It Just Has To Be Delicious

Archive for July, 2012

Stuffing

This stuffing is so tasty, it’s like a meal in itself. You can have it the traditional way with roast chicken or turkey, and I can guarantee that it will taste excellent the next day in leftover chicken and stuffing sandwiches. I have a friend who likes to eat it inside yorkshire puddings mixed with chicken and mayo. When you bake it, the receptacle that you bake it in depends on your preference – if you like your stuffing in big meaty slices (meatloaf style), bake it in a 1 or 2 pint pudding dish, if you like your stuffing crispy, lay it out more thinly on a greased flat baking tray, or use something in between the two – your choice. It needs baking for approximately 40 minutes at 170-180 deg C, but if you spread it more thinly it will need less time, maybe 30 minutes. The quantities are very rough too because it is a home grown recipe. You can add extra ingredients if you like, or take away ingredients that you don’t like to suit your taste.

These are the rough quantities that I use:

1 medium onion diced

2 large flat mushrooms chopped into small pieces

3-4 rashers of bacon chopped into small pieces

85g packet of Paxo Sage and Onion stuffing mixed up with water as directed OR 2 slices of bread, a few sage leaves and a few sprigs of thyme

1 packet of 8 pork sausages or the equivalent amount of sausagemeat (I prefer British sausages, so use the ones from the ‘British Sausage Company’ – my English friends can use their favourites such as Walls or Butcher’s Choice)

1. Fry the onion, mushrooms and bacon in a little oil until almost cooked. Cool for 5 minutes.

2. If you haven’t got Paxo ready and made up, whizz up the bread in a food processor to get breadcrumbs, and add some chopped sage and thyme (avoid the thyme stalks, just use the leaves).

3. Place the sausagemeat in a large bowl. If you are using sausages, remove the skins by running a sharp knife along one edge and separating the skin from the meat.

4. Mix all of the other ingredients together with the sausagemeat – use a wooden spoon or your hands to combine everything thoroughly.

5. Butter or lightly grease your receptacle of choice and bake in an oven as directed above. Yum.

My Favourite Cheesecake

For me, the best cheesecakes are baked. I think the texture is much better than the whipped and refrigerated versions.

This is my favourite cheesecake recipe – every time I make it, it turns out well. It is based on Nigella Lawson’s London cheesecake recipe, but with a few minor variations, which I will explain as I go along. It is baked in the oven in a ‘bain marie’ which is effectively a water bath. You make the bain marie by filling a roasting tin with hot water and placing the tin of mixture into it. It is really important to line the tin with strong foil to avoid water seeping into the mixture. Make sure that you buy the extra long heavy duty foil – I use 3 layers to protect the tin and scrunch it all up around the top of the tin. Don’t buy the shorter length foil because you will have to overlap it, and the water will find a way of getting through. I also use a springform tin – you don’t have to, but if you want to present your cheesecake on a nice plate, you will need to turn it out and a springform tin is the best option. Make sure that the base of your tin is firmly in place before you fill the tin with mixture. If you push the bottom of the tin from underneath, it should not dislodge – if it does move then your base is not properly seated – push it hard until it ‘pops’ into place. Failure to do this will mean that you lose some of your mixture through seepage.

Recipe

150g plain digestive biscuits (as my friend Sue said, “use the proper ‘pommie’ ones” e.g. McVities)

75g unsalted butter melted or very very soft

500g cream cheese (Nigella says to use 600g, but in Australia it comes in 250g tubs, so I use 500g with an 18cm tin instead of 600g with  a 20cm tin. I also use one tub of ‘value’ cream cheese which is harder, and one tub of better quality or light cream cheese which is softer – if you use two tubs of good quality the texture will be too soft.)

100g caster sugar (Nigella uses 150g, but I think this is sweet enough)

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of lemon juice (Nigella uses slightly less)

18cm Springform tin

Heavy duty long tin foil

For the topping

200ml tub sour cream (Nigella uses less, but I like a nice layer on top)

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Process the biscuits until they are like crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin). Mix in the butter and use them to line the bottom of the springform tin, pressing them down so they are smooth and level. If you want to make it easier to remove the cheesecake from the base of the tin, you can line it with a layer of baking parchment before adding the biscuits, but this step is not compulsory. Put the tin in the fridge to cool and set the biscuit layer. Heat the oven to 180 deg C.

2. Beat the cream cheese until it is soft (you may prefer to use a food mixer for this, but you can also use a wooden spoon and some elbow grease). When it is smooth add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, then the vanilla and lemon juice. Boil the kettle.

