Friday, 31 December 2010

ginger lime cider shandy

This will be my last post for 2010. We're right on the verge of the new year as I type this. Can you believe that's another one gone? Another boozy recipe is in order, I feel. One of my favourite alcoholic drinks is shandy, which is a popular beverage back in the home country whenever there are festive celebrations. It's easy, lightweight and requires only two ingredients - one part beer, one part fizzy lemonade. For a cheap drunk like me with a paltry pantry, it's pretty perfect.

This time around I thought to myself, why not try a fancier version of shandy with beer, cider, lime and ginger? So I did. Partly inspired by sangria, partly inspired by caipirinha, slightly stronger and a little less sweet compared to my regular shandy recipe, it's a cool cocktail of refreshing flavours.

ginger lime cider shandy

The following recipe is really quite arbitrary - feel free to tweak the amounts of each ingredient to suit your individual preference. For example, you can increase the ratio of fizzy lemonade for a sweeter drink.

ginger lime cider shandy

350ml chilled beer (I usually use a pale lager to make shandy)
350ml chilled alcoholic apple cider
350ml chilled carbonated lemonade / lemon-lime soda (e.g. Sprite, 7-Up)
1 large lime, such as a Tahitian
1 large knob ginger, nearly the size of the lime

- Slice the ginger and cut the lime into wedges. Remove seeds if any.
- Muddle the ginger and lime to release the juices, but try to avoid bruising the peel of the lime, as it can be quite bitter.
- Place muddled ginger, lime and juices in a pitcher.
- Carefully pour the beer, cider and lemonade into the pitcher one by one.
- Let the flavours infuse for a couple of minutes, then pour into glasses and serve immediately.
- You may add a little ice if you like, but be careful not to overly dilute the flavours.

Happy New Year's Eve to all! Whether you have a big night planned or nothing whatsoever, I hope you have a good one and I'll see you again in 2011!

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

luxbite, south yarra: macarons, st honores and more!

a black sesame macaron from luxbite.

I visited LuxBite about a fortnight ago after reading about it at msihua's blog here. Its location, on 38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra (near the corner of Punt Rd), was a great one for me - I commute that way very often. It was only natural, then, that I had to go check it out. Especially knowing they have kaya toast macarons. Kaya, that wonderful eggy coconut jam with gorgeous hints of pandan and caramelised sugar. The favourite breakfast spread of so many Southeast Asians. Mmmmm. But moving along...

I have to confess, I very, very rarely eat macarons. I've always thought they were too expensive. But I splurged that day at LuxBite, purchasing a box of 4 for $10, which also got me a bonus extra thanks to a promotion they were running at the time. So in addition to black sesame one pictured above, I also have rose & lychee, kaya toast, blueberry and watermelon yoghurt, all nicely packed in a box.

from front to back: rose & lychee, kaya toast, blueberry and watermelon.

I enjoyed them all. LuxBite's macarons do have a lovely texture - light and airy, their crisp surfaces giving way easily to their chewy insides. Having said that, I most certainly do have my favourites. Out of the five I had, the red and green watermelon yoghurt macaron was particularly lovely with its fresh fruity aroma. And their signature kaya toast macaron is an utterly heartwarming delight that brings me home - the housemade kaya jam is incredibly similar to the the one my parents make. I adore it, yes I do.

luxbite's signature flavour, the kaya toast macaron.

It wasn't long before I made my way back again, this time for one of those spectacular-looking St Honoré cakes I saw on display last time. Unfortunately, they had sold out of the chocolatey ones when I visited. If you can call being forced to settle for the Pierre Hermé inspired Ispahan St Honoré an unfortunate thing...

ispahan st honoré cake with rose, lychee and raspberry.

This tasted - how shall I describe it - pretty. The graceful rose and lychee flavours interacting playfully with the tartness of the raspberries. The little cream puffs. The flaky pastry.

the obligatory cross-section shot of the ispahan st honoré cake.

