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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ho ho ho and a bottle of champers

I kept putting off this post as I've been feeling a bit lazy of late, and been somewhat busy eating, catching up with family and friends, getting heatstroke playing tennis, driving, braving the city for some bargain hunting and constructing an anti-sunlight device for my bedroom consisting of sheets sewn together in a umm.. rustic manner. As you might possibly be aware, today is New Year's Eve, so I thought I should get this written up before the new year is upon me and I'm nursing a hangover and hair of the dog on top of being busy and lazy.

I hadn't spent Christmas with my family for a few years, as Christmas 2007 was spent with my (now ex) boyfriend's family, and Christmas 2008 was spent driving between Montreal and New York city (we did manage to pull over on the side of the road for some delicious goat cheese and turkey sandwiches for lunch), so it was really nice to spend it with them and get some stocking action after two years of missing out. This was also our first Christmas with a baby in our immediate family, and my nephew's involvement seems to validate our continued stocking tradition. Do other people still do stockings? Will I ever outgrow it?

After spending Christmas eve building a gingerbread house and catching up with family, it was soon time for the traditional Christmas Eve seafood gorging extravaganza. This year did not disappoint, with some fine dishes on offer - South Australian oysters with Cointreau, coriander and sweet chilli, smoked salmon, smoked albacore, mango & spinach salad, prawns, crays (ok, technically they're Western Rock Lobsters but we're on a nickname basis), herb crumbed fish and scallop & chorizo rosemary skewers.

Christmas Eve deliciousness, with Dad's hand making the large prawns and cray slices looking like teeny tiny little things

My first plate.. seconds and thirds were enjoyed soon after

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Daring Bakers turn Architects

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Yay! Gingerbread houses! I feel like I've done my dash waxing lyrical about gingerbread in my recent Gingerbread Christmas Biscuits post, and I'm a little weary after the last day spent completely gorging on food and opening exciting presents, so I might let the pictures speak for themselves.

We were given a choice of two different gingerbread recipes, but for the purposes of this post I'm going to give you a different one that I can recommend if you are going to get architectural yourself. If you are just going to make gingerbread biscuits though, I'd recommend my usual gingerbread recipe instead.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Aussing up Christmas

As I said before, this year's Christmas baking was a bit of a rushed job, and although I would have liked to try out a new Christmassy recipe, I just kept things simple and made a tried and true crowd pleaser. The final component of this year's Christmas baking parcels, making friends with the Fruit Mince Shortbreads and the Gingerbread Biscuits, was therefore really not at all Christmassy but totally Aus. Macadamia ANZAC biccies.

For those of my non-Aussie (not to be confused with "unAustralian") readers, the term ANZAC refers to Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and ANZAC Biscuits were first made during WWI by loved ones wishing to send treats to soldiers on the front line. This style of biscuit was made as they are quite sturdy and keep well, thus surviving the long journey to the soldiers.

Like most Aussie or NZ things, there is disagreement between Australian and New Zealand sources over where they actually first originated from. I think that given the name we should both claim them equally. I also think that Russell Crowe is totally from New Zealand, and Pavlova belongs to us.

I didn't realise this, but according to Wikipedia the usual protection that restricts the use of the term ANZAC without first obtaining permission from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs is generally excempt for ANZAC Biscuits "as long as these biscuits remain basically true to the original recipe and are both referred to and sold as ANZAC Biscuits and never as cookies". Well, I wouldn't dream of calling these cookies ('twould surely be unAustralian), but I'm a little concerned that the addition of macadamia nuts in my recipe might be seen as not remaining true to the original recipe. Macadamias are at least endemic to Australia. Please don't tell The Hon Alan Griffin MP (dobbing is totally unAustralian).

This recipe is very easy and quick and is always met with cries for more, you can't go wrong with it. The only thing I'd really recommend is to weigh the ingredients instead of measuring, as I find this always creates the perfect consistency, but either way you should get good results.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gingerbread you can catch

I didn't really like gingerbread when I was little, but whenever we went to Pizza Hut I begged and pleaded for a Gingerbread Man. I'd eat all the icing, and pick at the gingerbread, wishing there was more icing. Thinking back now, I'm not sure whether I didn't really like gingerbread, or if I just didn't really like Pizza Hut gingerbread. My days of thinking that Pizza Hut's all-you-can-eat was THE meal of choice for a special birthday celebration are long behind me, and I'm pretty sure that they don't even make Gingerbread Men any more, so this may forever remain one of life's mysteries.

Despite getting off to a rocky start, gingerbread and I now get along famously. Instead of taking me back to feelings of eating too much pizza and going overboard at the dessert bar (oh man I so badly wanted one of those in my house!!) it now makes me think of Christmas and Sweden and snow and glögg. I've had a hankering for glögg ever since the festive season kicked into gear, but it's just not doable in 35 degree weather. Beer is definitely winning out as drink of choice, but doesn't pair with gingerbread quite so nicely (even if it's ginger beer).

I first made this gingerbread recipe for Christmas gifts last year, evidence of which you can see in my blog header figure. I liked the recipe so much that it has now apparently made it into my Christmas gift recipe collection. Making these cookies is also a great antidote to all the food and booze sneaking its way into your system at this time of year, as rolling out the chilled dough requires the strength of twenty atom bombs for a fair bit longer than twenty seconds. If you're struggling with this, just let the dough warm a little more - warmer dough isn't as easy to work with once rolled, but you'll still get fine results.