3. Line the outside of the chilled tin with strong foil so that it covers the bottom and sides in one large piece. Repeat with another layer (I actually use 3 layers for extra safety, but you don’t have to). This will protect the filling of the tin as it cooks in the water bath.

4. Pour the cream cheese filling onto the biscuit base and place the springform tin inside a roasting tin. Fill the roasting tin with hot water from the kettle until it comes halfway up the sides of the springform tin. Carefully place the whole thing in the oven and cook for 50 minutes.

5. Just before the 50 minutes is up, whisk the topping ingredients together in a bowl – sour cream, sugar and vanilla.

6. Check the the cheesecake is almost set – it should be set enough to hold the sour cream layer, but not rigidly so. Pour the sour cream topping over the cheesecake and cook for a further 10 minutes.

7. Carefully remove the tray from the oven and take the springform tin out to cool. When it has cooled to room temperature place it in the fridge to chill it before unmoulding. It should shrink away from the sides of the tin slightly – if not, run a sharp knife around the edge before releasing the spring.

 

So that’s it – my favourite cheesecake. My friend Kara would like to try a choc mint cheesecake, so one day I am planning to try this recipe but with an Oreo base, mint flavoured filling (maybe with chocolate chips in it), and either a chocolate drizzle topping or chocolate shavings on top – or maybe even both. Watch this space.

Chocolate Caramel Pie

I had my first chocolate caramel pie at Soda Cafe in North Beach – it was so perfect that I kept going back, just for coffee and a slice of that pie. The pastry was thin and crispy, the caramel was smooth and sweet, and the dark chocolate mousse had a lovely firm consistency so it stood up in the slice, but was soft and light when you bit into it. It also seemed to have a top layer which was maybe a very thin layer of ganache. Last year they stopped serving it, and my visits to Soda dwindled, so I have been desperately trying to recreate this treat, and I have come pretty close.

What follows is a recipe of my best effort so far. For the caramel, you can slave over a hot stove trying to make caramel the traditional way with sugar, butter and cream, or you can make dulce de leche, which is far easier. If doing this, I recommend making the dulce de leche a day or two beforehand – you can store it in the fridge all ready to go.

As for pastry – I have always had problems with pastry – I remember my Home Economics teacher, Miss Milner saying “Oh dear Susan, your pastry looks grey like clay”, but in recent years I have found a few combinations that work for me provided that I don’t handle the pastry too much with my warm pastry-unfriendly hands. I use the cup measures (Australian cups), but I have put the gram equivalents for anybody who does not have a set of Australian cup measures. To be honest you can use a teacup if you like so long as you are consistent with the proportions. If you make a lot of pastry it is worth buying a bag of ceramic baking beans or beads (also called pie weights) – they stop the pastry case from rising in the middle.

Pastry:

1 1/4 cups or 190g of plain flour

1/4 cup or 40g self raising flour

1/4 cup or 50g caster sugar (I use brown sugar and pass it through a sieve)

90g unsalted butter

1 egg

Pinch salt

1. Sieve the flours and sugar into a food mixer.

2. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour/sugar. Start the food mixer and mix until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (you can rub the butter in using your fingers if you like, but I have warm hands, so I use a food mixer).

3. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the egg and a pinch of salt. (My photo shows a double quantity which is why there are two eggs). Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until it comes together, then using your hands, lightly knead and shape it into a round (keep handling to a minimum, and if you have warm hands like me, rinse them in cool water first so that you start off with cool hands).

4. Roll the pastry out into a round and use it to line a flan tin or dish. Put the pastry lined flan dish in the fridge for approx 30 mins if you have time – this will stop it from shrinking away from the edge in the oven.

5. Cut a circle of baking parchment slightly bigger than the middle of the flan dish, and put some ceramic baking beans in the middle. Bake for 10 minutes at 190 deg C, then remove the baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes. (The baking beans just stop the middle of the tart case from rising too much, you can get away without using them, but you will need to prick the base with a fork, and you may find it will rise a little).

6. Remove the dish from the oven and leave the pastry to cool to room temperature.

The caramel (dulce de leche method):

1 tin of condensed milk (must be condensed – not evaporated) Check that the tin is in good condition, do not use if dented – the lid must be unopened and not damaged.

1. Using an old saucepan, place the unopened tin of condensed milk in the saucepan, cover with water.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3 hours. You can cover it with a lid to stop the water from evaporating too much. Check it every hour to make sure that the water is not boiling dry – top the water up as necessary.

