House of Crabs, Redfern

I don’t like to eat messy food in public. It is very hard to maintain your dignity and your charm when you are elbow deep in sauce and have organic matter hanging from your teeth. There is also the small matter for needing an industrial strength bath straight after. No matter how much I’d like to think that I’m a lady, there is no escaping the fact that I am a messy eater.

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Seafood Toastie for starters

As with everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. House of Crabs was my exception.

Taking over the first floor of the Norfolk Hotel, I have wanted to visit this mystical place ever since I’d heard that it opened. Not a den of sexually transmitted disease as its name may suggest, House of Crabs is actually a purveyor of some of the best quality shellfish in Sydney (and very recently, Melbourne too). My main delay in booking a table was that none of my friends will eat crustaceans, either for religious reasons or from personal preference so finding a partner in crime was difficult. The perfect opportunity arose when it came to celebrating a family member’s birthday and a seafood restaurant was required.

We booked in for a Tuesday night at 7pm and though I had worried about the noise level (having heard that it could get rowdy) the place was deserted. This actually suited us just fine as certain family members hate noise and the Caribbean style decor and retro American punk rock music provided enough of an atmosphere. I particularly loved the Forrest Gump quotes.

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The disappointing fish dish

Despite this being a special occasion, I know myself so I dressed for the venue rather than the event. I wore my gym clothes. I sweat in these things so I thought what harm would a little tomato sauce and prawn juice do to them? For those of you who have never heard of House of Crabs, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “is this girl a wild animal? Why can’t she keep her food on her plate?” Well let me explain, there is no plate.

Although there are other dishes on the menu like pork ribs and buttermilk fried chicken, the main event is the seafood – a choice of six different types from mussels to prawns to king crab, sold in 500g quantities and served in a plastic bag after being boiled with your choice of sauce. The idea is that you empty your bag of protein goodness out onto the plastic table cloth, don a pair of gloves and the apron suppled and hoe on in.

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The bag of deliciousness

And hoe we did and let me tell you, it was delicious!!! My choice was the QLD prawns in the Spicy Malay sauce and it was just glorious. I ripped off their heads, sucked out the delicious meat, pulled off their little armour, devoured their succulent bodies and then finished off by licking the remains to get that rich tomato and oniony sauce. Are you disgusted? I’m sorry but it was so so worth it.

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Crab in a bag

One of my other family members also picked the prawns and was equally satisfied. The birthday boy got the snow crab in garlic butter and enjoyed himself immensely! He couldn’t stop exclaiming how large the legs were and how much meat was inside them. The only person who was disappointed got one of the main dishes – a crumbed and fried fish dish that turned out to be a rather flat and dry schnitzel style of dish. It was a strategic error made in the attempt to keep clean and one which was bitterly regretted.

By the end of the night I was covered! We didn’t linger at the end of the meal. After quick exclamations of ‘Happy Birthday’ we made for our car and spirited on home in search of a shower and a tooth pick. A great night worth getting messy for!

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The state of the table

Bill’s, Bondi Beach

Sometimes we Aussies do it best. When it comes to brunch, this is definitely the case. 
Last Sunday my friends and I were down at Bondi Beach, an iconic Aussie location and we landed ourselves a table at one of the most iconic modern Australian cafes of all time – Bill’s.  

The brainchild of Australian chef Bill Granger, Bill’s is super popular, so much so that there are four of them, all serving delicious, shining, ginormous examples of the classic dishes we’ve come to expect from our cafe brunch. No where else in the world does it like we do it and personally I think they are missing out! 


Bill’s Bondi Beach is the newest cafe in the group and despite probably being the largest, it’s wise to get there prior to 9.30am on a weekend if you’d like to avoid the queues. It’s a light and airy open space filled with blond timber tables in several shapes and sizes including some intimate booths – one of which we were lucky to get. 

This visit had been a long time coming. I’d been to the one in Darlinghurst many years before and had been dreaming about their ricotta hotcakes ever since. It was safe to say that I was seriously excited. My expectations were high. Despite this I was still blown away! Though the menu hasn’t significantly changed, it doesn’t need to.


