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Week 15 - The Cookbook Challenge: Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins

Comments (24) | Saturday, February 27, 2010

 Week 15
Theme: Muffins
Cookbook Used: Bourke Street Bakery
Author: Paul Allam and David McGuinness

I've wanted to make these muffins since seeing them on Adski's blog, Totally Addicted To Taste.
I thought the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook was a bakery in Melbourne, as we also have a Bourke Street. But low and behold I was wrong, and it was actually in Sydney. When I have a trip up to Sydney, this place will be on the list of places to try.

After much debating if I actually wanted this cookbook, I put it on my Christmas list and mum popped it under the tree for me.
This is the first recipe I've made using this book. I found it a bit annoying that some ingredients were listed with cup measurements, then others in grams. I would have liked some consistency!

The muffins were pretty damn good though. Hamsley had a sample, and wasn't sure so he sampled a second one. I liked the melted chocolate throughout the muffin and on top. The combination of raspberries and dark chocolate is delicious; with the tartness of the raspberries, the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the sweetness of the muffin batter.
I'm looking forward to another one for breakfast tomorrow!


Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
Paul Allam and David McGuinness

Get your hands on:
400g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g caster sugar
310g unsalted butter
480ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
225g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
225g raspberries, fresh or frozen
55g raw (dermerara) sugar
Icing sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin and line with paper cases.


2. Sift the flour and baking paper into a bowl and add the sugar, mixing well to combine.


3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Using a whisk stir in the eggs to combine. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Use a large spoon to gently fold through the chocolate and raspberries.


4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) and bake for 20-25 minutes. It may be necessary to drop the temperature about 10 minutes before the end of baking time if the muffins are starting to brown on top.


5. To test if the muffins are done, push the top gently to feel that it is firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before eating. Dust with icing sugar to serve.


Makes 12.


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Nuffnang Food Blogger Event: Collins Kitchen at The Grand Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne

Comments (36) | Thursday, February 25, 2010

 I'm going to give a warning just like I did before my post on the Taste Festival of Melbourne.
Before reading; please put your seat in the upright position, grab a drink/sandwich/over priced pringles and enjoy reading all about the delicious night I had.

The date was Tuesday 23rd February 2010 AD.
Nuffnang had invited about 20 food bloggers to an exclusive dinner at Collins Kitchen, which is part of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. I had never been inside the hotel before, let alone the dining area; but I was pleased to learn it had recently been renovated from the food court that it used to be.

Early birds met in the main lobby of the hotel, then proceeded to the RU-CO bar just off the main dining area whilst we waited for everyone to arrive. There was an extensive wine list which seemed to go on for pages. Knowing nothing much about wine and wanting to line my stomach with food before drinking, I just opted for sparkling mineral water.

We were then all seated over 2 long tables in the dining area with Nuffnang hosts David and Sarah; as well as Marketing Communications Manager of the Grand Hyatt, Lucy. We then met executive chef, Jason Camillo, who proceeded to give us a full tour of the open kitchen.

Collins Kitchen consists of 5 different cooking stations; grill, wok, sushi, deli and patisserie (guess which one is my favorite!).It is based on the Mezza9 restaurant at the Hyatt in Singapore which runs on the same concept. Their stations are a little different: western grill & rotisserie, sushi and sashimi bar, yakitori grill, the steam basket, the European deli, Thai deli and crustacean bar, the patisserie, the martini and cigar bar and a gourmet boutique.

I'm sure the kitchen staff were expecting us, but I'm not sure they were expecting 20 people with cameras snapping away like the Queen was in town. They remained cool and were probably glad when we were out of there.

We started at the sushi station where we could see the sushi chef freshly grating Tasmanian wasabi for our dinner. Slabs of fresh fish look so tempting through the glass cabinet as we are told that the kitchen really promotes local produce. It's only the first station and we are all already drooling and wanting to sink our teeth into some sushi.
 
