Sunday, 29 April 2012

Dumplings in the city - HuTong Dumpling Bar

The other week I went into the city after work to meet M for dinner. I’d had a craving for dumplings, and HuTong Dumpling Bar in Chinatown do my all time favourites! This place is something of an institution in Melbourne, make sure you book at least a week or two early to get a spot as they book up FAST!

The staff are lovely but also scare me a little, the restaurant runs with absolute precision. They turn over the tables with such speed and skill – it’s a well oiled machine. They can always be counted on for a good recommendation too – but anything on the menu with the little ‘recommended’ stamp is usually worth a try.

We had two our must-have dishes, I don’t think I could eat here without having at least one serving of each of these. We also tried a new dumpling flavour – prawn and pork. The food at HuTong is also really reasonably priced, dinner here for M and I has never come to more than $50 - and that's WITH at least one glass of alcohol each!

What we ate:
  • 2 serves shao-long bau
  • 2 serves wantons with hot chilli sauce
  • 1 serve fried prawn and pork dumplings

The shao-long bau are so much fun to eat, there's even have little instruction cards on the table. Just dip one into sauce, pop it on your spoon and nibble a little hole in the side, suck out the delivious soupy stock then gobble the dumpling up! The flavour in these little suckers is fantastic, and the skins are lovely and fine too, not chewy or gooey like I’ve had elsewhere.

The hot chilli dumplings are so warming and tasty. The chilli can get stuck in your throat though but it’s defiantly worth it! The left-over chilli oil is great for dipping other dumplings in too if you like a bit of heat like I do.

This was the first time we’d tried the fried prawn and pork dumplings and we both really liked them, they were nice and crispy outside and the flavour of the filling was great. Not sure if they’re on the regular repeat list like the other two, but definitely a good pick.

So if you're after a cheap night out in the city with great belly-filling food head to HuTong - but remember to book first!

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Kate eat-drink-dream

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Delicious wafelki biscuits

M’s family is Polish and one of his favourite sweet treats are these beautiful wafer biscuits his mum makes. I’ve been learning how to make some Polish cuisine over the years and this is one I learned recently.

They’re very easy, you just mix up the filling, spread between layers of wafer, press for a few hours then slice. They’re actually better the day AFTER they’re made as the filling gradually softens the wafers so they’re nice and chewy!

Just a note if you’re making the recipe below. My mother-in-law cooks without measuring or cookbooks so when I’m trying to write down her recipes I constantly stop her and ask ‘how much of that did you just use’. As such the recipes are quite rough in terms of quantity of ingredients.

Bogusia’s wafelki biscuits

  • 1 packet of dry wafers (most European delis will stock these)
  • 2 tins sweetened condensed milk
  • Approx ½- ¾ cup cocoa
  • Approx 150-250g finely desiccated coconut
  • 1 tspn instant coffee
  1. Put sweetened condensed milk, cocoa and coffee into small saucepan. Heat gradually over low heat until runny, warm and combined.
  2. Gradually add coconut and mix until a thicker but spreadable consistency has been reached. NB: The first time I made this I added a bit too much coconut and it was difficult to spread and the wafers turned out less moist.
  3. Spread the filling over sheets of wafer and sandwich together. This quantity makes 4 layers of mixture between 5 wafer sheets for me.
  4. Press between 2 chopping boards with heavy books, fruit bowl, plant etc… on top for 3-4 hours.
  5. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond shapes and store in an airtight tin.

Kate eat-drink-dream

Sunday, 22 April 2012

M’s paella from Donna Hay Magazine

I’m usually the cook around here, but M is also pretty damn good at whipping up a feast when he puts his mind to it! Flicking through the stack of magazines on the coffee table M came across the feature on paella from February's Donna Hay magazine. He decided to try one of the recipes out – I suspect because it contained two of his fave ingredients – chorizo and prawns!

The result was really delicious – I don’t know it you’d call it a super-authentic version of a paella – but it was certainly tasty!

Donna Hay’s prawn, asparagus and chorizo paella – M’s version

  • 1-2 tblspns olive oil
  • 2 chorizo sliced
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 jar bottled tomato pasta sauce
  • 500g raw peeled prawns
  • 1 bunch asparagus

  1. Heat the oil in non stick frying pan over high heat.
  2. Add chorizo and cook 2-3 mins until browned.
  3. Add rice and cook stirring for 1 minute.
  4. Add the vinegar and cook 1 min or until absorbed.
  5. Stir through the stock and tomato sauce and bring to boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Cook for 15 mins without stirring.
  8. Increase heat to medium, push prawns into rice and cook further 4 mins.
  9. Remove from heat, add asparagus and cover with aluminium foil (or lid) and set aside to rest for 15-18 mins until liquid is absorbed.

Kate eat-drink-dream

Thursday, 19 April 2012

M’s wine review - Sanguine Estate Tempranillo 2008

Tempranillo is a native Spanish grape grown across many regions of Spain. Tempranillo grapes are black and have a thick skin which helps them to tolerate a much warmer climate compared to other varieties. This wine is typically paired with Spanish food such as tapas, and other grilled vegetables or meat.

