Thursday, 30 July 2015

early winter eats and explorations in Sydney, 2015

A yellow hut/shack at Watson's Bay.

We spent the entire month of June in Sydney, and it was glorious. While Simon went to work, I did my freelance work back at the apartment, reveling in the persona of a digital nomad. We were frugal on the weekdays, and I would happily collect groceries and cook dinner from Monday to Friday. On the weekends, we caught the bus and the ferry to various locations, and relished all that Sydney had to offer while still being mindful of our spending, being not-very-rich freelancers and all.

On our first weekend, we actually walked all the way from the eastern suburbs to the city. It took us about two hours, but we stopped by Mr. Crackles along the way and gleefully refueled ourselves with the crispy pork nacho fries. The sauce was perhaps just a touch saltier than I would like, but the warm, tender and crunchy pork was a revelatory match for the fries.

Crispy pork nacho fries at Mr. Crackles in Darlinghurst, Sydney ($12).

Stumbling upon Tenkomori Ramen House one evening, we were quickly drawn in by the cheap prices. Ramen and rice dishes for under $10 per bowl? Yes please! I chose the black garlic ramen in a tonkotsu broth. Again, this was a tad salty for my taste, but I enjoyed the smoky flavour of the black garlic oil. In retrospect, I should also have added some toppings or side dishes to make the ramen more substantial and interesting.

Black garlic ramen in tonkotsu broth at Tenkomori Ramen House ($6.50 regular, $7.90 large, with no additions).

We went out late one morning to grab brunch, but when I saw that The Stomping Grounds had wagyu steak on the lunch menu for an extremely reasonable price, I decided to forgo eggs in favour of beef. I wasn't sorry. I have been disappointed so many times by cheap wagyu that turned out to be tough and chewy, but the wagyu I received here boasted a gentle, buttery texture, and it was so delightful that I was willing to forgive the slightly decrepit cauliflower amongst the vegetables on the side.

Wagyu steak at The Stomping Grounds cafe in Maroubra ($15 - or thereabouts).

On another evening, we were lured by the cheap noodle soups at Mrs. Chan's Kitchen. The tom yum noodle soup here isn't as complex as others I've had, but it served its purpose well on a cool winter night. And it was so incredibly affordable!

Tom yum noodle soup at Mrs. Chan's Kitchen in Sydney ($6 or thereabouts).

We also had Thai food at Dixon House Food Court. I was quite impressed with the fried fish meal that Simon ordered. It was quite the bargain, as it came with an apple salad and a side of rice for around $12. The fish could be fresher, but for the price, it was decent, and I was charmed by the splendidly spicy apple salad. We ordered sugar cane juice from another stall to go with it. Gotta love Asian food courts.

Fried fish with apple salad and rice at Dixon House Food Court in Sydney ($12 or thereabouts).

It wasn't just about the eating, of course. The weather was excellent for a great portion of our stay, and we strolled everywhere. We briefly considered watching Jurassic World at IMAX, but the ticket prices (I think it was $33.50 per adult) scared us away. The IMAX screen here is the largest in the world, so perhaps it would have been worth it, but still...

Anyway, we went on the ferry instead. The Sydney Opera House looked very pretty from this angle.

Cruising by the Sydney Opera House on a fine winter's day.

We walked around Watson's Bay...

A handsome ocean cliff at Watson's Bay.

And took too many pictures of this pelican.

A pelican grooming itself at Watson's Bay.

On the last weekend of June, Maroubra beach embraced us with its shimmering sapphire waters, friendly dogs and laid-back vibe.

I wanted to linger, but eventually, we had to leave. Bye bye, Sydney. I'm sure we'll meet again soon.

Maroubra Beach on a lovely sunny winter's day.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl

Coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl (with a hint of mandarin).

I wasn't expecting to find persimmons in the thick of winter. But there they were, at the farmers' market, at $3 a kilogram. And these were seedless persimmons! I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

The persimmons were delicious on their own, and the more I allowed them to ripen on the counter, the sweeter they tasted. There is really no need to embellish the persimmons any further when they are gloriously, perfectly ripe, but one morning, I decided to make a full breakfast meal out of them by adding them to yoghurt and sprinkling them with toasted shredded coconut.