3. Carefully remove the tin from the water and leave it to cool thoroughly – it can be stored in the fridge until needed. Do not attempt to open it while it is still warm – I have heard stories of some tins exploding when opened, but I have never had a problem – be sensible just in case – cover it with a cloth when opening.


Regular Caramel:

300g golden caster sugar

175g butter

200ml double cream

1. Place the sugar in a pan with2 tablespoons water. Heat until it dissolves but do not stir.

2. Boil until amber.

3. Stir in the cream – add a pinch of salt if you like salted caramel.

4. Stir in the butter and simmer for a further 3 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse:

200g good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup (60ml) water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 egg yolks (a handy hint for separating eggs is to break them on to a saucer, use an egg cup to cover the yolk, and tip the white into a separate container)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup (250ml) of whipping cream, whipped

1. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt by placing the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (the base of the bowl must not dip into the water) – or use a microwave if you are confident that you can melt it perfectly. Personally I use the saucepan double boiler method – I am not a fan of microwaves.

2. Cool the mixture for 10 minutes.

3. In a small saucepan whisk the egg yolks, sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cook and stir over a low heat for approximately 1-2 minutes (if you have a thermometer, it should reach 160 deg F/70 deg C).

4. Remove from the heat and whisk into the chocolate/butter mixture (get somebody to pour while you whisk). Cool down quickly by placing the bowl in  some cold water or ice and continue to stir for about 5 minutes.

5. Fold in the whipped cream. It will look quite a lot paler now, but it will go dark again as it sets.

To assemble:

When the pastry case is cooled, you can add the caramel to the base of the pastry case. If you like salted caramel you can add a few scant flakes of sea salt on top of the caramel (if you have not already salted it).

Put the caramel coated pastry case in the fridge so that it is completely cool before adding the mousse. This will help to keep the layers nice and separate.

Top the cool caramel with the mousse mixture and leave to set in the fridge. 3-4 hours should do it.

If you want to add a further ganache layer (I haven’t tried this yet), I would recommend a mixture of dark chocolate and cream in the ratio of 100g chocolate to 70mls cream – if it seems too stiff you can always add more cream. When I make chocolate and cream mixtures, I break the chocolate into really small pieces, then heat the cream to almost simmering, and quickly pour it over the chocolate, stirring all the time. The warm cream melts the chocolate and you get a lovely shiny mixture.

Loh Bak (Ngoh Hiang)

Until a few years ago I had never tried Loh Bak before, and I had my first taste at a wonderful little canteen style Malaysian restaurant in Malaga called “Sense Lah”. It was one of those little gems of a restaurant owned by a guy from Penang called Patrick who had  a hearty asian laugh, and one day Patrick pointed out that he was the only Malaysian restaurant in Perth that served Loh Bak, so I tried it and I was hooked.

I have made Loh Bak at home a few times, and this recipe is very good, but I will always fondly remember Patrick’s version – unfortunately for me he has now retired and Sense Lah has closed.

The dish consists of a mixture of minced pork, prawn, carrot, water chestnuts and seasoning in a beancurd wrapper and then deep fried. When I have seen this dish in asia, some of the hawkers steam it first and then deep fry it – this may help the rolls to hold their shape better in the oil, but I haven’t tried this method yet.

Recipe

200g raw prawns deveined

250g minced pork

3 tablespoons grated carrot

6-8 water chestnuts finely chopped

2 tablespoons coriander leaves finely chopped

2 spring onions finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon five spice powder

pinch salt

1 tablespoon light soy sauce (this is quite salty, so you may not need the pinch of salt above)

1 egg beaten

1 pack of dried beancurd skins (available at chinese supermarkets)

1 teaspoon corn flour

Method

Mix together all of the ingredients except for the beancurd skins and cornflour. While the mixture is standing, cut the beancurd skins to a uniform size – they will have ragged edges – cut them to approximately 15cm squares. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of water to make a thick paste.

To make a roll, take one of the squares of beancurd skin and wipe it with a new damp clean cloth to soften it slightly. Put 2 tablespoons of mixture in the corner of the skin and roll it up tightly towards the other corner, tucking in the sides as you go. brush some of the cornflour mixture on the edges to ‘glue’ them together otherwise it will burst open in the hot oil. Continue making rolls until all of the mixture is used up. You should be able to make approximately 10 rolls.

Heat oil in a deep fat fryer to 180 deg C. Fry the rolls for 3-4 minutes each until golden. Serve with a dipping sauce such as sweet chilli, hoisin, or make your own with fish sauce, lime, sugar and chilli.