Like a Jackie Chan action comedy, what they do, they do so well that they are famous for it and with relatively simple dishes and classic ingredients, all the focus is on freshness and flavour – which are delivered in spades.

Now I don’t normally talk about a place’s toilets but I felt they were worth noting given that their large sliding doors were a conundrum to my pre-caffeinated brain and it took me about 5 minutes and a questioning of staff to figure out how to open the door to use one. But maybe that wasn’t their fault… Maybe that’s was just me…


Now I know I said I wanted the hotcakes but a girl is allowed to change her mind and when I saw corn fritters I just could resist. 

One of my friends got the hotcakes with banana and she was nice enough to share. The other got the scrambled eggs and they were creamy perfection. 

A classic is a classic for a reason and I hope to never live in a place that doesn’t not have easy access to a Bill’s. 

Doraji, Waterloo

Does there exist in this world, any marriage of food and drink better than greasy, crunchy fried chicken and cold, bubbly beer? Not in my dad’s book! That’s why one Sunday night, despite having plans to go for a quick Vietnamese dinner at our local, we found ourselves at Doraji, Waterloo.

Located in Crown Plaza, just off of (Harry!) Potter Street, Doraji is a Korean restaurant with an unassuming facade that hides a whole lot of chicken crazy inside. I knew we had entered somewhere special as soon as my gaze alighted on the giant mural featuring dancing beer mugs and a drumstick wielding little boy. He looked very happy. I hoped we would soon be too.

IMG_4787Not a large place, the seating has been set up a little differently. You can choose from one of two share tables, some open booth seating or one of three private enclosures along the left hand wall which have been separated from the main area by thin timber barriers and feature a call button to get staff’s attention. As all other tables were occupied, we chose one of the private areas and found the whole experience to be pleasant and unique. We had a private family dinner while still experiencing the buzz and atmosphere of public dining.

IMG_4791The staff were quite attentive. Within moments of sitting down we were presented with giant menus and the tap water we requested arrived just a short time after, although there was some confusion as to whether the glasses it came with were for the water or beer. Beer could be ordered by the glass or by the 1L jug so while my mum, dad and sister shared, I went for a hot green rice tea.

Surprisingly, the choice of food was not just limited to chicken. Although it was there … in all its forms … there was a plethora of other options too from hotpots to rice dishes and sizzling plates. When it came down to it, my dad realised with a substantial amount of beer and complimentary ‘tapas’ already inside him, there was no way he was going to finish an entire fried chicken – whole chickens being the main portion size available. Instead, we chose three other dishes to share which though all very different, were each tasty in their own right.

IMG_4790The sliced smoked duck breast with shallot salad and mustard sauce ($25) was probably the most unique of the three. Served cold, it was cooked medium and the thin slices allowed you to really taste and appreciate the subtle flavours. I must admit though I wasn’t a fan of the fat/skin that rimmed each piece and tended to pull that off.

The Spicy chicken with potato and glass noodles in hotpot ($35) was our one ode to poultry and it was massive! It was served in the size of pot I imagine manna would have been presented to the Israelites in while they were fleeing Egypt – never ending. Though containing bones, the chicken was juicy, the broth flavoursome and the dish had a homely feel owing to the fact that it was chock full of hearty veges like potato and carrot. It was perfect for an autumn night and very very tasty.

IMG_4789Our final dish was the Grilled eel in teriyaki sauce on sizzling plate ($18) and was probably my favourite. A sucker for teriyaki, this dish was very attractive with a gorgeous golden sheen. The sweetness of the succulent eel pieces were perfectly offset by the crunch of the bed of onions on which they rested. I probably could have polished off this one on my own if I hadn’t eaten so much already.  We made sure to order a couple of serves of steamed rice to take full advantage of all the yummy juices and sauces.

I have a feeling we’ll be back. Winter is coming and what better way to build a protective layer of internal insulation (sounds better than fat right?) that through some golden, crispy, chicken.