Zoom go the stars across the table and into my mouth

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fruit Mince Shortbreads

Ahh, yes, Christmas is almost here. You may be mistaken for thinking that I was taking an anti-Christmas stance, what with the distinct lack of Christmas themed posts on this here blog. Although I haven't exactly been prancing around the streets draped in tinsel and merrily singing Feliz Navidad, I'm no scrooge and my non-festiveness has merely been a matter of wedding fever having taken over most aspects of my life. I'm normally one of those annoying people who has their presents bought, if not also wrapped, with at least a few weeks to spare before the big day. This was definitely the case last year, as I had to have all the presents posted off to Australia from Canada with plenty of time to spare in case Quarantine took their sweet time rifling through the souvenir t-shirts, Turtles chocolates and zany (or possibly whacky or kooky, I can't quite recall) Japanese toys.

Now, although my present shopping is still not quite finished, I got my priorities right and my Christmas gift baking has been taken care of. Following the disorganised theme of my life right now, I was sitting on my couch watching Futurama on Wednesday night, relaxing after a particularly plankt-tastic day at uni, and I suddenly realised that my half-formed plan to take baked treats into uni on Friday was not going to happen unless I actually baked things on Thursday. A revelation, I know. This thought was then followed (at a leisurely pace) by the realisation that if I was going to make some sort of fruit mince something then I would need to start preparing the fruit mince on Wednesday night. I mulled this thought over for a while before it struck me that it actually was Wednesday night.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Cabin

One of the new small bars to open up in the Perth area this year, The Cabin Winebar and Bistro was recently awarded the best contemporary bar at the Australian Hotels Association Awards For Excellence (sharing the prize with The George in the city). I was meant to have dinner at The Cabin a few months ago with a group of friends, but that was during my period of perpetual illness and I didn't quite make it. I did however finally find some time to get there a couple of weeks ago for a relaxing long lunch with a friend on a very warm summer's day.

The Cabin is located on Scarborough Beach Road in Mount Hawthorn, and after parking my car at the nearby Mezz shopping centre I discovered that they have a carpark out the back. This is good to know, as I really don't need the temptation of parking anywhere near Liquorice Gourmet Foods (located within the Mezz, and also at Claremont Quarter). It is IMPOSSIBLE to walk within 100 metres of that shop and not somehow find yourself carrying a shopping bag filled with all manner of chocolate coated things.

For want of far better English than I am currently capable, The Cabin is decked out in a decidedly cabinny manner - rustic wooden tables, taxidermy-filled exposed brick walls - but the overall finish is very polished. Although we admired the interior, they were absolutely blasting the air conditioning so we quickly escaped outside and looked for a spot in the shade. Shady spots were actually few and far between, as the black umbrellas you can see in the photograph can't actually be used due to the wind, but luckily some girls were finishing up at the one shady table so we pounced on that and set up shop for a couple of hours.

The first menu perusal was of the drinks, and there is an excellent selection on offer. I was particularly smitten by a few of the cocktails but decided to have a non boozy lunch, whilst my friend went for a rosé, if my memory is not mistaken. Sadly my memory doesn't stretch to actually recall which wine it was, but apparently it was nice enough to have a second glass!

Next task was to try and decide on what to eat. The menu is split into two sections - "Small to share" and "Big to share" - although I am sure you could happily eat one of the big dishes, possibly accompanied by the side of a small dish, as a meal for one.

It's always a little awkward when you go out for a meal with a group you're not entirely familiar with, and there is that moment of trying to figure out if it will be a sharing meal or not. This is second only to the then-inevitable moments if you do decide to share, when there is only one or two of some things left on plates or if there is not enough for everyone in the first place. My Dad, he whom I inherit my impressive buffet consumption skills from, always brought me and my siblings up to not ever be foolish enough to ask if someone wants the last piece of something if you actually want it. Whilst this tactic works well in my family I tend not to employ it while out with others for fear of my gluttony being all too apparent. I'm sure I'm not kidding anyone however, particularly those who know me well, which is obvious when I eat out with C for instance when she defers all extra food to me.

This day my friend and I were in immediate agreement that it would be a sharing occasion, and we finally settled on two of the small dishes - "Broad bean, garden pears, goats curd" ($14.00), "Amelia Park lamb cutlets, spicy roast pumpkin" ($16.00), and one of the big dishes - "Whole baked Pemberton trout, celery, horseradish, cider" ($30.00).

Broad bean, garden peas, goats curd ($14)

The beans and peas were obviously fresh, and popped deliciously in your mouth. The goats curd was just sharp enough, and so creamy, and I was happy to discover a surprise addition of some slow roasted onion in there as well. A delicious, fresh dish.

Amelia Park lamb cutlets, spicy roast pumpkin ($16.00)

This was one of those dishes that made me sound like an idiot as I kept exclaiming how tasty it was. The lamb was juicy and tender, with a nicely seared finish. The pumpkin was so incredibly rich with flavour I wish I could have just eaten a bowl of it. I also wish my palate were more intelligent so that I could figure out just exactly what the spices were, but I just kept eating it and exclaiming again how tasty it was and not being able to figure anything out except that I liked it and wished I would shut up.

