May 30, 2010

Rhubarb and raspberry crostata

I love the Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine and this recipe is straight from its Italian issue (May 2010). Sweet raspberry filling is given an extra tang from ginger and rhubarb.

Rhubarb and raspberry crostata

500g rhubarb, chopped

250g caster sugar

thinly peeled rind and juice of 1 orange and 1/2 lemon

2tsp finely grated ginger

1tsp vanilla extract

100g frozen raspberries, defrosted

For brushing: eggwash

For dusting: demerara sugar

Pasta frolla

220g plain flour

100g cold butter, chopped

60g pure icing sugar, sieved

1tsp vanilla extract

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

To make pasta frolla, process flour, butter, icing sugar and pinch of salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add egg mixture and vanilla and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Place rhubarb, sugar, rinds, juices, ginger and vanilla in a saucepan and stir over high heat until sugar dissolves. Let simmer stirring occasionally until thick and jam-like. Add raspberries and let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out 2/3 of the dough into a 3 mm thick sheet and line a 13cmx36cm tart tin. Trim the edges (keeping in mind that the dough will shrink slightly in the oven), and spoon in the cooled rhubarb mixture.

Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 15mm wide strips. Arrange strips over jam and trim excess. Brush pastry with eggwash, dust with demerara sugar and bake until crisp and golden (about 40 mins). Let cool before serving.

May 29, 2010

International Nippon Club Restaurant, Sydney CBD

I've been to the Nippon Club in Sydney CBD a few times before and it has a certain character to it that I like. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I guess it's a bit like a Japanese RSL. The food is authentic and decent quality, the setting is roomy and it doesn't get too noisy which is sometimes important when you want to have a good catch up with an old friend. There is a private room you can also book for a larger group.

I have sometimes spotted a group of Japanese business men gathering here after work drinking sake and Japanese beer and talking politics (well that's what I assume they might be talking about), and that is exactly what you would expect from this place. Perhaps a better place for lunch, but definitely not a bad choice for a low-key dinner. Please note that some dishes are not available before 7.30pm.

Nasu dengaku - This is one of my all time favourite Japanese dishes, but this one was not the best one I've had.

Vegetable and prawn tempura - Slightly disappointing because of bland taste

Grilled unagi (eel) is another one of my favourites and my theory is that a lot of sauce means worse quality eel. This one didn't have a lot of sauce, but again not the best one I've tried.

Tori no kara-age (deep fried chicken nuggets) - I remember having this the last time when I was here and I wasn't disappointed. A generous portion and tasty chicken.

Green tea ice cream with red bean paste - I can't complain. I don't think I have ever complained about ice cream.

Address: 229 Macquarie St, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9232 2688
Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30amd-10pm

May 27, 2010

Buttermilk-lingonberry muffins

Buttermilk is definitely something us Finns drink by the carton. The selection in Finland is mind boggling and a lot them have added health benefits like good bacteria, added calcium, etc. The buttermilk you get here is not the same kind, and it's missing that tang and is in my opinion far too sweet to drink on its own (although I occasionally do that too). Therefore it's more suitable for baking and I promise you it makes the softest muffins and bread loaves!

This time I wanted to continue with the Nordic theme and added lingonberry in to the mixture. I always have a few jars of lingonberry jam in the fridge (available among other places at IKEA) because I have it with just about everything.

Buttermilk-lingonberry muffins (makes 12)

200ml buttermilk
2 eggs
50ml canola oil
100ml (or more) lingonberry jam
pinch of salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda

Mix the buttermilk, eggs, lingonberry and oil together. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir in to the buttermilk mixture. Spoon the dough into greased muffin tin and bake in 180C for 12-15 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Serve with butter.

May 26, 2010

Finnish fish pie - Kalakukko

I have a lot of memories from my childhood that involve food and flavours. It's like with any other senses; you keep them with you until one day you smell, taste, touch, see or hear something you experienced many many years ago. It must have been well over 15 years ago since I last had this pie at the summer markets in Eastern Finland and I always remember how good it tasted. This is not a pie from my home region (that being the Western border), and probably for that reason I never had the home made version of it. Since moving to Sydney I've been digging out the most traditional Finnish recipes and recreating them using the ingredients available here. This is definitely one of those recipes and I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out. It's like walking down the memory lane...

