Monthly Archives

May 2011

The Abyssinian

May 30, 2011

Last Tuesday night, I met the fabulous Carly from Tune into Radio Carly for a delightful dinner. I do so love a mid-week dinner outing – it breaks up the working week and is a nice treat to look forward to. After posting about my foray into Footscray, where I first tried African food with Deb, Carly suggested we visit one of her favourite African restaurants in Kensington, The Abyssinian.

Many people had been singing the praises of this popular restaurant, and I can see why. The food was wonderful! As was the company. We chatted for three hours about absolutely everything. Blogging, food, work, friends, family, life and love. Carly is so vibrant, she’s such great company. I can’t wait for our next catch up!

We ordered the Melanzany to start, which was absolutely delicious. These cubes of eggplant were marinated in garlic and chilli, and cooked in a generous amount of oil. They were so yummy – super crisp edges, with a lovely soft flesh and a rich flavour that was overall not too oily. Together with the injera bread, it was a completely scrumptious combination – very moreish!

The injera bread was nice, however I found it to be a little too thin for my preference. Granted I am no expert on injera, after only two eating experiences! However I favoured the injera at Cafe Lalibela , as it didn’t become as soggy upon lingered contact with the wet dishes, which was my problem with The Abyssinian’s injera. Overly soggy injera is not all that delicious.

For our mains we shared two dishes…

Kitfo – raw, marinated beef. Carly recommended we order this dish, and I’m so pleased she did, as the rich flavour of the mitmita marinade was absolutely delicious.

Derek Tibs – marinated lamb pieces with chilli, onion and rosemary. The lamb was a little dry but really tasty nonetheless. I adored the flavour of the marinade, it was so beautiful, and the charred pieces of sticky onion were just delicious. The eggplant was my favourite dish, but this lamb was a very close second.

Thanks, Carly, for suggesting we visit The Abyssinian. I found the food to be really delicious. The Abyssinian offers a very casual but warm dining experience, with really yummy and exciting food. It’s a great place for group dinners, with a couple of long tables. I can’t wait to go back there and try more dishes!

For our second date, Carly and I are thinking we’ll try out Miss Chu. Duck rice paper roll goodness, here we come! (check out Carly’s post about our dinner here).

Heidi xo

My Weekends of Late

May 28, 2011

Lately, with Ben deep in study for his final CFA exam, and with it being oh so chilly outside, I have found myself pottering around the house in my super high-waisted woolen tights, enjoying domestic delights.

I have developed a nice little routine, all rather nurturing and comforting. I’m sure I’ll like to mix things up soon, but for now I am very happy, blissfully spending my weekends…

* Waking early and walking up to the shops with Ben to buy fresh bread, the newspapers and lattes. It’s such a lovely start to our day. Walking briskly in the biting morning air, it only takes us 7 minutes to reach the shops. And we’ve found a great little coffee spot for a take-away cup of smooth deliciousness. I don’t buy coffee during the week, as I don’t like to become dependant on the caffeine, and it’s also a good way to save money. Instead I’ll have a black tea with my breakfast and then drink herbal tea throughout the day. Rooibos is a current favourite. But I do always look forward to the weekend, when I treat myself to a quality cup of coffee. I also like to pick up Autumn leaves from the ground as we walk.


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* Spending time making a lovely Breakfast, such as…

Dark Rye French Toast. I used my regular French Toast recipe but omitted the blueberries, and served it with Greek Yoghurt.

Eggs.

Banana, Buttermilk, Dark Choc Chip Pancakes. I’m still perfecting this recipe…I shall blog it once I’m completely happy with it.


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* Creating recipes

Banana, Raspberry Crumble Muffins – this recipe needs a little work before blogging.

Flaxmeal Crackers – I’m hoping to share the recipe soon!


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* Watching movies curled up on the couch with umpteen blankets and cups of tea to stay warm. Although nothing warms me up like an Audrey Hepburn movie. Roman Holiday is possibly my favourite.


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* Eating Soup with Fresh Bread – olive bread if I’m lucky…


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* Meeting girlfriends for brunch, and falling in love
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* Baking Granola. Most recently this recipe.