Yaks Barbecue Festival, Sydney CBD

I know it’s not pc to say but I think g-d intended for us to eat everything. Grain to grass, sea creatures and land creatures, roots, stalks, nuts and fruit. Now I love my vegetables – right now I’m having a super intense relationship with capsicum (it’s the crunch!), but I also love my meat which is why the moment I heard there was a bbq festival in Sydney I jumped online to book a ticket. 
 

An example of the monster

 
I think there is something magical about American barbecue. You put raw, beautiful cuts of meat in to a monster of a machine, add some coals for heat, wood chips for a smokey flavour and lashings of bourbon/ chilli/ maple syrup concocted marinade and 6-18 hours later, out pops the most unctuous, delicious, fall off the bone, juicy meat you’ve ever wrapped your tongue around. There is some serious technique to this process, but the key is to go low and slow and from dirty dancing to squats – that’s my favourite way to do things! 😜

 

Hoy Pinoy’s chicken & pork skewers

 
American diner food and more recently barbecue is one of the biggest food trends to hit our shores in the last year and the Yak Ale Barbecue Festival was heralded as a celebrate of all things meat. 

Held for the first time in Sydney at the Domain, the event was centered around local Aussie teams competing for a place at the Texas barbecue competition – a place where barbecuing is a serious sport. In all honestly, this was the most boring part of the day. Given the nature of the cooking, there was actually nothing to see for at least the first three hours besides smoke coming out of medieval looking cooking contraptions and some of the teams were not interested in having a chat. 

 

Porteno’s meaty wares

 
Scheduled from 10am to 10pm, we rocked up pretty much as gates opened and boy was everything slow to start. Several vender stalls were still setting up, there was no entertainment despite being listed on the schedule and all the food available for purchase was still being cooked – this last though not such a problem as we weren’t quite ready to sweat just yet. 

 

I ain’t no chicken!

 
We begun the day with a ride on the Yak’s mechanical bull (90 seconds my personal best) then made our way clockwise around the venue parameter, checking out the vendors and there were definitely barbecues galore – as in the brand as well as the variety. 

 

Big tub of potato salad- not big enough apparently!!

 
By about 11.20am we’d seen all there was to see and tasted all the spice rubs and sauces there were to taste -we even bought a bag of wood chips to do some home smoking. We saw the queues forming and decided hunger or no hunger, It was time to line up for food. All I can say is it was a ‘good thinking 99’ moment. 

 

My prize for waiting 20 minutes

 
We were super strategic. One of us lined up at Melbourne’s Blue Bonnet in order to get a serving of lamb ribs and beef brisket, another at Hoy Pinoy to get a couple of chicken skewers and the third went to snag seats. I was delegated the chicken skewer mission and while there was a 15 minute wait, I got lucky – Surly’s were passing around a limited number of free pork ribs right next to where I was standing and I got to nab one of those too. 

 

Winner winner lamb & brisket dinner!

 
The verdict? The skewers ($12 for two) were sweet and tasty bites of juicy white meat, the pork rib (free) was soft and well seasoned. The brisket ($10 per 100g) oozed with rich fat and just melted in your mouth but the hands down winner was the lamb ($10 per 100g). I’ve never tasted meat like this in my life!! The perfect balance between sweet and savory, soft center with a crunchy outer, fatty and zingy – it was well worth the 8 hour cooking time and 30 minute queuing time.  

Despite being a poorly run event (they ran out of food at 1pm!!), there is no question the festival has inspired me to check out some of our local American diners in Sydney and try my hand at a little barbecuing of my own. 

I can’t wait till once again I can get my meat on y’all’. Yeeha, Ridin cowboy!!

Yeeeehaaaa

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Usually during the festive period I tend to overindulge. Like most people who love food, I lack any form of self control and home cooked smorgasbords along with with endless cocktail party canapés are my undoing. Add into that a holiday or overseas trip and my gastronomical consumption is astronomical. 

I therefore usually begin the new year in glutton withdrawal, a state of being characterized by sugar induced mood swings, excessive guilt and a new and brutal exercise regime.

This year I took a different approach. Rather than plan an overseas adventure filled with alcohol, fatty foods and sleep deprivation (wonderful as those are), I organised a relaxing week long trip to kangaroo island. It combined all my favorite things: beaches, hikes and tonnes of local produce for exceptional foodie experiences. 

