Sunday, March 18, 2012

Zucchini and Haloumi fritters with cumin spiced yogurt

These were such an easy and yummy Sunday night dinner. I loved the combination of the salty haloumi and the freshness of the zucchini, peas and dill.

I used this recipe-

However I made a few small changes- I used wholemeal flour instead of plain, added some garlic to the zucchini and peas when cooking them and added some chopped red chili to the dish before frying.

To make the cumin spiced yogurt, simply combine Greek yogurt with a teaspoon or so of cumin and stir to combine. Makes a really great dipping sauce for the fritters. These are great for an easy dinner, or could be made bite size for fancy finger food. Would also be great served with some kind of rocket salad.


L x

Kingfish Sashimi with coconut, lime and chili

This dish was an attempt at replicating a dish that I absolutely love at my favourite restaurant, Chin Chin. I used sashimi grade kingfish purchased from the Queen Vic Market- only ever use sashimi grade fish if you are ever going to serve it raw. This means the fishmonger has ensured it is the freshest, best cut available and has stored it in a certain way.

This was very easy to make, and obviously you have to be a fan of sashimi or cured fish in order to enjoy it. Even though it appears to be raw, it technically isn't, as the acid in the lime juice slowly cooks the fish.

To prepare, take your sashimi grade fillet of kingfish and slice against the grain into bite size thin slices. Put these in a bowl and add- juice and pulp of two limes, a dash of fish sauce, one red chilli chopped into fine pieces and two spring onion stems sliced thinly. Marinate for two hours.

To serve, mix a large handful of mint and vietnamese mint through the fish. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with coconut milk (I only used about a tablespoon). Garnish with some extra herbs and chili.

Such an easy, tasty dish that is sure to impress your friends! Also a talking point, and extremely healthy! Feel free to ask me any questions at all about the dish if you plan to give it a try.

L x

Queen Victoria Market 'Foodies' Tour

On Saturday my older cousin and I went on a Queen Vic Market tour. It was a really fun and interesting experience that really inspires me to make better use of the market. We have this amazing fresh food resource literally smack bang in the middle of our city, yet most of us view it as a tourist attraction rather than a food market. The prices are great, the shop owners friendly and helpful and there is so much to love about all three of the food sections of the market.

The tour started with a little history about the area. It was interesting to learn how the market opened, that it was built atop a cemetary (spooky!), how the market used to operate in the past and that some of the stall holders have been there for years and years and years and passed the business down from generation to generation. Another interesting fact was that the market was almost closed down in the 70's, but remained open because of public uproar. Lucky considering that it now employs over 3000 employees and is a huge part of Melbourne's economy. And lucky for us because we can go there and buy great local produce!

 We started in the meat and fish market, wandering around and learning about the different shops and their purposes. We discussed the difference between those that are selling upmarket produce and those that specialise in bulk purchasing, and also organic produce. We also found out the best places to buy 'niche' produce like duck, rabbit, goat, sashimi standard fish etc. The guide was very animated and shared little facts about some of the stalls, like one butcher that sells 3000 sausages a week!

We then visited the fruit and vegetable area where we were shown some unusual and rare fruits and vegetables, and tasted some great fruit. The rest of our tastings occured in the dairy hall, where we were spoilt. Cheese, dips, breads, homemade tortellini, smoked chicken, Koko black chocolate. We were so full afterwards, and tried some things we wouldn't normally choose.

The tour obviously serves its purpose because Jac and I went on a big produce spree afterwards, hiring a trolley and filling it up with yummy things! Between us we purchased things like sausages, sashimi grade kingfish, lamb cutlets, prawns, mussels, pippies, crab, salmon, dips, cheeses, artisan style sourdough and heaps of fruit and vegies. It was so much cheaper than the supermarkets and a really fun experience also.

I completely recommend the tour either as a visitor to Melbourne or a resident. It cost $40, included stacks of tastings and a free coffee, and is a great way to learn how to make use of our famous landmark market. Ask for Beverly, she was a great host and took excellent care of us!