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* Braving the cold for refreshing walks in the park or a Zumba class.


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* Having girlfriends over for dinner, wine and lots of talking. Before dinner, we nibbled on some Heidi Swanson delights – Roasted Chickpeas (recipe link) The chickpeas were too soggy, I used canned chickpeas and it was a bit of a fail.

and Muscovado Sunflower Seeds (recipe link). These were amazing!

For dessert, my friend made delicious Chocolate Ganache Cakes. They’re a Janella Purcell recipe (link here) and they contain tofu! A fabulous, healthy recipe.


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* Getting visits from mum and dad. They kindly dropped off my new vintage cabinet! My mum stumbled across this 1950’s gem and snapped it up for me – she knew exactly what I had been searching for, and it cost less than I was hoping to spend too. It is perfect and I am completely and utterly in love. Thanks mum, you’re amazing! It was also lovely to see my parent’s faces – they always make me smile. We haven’t been down in Red Hill much lately, as Ben has been chained to his desk.


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* Eating goodies my parents bought! These beautiful Basil and Lime Macarons from Chez Dré were incredible. I am a macaron novice, and I guess mum was keen for me to expand my knowledge already. I am so thankful, as these were just heavenly.


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* Snacking on Fresh Figs with Greek Yoghurt and Honey. Is this possible the most delicious snack ever?


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* Making Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta for dinner (recipe link).


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and possibly my favourite recent habit of all…

* Researching San Francisco Eats whilst curled up on the couch eating a muffin and drinking tea (I leave in two months for a three week USA trip)… muffins and tea are always involved. It’s mandatory.

All in all, life has been pretty fabulous of late… this crisp Autumn weather is agreeing with me. Give me weekends like this for the rest of my life and I shall be very happy indeed.

Heidi xo

Lord of the Fries Review (plus a giveaway!)

May 26, 2011

A short while ago, I was asked to test out the Mark Burger and Chips at Lord of the Fries. I have a distinct feeling it was after this post, where I proclaimed my undying love for burgers. I do love a good burger…

And so, the lovely Kathryn, from Keep Left PR and I begun to exchange emails, discussing the particulars. I had never visited Lord of the Fries before, you see, so I had no idea what they were about. Kathryn sent me a copy of their menu (have a look at it yourself here). “Hmmmm”, I thought, “this doesn’t exactly appear to be in my line of food preferences… I fear my review will not be favourable. Do I want to do this…?” Kathryn understood my dilemma – me being a Dietitian and all. And so she kindly sent me through the Lord of the Fries’ nutrition information, which I had requested (see here). “Huh”, I thought, “this is impressive”.

Who would have thought that Lord of the Fries was 100% vegetarian? (well, I knew, after reading Michele’s review some months ago). But it appears that many people are still very much ignorant of this fabulous fact. Not a single person who I casually surveyed was aware that Lord of the Fries was 100% vegetarian (not to mention Halal and Kosher). They also have vegan and gluten-free options (remembering that for those with Coeliac Disease they cannot guarantee no cross-contamination). Most people assume that because it is open late and often located near bars and pubs, it serves greasy junk to late-night ravers. And before I read otherwise, I thought the same thing!

Not so true, it seems. Well, it does serve late-night ravers, those partial to such behaviours will not be discriminated against…but who would have thought that the menu was comparable, nutritionally, to healthy burger chains, like Grill’d? In terms of kilojoules, protein, fat and salt, they are actually quite similar. The use of cheese in the Lord of the Fries Burgers increases their fat content a bit. Yet their burgers often contain less sodium than Grill’d. The burger patties are made with TVP (textured vegetable protein) so that is why they contain a good amount of protein despite being meat-free. This is why they also taste like meat rather than a vegetable patty. Moreover, the chips are cooked fresh, skin-on and using a high quality sunflower and cottonseed oil, which is nutritionally favourable. Not so shabby! Of course, they are still deep fried, and are by no means what we call an ‘everyday food’, but they’re certainly a healthier fast food option when compared to McDonald’s, KFC, Hungry Jack’s or the like. They also have a nice, small business turned good start-up story, and a commendable food philosophy.

