Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pandan Kaya Lamingtons - A Delicious Twist On A Classic

When Australia Day was approaching, I wanted to attempt making a lamington as I had never made one before. But I didn't just want to do the typical one, so thought up an idea to combine both my Asian heritage and my Australian heritage. One night in my dreams (for real), I came up with the idea to make a pandan kaya lamington. It seems so obvious now as those two flavours work wonderfully together, and also the yellow kaya and green pandan would further signify the Aussie part as they're like the green and gold colours people use to support our sporting teams. I've tried two sponge recipes now. The first sponge recipe was too coarse. This second recipe gives a brilliant sponge but it's so fragile that it is harder to ice, but worth it I think. I've included the better tasting sponge recipe even if it is harder to work with.

Flavour and texture wise, this pandan kaya lamington creation is amazing if I say so myself. Everyone who I gave it to loved it so much I've re-made this a few times already. It's a very moreish cake and I find myself continually eating it.

You can eat the cake by itself or serve it with some simple vanilla ice cream, which makes it even more amazing.

* Beat the eggs for the sponge for as long as you can before you get tired of waiting (about 15 minutes I found). It will really help to stabilise the sponge if the egg mixture is thick and fluffy.
* The sponge is very fragile so take care cutting it. Make sure you line the tin really well or it won't come out and will break apart.
* Stir the pandan fudge mixture until the custard powder is dissolved before heating it on the stove. Else you will get big lumps.
* When working with the pandan fudge, it's easier to work with it whilst it is hot but you may burn your fingers so be careful.
* Use a small butter knife to carefully spread the pandan fudge onto the lamgintons.


I used the CWA recipe.

125g butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup self raising Flour
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1) Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, add eggs one at a time. Add flour alternatively with milk.
2) Pour mix into a greased lamington slab tin, 24cm by 30cm, and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. I found about 180C in my fan forced oven worked well.
3) After it's thoroughly cooled cut into 6cm square pieces. Wrap cake in foil and put in the fridge while you make the fudge.

I used my usual pandan fudge icing

600g coconut milk
80g caster sugar
20g custard powder
1/2 tsp pandan paste or more to taste
Dessicated coconut to decorate

1) Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.
2) Stir till it thickens.

1 jar of kaya jam
1 bag of dessicated coconut
20 pieces of 6cm square sponge
1 serve of pandan fudge icing

1) Pour the whole bag of dessicated coconut into a big tray read to be used.
2) Take a piece of sponge cake and spread it thickly with a kaya jam. I just use a store bought one but you can make it yourself if you wish. Put another piece on top of the first sponge, creating a sandwich of sponge with the kaya in between.
3) Using a small butter knife, spread the pandan fudge all over the sponge sandwich.
4) Place the pandan iced sponge into the tray of dessicated coconut and cover liberally with coconut.
5) Place the finished lamington onto some baking paper to let it cool before serving.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Highline Restaurant at The Railway Hotel Windsor - Fantastic Meal

My friend and I dined courtesy of the Highline Restaurant.

Expectations can sometimes dictate how good you perceived a meal to be. If you go in with super high expectations, more likely that not you will get disappointed. It's not to say that you shouldn't anticipate how good a place will be, just that it can taint your final judgement. I'll admit that when I got invited to go to The Railway Hotel in Windsor, my expectations weren't too high. This is nothing against The Railway Hotel, as I've never heard anything previously about them, but just my perception of most hotel food in general. Well, I am super happy to have my expectations blown out of the water as the meal at The Highline, the restaurant component of the The Railway Hotel, was amazing and in my Top 5 places for 2014.

The kitchen at The Highline is headed up by Simon Tarlington, of Quay experience and one of the finalists of the 2014 Young Chef of The Year awards. The food is definitely not your typical pub fare. It would easily sit amongst the top restaurants in Melbourne. The small space in The Highline restaurant is very cosy and each table feels nice in terms of where it is placed. My friend and I got the table near the window so it gave a nice view of Chapel street.

