Friday, March 27, 2015

Smoky BBQ Food Using Heat Beads Chimney Booster

This is a sponsored post

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 jalapeƱo 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.