Lamingtons for Australia Day

Australia Day just isn’t Australia Day without pavlova or lamingtons. This being a universally understood truth, I decided to make some. Unfortunately my meringue was an epic fail! The egg whites could not be formed into ‘stiff peaks’ no matter how long I beat them for and although they rose when in the oven, by the time the slow cooking and cooling processes had finished, I was left with some sad, cracked, wafer thin looking thing not capable of holding together let alone supporting any fruit or cream.

With one not working, I pinned all my hopes and patriotic dreams on the other. Thankfully my lamingtons turned out perfectly! They were most, spongy and had the perfect proportion of coating to cake. Funnily enough I got the recipe a few years ago from a post on an American food blog trying to explain Australia Day and our traditional foods to Americans. 

And here it is… the secret to any awesome Australia Day gathering.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 110g softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

For the icing

  • 45g softened butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 cups dessicated or shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan forced, 350F, gas mark 4). Line a square 20cm cake tin with baking paper and grease any uncovered sides.

To make the cake, sift flours and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl. Add all remaining cake ingredients and beat using an electric mixer on medium high for about 5 minutes. The mixture will become pale and light. Transfer into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until just golden on the top and cooked through.

Allow cake to cool before placing it in the fridge for about 20 minutes and cutting into fingers or squares. I like to remove the side crusts too, it makes the lamingtons even more meltingly soft.

To make the icing, place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix while adding a tablespoon of boiling water at a time. The icing should have the consistency of a slightly runny gravy.

Place coconut on a dessert plate. Dip each cake in the icing turning quickly then drop into the coconut, making sure it sticks and covers the cake well. Repeat with the rest. Keep lamingtons in the fridge until serving time.

Tagines, Pastillas & Bread oh my!

This past Christmas/ New Years break, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel overseas. I love spending my annual leave exploring new places – preferably in regions I’ve never been to before. This time I decided to hit the continent of Africa, visiting the beautiful country of Morocco.

In addition to being the most spectacularly scenic country, the food is delicious!!! What they lack in range of local cuisine, they make up for in flavour, portion size, freshness and healthiness. Excluding breakfast which is a carb-palooza of bread, pastry, crepes and, well, more bread (say hello to the French influence), the Moroccans have quite a balanced diet. They eat lots of fruit and vegetables, good cuts of red and white meat – slow cooked to keep flavour, and  healthy plant based fats. Just don’t drink the tea – that stuff is pure sugar!!

Here is a smorgasbord of some of my favourite meals:

Almond pastries from Tangier

Breakfast buffet – carb central!

Moroccan Salad

Lemon Chicken Tagine – incredible form of cooking!

Dried fruit and nuts sold by weight

Meat options at a local BBQ house

Pasilla- chicken or fish ‘pie’ coated with sugar and almond meal (chicken) or cheese (fish)

Berber Omelette- aka Egg Tagine

Hearty Beef and Vegetable Tagine

Kefta Beef Tagine

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Prunes

Shrimp Tagine

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.

Bridge Street Garage, CBD

Some people like fast cars. Others like fast food. At Bridge Street Garage in the heart of the city, you get both – American diner style!

The brain child of chef Oscar Gorosito, Bridge Street combines a retro, very cool, industrial environment with delicious dishes and efficient if not overly friendly service. The space – having started off life as a real, operational garage – pays homage to its roots not only in name but in decor. Car themed graffiti and pop art adorns the walls along with old gas signs and number plates. Pink neon signage adds to the 1950s USA diner feel.

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When talking about this restaurant, the term fast food can only be used to describe the speed with which the food was delivered- not its quality! And thank heavens my meal was good because the date I was on certainly wasn’t.

More appropriate for a midweek dinner with a large group of friends, the menu is filled with large dishes designed for sharing. the American theme and chef’s Latin origins ensures that meat and fried foods in all their yummy forms feature heavily in the range of dinner options available. All your traditional bar/ diner staples are covered including burgers, buffalo wings and hot chips. Basically it’s western comfort food at its most delicious and gourmet.

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As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t a place that is conducive to ‘dieting’ (a state of living I don’t feel should exist). In saying that, there are some solid healthy choices including salads and the most amazing fillet of swordfish I have ever eaten ($32).

Lightly grilled and accompanied by a quinoa salad stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, it was one of the nicest and unique seafood dishes I’ve enjoyed and that night’s fish of the day.

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My date chose the double pulled pork sandwich ($19)- an epic tower consisting of four slices of bread and two layers of meat and slaw with addition slaw and thick cut chips on the side. It looked like pure heaven, particularly the chips which were golden, crispy and just glistening with well seasoned oil.

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Other really tempting options included the soft shelled crab salad ($22), the Bridge Street Garage’s Reuben ($18) and under the specialities section, the quail breast ($29) dressed in balsamic syrup with sweet corn salad.

