tired of waiting (about 15 minutes I found). It will really help to stabilise the sponge if the egg mixture is thick and fluffy.
* The sponge is very fragile so take care cutting it. Make sure you line the tin really well or it won't come out and will break apart.
* Stir the pandan fudge mixture until the custard powder is dissolved before heating it on the stove. Else you will get big lumps.
* When working with the pandan fudge, it's easier to work with it whilst it is hot but you may burn your fingers so be careful.
* Use a small butter knife to carefully spread the pandan fudge onto the lamgintons.


I used the CWA recipe.

125g butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup self raising Flour
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1) Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, add eggs one at a time. Add flour alternatively with milk.
2) Pour mix into a greased lamington slab tin, 24cm by 30cm, and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. I found about 180C in my fan forced oven worked well.
3) After it's thoroughly cooled cut into 6cm square pieces. Wrap cake in foil and put in the fridge while you make the fudge.

I used my usual pandan fudge icing

600g coconut cream (99% or 100% stuff, look on label)
80g caster sugar
20g custard powder
1/2 tsp pandan paste or more to taste
Dessicated coconut to decorate

1) Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.
2) Stir till it thickens.

1 jar of kaya jam
1 bag of dessicated coconut
20 pieces of 6cm square sponge
1 serve of pandan fudge icing

1) Pour the whole bag of dessicated coconut into a big tray read to be used.
2) Take a piece of sponge cake and spread it thickly with a kaya jam. I just use a store bought one but you can make it yourself if you wish. Put another piece on top of the first sponge, creating a sandwich of sponge with the kaya in between.
3) Using a small butter knife, spread the pandan fudge all over the sponge sandwich.
4) Place the pandan iced sponge into the tray of dessicated coconut and cover liberally with coconut.
5) Place the finished lamington onto some baking paper to let it cool before serving.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Highline Restaurant at The Railway Hotel Windsor - Fantastic Meal

My friend and I dined courtesy of the Highline Restaurant.

Expectations can sometimes dictate how good you perceived a meal to be. If you go in with super high expectations, more likely that not you will get disappointed. It's not to say that you shouldn't anticipate how good a place will be, just that it can taint your final judgement. I'll admit that when I got invited to go to The Railway Hotel in Windsor, my expectations weren't too high. This is nothing against The Railway Hotel, as I've never heard anything previously about them, but just my perception of most hotel food in general. Well, I am super happy to have my expectations blown out of the water as the meal at The Highline, the restaurant component of the The Railway Hotel, was amazing and in my Top 5 places for 2014.

The kitchen at The Highline is headed up by Simon Tarlington, of Quay experience and one of the finalists of the 2014 Young Chef of The Year awards. The food is definitely not your typical pub fare. It would easily sit amongst the top restaurants in Melbourne. The small space in The Highline restaurant is very cosy and each table feels nice in terms of where it is placed. My friend and I got the table near the window so it gave a nice view of Chapel street.

We didn't have to order as the chef was preparing a selection of dishes for us, starting with a little taster paddle consisting of numerous items. There was duck liver parfait, dehydrated oyster with a homemade bbq sauce, crispy chicken skin with pickles and some bresaola. Everything was so good, especially the oyster and chicken skin.

We moved from the tasters to a few different entrees. The first entree was some bread crumb crusted prawns with a prawn reduction and various vegetables. I absolutely loved this dish and I'm not even a fan of prawns. The various textures worked so well and the sauce with the prawns tasted so fresh, occasionally being complimented by crisp garlic plant stems I think. Whatever vegetables they were they worked a treat.

The next dish we had was my favourite of the night. It was Asparagus with Burnt Butter. Sounds so simple but the beautiful complexity in this dish was magic. I liken it to the Texture of Carrot dish I had to Cutler and Co. There was so many elements that made the dish sing in my mouth. There was sweet grilled asparagus with raw slivers of asparagus. A light burnt butter sauce covered some of the asparagus. There was a red jelly that gave sweetness. Then there was different textures of almond, raw and roasted. Then there was also something sour in the dish I think. Everything together just worked magically and one of my highlight dishes of this year.

The next entree was a plate of Wallaby "cooked" Two Ways. There was a wallaby loin I think, really well cooked. Then there were some tartare as well, with various different other flavours that brought it all together. Again another wonderful dish.

Fourth up for the entrees was a Pig Terrine, using all different cuts to create different textures, including a black pudding in the middle layer. It was served with a nice broth and crispy crackling. Despite my utter hatred of celery, the finely diced celery actually enhanced the dish and it didn't really taste like celery, if that makes any sense.

By this stage we were become pretty full but when the Beef Rump Cap came out, we were straight into it. The beef was served with another texture of beef and an amazingly smooth and buttery potato mash in a leek and a delicious jus. Another great dish I would happily eat again.

To finish the meal, we were presented with a Chocolate Dessert. Chocolate and desserts don't usually work for me, but this one was great. Chocolate mousse, chocolate sheets, crunchy elements and super fresh berries all created a wonderful dessert.

The whole meal totally was just absolutely stunning. I loved every dish and it's not too often I say that about a restaurant experience. I've already made plans to go back next year with a friend. Whilst this meal won't change my mind about all hotel restaurants, it has definitely changed my mind about this particular hotel restaurant and I can't recommend it enough. The paddock to plate philosophy adopted by the restaurant definitely shows as the produce tastes so good. Service wise, our waiter was really knowledgeable and personable. I also liked the ambiance as it was fun and casual despite the high end style food. Price wise, I think the food is great value as you would easily pay far more for such quality food elsewhere. A wonderful meal that I would recommend you go and try.

Highline on Urbanspoon