Finnish fish pie


500ml water
2 tsp salt
50g melted butter
200g plain (wheat) flour
about 600-800g rye flour (plus more for dusting)


800g whitebait, heads and tails removed, washed and dried
200g bacon, rind on
2-3 tsp salt

Mix the ingredients for the crust together and knead the dough until smooth. Sprinkle a baking surface with rye flour and roll the dough in to a large, 2 cm thick sheet. Sprinkle some more rye flour on the sheet, and layer the fish and the bacon in the middle of the sheet (sprinkle a tablespoon of rye flour in between the layers and season with salt). Place the rest of the bacon on top of the last layer of fish. Turn the sides of the dough on top of the filling and carefully, with cold water and using your fingers, seal all the seams. Rub the top of the pie dry with a little rye flour.

Bake the pie in 225C for about 30 minutes or until the surface has crisped and coloured. Take the pie out of the oven, wrap tightly in baking paper and foil and return to the oven for another 3 hours. Lower the oven to 150C or 125C towards the rest of the baking. Wrap the baked pie in a tea towel to soften the crust.

The traditional way to serve the pie is to cut the top off and then cut a piece of the crust to have with the filling. You can also have the pie with butter.

May 25, 2010

Makoto Sushi Bar, Chatswood

I had been keen to visit this sushi bar for a long time, but usually the shopping trips to Chatswood are so hectic I rather go home than hang around any more than necessary. This time we were, however, on such a good mood after a successful shopping that we decided to sit down and enjoy a nice lunch as a reward. This is definitely a popular spot, we were there bang on at 12.30 and got seats but by 1 o'clock there was the familiar queue of people behind the front desk waiting to be seated.

Salmon and tuna sushi

Tuna sushi - always a favourite

Salmon sushi

Grilled scallop conveyor - So melt in your mouth I could've had more...

Beef roll - Interesting flavour combinations, but a tad dry

Shrimp sushi with some kaviar

Mediterranean roll with sun dried tomato, seaweed salad and pesto on top!

Couldn't let this pass... Green tea crepe filled with green tea cream... Seriously delicious.

I must say it could be much thanks to this place I can now look forward to more shopping in Chatswood!

May 24, 2010

Madeira Cake

I love lemony cakes and desserts and this cake is no exception. Simple yet tasty and when served with a dollop of vanilla cream it makes a perfect quick treat for an afternoon tea.

Madeira Cake

180g unsalted butter, softened
185g caster sugar
3 eggs
165g self-raising flour
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp lemon juice
2tsp caster sugar to sprinkle

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Fold in the sifted flour, lemon rind and juice until combined. Spoon into a prepared tin (round 18cm tin), level the surface and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake in 160C for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Serve with vanilla flavoured whipped cream or dust with icing sugar.

May 23, 2010

Spice Temple, Sydney

To be quite honest, I first got intrigued to visit this restaurant because of their rather mystical-vibed website. The menu looked interesting too, so the decision was clear: I must try this one out.
Complimentary spiced popcorn (containing a mix of spices including paprika, chilli, and cumin) while waiting for my friend to arrive.

Complimentary lemongrass and rose petal soda. Sometimes it pays off to get chatty with the bartenders...

Cucumbers with smashed garlic and ginger - Refreshing and tasty

Hot pot of fresh shiitake, oyster, enoki and wild Chinese mushrooms, Yunnan style - The broth was incredibly full of taste. I love mushrooms and they soaked in all the goodness of the broth. The smaller size is enough to serve two very generously.

Stir fried quail and peanuts with steamed egg custard - "spicy, crunchy, creamy" - so true! This dish had so many textures and flavours and the soothing egg custard was really lovely with the spicy crunchy mixture.

Tea smoked chicken with black vinegar - This is a method of cooking I've been wanting to try at home for ages, so I was really keen to see how it tasted. The dish was very fragrant and the taste was intense. Again, very generous portion as we are talking of a whole chicken here.