Tell me if you liked them please.

The Best Satay

There are many satay recipes around and it is difficult to find a really authentic one, so I have decided to share my favourite satay recipe. These skewers taste lovely, especially if you cook them on the barbecue. The recipe takes time, and you need to allow time for marinating, but the end result is well worth it.

If you are a busy person and you look at my recipe and think “blimey, I can’t do all that”, then make your way to Mr Weezee – he has two shops, one at Booragoon and one on Stirling Highway. Satay is his speciality – he supplies most of the restaurants in Perth, and you can buy chicken or beef satay either on sticks (12 sticks for $10) or as a pack of meat, fresh or frozen along with a pot of satay sauce. It is one of those things that I always keep in the freezer now for a good tasty dinner in super quick time. With the packs of meat, you just stir fry them with your favourite veggies. Here’s a tip, if you decide to make the trip to Mr Weezee on Stirling Highway, there is a wonderful cafe next door called Elixir.

Okay so here is the recipe – you will need a device to grind some ingredients to a paste. I have a Braun Multiquick, but there are plenty of other similar utensils.

Satay Recipe

1.5 Kg meat (beef or chicken work best)

Grind the following to a paste:

6 stalks of lemon grass (remove the fibrous outer layers – just use the white middles)

10 shallots or 2 red onions

4 cloves garlic

1cm galangal (use an extra cm ginger if you can’t get galangal)

1cm ginger

1.5 tablespoons turmeric

2 tablespoons caster sugar (brown if you have it)

1 teaspoon salt

Chop the meat into thin strips (you can do chunks if you prefer, but they will take longer to cook) and marinate in the paste in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure you mix it well so that the marinade really penetrates the meat.

Soak some bamboo skewers in water (this stops them from burning), then thread the strips of meat onto the skewers like thick ribbons.

Cook on a barbecue or under a hot grill – the timing depends on how thick your chunks of meat are, after a few minutes cut one of the pieces of meat to see how it is doing. Serve with satay sauce (see below), cucumber, onion and rice.

Satay Sauce Recipe

Grind the following ingredients to a paste:

4 stalks of lemon grass (again, discard the fibrous outer layers, just use the soft white inner core)

1 cm galangal (if you can’t find galangal just use an extra cm ginger)

1cm ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon chilli paste (this is usually sufficient – add more or less depending on your taste)

You also need:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

300g toasted peanuts coarsely ground

1 cup water

a quarter of a cup of thick tamarind juice (you can buy this in jars in asian supermarkets, but if you really can’t find it use lemon juice to add sourness to the sauce)

2 tablespoons sugar

palm sugar or honey if you need it to be sweeter

salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pot and fry the paste until it smells fragrant. Add all the other ingredients and cook until thick. Taste it as you go and add more salt, sugar,and  tamarind if necessary to season to your taste.

ENJOY

Dining in Singapore

One of my good friends is going to Singapore tomorrow, and I offered to give her some restaurant recommendations. Then I thought how wonderful Singapore is for dining and how it deserved a blog page devoted to it.

The array of food available in Singapore is endless – all cuisines are available from the local nyonya straits cuisine to chinese, indian, malay, thai and western dishes. If you are a foodie, I can’t think of a better place to visit. You can experience fine dining, but you can get just as much enjoyment from street food and shopping mall food courts, and Singapore is such a clean hygienic place that the majority of street food is perfectly safe.

So let’s start with street food or hawker food. The kinds of dishes that you can expect to try are satay, curries, barbecue pork, duck, seafood and chicken, dumplings, soups, claypot meals, roti prata (or roti canai), ngoh hiang, nasi lemak, char kway teow, rojak, popiah, and less appetising options like ‘pigs organ soup’. The hawker stalls are generally very cheap andif you are going out in a group, you can try a whole range of different foods and share them. Ngoh hiang is a particular favourite of mine, also known as loh bak, it is a sausage shaped item containing pork, prawn, carrot and water chestnuts wrapped in a beancurd skin and deep fried. I have even been inspired to make my own.

Nasi lemak is a malaysian speciality of coconut rice served with peanuts, egg and fried anchovies, and usually a sambal (either just chilli or a prawn sambal), and a thick curry such as a chicken rendang.

Char kway teow is a noodle dish using ribbon noodles with vegetables and seafood in a thick sweet sauce (ketjap manis) balanced with garlic and chinese sausage and sometimes cockles. In my opinion, the best char kway teow I have ever eaten is from The Food Place which is a food court on the 3rd floor of Raffles City shopping mall (next to a shop called Precious Thots). For just a few dollars, you can get a meal that will keep you satisfied all day.

