Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baking: Burnt Butter Biscuits

Hold the phones, stop the presses, do whatever you need to do to halt everything for just a minute.

I've made a few batches of rock cakes now, and have been on the lookout for something different, but just as simple. Enter, stage right, the Burnt Butter Biscuit.

Now, the smart-asses amongst you might think "huh, that's just biscuits you leave in the oven for too long". Yeah, very funny. I tell you, I don't think I quite nailed these little buggers this batch, but they're so light, and crisp, and yummy, I'm not that upset!

Burnt Butter Biscuits

Melt 125g of butter over a low heat and cook it until it's a light brown colour. Leave it to cool slightly, and start preheating your oven to 180C. Once the butter has cooled a little add 1/2 cup of caster sugar to the butter and beat the mixture really well. Mix in one lightly beaten egg and a teaspoon of vanilla. Fold in 1 cup of self-raising flour, 1/2 cup of plain flour, and a pinch of salt. The mixture will come together into a stick glossy dough. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough into balls and set them out on a greased tray, leaving enough room for spreading. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they're lightly golden brown. The recipe suggests placing a blanched almond on top of each biscuit before throwing them in the oven.

This made 24 for me (which, amazingly, is what the original recipe said. I almost never get it right!)

Now, I'm pretty sure I didn't cook the butter long enough: I'm great at burning things accidentally, but apparently when I have to do it deliberately I can't. Go figure! Either way, these are NICE little biscuits. They'd be nice with a drizzle of melted chocolate on top, or maybe even a little orange zest added to the mix... wonder how that'd work... I guess, really, they're a great basic little biscuit, so easy, and taste fantastic.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Simple Things

Y'know, sometimes I forget how much I really enjoy the simplest of things. Warm sunshine, fresh air, birds singing in the trees, the smell of baking, and simple, basic food.

Things like a plate of fresh fruit. Nothing fancy, just an apple, an orange, and a bunch of juicy sweet grapes, chopped up ready for easy consumption. Generally when I finish work on a Saturday, if the weather has been as lovely as it was yesterday, this is the type of thing I crave. Usually I give in to that craving. Sometimes... (hanging head in shame)... I give in to the call of easy quick crap and grab something from the market before heading home. I definitely feel better after the fruit, so I have no idea why sometimes I go down the greasy fried route. I guess, on the bright side, it helps me really appreciate the good stuff more...

Something else, that doesn't look so appetising, now that I look at this picture, is the simple meal of baked beans on toast. Oh my, I had this for "lunch" today (if you can really call a meal at 3.30pm lunch). Some forgotten memory from my days as a very young lass hovered on the edge of my mind, an elusive wraith, half-remembered, perhaps half imagined... sorry, I'm digressing. Suffice to say, it was good. Comfort food! So very enjoyable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eating Out: Blue Olive

56 Alinga Street, Canberra
Ph: (02) 6230 4600

As I mentioned, I finished up my Canberra trip with a visit to Blue Olive for breakfast. I've eaten my favourite-meal-of-the-day here several times now. The Big Brekky is definitely big... and this is the plate without mushrooms. They also do a mean eggs benedict. And a good bacon and egg burger. And muesli. And a few other things I haven't gotten around to trying yet. There's an extensive range of food for lunch as well. If you're in Canberra and hankering for a bite, here is not a bad place to start. They have gluten-free options, as well as vegetarian and more healthy choices. Noice.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Eating Out: Fekerte's Ethiopian Cuisine

74/2 Cape Street, Dickson
Ph: (02) 6262 5799

As I mentioned in my Canberra post, I stumbled across FEC while on my way elsewhere, and had to come back for a taste.

The service there was provided by a lovely lady and an... interesting man (Fekerte?). But both very friendly and polite.

I simply couldn't go past the cauliflower fritters: (quoting from menu) three pieces of "finely cut cauliflower and fresh herbs mixed with chickpea flour and egg deep-fried and served with a yoghurt sauce". Oooooh yeah. Delicate spices waking up my mouth, great tangy yoghurt. This is an entree worthy of my All-Time Top Ten.

Following on from the fritters I decided on coconut chicken: (quoting again from the menu) "diced chicken pieces and cauliflower cooked in a lightly spiced tomato and coconut sauce, served with enjera and rice". Mm, yum. Not much spice to it, especially following the fritters, but VERY nice. A decent-sized serve too... I had to leave some behind. And the enjera - beautiful, sharp and tangy on the tastebuds, and brilliant when it came to sopping up the sauce (and cleaning up my plate).

A little on the pricey side - my meal (exactly as above) plus a glass of lemon squash topped $30. But the food was excellent, there was plenty of it, so my tummy ranks it as GOOD!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

One Week in Canberra

OK, this will be a slightly less smutty story than the one you may have heard about Paris. And it wasn't really a whole week - only a working week. Buckle in though, it's going to be a long post :-)

Some may or may not know, but for a few years I called Canberra my home. So I suffer mixed feelings whenever I have to head back there for work. Usually I manage to stay in a serviced apartment so I have a kitchen and don't have to eat out for three meals each day. Not so lucky this week: with Parliament sitting accommodation was scarce. I ended up staying at the Canberra Rex hotel, somewhere I've never stayed before and, frankly, have always looked down my nose at... largely due to it being smack bang in between council flats and one of the ANU residences. But really, I can't complain. And if I was spending my own money then 3.5 stars would be quite adequate. The Rex has an air of faded gentility. OK, that might be going a bit overboard, but the rooms are clean, and a good size.