Although there were some sweets and treats such as honeycomb lattes, lavender lollies and home made scones with apricot jam (I’m only human!), the fresh oysters, marron, sheep’s cheeses, kangaroo fillets and salt water whiting ensured that not only were my tastebuds happy, but that my waistline was too. 

Check out some of my favorite food pics below for some of the most memorable meals. What holiday destinations have you travelled to that are lifestyle conducive or do you have a plan to manger your holiday indulgence? 

 

Seafood platter with homemade bread, dips and all the fruits of the sea

  

Marron – relative of the yabbie – boiled and peeled

  

Freshly baked scones – like pillows

  

Whiting with greek salad- light, fresh, delicious

 

Eucumbene Trout Farm, ACT

You know the saying ‘like shooting fish in a barrel’? That phrase does not apply to me and the sport of fishing. For me to catch a fish, it literally has to be swimming in a barrel. 

My family are not fisher persons. That doesn’t stop us booking a fishing trip every time we are somewhere known for their sea chicken – The Bay of Islands in New Zealand, the Northern Territory, even Kalbarri in WA. We always come home, tired, salty and carrying someone else’s hard caught fish. 

  
The problem is, we are a seafood loving family so we keep on trying inspite of our failures. This time, on a weekend away to Canberra, we decided to visit the Eucumbene Trout Farm and we were finally onto a winner. There is a $5 entry charge and a two fish per person maximum but with three 3 by 4 meter fish ponds and their specially designed sparkly fish bait, you are guaranteed to catch. Winner winner chicken fish dinner! 

  
It’s a bit of a drive – 2 hours south of Canberra – but they supply you with everything that you need to catch the perfect meal. They even kill, clean, season and wrap your fish in foil, all ready to be cooked on their super hot bbqs and eaten at their outdoor picnic tables – Accompanied by a large order of green salad and crunchy chips. 

The grounds are also absolutely magnificent and you can go and wander around the large lake that houses the larger trout for people looking for a more challenging and competitive experience (we weren’t). 

  
Once you added the costs of the entry fee, the fish (charged by weight) and the sides, it all came to around $40 – a price I found very reasonable for one of the freshest, most delicious meals I’ve had in forever!

I’m so happy my luck has changed – it might be time to try the open ocean once again ….. Then again … It might not. 

A Pink Afternoon Tea

It’s great to cook for family, it’s satisfying to cook for friends – it’s extra special when you are also cooking for a good cause. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and this year, my sister and I decided to put our kitchen skills towards a meaningful and very important cause by hosting an afternoon tea. We supplied everything – all we asked for was a donation from our friends who attended. Boy did they deliver!!

It was with great joy and full stomaches that we were able to donate almost $700. Check out the food picks below. 

   
    
    
 

Love Poke, Coogee

It’s Spring glorious Spring! Ok – I know the weather hasn’t been so great lately, especially yesterday – Mother Nature, what an earth was with that – but still, I love this time of year. The weather warms up, the flowers come out, and I start to crave salads and light foods again. 

  

One awesome place that I have discovered in my quest to be bikini ready is Love Poke. Located in the back streets of Coogee a block up from the beach, this secret gem does raw fish, great salads and healthy desserts – all of which are wholesome, massive and delicious. They describe themselves as Hawaiian sushi and I can see the connection.

  

A couple of friends and I met here for lunch one Sunday and had a great time.  We each ordered fishy bowls of deliciousness. These come in different sizes depending on your hunger level. I was super hungry so I got a large. For around $20 (I made a couple of pricey choices) I got to choose 2 types of raw cured fish, two sides and black rice. 
The fish choices change on a regular basis depending on what is fresh and available locally. My soy salmon and coconut barramundi were very tasty. My friends liked theirs too.

  

What really bowled one girl over though was the pumpkin pie. As an American, she craves the stuff and has often searched for it in vain here in Aus. She assured us it was perfection and just like the real stuff back home. 