Ben and I visited the Chapel Street Lord of the Fries store one Tuesday night last month. My younger brother, Jackson, was also going to join us, but pulled out at the last minute – kids these days *shakes her head*. Raj and Sethu, the two young gentlemen working that night, took impeccable care of us. They were super friendly and helpful, thanks guys! We both ordered the Big Mark Burger, and I left it in Raj’s hands to select a number of the Sauces for us to try.

We sat down in the comfy booth and played trivia on their newsletter while we waited for our meal. I had a few sips of the Jarritos Mexican sodas we ordered upon Raj’s insistence (he highly recommends the pineapple flavour). I’m not really one for soft drink, but the mandarin flavoured drink was quite tasty, and Ben enjoyed them.

Then came our tray of goodies.

Two Mark Burgers (only one is pictured here, Ben had already snagged his), a cup of chips for me and a box of chips for Ben topped with Raj’s personal favourite sauce, the French Canadian. This consisted of gravy and shredded cheese on top of the chips…Ben was in heaven. I found it a little heavy, personally, but if gravy and cheese on chips floats your boat then you’ll be thrilled.

The Sauces Raj selected for us were: Vietnamese, Satay, Parisian, Belgium and American BBQ. I found the Vietnamese to be a little neither here nor there for me. The Satay was fine, but I do not understand the appeal of dipping chips into satay sauce. The Parisian was yummy, a smooth aioli with definite garlic hints. The Belgium was very similar to the Parisian, but a little creamier. Both were quite nice. And the BBQ, well, I’m no expert on BBQ sauce but I really liked the flavour of this one.

I found the chips to be a little underwhelming, but then again I am fussy about my chips. These were really not bad at all, absolutely tastier than your average good quality chip. But my heart (and Ben’s also) still belongs to the Grill’d herby chips. These Lord of the Fries chips have a huge following though, so don’t be deterred by my personal flavour preference.

The burgers were yum! I was quite rapt with the patty, which looked remarkably like meat, and really tasted like a beef patty. It was delicious, especially in the soft bun with cheese melted on top…

The lettuce was fresh, the bun fluffy and the Lord’s Sauce subtly delicious. The cheese was a nice addition, although I found the serve to be a little keen (bordering on too much cheese for my taste, as I’m not overly fond of cheese on my burgers). It also contained pickle, which was, of course, delicious.

My View

All in all, I can sum it up like this: it tasted unhealthy (in good way), but I left the store feeling light. True story. I hadn’t ingested a phenomenal amount of fat and kilojoules, and only a regular amount of salt that you get when eating-out these days. Ben drew my attention to the fact that our fingers weren’t greasy after picking up chips. That really says something…

I’m not saying this is super healthy food, by any means, but it is certainly healthier than your McDonald’s, Hungry Jack’s, KFC, Pizza, Kebab or any other late night snack. I have read countless magazine articles giving advice on late-night snacks after you’ve been drinking… “Avoid McDonald’s and Kebabs, and opt for a toasted sandwich when you get home, made with wholegrain bread, mushrooms, tomato and a small sprinkling of cheese”…yeah right. Of course that is the ideal, but 80% of the time are people going to do that? No. They want to grab something while out with friends, to complete the social experience of a fun night out (note, I’m assuming this doesn’t happen multiple times a week). You want something to sink your teeth into, a big juicy burger – and vegetarians are no different. Lord of the Fries gives you that experience. It satisfies that craving, but, miraculously, doesn’t leave you with that feeling of heavy grease in the pit of your stomach… it allows you to avoid that junk food regret, which invariably accompanies those ‘multiple beverage-induced, late-night eats’.

Opting for a larger serve of chips and loading up on heavy sauces is where you’ll sneak in your excess kilojoules. So be aware of this. A conservative meal would be a burger and cup of chips, consumed with the odd dunk in a sauce, if you’re so inclined. The most nutritionally favourable sauces would be the American BBQ or the Mexican. Taste wise, I preferred the Parisian sauce. Although maybe I’m just drawn to France. Possibly. Very very likely. No, I jest.