This simple persimmon yoghurt bowl looks pleasing to the eye, and it did a fine job of satiating my hunger, too - it fueled me for a few hours before I started to feel peckish again. I think I'm going to have to make yoghurt bowls for breakfast more often from now on!

Persimmon yoghurt bowl with toasted shredded coconut, a healthy breakfast dish.

coconut persimmon yoghurt bowl (serves 1) 

1 ripe persimmon
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mandarin juice (or tangerine, tangelo or orange juice)
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
a pinch of chopped fresh rosemary, mint or thyme (optional)

Combine the yogurt with honey and mandarin juice in a bowl. Add more honey or mandarin juice if you like.
Gently toast shredded coconut in a pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until most of the coconut is golden brown.
Peel the persimmon, and cut the flesh into small cubes.Top the yogurt with the diced persimmon and the toasted coconut.
Drizzle on a bit more honey and mandarin juice along with a tiny sprinkling of herbs, if you wish.

Enjoy this coconut persimmon yoghurt breakfast bowl...

A simple textural delight with creamy yoghurt, tender persimmons, and crunchy coconut.

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Monday, 13 July 2015

chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars

Go on, try these chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars.

It seems that I never leave empty-handed whenever I visit my sister. I snuck in a side trip to Canberra on my recent jaunt in Sydney, and this time around, she gave me a bag of organic multi-puffs - a light and airy gluten-free mix of puffed brown rice, puffed buckwheat and puffed sorghum.

A mix of puffed buckwheat, puffed brown rice and puffed sorghum.

I came to the logical conclusion of using the puffed multigrains to make no-bake cereal bars. I toasted the puffs and tossed them merrily through a thick chocolate honey tahini sauce, and then I packed the concoction into a dish and let it set overnight as I slept. In the morning, I cut the cereal block into squares, and Simon and I gobbled down these treats in all their sticky, chewy glory. It was all gone by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, it still appears as if I'd barely made a dent in that bag of multi-puffs. I'll definitely make more of these puffed cereal squares again, and experiment with different flavours, but what else can I do with my multi-puffs? Feel free to give me your suggestions!

I wouldn't dare say that these tahini chocolate honey cereal bars are super healthy, but they're quite wholesome.

chewy no-bake honey tahini chocolate puffed cereal bars

3 cups puffed cereal (e.g. buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth)
1/4 cup chopped or crumbed walnuts (or other nuts)
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lightly toast the puffed grains and the walnuts in a large saucepan, and then pour them into a 20cm/8-inch square baking dish or baking pan.
In the same saucepan, stir together the tahini, honey, cocoa powder and salt over low heat. When the cocoa powder is well-incorporated and the mixture is warm, return the puffed grains and walnuts into the pan. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients, and then scrape the mixture into the baking dish. (For ease of removal, grease the baking dish beforehand, or line it with parchment paper or foil.)
Press the mixture into the dish. Allow it to cool completely before covering the dish, and leave the mixture alone for several hours before cutting it into squares or rectangles.

Note:
- If the room temperature is warm, keep these cereal bars in the fridge.

Adjustments to try:
- Add 1 - 2 more tablespoons of cocoa powder for a richer chocolatey taste, or omit all cocoa powder entirely to highlight the taste of the tahini.
- Use brown rice syrup instead of honey to make it vegan and not as sweet (this should also help bring out the taste of the chocolate, as rice syrup is much milder than honey.)
- Create a nuttier bar by reducing the amount of puffed cereal and increasing the amount of nuts. Just make sure that the combined volume of the puffed cereal and nuts adds up to 3 and 1/4 cups in the end.
- You can also use puffed wheat or puffed spelt, as long as you're not following a gluten-free diet.

Chewy chocolate honey tahini cereal bars for everyone!

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