Tuesday, 24 September 2013

bayte, collingwood: a lebanese brunch

I had a most supremely fabulous Saturday last week.

It was the day I stuffed myself with brunch, the day I jammed with Simon and his housemates garage-band-style, the day I had frozen yoghurt for dinner, the day filled with camaraderie and laughter and fun and affection.

This is where it all started. Brunch at Bayte (56 Johnston St, Collingwood).

Simon, as usual, kicked things off with coffee - but this time, with a Lebanese twist. It was rich and glossy and he enjoyed it.

Lebanese coffee. ($3.50)

I got myself a cool and refreshing mulberry soda. The triangular bottle it came in was cute. The mulberry concentrate seemed to collect at the bottom - I gave it a good stir, and was subsequently rewarded with a gentle berry flavour.

Mulberry soda. ($3.50)

Because we arrived at noon, it was a great time for variety - we could order off both the breakfast and the lunch menus. Hurrah!

Simon decided upon the baked eggs from the breakfast menu. This was splendid - the eggs are cooked in a spiced tomato stew, studded with bits of onion and whole juicy okras, then topped with salty, crumbly chunks of shanklish cheese, with a soft flat bread on the side. I stole a bite, and when Simon had trouble finishing it, I happily did my duty. Can't have good food going to waste.

Beyd el Firin bi Bamieh bi Zayt ma’ Shanklish – baked eggs in an okra & tomato spiced stew, topped with shanklish cheese. ($15)

I picked a couple of dishes from the lunch menu.

The spicy fish pie caught my attention immediately, and I chose it as a starter. It came with a tangy sauce, which I thought might be lemon-tahini, but I'm not sure. The pie was delicious with or without the sauce. It kind of reminded me of a curry puff. While there isn't a lot of fish in it, they do use a stronger tasting fish (mackerel, perhaps?), which Simon wasn't overly fond of, so I ate most of it.

Fatayer bi Samak – spicy fish pie with potato and pine nuts. ($7)

I also decided to be adventurous and opted for the raw lamb kibbeh, which was served with labne, olive oil and crispy flat bread. With the exception of sashimi, I don't eat raw meat very often, and sometimes I feel skeptical about it. One bite of this kibbeh, however, and my doubts were allayed - it tasted so clean, so fresh, so wholesome.

Lahem Nayeh – raw lamb kibbeh. ($14)

After all that, we were both very full, but I insisted on looking at the dessert menu as Simon lets me know I am on my own in this pursuit. I was intrigued by the booza, a homemade ice cream. The waitress informed me that the flavour of the day was bitter orange. It wasn't quite what I felt like, but I shrugged and went for it anyway. In retrospect, I should have listened to my gut instinct - it was a tad too bitter for me, but I suspect marmalade fans would adore it, with the orange flesh and zest liberally strewn through the ice cream, accented with dots of vanilla bean. The texture was interesting, with hints of stickiness and elasticity, thanks to the use of the mastic, also known as Arabic gum.

In any case, our eating patterns continue as expected, with Simon sampling only a tiny scoop while I am left with the lion's share, and managing to polish it all off successfully to boot. I really think he needs to up his game, so that I can order more stuff. That's what partners are for, right?

Booza – homemade ice cream with bitter orange, vanilla and mastic. ($4.50)

At the end of the day, I found Bayte to be a stimulating, charismatic introduction to the world of Lebanese cuisine. It was a tasty learning experience and I hope to return for a continued education.

Bayte on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

iced carrot milk

A delectable glass of iced carrot milk, made with fresh carrots.

I've mentioned carrot milk on this blog before, but I feel like I cheated my readers by talking about it so merrily and yet not offering up a recipe, especially when it is so easy to make. So here I am today, almost two years later, sharing this delightfully refreshing carrot milk recipe with you. Better late than never!

As discussed in the other post, carrot milk is a popular beverage served in Malaysian street stalls, food courts and cafes. However, as I only started appreciating it when I ventured into making my own carrot milk in Australia, I have no idea how close my version is to the typical carrot milk you can get in Malaysia. Next time I go back for a holiday, I'll try a glass, and make the comparisons. In the meantime, does it really matter? I love my version, and I think you will, too.

iced fresh carrot milk (serves 2)

2 medium to large carrots
3/4 cup water
2 cups cold milk (feel free to use soy milk, nut milk, rice milk, oat milk etc to make it a vegan recipe)
2 teaspoons raw sugar, more or less (or other sweetener of your choice)
ice cubes, to serve

Peel the carrots, then chop 'em up - if your blender isn't super-powerful, finely slice the carrots - that should help ease things along.
Thoroughly blend the chopped carrots together with water.
Filter the blended carrot through a strainer to separate the pulp and obtain carrot juice, pressing to get the most out of it. (By the way, don't throw away the pulp after that's done - save it and use it in cakes, muffins, smoothies, or stews!)
Stir carrot juice and milk together, adding sugar to taste.
Pop in a few ice cubes and serve.