L x

PS. Check out my next posts to see some of the recipes I have made so far using the produce I bought :)

MF&W Festival Express Lunch @ Dandelion, Elwood

I have read very mixed reviews about Dandelion, an Age Good Food Guide hatted restaurant that serves upmarket Vietnamese food. Situated in the cool little beachside suburb of Elwood, our experience of Dandelion was really lovely. We experienced none of the bad service the reviews speak of, and found the food anything but bland.

We visited to have one of the Good Food and Wine Festival's express lunches. Whilst the festival is almost over, keep your eye out for these events next year. Heaps of Melbourne's best restaurants feature a two course or three course express lunch with a glass of wine for around $35-$45. Its a great way to experience those restaurants that you normally couldn't afford.

The decor at Dandelion was beautiful and tranquil- lots of white and green, and an amazing vertical garden that really stands out with lots and lots of gorgeous green hanging pots. We were seated at a little booth seat near the wrap and roll bar that makes fresh rice paper rolls.

There were some yummy goodies on the Express Lunch menu, but heaps of variety on the real menu and for a second we were tempted to ditch the cheap option and go all out on some of the amazing sounding food on the normal menu. In particular, the glazed beef ribs (voted dish of 2012 by The Age) and the whole snapper sounded really tempting. Also tempting were the different varieties of 'pho'- such as tofu, kangaroo, salmon etc. We all know how much I love my pho so I can't wait to try some of those varieties. However, we did end up sticking to the Express Lunch menu and ordered a three course feast of great sounding Vietnamese food.

The rare beef salad was a gorgeous combination of lean, rare beef slices with Vietnamese herbs, raw onion, carrot, peanuts and yummy fried shallots in a zesty dressing. The colours and textires were amazing and I really loved this dish. Whilst it could have been spicier, the flavours were far from bland!

The prawn tail rice paper rolls were probably the stand out dish. Filled with succulent crispy prawns, herbs, vermicilli noodles and crunchy green rice, once again the textures and flavours stood out and were really enjoyable. In particular the addition of the crunchy green rice gave the rolls a very different texture than that of a regular rice paper roll.

We both couldn't go past the crispy pork and pomelo salad with caramel sauce. I loved this dish as I am huge fan of anything with pork, and bean sprouts. The pomelo added a nice acidity to the salad and the pork was tender and tasty. The only negative aboutt the dish was that it didn't meet the description of 'crispy pork'. It was lovely and tender but there was nothing crisp about it, and using a cut such as pork belly or adding a little crackling as a garnish would have given the dish a wonderful crunch. Still very good though.

We both also had the coconut panna cotta with tropical fruits and passionfruit sorbet, which was just lovely. The subtle coconut flavour blended well with the punchy passionfruit flavour. I really loved the way it was presented in the stemless wine glass. I have always wanted to try to make panna cotta and if I do this seems like a really simple and easy way to present it.

So overall, our experience at Dandelion was lovely. The staff were courteous and helpful, and filled up our water glasses regularly. The food showcased the simple Vietnamese flavour combinations that I love so much in a way that was a little different than your average Vietnamese restaurants. Having travelled all over Vietnam, I can see why people have commented on reviews that this isn't Vietnamese food. But, what do you expect from a alacarte Western restaurant? Of course it is going to be a Westernised version of the dish- this is Vietnamese inspired, but not Vietnamese food. However, still very enjoyable and worth the trip to try it for yourself.

L x Dandelion on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Electrolux Cooking School

Today I attended my first cooking class at Electrolux Cooking School at the Queen Vic Market. It wasn't your traditional cooking class. Although more of a demonstration than a class, it thoroughly exceeded my expectations and I really enjoyed my two hours or so in the company of our chef, Geraldine and a few other participants. The class was called 'Summer Seafood with Japanese flavours', and basically showcased some brilliant market seafood made with easy 'do it yourself' Japanese recipes. All three courses were served on a beautifully set table complete with Japanese pickled sides and matched Tasmanian wines. I felt thoroughly spoilt. And, since the dishes were so wonderful, I thought I would share them with all of you!