Suffice to say, I'm very pleased to welcome LuxBite to the South Yarra suburb and I hope they do well. With friendly owners Bernard and Yen at the helm churning out those beautiful desserts, I have a feeling that won't be a problem!

LuxBite on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 27 December 2010

christmas celebrations

christmas tree decorations

Hello, hope you've all been having a lovely weekend of celebrations - I know I certainly did! My family isn't in Melbourne at the moment, but I had a wonderful time with friends. And of course, I ate a lot...

This fat slice of pecan cake was my breakfast on the eve of Christmas, courtesy of Simon's housemate Anthony, who received it as a gift and very generously said that we could help ourselves. Crunchy with pecan nuts and chewy with candied fruits, this was a delicious loaf of home-baked goodness.

a slice of pecan cake

On Christmas Day itself we went to a friend's place and were treated to a very satisfying Christmas lunch...

christmas lunch table decorations

Potatoes, onions, corn and peas surround the star of the show - roast pork with apple sauce and gravy. I had a second helping. And maybe even a third...

roast pork with gravy and apple sauce

I still had room for dessert though. A perfectly baked Alaska cake, complete with an inviting layer of ice cream, beckoned. Can't say no to that!

alaska cake

We ended up staying for dinner as well, a scrumptious one of roast pork sandwiches constructed with lunch leftovers, fresh vegetables from the garden and home-baked bread.

But it wasn't just the eating and drinking that made the day, of course. Filled with chatter and laughter, this was a day made lovely with the pleasure of friendship and good company. We are very lucky indeed! I know not everyone celebrates Christmas - I wasn't planning on it this year - but I couldn't have asked for more.

What did you get up to for Christmas, and what have you got planned for New Year's Eve?

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

warm and boozy cinnamon honey milk

Mead. There's just something so quaint about it. When I first told a friend about mead, also known as honey wine, she mused that it sounded like something a character from a Tolkien novel would drink. Indeed, this medieval and mellifluous drink has been around for thousands of years, and is, I feel, one fit for both hobbits and humans.

One of the beverages I grew up having was warm milk with a hint of honey. As a child, it just made milk more palatable for me. Armed with a bottle of sweet, liqueur-strength mead, and with Christmas and New Year's coming up, I decided to give this childhood drink an adult makeover. With an additional touch of cinnamon, this is a lovely warm alcoholic beverage, great for the festive season - and beyond.

warm and boozy cinnamon honey milk, made with liqueur mead.

You will note that the following recipe doesn't have ingredient amounts. I hesitate here as the sweetness and intensity of mead can vary from brand to brand. If you do want a reference, however, the one I used was Maxwell's Liqueur Mead, which is sweet, flavoursome and has an alcohol percentage of 20%. I used a 30ml shot of the mead for 200ml of milk. Feel free to adjust it to your taste.

warm and boozy cinnamon honey milk

liqueur mead

- Warm milk in a saucepan with a cinnamon stick, or a pinch of cinnamon powder. Let it simmer very gently, stirring, but do not bring to boil.
- Remove from heat and add liqueur mead.
- Strain out any curdled clumps* and pour into mugs. Thermo ones which retain heat would be particularly good.
- Sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon, if desired.

*I would be interested in experimenting with a 3:1 ratio of milk and cream to see if that will fix the curdling issue. Not only that, it'll be richer and tastier!

You can use mead that isn't liqueur-strength, it just won't be as boozy!
If the mead you have isn't very sweet, or if you would like a sweeter drink, feel free to add a little honey to the milk as it simmers.
If you feel like a cold drink, you could improvise and make a boozy cinnamon and honey milkshake instead!

This warm and boozy cinnamon honey milk is soothing and harmonious in its constitution. Just the kind of drink you want on a cold night, curled up with a good book in bed. Or while having a chat with an old friend as you both sink into bean bags, hands wrapped around those toasty mugs. Cuddly cats and flickering fireplaces may also make an appearance. I'll leave you to it...

a warm, fragrant cocktail of milk, cinnamon, and mead.

