Skyscraper

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I Eat Blog Magazine Monthly

All my dear readers, I'm so excited to announce the launch of my new magazine, I Eat Blog Monthly. For only a low price of $6.50 an issue, you can learn so many things about food. In this month's issue, we have all the secrets to tasty chocolate salty balls. Once you try them, you'll never want any other balls. We also interview celebrity singer Britney Spears, and find out why she's such a tart...fan. She tells us when she first started being a tart...fan and gives the secrets on an easy tart. Which leads us to this month's reader competition, to find Australia's easiest tart. The winner will get to tour Australia for free and help spread the tart message. Lastly, as strawberries are in season, we find 57 ways to tart up your life with them. In some of the ways, you even get to cook them into a dessert.

So subscribe today and receive a year's subscription of I Eat Blog Monthly (11 copies per year as I'm on holidays during Christmas) for only $78. That's a special price for my wonderful readers today. You can pay all at once or in two easy installments of $40. You can pay with bank transfer, Paypal or credit card. Note that there is a fee on all payment options of 5%.

So without further ado, here is the cover of this month's I Eat Blog magazine.
My chief designer Iron Chef Shellie designed this cover with a photo that was taken by yours truly, editor, photographer, writer and stylist, Thanh Do.

I hope you will enjoy the magazine.

Sincerely,
Thanh Do - Editor

Mamasita - You Already Know It's Good

I think I'm definitely the last person in Melbourne to visit Mamasita. At first it was the queues that put me off going. A few other times I had to cancel and you know how the usual stories go, there's some place new and shiny to visit. However, a chance event near the restaurant meant I could drop in without queuing and try the food. I had sampled a number of the Mamasita dishes at various food festivals before so I already knew it would be good. The meal was just to try a few more items.

The famous Mamasita corn is indeed very good. Yes it's only corn, yes it's expensive for corn, but if that's how you feel, make it yourself and don't order it. I'm happy to order this dish again as I'll eat good food any day.

Other items that were pretty good but not amazing were the ceviche and the quesadillas. They were the two weaker dishes of an otherwise excellent meal.

Another item Mamasita is famous for is their tacos. And they did live up to expectations and were great. The tostaditas and potatoes were also really good. The pancita de cerdo recommended by the waiter was excellent.

Overall, the food was really good and I would go back. The service was both good and not so good. The staff were friendly enough but it was so hard to get their attention when we wanted to order, to ask for water or even to pay the bill.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is good but I actually don't really like the layout of the restaurant. Obviously space is at a premium in the city so seating is close, which I don't mind. We were at a high table and like many places, I hated the bar stool type chairs as you can't lean back and after a 2 hour meal it gets quite uncomfortable. Overall a very good meal and I would definitely recommend it if you're the only other person in Melbourne who hasn't gone yet.

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Jim's Tavern - Really Old Skool

Jim's Tavern is really old skool. It starts with a lack of website. Not many larger restaurants don't have a web presence nowadays. I guess when you've been around for so long and everyone already knows about you, you don't really need to have a website right? I guess as long as people are still coming through the doors, that's all that matters. And one the night I went, people were definitely coming through the doors. The clientele who were dining that night seemed to be mostly big Greek families. Those big groups were seated in the back area, which seems to be where the action is. It felt rather sad sitting in the front area. It just didn't have the right feel. It felt cramped, but not cosy. It could be due to the lack of sufficient lighting.

The waiter came to take our order. There's no menu here, but I guess things don't change too often. There might be a special or two here and there but mostly it's typical Greek dishes you would expect. We go for the dips and saganaki to start off with. Both dishes were good and I did enjoy them. The saganaki had a really good bite to it. Next up was the reason I wanted to visit Jim's Tavern, to eat the grilled octopus. I absolutely love octopus and not enough restaurants serve them. So I was super excited to eat it. And the verdict, it was very good. The octopus had a great charred, smokey flavour and was very tender.

To conclude our meal we had garlic butter scallops, lamb gyros and fried zucchinis. The scallops were ok. You couldn't really taste them under that batter. The lamb was really good but by that point we were so full already and didn't know one plate of lamb was enough to feed four people. I didn't like the fried zucchinis and found them really salty and oily.

