Monday, December 28, 2009




Tis' the season to be jolly!!

I love this time of the year where my creative juices go on overdrive to prepare for the Christmas celebrations. Every year the W and I get into baking mode to use as gifts, and brain storm to think of a new dish to contribute to the annual family feast.

THE ORIGINAL ORDER (turkey, duck, chicken).

This year we went out on a limb, as we didn't have (or look for) any recipe, so went in blind folded. Both clans have shown some interest for Turducken, which is Chicken stuffed into a Duck stuffed into a Turkey. As we usually spend a lot of the day traveling between the two clans, roasting the infamous 3-in-1 bird was not an option due to the 4-6hrs roasting time it needed per bird per family. We opted to make an alternate roulade, only using the breast meat of each bird to form a football sized roast.


It was fascinating reading the origins of the Turducken. Some other interesting facts shown below:
"South African dish employed the turkey-duck-chicken combination but went a step further and stuffed it into an ostrich. (The result, obviously, was an osturducken.) An old feast dish in the Republic of Georgia consists of an ox stuffed in succession with a calf, a lamb, a turkey, a goose, a duck, and finally a chicken. A traditional wedding dish in West Africa was a camel stuffed with, among other things, a sheep, a few buzzards, and several carp."


The risk of pulling off this dish was a fine line between overcooking the breast meat of the 3 birds and serving salmonella 3-ways!!


Our trial roast was also up against the power players of fresh prawns, salmon sashimi, and a lamb roast, along with an array of other impressive dishes. I was relieved to find that there was no pork roast submission this year otherwise our baby roast would have lost for sure (I was sad though on missing pork crackle this year :( ). Our other obstacle was that the butcher sold us duck medallions which ended up being the smallest breast of the 3 birds. So our roast was unmasked as the freakishly named Chiturduck!! (sounds like a 3-in-1 swear word to me). My decision to warm it in the oven of its destination was also a bad one. It resulted in overcooking the outer chicken layer.


Even though, in my opinion, we ended up creating the Quasimodo of turduckens I was happy we managed to pull it off. On a plus the stuffing had a good combination of flavours and the sour dough did make a difference to the overall flavour. You could actually taste the difference between the 3 meats and I was impressed on how the roast managed to hold together. The accompaniment of cranberry sauce also managed the hydrate the dryness of the outer chicken breast.

ChiTurDuck (the Quasimodo version of Turducken)
  • 1 turkey breast
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 duck medallion (or breast if you want to do it properly)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 3 cups of sour dough bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of Thyme
  • 1/2 cup of Pine Nuts, roasted
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries or crasins
  • 3 rashers of bacon
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Cook in frying pan the bacon until crisp
  • Add remaining stuffing ingredients, and fry until well mixed and cooked, set aside to cool
  • Butterfly the breast of each bird, cover with a plastic bag and hammer the meat thin using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Try to get the thickness of each breast roughly the same.
  • Layer each breast piece, in order, and fill with the stuffing
  • Tie up the roast
  • Massage the roast with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Cook for roughly 45-60 mins or until cooked through.


Till next time..we eat!!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 Annual Birthday Bash - Sepia

It's all about the food!

Years ago, before food blogging became a hobby, a bunch of Yaya's nearest and dearest and their NFBFs (non food-blogging friends), who all have their birthdays at the arse end of the year, decided that instead of going out for each of our birthdays, we'd pool our money and spend it all on one fancy feast (no, not catfood!) towards the end of the year. The catalyst was Tetsuya's and this set a precedent for degustation menus.

Last year, we went to Bentley Restaurant & Bar, the year before it was Becasse and the year before that it was Rockpool (before it opened the steakhouse). This year's shortlist came down to Quay, Bilsons (unable to link due to malware warning on site), Waqu, Gallileo & Sepia. The majority chose Sepia, a restaurant at the base of the PWC building on Sussex Street in Sydney.

and although we'd already shortlisted it, Lorraine's blog on the venue certainly helped to cement our decision (we're not stalking you, honestly!)

Having settled on this, we almost threw it all away for a Portugese meat fest as we were shocked to discover that, having a party of ten or more for the first time, that we were expected to pay an additional 10% service charge on top of the entire bill. Having an Asian heritage where your immediate family instantly takes your dining out numbers to double figures, we were incensed.