Honestly, I still prefer Grill’d in terms of flavour and nturition. The burgers at Lord of the Fries don’t contain loads of fresh veggies or wholemeal buns, so they’re really lacking in fibre. And I personally prefer the herby taste of the Grill’d chips. However, there is totally a market for Lord of the Fries, and a fabulous one at that. To have the option of a vegetarian, non-greasy, more kilojoule friendly meal when you’re craving McDonald’s (or the like) is fantastic! This is definitely the type of food I would crave after a few cheeky beverages. And the best part is, you don’t walk away feeling heavy or greasy. Um, yes please?!

* Edit: I have just been informed that Lord of the Fries have recently introduced wholemeal buns to their menu, High Five for Fibre!! Sorry…

Giveaway

So, part of the deal of my review was that I would giveaway 5 vouchers for a free Mini Mark Burger! Please leave a comment below to enter the giveaway, and be sure to send me your email address so I can contact you if you win. My giveaway winners will be announced in one week, so you have until next Thursday to enter. Good luck! And if your name is Mark, listen up closely… Lord of the Fries is launching a special Mark Sauce, named after their founder, on the 21st June. To celebrate, they’re going to try to get as many Marks as possible into their Chapel Street Store. So there you go, if your name is Mark and you’re keen to take part and get a free burger, register here.

Heidi xo

Healthy No-Bake Cookies

May 24, 2011

A few months ago, I made these healthy, no-bake cookies for a Healthy Snacking presentation. I was speaking to a small group in their office, showing them how easy it is to make nutritious, satisfying, tasty snacks as opposed to simply reaching for a pre-packaged bar or the like.

This was one of the healthy snacks I made whilst presenting. I found the recipe (link here) on Oh She Glows, a healthy food blog, and was quite surprised with how darn easy they are to prepare. Angela owns a healthy bakery business, and her recipes are so vibrant, they really are fantastic.

So much nutty, seedy, fruity goodness!

Be sure to use fresh dates here, not dried. They bind the cookies with their soft, caramel properties. In fact, I rarely use dried dates in my cooking, fresh is best! You can rehydrate dried dates with water, yet I don’t get quite the same results and hence prefer to just use fresh. Fresh dates = pure bliss.

In my batch I doubled the almonds. On purpose. Yep. Well, not quite. It was actually an accident, but I quite like how they turned out. I guess it shows how fail safe this recipe is. Oh, and I used dark chocolate bits in place of raw cacao nibs, because I’m not made of money.

These babies are full of protein and fibre, plus lots of vitamins and minerals. I will often whip up a batch when I want a healthy snack for the week but don’t have a lot of time on my hands. So I thought I should share the recipe with you! Spread the love, if you will. I really am rather fond of these cookies.

Heidi xo

Three Girls and Three Bags Full

May 22, 2011

Ok. This post is serious. I am seriously in love.

I know, I know, I proclaim my love often on this blog. For food. And Ben too, but typically I am shouting from the rooftops how much I adore this recipe or that. So I urge you to please not think I hand out my love freely. I’m not like that, I am a lady.

Ok, so now we’re all on the same page.

I don’t quite know how to articulate how much I adore the dish I ate for breakfast at Three Bags Full last Sunday. My girlfriends are also suffering from this dilemma. When we explain where we went, what we ate and how delicious it was, people don’t seem to understand. We show them photographic evidence on our iphones, but they still don’t get it. If they did, we’d all be over there together eating. Like, now.

This is how it all began…

I saw Allan’s blog post about his breakfast at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford.

I saw a dish that made my heart skip a beat.

“Right”, I said to myself, “when is the soonest possible time I can visit this place?” My girlfriends and I were having brunch on Sunday, so naturally this seemed like the perfect opportunity. There was one problem though…this dish was listed as a “special”, and this was about a month ago. How long can a special last?

Well, evidently this dish was more than special, as it was still on their specials list when I visited. Phew. Although having said that, I was overwhelmed with the ridiculous amount of to-die-for sounding menu items, like the Baghdad Eggs and the Pea, Feta and Corn Fritters. Next time I’ll try to go savoury, and order one of their beautiful egg dishes. Actually who am I kidding?…I will almost certainly be repeating my order of…

Black Sticky Gingerbread

Hang on… what did I just say? Oh, that’s right,

Black Sticky Gingerbread

Yes, I know, I know.