  

There are many great places to eat in Sydney but this one is so unique that I’d love to come back. The food was great, the staff were lovely and there was no mad scramble for parking or a table. If you are ever in a fishy mood – Take a stab at Love Poke. You won’t be disappointed. 

Happy Jew Year 

Ah Jewish festivals. We’re either bingeing or we’re starving. Ok to be honest, 99% of the time we’re bingeing but either way it’s all about the food. And it’s so very very good. 

Growing up, my favourite was Chanukah – the festival of the lights. What’s not to love about panfried potato pancakes, jam filled donuts and chocolate coins. It pretty much sells itself. Now that I’m older, I appreciate all of them – the cheesecake at Shavuot, the matzah French toast at Passover and the Hamantashen (poppyseed filled cookies) at Purim. But boy does it play havoc on the waste line. 
  
This past week my friends, family, community and I welcomed in the Jewish New Year. It’s a time of celebration where we give thanks for the year that has passed and wish our love ones a happy new year filled with health, happiness and the sweetness of life. In an effort to make all these wonderful things come true, we proceed to stuff ourselves with apples dipped in honey, fish (a fish head representing the ‘head of the new year’) and of course, honey cake. 

Honey cake making is a skill and my dad has this down to a fine art. Every year he produces at least one of these beauties and I have to tell you it’s delicious!! It’s moist with a fine crumb and has a delightful combination of sugar and spice with the honey lending sweetness and the cocoa powder a richness.  
  
His recipe is unfortunately top secret but below is one from the Monday Morning Cooking Club that will give a great result. Perfect with tea or a cup of coffee. Give it a whirl to add a little sweet happiness to you life. Happy new year everyone 😀 

Ingredients

6 eggs separated

175g caster  sugar(superfine) 

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup strong black tea

225g self rising flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

GLAZE

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

2tbsp honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). You will need an angel cake (chiffon) tin that is not non-stick and has a removable base. Do not grease 
  2. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add half the sugar and continue whisking until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl beat the yolks and the remaining sugar until light and pale. Add the oil and keep beating for a couple of minutes until well combined.
  3. Sift the flour with the baking soda. Mix the honey into the hot tea. Add these to the egg yolks, alternating wet and dry, beating gently until fully combined.
  4. Gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with a metal spoon, until just mixed through. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50 – 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. After removing the cake from the oven, immediately invert it to cool by balancing the middle funnel onto a bottle neck. The cake will be dangling upside down.
  6. When completely cool, run a knife around the outside of the cake and the funnel. Lift the base out of the tin, then use the knife to ease the cake off the base.
  7. We have made a step-my-step video on this website on how to make our custard chiffon cake, and the method is the same.
  8. To make the glaze, add the lemon juice (a few drops at a time) to the icing sugar until you have a thick, smooth paste. Add the honey and stir well, adding more lemon juice if necessary, so that you have a thick but runny glaze. Pour over the cooled cake.

  

Eveleigh Markets

For someone who claims to love food as much as I do, it’s taken me years to hit up what is widely proclaimed as the king of all markets. 

  

Every since I moved across the bridge, I’ve been told that I have to check out the Eveleigh Markets and yet, somehow, it just hasn’t happened. First, I didn’t know where Eveleigh was. Then, I found Saturdays inconvenient. Then life just got too busy. But finally, on Saturday, all that changed. Despite a hectic week and late Friday night, I dragged myself out of bed and went to experience the wonder. And I wasn’t disappointed!!
  
Smaller than I imagined and far less crowded, it was heavenly meandering up and down the one centre aisle, staring at awe at the gorgeous wares on sale. 

  

Cheap it isn’t but fantastic quality it most certainly is! Cheeses and coffee and produce oh my! And the pastries, don’t get me started on the pastries. I purposely went without breakky this morning so I could indulge and so I did, splitting the largest, most decedent pistachio, pear and rhubarb croissant with my dad. It was the best bought pastry I’ve eaten in forever!! 

  
We spent the next hour sampling our way round in a manner dad has termed a ‘degustation’. It was such a great morning. The sun was shining, the bacon was sizzling and everyone was friendly. Cannot wait to repeat the experience!