Our outrage sparked a ring around all the shortlist only to find that this was a common practice for all high-end restaurants and is the result of wait staff being paid a bare minimum wage with the expectation that tips will make up the shortfall. The service charge (an industry insider explained) for large parties is an incentive to retain good staff. The restaurants we spoke with believed that while smaller parties inevitably gave 10% of the bill, larger parties tended not to tip as much. My question is: if it requires higher pay for proper staff, why not build it into the cost of the meal, then each individual diner can decide whether they want to pay the cost or not. It has to be said, we had no such charge put on our bill at Tetsuya's which is probably the highest priced meal in Sydney yet we happily went there as we knew what to expect. Right, so much for the rant! Here's the food:

Incredibly, restaurants which offer degustation menus will still have another little something to tempt you with before they start bringing the main attraction. In our case, it was oysters, individually purchased. Very succulent with a fresh vinaigrette and a sprinkling of crunchiness.

Amuse Bouche - the first of our complimentary dishes, consisted of two little discs of sausage with a sprinkling of cress and bean shoot. Flavourful, a little chewy but a promising start to the meal.

BBQ Silver Lake Eel, Sushi Rice, Confit Leek and Licorice Powder - I'm generally not a big fan of eel but the combination resulted in a moutful of flavours.

Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare, Avocado Cream, Soy and Wasabi Jelly
My favourite of the night, we were encouraged to mix all the flavours together before sampling.

Queensland Spanner Crab & Buckwheat Risotto, Mustard Butter, Shellfish Essence
Some of us didn't like the texture of the buckwheat but I was a big fan. The shellfish essence was intense yet light. Thank you Ferran Adria for foam!

Instead of the Butter Poached Cod which was listed on the website we had Mulloway.
We all misheard the description and thought we were getting turkey underneath the fish, instead it was turnip!

Creamed corn - someone had raved about it on a blog so we ordered it for the table. Beautifully served, it wasn't that expensive nor, to be perfectly honest, that great but we're glad we tried it.

As a diner who suffers from food intolerances, I have a love/hate relationship with degustation menus. I love the surprise of not knowing what is going to be presented and I hate finding out that for the sake of not knowing how the chef was going to use the one ingredient which precludes me from eating a particular dish, I am offered something far worse!

While everyone else had Roast Loin of Gippsland Lamb, Crisp Lamb Belly, Braised Daikon, Jerusalem Artichoke with Mushroom Infusion ... (I'm not sure what was in this dish that I couldn't have) ...

... I was presented with my substitute dish of duck. In the chef's defence, my food intolerance list didn't mention "raw" food (something I will most likely mention next time) so how were they to know? In matters of the flesh (of the eating kind at least!) I like mine medium to well done. The duck being quite rare and not suitable for my palate, rather than send it back to the kitchen, the Woodster, who knows that I'm not a huge fan and who is partial to rare, was the beneficiary of this chef's delight.

This was followed by Wagyu beef with pressed watermelon and a mandarin sauce. The sauce really made this dish and it was a shame that there was so little of it! The pressed watermelon was an interesting texture and left me wondering how it all stayed together yet didn't feel like normal watermelon nor what you expected pressed watermelon to be like!

Again, the beef was bleeding more heavily than to my liking, so again our resident chef had no qualms about helping me out!

Pre Dessert - a beautiful pannacotta with a melon sorbet nestling on a bed of crushed biscuit, sort of like a deconstucted cheesecake - delicate and refreshing. I didn't get the biscuit crumbs as I'm assuming it contained egg but I could have eaten a lot more of this one!

For the majority of the table, Citrus Marshmallows, Pineapple Sorbet, Mint Whip, Coriander Sprouts is what we were expecting - I'm not sure if we got that but what we did get was certainly the most beautifully constructed dessert, original and lovely to look at, almost a shame to eat. (The smiley face was the Sky Diver's doing.) I wasn't served this one due to the egg white in the marshmallow so my fellow bloggers will have to fill in the comments here but my dessert ...

... was Fruit Sorbet overlayed with a disc of sugared lace on top of which was green tea foam with a scattering of petals. I marvelled at the translucency of the glass like sugar which was absolutely colourless. The foam itself could have been a little sweeter but in combination with the toffee, this was not a big deal.