We then move through to deli section. I was at the back of the group snapping away whilst Jason was talking about the deli, so I can't really tell you too much about it. I do know that they use Otway free range bacon though. The deli set up was very impressive though, I'm pretty sure anyone who appreciates deli goods would be happy to move in.

Behind the sushi bar is a wall of fridges with clear doors allowing you to see even more produce. Jason explains that for breakfast, guests and help themselves to yoghurt and bircher muesli that is in the fridges; giving hotel guests a feeling as if they were at home, helping themselves. Breakfast sounds fantastic at the Collins Kitchen, with fresh eggs cooked to order, as well as dim sum.

We move through to the wok station, where we see industrial grade burners that sounds like an airplane when the chef takes his wok off the heat. We see the massive steamers for steaming dumplings and whole fish, as well as the smaller holding bays for steamed food. We also see fresh chilli sauces that have been freshly prepared.

The final station in the main kitchen area is the grill. It's about now I notice how sleek and clean the kitchen is, and how much effort it must take to maintain the shininess of all the metal surfaces. It made me just want to put my fingers all over it! We see the oven which is half wood and half gas, and are told we will be having a foccacia that is baked in said oven. There is a nice range of grill plates on display, I would loved to have seen them cooking on them if I wasn't so busy stuffing my face at the table.

Between the wok and grill stations you see the Asian roasted meats hanging. Succulent roast ducks hang about, waiting to get in my belly. The crackling on the roast pork looks like it will provide good crunch, but we don't find out till later if it will or not.

The last station which is situated just outside the main kitchen area is the patisserie; my favorite section! We see the pastry chef stirring a sauce on the induction cook top. The cook top is so sleek I wouldn't have noticed she was cooking on it if it hadn't have been pointed out to me. There is a lovely range of ice-creams and gelatii on displays, as well as tempting slices and boxes of truffles mocking us as we stand around. High tea is on offer every day, and scones are freshly baked in the oven that is in the patisserie station. Lucy tells us the smell is just amazing as it wafts throughout the area.

The menu is a'la carte, but you can watch the chefs prepare your food. I find the idea of this less intimidating as a diner. The chef is not some magical food wizard that you never see, and can't see what he is up to; you can actually see everything being done. No matter where you sit in the dining room, you can see into the kitchen. It's a relaxed atmosphere, you can almost feel like you are at home.
There are also 2 private dining rooms, one is known as the chef's table; where they encourage a share menu which we dined on, serving signature dishes from the seasonal menu, which demonstrates dedication to using only the best local and organic produce.

We then return to our seats in the dining area where are settled with wine and bread. The bread is lovely and fresh. I'm a sucker for warm fresh crusty bread with butter smothered over it. This was a good way to start. BUT best not to fill up on bread as they say!

So what did we eat?
The first part to our night started with a sushi and sashimi platter, antipasto platter and freshly baked foccacia.

Sushi and Sashimi Platter
Tuna, salmon, omelette, eel, prawn, spicy tuna nori rolls, served with Tasmanian wasabi.

The fish was so incredibly fresh and just melted away in your mouth. My end of the table could have happily dined on these platters all night.

Crisp Bread Wafers

Antipasto Platter
Cantaloupe, prosciutto, liverwurst with mini gherkins, deli meats, roasted vegetables, tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and basil.

The buffalo mozzarella is from Queensland, and it just amazing with the fresh tomato and basil. It was deliciously sweet, yet such simple flavours. This wasn't my first time with liverwurst, I've only had it by our favorite continental butcher though. It looked so good with it's mini gherkin, I just had to have some. It was fantastic. A smooth texture, it went perfectly with crisp bread we were given. How can you go wrong with cantaloupe and prosciutto?

Tomato, Olive and Basil Foccacia

So fresh and doughy, the simple flavours just came alive. I restrained myself and only had one piece.

Second course involved a platter of roast meats from the wok station, fried rice, and asian greens.