And it tasted as good as it sounds.

Incredibly sweet, but pure perfection. The thick, moist, sticky chunks of melt-in-your-mouth gingerbread were just incredible. While only modestly spiced, the flavour was just spot on. The mascarpone was a very friendly addition, the more subtle sweetness complimenting the gingerbread perfectly. The drizzle of marmalade-like compote and pistachios on top were the ideal finishing touch, for a bit of tartness and crunch.

Oh, dear gingerbread, please stay special so I can order you again. Ever yours, Heidi.

Vicki chose the roasted mushrooms with goats cheese and almond dukkah, which were fantastic. The mushrooms were cooked absolutely perfectly, so meaty, and almond dukkah was heavenly.

Peta ordered the other special, the French Toast with crème patissier, almonds and quince. The toast was incredibly light and fluffy. It tasted like brioche but it certainly wasn’t overly rich or heavy. And the quince were just perfection.

The coffee was outstanding – a top quality cup, which we come to expect at a top Melbourne cafe like this.

We all ate our meals in pure and utter rapture. We instantly forgot our 45 minute wait in the cold to get a table (true story), and resolved to go back asap. In fact I tried to wrangle my parents (who live in Red Hill) into meeting me for breakfast there today. No dice. I tried my brother, no luck there either. He apparently had plans – doesn’t he understand the gravity of the situation? *sigh* Maybe I should have gone solo. Vicki went back today. I’m having strong feelings of jealousy and bitterness towards you, Vicki. I hope this doesn’t affect our friendship…order the gingerbread, for me, and I’ll forgive you.

Heidi xo

Hanoi Cooking Centre, Part Two: In the Kitchen!

May 20, 2011

And so here we are, in the kitchen of the Hanoi Cooking Centre. In case you missed it, here is Part One of this fabulous day of market touring, chef observation, learning, cooking and feasting! It all sounds rather grand doesn’t it?…well it kind of was.

We were presented with a little gift upon settling into the class- an apron and recipe booklet, which included all that we were to make this day. Fabulous. I do love a gift that is both practical and nostalgic. In my experience of overseas cooking schools (3 and counting), the good ones do love to hand out customised aprons.

We had two young trainee chefs, Koto students, guiding us through our menu. Forgive me for forgetting their names, it has been four months since our trip! Our instructors were super friendly and clearly excited to be teaching the class, in fact it was their first class flying solo. They did a tremendous job. Their English was quite good and they were truly thrilled to be passing on their skills and guiding us through these fun couple of hours.

Both instructors stood up front and demonstrated how to cook the meals, as we prepared ingredients and helped in the cooking process. Some components, like the pho broth, were already made, and we didn’t exactly have free run of the wok, but we really felt like we got our hands dirty and picked up some valuable tips. Ben and I always wish we could cook everything ourselves though.

Enough chatter, let me show you what we got up to in the kitchen! As I said in Part One, we signed up for the Vietnamese Street Food class.

First up, we tried the Bánh Chưng. Tracey bought this for us at the market after seeing me positively buzzing with curiosity and incessantly asking questions.

The dividing…

and the tasting… it was quite nice. A mouthful of glutinous rice, slightly claggy, with some bits of meat in the centre. Apparently it is even better fried. Well, I can understand that, who couldn’t.

A quick taste of Beef Phopho is always welcome. The broth had been prepared earlier, and we simply observed the assembling of our bowls. Delicious. Absolutely delicious. A subtle broth which I could happily eat every single day for the rest of my life.

Our bowls were topped with noodles, beef strips, fresh herbs and fried doughnut logs, of which I’m not a huge fan. These logs taste a little bland to me.

Herby Omelette. This is apparently popular with kids before school, or as a general snack. Often the omelette is devoured in a baguette, yum! This was really delicious. So fragrant from the herbs and the egg completely melted in your mouth.

With a sprinkle of this, to finish.

Rice Paper Rolls. No surprises here, really. I’ve had a lot of rice paper rolls in my time. These ones were especially delicious, though, thanks to the supremely fresh and plentiful herbs. We added already cooked thin beef strips, loads of fresh vegetables and herbs, crispy shallots and rolled away.