We didn't have to order as the chef was preparing a selection of dishes for us, starting with a little taster paddle consisting of numerous items. There was duck liver parfait, dehydrated oyster with a homemade bbq sauce, crispy chicken skin with pickles and some bresaola. Everything was so good, especially the oyster and chicken skin.

We moved from the tasters to a few different entrees. The first entree was some bread crumb crusted prawns with a prawn reduction and various vegetables. I absolutely loved this dish and I'm not even a fan of prawns. The various textures worked so well and the sauce with the prawns tasted so fresh, occasionally being complimented by crisp garlic plant stems I think. Whatever vegetables they were they worked a treat.

The next dish we had was my favourite of the night. It was Asparagus with Burnt Butter. Sounds so simple but the beautiful complexity in this dish was magic. I liken it to the Texture of Carrot dish I had to Cutler and Co. There was so many elements that made the dish sing in my mouth. There was sweet grilled asparagus with raw slivers of asparagus. A light burnt butter sauce covered some of the asparagus. There was a red jelly that gave sweetness. Then there was different textures of almond, raw and roasted. Then there was also something sour in the dish I think. Everything together just worked magically and one of my highlight dishes of this year.

The next entree was a plate of Wallaby "cooked" Two Ways. There was a wallaby loin I think, really well cooked. Then there were some tartare as well, with various different other flavours that brought it all together. Again another wonderful dish.

Fourth up for the entrees was a Pig Terrine, using all different cuts to create different textures, including a black pudding in the middle layer. It was served with a nice broth and crispy crackling. Despite my utter hatred of celery, the finely diced celery actually enhanced the dish and it didn't really taste like celery, if that makes any sense.

By this stage we were become pretty full but when the Beef Rump Cap came out, we were straight into it. The beef was served with another texture of beef and an amazingly smooth and buttery potato mash in a leek and a delicious jus. Another great dish I would happily eat again.

To finish the meal, we were presented with a Chocolate Dessert. Chocolate and desserts don't usually work for me, but this one was great. Chocolate mousse, chocolate sheets, crunchy elements and super fresh berries all created a wonderful dessert.

The whole meal totally was just absolutely stunning. I loved every dish and it's not too often I say that about a restaurant experience. I've already made plans to go back next year with a friend. Whilst this meal won't change my mind about all hotel restaurants, it has definitely changed my mind about this particular hotel restaurant and I can't recommend it enough. The paddock to plate philosophy adopted by the restaurant definitely shows as the produce tastes so good. Service wise, our waiter was really knowledgeable and personable. I also liked the ambiance as it was fun and casual despite the high end style food. Price wise, I think the food is great value as you would easily pay far more for such quality food elsewhere. A wonderful meal that I would recommend you go and try.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Fat Duck Melbourne - I Got A Booking And I'm Excited

So yesterday the biggest buzz in Melbourne, at least among people with a culinary/dining interest, was the release of The Fat Duck reservation emails. If you're not familiar with the back story, basically Heston Blumenthal is bring his whole Fat Duck team to Melbourne to open a pop-up for 6 mmonths in Crown Entertainment Complex. From that point onwards, The Fat Duck will turn into Dinner, his other highly acclaimed restaurant. This means there is an extremely limited time to get a table at The Fat Duck.

I'm a huge fan of Heston's, which I'm sure many other people are too. I have an engineering and science background and combined with my love of food, he is my ultimate chef. One who creates amazing dishes using science. I'm a firm believer that all cooking is just science that is executed perfectly, and Heston proves that. I've watched all his shows and read his books and the science parts fascinates me no end. Back in 2010 when I went on a holiday through Europe, I had the option of dining at The Fat Duck but decided not to. I was thinking of the money as I didn't want to blow my holiday budget. So I picked to go to only one 3 Michelin star restaurant, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. Whilst that meal was great, I really regretted not going to The Fat Duck as I think I would love the theatre and experimentation of Heston far more, even if the food wasn't all super delicious. The fact that he uses such different scientific techniques to create almost magical dishes is mind blowing enough.