Roast Meat Platter
Roast duck, roast pork, soy chicken and char siu.

All meats were cooked perfectly; from the succulent duck, to the crispy crackling of the roast pork.

Fried rice was nice, the rice cooked well; with each grain clearly separate to the other. Nice flavours and went well with the roast meats. Served with the fresh chilli sauces prepared by the wok kitchen, and Asian greens.

Third course was an amazing mixed seafood grill platter, porterhouse steak, broccolini, mashed potatoes and mushrooms.

Mixed Seafood Grill Platter
Scallops, tuna, salmon, Morton Bay bug and prawns.

The scallops were so plump and sweet, probably the best scallops I've ever had. The Morton Bay bug was so sweet and fresh. I didn't get a chance to sample the tuna from South Australia or the salmon, but they sure looked good!

Porterhouse Steak
Grain fed and aged for 30 days on the bone.

The porterhouse was definitely one of my favourites of the night. We did send it back when it first arrived as it was very rare. People who liked it cooked that way took a piece, whilst the rest of us waited for a more slightly cooked slice to return.
It was lovely and smokey; and teamed with the sweet sauce reduction was just amazing. There was also a bernaise sauce which was also delicious.

The mash was so creamy, we tried not to think how much butter was in it. The broccolini was fantastic, not sure about the mushrooms, didn't try them!
 
Last but not least my favorite course; dessert.
An impressive dessert platter arrives and we all go "oooooo!!"

Dessert Platter
Mixed ice-creams and gelatos (strawberry, passionfruit, piastchio and vanilla), rhubarb and strawberry crumble with vanilla cream, peach melba, chocolate fondant with chocolate gelato, chocolate biscotti and a banana millefeulle.

OH.....MY....GAWD!
Just as I thought I couldn't fit more in, I fit in at least a mouthful of everything.

The ice creams were fantastic. The strawberry flavour was my favorite with an intense strawberry taste.
The crumble was perfect with its perfectly stewed fruit and crunchy top. Fresh vanilla cream, you could even see the specs from the vanilla bean.
The peach melba was the least favorite for everyone, rather runny to what I was expecting it would be. Still a nice flavour.
The chocolate fondant was the favorite. Neil and Sarah trying to convince me that it wasn't very good so I woudln't have any. It was gooey inside, and the flavours would have rocked anyone's socks off.
The banana millefeuille was also another winner with custard and I think there was even honey in there. The pastry was so perfect, crisp and also melted in your mouth.
The chocolate biscotti was paper thin, and had an intense chocolate flavour. I of course, liked it!

There is a strong emphasis on local produce. Jason and Lucy told us about the "Green Team". Sourcing the food locally reduces their carbon footprint, and allows to showcase the amazing food Australia and local producers have to offer.
There is also an emphasis of making everything on site. We were told only the messy things like making stocks and chopping live lobsters is done in another kitchen. The backroom kitchen which no one sees is very small and only has one bench, as the majority of the cooking is done in the open kitchen at the respective stations.

Jason and Lucy also talked to us about the express lunch they are trying to promote to CBD workers. You get a selection of food on a tray. You come in, order, wait 10 minutes and then you can eat and go back to work. All for around $30-38. So, if you work nearby; I highly suggest you give it a go as the food at Collins Kitchen could not be faulted.

The staff were fantastically friendly throughout the night.
It was great to meet more bloggers from the Melbourne blogger scene. It was also great not to be the only one taking photos of food. I infact had to wait for people to stop taking photos so that I could take photos!

Thanks again to Nuffnang and The Grand Hyatt, as well as all the food bloggers for an amazing night.

