Monday, June 23, 2008

Ive done some good things in my time..

..and this cake is one of them. You shouldnt trust the photos you see of people on the internet, but make an exception for this cake, there is no trick photography, it looks that good in real life. It was Renae's birthday yesterday. Renae is my vegetarian flatmate who is studying to be a vet and secretly believes the world would be a better place if most people were replaced by cats (god love her). This concoction is a hippied up version of a recipe that came in the Sydney Magazine a few weeks ago. The original version was from the Damien Pignolet (of bistro Moncur) episode of "What i cook when..." and is named Eve's chocolate cake, im going to call this one: When Eve Met the Snake Cake, Snake Cake for short.

I made some very minor changes to the original recipe, so Eve gets most of the credit. Instead of caster sugar I have used rapadura sugar. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, rapadura is a slightly more wholesome version of white sugar with a much subtler taste. Because of its gentle sweetness, it accentuates other flavours without usurping the overall effect. I also used 100% Valrhona Cocoa Powder, its worth the extra cost, the intensity of it is beautifully dark and to dust a cake with it adds just a slight amount of bitterness to counteract the sweetness. Some vanilla bean paste from Madagascar also makes a bit of a cameo and added an extra note to the flavour.

This serpentine delight is a quickie in the kitchen, for which you will need the following:

360 grams of bittersweet chocolate (i used 300g of 70% and then 60g of 90% cocoa).
50 grams of unsalted butter (organic, for butter it makes a real difference)
12 eggs (organic free range and very, very fresh, you can taste the difference)
30 grams rapadura plus 20 grams extra
Pinch of salt (maldon again)
Cocoa (100% Valrhona)
Double cream (a good biodynamic one, again, with dairy, it makes a difference to both taste and the way the body recognises/digests something to buy organic or biodynamic).
Vanilla bean paste (i added about 2 teaspoons on a whim).

Preheat oven to 150 degrees, grease a springform pan (i used a normal cake tin) and line with baking paper (which it's a good idea to have BEFORE you start cooking so you dont have to make a mad dash down to the IGA with the oven on).

Melt all the chocolate in a bowl over a boiling pot (they say its okay to use a microwave instead, given that those things kill about 70% of the nutrients present in food, I say its not). Remove from heat stir in butter and vanilla. Separate Eggs.

Beat Egg yolks in medium bowl with 30g rapadura, stir in chocolate until smooth. Beat egg whites until frothy, then add salt, then beat until peaks form. Add extra sugar and beat until firm. Beat 1/4 whites into choc mixture then fold in remaining whites and stir til smooth.

Take 1/4 of mixture in bowl and place in the fridge, spoon the remnants into the tin and bake for 30 minutes. Spread with chilled choc mixture and dust with cocoa, I added double cream and raspberries.

To be honest, I didnt really find the way the recipe was written out very smooth to follow, Im not that experienced a baker and the directions felt a little all the over the place. Things were boiling while other things werent peaking and it was a bit frazzled. You might have better luck.

The results are, nonetheless, amazing. And Eddie Murphy thought HE was sexual chocolate..

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A few more yum cha pictures..

My Little Dumpling.

If punk rock was a dining experience, it would be Yum Cha. Loud, chaotic, crazy, anything goes. Service in chinese restaurants kills me, its hilarious the extent to which they just dont care, their directness, their obvious displeasure at some requests, you are the cattle and they are the sheepdogs. Yum cha is more than lunch, it's theater. Yum Cha literally translates to "sipping tea", which is done throughout the meal to digest the heavy, fried food that is commonplace, it is traditionally eaten at 11am. 

My idea of yum cha is pretty limited, if it's a steamed dumpling and it has seafood in it, I want it in my belly and I will fight you for it. I steer away from the fried stuff, too heavy, the flavour and texture of a steamed dumpling is beautiful, frying ruins it for me. I love the whiteness and the plumpness of the little steamy packages of translucent chinese perfection...the way the soy sauce and chili paste stain the virginal white of the glutinous cradle, god, what could be better. The frustration that chopsticks can add to the efficiency of getting dumpling from bamboo basket to bowl to mouth is a sweet kind of torture. 