Light Prawn Broth with Tofu and Udon noodles (serves 8)
This dish was right up my alley- we all know how I feel about Asian soups. It was wonderful having a different flavour in each mouthful. The subtle stock made with prawns and dashi (seaweed and soy broth) was beautiful.

250 gram packet of dried udon noodles
12 green prawns, reserve head and shells
150 grams of silken tofu cut into 2cm pieces
2 sachets of Dashi soup base (found at Asian supermarkets)
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
300 grams mixed Asian mushrooms
80 grams spinach leaves
3 spring onions, finely slice diagonally

Cook the udon noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for 8 minutes or until just tender. Drain.

Peel the prawns, reserving heads and shells. Place shells and heads in a saucepan, cover with 1 litre water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain sotck reserving prawn stock.

Bring stock back to the boil in a saucepan and drop prawns into simmering stock for 2 minutes. Remove prawns from stock using slotted spoon.

Place 2 cooked prawns in each serving bowl with noodles and top with tofu.

Measure stock and make up to 2 litres with water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and add the two sachets of dashi stock, stirring well. Recuse heat. Add ginger and soy sauce to the pot. Simmer for two minutes.

Add the mushrooms and spinach, simmer for 1 minute until mushrooms soften and spinach wilts.

Ladle soup over the noodles. Sprinkle with sliced spring onion and serve immediately.

Marinated baked Salmon and Pickled Cucumber Salad (serves 8)
I loved this dish! Wow. Melt in your mouth salmon accompanied by a crisp cucumber salad that would literally compliment any kind of fish or meat. A great summer dish that would be perfect for entertaining.

1/3 cup mirin
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup low salt soy sauce
1 kg salmon fillet (could use fillets for one or two people)
5 lebanese cucumbers
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 long red chillli, finely diced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
70 grams pickled ginger, sliced into strips
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (mixed black and white looks great)

Mix mirin with ginger, honey and soy in a shallow. Place salmon skin side up, in marinade, cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking.

Halve cucumber lengthwise, scoop out seeds and discard, slice diagonally and place in a bowl.

Mix together sugar, vinegar, white pepper, chilli, sesame oil, pickled ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup boiling water, and pour over the cucumber. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Remove from marinade with a slotted spoon before serving.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place salmon skin side up, seal with baking paper and foil to keep moist while baking and bake for 15 minutes per 100 grams. Remove from oven, cover and cool.

To serve, transfer to a serving dish, peel off skin and scatter pickled cucumber over fillet.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


Seared Marinated Swordfish and Soba Noodle salad (serves 8)

Another great summer salad dish. Swordfish is a great fish with a fab texture. It was interesting to learn the proper way to cook soba noodles as I have stuffed them up at home several times!

600 gram swordfish steak (can use marlin or tuna also)
1 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tablespoon white miso paste
200 gram buckwheat soba noodles (asian section of supermarket)
2 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tsp pickled ginger, rinsed and chopped
1 lebanese cucumber
1/2 bunch coriander, washed and torn
2 spring onions
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted

For the marinade:
Place mirin, soy, sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil. Add miso and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, transfer to a shallow bowl and cool completely/

Place fish in marinade, turning to coat fish steaks well, cover with plastic and marinade for two hours or more.

For the noodles:
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, drop soba noodles into the water stranf by strand. Bring water gently back to a slow boil. Hold at a gentle simmer for 5-6 minutes. Noodles should be soft but not mushy.

When cooked, drain immediately in a colander and run cold water through noodles. Swish water over noodles until water is clear and drain well.

Heat cast iron griddle plate and lightly spray with oil. Place fish steaks on grill plate and sear for 3 minutes on each side, or place fish under a grill and grill for 5 minutes on each side until golden and caramelised. Do not overcook. Serve with soba noodle salad.