Agnes from Off the Spork
Maria from The Gourmet Challenge
Sarah from Sarah Cooks
Adrian from Food Rehab - http://foodrehab.com.au/2010/02/28/blogger-dinner-at-collins-kitchen-grand-hyatt-melbourne/
Penny from Jeroxie - http://jeroxie.com/addiction/nuffnang-food-bloggers-gathering-collins-kitchen-at-the-grand-hyatt/
Thanh from I Eat Therefore I Am
Melissa and Danny from Tummy Rumbles
Joyce from Jetsetting Joyce - http://www.melhotornot.com/hot-nuffnang-food-bloggers-dinner-collins-kitchen-grand-hyatt-123-collins-st-melbourne-part-1/
Suzanne from EssJay Eats
Billy from Boys For Noise
Neil from At My Table

Nuffnang's post about the dinner

I don't think I left anyone out! If I did please leave a comment. I will link their reviews when they are posted!

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon


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Week 14 - The Cookbook Challenge: Sushi

Comments (16) | Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week 14
Theme: Japanese
Cookbook Used: Japanese Home Cooking
Author: Shunsuke Fukushima

This week I had planned to make sukiyaki beef, but ran out of time. I had time to make sushi, and I had a few critics who helped me eat it all at a picnic on Saturday night.
Disappointed that Woolworths didn't stock sushi rice, Hamsley and I had to take a trip to the nearest Asian grocery shop in Clayton. We ended up having a ball shopping there, finding Japanese iceypoles, as you can see here on twitter. We found the shop keepers so friendly and cheery; as well as all the ingredients we needed nice and cheap.

I have made sushi before, but the 2nd time I made it the rice was super gluggy as I over worked the rice whilst trying to make it cool down. This time, I seasoned it then let it cool down; only stirring it occasionally until it was cold.

I used the rice cooking instructions from Taste.com.au as they were FAR less complicated than the ones in the book. The rice was cooked to perfection, nice and fluffy; not gluggy or too dry.
I made 3 different flavours; vegetarian, chicken and tuna. I cut off the bum ends as they weren't very pretty, and Hamsley and his housemate gobbled them up. Hamsley was unsure if he would like sushi, but after one bite, he was hooked. His house mate had expressed his thoughts on sushi whilst I was rolling it, by saying 'I had sushi once... didn't like it'. We invited him to try my sushi, and he was pleasantly surprised. He stuck around and ate more.

My friends were rather impressed too with my sushi, making this week's cookbook challenge a huge success. This was the picnic spread at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's free concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. We were so lucky with the weather, unlike at Carols by Candlelight where we had torrential rain!

Sushi


Get your hands on: 
1 cup sushi rice
1/4 cup sushi vinegar
Your choice of fillings: eg; tuna, chicken, avocado, carrot, omelet, etc..
Japanese mayonnaise

Serve it with:
Wasabi
Soy Sauce
Pickled Ginger


1. Rinse and drain rice 3 times or until water runs clear. Place rice in a strainer. Drain for 10 minutes.


2. Place rice and 1 cup cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 12 minutes or until rice has absorbed water. Remove from heat. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large ceramic dish. Stir rice with a plastic spatula to break up lumps. Gradually add seasoning while lifting and turning rice every now and then, until the rice is cold.


3. Place a nori sheet, shiny-side down, on a clean work surface. Use wet hands to spread one-quarter of the rice mixture over half the nori sheet, leaving a 2cm-wide border along the edge closest to you.  Arrange your fillings across the centre of the rice.. Roll up firmly to enclose filling. Brush edge of nori with warm water to seal. Repeat with remaining nori, rice, avocado, capsicum, cucumber and carrot. Set rolls aside, seam-side down, for 5 minutes to rest.

4. Cut each roll into 6 piece, and serve with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.


Rice recipe makes 3 cups.