Whole baked Pemberton trout, celery, horseradish, cider ($30.00)

The trout dish was a great mixture of textures. The salad was fresh and crunchy, with an interesting edge provided by the horseradish, whilst the fish was a combination of juicy and soft flesh with a beautifully crunchy skin. We picked out the little tiny cheeks, having one each, before splitting the rest of the fish between us. Mr Trout kept looking at me with his little eyes, but I told myself he had gone to a better place.

After digesting for a while and finishing our drinks, we decided to have another look at the menu. We were momentarily tempted by the "warm chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream" ($14.00), then decided not to get anything else, and then somehow found ourselves ordering more of the small dishes - "Green asparagus, egg chutney, salmon roe" ($12.00) and "Tin of Ortiz anchovies, toast" ($19.00). This friend and I are a terrible influence on each other... one time we went out for a light dinner and ended up doing a three hour degustation. I'm surprised we didn't end up trying every dish on this menu.

Green asparagus, egg chutney, salmon roe ($12)

Egg chutney, salmon roe

I was intrigued by the thought of egg chutney, and found to my pleasure that I really liked it although I'm not really sure it could be called a chutney as such. It was a soft mixture of chopped egg white in a yellow liquid that I assume was some combination of yolk and vinegar, with finely chopped chives and bright orange roe. A great accompaniment to the asparagus, which was perhaps ever so slightly overcooked but quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Tin of Ortiz anchovies, toast ($19.00)

I'm a sucker for salty fishy goodness, and these anchovies hit the spot with the fresh, crisp bread, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of dried chilli. Simple and delicious. Also very expensive, which I somehow didn't realise at the time but I suspect I may still have ordered it.

I clearly really enjoyed my meal at The Cabin, finding all of the dishes hit the mark in terms of taste, texture and freshness. The only downside that was apparent were the prices, which are a little steep, so if for some reason you have a horde of hungry men to feed I'd recommend first taking them down the road to the Paddo to fill up on beer and wedges before bringing them here.

The Cabin was very quiet when we were there, with only two other tables being occupied, but I've been told by friends that it can get incredibly loud inside when it is full of people, so perhaps it's not the place to go for intimate conversation on a busy night unless your dining partner is a bore and you are in need of distraction. Probably a good place to go if your dining partner is a boar too, they might find a long lost relative hanging on the wall.

Make sure to say goodbye to Mr Owl on the way out..

(I discovered later in the day that I was not actually sitting entirely in the shade during this meal, and ended up with a lovely red patch on my thigh that must have been in the sun while the rest of me wasn't. I clearly haven't developed my summer skin yet, but luckily the patch has now disappeared. I need to get my white arse to the beach.)

The Cabin Winebar and Bistro
Upstairs, 174 Scarborough Beach Road, Mount Hawthorn
Phone: 08 9444 6214
Website: The Cabin
Email: info@darkhorsedevelopments.com.au

Cabin Wine Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bali Wrap Up (sigh)

So, after our dinner at Warung Eropa we spent a few hours digesting and lounging around before deciding that the night was not yet over and a night time visit to the beach was in order. We drove down to Ku De Ta (where we had enjoyed cocktails on Day 1, and dinner on Day 2), parked the car and headed down to the beach. We walked and talked for a couple of hours, enjoying the magic of the ocean at night and the feeling of sand between our toes. I have blocked out the memories of having to madly dash over sewage streams that we encountered on our way, so I won't be able to elaborate on that. We then had some fun with the camera...

Late night Bali beach shenanigans

As is traditional when staying up late and possibly imbibing a wee dram or two, we then decided that we needed to fill our bellies before contemplating our very last sleep in Bali (for this trip, at least). With limited food options at this hour (as we discovered during what shall be named The McDelivery Incident) we ended up at SoHo in Seminyak, which is a 24 hour diner style restaurant and bar.

SoHo Restaurant

The menu consists of such late night fare as buffalo wings, potato skins, toasted sandwiches and nachos. I noticed that their burger selection offered an Aussie Burger, complete with egg, bacon, cheese and beetroot, but I decided not to choose my meal based on patriotism. Between us we ordered a tuna toasted sandwich, a full breakfast, chicken quesadilla, vegetarian quesadilla and some cheese fries. None of the food was really anything special, but gourmet fare isn't really required at this hour of the night, and these hot, simple dishes really hit the spot.

It made me think back to the big drinking days of my late teens, when I would arrive home in need of something in my belly (if I hadn't already partaken in a "hot dog without the dog" from the hotdog man who always seemed to be lurking around outside bars at that hour of the night, peddling his dubious wares). If I were feeling particularly energetic I would cook some pasta and mix through some pasta sauce and cheese, but sometimes you just need to keep it simple and a packet of Mie Goreng or some Vegemite on toast was just as good.

Tuna toastie, full breakfast, vegetarian quesadilla, cheese fries

With satisfied tummies and happy hearts we each retired to our respective beds to dream our last Bali dreams.

It was a sad moment to wake up on the very last day, realising that we would soon be jetting back to Perth. I tried to console myself with breakfast as best I could.