Roti prata or roti canai is an indian style dish of flat fried breads combined with a bowl of curry to dip the bread, or a bowl of dhal.

Rojak is a salad containing tofu, cucumber, beansprouts, pineapple and sometimes mango with a chilli, ginger and lime sauce. Everybody seems to make their own recipe, so this dish is quite variable in flavour.

Popiah are fresh spring rolls made with a variety of fresh ingredients such as chicken, pork, shrimp, cucumber, prawns, peanuts, beansprouts, omelette, lettuce – the combinations are endless, and they are usually served with a dipping sauce such as hoisin, or chilli, soy and lime.

There are lots of hawker centres in Singapore. I would steer clear of Newton because the vendors are particularly pushy. A good option is Lau Pa Sat on Shenton Way which used to be a wet market 150 years ago. It is a commanding octagonal building and has expanded into the roads beside the main building where you can buy satay, grilled seafood etc. When buying seafood always agree a price before the vendor cooks your food.

Makansutra Gluttons Bay is a fairly new hawker centre next to the Esplanade arts and cultural centre. Gluttons Bay offer a tasting dish where you can have a plate containing a small sample of a variety of stalls e.g. satay, crab claw, carrot cake etc.

Maxwell Hawker Centre is a famous venue on Maxwell Road in the heart of Chinatown and is the best place for traditional chinese dishes.

The Food Place in Raffles City Shopping Mall (third floor) offers a wide range of choices, and is clean and bright, and has a wonderful selection of fresh juices. The char kway teow served here is my favourite !

Scotts Arcade in Scotts Road is another good hawker centre, very handy for when you are shopping in Orchard Road, it is downstairs just next to Tangs department store.

I haven’t tried the Singapore Food Trail at the Singapore Flyer, but my Singaporean friend Colin Chin recommends it, so it is definitely on my ‘to do’ list next time I am there.

Now for restaurants. Most visitors to Singapore will venture to Little India to have curry served on a banana leaf. Banana Leaf Apollo is a popular one, but my personal favourite is Muthu’s Curry in Racecourse Road. You can see the chefs cooking in the central open kitchen, and they specialise in the famous Singapore fish head curry which is quite delicious.

If you want to try traditional straits style or Nyonya cuisine, try Blue Ginger in Tanjong Pajar Road. They serve wonderful achar pickle, ngoh hiang, and a traditional chicken curry with black buah keluak nuts.

For Chinese there are three branches of the very classy Peach Garden and if set menus are your thing, try Jade at the Fullerton Hotel which has a really good choice of set menus (every person on the table can choose a different menu).

For seafood, the restaurants on East Coast Parkway are very popular such as Jumbo and Red House. You can choose your fish and crustaceans from the tanks, but make sure that you agree a price before they cook it for you. Try the favourite Singapore Chilli Crab and Singapore Pepper Crab aswell as Crayfish tails in ginger and spring onion.

My friend Colin recommends House@Dempsey which used to be an army barracks and serves wonderful high teas as well as a varied menu of pizzas, burgers, steak and appetisers.

For Japanese, Sakae Sushi has various outlets and is very tasty, offering soft shell crab tempura, lobster salad inari, spicy tuna gunkan among other delights.

For dessert, the Fullerton Hotel hosts a chocolate buffet at weekends in The Courtyard. There is also a gourmet dessert bar called 2am showcasing Janet Wong’s amazing work, which I have not tried, but is on my ‘to do’ list.

For drinks there are plenty of cool bars in Singapore. My favourites are 1-Altitude (282m high) at Raffles Place, and the rooftop bar (Skypark) at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.

You also can’t miss Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar.

Well that concludes my tasty guide to Singapore – a foodie’s paradise. Please tell me about your recommendations so that I can look forward to trying them on my next visit.

Best Burgers and Ribs in Perth

What makes a good burger ? I suppose everybody has their own ideas, but for me it is a nice meat patty, not too skimpy but not so big that you can’t take a mouthful where you are tasting all of the layers. Nice crisp salad, tasty tomato, good sauce (tomato, mustard, mayo or other relish – I don’t mind so long as it goes with the burger), maybe a few pickles too. I like the bun to be fresh, soft on the inside and a little crispy on the outside.

The famous ‘Aussie’ burger has beetroot and egg in it – I quite like it – but I know that beetroot is not to everybody’s taste. Fast food is big big business over here – Joondalup drive has a Red Rooster, Chicken Treat, Hungry Jack’s (which is Australian Burger King), KFC and McDonalds all within about 500m, and the smell of grease as you drive past in the summer is all-pervading.