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Eating Out: Moka Pot Cafe

Comments (18) | Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The day was the international day of love, Valentine's Day. I always thought it was just a crappy day to sell more flowers, and make all the single people feel like crap. But this year, I decided to embrace it. I bought gifts, cooked dinner, and spent the whole day with Hamsley. We were awake fairly early, even after a late night with Chinese New Year's Eve the night before. Having no bread in the house, we headed out for breakfast; even though we had no idea where we were going. We eventually ended up in Balwyn, at a cute cafe called Moka Pot.
I never saw the appeal of eating breakfast out. Now I can though, but for the people who order toast when they go out for breakfast; I say, "buy a loaf of bread, some of your favorite spread and stay at home!" It's far cheaper for you that way, and you can be all cafe chic at your own place.. buy a coffee machine if you have to!

We sat inside, surrounded by other eager breakfast patrons, with attentive staff bustling around.
We were given menus and a nice amount of time to deliberate over what to get. So many delicious choices, I know I'll be back again.

Hamsley got a mug sized latte, and I opted for what the cafe was called; a moka.
The moka was fantastic. It wasn't bitter at all like you get with some mokas, and it wasn't sweet, it was just creamy and so pleasant to drink.

Ham Benedict - $12.90
Poached eggs with grilled virgina ham on toasted sour dough bread topped with hollandaise sauce.

Hamsley was very impressed with his ham benedict, with it's thick crusty bread; a far more filling serve than at our other favorite breakfast haunt, Brown Sugar Cafe. The bread was nice, the ham was slightly seared, and the poached eggs were perfect and runny.
It is called 'ham benedict' rather than eggs benedict, as they also have salmon benedict on the menu; which is served with, you guessed it; smoked salmon.
Because Hamsley is a good boyfriend, he said my eggs benedict were still better.

Buttermilk Pancakes - $12.90
Served with strawberries, maple syrup and cream.

For me it was a toss up between the salmon benedict, bircher muesli or the pancakes. I wanted my eggs scrambled, but the menu said no changes to dishes on weekends; so I left that out as an option. Then I decided, I don't have enough pancakes in my diet; so pancakes won this time. We were both wide-eyed and impressed with the size of this serve.

Fresh, sweet strawberries, drenched in maple syrup, upon the two biggest, fluffiest, most delicious pancakes. They reminded me of my breakfast at Zum in Tasmania. In fact the whole cafe had that lovely vibe that Zum had; which I have been searching for in Melbourne.
The pancakes were just fantastic. I didn't think I would be able to finish them, and I probably would have even if Hamsley didn't have a few bites so he could taste how fantastic they were.

On the tables, there was also a macaron menu. Being a sucker for all things macaron and cupcakes, I walked away with one of each flavour.

Flavours from top purple going clock wise:
Blueberry Cheesecake, Mint Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Turkish Delight, Pistachio, Lemon Tart, Salted Caramel, Licorice Chocolate (center)

The contents of the above plate cost me $20. I believe it was the tastiest research I've conducted so far, and well worth the money spent. You may like to spend your money on shoes, or video games; macarons it is for me.
  •  Blueberry Cheesecake: I'm pretty sure it was cheesecake. It was amazing however. Creamy with a jam center, no other words to describe it than 'just awesome'.
  • Mint Chocolate: My favorite of all the macaron flavours. Had a subtle mint flavour, not over powering and perfect with the chocolate filling.
  • Dark Chocolate: Creamy with a distinct bitter dark chocolate flavour.
  • Turkish Delight: A light, yet somewhat powerful rose water flavour, but not potpurri-ish like the Lindt Cafe rose flavour. A lovely jelly/jam centre to emulate the Turkish delight.
  • Pistachio: Far better than the Lindt pistachio flavour. You can actually taste the pistachio, but also the almond used in the macarons. 
  • Lemon Tart: Tangy, but not too tart. Perfect and soft.
  • Salted Caramel: Sticky and sweet, with a nice deep caramel flavour. The caramel taken to the point just before burning.
  • Licorice Chocolate: The aniseed flavour is not over powering. It goes perfectly with the chocolate creamy centre. I was told there was a little bit of Sambucca in this one. 
Overall, the macarons were far better than Lindt Cafe. My favorite macarons in Melbourne so far. And with delicious flavours like this, I'll be back for more.