Bali Day 4 breakfast - bacon, fried chicken, fried rice, sautéed veges and chilli sauce

Pandan crepe with sweet coconut, and a colourful glutinous rice somethingorother

We spent a little time packing our belongings, which somehow managed to spread themselves all over the place, and I sustained myself through this with some treats that had been left in our room the night before. Every day we were given some snacks in our room, and this was the first time that I'd actually tried any of them due to timing and stomach room. This particular snack seemed to be some sort of glutinous rice cake thing, which had a nice sticky texture but tasted a bit bland, and a delicious pandan crepe filled with a sweet coconut mixture. I could happily have had a few more of these. After finishing our packing, we said goodbye to our villa for the last time, bidding a special farewell to our lady of the shower.

Our villa - guess what the first thing I photographed was when we arrived? Hmmm...

Thank you Bali, we love you. I'll be back soon I promise.

P.S. The wedding is TOMORROW! EEK! :D

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bali Day 3 - Febri's Spa, The Samaya, Warung Eropa

Another day in Bali, another buffet breakfast. This was my favourite so far, with lots of sautéed veges, chunks of baked fish and thin noodles. I also got some bacon, some sort of potato thing with pork floss and a piece of french toast with I tasted but found dry and bland so I left most of it so that I had room for more veges and fish.

I also had a nice plate of fruit with each breakfast, enjoying such treats as mangosteen and snakefruit which I am not able to get back home in Perth (I don't think I can, anyway... please correct me if I'm wrong!).

I find it completely impossible to only have one plate of food at a buffet, and indeed have been known to go back for more food five or six times at the buffet breakfast at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. I had to ask for more cutlery during this particularly impressive breakfast, as they cleared mine away while I was up on one of my trips (I assume they were thinking I couldn't possibly eat any more food). In my defence I like to try a little bit of everything, and then go back for more of the good stuff. I also like to start off with the more continental foods (yoghurts, fruits, cereals) before moving onto the hot stuff, so it's not like I'm piling my plate up with everything on every trip. Still, I do feel a bit embarrassed by the third time I'm up getting more food. It really isn't my fault though, after all I am my Father's daughter. He is a buffet maestro, and I pity anyone foolish enough to offer lashings of seafood at a buffet that my Dad might happen to be loitering near.

Breakfast Day 3

After breakfast we headed out to the lobby where our lift was waiting to take us into Kuta for 5 hours of dayspa luxury at Febri's Spa. Well, it turned out to be 5 hours of dayspa luxury for me, but C was not quite so lucky. She managed to get a therapist who was the wonderful combination of indifferent and brutal, and apparently thought that a full body exfoliation is meant to include your lips. Weird. By the end of the experience I was feeling refreshed and had some pretty flowered-up fingernails, and poor C was feeling battered and bruised with toenails that looked quite nice but ended up chipping later due to some rough emery board use. I felt terrible as I'd chosen this particular place, but I guess it goes to show that it depends entirely on which therapist you get, no matter where you go. If only I'd been the one to get the lip exfoliator! Poor C!

Lunch at Febri's - pumpkin soup, basil & cheese filled chicken with mashed potato and orange, frozen cream with strawberries

Included in our spa package was a three course lunch, which we ate out in the regular restaurant of Febri's (it's a hotel as well as a spa). It was certainly a western meal, with a first course of pumpkin soup. Exactly what you need on a stinking hot day! The heat, combined with the overly sweet and incredibly gingery tasty meant that we left most of the soup untouched.

The main course was much nicer, and I finished my plate. The crumbed chicken was nicely cooked, with a fresh basil and cheese centre, served with coarsely mashed potato rolled in banana leaves and a zesty orange sauce. Sadly this was not C's day, as she's not a fan of basil so hers remained largely uneaten.

Dessert was the opposite, with mine still staring at me at the end but C's mostly eaten. It was a massive bowl of cream, dotted with strawberries, that had been stuck in the freezer to make the strawberries frozen and kinda crunchy and the cream cold and a bit icy. It was kind of like how I imagine a child would try and make strawberry ice cream. I picked out the crunchy strawberries to eat, and C regretted eating most of hers as hot hot heat + cream-filled belly is not a winning combination.

After lunch we ambled up to the Discovery Mall for some shopping, and later in the afternoon got some sustenance in the form of chicken satay from one of the many food places in the mall. It's funny what foods become totally acceptable as snacks when you're on holiday. I'm not sure I've ever had a massive plate of fried chicken for afternoon tea on a usual day back home. I am sure this is for the best.

Afternoon tea of chicken satay

Dropping our purchases back at the villa, we then headed out for a celebratory birthday/hens champagne at the Breeze bar at The Samaya in Seminyak, then eventually headed out for a late dinner at Warung Eropa in the Petitenget area. We left Ch to order for the table, and she did a fine job choosing Ikan Gurami Bakar Special (grilled fish with special sauce) (48 000 Rp), Ayam goreng (fried chicken) (18 000 Rp), Mie Goreng Ayam (fried noodle with chicken) (27 000 Rp), Cah Kangkung (stir fried water spinach) (19 500 Rp), Nasi Putih (white rice) (7 500 Rp), Sambal Jawa (Javanese sambal) (7 000 Rp) and Telur Asin (salty egg) (7 500 Rp).

The Samaya, Seminyak

The ikan gurami bakar special was a standout dish for me. Beautifully cooked fish, with a crisp, saucy skin and soft flaky centre. I'm not sure what the "special sauce" was, and I can't remember exactly what it tasted like, but it was bloody tasty.