Tempranillo wines have a deep colour and full body with aromas and flavours such as strawberry, fresh tobacco, and leather. These wines are low in acidity and alcohol and as such they are often blended with other red grapes like Grenache to give them more depth of flavour.

Sanguine Estate is located in Heathcote. It's a beautiful property and a fantastic premium producer of wines in the region. This 2008 vintage of their Tempranillo is a great example of this variety.

This wine is rich, opulent and full of ripe plum, chocolate and spice flavours. It has a great depth to it and is not short of anything. Best of all as the variety is so pleasant and easy to drink it's accessible to everyone and will complement most food. I have had other Tempranillos which I've found too light on the pallet and also ones which have been too ripe. This one is just right!

Price range $28-$36

M eat-drink-dream

Monday, 16 April 2012

Homemade antipasti

On good Friday we ended up at our cousins’ house for an impromptu dinner. We were in the area visiting friends with a newborn baby and messaged to see if we could pop in and say hi – they said to come and stay for dinner too as they were already having friends over for a BBQ.

While we waited for the meat to be cooked we snacked on some sensational Chilean salsa made my M’s cousin’s husband Fernando. It’s called pebre and is made from chilli, coriander, garlic, spring onion, lemon juice and oil. It certainly packs a punch and it went sensationally with the smoky barbequed meat with dinner.

We also had some absolutely DELICIOUS capacolo, cured meat that Fernando has made himself. The process if very long and involved with the meat needing tending to each day during the curing process. But my is it worth it! The meat was sliced so deliciously thinly and had beautiful flavour. You can see we loved it because in the photo from the night there’s none left on the platter – we’d already devoured it We were lucky they sent us home with a packet too so we had some on an leisurely antipasto platter for lunch the next day! 

Kate eat-drink-dream

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Amazing Chin Chin brunch

I just found this post in my files and realised I hadn't put it up yet. I was very very lucky at the end of last year to be a winner of the 'table for six' competition run by Broadsheet Melbourne. My prize was a table for me and 5 friends at Chin Chin which was already one of my FAVE new melbourne restaurants.

In January M, 4 friends and I went along for some lunch - or rather an absolute feast! The team at Chin Chin took such great care of us and served up a 7 course banquet - overall there were more than 11 amazing dishes!

One of the best things about the day was being able to treat our good friends to lunch out, and some of them hadn't tried Chin Chin before and we all loved it!

There was so much food I actually missed snapping a couple of dishes as we devoured them straight away - but here are the ones I did take.

Kingfish sashimi with lime, chilli, coconut and thai basil. Probably my all-time favourite dish at the moment!
Chin Chin pork 'roll ups' with braised suckling pig, peanuts, slaw and sour herbs. So fun to roll and they were delicious and fresh!

Crispy barramundi and green apple salad with caramelised pork, chili and lemongrass. This is something I wouldn't normally order but was in contention for everyone's favourite dish! The barramundi was so crispy and the pork so so caramelised - amazing!

Massaman curry of coconut, braised Hopkins River beef brisket with pink fur apple potatoes and crispy shallots. I'm not usually a beef eater but tried a litte, the meat fell apart in your mouth and the flavours were warm and hearty.

Cooling plate served on the side to take the edge of the curry. A nice fresh touch.

Pretty sure this was a wagyu beef salad, but I couldn't find the exact name listed on the menu. Whatever it was, M said it was one of his faves.

Salt and pepper crusted soft shell crab with green papaya salad and nahm jin. I've had this one on previous visits and it's highly recommended. The crab has a beautiful consistency and flavour.

Steamed free range chicken with green beans and peanut, chilli and Gapi Felish. This was very spicy and probably the only thing I might not order again. Not because it was bad, it just wasn't as amazing as the others.

These bannana rotis were lovely, really creamy inside and sweet outside.

Palm sugar icecream sundae with salted honecomb and lim sugar. This was my favourite dessert! But by this stage we were so full I only managed a spoonful!
Kate eat-drink-dream

 Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Polish easter feasting

Hope you all had a lovely Easter break! On Easter Sunday we visited M's parents for breakfast and lunch. I've mentioned before that M is Polish, and his mum is a SUPERB cook!

Everytime we visit she outdoes herself with delicious spreads, but Easter was really exceptional.

We arrived to a table spread with a traditional european breakfast, there was so much of my favourite food there I didn't know where to start!

We had my FAVE potato and veggie salad 'salatka' - the veggies are chopped into very fine cubes and it's sensational spread on fresh bread rolls with a slice or two of nice meat. We had a platter of different meats, a platter of cheeses, smoked salmon, smoked salmon stuffed with dill and cream cheese, smoked trout, traditional hard boiled eggs with peas and mayo, plain hard boiled eggs, sausages AND homemade beetroot horseradish!

Closely following this course was the essential breakfast dessert - tea and FIVE varieties of homemade cake!

Basically we ate until we were so full we didn't know where we'd put lunch... And then lunch came a few hours later!