So along with every other man and his dog, when The Fat Duck was announced to open in Melbourne, I was screaming with delight. The problem was, how do you fit more people into a restaurant than you can possibly hold. The answer, you hold a ballot. There was a two week expression of interest period, to which about 90,000 people entered their names for tables of 2, 4 and 6. As I read that the tables of 4 were the most available, I put in my entry for a table of 4, happy to dine at lunch or dinner, and to be on the wait list for last minute cancellations. I didn't care what I had to do, I wanted to go. And I'm so happy that I will be going, AUUUUUHHHHHHHH. I was jumping for joy yesterday and told everyone (in real life and on social media) when I got my acceptance email. Remember, this is just to say I can make a booking and have the privilege to pay a whopping amount of money for one single meal. Crazy right?

If you're not a big food lover, finding 3 other people to go to a super expensive meal with you would be hard. But as I associate with so many other food lovers, that's not a problem. I have the inverse problem of having now to reject many people who had assumed they were coming along to a minimum $525 meal. Yes, that's the cost without drinks or a tip. It's hefty that's for sure. And yes, I've heard many other people say that with that money they could eat loads of hamburgers, or dine at 3 fancy restaurants etc. Logically that all makes sense to me and I do agree with them. But at the same time I am still willing to spend that money and dine out at Heston's restaurant because no matter how many photos or stories I hear about The Fat Duck, experiencing it myself is a whole other matter. It may turn out to disappoint, or hopefully it will amaze. Regardless, I'll be happy that I tried. My view is that it is super expensive, but I can save for it and it's within my means. Hence I am willing to spend this money to gain an experience. If I applied logic to every decision I made, I wouldn't ever go on a holiday as it makes more sense to put that money into my mortgage and reduce the interest I pay dramatically. But that's not how humans work. We need to see some reward for our efforts or we give up. This to me, is a reward that I'm more than happy to pay for. Comparing the cost here to the cost in London (approximately $400 AUD) doesn't really make sense to me as I won't be going to London (or Bray more accurately) any time soon. The Fat Duck has come to my doorstep and I'm so happy I got a table. The email screenshot below confirms my ballot success, with a final payment confirmation and payment to come very soon. So I better hop on my bike and sort out who is coming with me and get money from them haha.

Are you lucky enough to also get a booking at The Fat Duck?
Would you have gone if you did get the booking?

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Atlantic - Beautiful Seafood Dishes

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of the restaurant.

I started this post ages ago and for whatever reasons I never got round to finishing it. Rather than just delete it, I thought I may as well post it and give you a feel for what The Atlantic Restaurant is like. The restaurant is located in the Crown Entertainment Complex along many other fine dining establishments. Whilst some people have an aversion to going to the Crown casino complex, for me, I'm happy to go there for good food. The Atlantic is owned and run by Donovan Cooke, the man behind many a fine establishment in the past. This restaurant has a focus on sustainable seafood, so the menu has a good selection of seafood.

I was lucky enough to be seated with Sarah, I-Hua, Aaron and my friend Eliott, who were willing to share their dishes. Hence I got a taste of every dish that we ordered.

The entrees were all really good, and I'm sure you'll find one dish to your liking. I think the standouts for me were the super fresh oysters and the crab mousse dish.

Despite the restaurant being more a seafood place, it does also serve steaks, and really good steaks at that. Of course, it's hard to go past the fish dishes, with the signature confit salmon dish being a highlight, along with hapuka, barramundi and whatever is fresh at the time and sustainably caught.

Deserts were all really good, with my favourite being the pistachio cassonade dessert which were a remainder of the time Philippa Sibley was the dessert chef.