The service was good, and the waiters came around to check how we were going and if we wanted anything. The only time we had a problem was actually trying to flag down a waiter to get the bill. Overall, the food was pretty good, but I'd say it's pricey for what it is, which is just simple Greek food. I can eat that elsewhere for cheaper. I don't think there's anything particularly special about Jim's Tavern in terms of the food. I guess it lives on due to it's reputation. As I mentioned, I didn't like the vibe in the front room of the restaurant. I will probably feel differently in the back area. I'd probably not go back to dine as I think you can eat much better Greek food elsewhere for cheaper or comparative cost.

Jim's Greek Tavern on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - Simple and Delicious

I've made this carrot cake more times than I remember. However, I hadn't made it for a while and when I went to my own blog (which I use like my own digital cookbook) to find the recipe, I realised I hadn't blogged it yet *gasp*. Hence here is the recipe. Of the many many carrot cake recipes I've tried, it's my favourite. I first found the recipe on the Kitchen Wench blog. Now it is one of my favourite go to recipe when I want something fast and tasty. The texture of this cake is beautifully crumbly and the flavours are really good. Of course you need to make the cream cheese frosting as it really enhances this cake.

In terms of making this cake, it's so easy. A one pan all in one mix. You don't even need an electric mixer. The hardest part is grating all the carrots.

Some tips for a good bake:

* Don't grate the carrots too finely as it will really release the water and the texture won't be as good.
* I like to put roughly chopped nuts to get the texture when I eat it.
* I like the spices to be fairly strong so I use about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.
* I've made a slight addition to this recipe where I sandwich fresh bananas between the carrot cake. For me it enhances the cake so much and I was really surprised how well it works. So I'd recommend sandwiching the bananas.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS
200g (2 cups) self-raising flour
1 heaped cup of brown sugar
a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, according to taste
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 medium carrots, grated*
120-150g roughly chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

250g Softened Cream Cheese
80g Softened Butter
1 tbsp Vanilla Essence
1 cups Icing Sugar (add more or less icing to your liking)

OPTIONAL
2/3 cup sultanas
2 bananas sliced, to sandwich between the carrot cake

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a non-stick 18cm cake tin.

2. Sift together flour, sugar and spices in one bowl, and lightly beat together the eggs and oil in a separate bowl.

3. Toss the grated carrot and coarsely chopped walnuts through the flour (if you’re adding sultanas to the mix, do so at this stage), then add the oil and egg mixture and stir till combined.

4. Pour mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 min – 1hr, or till a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Allow to cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

5. If sandwiching the bananas, cut the cake in half horizontally. Lay out the slice bananas on the bottom until the cake is completely covered. Put the top half of the cake over the bananas.

6. For the cream cheese frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Mix in vanilla essence and icing sugar until the desired sweetness. Spread cream cheese frosting generously over cake.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Eat Street 2014 - French Elegance

Eat Street this year was once again a wonderfully organised event and so much fun. The French elegance theme was definitely captured by the Sofitel Melbourne ballrooms. The numerous restaurants and food purveyors all got into the mood with beautiful food that was thoroughly enjoyed by the patrons. All the proceeds of the night went to Redkite, who provide support for kids with cancer and their families.

I had a great time at this year's event and really enjoyed the French theme. There were so many wonderful dishes and lots of great wines and beers as well. I also made sure I filled up on cheese and lots of desserts. A lot of effort was put into all the food and they were of the highest quality that you would expect from such fine establishments.

A great event once again with such a great cause. I hope you'll check out this event next year and see what it's like for yourself.






I attended the event courtesy of Eat Street.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Delicious American Style Blueberry Pancakes - Jamie Oliver Recipe

I've always loved pancakes. I used to regularly go to Pancake Parlour for my fix of half priced pancakes using the shop-a-docket vouchers. However, I stopped going to Pancake Parlour when a friend brought back good maple syrup from Canada for me and the flavour was just amazing that I didn't want to eat the Pancake Parlour ones any more. I still love pancakes, but the ones I made were always rather dense. So when I saw Lianne's photo of her fluffy pancakes, I asked for the recipe. It turns out it's a Jamie Oliver recipe. It's his Pancakes USA Stylie.

I gave the pancake recipe a go and the results are great. The pancakes are very fluffy and tasty. The recipe is a bit more work than usual but I think it's worth it for the result. They're way lighter than the ones I normally make, using the same ingredients you will have in the fridge most of the time. You can add anything, or nothing else to them. I decided to make some blueberry pancakes as I had frozen blueberries in the freezer.

I used my good maple syrup from Canada and drizzled them all over the pancakes. Oh wow, it was so delicious. I wish I had some vanilla ice cream as well. That would have made them perfect. Next time.