Banh Tom – sweet potato and prawn fritters. These were fun to make!

We made a batter and combined it with sweet potato strips and shrimps. These were really yummy – crunchy, sweet and very flavourful. If you want to try them out at home a) be careful of the oil, and b) see this link here for what looks to be a good recipe.

Peeling vegetables for our Goi Du Du, green papaya salad. I adored these little peelers.

This salad…what can I say apart from wow?

Ok, I’ll try to say something more. Fresh, sharp, soft, crunchy, amazing, yes. Yes. How was that? Check out Anh‘s recipe and make something similar and beautiful yourself (link).

These bananas were as incredible as they looked. What makes banana even better? Grilling it, and letting the sugars caramelise down to a ridiculous log of sweet, heavenly lusciousness. These babies were sprinkled with sugar before letting a blow-torch go to town on them.

We used the bananas in our dessert, Che Chuoi, bananas in coconut soup. Finished with a sprinkling of peanuts, this dish was light, sweet and all-round scrumptious. A quick recipe search led me to these links (1, 2, 3), so now you can try this delightful dessert yourselves.

And that concludes our delicious day. We ate our creations with a glass of wine, as we chatted to our new cooking class comrades. I would definitely recommend Hanoi Cooking Centre to travellers looking for a fun day out, where you get to learn about a foreign cuisine, pick up some cooking tips and indulge in a fabulous feast! At a tidy 50 USD, this class really was very enjoyable.

I am still after the best ever overseas cooking class, where you get to purchase and then make everything yourself. Am I dreaming? Perhaps they don’t exist. One can only hope…hope and partake in as many cooking trips as possible. Hey, it’s all in the name of research. And cooking class trumps museums, we established that, right?

Heidi xo

Hanoi Cooking Centre, Part One: To Market!

May 18, 2011

I must apologise for my disjointed travel posts. I have been trying to weave them in with my at home posts, however I fear this has not been very successful. I do so wish to blend my daily life with my travel adventures (plus a little sprinkling of eating out here and there). I have so many travel tales to tell you! Bear with me as I find my feet in this regard.

And so here we go, back to Vietnam

We had two full days in Hanoi. One was spent exploring the town at a beautifully leisurely pace, and delighting in our very first bowl of Bun Cha. That day was perfect. I shall tell you about that day in the future.

Our other day in Hoi An was spent at museums….well, that was our intention. Actually at the last minute we found a Trip Advisor review for Hanoi Cooking Centre. And then we saw more reviews – raves, rather. Suddenly our plans changed. Cooking class trumps museums, right?

We signed up for the Vietnamese Street Food class. It was just Ben and I, plus two fellow hungry participants (a friendly couple from California), in the class – lovely and intimate. Bright and early we turned up, excited to learn, cook and eat!

The first part of our class involved a tour of Cho Chau Long Market. That is Ben in the picture below, and not some super keen random person. Although it would have been brilliant if that were the case.

Tracey Lister, the lady behind Hanoi Cooking Centre, was our guide, and what a fabulous wealth of knowledge she is. We soaked up every educated and fascinating word she spoke. Tracey is a revered Australian Chef who now calls Hanoi home. She was the first chef/trainer at KOTO, a charity that provides street kids with vocational training (it’s a fantastic organisation).

This was a great local market, no tourists here… besides us 🙂 Other tour groups do pass through here also, but luckily on this morning we were the only ones. Tracey took us right around the market, showing us a whole range of exotic foods. It was such a feast for the eyes!

Bánh chưng – it was coming up to Tết, when this glutinous rice cake is traditional made and eaten.

Betel Nut – a mild narcotic that is culturally important, both in the chewing, giving and receiving of the plant. You’ll often find old ladies chewing it in South East Asian countries. It’s addictive, slightly carcinogenic and can stain your teeth – fascinating!

Meat Market! No dog today though. Tracey informs us that this meat is super super fresh, i.e. just killed this morning – squirmish, yes, but also respect for the freshness of their produce.