We got to have a chat with Donovan and from the short conversation with him, I can see that he is still passionate about cooking, as well as his pursuit of quality, both in the ingredients and execution. Whilst he seems a hard man, he did tell us some funny stories and laughed really hard with us, which made me see the man behind the chef.

Overall, I thought the food was good and the restaurant would make a great location for any occasion. The decor is really beautiful and the view outside of the glass windows onto the Yarra is pretty spectacular. Obviously, the meal is priced towards the high end and expect to pay $150 or so if you have three courses with drinks. It's not for everyday but as an occasional visit, it's worth it, especially if you love seafood.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cake Wines - Matched at Charlie Dumpling

Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of Cake Wine.

I like cake, and I like wines. So when company director Glen from Cake Wines contacted me, I was listening. I thought that they would make wines which were inspired by cakes (I know you're all laughing but I'd try those wines). As it turns out, Cake Wines is a boutique wine company making wines from the Adelaide Hills. You can find out more about them via this really cool video.

Glen told me about a program they have running called MATCHED.

MATCHED is an idea that’s about exploring “kitchens that don’t live in the limelight”, sharing stories from the chefs that run them, and giving some much needed love, and exposure, to the restaurants, cafes, tapas/wine bars and gastro pubs that sometimes get drowned out in our celebrity driven food world. Throughout July-Aug-Sept 2014 we're launching a campaign to promote these unsung heroes by asking them to match their favourite dishes to our wines, served up for you to enjoy!

I was asked whether I wanted to try out this MATCHED experience, which I accepted. I chose to go to Charlie Dumpling.

So the MATCHED dish at Charlie Dumpling was their Thai Spiced Salmon dumplings in yellow curry with the Cake Wines Pinot Gris. Firstly, the Pinot Gris was really good. So refreshing with a bit of sweetness and really clean in flavour. It did actually match well with the salmon dumplings. According to my amateur wine tastebuds, I felt like the wine brought out the lemongrass flavour of the dish. The wine also really worked well with the Kingfish Sashimi with fennel and apple. We also had the Peking Duck dumplings, which I liked but my friend felt the sauce was a bit strange.

What we did agree on was the addictive Charlie's Fried Chicken Ribs with five spice, honey and kewpie. The batter was so good and the flavours were great. The meat was still tender. A dish I would definitely recommend you try. Not as successful was the Thai Papaya Salad, where the flavours were not very good so I would avoid that.

The dessert menu consists of more dumplings, but sweet ones. We tried the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with raspberry chili sorbet and the Peanut Butter Mochi with honeycomb and salted chocolate. The milk dumplings were great, but neither of us were fans of the raspberry chili sorbet. The peanut butter mochi sounded better on paper as the flavours didn't really shine through.

All up, it was a good meal. Our waitress was wonderful and really nice, helpful and funny. We had some nice food matched with the tasty Cake Wines wine. You can check out the Cake Wines website to see what MATCHED dishes they are doing around town and go check it out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cuttlefish Paella Recipe

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

A classic Spanish dish is paella. There are many varieties, including mixed seafood, octopus, chicken and cuttlefish. This beautiful cuttlefish paella with squid ink made using Olive Oils from Spain is so delicious. Served in a large pan for communal dining, it is the perfect dish to share with family and friends.

The key to any good paella is high quality fresh ingredients. The flavours of the ingredients will each shine through and blend together to create a fragrant dish.

Start with some Olive Oils from Spain, rich and deep in flavour. The extra virgin Olive Oil really showcases the fresh olive flavour and will help to form the base flavour of the dish.

The next ingredient is the rice for the paella. Make sure you use Bomba rice as the grains will be soft but maintain some bite and not be soft and gluggy.

The next ingredient is the rice for the paella. Make sure you use Bomba rice as the grains will be soft but maintain some bite and not be soft and gluggy.

The squid ink paella is not hard to make at all and you’ll have a meal that can easily feed 6 people. Start your meal with some crunchy bread dipped in Olive Oils from Spain before moving onto the paella served with some wine. Your guests will be so impressed with your cooking skills.