So some tips to ensure you pancakes are delicious

* I beat the egg yolk mixture about until it became quite thick and creamy.

* Make sure you beat the egg whites until they're stiff but probably don't over beat them until they become lumpy.

* Cook one side of the pancake until you can see bubbles and then add your topping and flip them.


American Blueberry Pancakes
Jamie Oliver Recipe
Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS
3 large free-range eggs
115 g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
140 ml milk
1 pinch salt

METHOD
First separate the eggs, putting the whites into one bowl and the yolks into another. Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter. Whisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the batter – it is now ready to use.

Heat a good non-stick pan on a medium heat. Pour some of your batter into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to look golden and firm. At this point sprinkle your chosen flavouring (see below) on to the uncooked side before loosening with a spatula and flipping the pancake over. Continue frying until both sides are golden.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Competitions With A Catch - Mamamia's Food Blogger Idol, Opportunity or Exploitation?

I received an email from the folks at Mamamia about a new Food Blogger Idol competition they were running. Instantly, I sensed it was going to be one of those competitions with a catch, like the one I experienced a while back with Travelscene. Anyway, out of interest, I thought I'd go and take a closer look.

So basically the competition involves the following:

Together with our good friends at Rachel’s Gourmet Low Fat Yoghurt we are launching Food Blogger Idol. Sounds kind of exciting huh? That’s because it IS. The winner of Mamamia Food Blogger Idol wins a 3 month contract (one paid and published post per week) as Mamamia’s New Food Blogger.

..To be crowned the dedicated Food Blogger for Mamamia and be read and shared by potential millions, all you need to do is create a unique recipe with a specific ingredient, one that we will share with you below.

...And, apart from the fact that it’s actually pretty easy to enter, we also get to introduce you all to the beautiful and foodie inspired low fat yoghurts from Rachel’s, this will be the key and only mandatory ingredient in the dish you create and write about as your entry.

Email your recipe list, how-to and loving description to foodbloggeridol@mamamia.com.au
Please accompany your recipe with a minimum of 5 photos (iPhones are fine!) of the creation process
We also need your name (including a ‘public’ alias if you’re the private type) and a head shot to show everyone your pretty face
You don’t have to live in Sydney to enter and won’t be required to come into the office (unless you want to!) if you’re successful
All entries must be received by Monday 2nd June 2014 11.59pm


If you've ever entered any of these competitions, your Spidey senses are probably going off already. This competition isn't about finding a food blogger idol obviously, it's about promoting Rachel's yoghurt. All that is fine. I'm not against promoting things and using competitions to promote something. I think the part that annoys me is that in this case, and other similar competitions where the entrants have to invest quite a bit of work, it may not be known to everyone that your work is no longer your work, regardless of whether you win or not. It would be logical, but incorrect, for most people to assume that the winner's work becomes the property of the competition promoters, but in fact, every entrants work is now no longer their own. So in this case, Mamamia, who I would assume is being paid by Rachel's Yoghurt to help promote them, has full ownership of entrants work, and can use in any which way they want.

If you go and read the full terms and conditions, there's all the stock standard disclaimers that basically they own everything that you submitted. It goes on for pages but the three conditions below give a summary of their rights:

(a) consent to the Promoter and/or Rachel’s making copies of or publishing the whole or any part of their entry/vote and otherwise exploiting the entry/vote and contents of the entry/vote and any rights in relation to the entry/vote, to publicise this competition, Rachel’s products, the Promoter, or for any other purposes;

(b) undertake to the Promoter and Rachel’s that their entry/vote is not, and its use by the Promoter and Rachel’s will not be, in breach of any third party intellectual property rights;

(c) grant the Promoter and Rachel’s a world-wide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, transferrable licence (with a right to sublicense) to use their entry/vote (including by editing it) submitted as part of this competition for any purpose.