Steamed Pigs Blood – I’ve never tried this…and I don’t know if I ever will. Something about steamed blood always freaks me out. I wonder why…oh that’s right, because it’s freaky! No, no, just kidding – I don’t mean any disrespect. It’s just something that I have never ever seen before, nor grown up with. I love to try new things, so perhaps I should give this a go…

Insides…outside. All coiled and on display, ready for purchasing.

Banana Flower – another new ingredient to me, it’s fantastic thinly sliced in salads.

An array of all sorts of weird and wonderful fish pastes!

Loads of fresh seafood, eels and all. Tracey picked little lost, limp fish up off the ground and popped them back in the water. How sweet of her. We all looked on in amusement/shock. I love this place. Certainly different from our decidedly controlled, tame markets back home.

Fresh eggs.

I’m not sure what this is…any ideas?
* edit: many of you had wonderful, ideas, as it were! You have identified this to be pickled bamboo shoots, thank you so much for your help!

After overloading our senses we left the market and headed back to the cooking school. We were bursting to start cooking, the market tour left the four of us positively buzzing and inspired! Next up, Part Two: In the Kitchen

Heidi xo

Universal Restaurant: Food Bloggers’ Trail

May 16, 2011

I was recently invited by Ashley, of Food Pampering, to attend a Food Bloggers’ Trail. I was intrigued…visit a restaurant with lovely fellow food bloggers, enjoy lots of yummy food and engage in food-related chatter…. “Sounds fabulous”, I thought. Count me in!

And so, one recent Saturday a group of food bloggers gathered at Universal Restaurant in Lygon street. We were warmly greeted by Alfie, who introduced us to the resuatrant – a friendly Italian eatery, established in 1969, which aims to provide good, honest and affordable food. We were also given a tour, where we saw the spacious and modern upstairs function room. Here they hold sit-down dinners and cocktail parties.

Back downstairs we perused the menu, which is quite extensive and boasts hearty Italian fare (you can view the menu here). The prices are reasonable in light of their generous portions. Alfie brought out a range of food for us to try…

Burschetta Roma – a lovely warm, soft pizza base topped with a nice pesto and fetta.

Garlic Pizza, which smelt amazing but was a bit heavy on the cheese for me.

Oysters – both naturale and kilpatrick. I am not an oyster lover, alas. It is such a shame, they’re so good for you (absolutely full of zinc!) and I enjoy all other seafood. Maybe one day…

Buffalo Chicken Wings – I tend to steer clear of wings. I don’t enjoy chicken skin, which leaves very little meat on this cut. Having said that, though, the marinade was yummy, and the bits of meat I did eat were really delicious.

I am Angus Pizza – I loved the free-form shape of the pizzas. They were served on very attractive wooden boards, and looked wonderful. The base was quite thin, which was nice. Topped with thick beef strips, I quite enjoyed this pizza.

Chicken and Avocado Pizza – I have never understood the combination of chicken and avocado atop of pizza or in pasta. But I quite enjoyed this dish! Perhaps I shall re-think my attitude, as it seems I am missing out on a delightful flavour combination.

For the mains were were brought another selection of eats:

Slow Roasted Pork Ribs – these were really yummy! In the same way I don’t go for wings, I tend to avoid ribs. But these were really meaty – lovely and tender. Yum.

Salmon with Ratatouille – The salmon was nice and chunky, although a tad overcooked for my liking. The ratatouille was wonderfully rich.

Tuscan Chicken on Mushroom Risotto – this risotto was delicious. Nice, thick mushrooms and al dente rice.

Porterhouse Steak – I’m always a fan of steak, even though this one wasn’t particularly melt-in-your-mouth. The fat chips served alongside it were nice and chunky.

Risotto Poseidon – a flavour packed tomato-based risotto loaded with prawns and mussels.

Food bloggers at work…

And then we were finished.

Just kidding, of course we were treated to dessert! We sampled one of each that was on offer. A spoon (or few) was just enough to give us a sweet hit and send us entirely over the edge into the “completely full” category 🙂

Gelati

– we tried a scoop of lemon, nougat, blood orange, mango and chocolate. Overall they were a little too sweet, but the chocolate scoop was smooth and rather delicious. I am informed that they are aiming to be making their own gelati by the summer. This is a fantastic idea, and I look forward to seeing the results!