Sadly we had a time limit on our table (we arrived at 6.30 pm so we had to be out by 8.15 pm) so we didn't have any time for desserts. The craving for sweet (and more wine) had to be fixed at the Guylian Chocolate Cafe with this dark chocolate ice cream.

Spice Temple was definitely an interesting culinary experience with a trendy atmosphere. We were pleasantly surprised by the generous portion sizes, the overly friendly and helpful staff and the offering of a doggy bag to go! Next time I wouldn't mind trying out their desserts and the exciting collection of teas!

Oh and yes I did see Neil Perry walking (I wouldn't use the word "storming" because it has a somewhat aggressive echo to it, but he certainly wasn't just strolling) in and out of the kitchen, but didn't dare to stop him for a photo!

May 22, 2010

Australian Heritage Hotel Revisited

It's sometimes hard to find a place that would cater for a large group offering good food for a decent price. I've found that the Australian Heritage Hotel can do just that and their famous pizzas have never been disappointing. This time we did get to try some of the other dishes on the menu, but my all time favourites are definitely the BBQ emu pizza and the tiger prawn pizza.

Roast duck pizza - Plum sauce base, mushroom, Spanish onion, Asian greens, shallots, sesame seeds & topped with hoi sin sauce. Good amount of duck on the pizza and that goes for all the pizzas here: they are all good value.

Spiced lamp salad with cous cous, grilled capsicum & rocket with a tomato & herb dressing. Generous amount of lamb by the way! Not your average big bowl of lettuce topped with a couple of slices of meat. Delicious dressing too.

Grilled pure beef, garlic & thyme sausages with potato mash, onion gravy, parsnip chips & chives. Those sausages look delicious!

Chicken and mushroom pie - Chicken & mushrooms in a white wine sauce, served with potato mash and salad. The pie was quite average, but the mash was really nice and so creamy!

Generous portions, good value and friendly staff! But book early, this place is always full especially on Friday nights!

May 20, 2010

Herbie's Spices, Rozelle

I have an incurable addiction to buying spices. I don't know why I find them so irresistible and fascinating, but I find myself stocking new spices in my ever so full spice stash almost weekly. You can then imagine what it felt like to visit the famous Herbie's in Rozelle. Yes, it was a feeling much like most girls would experience when stepping in to a shoe shop: I was in my sanctuary.

Real cinnamon, not cassia...

If you are unsure what to get there is the tasting shelf...

Umm can I have a moment on my own please? Just me and the spices.

And what did I find? Allspice, the much needed ingredient to make the Scandinavian pickled herring; Barberries for making... well I just needed to have them! And cute pink peppercorns which I don't actually like so much, but which I know will make a great addition to many dishes.

I'll definitely want to revisit this place very soon!

May 18, 2010

Kazbah on Darling, Balmain

I had been looking forward to visiting the famous Kazbah, but I had never expected the restaurant to be quite so popular! We were unable to get a booking for Saturday 11 am (with the intention to have brunch there), so we booked for 1 pm lunch instead and as we sat down at the table the queue in front of the restaurant started slowly growing...

We decided to order a few mezzes for a light lunch...

Chermoula Marinated Olives and Crumbed Halloumi Cheese with Quince Sauce - I am usually a big fan of marinated olives, but the chermoula mix was a bit too strong for my palate.

Crumbed Halloumi Cheese with Quince Sauce - I love halloumi and the sweet quince sauce was definitely a nice match to the cheese.

Basturma Wrapped Baked Madjool Dates Filled with Shadows of Blue - This was my favourite: the basturma (air dried cured meat) was very tender and I am a real sucker for those fresh, delicious dates! The Shadows of Blue was not too strong so all in all this was a very well balanced dish.

Chickpea Battered Walnut and Feta Zucchini Flower, Muhamara Sauce - So many new interesting dishes to try! I had not heard of the muhamara sauce before (I'm a real novice to Middle Eastern and Moroccan food), but pared with fairly bland zucchini flower it was very enjoyable.

I could definitely go back to this place. There is so much to try and they have a new menu out every few months! I do recommend booking early and getting a big group of friends to go so you can try as many as possible of those interesting dishes! :)