This means both Mamamia, and in association Rachel's, can use your photos and recipes for whatever they want. Rachel's Yoghurt may use your recipe for their next product. So in effect you've helped save them heaps of money in research and development and you will in all likelihood get nothing in return, not even a mention as the work is theirs now. Only the five finalists will be featured, with the lure that "to be crowned the dedicated Food Blogger for Mamamia and be read and shared by potential millions", somehow the exposure will help any aspiring food bloggers with dreams of cracking the food industry. The voting process is a popularity contest via social media and where you basically have to tell every single person you know about Mamamia and Rachel's Yoghurt to get a vote. It means you're further helping to promote them for some possible returns if you win. And what do you get if you win, you get to help them write 12 posts, 600-800 words each, at $200 a post. It's pretty bad pay to begin with, and it's not clear what you can write about. They may make you write about things you don't want to. And if you don't want to write what they ask you to, well then Clause 13 states:

13. In the event the final winner named Food Blogger Idol does not fulfill the provided contractual arrangements, the Promoter may pursue the employment of any of the other entrants . Any decision by the Promoter on future blogger employment contacted from entrants of this competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

And the winners obligations run quite far. It's not just the 12 articles you need to write. It also states:

17. The winners must, at the Promoter’s or Rachel’s request, participate in all promotional activity (such as publicity and photography) surrounding the winning of any prize, free of charge, and they consent to the Promoter and Rachel’s using their name and image in promotional material.

So you have to be their show pony at their beckon call. I wonder how far this clause stretches. Would you have to buy a plane ticket interstate to fulfill your obligations?

All in all, is this competition really an opportunity, or more like exploitation? Of course Mamamia will say that all the terms and conditions are there for everyone to read and it's not their problem if entrants don't read it, but they're not going out of their way to make it clear that all entries are their property within the competition description. If they clearly outline the implications and people still choose to enter, that's great. I have no problems with that. But when the competition's darker sides are hidden amongst a tonne of legal jargon, I find it all rather distasteful.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Matcha Chiffon With Matcha Cream and Matcha Ganache - Addictively Good

I love chiffon cakes. They're quite an Asian cake and most people growing up in South East Asia has probably eaten a chiffon cake. My favourite chiffon cake is the Pandan Chiffon that I normally make. Chiffons are mostly left bare and not iced as Asians tend to like less sweet desserts. I'm not Asian in that way as I always put the pandan coconut fudge onto my pandan chiffon. I can now add some more chiffons to my repertoire thanks to Chiffon Queen, aka Agnes. I've had three of her chiffons and they're all super amazing. I've tried a chocolate chiffon with a chocolate ganache glaze, a lime chiffon with lime curd filling and a Matcha Chiffon with with Matcha Cream and Matcha Ganache. They're all so good but I decided to make the matcha chiffon first as I had some matcha powder in the pantry.

For my matcha chiffon, I added some raspberries both for looks and for flavour. I really loved the slight sourness of the raspberries in this cake as it's quite sweet. I reduced the matcha glaze as I didn't want it as sweet and it was still more than enough. The chiffon itself is beautifully light and works so well with the matcha cream. I had been making the chiffons via another method in the past but this method is far quicker and seems to produce a result that is as fluffy. I will be using this method in future and making many more chiffons.

As usual, some tips to help you bake the best cake possible:

* Use a good quality matcha as it will really come through in the cake. The amounts given in the recipe produce that a cake that's medium in matcha flavour. Obviously, adjust the amount according to what flavour profile you want.

* It doesn't really say how much to whisk the egg yolks for but I just used an electric beater to beat it until it became pale and increased in volume.

* In my pandan chiffon recipe I used to have to fold the flour in slowly to not remove the air in the egg whites. But here you add the flour before the egg whites so you don't have to be gentle and can just mix the flour in.

* When beating the egg whites, make sure you beat it until it is really stiff. The stiffer the better as you will get a fluffy cake.

* Definitely do not fill the cake tin more than 3/4 full as it really rises.

* You must let the cake cool upside down in the tin to enable it to stiffen and stay risen.

* DO NOT OIL OR GREASE THE PAN. The chiffon sticks to the pan enabling it to rise.

* I do use a chiffon mould but have made chiffons successfully in regular cake tins.

* The ganache hardens quite quick so only make it once you have assembled your chiffon and are ready to pour the ganache over it.


Matcha Chiffon Cake with Matcha Cream
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

For the cake
7 eggs, separated (note: if you have large eggs, only use 6)
220g flour
350g caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon matcha powder (or more to taste)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the whipped cream filling
200ml thickened cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons matcha powder (or more to taste)

For the ganache
100ml thickened cream
220 white chocolate
2 tablespoons corn syrup (leave out if you don't have any)
2 teaspoons matcha powder (or more to taste)

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 160°C and set aside a large 20cm tube cake tin that has a removable base.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. Whisk together the matcha powder and water until dissolved, then whisk in the egg yolks, oil, and vinegar.