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Sunday, 19 December 2010

chocolate matcha steamed egg cake

slices of chocolate matcha steamed egg cake

It's International Incident Party time again and for December, the focus is on colour. Yet again, Jeroxie encourages us to run wild with a great theme! My offering for this month isn't quite as creative as my previous ones, I think. Though considering my first idea was a flop, I'm just glad I managed to get something done in time!

I love steamed egg cake and I learnt how to make it from my mum, who also loves it.
As always, the simplicity of the recipe is big drawcard for me. The basic recipe for steamed egg cake is incredibly easy. All you need is (by volume) 1 part flour, 1 part sugar and 1 part eggs. So it would go something like this...

1 cup flour (regular or self-raising, see instructions below)
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggs
oil (for greasing, and optionally, for adding moistness to the cake)

- Beat eggs and sugar until thick, pale and frothy. Due to limited equipment at my apartment, I can't get the eggs done quite as well as I would like, so I use self-raising flour to make up for it.
- Add flour slowly into the egg mixture, then oil (if using), stirring clockwise until smooth.
- Grease any heat-safe receptacle (I used a stainless steel bowl), and pour in the mixture.
- Prepare whatever steaming device you're using. I opted for a rice cooker. Pour in some water, put a stand in it, and switch it to cook mode.
- Once the water starts boiling, put your cake bowl in and close the lid.
- Steaming times vary. I made a regular-sized cake and it took just over 15 minutes. I then made mini cakes and they were done in about 10 minutes. Test by sticking a fork in - if it comes out clean it's ready.

1 part sugar is perfect for most people, but neither my mum nor I have a very sweet tooth, and we usually put in a little less than 1 part.
Oil is optional for keeping the cake moist. I actually don't mind a slightly dry touch to this cake and only added about 1/2 teaspoon oil for every egg used. You can add more if you like.

While I like steamed egg cake just as it is, its easy recipe lends itself quite happily to modifications, as long as you don't add too much extra liquid to it. I decided upon chocolate and green tea to add natural colours and flavours to my cake, using cocoa and matcha powder.

I actually made two styles of steamed egg cake that night - a big one with swirly colour effects, and a couple of small ones with block colour effects.

The swirly one was created by mixing the matcha and cocoa powder respectively with a little bit of water, first ladling one of them onto the middle of the cake mixture in the greased bowl, running a fork through it in circles, then adding the other one and doing the same. For this one, I also used some concentrated cherry juice boiled down from mashed fresh cherries, which accounts for the purplish streaks.

the first chocolate matcha steamed egg cake

For the mini cakes, I divided the mix into 3 parts, one plain, one with matcha powder and one with cocoa powder. The plain one goes right into the greased bowls. Then I spoon the other parts delicately on top of the unmodified mixture, green tea on one side, chocolate on the other.

second batch - a duo of mini chocolate matcha steamed egg cakes

Both of the cakes don't look so pretty when they come out, but once you slice them into portions they look much nicer.

a swirly slice of the first chocolate matcha steamed egg cake

cute little slices from the second batch of chocolate matcha steamed egg cakes

The first cake had more subtle flavours entwined together, whereas the second batch had solid, distinctive flavours in each bite. Really, it's a good day when you get to choose from two cakes - the only dilemma being which one to eat first!

more colour crazy folk!

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

fritz gelato, prahran market

After our martial arts training on the weekends, a group of us often end up hanging out in the courtyard of Prahran Market. In summer, for me, that means getting the delightful award-winning frozen concoctions from Fritz Gelato. This invariably garners envious attention from my compatriots, usually with a few succumbing and trotting off to get their own.