For more information, or to follow Olive Oils from Spain:

Facebook -
Twitter - @OliveOils_es_AU
Instagram - @oliveoilsspain
Pinterst -

Cuttlefish Paella with Squid Ink

Serves 6 to 8
Recipe adapted from the Movida book recipe

125 ml Olive Oil from Spain
500 g calamari, cleaned and cut into 2.5 cm squares
12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon squid ink
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
200 ml dry white wine
400 g bomba rice
1.2 litres hot fish stock

1. Blanch the tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water until the skin starts to blister, around 30 seconds, then place in a bowl of iced water to refresh. Peel and dice the tomatoes, then set aside.
2. Heat 60 ml of the Olive Oil in a 30-34 cm paella or wide pan over high heat. Add the calamari and the prawns and cook for about a minute on each side, making sure to season. Remove and set aside, covering with foil.
3. Add the rest of the Olive Oil along with the onion and the garlic. Cook over low heat until translucent, around 5 minutes. Add the squid ink and mix well.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes over low heat to soften lightly. Then add the white wine and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the mixture thickens to a paste.
5. Increase the heat to medium and add the rice. Cook the rice for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously until the rice starts to become translucent.
6. Pour in the hot stock and mix well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium immediately and add the calamari on top of the rice.
7. Cook the rice for 10 minutes. The rice should have now expanded a little so reduce the heat back to low if the flame doesn’t cover the base of the pan. Move the pan around during cooking to allow the paella to cook evenly for 10 minutes.
8. Before removing from the stove, add the prawns and cook on high for about 1 minute to help form a crust on the bottom of the pan.
9. Remove from the heat and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wangaratta - Super Awesome Packing Prosecco Event and Lots of Good Food

Disclaimer: I went on this trip courtesy of the Rural City of Wangaratta.

I used to work with a really happy guy, who came from Wangaratta. How did I know he was from Wangaratta? Well he would say so at every opportunity. He was really proud of his town and how he used to live there. I always told him I would visit Wangaratta one day. Unfortunately he has since left the company, but I did get a chance to visit Wangaratta courtesy of the wonderful Emma from the Wangaratta council. I was invited to join a trip to see the town and area. I had the best time on the trip and highly recommend you visit yourself.

You can learn more about Wangaratta and all the attractions and food via
City of Wangaratta website
Wangaratta Twitter Account
Wangaratta Instagram Account
See High Country Facebook Account

If you're in the area, you must also visit the King Valley for some more great things to do. You can read my previous posts below.
Cow Mustering, Fly Fishing
Brown Brothers Winery
Pizzini Winery
Politini Winery
Lindenwarrah Hotel

Now onto this Packing Prosecco trip. I "drove" to Wangaratta with Michele (who actually did the driving) and Veda. I-Hua and Aaron and Agnes and Alastair went in the other car. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Melbourne to Wangaratta depending on how many pit stops you need to make. The other car made no stops, but Veda and I have bladders appropriately sized for mice and had to make two stops along the way. My weak bladder is my Achilles heel.

When we did finally arrive in Wangaratta, the sun greeted us as we entered Cafe Derailleur. It's a beautiful little cafe just on the outskirts of Wangaratta. I found out that Derailleur is the gears on a bike, hence all the bike decorations. We could already hear the others in the courtyard laughing loudly. Once seated, I got a refreshing freshly squeezed juice and we ordered lunch. I got the roast pork sandwich but immediately got food envy (which doesn't happen as I'm usually very happy with my order) when I saw Michele's French Toast and Emma's Bagel with Jam and BACON. All the meals were good and I sampled the gnocchi and big breakfast too.