Tiramisu – not a standout, but great serving style. I do love a dessert in a glass 😉

Blueberry Cheesecake – very rich, this was incredibly indulgent. If you’re a cheesecake lover, this will definitely hit the spot!

Chocolate Mud Pudding – this was devilish and delicious. This may be oversharing…but I’ll say it anyway – it was that time of the month for me, and this cake was exactly what I had been craving.

Panna Cotta – points for presentation, how gorgeous is the persian fairy floss! I love a good panna cotta. This one was strongly vanilla flavoured, which I enjoyed.

All in all we had a great lunch at Universal Restaurant. Friendly service, relaxed atmosphere and pleasing food. The pizza, ribs and chocolate mud pudding were my favourite eats of the day. Universal is a great place for big groups to catch up over some tasty food, without blowing the budget! A big thanks to Ashley and Alfie.

Check out the lovely Michele‘s review (link here). I think she’s the first one of us to get her review up, and her pictures are to die for. I’m going to immerse myself in her photography tips (link here) and get my study on!

Heidi xo

Lovely Lemon Bars

May 14, 2011

I adore all things lemon. A simple statement, but one that is true nonetheless. In fact, there are few things truer in the world than my love for lemon, of this I am certain.

Citrus sends me twirling into a zingy dance of delight! Ben can indeed confirm this is true, I do not exaggerate. I often dance as a result of food. While I adore all citrus fruits, lemon is my favourite. And I know I am not alone in this love. There are many lemon lovers out there, which is supremely fortunate, for it has resulted in thousands of delightful recipes to satisfy every lemony craving that may arise.

When Ben and I went out for breakfast last Sunday, I made a lustful connection with a lemon tart in a display cabinet. Alas, this connection took place from afar. I considered a lemon tart for breakfast, but ended up ordering myself some eggs and instead resolved to make my own lemony treat once I was home.

Being the good girl I am, I first made some soup for lunch. Quite literally as soon as my spoon rested in my empty bowl, I jetéd into the kitchen to get started on some lemon bars.

I saw this recipe (link here) many months ago on one of my favourite blogs, eat live run. And when my lemon love took hold, it instantly sprang to mind.

These bars are incredibly simple to make and utterly delicious to taste – don’t you just love that? I have made them twice in one week already, once in a loaf pan and the next time in a cake pan – what? We had guests! I needed two batches…

Next time I think I will make Maggie Beer‘s Sour Cream Pastry for the base, but stick with the lovely, lemon filling of these bars.

I find myself rather hopelessly in love with this recipe. Simple, satisfying, citrus, sublime.

Heidi xo

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta

May 12, 2011

I love my pasta, I feel this fact is firmly established (see here for evidence). However occasionally, occasionally, I don’t feel like pasta for dinner. Shocking, I know, but sometimes a girl just needs a bit more veg in her life. Enter, zucchini ribbon pasta… the best of both worlds.

On such nights that I feel veggie-inclined, I peel multiple zucchini into long strips, aiming for a pappardelle shaped pasta. How many zucchini do you need to peel to make a serving? I go for 3-4 medium zucchini per person if I want a big bowl, or 2 will make a more conservative meal.

Once they’re all peeled I cook my zucchini ribbons in boiling, generously salted water for ~1 minute. After draining them into a colander I quickly rinse them under cold water to arrest the cooking process. It’s as easy as that!

I find a rich sauce is needed to liven up the slightly bland flavour of the zucchini. Tomato and Tuna Sauce (which is what I photographed for this post), Bolognaise and Amatriciana all work beautifully. I am not sure how successful a lighter sauce or a pesto would be, but I’m all for trying them.

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So there you have it, zucchini ribbon pasta. It’s a dish I cook every few weeks, for something light, vegelicious and a little different. It’s ridiculously easy, and a fabulous way to get a bit more veg into your life.

To serve, I top my zucchini ribbon pasta with my desired pasta sauce, a handful of fresh basil if I’m lucky, some good quality parmesan and then twirl away…

Heidi xo