The gelati here are made with fresh, organic ingredients, and shies away from artificial flavours and colours. As such, the flavours available can vary according to the season. Festive ones also pop up occasionally. At the moment, as we edge towards Christmas, I received their newsletter informing me of a Plum Pudding ice cream. I'm not even a big fan of plum pudding, but the next time I went to get my gelati fix, my curiosity got the better of me and I opted for a scoop of that, along with a scoop of an oldie but goodie, Very Vanilla.

If you like plum pudding, you'll probably like Fritz Gelato's version, as it does taste rather like the real thing with spice, rum, candied fruits, and even a subtle touch of doughiness. The vanilla is a solid choice, one that I've had before, and I like it because it's, well, very vanilla, and in a good way.

alliteration alert: Plum Pudding and Very Vanilla

As much as I appreciate Fritz Gelato's rich and creamy gelati, I'd probably say I like their refreshing fruit gelati even better. I discovered their beautiful Blood Orange earlier this year and was instantly won over by its authentic flavour and silky-smooth texture. Then there's Forest Berry, a luscious new revelation for me. Intense with the natural sweet-tangy taste of berries, this, too, will be making its way to my rotation list. And that deep reddish-purple colour is just sensational.

Blood Orange and Forest Berry sitting in a tree...

There doesn't seem to be many write-ups on Fritz Gelato, but all the ones I've seen, upon a quick search, are greatly positive. Most recently, Mel from Hot or Not rated it as Hot.

Other notes: Fritz Gelato was founded by Andrea Fritz, a Swiss immigrant. The first Australian store opened in South Melbourne in the 1960s, followed by stores in Richmond and St Kilda, though I've only tried the stall at Prahran Market. Take-home tubs are available. They also do organic donuts, which I like very much as well.

Fritz Gelato on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 13 December 2010

mum's home-cooked meals

Apologies, for I'll be a bit slack with posts this month and quite possibly the next too. December and January are traditionally very busy times of the year at the company where I work - no annual leave is to be taken these several weeks, and I've been working late quite often, which means not having much time to do a lot of cooking.

I have to say though, I'm a lucky girl because my parents are here visiting from Malaysia and they have been good company and so fantastic and understanding. Not only that, but they've been adding a cosy domestic touch to my apartment, and in the evenings I often arrive home to a lovely dinner waiting for me. So here, I want to share with you a few of the highlights from the past two weeks.

This seafood dish had generous lashings of fish, prawns, and asian greens with a mix of somen and soba noodles. Pretty luxurious for something that was just hurriedly thrown together at a whim!

seafood noodles

This is a simple minced pork congee with a sprinkling of spring onions on top. My mum makes a distinctive style of congee - thick and gooey, instead of the usual delicate and watery ones. It's incredibly comforting, and I adore it.

minced pork congee with spring onions

And of course, the infamous bak kut teh. I grew up in Klang, after all, which is well-known for this rich-tasting herbal pork soup. This one was made with the help of pre-mixed spices, but it's good quality stuff and of course personal touches are added. Plus, the pork was carefully selected and prepared. Needless to say, pork leg made an appearance. You want some skin and fat in this dish - they're the best. Look at all that glistening, gelatinous goodness!

bak kut teh

That's all for now but there will be plenty more where this came from, because my parents are pretty awesome. I hope everyone is having a good December so far, and coping well with any of the madness that comes with the silly season!

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Friday, 10 December 2010

haruaki, windsor

Haruaki on the 145 Chapel St, Windsor is a cheap and cheerful little Korean restaurant with a Japanese touch, perhaps not the type of place that the hip and the glitzy would go for, but certainly one that has its share of fans and regulars.

I mentioned a few posts ago that my parents are visiting at the moment. The last time they came over I treated them to lunch at Movida, and the food was fantastic, but mum and dad, used to the inexpensive delights in Malaysia, were nevertheless perturbed by how much I was shelling out for the meal, and insisted that they would be just as happy with good cheap food. So this time I took them to Haruaki.