After lunch in which we all rolled out of the cafe, it was onto the Forges Farm for our Packing Prosecco event. The farm is so beautiful, as are the the horses. The wonderful Forge family of Graham, Anne-Marie, Ellen and Tuppy help us set up our horses and do practise rides in the holding area. As I'm an expert, having amassed so much experience in my four previous horse rides, I showed everyone else the way to not fall off, hold on tightly.

Here I am whispering sweet words to my horse to not throw me off and that we can both drink Prosecco afterwards. It worked as I stayed on the horse.
Photo courtesy of Michele

Once we were all saddled up, off we rode into the beautiful farm land. The ride was super peaceful (externally and inside my mind) and I was loving it. I can see why people love to ride horses. You can feel their moods translate through their body into yours as you're riding.
Photo courtesy of Michele

Once we reached our final destination, I thought I had stepped into a movie set. It was so beautifully decorated by Tuppy and was so welcoming. The Prosecco flowed freely as Graham kept topping up our glasses and we got to snack on awesome cheese and bread while enjoying the surroundings and having some great chats. The girls were super loud and I'm sure the people in central Wangaratta could hear them haha. I learned from Ellen how hard working on the land can be, but also the great enjoyment you can get from it. After eating more cheese than anyone should in one day, it was back on our horses to ride back to the farm. Overall the whole event went for about 3 hours and it one of the most fun things I've done in the last few years. I highly highly highly recommend you do this if you're anywhere in the area.

We then went on to check into our accommodation. I was staying at Rees & Rees Accommodation. I got the back unit all to myself. It felt like a super luxurious designer home. Once we found out that the owner Dean also owned the town's luxury merchant shop that sold house fittings and items, it all made sense. I took a long, warm bath (I've provided feedback that the bath plug should be changed to one WITHOUT a nob) and put on my vanilla jasmine body cream. Hey, if it's there, you must try it right. I did smell wonderful and was so refreshed.

Dinner was a two part affair, starting at Precinct Bar & Restaurant for some pre-dinner drinks and pizzas. The pizzas here were so good. We all tried to restrain ourselves as we knew we still had dinner to come but probably all ate a slice or two too many.

For dinner itself, we walked to the next door restaurant in Watermarc. The food served at Watermarc was what I would describe as gastropub food. It was on the whole good food, with some dishes maybe a bit too busy. I preferred the simpler dishes such as the pasta and braised meats. The desserts were a highlight and worthy of any good restaurants.

Dinner concluded a most wonderful day in Wangaratta where we ate far too much food but also had so much fun. The sunset on the ride to dinner was pretty magical too.

On day 2, we started the day at Cafe the PreVue for some breakfast. The cafe is one of many new restaurants set along the Ovens river, which is being developed as the next go-to spot in Wangaratta. I can see why. It's so beautiful along the river and makes for a great walk and place to relax. We all ordered various breakfasts and coffees. I decided to go for croissants, with BACON haha. The croissants were beautiful, and the bacon added to the goodness. I-Hua also shared some her big breakfast with me, which was also really good.

After breakfast, we explored the town (while singing Disney tunes) and went into some nice shops, including Rees & Rees which had so many beautiful things that I couldn't afford. Then as we sang our final Disney tune, it was back into the car and time to say goodbye to Wangaratta.

We made our way to Baileys of Glenrowan for lunch. The beautiful winery makes some of the regions best fortified wines. The winery serves pizzas for lunch so we sampled some. The pizzas were all good, with nice crisp bases.

Lastly, the final stop on this super fun trip was Black Dog Brewery. The picturesque vineyard made wines, but also beers. The eponymous black dog greeted us and followed us around. He was super cute and so playful. We sampled a selection of beers and they were all really good.

That ended a really fun weekend to Wangaratta. I can now tell my ex-work mate that I've been there and gone to some of the places he talked about. Like most regional towns, it has such a relaxing feel. There's lots to see and do there. The food was also good and the people very friendly. I can't recommend the Packing Prosecco event enough. It was so much fun and I look forward to going back and doing that again. Super huge thanks to Emma for inviting me and to Michele for driving.