MONDAY 13 August

Checked in after a loooong day at the office. I decided to go the easy route and have dinner at Millie's Bar and Restaurant, at the hotel. In the way of most hotel restaurants that I know, the food was a touch over-priced, but my LORD, it was good.

Tonight I had the fresh oven baked canneloni stuffed with basil, pumpkin and ricotta, then smothered in a rich tomato sauce with two slices of sourdough bread covered with melted cheese. I am KICKING myself that I don't have a camera with me. It was fantastic. I followed it up with the lemon meringue pie and ice cream. That was also good: the meringue was so creamy. It was accompanied by the biggest strawberry I've seen in a while. The lemon was really nice, but I prefer my lemon to tart that a mouthful explodes my salivary glands into action and makes me wince. And this was lemony, but the tartness wasn't there.

TUESDAY 14 August

Y'know, there are a few things about Canberra that I like: the crisp winter mornings, the magpies singing in Garema Place, the view of the Brindy's from the office window, with their smattering of white on top. They're all familiar, even after an absence of two years, and comforting.

Years ago, when I first moved here and lived on-campus at ANU, the Rasa Sayang was a favourite dining experience for me and my then-boyfriend. The food was consistently great, and the prices weren't so high that a couple of uni students couldn't afford a night out now and then. So tonight I walked on up to Dickson to partake of some memories.

When I got there I had a momentary twinge of doubt: every other place I'd passed was at least half-full, but the Rasa had only two tables taken. I should have slapped myself for my lack of faith: by the time I'd finished my entree it was filling up quick.

Aahh, the entree... vegie spring rolls with a hoisin and sweet chilli dipping sauce (have I mentioned how much I love entrees?). Bliss. Delicious. Just gimme a plate of these and I'll be happy. Instead I chose a main of Ayam Siob, with steamed rice. Good choice. The menu states that it is "crisp-skin chicken marinated with tamarind fruit juice, ginger, onions and coriander and then baked and served with a mild tamarind sauce. Oh. My. Goodness. The food was better than I remember. Prices have of course increased in the last five or so years since the last time I ate there, but that's only to be expected. Kicking myself again about my lack of photographic evidence.


Last night on my way to RS I passed a heap of new restaurants (I use the term "new" loosely, meaning they weren't there the last time I spent any time in Dickson). One in particular caught my interest: Fekerte's Ehtiopian Cuisine. Ever since I first tried Ethiopian food a few years ago at the Canberra International Food Festival I've been a fan. I did actually manage to take pictures of this meal, so will detail it in another post.

THURSDAY 16 August

My last night here. Home tomorrow - yay! Another long and tiring day in the office, but the day wasn't without its highlights, such as picking up a new perfume for $11 less than the price at the first place I saw it... and a free bottle with the purchase!

Tonight I decided on the hotel restaurant again. After my positive experience on Monday I figured it couldn't hurt. Something light tonight - the chilli beef salad. The menu differed slightly to what I was served, but the beef was achingly tender, with just the right amount of chilli. Slices were laid across a bed of tomato wedges, strips of cucumber and rocket tossed with a tangy raita. A bit much raita for my taste, and I'm not a fan of rocket without other salad leaves mixed in, but yummy all the same. Washed down with a very palatable Four Sisters merlot (the house red). I thought I had grabbed pictures of this, but it appears I hadn't. Tsk tsk.

FRIDAY 17 August

Mere hours until I grab a Dash-8 and head south. But no trip to Canberra would be complete without a decent breakfast. A great place to go for that is the Blue Olive (unless of course you can get out to the Central Cafe in Queanbeyan). Again, I had a camera for that, so will blog it later.

There, see, told you: not smutty at all!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Eating Out: Nara Thai

2/6 Neville Avenue, Laverton
Ph: 9369 8799

After reading about Nara Thai in Epicure I decided to give it a go - after all, it's not far from my place, and goodness knows I'm always on the lookout for some decent Thai food close to home.

My entree
was Gai Hor Bai Thoey: bite-sized pieces of marinated chicken wrapped with pandan leaves and deep-fried, with a yummy chilli dipping sauce. Lovely! A shame there were so few :-( It was almost a tease, to have so few bites of yumminess.

Of course, with a massaman curry on the menu I couldn't order anything else. And it was... nice. Flavours were great, but I like a bit of grunt in my massaman, a bit of heat. But I'd happily have theirs again, no worries.

Nathan ordered the Pad Med Ma Muang: stir-fried cashew nuts with beef and mixed vegetables with a mild chilli paste. By all accounts this was awesome (well, he said it was good, I REALLY liked it). Simple flavours, great textures.

With these dishes we ordered a serving of steamed rice and some garlic roti. The cost of the roti was... high. But nevertheless, they were VERY nice.

Total bill was a little higher than I'd pay regularly, but the food was great, as was the atmosphere, and I heard many happy noises from neighbouring tables.