Festive Christmas Tart

Festive Christmas Tart

Everything from the pastry to the filling to licking the beaters covered in butter, rum and sugar, this recipe is smashing! With these proportions of rum and butter – how could this tart not be decadent and delicious? I make … Continue reading

How to Pick a Chinese Restaurant

As most people in the western world, I’ve spent a good many meals chowing down at the local Chinese restaurant. I’ve also been into China town to try out some of the places in the heart of the Chinese population.

But I’m going to trump most of you when I can also say that I’ve eaten my way around China. With a local girl leading us by the hand, I’ve eaten Chinese food with Chinese people in Shanghai, Xian, Beijing, Changzhou and Wuxi.

I’ve eaten the smoothest cold silken tofu, the most wholesome, tasty mutton stew, the hottest of hot hot chicken, and I’ve had my share of deep fried snake, pig’s throat, chicken feet, eel and I can’t remember the various other nasties I’ve tried.

What I’ve learned on my travels is that the Chinese like food. A lot. And they are down to earth. They value family and they like to feel comfortable when they’re out to dinner. It’s not often you’ll find Chinese people dining in an upscale, Michelin starred Chinese restaurant. No, you’ll find them at a select group of restaurants that they know serves good food, and doesn’t mind kids running around.

Time and time again it has been proven that to pick the best place to eat amongst a big group of restaurants, like in China town for example, or a suburb with a large Chinese population, you go where the Chinese people are eating.

Back in Eastwood, where I used to live, there used to be 2 or 3 Chinese BBQ restaurants. Tiny little places with pork and ducks hanging in the window. There was always lines at one of these places. I’m not an expert, I didn’t grow up eating Chinese food every night, but the locals knew which shop served the BBQ meat and they went there. So did I. And I can prove it was the best because when I got sick of lining up I tried one of the other places and it simply was not as good.

Another way to tell a good Chinese restaurant is the decor and the tables. Don’t go in for anything too fancy. The best places don’t need to worry too much about looking trendy or fancy, their food brings in the customers. Look out for simple, humble table white table cloths, and not much else. And of course, look at the clientele. If you don’t see any Chinese people in there, chances are it’s not such a great choice.

I tried my first Chinese meal in Soho last week with AT. It was so hard to decide where to go, but we went with our instinct and picked the place that looked down-home and kind of like the places we used to go at home I guess.

It reminded me so much of BBQ King back in Sydney, so I knew it had to be good!

And it was. We had mixed greens, salt and pepper squid and BBQ pork. There was a mountain of food and it was all great. I knew we wouldn’t eat it all….we couldn’t, there was simply too much. But shamefacedly we left the place with our stomachs really full and the plates empty. Sign of a great meal.

It was Wan Chai Corner on Gerrard St in London. So if you’re ever in London looking for a good meal and great value for money, try it out.



Pierre Herme

My Australian readers might not be familiar with the name Pierre Herme…we’re a little behind on the food front, besides the elusive Frenchman only has stores in France, England and Japan.

We might know him as the Master of Macarons but Pierre is known in France as legendary pastry chef with four generations of skill behind him. He was involved in the expansion of Laduree, another famous name in macarons and makes chocolates and cakes to die for. He is world renowned for his pastry and chocolate genius. It was pretty cool to meet him today. I asked him what his favourite is and he said his products are like his children, you can’t pick a favourite.  When asked about his inspiration, he said it comes from all over the place (spoken like any true artist)…from his mother’s rose hip jam to a saffron and licorice risotto he ate at a restaurant recently.

I was lucky enough to attend a little soire in his Belgravia store today for the launch of his Macarons cook book which has finally been translated into English. I sampled the classics and the seasonal delicacies on offer at the only boutique in London (aside from the stall in Selfridges).

The Classics are:

INFINIMENT ROSE – rose & rose petals
INFINIMENT CARAMEL – salted-butter caramel
PIETRA – hazelnut praline & crispy praline
MOGADOR – milk chocolate & passion fruit
INFINIMENT VANILLE – vanillas from Tahiti, Mexico and Madagascar
HUILE D’OLIVE & MANDARINE – Olive oil with Mandarin orange
INFINIMENT CHOCOLAT PORCELANA – pure origin Venezuela Porcelana dark chocolate

I tried a good deal of those with my favourites being the Creme Brule and Mogador. The rose petal macaron was so delicate and delightful and apparently their best seller!