If you have a juicer, feel free to use it to get a pure carrot juice to mix with milk, without having to bother with the steps involved in blending with water. Without the dilution of water, this also means that you can achieve a more intense carrot flavour!

Fresh carrot milk - gentle, sweet and refreshing.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

mr burger food truck, collingwood, melbourne et al

Mr Burger food truck at Easey St, Collingwood.

Some days are just perfect. A stroll under sunny blue skies. A brightly enticing food truck manned by cheerful staff. Getting hands-on with burgers and chips in the open air, in the company of silly seagulls.

I'm not the sort to chase after food trucks, but the great thing about Mr Burger is that their trucks are in quite a few locations - plus they have also set up a regular shop in the Melbourne CBD to make things even easier for those who just want a traditional burger joint with a fixed address.

On this occasion - a Friday afternoon - we found one of the Mr Burger trucks parked on Easey Street, Collingwood during lunch hours. It wasn't particularly busy - a few takeaways here and there. We got our food within ten minutes, and found a spot where we could plonk ourselves down to have at it.

The chips here are well-seasoned, and have a nice balance of crisp and tender.

Chips from Mr Burger. Large - $5.

And the burgers? I adored them.

I opted for the namesake, Mr Burger, while Simon had the Mr Meat. These are some pretty classic burgers - no funny business here. Just fresh, quality ingredients treated with respect. Yeah, they're a bit messy to eat. But it's worth getting your hands dirty for these burgers. So juicy, surprisingly light on grease, and still a little pink inside. Most excellent. (P.S. They also offer a Mr Veg - a vegetarian falafel burger, which is apparently fantastic, too. I may try it next time, if I am able to pry myself from the good ol' beef options.)

I introduce you to my Mr Burger, with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and tomato sauce.

Mr Burger, $10.

And here's Simon's Mr Meat, with beef, cheese, lettuce, bacon, caramelised onions, pickles, bbq sauce, and mayonnaise.

Mr Meat, $11.

Yum, yum, yum.

It goes without saying that this post comes with an enthusiastic recommendation for Mr Burger.

I think the seagull agrees, too.

A seagull sneaking in to eat some chips! Thanks go to Simon, for donating this photograph. :)

Mr Burger on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

simple silverbeet / swiss chard stir-fry

Simply awesome stir-fried silverbeet / swiss chard.

I suppose I am quite lucky that I have a boyfriend who enjoys vegetables. I seem to have adopted an anxious personality with age, so a vegetable-loving partner means one less thing I have to worry about.

Simon has recently taken a strong liking to silverbeet (also known as Swiss chard), often buying them for himself, or suggesting we buy them when we go grocery shopping together. To be honest, I haven't had much experience in cooking silverbeet, so his enthusiasm served as great motivation for me to experiment with this vegetable.

What I've come up with, thus, is this simply awesome stir-fried silverbeet recipe. Why simply awesome? Because it is so easy, and yet it tastes so delicious. I first cooked it in rendered animal fat (e.g. drippings from roast chicken), which was sensational, but it is also very tasty with butter, or, if going the vegan route, feel free to use your favourite vegetable oil for frying - if I am to make suggestions, something like grapeseed, macadamia, avocado or olive oil will suit with their lovely complementary flavours, a bit of garlic and shallot in the pan wouldn't go astray either.

simply awesome silverbeet / swiss chard stir-fry
(serves 2 as a side)

6-8 stalks silverbeet / swiss chard (including both leaves and stems)
1-2 tablespoons butter or rendered animal fat or grapeseed/macadamia/avocado/olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Trim and discard the stringier, tougher root ends of the silverbeet. Roughly chop the stalks into bite-sized pieces.
Warm up the butter, fat or oil in a pan over a medium flame.
Add silverbeet, balsamic vinegar and nutmeg. Stirring occasionally, cook for about 5 minutes, more or less, depending whether you like your silverbeet crunchy or tender.
Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

*This simple dish is full of flavour as it is (especially if you use butter or animal fat), but you might also consider frying a little bit of garlic and/or shallot in the pan before adding the silverbeet, if you would like extra pungency and savouriness. If feeling carnivorous, try it with bacon too.

An easy silverbeet /swiss chard recipe worth trying.

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