I love people, and I get pretty ambitious about gathering crowds of them around for food related events. This turnout was huge and there was a bit of teasing going around about how we were all squished in for the latest round of Crimes Against Dumplings:

The Scene: The Regal Restaurant, Sydney at 1pm, cramped around a massive table.
The Victim: the magnificent Prawn and snowpea dumplings, Garlic prawn and chive dumplings, Groan inducing Prawn wontons with soy and ginger dipping sauce, Prawn rolls, Noodles with sesame, Vibrant asian greens with oyster sauce, Fluffy pork buns, Salt and pepper squid with chili. They should've been given the Olympics on the basis of these alone.
The Accused: 18 hungry, freezing Sydney siders, including one vegetarian, one vegetarian who eats prawns, one boy who eats anything, a friend from Japan with with less curls than she had one year ago, one sleepy jeweler who lives off veal, one They Might Be Giants fan, one beverage nut, one sleepy girl just back from mexican madness, 4 architects (and possibly another architect in the making), several PhD students (of the science-y kind), a German chocolate lover with a broken arm, a green eyed lady with a glorious complexion, someone who thinks chewing is called "mastification", and yours truly, the poor, still fasting bugger who came armed with her camera and the last vestiges of her failing will power.
The Sentence: Death via complete satisfaction and/or MSG overload.

The frenzy of the regal on a Sunday makes it a place you have to try at least once. Despite booking, we spent a few minutes at the door while a waitress yelled into a microphone about an inch from our external auditory meatuses (ie: ears, for you non anatomy people) numbers of the tickets of people waiting in line. That kind of foreplay just whets your appetite like mad. If you don't plan on getting there before 11am, then be sure to book, come starving and patient and with a good sense of humour. Its Fun Cha, no serious, dreary deep and meaningfuls, philosophical discussions on the nature of existence or marriage proposals allowed. If you haven't ended up with soy/chili on your face or clothes, then you're just not doing it right. I am not going to describe the food, the pictures are here for you to conjure up all the tastes and the flavours. If there's room at the end, try to fit in a mango pudding or a mango pancake, they're shamelessly tacky desserts but they go down so well after dumpling heaven. The jelly comes with a little toothpicked American flag on top, let the emblem of the the land of the free free that water spinach still stuck in your molars. 

The Regal Restaurant serves Yum Cha from 10am - 3pm DAILY!! (Ive been there 6 times in one week a few years ago, that was a bloody good year).
At: 347-353 Sussex Street, Sydney (cnr Sussex and Liverpool)
T: 02.9261 8988.

And this is what the eggs looked like...

Thats Mum and Dad first, not the eggs.

The famous eggs.

And this is what the berry muffin looked like, mum is never really impressed by much, she loved this.

And this is what my father did to the banana cake with butterscotch sauce (his idea of breakfast, mind you). Dad's done alot of research on cakes, and he loved this one. He even managed not to get any of it on his shirt afterwards.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Forbes and Burton, aka Meet Tatsu.

Breakfast has, and always will be, my favourite meal to eat out. Going out for dinner and going out for lunch is great, but going out for breakfast is just that much more decadent. Having worked as a waitress, breakfast is always a different time in a cafe, its much more personal. Its when regulars come in, sit on their own with their papers or their thoughts, you usually know their order by heart, its the same every day, a lovely modern ritual in an age where we dont really ever slow down. You come to know these people well, even though there may never utter more than a shy good morning and request their choice off the menu. You do know them, through their mannerisms, how they have their coffee or tea, the way they sit and the way they wait for their food to arrive. Cafes are like what I imagine churches to have once been, a place where people come to offload who they are and just contemplate. Going to breakfast also reminds me of my dad, who would often take me out to a cafe before school. It always felt like beautiful time stolen, and it still does.

Besides food, Tatsu and I have very little in common. That doesn't stop either of us from doling out advice or telling the other one how to live, but we usually have the good sense to do it over something yummy. Id been complaining to him for a while that there were no places in Sydney for a really good breakfast, he kept mentioning F and B. The name sounded ridiculous, but he has always been someone i defer to on where to eat, and again, he was proven right.

The coffee, to begin with, is perfect, never too bitter, its a nutty and smooth blend. The tea is divine, im not sure what brand they use, but they infuse it in reverse osmosis water, which makes it a very pure infusion without any of that metallic taste of tea made with dodgy water. It comes in an old school/high brow tea pot which i love. They also serve only bonsoy, which is one of the standards i usually judge a place by. Any other soy milk not only has a vile beany taste but also wreaks havoc on hormone systems, especially for females. Bonsoy tastes quite like caramel and the whole soy bean is used in its production, not only the isolate as in most other commercial brands. It also follows macrobiotic principles by adding seaweed to the process of making it, as soy inhibits thyroid production and seaweed speeds it up, its a very balanced product, especially if you cant tolerate dairy. Good cafes know that its the only soy milk to serve for flavour, any other milk usually defiles a great tea or coffee blend.