I don’t care much for the fast food chains – they tend to be fairly synthetic and they never look like the pictures in the ads. Hungry Jack’s and McDonalds buns taste very synthetic, and if I had to do a blind taste test I don’t think I would be sure that it was a bread product. The pleasure of eating a Big Mac or a Whoppa is very transient, and I don’t know if it affects anybody else the same way, but the satisfaction of fulfilling my junk craving is quickly replaced with a feeling of nausea from the after-taste. Needless to say – I don’t eat McDonalds very often – however the Sausage and Egg McMuffin is ok, and if I am craving a junk breakfast, I will sometimes have one.

Sorry if I sound like a terrible food snob, but this blog is all about my personal idea of deliciousness, and the fast food chains are ok for cheap quick fixes, but they are not my idea of food heaven.

When I first came to Perth the best burger I had was the gourmet beef burger at Burns Beach Cafe. It was a hand made steak patty with just the right amount of relish, onion and salad, served in a lovely crusty fresh bun. The char-grilled patty oozed a small amount of really tasty meat juices, and the whole meal with chips was very satisfying. I went back and had that burger a few times over the next few months but unfortunately the quality diminished with each visit.

The next good burger joint was FAB (or should it be AFB?) Australia’s Finest Burgers at Hillary’s boat harbour. Not only did they have a fabulous range of burgers, but they served good milkshakes too such as Tim Tam flavour. The patties were made with really good beef and favourite options were the Supreme with sauteed mushrooms and barbecue sauce, The Blue with blue cheese and salad, and the classic Aussie. They also serve Chicken Brie and Cranberry burgers, and they used to serve kangaroo, but this seems to have disappeared from the menu. FAB were the best burgers around, but unfortunately they could not serve consistently. The days that they were good they were very very good, but the off days just left me disappointed, and if I am paying $18 for a burger – it has to be amazing.
Fab Australia's Finest Burgers on Urbanspoon

I decided to look around and research the best burgers in Perth and came up with a shortlist of 3: Grill’d, Alfred’s Kitchen and Jus Burgers.

I tried Jus Burgers in Subi, and the onion rings were amazingly good. I chose a classic cheese burger, which was nice, but very underseasoned – just a little salt and pepper would have made it taste so good.
Jus Burgers (Subiaco) on Urbanspoon

I tried Grill’d next and found the range of burgers very appealing, healthy and well-made. I love the way that they spread the sauce over the whole bun rather than just a blob in the middle, and my only minor complaint is that the patties are a little on the small side. The chips are lovely, seasoned with herbs and served with dips. I like the philosophy of Grill’d and it is now my favourite place for a local burger.
Grill'd Joondalup on Urbanspoon

The winner though is Alfred’s Kitchen. This place demonstrates what burgers are all about. It’s a classic burger shack which does every permutation of burger, egg, cheese and bacon. The burgers are pretty damn perfect – just the right ration of bun, burger and salad served with chips. No formal seating – just some walls to sit on and an open fire for chilly days. It is famous as a bikie (Hell’s Angels for my English friends) gathering place, and I have been advised to steer clear of it late at night – but lets be honest, I’m sure the bikies just want to feed their face, I can’t picture Alfred’s Kitchen as a den of iniquity.
Alfred's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

When I researched ribs, I didn’t find too many places in Perth that specialised in them.

I went to Tony Roma’s in the city and the ribs were nice but didn’t have me rushing back. I had also tried ribs at the Hog’s Breath Cafe, but I find Hog’s Breath a little disappointing. Like TGIF’s it seems to be a place where people go to enjoy cocktails and the food is just a side issue – not cooked with much thought or love – they churn out steaks and fries which taste quite bland and are also not particularly cheap.
Tony Roma's on Urbanspoon

Then I tried ribs at Trigg Island Cafe and the search pretty much ended there. Why go anywhere else. The ribs are fabulous. Here’s a top tip – don’t bother with starters – you get 3 racks of ribs chilli or plain bbq – chilli is best. They melt in the mouth – truly sensational ribs.

Stop Press 18th Aug 2012 – Trigg Island Cafe has now changed hands and is owned by Kailis. They no longer serve ribs. How annoying.