I haven't been there for months, and apparently in that time they had changed hands. They also had a lunch special, which I immediately pointed out to my parents: "$5.90 for those dishes! See, that's cheap!"

Unsurprisingly, they opted for the $5.90 specials. The servings were small by Australian standards, but it was perfectly adequate as far as my parents were concerned, and they even offered me a little bit of theirs to taste.

Mum got the bulgogi beef don. The meat was tender and savoury, and mum kept commenting on how nicely cooked the rice was: fluffy, well-separated grains which had just the right levels of softness and moisture.

beef bulgogi on rice

Dad went for the spicy pork don. Hot, saucy and succulent. Yum!

spicy pork on rice

I splashed out on a non-special just under the 10-dollar mark and got the vegetable bibimbap. I just always find it so difficult to go past bibimbap when I have Korean food, and I like Haruaki's - delicious and done dolsot-style, which gave it that lovely crunchy golden crust at the bottom of the stone bowl.

vegetable dolsot bibimbap

It was a warm day and I really felt like a cool dessert, so I went for a goma ice cream to finish things off. Despite the generic-looking chocolate sauce and flaked almonds on top, and knowing it wasn't house-made (I asked - though admittedly I had some trouble communicating with our waitress, as her English wasn't very good, so who knows!), I really liked this, and so did my parents - it was luscious, creamy, and packed with the flavour of black sesame seeds. Just writing about it makes me want one right this moment.

goma (black sesame) ice cream

We didn't get any banchan (Korean side dishes) with our lunch, but for the prices I don't see that as an issue. I was happy with the meal and so were my parents. The food was still as satisfying as I remembered, even with the change in management and staff.

Haruaki's not too far away from where I am, but if it was just that bit closer, I would likely be bombarding it with takeaway orders every so often. With an abundance of Korean eateries in Melbourne, this may not be a place many would travel out of their way for, but it's definitely a place that most would love as their local.

Haruaki on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

flourless potato pancake-omelettes

flourless potato pancake omelettes

Last Saturday, after buying some very nice down-to-earth sebagos from the market, I found myself home alone and decided to make some simple potato pancakes for one.

organic sebago potatoes

I concocted an easy recipe for flourless potato pancake-omelettes, an inspired cross between latkes (Jewish potato pancakes), and tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette)! Like latkes, it utilizes grated strips of potato, and like tortilla de patatas, it is eggy and flourless.

the flourless potato pancake-omelette mix

flourless potato pancake-omelettes for one

1 medium to large potato (I used a sebago, and it cooked very easily)
1 egg
1 very, very small onion (or substitute with a shallot)
oil or butter, for frying (I used butter!)
Salt, pepper, and yoghurt to taste

- Shred/Grate the potato, with or without the skin, into some cold water, then drain well and lightly squeeze out some of the excess water, keeping a little starchy moisture.
- Finely grate or mince the onion, and add to the grated potatoes.
- Lightly beat an egg with a fork, and add to the grated potato-and-onion mix.
- Season to your liking with salt and pepper, mix well.
- Heat some oil or butter in a pan, and ladle 1 tablespoonful of the mixture for each potato pancake-omelette that you will be frying.
- Fry on one side, pressing the mixture down evenly. When you can flip it over without it looking like it will fall apart, flip it over, and fry on the other side.
- Serve hot/warm, fresh from the pan, with toppings of your choice. I used a slightly sour, slightly sweet organic wildberry yoghurt just because it was all I had, and it turned out to be a beautiful match!

Note: The potato I used was approximately 4 to 5 times the size of the egg I used. The onion was about the size of the egg or slightly smaller.

the love children of latkes and tortilla de patatas get friendly with a dollop of yoghurt.