Ikan Gurami Bakar Special (grilled fish with special sauce) (48 000 Rp)

The ayam goreng was tasty, and had some delightfully crispy bits, but unsurprisingly was also a bit dry. Not sure about you, but I'm willing to put up with a bit of dryness for some extra crunchy goodness, although I probably wouldn't order this again given the chance.

Ayam goreng (fried chicken) (18 000 Rp)

The mie goreng ayam was a tasty table winner that everyone enjoyed.

Mie Goreng Ayam (fried noodle with chicken) (27 000 Rp)

I really enjoyed the cah kangkung and possibly ate more than my fair share! I'm a sucker for leafy greens, with the amount I eat it's a wonder I don't start photosynthesising on my own. I particularly enjoy the break these types of dishes offer from heavy or fried dishes, such as when I get the greens with oyster sauce during dim sum feasts.

Cah Kangkung (stir fried water spinach) (19 500 Rp)

One of the nasi putih plates came with this side of beans, bean sprouts and fried onion. Cold and refreshing with a good bite!

Nasi Putih (white rice) with beans and bean sprouts (7 500 Rp)

Mmmmmm chilli goodness. Well worth the sweat and runny nose. C didn't have any of the sambal, which is probably just as well given the earlier lip exfoliation experience.

Sambal Jawa (Javanese sambal) (7 000 Rp)

This was my first time eating salty egg, and it pretty much tasted like it sounds. Salty and eggy. Who'd have thought? Could this be my entry into trying strange egg products? Might I possibly be almost ready to try some century egg?

Telur Asin (salty egg) (7 500 Rp)

This tasty spread was all washed down with a Bintang or two, and after we'd stuffed ourselves to our respective brims we left to continue our night of continued hens' weekend celebration...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bali Day 2 - Balangan Beach, Ku De Ta, MÉTIS Bali

On offer in one of the bain marie trays during breakfast on our second day in Bali was "baked beans". I was curious - would the Balinese really be able to make decent baked beans? Baked beans can be highly controversial. In my opinion, Heinz baked beans are your nice standard baked beans, great on toast for a quick breakfast or as part of a nice big fry-up. I've tried home brand ones, and other brands like SPC, and they're just not the same. Something not quite right about the sauce. Of course, homemade or "homemade" (how can they use the word "homemade" in a restaurant, I've often wondered? Do they employ someone to sleep out the back?) beans are highly superior, especially if they include tasty additions like chunks of ham or something. I really wasn't partial to the Canadian version of baked beans, finding it far too sweet as it generally contains molasses. Having said this though, I did quite enjoy the Feves au Lard from La Binerie in Montreal when we went down there for a good old fashioned Quebecois meal one night, though it's definitely a 'sometimes food' unless you have magical teflon arteries.

Breakfast day 2 - fried noodles, bacon, freaky chicken sausage, steamed veges, herbed potatoes and "baked beans"

So, I admit I was sceptical about the Balinese version of baked beans, but after the success of the delicious pumpkin pie and the fact that breakfast was indeed already paid for and all-you-can-eat I thought I'd give them a fair go. Unfortunately I like to be able to actually chew my baked beans, and not save them in my pocket should I need to stone someone to death so these particular beans didn't quite do it for me.

I was however very impressed with the chicken sausages on this morning. They had cut into the ends so that when they cooked, the ends curled up. Sadly it was much nicer to marvel at than actually eat. Never mind, the noodles and veges were tasty so I went back for more of those until I had eaten far too much (my modus operandi with buffet breakfasts when on holiday - you never know when you may next be eating! Plus it's always good to keep stretching out your stomach so it's ready for the inevitable gorging when you discover some amazing new restaurant.)

Balangan Beach - can you spot the fisherman on the cliff?

After hitting up Kuta we were then picked up by Ch in the afternoon for a trip out to Balangan Beach which is one of Bali's surfing beaches in the Bukit Peninsula. It was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon, cooling off in the ocean and then relaxing and chatting under an umbrella on the beach. At some stage we heard a loud rumbling noise and couldn't figure out what it was, but when we returned to Seminyak we discovered that it had been raining heavily in our absence! This was the only rain there was during our holiday, and we miraculously missed it by heading to the beach. Clearly the gods were smiling on us.

Ku De Ta - popular amongst the miniature martian pirate gay community

After showering and getting somewhat more dressed up than we had previously been, later that night we headed back to Ku De Ta for dinner with more friends. I didn't actually document this (due to very dim lighting, not because I was too shy to pull out the camera in the company of many people I'd only just met, honest), but we enjoyed some really very good gyoza, sushi rolls, sashimi and oysters, all washed down with a beautifully refreshing margarita.

Métis Gallery & Restaurant (photos taken from Métis website)

Next stop was THE place to be in Bali that night - the grand opening of MÉTIS Restaurant and Gallery. It really was not the event to attend if you were having a fat day or a bad hair day, as being surrounded by Russian models, even very sweet ones, is not really a self-esteem boosting exercise. Entertainment for the night included cancan dancers and a magician (complete with that spaced-out wooshy magician music), but we were more entertained by the decor and clientele.

MÉTIS Restaurant and Gallery replaces Kafe Warisan, which I was not familiar with but has apparently been a Bali institution for many years. The location is quite stunning, as you can see in the photographs above the restaurant has a lovely warm earthy tone and overlooks sweeping rice paddies. It was a little difficult to get a good appreciation for the place when we were there given the hordes of people and the fact it was set up for the opening party, but I could sense an underlying calm feel to the place despite the craziness of the night.