It's always hard to come to the end of a great meal which the ordering of coffee naturally heralds, bringing along with it the sadness of knowing that it will take another 150 emails and more organisation to get us together for the next one! (Something to look forward to!) The petit fours accompanying tea & coffee didn't disappoint.
Damn Adriano Zumbo for making macaron more popular than the beach in summer! These tiny ones were minty according to those who tasted.

And then there were chocolates! Dark, geodesic shaped (according to the Architect) and filled with a passionfruit cream, they didn't disappoint.

Would I go back? Probably not for the degustation but definitely to see what's on the a la carte menu, I'd love to try more of their desserts!

Happy birthday to all who attended! Looking forward to next year! : )

And a big thanks to fellow blogger and foodie M.S. Glutamate, without whom these photos would not have been possible. His industrial strength camera was the only one capable of capturing the food in such low light!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The office Christmas party...a veritable food FRENZY!

Well, its that time of year when everything turns into a party, or a get together, or a "quick drink". So far I'm loving it, but am finding that I'm hankering for a week off just to be still. However, before that stillness begins, I've given myself a good shaking up (and 24 hours of motion sickness) by living it up at the office Christmas party! Wow, what a day. We hired a big catamaran from McMahons Point, which had a great sized cabin space with table, two boom nets on the front to sit on and be splashed, and two benches slung off the back of the boat to sit on over the water. Very civilised ! We all made our way down to the wharf for the early morning sail. Down the stairs ...there was LOTS of them, believe me. All of us lugging food and our needs for the day. Once we got comfy, the organiser arrived then ...we all traipsed back UP all those stairs again to unpack the liquid refreshments for the day. Then, once again, down we came, this time with precious cargo on board, it was hard balancing a box of champagne whilst blindly tottering down the steep steps in my sparkly sneakers (white soled of course). Finally all was unloaded and had to be put on the boat. Ready to roll, we all jumped on board and grabbed our seats ! POP! First champagne bottle was opened, and it was only 9.15am! We motored out of McMahons point past Luna Park, then under the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge checking out the installations for the NYE fireworks as we passed. We headed off through the harbour, past the Opera House, past Fort Denison, and out towards Manly. We were going to park the boat near Quarrantine beach, but once we got out there, George the English boatman made the suggestion for a smaller, more sheltered beach nearby instead (can't remember the name), which was simply divine. The water was shimmering green, and very very clear. We couldn't wait to strip off and jump in. Some walked down the ladder, some jumped of the back of the boat, some off the railings and SOME did the cannonball BOMB from the bow railings! You can always tell what type of person you are dealing with by the way they enter the water..he he. I was a cannonball and scream type of entry - make your own mind up. Those poor jellyfish didn't know what hit them. Most of us just bobbed about, I'm not sure if it was the salt or the jellyfish that kept us afloat but not much effort was required to just loll there enjoying the soft lift of the water. Some snorkeled, picking up oyster shells and a cigarette lighter (!) and other more energetic types did a quick lap to the beach and back. We had a ball, and it was a great way to cool off. There was lots of small sailing boats out on the water, so there was plenty to see, but it was still quiet and calm so was lovely and relaxing. Back on the boat, we headed off for Clark Island where we were going to set up lunch. We found a nice table on the lower level of the island (later on we found a beautiful shady spot on the top of the island but would have had to cart all the gear up to it) and started unfolding the feast. Entree was Julie's Vietnamese style duck and vegetable rolls. They went down a treat. Two types of dipping sauce, one mild and one HHHOOOOOTTTTTTTT. The mad greek made the worlds biggest Moussakaaaaaaaaaa. Layers of lamb mince and veg, phwooar it was beautiful. I rolled out my Asian Poached Chickens (recipe later), a stunning caramelised onion tart, Greek Salad, Morrocan Rice, a honey/mustard glazed ham, using Donna Hay's recipe, and quiche. That was mains covered. After we had eaten our fill and had a quick game of island cricket, we came back for the worlds greatest "pav-off". Both B and Sal brought Pavs. Sal had slow baked her meringue base, and B had picked up a base on the way down to the boat. Both had assorted fruit to decorate. With the crowd egging them on, they began a race, it was all a bit "masterchef pressure test" really. Those that weren't in the pav-crews were cheering and shouting, whilst the ladies commenced their chopping frenzy. Fruit was flying, but both teams worked like well-oiled machines. Blueberries were plonked, strawberries were sliced and placed delicately, mango (it took 2 attempts) was sloshed here and there, and the peace de resistance was the grated cadbury on top of Sal and Julie's team pav. Whilst all this was going on, the boys just stood back in awe, safe from the frisson, but salivating in anticipation of the tasting! Both teams did a sterling job and both pavs were magnificent! You would imagine this would be enough food but of course, we had to push the envelope a little more. Lolly long-legs had baked a fantabulous cheesecake with strawberry/jelly topping. It looked pristine and stunning in its that got a good schelacking too! Not forgetting Jen's scrummy shortbread biccies which were eaten on the way out to Clark island. We all want the recipe for them, they looked so cute and christmassy, and didn't last long. That had to be it. We lolled about a bit more, took another dip in the harbour with the cityscape stretching behind us. I had just read about the shark at Balmoral beach in the paper that morning so did have the odd thought about what lurked beneath us, but the water was just too tempting and the temperature was divine. We could see maxi-yachts out doing test runs, and the jet boats from circular quay came out as far as where we were and for those wanting slower viewing, there was that great big rust bucket the Jewel of Safala being turned in the harbour by 3 tug boats. There was something for everyone to see and do. Sated and happy, we called George to bring the boat back, and scurried on board to take advantage of the 25 knot winds that had come up. We put the sails up and took off with most of us having a turn of steering (under the watchful eye of George). The mad greek and I took a more passive position and sat on the front of the boat's boom nets dangling our feet in the water as the boat bobbed up and down in the swell, it was great fun and the splashes kept us cool for the afternoon. Gee it was a great day out and the great food just added to that. Back on dry land again, we were glad we ate so much out at sea because then we didn't have to lug it all back up those steps again! Ahh..what a day. And now, as promised, the recipe for my Asian Poached Chicken - this is a great recipe to bring to any party or picnic:
1.5 kg free-range chicken
1 cup light soy sauce
1 cup rice wine
1 cup water
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup honey
4 whole star anise
3cm piece ginger chopped