These flourless potato pancake-omelettes had me charmed at first taste. The softness of the cooked egg and the gentle bite of the grated potatoes complemented each other. The onion weaved some lovely invisible magic to the flavour, along with the salt and pepper. The good quality yoghurt, thick and tangy, brought everything together. This is definitely something I'll be making again, and the next time I do so, I hope to be cooking up a bigger batch and sharing it around with loved ones.

going, going, gone!

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

mochi milk cookies / biscuits

mochi milk cookie

Mochi milk cookies? Why not! I recently found out about CSR Sugar's Bake a Difference donation drive from Jeroxie. (Click on the cupcake if you want to join in or find out more!) It really gave me a good push to get around to testing out this cookie idea that I had been toying with lately.

From the CSR Bake a Difference website:

Every year, the lives of thousands of disadvantaged Australians are transformed by the support of Mission Australia. This Christmas, please join with CSR Sugar to give others a fair go by baking gifts for your loved ones, friends and co-workers and donate the money saved from buying presents to Mission Australia. In return, CSR Sugar will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000.

I didn't know what I should call these cookies at first. Actually, we call them biscuits/bickies here, but I think many of my readers are from North America, and identify these as cookies. So cookies it shall be. Milk cookies? Shortbread cookies? Sugar cookies? I finally christened them mochi milk cookies, because that sounds like a cute and appealing name (to me, at least). They also happen to be gluten-free and egg-free!

mochi milk cookie dough

It all started with the glutinous rice flour I have left over from when I made my lavender tang yuan. Every time I opened the cupboard, I felt like it was imploring me to use it up. Alright then. I had not baked cookies in ages, so one fine Friday (my favourite day off work for my cooking adventures) I set about making my mochi milk cookies with that guilt-tripping glutinous rice flour. The eggless thing was not actually intentional; I was planning to make the cookies with eggs. But there was only one left in the fridge, and it belonged to Simon's housemate. I might have borrowed if there were still a few left, but it didn't feel right taking the last one. I couldn't be bothered leaving the house just to get eggs - an egg-free recipe was thus born!

I'm sure there is room for improvement, but for now, here is my simple gluten-free and egg-free mochi milk cookie recipe for a small test batch of approximately 20 cookies. P.S. - with Christmas just round the corner, I made them with angel and star cookie cutters to get into the festive spirit!

before baking

mochi milk cookies / biscuits

1/2 cup glutinous rice flour + 2 tablespoons
1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup full cream instant milk powder
1/4 cup caster sugar + 1.5 tablespoons
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt

- Set aside 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour in a bowl.

- Put 1/8 cup butter, 1/4 cup full cream instant milk powder, 1/4 cup caster sugar, 1/4 cup water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer, stirring.

- When all ingredients have thoroughly dissolved, pour the thick golden liquid into the bowl with the glutinous rice flour. Mix it up with a wooden spoon.

- At this point, things may still be looking a bit gluggy. Not to worry, just add more of the dry ingredients. In my case, I combined 2 tablespoons of glutinous rice flour and 1 and a half tablespoons of caster sugar, and mixed that in.

- This should form a workable dough that is soft and moist with a hint of oiliness. You can chill it for awhile if you like but I didn't and they still turned out fine. Shhh, I'm breaking all the rules.

- Roll dough out on lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on lined trays.

- Bake at 180C/350F for about 10 minutes or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven.

- You can decorate these cookies if you like.

Note: Aim for a dough that is smooth, soft and workable - it doesn't matter if the ingredient amounts don't match up exactly with my recipe.

team crunchy...                                                                                                                                              or team chewy?

Since many people can be quite particular about how they like their cookies, I feel the need to note that the texture of these mochi cookies will probably be quite different to what most are used to, though those of you familiar with glutinous rice flour will have some idea of what you'll be getting into! However, you can play with baking times, temperatures and the thickness of the cookies to create rather different outcomes.

I baked them all together at the same time and temperature, but made the cookies in varying degrees of thickness. The thicker ones came out more mochi-like with a moist, dense and chewy texture. The thinner ones turned out hard, dry and crunchy like biscotti. Quite a contrast!