Métis Gallery & Restaurant opening party

Reviews of the restaurant are currently very limited given how new it is, but it appears that the menu is quite extensive, favouring classic French dishes, and the food is superb. However, I have to agree with one reviewer that "describing a dish as containing the restaurant’s “legendary foie gras” when the paint is barely dry on the walls, was a little presumptuous". If I am not feeling too stingy next time I'm in Bali (my stinginess seems to increase exponentially the longer I stay in a place where the cost of living is much less than what I'm used to) then I would like to get back to METIS for a relaxing meal, and perhaps see if this foie gras is indeed the thing of legends.

After kicking on at a house party, C and I decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to our villa, via a 24-hour eatery called Soho (we were in need of late night sustenance... where's a kebab shop when you need one?). What ensued was a very longwinded argument with the taxi driver about the price, resulting in us not only not going via Soho, but being dropped off at the wrong location of our villas (they have two nearby locations). The staff at the other place were happy to drive us to the right location, so we were able to actually get home without too much hassle but we still had hungry tummies. Room service had finished for the night, so we asked at the front desk what our options were and it appeared there was only one - McDelivery.

They called for us and we put in our shameful order, then began to wait. And wait. We waited so long that we both ended up falling asleep, only to be woken by the phone some time later. Well, I was woken by the phone, scrambled around to find a robe, and then answered the door to our delivery man. It was now over 90 minutes since we had placed the order, and the food looked and felt like it had been in transit since this time. The funniest part were the two drinks, which were in normal Maccas cups but had also been placed in their own plastic bags to catch any spills as the delivery man hooned around on his motorbike. Clearly he was a real hoonyhoonster because the bags contained most of the drinks and the cups were just in there for show. I saved the drink bags to show Caroline the next day (she was still blissfully asleep), chucked the food in the bin and went back to bed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bali Day 1 - La Lucciola, bcco, Ku De Ta and Made's Warung

Oh Bali. Was I really there last week, or was it just a lovely warm dream? If I really was there, why did I come home? If I really wasn't there, why didn't someone wake me up if I was sleeping for 5 days?

Last Wednesday night my soon-to-be-married friend C and I jetted our way to Bali, leaving behind everything we'd been stressing over for the last few weeks and months and letting out a sigh of relief as we stepped out into the balmy Bali night awaiting us. It was after midnight by the time we arrived at our villa and had checked ourselves in, and luckily we're very good friends because (of course) they had stuffed up the booking and given us a romantic queen size bed instead of the two beds we'd requested. Too late in the night to fix the mistake, we tucked ourselves in and rested up for the fun we knew was ahead in the next few days.

The birthday girl holding her cake (I feel like I should mention that the original photo does in fact show her face... I'm not so food-centric that I would only photograph the cake)

The following day was C's birthday, and after sitting down at breakfast she was greeted with a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' and a mini chocolate mud cake which looked quite nice but then proceeded to slowly melt into the plate as we ate our breakfast. Although it is perfectly acceptable and indeed encouraged to eat cake for breakfast on your birthday, it was wrapped up and taken to the cool safety of our villa's fridge for consumption later that night.

Breakfast was slightly different each day, and this was part of what I had on my plate this morning...

Day 1 breakfast plate one - passionfruit, pawpaw, fried tomato, fried chicken, fried rice, roast potatoes and wholemeal bread.

Later in the morning we were picked up by C's friend Ch who took us to La Lucciola, Seminyak, for a relaxing birthday lunch. The setting here is beautiful, overlooking the beach, and the service couldn't be faulted. The menu offers modern Italian dishes, with daily specials, and C ordered the entrée dish of "fried zucchini flowers field (perhaps they mean "filled") with roast pumpkin, gorgonzola and pinenuts" (62 000 Rp), Ch chose the entree dish of "toasted panini of goats cheese, marinated eggplant, cherry tomatoes and almond pesto" (75 000 Rp) and I chose the main dish of "angel hair pasta with baby octopus, calamari, cherry tomatoes and pinot grigio" (96 000 Rp). Ch then ordered a lychee and lime juice (30 000 Rp), and after hearing that both C and I couldn't help but copy her.

La Lucciola, Seminyak

Lunch at La Lucciola

I was lucky enough to taste all dishes, and enjoyed them all. The zucchini flowers tasted really fresh, having obviously been fried in very clean oil. The panini was nice and crunchy on the outside with a soft centre. My pasta was cooked very well, had a generous amount of seafood, and the sauce was nice and light. The juices were also super fresh and exactly what we needed to help acclimatise!

Bali Catering Company (bcco)

Next stop on our journey was Bali Catering Company (bcco) where we needed to pick up two pumpkin pies that had been ordered by Ch. She used to live in Bali, and remembers these pies so fondly that she had to share the magic with us. You're probably thinking what I was thinking - "pumpkin pie? In Bali?" but I really need no excuse to enjoy pie, and Thursday was Thanksgiving after all. I was far less sceptical about the promised quality of this pie once we arrived at bcco, and I got to have a nosy around. They had macarons! And cannelés! And Illy coffee! And beef sausage buns!

Beef sausage buns aside, the pumpkin pie was as good as promised. Beautiful short pastry and a rich gingery pumpkin filling. Perfect to enjoy after a leisurely swim in the pool.