4. Add to the wet ingredients to the flour and whisk until well combined.

5. In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer to stiff peaks.

6. Using a large metal spoon, fold in a spoonful of the egg whites to the cake mixture to lighten it.
Add the rest of the egg whites to the cake mixture and fold in with your metal spoon until just combined.

7. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bang it on your work surface a couple of times to bring any large air bubbles to the surface. (Note: if there is a lot of batter, don't add it all to the tin. You only want to fill it to 3/4 full. If you have extra, put them into cupcake liners and make small cakes. Small cupcake sized ones need to be baked for 15 minutes only.)

8. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

9. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the entire tin and cake upside down until it's cool - you can do this by resting the middle of the tube over a bottle, or (if your cake isn't too tall) by placing it over a high wire rack that will let air circulate underneath.

10. To release the cake, run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and the tin. You will want to serve the cake upside down as it's prettier that way.

11. Make the cream filling by whipping the cream with the icing sugar and matcha powder until thick and stiff.

12. When completely cool, cut cake horizontally into three layers with a serrated knife. Place bottom layer on a serving plate and spread with half of the cream. Place the second layer on top and spread with the remaining cream. Place the last layer on top.

13. Make the ganache by adding all the ingredients into a saucepan and melting on a gentle heat until all the chocolate has melted. Let it cool for a bit (about 10 minutes) before pouring on top of the cake.

French Elegance at Eat Street 2014 - Tickets Out Now

Eat Street is back for 2014. Once again, Redkite is the chosen charity. Redkite provide support for kids with cancer and their families. This year, the them is French Elegance, ooh la la. The Sofitel Melbourne Grand Ballroom will be transformed into a beautiful giant buffet. Thirty of Melbourne's top restaurants will serve a number of dishes and drinks. Having been a few times, I can highly recommend you come along. Your ticket fees are going to a great cause and you'll eat some of the best food in Melbourne as well as having so much fun. I'll be there eating everything so say hi if you see me.

Date: 27 May 2014
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Sofitel Melbourne On Collins
State: VIC
Enquiries:(03) 9653 0000 or email h1902-co01@sofitel.com
Cost: $160


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wicked In Australia - Melbourne Opening Night

I used to think musicals were rather silly, with the actors singing the words they would otherwise say. But nowadays, I'm hooked to musicals. One of the first musicals I ever saw was Wicked The Musical. I somehow heard the soundtrack from the Broadway recording and was totally captured by the story and the amazing singing of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. Then, by pure chance, the musical was coming to Melbourne. So I quickly bought a ticket and went to see it. I was completely captivated and went to see it a second time during it's first Melbourne run. Like most people, I then got onto the Internet and watched more videos from various productions around the world. There were some great casts around the world but the Australian cast is right up there in terms of quality.

If you don't know, the story of Wicked proceeds the Wizard of Oz story, both the book and the movie. It explains how Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (the Good Witch of the North) became who they were. The story gives an insight into how people become good or bad and how perception is not always a reality. It's a really touching story and will leave you totally enthralled due to the writing, acting, singing and dancing. It definitely made me change my mind about the Wicked Witch of the West who I used to hate from the movie.

The production on this show is huge, with massive elaborate sets, lighting and music by a great symphony. I was lucky enough to be invited to the return of Wicked to Melbourne for the opening night show. Jemma Rix reprises her role as Elphaba and Lucy Durack as Glinda. Taking over from Rob Mills (who I saw the last two times) as Fiyero is Steve Danielsen. Reg Livermore is The Wizard in place of Bert Newton. The opening night performance was absolutely on-song and was so amazing. There were no jittery moments or mistakes at all. Jemma's voice is still stunning and she hits the spine tingling high notes during Defying Gravity and No Good Deeds that have the crowd cheering. Yes, we cheered like a football match. Lucy Durack also hit some brilliant falsetto high notes during her songs and was so funny. I liked Steve Danielsen way more as Fiyero as he has a better voice than Rob Mills and just encapsulated the character better.

The show has so many highlights and you'll be laughing, crying and cheering when different things happen. I was also singing along as I know all the songs so well. Despite knowing the story so well and the songs, it was still so enjoying. The singing was great, but the acting was so believable. Even the different pronunciations and emphasis on different words really made helped to draw out the drama.

The Melbourne run of Wicked only goes until the end of June, so I implore you to quickly book some tickets and go along and see it. It's a world class production and you will kick yourself for missing it. It's such a wonderful experience and I defy you to not have fun at it.
Photo credits: Jess Busby

I attended the opening night performance courtesy of an invite from ACMN.