I really recommend the Cooking School for anyone wanting to try a new cuisine and have a different dining experience. Also great for gifts- mine was a gift certificate from my birthday last year.
There are a HUGE amount of courses in every cuisine you could imagine held there every month, so check it out-

I will fill you in on the Queen Vic Market tour I am doing with my cousin Jacqui next week. Hopefully I can let you know the best places to buy goodies from! Also worth checking out her blog also, she is a fabulous foodie like myself with some cool foodie plans for the future- follow her!
L xx


If you haven't heard the word Mamasita thrown around town in the last year, then you obviously don't know any Melbourne foodies. Mamasita (Mexican) has all the elements of the 'it' restaurants in Melbourne at the moment- a long line, a no booking policy, a huge following and the 'shared' food trend.

I had heard mixed reviews on Mamasita. Similar to Chin Chin, it gets touted as amazing, and as completely pretentious and overrated. My experience, thankfully, fit in with the first category.

So, the way Mamasita works. If you want a table (especially on a Saturday night) you must get there by 6pm. When you arrive, and tack yourself onto the end of the line, you will be approached by someone who will put your name on a waiting list and you will be told an approximate time a table should become available. Then, you go off to one of the cool bars in the area, have a drink and wait for the phone call.

Our party of five arrived at 6pm and had a table by 7.30. A lot of people complain about this wait, but I didn't mind having a cocktail at Madame Brussels whilst we waited, and once in we were not rushed at all. I can tell you that it is an interesting experience squeezing your way up the staircase past all the sorry looking people waiting in line who are shooting you dirty looks, as you mutter, "We were on the waiting list..."

We were seated at a high table with stools and a friendly waitress gave us the rundown on how it works. Most of the food is sharing style.

We started with some chips with salsa and guac, which were yummy but no different to your run of the mill Mexican restaurant.

We then had the highlight of the meal, the Tostaditas de pollo and de carnitas. Basically, little bite size pieces of amazing flavours served on a large corn chip. When I go back to Mamasita, I think I will just eat 100 of these. So good!

Next, we tried a variety of soft tacos. The prawn and fish are particularly popular, and although light on filling, were really enjoyable. The accompanying cucumber and celery salsa was really amazing.

Another popular dish and one I really enjoyed was the corn on the cob. I know, corn on the cob- so simple.  But at Mamasita it is packed with flavour, sprinkled with butter, mexican seasoning and grated cheese. There is a reason why this is the most talked about corn in town!

Next we shared two mains, of which neither really impressed us. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with them, they were nice. Just compared to the flavours and textures of the tapas style sharing food, they didn't amaze us. We shared chickpea fritters with sweet potato and mushrooms, which were nice but a little soft. I imagine fritters as being crispier than these were. The goats cheese and squash enchiladas were nice but a little bland and lacked the punch of the other dishes. The chicken quesadilla was enjoyable but a little pedestrian compared to the rest of the food. If I was to go again I would order more of the smaller dishes and leave the mains.

Chickpea Fritters

Squash and Goats Cheese enchiladas
 Dessert was quirky and different. We had to try the ice cream cones that were going past our table in a cone holder. Sweetcorn icecream with caramel and popcorn in a waffle cone might sound strange, but the combination rocked. Definitely worth trying.

When shared, the food at Mamasita isn't all that expensive for its exclusivity. Between the five of us, five courses shared hit us up for about $35 a head. That was for HEAPS of food. The margarita's hit your hip pocket a little harder at about $16 each, but there are less expensive drink options.

Overall, Mamasita was an awesome experience. The funky vibe makes it feel as though you are eating dinner in a cool bar rather than a restaurant, so a little different to Chin Chin's 'diner' atmosphere. Also, the service we recieved was far from pretentious which was also different from Chin Chin's. A great place to spend a Saturday night chilling with friends- but remember, get there early!

L x x

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Recent Eats- March

Sam's Boatshed, Williamstown

Whilst Sam's Boatshed didn't 'blow my mind', it was an enjoyable and ambient restaurant well worth visiting if you are in the Williamstown area. Specializing in fresh seafood and wood-fired pizza's, the restaurant has a rustic feel to it with lovely wooden furnishings and a wide menu.

We loved the potato and rosemary flat-bread so much that we couldn't wait for a photo to be taken. A very yummy way to start a meal- pizza bread topped with sliced potatoes, rosemary, rocket, sour cream and parmesan cheese. It would be the perfect decadent comfort food for a cold night on the beach.