Stop Press again 20th Oct 2012 – Found some fabulous ribs tonight at Squire’s Loft, Subiaco – will definitely be paying a return visit and will take pics for the blog – here’s the Urbanspoon link:

Squires Loft Subiaco on Urbanspoon
If you like Asian style ribs, the best ones I have found are at To-To, Albany Highway, Vic Park – this is a vietnamese restaurant, but also does chinese style dishes and these particular ribs are the Peking Style Ribs.

Also Lotus Court Chinese restaurant, Connolly does really nice ribs. Kulcha cafe in Joondalup makes quite acceptable but maybe a little sweet, ribs in plum sauce. Other than that I have found the ribs in asian restaurants to be a bit dry or tough. When making ribs from scratch it is really important to marinate and then thoroughly cook the meat so that it comes away from the bone really easily. Some recipes tell you to boil the marinated ribs, others say to oven roast, but either way it is really important to cook them slowly for some time.

So there you are – my recommendations for burgers and ribs in Perth. I am sure that there are many other places which I haven’t tried – feel free to share your recommendations with me.

Bread Pudding or Bread and Butter Pudding?…. leftover bread – let’s use it up

On a winter’s day there is nothing quite as satisfying as the smell of a bread based dessert coming from the oven. I remember as a child coming home from school to find that my mum had baked a bread pudding, fresh out of the oven, covered in glistening brown sugar, to be eaten later as dessert with custard and a cup of tea. I am not sure of the origins of bread pudding, but I imagine it was a wartime creation for using up leftover stale bread.

Before we continue, let’s discuss the difference between ‘bread pudding’ and ‘bread and butter pudding’. Bread pudding seems to be a British creation – it is dense and soft, full of currants, but not cakey, more like a soggy Christmas pudding, usually divided into small squares and sprinkled with sugar. You can’t eat lots of it in one go – it is pure stodge – but lovely comforting stodge at that. It is made by mashing stale bread with milk and dried fruit, and adding copious amounts of spice.

Bread and Butter pudding on the other hand is soft and custardy. It is made by arranging slices of buttered bread in a dish, pouring custard over the top and baking in the oven. The bread is usually cut into triangles so that the pointy bits above the custard go crunchy and maybe slightly burnt to contrast with the soft rich texture of the middle. I don’t have a picture of my own pud to show you, so here is a glossy foodie pic of one (I’ll replace it with a pic of mine, next time I make it):

Stop press – I finally remembered to take a pic of my bread and butter pudding – here it is:

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Okay so lets make some puddings.

BREAD PUDDING RECIPE (use half quantities for a smaller pudding)

500g of (preferably stale) bread – wholemeal works best – cut the crusts off, but if you are short of the 500g you can throw a few crusts back in

500g sultanas (you can use mixed dried fruit, but sultanas are juiciest and they don’t have pips)

85g mixed peel

2 tablespoons mixed spice

Half a tablespoon ground cinnamon

600ml milk

2 eggs beaten

100g light brown sugar (plus a few tablespoons for sprinkling)

100g butter – melted

Optional extras: replace some of the fruit with – lemon zest, orange zest, glace cherries (wash the sticky coating off with very hot water), dates, walnuts, pecans etc.

1. Heat the oven to 170 deg C. Line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. If using half the quantities above, line a standard loaf tin instead.

2. Tear the bread up into small pieces in a mixing bowl, add the fruit, spice, cinnamon and peel (plus any optional extras if you are using them). Pour in the milk and mix with a wooden spoon, mashing and mixing as you go so that the bread breaks down.

3. Add the eggs and sugar and stir. Stir in the melted butter. Leave to stand if necessary to allow the bread to soak up all of the ingredients.

4. Mix again and pour into the prepared tin. The large tin will take an hour and a half and the small tin will take just over an hour. If it is browning too quickly you can cover it with foil for a while.

5. Just before the end of cooking, sprinkle the pudding with sugar. When it is done a skewer will come out cleanly, but the middle will still be soft and moist. Serve warm from the oven with custard or cream or just a cuppa.

BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING RECIPE

12 slices of bread with crusts removed

50g soft unsalted butter

8 egg yolks (save the whites for a pavlova)

150g caster sugar (plus extra to sprinkle on top)

4 drops of vanilla essence

300ml milk

300ml double cream

50g sultanas (as with the bread pudding, you can use raisins and currants if you like)

Ground nutmeg (up to a tablespoon depending on how much you like nutmeg)

1. Grease a pudding basin (approx 1.7 litres) with butter.

2. Butter the bread and cut it in half diagonally so that you get triangles.

3. Arrange the bread in the dish in layers, sprinkling with sultanas between layers and finishing with a final layer of bread. Arrange it so that some of the corners of the bread stick upwards – they will go crispy and create a nice contrast to the soft pudding.