I really should have ordered the American apple pie ($12) for dessert so my date could get some action but tempting as it was, I just couldn’t wait to leave and reminisce on the awesomeness of my meal on the bus ride home….alone! Something to try next time I guess because rest assured, there will be a next time!

Xage Vietnamese Restaurant, Surry Hills

There’s nothing better than a girly catch up over a healthy meal, and Xage on Crown street provides the perfect setting. When a girlfriend suggested Xage for a mid-week dinner, I was excited. I’d heard such good things about this Vietnamese restaurant, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sister restaurants with Madam Nhu, located just down the hill on Campbell street, are both very popular, and bookings are recommended. Packed to the brim and buzzing on a random Tuesday night, we joined our fellow diners for a 7.30pm dinner.

a healthy and delicious feast

If you want privacy and a quiet conversation, this place is not for you. With seating arranged sardine style along long wooden benches and members of the same party situated across from one another; it is as easy to participate in someone else’s conversation as your own.

Don’t bring your grandmother here. She won’t like the stool seating or the mood lighting, but if you’re young and you’re fun, you’ll fit right in.

Unlimited green tea

Beginning with a pot of green tea which is charged per person ($2.50 each), not per pot (yay for endless refills), we mulled over the menu. We decided to order just one main each, but if you’d like to sample more of the menu; ordering several entrees and a couple of items from the rice paper roll section of the menu is the way to go. On this, remember to share these tasty morsels with your friends. Some of the options we saw served to the people around us included the salad of mixed pickles ($6); the Red chicken nem nướng skewers ($8.90), and the Tofu rice paper rolls ($11.50), identifiable from the signature hot green chilli sauce that accompanied it.

Grilled chicken, cashew nut, herbs salad in lemongrass dressing.

We decided on the Grilled chicken, cashew nut, herbs salad in lemongrass dressing ($17.90), and the Black tiger prawn stir fry with okra and lemongrass chilli sauce ($19.50). Other tempting options included the Slow-cooked beef curry bò kho with lotus root ($19.50), Grilled Tasmanian ocean trout chả cá in herbs and spices ($22.90), or the Hội An papaya salad of five-spice duck fillet with basil, peanut and chilli ($20.90). The dishes, although not cheap, are substantial enough to justify the cost.

Black tiger prawn stir fry with okra and lemongrass chilli sauce.

At the end of the night, once we’ve had our fill of great food and conversations, there were plenty of gelato places nearby to indulge in some not so healthy dessert.

Rating: 8/10

Where: 333 Crown Street Surry Hills NSW.
Why: Tasty and healthy food.
Cost: Mains from $13.90 – $22.90
When: 7 days, 6-10pm.

Good for kids: No
Take away: Yes, phone to order.

May Kwai Chinese Restaurant, Rose Bay

There is nothing more Australian than a BBQ on a public holiday – unless it’s a Chinese dinner. Finding ourselves hungry on a public holiday night and with limited dining out options, we decided to take the opportunity to check out May Kwai, a popular Chinese restaurant in Rose Bay. I’d heard a lot about this little gem, and had been wanting to check it out for a while. The slightly inattentive service notwithstanding, I wasn’t disappointed.

In comparison to many other restaurants serving traditional Chinese food, May Kwai is small in terms of space, but the portion sizes and options available are anything but. The menu is divided up into sections according to the protein used, or to the style of dish. If you like your scallops five different ways, or something different for dinner like an omelette; this is the place for you.

As we settled in, I could see that the San Choy Bow was a very popular menu. A vast number of lettuce cups sailed past our table, and I have to say, they looked very tempting; but after family negotiations, we decided on something else.

For starters, we ordered the Gow Gee ($11). Perfectly steamed they were very tasty – not at all rubbery, and each contained a substantial amount of prawn meat.

We then moved on to the mixed king prawn stir fry ($25.80) – a combination of delicious, plump prawns and scallops stir fried with mushrooms and shallots served on a sizzling serving dish. This was my favourite main. I felt like the whole ocean was sitting in front of me on a plate.

Back on land, our next dish was the the half duck served with plum sauce ($20.80). Again there was lots of meat in this dish. The skin was golden and crispy, and the sauce plentiful.

Our third main was the fillet of honey pepper chicken which was sweet and tasty, but did have a an after kick which required a glass of water on standby.

All of these were accompanied by a large serve of the vegetarian fried rice ($10), which was the only dish that fell flat for me. I found it too salty but my family liked it.

It was a great family night out. May Kwai could become our new public holiday tradition.

Rating: 7/10

Where: 710 New South Head Road Rose Bay NSW
Why: Lots of options and big portions.
Cost: $10-$30
When: 7 days, lunch and dinner.

Good for kids: Yes
Take away: Yes