Rinse chicken and fit snugly into a saucepan. Pour wet ingredients over chicken and add spices to pan. Cover saucepan and bring to the boil (takes about 5 minutes), then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer gently for 1 hour. Turn halfway through cooking. Remove to a large bowl and leave chicken to rest in juices for 10 minutes (I have left mine to cool in the pan juices and this works fine). Cut and serve with rice and veg or salad. You can also take 2 cups of the poaching liquid, boil in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes until reduced by half and pour thickened sauce over the chicken pieces. Happy summer eating!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

WHY would you want to be a Food Blogger?

Why would you want to be a food blogger? Is it the prospect of a free meal? Is it to impart your knowledge and love of all things food inspired? Is it to connect with people? For me, it is about the total EXPERIENCE that sharing, preparing, and enjoying food brings. It could be the comical traffic jam on the way to the restaurant, it could be the bungled order, it could be food I've never tasted, it could be the view or the company, all of it being an aside to the food. I fell into the food blogging thing quite out of the blue. I love food, most people LOVE food, it is not uncommon for my discussions with friends and workmates to totally revolve around food we have eaten or made recently. But again, for me, I have found that through blogging, I have connected to so many new and interesting people which I may not have done without putting my experiences out there. By sharing my disasters, and triumphs, I have found that people I know well, show me a side of them I didn't know existed (food passion), and others I don't know at all, tell me they could feel my experience by reading my blog. How fantastic is that?

Pondering all this brings me to a wonderful experience I had recently when invited to Saigon Saigon Vietnamese restaurant, at Glebe, for dinner by the owner Susan Lay. Now as you all know, we were invited through the blogging community to the fab Jenius book launch of "I ate my way through Vietnam". That in itself is what I'm talking about. During the event, I met so many fascinating people, and found that most were connected by the food blogging "thing". Sponsoring this event was Saigon Saigon Vietnamese restaurant. Previously unconnected, Jennifer and Saigon Saigon also became so, through the food blogging "thing". Meeting with Susan on the night was delightful and sampling the food from Saigon Saigon was an absolute pleasure!! YaYa and myself really enjoyed talking to her and her sister who was helping promote the restaurant on the night. They were both vivacious, interesting, and fun so it was an absolute pleasure to receive an invitation to eat a meal at Saigon Saigon with Susan recently.

