Dinner | Chicken, Mushroom and Truffle Pie

Dinner | Chicken, Mushroom and Truffle Pie

You know those days that you just have no idea what you could possibly cook for dinner? Those days where you are sick of every dish that you cook up regularly, and just want something a bit exciting? Well this was one of those days. I opened the fridge, saw nothing interesting other than a bag of mushrooms, then continued on with my day, with the thought lingering as to what I could cook. On my daily walk, an idea popped into my head, ‘pie!’ I thought, ‘a nice crusty homemade pie would be delicious!’ Then the image of the lonely bag of mushrooms popped up and I immediately had a dish in mind! Chicken and mushroom pie…

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Breakfast | Nutella Crepes

Breakfast | Nutella Crepes

In a week’s time, my little sister and I will be jet-setting off to Paris. I can already taste the crisp macarons, the fluffy, flaky croissants and the chewy baguettes that I am over-prepared to devour! It has been my sister’s dream to visit Paris. Her bedroom is decked out with Parisian decor, from pictures, to pillows to ornaments – she’s so obsessed! So finally, My parents have decided to allow us to gate-crash their European holiday and meet them in Paris for a week.

A few years ago I went to Paris with my Dad. It was the middle of winter, and so walking around Paris, although incredible, obviously wasn’t as pleasant as it will be next week! I just remember Dad and I powering through the markets and down the streets, trying to see and experience as much as we could in as little time as possible (to avoid the cold.) One freezing morning, before heading off to Versailles, Dad and I decided to grab a Nutella Crepe from a small store run by an old Arabic man. What would usually be a simple task in ordering a crepe, became very difficult as we quickly realised that he didn’t understand any english. So, going off my observation that he looked Arabic, I mumbled a few Arabic words (probably every Arabic word that I knew) in an attempt to order my Crepe. And it worked, he understood me! A miracle!

So there we were, in Paris, speaking Arabic and eating piping hot crepes filled with oozing nutella. So in preparation for our trip to Paris next week, on this cold winter’s day in Sydney, I cooked my little sister some oozing nutella crepes, in the hope that it would cure her tonsillitis (yes she is sick!) before we fly out, or at least lift her spirits!

Here’s whats it it:
1 egg
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup milk
vanilla essence
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp butter

Whisk all the ingredients together. Melt some butter in a hot pan and pour in half of the mixture. Swirl the mixture around until the pan is covered and let it become golden in colour (1 minute) before you flip it. I recommend attempting the ‘flip from the pan’ as opposed to flipping it with a spatula! Once cooked on both sides, spread over some nutella, fold, and serve!

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Travel | Cabramatta

Travel | Cabramatta

If you love classy fine dining restaurants, quality service, big shopping centres filled with top designer boutiques, well, Cabramatta is just not the place for you. Travel 30 km south west of Sydney city and you’ll drive straight into the heart of Vietnam. Cabramatta has one main street, John st, in which majority of the restaurants, fruit markets and Vietnamese clothing shops are packed into. The main street branches out into tiny alleyways packed with people, and so reminiscent of the Binh Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Dinner | Maqloobeh (upside down)

Maqloobeh (upside down)

If I could pin my childhood down to one food memory, it would undoubtedly be Maqloobeh for dinner. It was the one dish that I never got sick of, and my favourite of everything my mum cooked. She made Maqloobeh to comfort me during times where I was having a hard time at school. She made Maqloobeh to warm my stomach and to let me know that no matter how upset I was, being at home and eating food that reminded me of the huge family that I had supporting and loving me was all that I needed to feel content.

As i’ve mentioned before, my Mum is Palestinian, and has raised me up cooking some key Palestinian dishes that have shaped my love for food. This is THE recipe that encompasses everything Palestinian food means to me, and is the national dish of Palestine. It’s poor man’s food; rice, meat and cauliflower. It’s made traditionally with lamb’s leg or shoulder, cheaper cuts of meat that have to be slow cooked to attain the soft texture (suitable for traditional Arab housewives who live to cook!)

My tetta (grandma) is the queen of making Maqloobeh. She has her different versions, with eggplant instead of cauliflower, with chicken instead of lamb. Mum always prepared it with lamb chops instead of a leg of Lamb, but using the leg provides for bigger, more tender morsels of meat. Tetta presents her Maqloobeh so beautifully. She pulls apart the chicken and lines a bundt tin with it. She then fills it with cauliflower and the cooked rice and turns it over to reveal its beautiful shape. She then tops it with loads of buttery, toasted almonds and pine nuts. Its so beautiful watching her bring it to the table with a huge smile on her face, knowing that she has succeeded, and confident that it tastes amazing! I remember one time when Mum and Dad were on holidays, Tetta’s car pulled up in the drive way. I was so surprised and ran out to the car to meet her. She told me that she had cooked us some dinner, so I opened her boot and found an enormous pot wrapped in tea-towels to keep it warm. I carried it as if it were a new born, walked inside and placed it on the counter, slowly opening the lid to see what she had made. Long behold, it was a steaming pot of freshly cooked Maqloobeh. She knew the way straight to my heart, and how to comfort me whilst my parents were away.