I also tried some of the new season’s flavours like Truffle Blanche Noisette (white  truffle, roasted piedmont, hazelnut slivers)  Americano Pamplemousse (Orange, Campari, candied grapefruit) and Infiniment Cassis (blackcurrant & blackcurrant berries). Pierre is famous for getting saucy with his flavour combinations. Not all were on my wish list, like the white truffle for example. Call my palate ignorant but I just couldn’t dig it, it confused my brain just too much. But the orange and Campari flavour was one of my favourites with a bitter aftermath reminiscent of marmalade.

Needless to say I was all macaroned out and felt a little ill as I rode the bus home.

As ever, my Foodepedia experience was a worthwhile one. I met a nice girl from Hong Kong (Hi Tina!) and a lovely lady who wrote a book about chocolate, that I really should check out, Chocolate Unwrapped. Not only that but she  (her name is Sarah) is one of only 257 people ever to be awarded a Master of Wine since 1953 and wrote for the BBC Good Food magazine for 10 years. Pretty impressive, I’m meeting some wonderfully talented and interesting people on my journeys. And eating my way around London.

Halloween Jack-o-lantern

Back in Australia, Halloween doesn’t quite have the same feel as up here in the northern hemisphere. Here it really is changing seasons and autumn leaves are on the ground.

People are celebrating the harvest and nights are getting crisp and dark.

We wanted to carve a jack o lantern last year but it would have cost us $20 for the pumpkin!

Here we can perfect, little carving pumpkins for only £3 at the local Tesco’s.

So of course, we had to carve our own this year.

Vanilla and Pear Pear Muffins

You know me well enough by now…I’ve got a tendency to be lazy when it comes to recipes. If I can a get great result with a simpler recipe, I’ll always go that way. Who needs complications in this crazy life?

But these here Vanilla & Pear Muffins don’t fall into that category. First of all they contain both baking soda and baking powder…I mean really, do we need both? And then there’s the buttermilk, a lovely ingredient, but I can never taste it. So why have I then included this not-so-easy recipe in my repertoire? Well, the answer is complicated in itself, but I shall simplify.

I was looking for vanilla muffin recipe, but they all seemed like cupcakes parading around as muffins. I want a modicum of nutrition if I’m going to offer them as breakfast options for the kids. So I figured buttermilk is kind of healthy and pears definitely are and I had a whole bag of them lying around.

The last but not least important reason for this recipe? The topping. I love toppings. This one has walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Nuff said.

Vanilla & Pear Muffin Recipe


For the topping
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs finely chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For the muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 -5 pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
(you can also add some chopped walnuts if you so please)


To make topping, combine the sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
To make the muffins, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in a bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla until blended.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just combined.
Fold in the pears (and walnuts if you’re putting more in the mix) with a few strokes. Do not over mix.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake till golden.

Orange and Almond Meal Babycakes

I had some almond meal in the cupboard that I wanted to use up, so of course I made cupcakes.
Well, the recipe calls them babycakes…it sounds cuter, but it’s really just a cake batter.
I don’t have a nice photo to go with this post, because I messed up the frosting…sorry.
Orange & Almond Babycakes Recipe
125g butter, softened
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 large orange, rind finely grated, juiced
2 eggs
1 cup SR flour
3/4 cup almond meal
Oven 180C (325F)
Beat butter, sugar and orange rind until pale and creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time.
Add flour, almond meal and then juice.
Only ever mix until just combined.
Pour batter into the cupcake papers, as big or as little as you like.
Bake accordingly until golden.
To make a nice cream cheese frosting, blend these ingredients in an electric mixer.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
130g cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
I tried this method of getting my frosting into the piping bag. It worked well. Try it.
I won’t show a photo of my cupcakes for this recipe because the icing was too runny, and simply not blog-worthy. So I looked up a proper frosting recipe for you to use. I don’t recommend hurling unknown quantities of cream cheese, icing sugar, butter and juice into a bowl and beating the hell out of it. It doesn’t work.
The cupcake recipe however was lovely I would use it again, but I don’t often have almond meal in the cupboard so I tend to go with the orange juice recipe from my previous Cupcake post.
It’s time for a cupcake montage.