4. Now make the custard. Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Place the milk and cream in a pan with the vanilla and heat gently until simmering. Pour the milk/cream onto the egg and sugar mixture and keep stirring (get a helper to stir while you pour).

5. Pour the custard over the bread and leave to soak while you heat up the oven to 180 deg C.

6. Fill a roasting tray halfway with warm water and place the pudding dish in the water (this is known as a ‘bain marie’). Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Cook for 20-30 minutes. It should be a soft wobbly custard, not firmly set. Sprinkle with sugar 5 minutes before the end of cooking so that it caramelizes on top.

Variations:

This is a very rich custard using 8 egg yolks and half cream, you can make a healthier version using fewer eggs and all milk, but if you are presenting this at a dinner party, I would recommend making the indulgent version. There are a variety of custard recipes available on the web, find the one that you like best.

To save time, you can use raisin bread and fewer (or no) sultanas. You can also add nuts, mixed peel, dates, dried apricots and glace cherries if you like them.

Other variations include spreading the bread slices with apricot jam or Nutella. You can also drizzle chocolate sauce over the servings. The options are endless.

Perfect Yorkshire Pudding

Six months ago, I would not have considered myself a yorkshire pudding expert. My efforts were always a bit hit and miss, sometimes really tall and lovely, sometimes flat and stodgy. In my opinion the perfect yorkshire pudding has to be tall and crispy around the edges and soft in the middle, then you can pour your gravy in the middle and enjoy the contrast of soft and crispy textures.

My epiphany happened when I saw Jamie Oliver making yorkshire puddings. His method is so simple it is ridiculous.

Here are the basic pre-requisites:

1. Have your oven as hot as possible – the ideal time to cook your yorkshire puds is when you have taken the meat out to rest – you can then crank the oven up to between 200 and 220 deg C.

2. Put your tin or tins in early to get the fat as hot as possible – it doesn’t matter if you make individual yorkies in a muffin tin or one big communal yorkie – just get the tin in early.

3. Make sure there is enough fat to cover the bottom of the tin – I use lard because it imparts extra flavour, but you can also use oil.

4. Now for the recipe – use equal volumes of egg, milk and plain flour plus a pinch of salt. I always measure out the egg first – a one egg yorkie in a standard 7 inch round  cake tin will serve 2-3 people, so just scale up from there. Use a measuring jug – if one egg measures 50mls, add 50mls of milk and then spoon flour on top up to the 150ml mark. Add a pinch of salt (bigger pinch for bigger volumes) and whisk with a fork or a balloon whisk until it is smooth. Don’t stress if there are a few small lumps, it will all be ok in the end.

5. When the fat is as hot as it can be, quickly pour the mixture in the tin, put it back in the oven for 15-20 mins and watch it rise perfectly.

WELCOME

Pancake with honey, cream, strawberries and blueberries.

Welcome to my blog!

It’s mainly going to be about food, about food that I cook, food that I eat in restaurants and cafes, and food that I have eaten around the world that I love and want to replicate.

I live in Perth, Western Australia, and Perth has lots of good restaurants – it just takes a bit of research to find the really excellent ones. I plan to include a list of my top ten Perth food spots – it might turn into a top fifty !

My philosophy on food is simple – it has to be delicious. If you are going to eat something, it should be good and tasty and nourishing – not boring and dull – we spend a lot of our lives eating, so it should always be the most pleasurable experience it can be. I don’t care if it is a complex cheffy dish with multiple flavour combinations, or a simple cheese and onion toastie – it has to be good and it has to be delicious, or I don’t want it.

I have researched all of my dishes with care – I have searched Perth for the best coffee, the best cakes, the best burgers, the best high tea, the best curry, the best breakfast, the best vietnamese soup, the best dim sum etc.

In my blog I will be bringing you the results of my research. I would love you to try the places that I love and see if you agree, and I would love your feedback so that I can try new places that you love. I will also be sharing recipes of my favourite dishes. If there is a dish that I miss from England or elsewhere e.g. Pizza Express Pollo ad Astra or Hornchurch Charcoal Grill Kofta Kebabs I will try my best to recreate it in my own kitchen – this usually takes a bit of experimentation, which is fun, and there is nothing quite like getting the recipe just right and bringing back those memories of good food, good company and laughter.

So there we are – this is my blog – I hope you like it. No…. actually, I hope you love it, and I hope you find new deliciousness that changes your food choices for the better.

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