Mum has not only cooked Maqloobeh for me and my family, but for her friends as well. It’s become a favourite of so many, because it is just so yummy!

So here’s what’s it it:
500g medium grain rice (soak for 20 minutes)
1 large leg of lamb
1 onion
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamon pods
allspice powder (1 teaspoon of allspice berries if you have some)
2 Tbsp samneh (which is arabic clarified butter, but store bought ghee will do)
1 cup toasted almonds to garnish
1 head cauliflower
Natural yogurt to serve
One large heavy based pot with a lid (I used a bessemer pot which I find works best with this type of food)

To begin, cut up the leg of lamb into large chuncks and brown in a pan with 1 Tbsp Samneh, cardamon, cinnamon and allspice. Once browned, add water to cover the lamb and a quartered onion. Simmer with the lid on for 3 hours (or as long as you can).
Meanwhile, pull apart the cauliflower into florets, add some salt and some oil spray and bake in a 200 degree oven until softened (traditionally, the cauliflower is deep fried to add flavour, but this is a much healthier version).
Once lamb is softened, pull out the lamb, onion and cinnamon sticks and place onto a plate to cool. Pour the stock into a bowl.
Place one Tbsp samneh into the pot and add the rice. Fry until the outside of the rice is slightly browned. Then, take the rice out of the pan and layer the meat, then cauliflower into the pan. Add some salt over the meat and cauliflower, then pour the stock back in until it reaches just above the rice (if there is not enough stock, you can add some boiling water).
Turn the stove on high and let the Maqloobeh come to a boil, then turn the stove down to a medium-low heat and put the lid on the pot. The Maqloobeh will need to simmer away for about 1/2 an hour for the rice to cook, but keep an eye on it.
Once cooked and slightly cooled, turn the pot upside down onto a platter to unveil the lovely meat and cauliflower that was placed at the bottom of the pot. Top with toasted almonds and serve with some natural yogurt.

Cover the meat and cauliflower with the pre-soaked and browned rice

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Place the meat down first

Place the meat down first

Then cover with cauliflower

Then cover with cauliflower

Cover the meat and cauliflower with the pre-soaked and browned rice

Then, pour over the stock until it reaches just above the rice

Then, pour over the stock until it reaches just above the rice

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Dinner | Fool Proof Boscaiola Sauce

Fool Proof Boscaiola Sauce

As I mentioned in my last post, i’ve made many a Boscaiola sauce before. I worked as a kitchen hand for a year and a half making the pastas, and the one thing that I learnt from that job was how to make a good cream sauce. Before that, I thought that a creamy pasta meant pasta with a puddle of cream at the bottom, and it was never pleasant. But, following the few simple steps that my boss showed me changed my opinion of this type of sauce.

Here’s whats in it:
1 packet fettuccine
600ml thickened cream
2 cups bacon
2 cups mushrooms
2 Tbsp grated parmesan
cracked pepper

Six crucial steps for a fool proof Boscaiola Sauce:
1. The first crucial step is to cut the bacon into small strips and fry it on a high heat until almost burnt. This releases all the fat and boost the flavour of the dish my a thousand (there will be no chewy, floppy bacon fat on my watch!)
2. Once the bacon starts to ‘pop’ and the fat ‘spits’, it is time to add the sliced mushrooms. The mushrooms need to sliced thin so that they can easy release their liquid and crisp up. The mushrooms needs to be cooked until it is crispy and golden, like the bacon.
3. Once both the bacon and mushrooms are crispy, add the cream and reduce heat to low. If you have an electric stove, leave the heat on high, but on a gas stove its important to reduce the cream to low so it doesn’t split.
4. To season, add a good amount of cracked pepper and 2 Tbsp parmesan when the cream is added
5. Allow the cream to bubble away (it is the small bubbles that you are looking for) until it has darkened and thickened.
6. Add the cooked pasta to the pan while it is on the heat, allowing a minute or so for the sauce to gel to the pasta.

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Travel | Foodie Trip across Australia

Foodie Trip across Australia

It was adventurous. It was eye opening. It took forever! The thought of driving across Australia seemed like the ultimate road trip, and it was, but two days on one straight road at 150km/hr across the middle of Australia made me realise that I had perhaps a Romanticised view of driving across Australia. But nonetheless, it was an experience that I will treasure forever and one that taught me so much about Australia’s national cuisine. Its so hard to define what the Australian cuisine is. I guess the best description is a cuisine made up of hundreds of cuisines. I can say, travelling across Australia and sampling some of our best produce opened my eyes to what our national cuisine is, food that we can be proud to call Australian.

I think one of my favourite treats when we are on Australian road trips is the brekky rolls! I had a particularly delicious one in Apollo Bay! The bread was fresh and so so soft! the bacon was perfectly crisp and the egg was cooked perfectly! Ahhhh it was a ‘am I in heaven moment!’ (yes I get excited about little things like brekky rolls, clearly i’m a foodie!)