Now, in my past life (pre-kids) I used to frequent Glebe Point Road to eat, or for pre-work coffee. I hadn't managed to visit Saigon Saigon, but have been told that in its previous incarnation, it had a HOT PINK feature wall, no less! It has been running in its same position for the last 6 years, but has recently undergone an incredibly sexy reno with deep red walls, and soft lighting that literally cocoons you as you enter. The trickle of water from an inside water feature immediately greets you, as does a happy staff member, so you enter with a feeling of goodwill immediately.

I will say at this point that we arrived at 6pm so were the only ones in the restaurant on a Friday night thus far...if you entered at say, would be greeted by the lively chatter of full tables, the clink of cutlery and laughter which would immediately get you pumped to get seated and get started! This popular eatery has also doubled its size in its years of trade and with its new look, has bought in a new breed of clientele. It used to be a more casual local eatery, now it brings diners from further afield and with different expectations. At Saigon Saigon they are aware that they are now performing on a larger stage and have stepped up to the mark accordingly from a cheap and cheerful family run concern to a very stylish and slick operation.

Saigon Saigon is a vibrant and buzzing eatery whose very "redness" draws you in from the dark. Now as I mentioned, we were invited to eat with owner Susan Lay, and she posed the very same question to YaYa and I..."why do you food blog"? She was genuinely intrigued as to what it gives us - as to this point, we don't advertise on our blog so its obviously not commercial. This started a very long and involved conversation that covered all sorts of life and love questions. We dissected each dish, dishes we had eaten in the past, dishes we were to make in the future, our families, our working lives and even Susan's famous game nights at her home!

What we thought would be a quick dinner turned out into a fantastic night of the aforementioned "connection" and fun. We were there when all the other diners arrived, and were still there talking when most of those diners had finished their meals and left! What a great night we had. Now, I guess at this point I should begin to mention the food we shared. Don't think for a moment that all that talking diverted our attention from what we were eating! We were eager in our anticipation of the first dish and started with young coconut juice, and a Pineapple/Mint combination which were very different, but both delicious! Whilst waiting for our meals to arrive, we opened up a conversation about a theory that in any group situation, it would be possible to find our six degrees of separation! By this time

we were certain that we would have someone in common, or have a connection to someone in a high positions - even royalty. Susan won that round! The first dish to arrive was a delicious Lotus Root Salad with Duck, tasty and fresh, it was a delight. We followed this with a Salmon Clay Pot. Succulent cubes of salmon in a beautiful soy stock. Vietnamese Pancake....crispy outer coconut and rice flour crepe amazingly filled with fresh salads and meat. Beef Luc Lac arrived next which was peppery and YUM. The accompaniement was tasty Tomato Rice. Each dish was explained and enjoyed and by the time desserts came, we were so happy and content (also by this time we had been introduced to some friends of Susan's who arrived for a late dinner, sitting next to us, this added another unexpected and fun element to the dinner) none of us felt we could continue.

However, as often happens, our eyes can distract our tummies and when the deep fried banana fritters arrived, we all tucked in heartily! Then quick as a blink, the deep fried ice cream appeared, followed by Taro Sticky Rice all accompanied by bowls of sago and coconut milk.

On went the conversation comparing the methods of making deep fried icecream, (YaYa's family ran a well known local restaurant for many years and this was also on their menu) before we cracked it and demolished it. I am not usually a fan of this dessert, but I was really nicely surprised and enjoyed it more than the others! At this point, we simply HAD to stop the eating. So, at the end of such a fantastic experience YaYa and I shared with Susan, and with our theory put to bed (Ya Ya and Susan had mutual connections back in their uni days and we had already established who had the connection to royalty, all in 2-1/2 hours), I ask you reader, NOT why be a food blogger, but WHY WOULDN'T you be a foodblogger if it allows you to experience all this??????

Chuc uan ngon mieng or "cheers! enjoy!".

Saigon Saigon restaurant is located at 95-97 Glebe Point Road Glebe. 9660 3888.

Check out their website on and make sure you visit soon!