Holidays!

Posted in Australia, Food, photography by Sandra on January 16, 2010

Since this is the BF’s first real holiday in two years, we decided to go somewhere further rather than just our local beach. Our destination was Cabarita Beach, about 100km south of Brisbane, where the BF’s family (well, one branch of it) were holidaying at roughly the same time. We made the drive up in about 3 or 4 days from Melbourne – the BF had to do all the driving – and arrived there on 2 Jan 2010. We left on 10 Jan 2010 and arrived 13 Jan 2010 – did the drive of 10 hours from Sydney to Melbourne in a day waking up at 5am!

There were a lot of beaches involved on the way to Cabarita and while we were in the general vicinity of Brisbane. Hopefully the pictures do enough justice as to just how beautiful they were – my favourite one was Hastings Point. The waters were significantly warmer than Melbourne’s and therefore that much more enjoyable – i.e., no shock freeze upon entering the water. The weather was cloudy for a few days after we arrived in Cabarita itself, but that was fine since the sun was so savage that I am now as brown as a coolie.

I plowed through six books while I was there, went body-boarding (now that was fun!), and we started watching Burn Notice. We also got to know this particular branch of the BF’s family tree a lot better (long story, complicated and too much trouble to explain really) and we had dinner as a family almost every night. Eight people, now that’s a crowd!

We’re going to get back to work on Monday – not looking forward to it at all. :(

Us, somewhere between Melbourne and Lakes Entrance

Us, somewhere on a beach between Melbourne and Lakes Entrance

Above-mentioned beach, without me for a better view

Ship on the Sea - Look at those colours...

Me on Windang Beach

Yamba, Morning of 2 Jan 2010

Surfers Paradise - 4 Jan 2010

Me on Cabarita Beach - 5 Jan 2010

Posing against Cabarita Beach - 5 Jan 2010

Cabarita Beach

Hastings Point was a little inlet which got to about waist height as we waded in. It’s protected by the embrace of rock formations at the point, which meant that the waves broke early on the rocks and as a result, the water in the inlet itself was really calm. There were even little whiting (a type of fish) in the water swimming curiously all around you! It was amazing – we felt so close to nature, I could hit my ToL hotkey (Shift+T) and rest in peace there. (WoW moment over :P)

Hastings Point with the BF and his cousin - 8 Jan 2010

Hastings Point

Hastings Point

Me at Hastings Point

Us at Hastings Point

There is one Sushi Tei in Australia, and its in Sydney. Whenever we pass through Sydney we make a point of visiting Sushi Tei (which is something we started last year) and this year was no different. However, this year’s visit – we went with the BF’s dad and his wife – was rather disappointing.

Salmon Sashimi

Slices were half as thick as any other salmon sashimi I’ve had in all the Sushi Teis combined (Aus last year and Singapore)

Salmon Belly Soup... though in hindsight I should've moved the vegs to the side.

Ebi Mentaiyaki

This prawn dish was the most shocking of all for me. The prawn flesh stuck to the shell and removing it was a four lettered challenge, while the entire thing looked warped –

Ebi Mentaiyaki looked disfigured this year.

Definitely a far cry from the previous visits to Sushi Tei International (10++ visits?). Look at the difference with the picture below (snitched from Google Images and therefore someone’s blog probably):

Ebi Mentaiyaki as it should be

Ebi Mentaiyaki as it should be

Absolutely shocking.

Perhaps I should start planning for a visit to Singapore for our next holiday for one day just to have good dishes again.

Oh wait, there’re outlets in Bali!

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Cinnamon Bread

Posted in Baking by Sandra on September 1, 2009
Cinnamon Bread: is for nomz

Cinnamon Bread: is for nomz

Cinnamon Bread
Ingredients:
Dry:
250g all-purpose flour
200g brown sugar
9g baking powder
2g baking soda
3g ground cinnamon
6g salt
Wet:
235ml buttermilk
55g butter
2 eggs
10ml vanilla extract
Streusel:
25g white sugar
6g ground cinnamon
27g butter

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease 9×5 inch loaf pan.
2. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Make well in middle of dry ingredients, and pour in wet ingredients to mix together.