While I don't know if these cookies are for everyone, I am intrigued enough to experiment more with the concept, plus they were well-received by Simon and his housemates, which is always nice! I also found that I really liked them with English Breakfast tea. No need to add milk or sugar, just have the tea plain with these cookies! One bite of cookie, one sip of tea... mmmmmm, contentment.

sweet milk cookies + English breakfast tea = fabulous flavour match!

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

chicken cucumber sandwich with ginger mushroom butter

chicken cucumber sandwich, moving towards the light.

December's going to be a busy month. I'll be doing lots of overtime at work, and my parents are visiting, but hopefully I can still update my blog fairly regularly!

I'll just make this a quick one. One of the sandwiches I am most familiar with growing up consisted of buttered bread with chicken and cucumber. It's simple stuff, perhaps a little boring to some, but I am rather fond of it. I had some leftover cooked chicken from a soup the other day, so I decided to make this sandwich with a slight twist, while still keeping it quite uncomplicated. This is where oyster mushroom + ginger butter comes in...

Making the butter was easy. I sweated diced oyster mushrooms and finely grated ginger in a little bit of salted butter, then removed from heat and folded this mixture into some more butter. This makes a chunky but soft and spreadable gingered oyster mushroom butter. I swiped it on some freshly toasted ciabatta bread.

gingered oyster mushroom butter

On top, I layered cucumber slices, then sliced chicken, and seasoned to taste. Seasoning suggestions: I thought ponzu would be nice with this but since I didn't have any, I settled for a little soy sauce, mirin,  pepper, and lemon juice. If you have some suitable herbs or greens lazing about (which I didn't, but wish I did), you can scatter them over as well.

I definitely prefer eating this when it is freshly made, while the butter is still warm, the oyster mushrooms juicy and the bread is toasty. I think it agrees...

chicken cucumber sandwich, contemplating life.

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Sunday, 28 November 2010

panama dining room, fitzroy

It had been awhile since I last saw my friend Joanne, so we organized to catch up over dinner at the relaxed loft-style Panama Dining Room on Smith St, Fitzroy. We were lucky to get the only table left for Saturday night at 9pm when I called that evening. Quite a late one, but I guess it builds up the anticipation!

Our shared starter was one of the specials they had that night - I don't remember the description exactly but I think it may have been something along the lines of bonito fish on orange marmalade, avocado puree with a witlof and watercress salad. The different tastes and textures here were wonderful when eaten together. Sweet, savoury, tangy. Soft, creamy, crunchy. Definitely an appetizer that left us wanting more.

Our mains arrive. Mine was another special of the night, wagyu beef with potato rosti and spinach puree. While the rosti was decent and I liked the rich verdant taste of the puree, the wagyu was a disappointment. I must've gotten a bad cut of meat because it was stringy and chewy, which made it a struggle to slice and eat. I drowned my sorrows with sweet Spanish sherry, which is the best one can do under such circumstances.

On the other hand, the Kinkawooka mussels with Sardinian cous cous and saffron that Joanne received was excellent. The seafood flavours were beautiful in this one.

After thinking long and hard about which dessert we'd like to share, we enlisted the waitress for her assistance and with her help, settled on the sheep's milk yoghurt cake with rhubarb and ginger beer sorbet and a ginger florentine. This was delicious - the soft, warm and inviting cake was an exquisite match for the refreshing ginger beer sorbet.

I'm finding it a little difficult to conclude my thoughts on Panama Dining Room, due to the major issue with my main marring what would otherwise have been a completely fantastic dinner. I'm definitely open to going back again to give it another shot. If you've been there, let me know what you think!

P.S. Panama Dining Room, along with many other restaurants, are participating in StreetSmart Australia until the 24th of December. Eat out and leave a donation to support small grassroots organisations that help the homeless! Here is a link to the list of restaurants taking part in this event.

Panama Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

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