I love it when you dont expect to be eating anything good when you pull up to a not to exciting town, but then find a hidden gem! When we pulled into Mt Gambier we were greeted by factories and ugly commercial roads, as well as rain! However, the deeper we explored this place, the more fascinating it became. From sink holes to blue volcanic lakes, this place turned out to be one of the most exciting places we visited on our trip! But the best thing about Mt Gambier was definitely ‘The Barn.’ Whilst wine tasting in Coonawarra after checking in, we asked the wine maker which restaurant he would recommend for dinner, and off his tongue rolled the words ‘Best steak ever…’ He had said those words without a pause and without really getting excited, but Dad and I looked straight at each other and decided without even speaking that that was where we had to go. After making a booking, we turned up to this absolutely classy Barn! The restaurant looked fine dining to say the least! I felt like I was in a three Michelin star restaurant in the middle of New York, but we were in the middle of no where! And what was even better was that the tables were filled with farmers! But ohhhh baby that steak was to die for. I was absolutely in heaven, possibly the best steak I have ever eaten.

You know that feeling when you are dying for fresh fruit on a holiday? Well that feeling hit me fast. All the incredible, but rich food we were eating saw me CRAVE some fruit. Driving along the highway, we came across a little farmers market with amazing fruit! The mangoes were so sweet and were an incredible 50c each! I was a happy camper in the back of our car hoeing into the fruit!

Another incredible dish we had while away was the whiting in Ceduna. Never in my life have I tasted fish so fresh, so succulent and so sweet! I literally could have eaten 8 fillets by myself, but I had to restrain myself.

Lastly, making it all the way over to Western Australia was an accomplishment and a relief to say the least. Eight days of driving just to get to the other side of Australia was crazy! So what was so comforting was arriving in Denmark and checking into our cottage. YES A COTTAGE. What was even more incredible was the lady at the front desk gave us free reign on the fruit and veg patch out the back, and ohh baby I was in heaven again! From the fig trees to the berries, to zucchinis the size of my arm! This place was a dream, and I have to admit, I felt so much like Jamie Oliver cooking up the produce from the garden outside!

There was so much more food that we enjoyed along the way, and so many more experiences that I haven’t shared. But I loved this trip, I would certainly recommend this trip to anyone!

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Incredible variety of fresh cheese from Millawa!

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Possibly the best steak I have ever had from The Barn in Mt Gambier. The restaurant was so classy and their specialty was steak! LOVE THIS!

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Good ole’ Steak Sandwich in the Barossa

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Fresh Fruit!!! Love the local produce. Mangoes were about 50c each!

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I spelt Nullarbor wrong!

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Yes, I was in heaven! Like a kid in a lolly shop!

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Fresh Figs

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Amazing chicken in Margaret River

 

Review | Dining at Liku Liku Lagoon

Dining at Liku Liku Lagoon

While in Fiji during the Christmas holidays, I was lucky enough to dine twice at the renound Fijiana restaurant at Fiji’s 2013 best overseas resort Liku Liku lagoon! The food here was outstanding, from the fresh scallops, to the Goats Cheese Tortellini, to the Banoffee Pie dessert! I was in a foodie’s heaven! I loved how the food was contemporary, but still had a Fiji twist incorporated into the menu.

I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for the chef to create a fine dining Fiji inspired menu, from a cuisine that prides itself on their lovo feasts and curries, but he has certainly succeeded!

The decor in the restaurant was so beautifully islander-themed, from the table cloth to the wooden chairs. Half way through our dinner, while dining in a private room, we heard loud singing and instruments coming from the restaurant. Before we knew it, what seemed like the entirety of the people staying at the resort, along with the staff were in our dining room singing to us and calling everyone up to dance. I was so surprised, and couldn’t stop smiling, as the people staying at the resort had planned to surprise our table! And what was even more surprising was that they did this on both nights that we were at Liku Liku for dinner! Overall I had the best time at Fijiana and would seriously recommend anyone dine there!

 

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Liku Liku Lagoon

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Goats Cheese Tortellini

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Beautiful Fijian Decor

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Crisp Zucchini Bhaji, Tamarind Sauce

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Tomato and Basil Sorbet

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Banoffee Pie

 

 

 

Review | The Spanish Fly

The Spanish Fly

The spanish fly is a tapas bar that I had been dying to try out for a few months. A few of my friends had raved about how beautiful the food was, so when I tried it out, I saw what all the fuss was about! From the Sangria to the octopus, to the mushroom-filled Tortellini, the food reminded me of the many Tapas bars I visited whilst in Barcelona a year ago. I would definitely recommend trying this place out!

Review | L’etoile

L'etoile

So Mum and I have been dying to visit Manu’s restaurant L’etoile together. It was absolutely amazing! I had the scallop sausage for entree, the confit lamb with smoked mash for my main and a lemon meringue tart for dessert – was so delicious! I Definitely recommend trying this place, I felt like I was back in Paris.