The entire spread - impressive huh!

Beautiful meats and smoked salmon

My favourite - salatka

Hard boiled eggs with creamy dressing and peas - so fresh!

And of course - breakfast dessert of poppyseed cake, cheesecakes, tea cake, wafelki biscuits.

For lunch my mother-in-law outdid herself again! She cooked M's favourite meal - knedle with mushroom gravy and turkey rolls stuffed with spinach and feta.

Basically knedle are giant potato dumplings - kind of like large gnocci. M and I would have been happy with just a giant plate of knedle swimming in gravy and perhaps a couple of turkey rolls on the side, but on the table was also a WHOLE boned and stuffed duck.

Needless to say we didn't eat any dinner on Sunday night!

Just one photo from lunch - we were so keen to start eating!

Kate eat-drink-dream

Monday, 9 April 2012

Warming Syrian chicken

Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner – one is visiting from Germany where she and her fiancĂ© are living so it was a bit of a reunion. The weather was a bit wintry and I felt like cooking something warming. The answer was one of the most flavoursome dishes I know – Karen Martini’s Syrian Chicken.

A friend first made this dish for us when we were there for dinner, we loved it so much I got the recipe from her and it’s been a staple in our winter routine ever since. There’s a lot of beautiful aromatic flavours in it – spices, ginger, garlic, lemon and honey – basically you can’t go wrong!

Karen Martini’s Syrian Chicken – my method

For the original recipe go here. The method below leaves out a couple of ingredients as I didn’t have them (thyme, saffron threads) and I changed the way I prepared a couple of other ingredients and increased the amount of tomatoes.

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 14 chicken thigh fillets cut in halves or thirds
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, thickly sliced
  • 100 grams ginger grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with garlic crusher
  • 2 small red chillies, finely chopped with seeds
  • 5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 100 grams currants
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock powder
  • ½ bunch coriander, leaves only
  • couscous to serve
  1. Combine the salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric in a large plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and shake to coat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add the tomatoes and cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Return the chicken to the pan and add the lemon juice and zest, honey, currants, stock powder and enough water to just cover the chicken.
  4. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, and the sauce is slightly reduced.
  5. Stir in the coriander and serve with couscous.

Kate eat-drink-dream

Saturday, 7 April 2012

M’s wine review - Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2008

Three years ago we visited the Margaret River wine region which is a 3 hour drive south of Perth. It's a great part of the world, the whole region covers a vast area and has many fantastic wineries. There are beautiful coastal beaches nearby, and the whole area is very green, with gorgeous red soil and wineries as far as the eye can see.

I had never heard of Vasse Felix wines before this trip. We stopped at this winery for a bite of lunch and of course checked out their cellar door. Here we discovered some fantastic red and white wines, amongst them the Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot, of which we bought a case.

This is a very good wine, especially the 2008 vintage. It has plenty of guts, it is well defined, plenty of ripe dark fruit flavours, fine tannins and good length! The wine has 47.5% cabernet sauvignon, 43.5% merlot and 9% malbec grapes. It is intense, elegant and complete. Its big brother the Cabernet Sauvignon is also fantastic!

I'm interested to see what the 2009 and 2010 vintages have to offer. These are on my list to try! If you do manage to make it to Vasse Felix make sure you stop for lunch. The restaurant was amazing, featuring a good menu and a fine dinning experience.

Price range $18-$28

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Last supper at Amici Pizzeria!

We were at Amici for dinner last month with my friend Steph. The pizzas arrived and I pulled out my camera and started snapping the pics below when the lovely owner told us that they had unfortunately sold the business! We were very sad to say the least! While the new owners are keeping it as Amici we haven't been back for another visit since it's changed hands. But I'm very keen to, just so I can see if they've kept the pizzas as amazing as they were before!
Not only is Amici our fave local pizzeria, but it’s where I decided to start this blog.
What we ate:
  • The Boss
  • The Amici

Pizzeria Amici on Urbanspoon

Kate eat- drink-dream

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Easy spaghetti with pesto and prawns

I’ve written about how I make home-made pesto to freeze before (here) – well, this is what it’s most often used for – quick weeknight pastas.

I just pull a little pot out of the freezer the night before and then it’s so easy to pull dinner together in 15 minutes.

Depending on how we’re feeling we might use spring onions from the garden, or throw in some mushrooms or fresh tomato. It’s easy to change up as much as you want as the pesto gives it such intense flavour.

  • Dried spaghetti
  • Spring onion (optional)
  • Small pot of pesto (approx 3 heaped dessert spoons)
  • Sundried tomatoes – chopped into smaller pieces
  • Prawns
  • Approx 100ml light cream
  1. Start spaghetti cooking – by the time it’s done the sauce will be too
  2. Lightly fry spring onions (if using) in olive oil
  3. Add prawns and fry until lightly golden
  4. Add pesto, cream and sundried tomatoes
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Simmer gently until sauce is thickened and prawns cooked through
  7. Devour and enjoy!

Kate eat-drink-dream