Cinnamon Bread: Dry Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

3. Using a wooden spoon, mix lightly until just combined.

Cinnamon Bread: Wet Ingredients

Batter

4. Combine ingredients for streusel, mixing until crumbly.

Cinnamon Bread: Streusel

Struesel

4. Pour half of batter into loaf pan, and sprinkle half of struesel mixture over the batter.

Cinnamon Bread: In the Pan

Mid-loaf

5. Pour the rest of batter into the pan, and sprinkle the rest of the struesel mixture over smoothed top.
6. Optional: Using a knife, cut in a light swirling motion to give it a marbled effect.
7. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on rack while fighting off dogs with violently twitching noses.

Cinnamon Bread: In the Oven

In the Oven

Adapted from: AllRecipes.com Cinnamon Bread
Recipe Notes (summarized from comments on the AllRecipes site):

  • Double or triple the amount of streusel and put half in middle (which is what I’ve done)
  • Replace white sugar with brown sugar (also done)
  • Worked well with wholewheat glour (with extra 2 tablespoons of milk)
  • Replace vegetable oil with butter (also done – was 60ml of vegetable oil originally)
  • Lower temperature for longer baking time = moister bread?
  • Also bake-able as muffins.
  • Substitutes for buttermilk:
    • For 1 cup of buttermilk – 1 tablespoon of vinegar and fill the rest with milk
    • For 1 cup of buttermilk – 2 tablespoons of sour cream, and one cup of milk
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Making Bread

Posted in Baking by Sandra on August 31, 2009
Simple White Bread

Simple White Bread

I’ve been learning how to bake bread since late last week. This is my third loaf, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy making bread. The transformation of flour and water (and yeast) into something sticky but not gooey under your wooden spoon; the kneading of the dough; the shaping of the loaf – it all invokes a certain feeling in me…

Oh, that’s right. That’s the sound of me becoming a hausfrau, albeit in denial.

Still, like I mentioned to a friend, baking (and cooking, for that matter), is a labour of love… And the BF certainly loves his loaves!

Simple White BreadBaking: A Commonsense Guide, Murdoch Books
Preparation time: 30 min+
Total cooking time: 40 minutes
Makes: 1 loaf

Ingredients:
2½ teaspoons (7g) instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
450g (1 lb or 3⅔ cups) white strong flour

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then leave in a draught-free place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy.

2. Combine the flour and 2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and make a well in the centre. Add another 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water to the yeast mixture, then pour the mixture into the well. With the mixer set to the lowest speed, mix for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for another 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

Alternatively, mix the dough by hand using a wooden spoon, then turn out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

As I don’t have a mixer yet, I did this using the wooden spoon way. I admit I was very liberal in my mixing of ingredients: First, I mixed salt and flour in the bowl, made the well, poured in the yeast mixture and then slowly added 150ml of warm water in. I did it this way mostly because the yeast had foamed up so powerfully in the mug I was using that there was no space to add more warm water to it. And frankly, who wants to have to wash an extra bowl if one could help it?

3. Grease a large bowl with oil, then transfer the dough to the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a draught-free place for 1 – 1½ hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

I used melted butter to grease the bowl and to coat the dough. I only had olive oil and I wasn’t sure I wanted to taste olive oil on my bread. Seems to work as well.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it gently, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a rounded oval and transfer to a greased baking tray. Cover loosely with a damp cloth and leave for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5).

I learned a fair bit about shaping bread from this video tutorial on The Fresh Loaf.

5. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes, about 4 cm (1½ in) apart, on the top of the loaf. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I followed the recommended 40 minutes without checking at 20 minutes the state of the bread. I have now learned my mistake:
Simple White Bread

Yes, it got rather burnt on the sides and the bottom of the bread. Next time I would bake for 20 – 30 minutes rather than 40 which is obviously too long.