The breakfast: melt in the mouth croque monseuir with the crusts cut off, made with bechemel cheese and toasted very thin, my boyfriend is in love with these to the point where he will actually be lured out of bed on a weekend morning by prospect of one. The eggs, scrambled and poached, are spot on. There's alot of raving about Bills scrambled eggs, but i find them way too heavy and creamy, these are rich without being over powering. The mushrooms, spinach and pork and fennel sausages i usually order with them are the perfect complement. The French toast, muffins and banana cake are also great examples of sweeter offerings. They get desserts right by never making them too sweet, too much sugar usually kills all the other flavours off, it doesnt allow the delicacy of the other ingredients to come through. Mum, who is diabetic and hates sickly sweet sweets like i do, finds the muffins here beautiful and light.

This place gets it all right, the ambience is great, cosy and energetic and the service is flawless. Even my cranky father loves it. Ive tried dinner and lunch here and loved them both. Finally somewhere that is stylish, moorish and has a reputation that is so well deserved. There are some funny dirty limmericks written into the wallpaper in the loo that are also worth checking out. The music they usually play is great as well, usually indiealternativesomethingorrather

Im actually doing a fast at the moment and have been to F and B twice this weekend without eating or drinking a thing, the torture of it all is unimaginable, its masochism on a level i cant even explain. If you havent been to this place youve got to try it, on your own or with friends. Its my current high temple of culinary perfection. I havent ordered a thing off the menu i havent loved, the people here clearly care about quality and take food seriously, and all of this with no pretension whatsoever.

thanks tats!

Forbes and Burton at 252 Forbes Street Darlinghurst (thanks aimee)
T: 02. 9356 8788

Friday, June 20, 2008

 i figured it out (on my own too). 

nacho, nacho man

Im reproducing this in its original form, as an email to my boyfriend working late at the labs, its a recipe for nachos, something I dont mind every now and then. This was an attempt to make them healthier, all organic ingredients, lots of coriander lime and olive oil and adzuki beans, which are a bit more delicate than most of the beans more commonly used. Upon tweaking the recipe the second time around, i added a thin layer of grated cheese above the beans and under the corn chips as well as on top of the chips, it gave a much creamier texture and made up for the absence of sour cream (too much needless dairy). 

Amanda: Picture it. you start with sauteed onions and coriander root in some high class hookerish biodynamic olive oil, to which you add some comfortingly nutty adzuki beans (which have been soaked a while) and a few slivers of flame inducing chili, this is all cooked over a modest type of heat until it is a dry and olfactorally (not a word) orgasmic concoction of steamy simmering mexican potential. You add this base to a baking dish which you top with layers of crisp organic corn chips that you then caress with the gentle whisperings of grated organic bakes into and through itself while you do the following: murder some purple onion, a verdant bush of cunning coriander, some unconvincingly ripe avocado, olive oil, envy green lime and a plethora of pepper praise and sea salt. You monster mash it, you remove the little oven sealed treasure, you have your bowl of spicy green on one side, and in slow motion, under a sunken sun, like the full warm kiss of dizzied lovers...the two meet: and there is melting and falling and dying and being born again. AKA I made yummy nachos!

Dan: Im coming home.

For the recipe (organic or not):

2 cans of adzuki beans (soak overnight, to enhance the way they metabolize)
1 big bunch of coriander (roots included)
Grated cheddar (as much or as little as you like)
1 white onion
1 purple onion
Chili (go by what works for you)
Corn chips (get really good quality ones here, too many nasties otherwise)
2 avocados
2 limes
sea salt (i love maldon)
pepper (the cracked kind)
olive oil, for cooking and raw with avocado

These absolutely rock. I have a photo of them which i havent figured out how to upload yet, so use your imaginations!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

open for business..

I have been talking about doing something like this for ages, but i talk alot, so im not sure anyone took it too seriously. Picture it, a site devoted to food, not just as something to be eaten or cooked, but as something to be experienced, something to be reflected upon, something to be analyzed. There were visions of all the adventures: the perfect cup of tea, draculaesque forays into beautifully rare steak, flourless chocolate cake foibles...menus and mornings and breakfast and coffee and brunches and earl grey and sourdough and vanilla and cloves. Basically, a place to rant and rave about the subject i love most. This site is about the experience of gluttony in Sydney, its about the things i like to cook, the places i like to eat at, amazing products and where I find them. The only credentials i come with are my appetite, my fathers credit card and impeccable taste.  I wont say much more about what i want this to be, it will be much more fun to see what it becomes. To Dan and to all the friends i plan to embarrass in words and in pictures: thankyou xx.