 
Moka Pot Cafe on Urbanspoon

Speaking of macarons, Billy from A Table For Two has a monthly t-shirt in his new shiny online store. There are only 50 units of each t-shirt, hand made and designed by Billy himself. 10% of the profits go to KILT landmine victims in Cambodia. So I couldn't resist buying a funky macaron t-shirt which helps those less fortunate than me. For more information, check out Billy's store here: http://www.atablefortwo.com.au/shop



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Week 13 - The Cookbook Challenge: Penne Alla Vodka

Comments (12) | Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 13
Theme: Love
Cookbook Used: Feast
Author: Nigella Lawson

I've been wanting to recreate a post Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella did about 2 years ago, for quite some time. Being Valentine's day, I wanted to cook instead of being sucked into banquets and other over priced set menus that restaurants were offering. So I thought, "Ah-ha! I'll do the penna alla vodka... but it's not in a cookbook I own." Then I re-read Lorraine's post, and I found it was in a cookbook I owned; alas, the love theme was covered.

I headed to Aldi for the heart pasta, heart biscuits and picked up a chocolate rose whilst I was there.

I own quite a few books by Nigella, but I have previously never had too much success with them. I'm not the only one, Rilsta from My Food Trail also has hesitations when trying a Nigella Lawson recipe.
I did however, enjoy her cocoa-cola cake recipe I tried a few years ago. 
This dish was very easy to make. The tomato sauce was pretty much instant. I cooked the onion for just under the time required; but still longer than I usually would cook the onion for. It was deliciously sweet and caramelized, thus meaning I didn't have to add any sugar to the sauce for extra sweetness.
I possibly added a smidge too much vodka, but Hamsley didn't complain. I did end up flaking some smoked ham through the pasta, as my man likes his meat. I'm glad I did, as the smokeyness of the ham cut through the vodka-y taste of the pasta. 
It was a lovely dish, and I would definitely make it again.

And since I re-created the full meal; my delicious red-velvet Valentine's day cupcakes:


Penne Alla Vodka
Nigella Lawson
Get your hands on:
1/2 good sized onion
1 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
Salt
410g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon double cream
500g Heart pasta or penne rigate or other short, preferably ridged, pasta
65 ml vodka
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Serve it with:
Parmesan for grating over at the table
1. If you are cooking this just before you eat, put the water on to boil before you start the sauce. You will need a big pan, enough to take the pasta and its sauce later.


2. Finely chop the onion, either by hand or in a processor. In a large pan, heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion fairly gently for about 15 minutes without letting it catch and burn, which just means giving it a stir every now and again. It should be very soft and just beginning to caramelize.


3. Tip in the can of chopped tomatoes and continue cooking over a gentle heat, simmering for another 15-20 minutes. If you’re cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.


4. Reheat the almost finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if you’re making this in one unbroken fluid movement), stir in the double cream and take the pan off the heat. When the water for the pasta comes to the boil add a good measure of salt and tip in the penne. Set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions for cooking it, as you want to make sure it’s cooked al dente and will need to start tasting early.


5. Drain the cooked pasta, tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka, add the butter and some more salt. Turn the penne in the vodka and melting butter and then tip it into the tomato sauce unless it is easier to pour the tomato sauce over the pasta: it depends on the sizes of the pans you are using.


6. Toss the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated and turn out into a large, warmed bowl. Put it on the table along with a block of Parmesan and a grater.


Serves 4-5.
 

We both did well in the present department.
Hamsley received a video game he had been wanting for quite some time, as well as some cliche chocolates in a heart shaped box to eat whilst he games away.

I received a shiny new necklace; which I love! As well as Calvin Harris' new album which I've been wanting for while.

Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's day whether you are in a relationship, or celebrating being single and fabulous!


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