One of my dining partners adored her creamy garlic prawns with saffron rice. It was very impressively served and contained big juicy prawns!

I, in true character, ordered salmon. A crispy skin fillet served with delicate potato and a sweet fig salad was thoroughly enjoyable.

My third dining partner enjoyed her pesto and pumpkin penne but commented that it was a little over pesto-y! Sometimes that oiliness can be difficult to handle.

Overall, a pleasant dining experience. Some improvements could be made but definitely a nice little family friendly option at Williamstown beach.

Aura Cafe, Templestowe Lower

I found this nice little cafe on Urban Spoon and was drawn to it by the exotic options on the breakfast menu. Sometimes a Big Breakfast and Eggs Benedict gets boring, so its always nice to see cafes getting a little creative with breakfasts. Aura is case in point. If you are sick of the same old breakfast menu, give it a try! And those who like the regular will be happy to know that it also caters for you with 'normal' breakfasts such as the Big Breakfast and Vegetarian Breakfast.

I really enjoyed my truffled eggs with asparagus and feta on rye. The beetrot jus drizzled on the plate was really tasty, and the feta and asparagus combination really complimented the poached eggs.

The boyfriend loved his breakfast burger, chocka full of 'boyish' goodness- egg, bacon, avocado, rocket and tomato salsa in a massive brioche style bun. Just what a man needs to start the day!

Another impressive looking breakfast on the table was fried black mushrooms with poached eggs and relish served on a bagel.

Staff were also extremely friendly and helpful at this little cafe. We had our little nephew with us who is allergic to staying still, and they were very understanding of him treating the cafe like a playground and made our family feel very welcome.

Namaste Indian, Bundoora

Since I have been calorie counting, I have not touched Indian food for about four or five months. I had forgotten how amazing it is! My fellow teacher girlfriend and I, both feeling very rundown and overwhelmed by our jobs this term, felt so comforted by our meal at Namaste. Forget greasy comfort food that some people turn to, give me the heady fragrances of spicy Indian food and I feel awake and alive. Just beautiful.
We adored the lamb rogan josh and butter chicken, accompanied with saffron rice and garlicky naan bread. Obviously Indian is not the kind of food you can eat every day but it is definitely something I am happy to save up my calories for! Service was wonderful as it normally is at Indian establishments, and food some of the best I have had in our area (other than Bhoj in Templestowe!)

Spaghetti Marinara (using marinara mix from the new fish place at St Helena Shopping Village)

I love a simple spaghetti marinara! So easy to make and very hard to stuff up. The key is to use a good quality marinara mix that gives you quality seafood, not just the off-cuts. It can really make or break the dish. Another tip is to let the seafood be the star of the dish... I only use a few other simple ingredients to accompany it.

For two people, I used half a kilo of marinara mix.

Set your spaghetti or linguine up to boil. Meanwhile in a frypan heat some olive oil. Add a chopped onion, two teaspoons of garlic, one chopped chilli. Fry until onion is soft. Add your marinara mix, a generous dash of white wine (about 1//4 cup) and a large handful of chopped fresh basil. Simmer for about seven weeks or until fish has turned white and prawns have turned pink.

Toss through your pasta with a dash of olive oil and serve with a pinch of fresh parmesan. Easy, yummy and impressive- even though it takes very little effort!

Check out my other two blog posts on my experience at Mamasita, the 'it' restaurant from last year and a cooking class at the Queen Vic Market.

L xx

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recent Eats- February

Roast Pork Buns from Eastern Court, Templestowe- Gosh I had missed these since my trip to Malaysia where I ate them for breakfast all the time. Little pockets of BBQ pork. Amazing.  

Salad Day at School- This was our Valentines feast in my wonderful office at school. We were trying to put a healthy spin on a pot luck lunch and the result was great. Every one bought a different salad and we ended up with caprese salad, garden salad, fruit salad, potato salad, beetroot and walnut, pumpkin and fetta, asian noodle salad and chargrilled vegie salad. Such a great way to spend a lunch time!