I also made an egg wash (basically, a beaten egg) to coat the top of the loaf before baking. My previous breads always came out with a pale crust despite cooking through, and egg wash helps the top brown nicely with a golden glaze. There is more information about egg wash here.

My bread was soft and chewy but not too dense. The crust was crunchy and on the whole, if I ignore the darkened bits, this was the best bread I’ve baked thus far.

Note: I bought the book for AU$36.99 (with a AU$30 Christmas gift card from last year)… but there are other alternatives. :)

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Raspberry Lemon Muffins

Posted in Baking by Sandra on August 3, 2009

I baked on Sunday, and it was fantastic. I’d to borrow a close friend’s electric mixer (“Watch out for splatter!”) and buy a new muffin pan because the old one seems to have disappeared in the move.

According to my calculations, the whole lot of muffins cost me $7.87, including muffin cups! Keep in mind that several of the ingredients still have leftovers I can use for another batch (ie, flour, baking powder, buttermilk). I foresee much baking this week… and the start of another frenzied research phase for an electric mixer of my own.

I didn’t have to buy sugar, lemons, salt, and vanilla extract as we had them in the kitchen already, whew!

Still can’t believe how cheap they are, especially if you take into consideration that a muffin here costs $2.50… Each muffin only cost me 65c to make.

I just realized what I typed… 60c, $2.50…

Anyways, the recipe I used came from Smitten Kitchen.

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

As we are the sort of people who “go all out” for our food (when we do make it), we got fresh strawberries and blueberries… way better than frozen! :) And the lemons? Freshly picked from the tree in the backyard!

It was fantastically delish! (It’s not a real word.)

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

The BF was not a big fan of lemon, but said they were very yummy nonetheless. Especially the blueberry ones… because he’s fickle that way.

I would send one to you Trish, but I doubt that the muffin’d last interstate! And you lot in Singapore can forget about getting your hands on this unless you fly over. :P

I made 12 muffins, half of which are strawberries and the other half are blueberries.

Four muffins went to the friend who lent me the mixer, one was consumed as a tester muffin, two were great desserts and one was nommed for this morning’s after-brekkie snack!

We now have four left… Hmmm!

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Watts Cooking

Posted in Food by Sandra on March 21, 2009

147 Union Rd
Surrey Hills VIC 3127 (map)
Phone (03) 9890 6268

Watts Cooking

Watt’s Cooking is a cosy little cafe tucked away in Surrey Hills not far from my place (about 10~15min drive) in the eastern suburbs. We go there every weekend for brekky (on weekends they serve breakfast til about 3pm!). And then sometimes on weekdays too, just because we feel like it (and can afford it on that day…)

Decor

Paintings on wall

The decor is simple, the service swift and full of smiles, and the food divine. As The Murloc says, he’s “never had a bad meal there, ever.” Every time we eat breakfast at another place (usually because we’re eating with friends), I always find myself quietly comparing the quality of food, and Watts Cooking always comes out tops.

Did I mention what a brilliant name it is too? Watts Cooking, What’s Cooking?

It is a small cafe from the front but there’s a decent-sized courtyard out the back, but we’ve never sat there. Indoors, it does get extremely noisy, and sometimes I have to strain to hear others speak. It is a very child-friendly establishment and dog-friendly too. When we bring Dion we sit out in the front along the footpath, and the wait-staff often brings a water bowl without us even asking for one.

I love this cafe.

As I told Josh, after cultivating my liking of cafe breakfasts like this, I can’t afford to be a starving artsy eccentric…

Well, better to let pictures speak for themselves. I took the following pictures last month (February), but have been dragging my feet on posting them up.

Big Brekky
The Murloc’s Big Brekky, eggs scrambled with a side of hollandaise sauce
Eggs Benedict
My Eggs Benedict with button mushrooms!