Happy Thanksgiving! Pumpkin pie from bcco

After a lazy afternoon we headed up to Ku De Ta in Seminyak, which was ranked #9 in the Miele Guide of Asia's Finest Restaurants, and really is a cool place to hang out. It spans two levels, with plenty of barstools, sofas and daybeds to recline on and watch the ocean while enjoying a cocktail or some food. We certainly enjoyed a cocktail or two (the passionfruit and vanilla mojito was divine) and found ourselves a comfortable spot to watch the sun go down. The perfect way to farewell our first sunny day in Bali.

Ku De Ta, Seminyak

After eyeing off other people's food at Ku De Ta, we were starting to get hungry, and Ch and her friend E took us to Made's Warung, Seminyak. As they explain on their website, "Made's Warung was established in 1969 and has become social eating and meeting venue for locals, expats and tourists alike. It has grown from traditional roadside warung into a cosmopolitan restaurant serving a variety of local and international food in Bali". It's a large, busy, vibrant place filled with hungry punters, and we were lucky that E had booked us a table.

Made's Warung top floor, and the front page of their menu

After checking out the front page of their menu, I could see that they really did cater for everyone. Be you a greasy drug dealer, a brainy doctor, a debonair dandy, trapped in the 80s, Paul Hogan, a very short woman or a hairy-chested computer geek, you will be welcomed with open arms. We left the ordering to Ch, and all ended up with various versions of Nasi Campur Special (55 000 Rp).

Nasi Campur Special (no beef)

This was my favourite meal of the whole trip, and was an adventure on a plate. Nasi Campur means "mixed rice" and is basically a serve of steamed white rice and lots of tasty stuff (such as sambals, tuna, chicken, curries, tempeh, tofu, cucumber, beans). I actually couldn't tell you what all the components of this particular version of Nasi Campur Special were, but I can say that it was incredibly, wonderfully flavoursome. The hot sambal (sitting on some cucumber in the top left) was really spicy, even for this chilli lover, and was about the only thing that I couldn't completely finish on the plate as by the time I'd made my way to it I didn't have enough non-spicy components left to cut through the mouth singeing heat. Luckily I had a delicious fresh pineapple and banana juice handy to put out the fire.

After getting back to our villa, C was kind enough to share her little birthday cake with me, and thus we concluded our first day in Bali how I intended to continue - with a big smile and a full belly.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting my goat at Palmerston Palace

Roll up, roll up, get your hairy rancid goat here! The perfect opportunity to catch up on late night infomercials, you'll be up all night with this little beauty! Reaquaint yourself intimately with your toilet bowl! Amaze your friends with shocking weightloss! Ever wanted to go vegetarian but just couldn't stop eating meat? This slimey little number will send you straight to the soy aisle!

I had some friends around for dinner last night, and was quite excited at the prospect of cooking goat for the first time. I've been meaning to get my hands on some nice spring milk-fed capretto from my local butcher for a little while now, but ended up buying a goat leg in Geraldton when I was there recently as it was on special, and quite a good price. The leg was frozen, so I took it out to defrost in the fridge the other day in preparation for last night's dinner. When I got it out to marinate yesterday morning, I was ill prepared for the horror that was to meet me. The vacuum seal wasn't sealed, so the blood had oozed out into the bag I had luckily placed it in. Not such a big deal, just a bit gross to deal with. I thought I detected a strange odour, but opened up the meat anyway and instantly wished I hadn't as my nose was assaulted with rancid fumes. Being unfamiliar with goat meat I thought for a second that perhaps this was just how raw goat smells, but on closer inspection the meat also had a lovely slimey sheen to it, and just to top things off it also had clumps of hair on it. Mmmmmmmmmmmm slimey hairy rancid goat.

Into the bin the slimey hairiness went, and to the internet I turned to try and somehow find a butcher than not only stocked goat, but was open on Sundays. A seemingly impossible task, and I expected that I would have to use lamb instead, but then I came across a stall called Poacher's Pantry at the Malaga Market so off I went to Malaga on a goat mission. Happily, when I made my way successfully through the gauntlet of bogans to Poacher's Pantry, I found 2 kilos of diced goat leg sitting next to the ostrich sausages. Sadly, I also discovered that this newfound source of interesting meats is soon to close down, but the upside was that the goat was 20% off. I wish I'd bought the ostrich snags too, who knows when an opportunity for cut price ostrich sausages will present itself again?

Home I rushed, now behind the eight ball in terms of dinner prep (although I possibly may have stopped off for some celebratory duck spring rolls at Phi Yen on the way home), but rejoicing in the fact that goat was still on the menu. This was particularly worth celebrating as I had been dorky enough to actually print off the menu.

The menu for the evening began with some lamb koftas that were left over from Mum's birthday party and had been patiently waiting in the freezer (uncooked) for a special occasion, such as to celebrate the sourcing of non-hairy goat. As with at the party, I served them with some raita, and couldn't resist a little mint garnish. Unfortunately I don't have a menu for the koftas as they were made by my sister who used a few different taste.com.au kofta recipes to come up with the final product, but I can share the raita recipe I used.