Duck Spring Rolls at Hollyhock, Port Melbourne- this little entree was amazing. Hollyhock is a cool little restaurant on the wharf in Port Melbourne and we loved this entree. The crispy spring rolls were stuffed with tender duck, crunchy vegetables and soft noodles. The satay dipping sauce was great too.

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos- this yummy Sunday night dinner was so easy to make. The taco part of it is pretty self explanatory- soft tacos, corn kernels, lettuce and guacamole. The pork was the standout and such an easy thing to do in a slow cooker. Basically, I just marinated a pork fillet in garlic, chilli, honey, oregano, cinnamon, cumin and bay leaves with a dash of olive oil and let it roast all day. By the time I took it out of the slow cooker, the fillet pretty much fell apart it was so tender. Perfect for soft taco's on a balmy summer evening!

Veal Primavera- another super easy meal to make. I made a double batch and froze some also. Simply saute some red onion with garlic and lean veal strips. Add cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushroom and zucchini. Splash in some balsamic vinegar reduction and some basil. Serve with your favourite pasta. So easy and healthy!

Salt and Pepper Calamari, Chin Chin- Yes, I admit it. I have visited Chin Chin YET AGAIN. I just can't seem to stay away. I tried the S&P calamari for the first time today, and it was fabulous. Soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, tossed with Thai Basil and chillies with a great spicy dipping sauce. Chin Chin is yet to disappoint.

JOY CANDLE range... almost edible- I am spruiking these for a good friend and amazing businesswoman friend of mine, Ash of Ash Macdonald salon in Epping. She has just introduced this amazing range of soy candles that are completely organic and safe. And whilst this may be a food blog and these are candles, I can tell you after buying several of them so far that they are almost good enough to eat. In particular the watermelon and green apple make you want to lick them. Details at

In other news- I survived FEBFAST. 29 days without a drop of alcohol, and surprisingly, it was easy. I drank lime and soda out of a wine glass, felt clear-headed every day and really enjoyed the detox. The ONLY time I missed alcohol was when I was eating an amazing meal that should have been paired with a great glass of wine. I have definitely changed my attitude towards alcohol and see now that it can be a 'treat' rather than a regular drink.

Until next time,

L xo

Scugnizzo, Little Bourke St

It was completely by accident that my Mum and I ended up eating a beautiful meal at the humble Scugnizzo italian restaurant on Little Bourke yesterday. We had booked in to stay at the Oaks on Collins hotel in a 'Sky Suite', which boasted amazing city views so we had intended to get some takeout and eat on our balcony soaking up the city views. The 'amazing' view however ended up being some office buildings and a dreary rainy sky. If we arched our necks around the corner of the balcony, we could see Docklands in the distance... but that was about it.

So I took out my trusty Entertainment Book and my Urbanspoon Iphone app and worked out that we were approximately 5 minutes walk away from Scugnizzo which was in the gold section of the book and had good reviews.

We were not disappointed. From the moment we walked into the ambient brick building and took in the candle-lit tables and wooden decors we felt like we had entered a little slice of Italy in Melbourne (or what I would imagine to be a little slice of Italy!) The aroma of woodfired pizza fills the restaurant and is complimented by the smiling faces of wonderful and attentive staff.

We ordered a beautiful bottle of Victorian Alpine region Merlot and shared some lovely meals.
The beautiful Ortlana pizza was exactly the way I like my pizza. Thin crispy base, minimal toppings, minimal cheese. The char-grilled vegetables and goats cheese were top quality.

The duck and potato stuffed ravioli with burnt butter and truffle sauce were like little pockets of heaven. The sauce was not too rich or over-powering, and it allowed the homemade pasta pillows to come into their own in taste.

The food was not too expensive either- pizza's were around $16, and the pasta was about $26. There was plenty of food between the two of us for this price.

Another huge positive of Scugnizzo were the staff. They were friendly, attentive without being over-bearing and really bubbly. I will definitely be going back next time I need an Italian food fix.

L xo
Scugnizzo on Urbanspoon