1/2 cup low fat natural yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tb mint leaves, chopped
1/2 lebanese cucumber, seeded and finely chopped or grated

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lamb kofta and raita

I was lucky enough to receive a sample of Blu Gourmet Pearl Couscous from Liz at Haystac some time ago, and had been planning to serve it with goat reminiscent of the tasty (yet terribly bony and stingy on the meat) goat tagine with Israeli couscous dish I had at Bella Vista a few months back. The couscous came with some tasty sounding recipes, by Gabriel Gaté no less (oui oui!), but given that I would be using the couscous as a bed for the saucy goat dish I decided to keep the ingredients to a minimum and cook it with the wild porcini mushrooms that Evelyne sent me in her Montreal foodie exchange package.

I really liked the taste of this goat dish, but next time I would cut the root vegetables into smaller pieces (which I ended up doing this time). The meat was also much better after being in the cooker for four hours, so I'd cook it for at least that long as well. The sauce was also not quite as thick as I would have preferred, which I think would have worked better with the pearl couscous as opposed to something better able to sop up a runnier sauce (like normal couscous or mashed potato), but I did end up adding extra stock to the goat as I was using more meat than the original recipe so I would not do this next time.The couscous though was really great, and I loved the flavour and colour that the wild mushrooms added! I really like the texture of pearl couscous, and will certainly be buying it to try some of Monsieur Gaté's recipes, or coming up with my own.

Slow Cooked Capretto
Slightly adapted from the Goat Tagine recipe by Anna Gare from Best in Australia

2 kg diced goat leg meat (or whatever cut you like)
400 g sweet potato, cut into large chunks
2 medium parsnips cut into 3 or 4
2 medium carrots cut in half
10 shallots, peeled
5 Roma tomatoes chopped into quarters
Rind of a lemon and half an orange
2 Bay leaves
1 cassia bark (use a cinnamon quill if you can't get this)
600 ml chicken stock
2 cans chick peas washed and drained

Spice Rub
3 tsp Smoked Paprika pimento
½ tsp Allspice
1½ tsp coriander seeds ground
3 cardamom pods ground and husks removed
3 Cloves ground
1 tsp sea salt
3 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
1 Chilli seeds removed and finely chopped
10 g Ginger finely chopped
2 Tb Olive Oil

Freshly chopped coriander or parsley
Lemon rind

Goat marinating, sauteing the vegies, browning the meat, all hanging out in the slow cooker

1. Mix all spice ingredients together and rub over goat. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge, allowing to marinate for 2 hours.
2. Add a little oil to heavy based pot or a large tagine & lightly sauté onions, potatoes, carrots & parsnip - put aside.
3. Lightly brown marinated goat, then remove.
4. Place sautéed veg back in pot or tagine or slow cooker & put meat & rest of ingredients on top (except chickpeas).
5. Pour over stock, cover with lid and cook on low heat in oven or stove top for pot/tagine, or in slow cooker on high for 3 hrs, stirring once or twice and adding drained chick peas in last ½ hr of cooking time.
6. Sprinkle garnish over top and serve to table in tagine if that's what you're using, or in a nice big attractive dish, or plate it up individually with something like the following side dish...

Slow cooked goat leg with wild porcini pearl couscous

Wild Porcini Pearl Couscous

25 g dried wild porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
2 cups warm water
1 tsp olive oil

1. Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with the warm water, leaving them to soak for 30 minutes to an hour, or until they have softened and the water has turned into a beautiful mushroomy stock.
(I learnt from this recent post that you may then want to squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms and rinse them in several changes of fresh water to get rid of any grit or sand. When saving the mushroom soaking water for later use, you may also want to strain it through a cloth or paper towel lined sieve to catch any grit in the water.)
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the couscous to the pan and sauté until lightly toasted, around a minute or so.
3. Add the mushrooms and their stock to the pan, stir it all together and bring to the boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
5. Fluff couscous with a fork to separate the pearls, then taste and season if if necessary.
6. Serve with something delicious, such as slow cooked capretto!

Dried mushrooms, and their delicious reincarnation

Now, all these dishes may well be very tasty and interesting, but they were soon forgotten when it was time for dessert. If you have never made your own sticky date pudding, or had failures in the past, YOU MUST MAKE THIS DISH. I can still taste it now (she says, wiping the crumbs off her face from eating leftovers for afternoon tea).

The only downside to making this dish is having the voices of Gary, George and Matt continually talking in your head while you make it, as it's a MasterChef recipe. I was particularly channelling Matt when I was making the caramel for the almond praline. I resisted the urge to fashion a fetching cravat out of paper towel.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce
From MasterChef

180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1¼ cups (310ml) water
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour

Almond praline
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
¼ cup (35g) slivered almonds

Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (160˚C fan-forced). Lightly grease eight (½ cup capacity) metal dariole moulds.
2. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy.
4. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds, until 2/3 full. (I really was not at all careful in my manner of folding through the sifted flour. In fact, I was pretty rough as it was quite lumpy with flour at first)
5. Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the side of the moulds. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.
6. Meanwhile, for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray, pour over caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.
7. For the butterscotch sauce, combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla in small saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
8. To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline. (and some ice cream... go on)

I'm off to Bali on Wednesday for a lot of relaxing and eating and drinking and massages and swimming and certainly no sunburning, no no, with my fabulous soon-to-be-married bestie C, so I shall see you all when I return (not sunburnt)!

Oh I can't help myself... just one more gratuitous pudding shot...

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