31 March 2010

So what came first, the Hot Cross Bun or the Easter egg? (30 Mar 2010)

Toasted & Buttered

Being a non-religious soul I'm not exactly sure about why we celebrate Easter (ouch don't hit me please) but I do know that ever since I was a little kid I loved my Hot Cross Buns toasted and buttered and I now appreciate a really good chocolate Easter egg compared to a cheap and nasty one. My earliest memory of Easter is when my primary school had an Easter hat parade and I dressed up in a hat with a hen and eggs (pictured above) which my mum helped me put together — actually I think she did most of it. I'm not exactly sure why I'm holding a pot plant but I think I must have been proud of perhaps growing a little watermelon seed. Here's some food for thought by The Independent UK about 'Why we celebrate Easter, and where did the bunny come from?'.

So what's the biggest chocolate Easter egg you've seen this season? I spotted a 6 kg Ernest Hillier Chocolate Easter Egg at Georgiou's Confectionery in Petersham for $230 last weekend.

Wishing all my readers a Safe and Happy Easter!

Hot Cross Buns from Bacco Pasticcerie for morning tea

Easter eggs provided by the office Easter bunny

30 March 2010

'High Tea at The Victoria Room' Book Launch, Darlinghurst (30 Mar 2010)

Level 1, 235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Sugar High Time

Thanks to Margarita from The Victoria Room for inviting me along to the launch of the new book 'High Tea at The Victoria Room' which is advertised as Australia's first high tea recipe book. After a bit of goggle research it seems it's just beat the release of the Women's Weekly 'High Tea' book which has a published date of 1 April 2010 at Random House, Angus & Robertson and Borders. Tonight's launch was held in the lovely Victoria Room which is fantastic for ambient decor photos and a nightmare for my compact camera food photos but I think you'll get an idea of what was served. For some reason I was really hoping they'd be some classic cucumber sandwiches but instead some tasty mini sandwiches of Chicken with wild herbs, and Smoked Salmon with crème fraiche, lemon, capers and rocket provided some satisfying morsels.

I loved the idea of serving the Cocktail Punch in tea cups — very cool. The Lavender Shortbread had sprinklings of lavender leaves which complemented the taste without being too overpowering. Having sweet and savoury items come out together sure made the stomach confused but through it all the Pork and apple rolls with spicy tomato chutney were my favourite. Tasty filling, flakey pastry and a spicy chutney that delivered just the right amount of kick. The tiny Vanilla bean cupcake (picture above) was also nice. I was looking forward to trying the Salmon cakes with crème fraiche and dill although tonight there seemed to be quite an overpowering taste of salt and pepper in the mix which made it difficult to appreciate the subtle taste of the salmon — I was tempted to double check the recipe for this one.

Other visits to The Victoria Room:
30 Mar 2010 - 'High Tea at The Victoria Room' book launch
11 Sept 2009 - Prawn & Chickpea Fritters, VR Sparkling

PROS: Beautiful decor and setting to have a High Tea with the girls (or boys)
CONS: High Tea at the Victoria Room is apparently booked out 2 weeks in advance and attracts about 300 guests per day on the weekends so book ahead
MUST TRY: Pork and apple rolls with spicy tomato chutney

Arrival cocktail punch in tea cups — very cute idea

Cupcake display

Drinks bar

Mini Sandwiches: Chicken with wild herbs, Smoked Salmon with crème fraiche, lemon, capers and rocket

Lavender Shortbread

Vanilla bean cupcake

Pork and apple rolls with spicy tomato chutney

Salmon cakes with crème fraiche and dill

Speeches: Jill Jones-Evans (I think)

The book

The decor

The launch crowd
90% women or thereabouts

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The Victoria Room on Urbanspoon

29 March 2010

Efendy: Lamb Testicles and other authentic Turkish meze, Balmain (28 Mar 2010)

79 Elliott Street, Balmain NSW 2041

Turkish Meze Degustation

It was only last week I was reading about Not Quite Nigella's visit to the Wild Foods Festival in New Zealand and freaking out about the Mountain Oysters aka sheep testicles and how grossed out it made me feel about eating them. Well my fears of eating such an acquired dish has now been accomplished and I'm thankful of being challenged to try it — Efendy sure know how to cook them. Tonight was a test dinner with Efendy to discuss the blogging event coming up this Easter Sunday 4 April. Efendy has generously provided a table for 16 food bloggers (including myself) so this means all the available bloggers that commented before the lucky draw deadline will now be on the guest list — I'll be contacting you all individually with final details.

The blogging event dinner will include most of the cold and hot meze dishes I tried except for the rolled chicken and veal dish as we felt they were a bit too substantial in size. Efendy are trying to keep all the samplings more bite sized so you get to try more of them including desserts. There will also be some modifications, extras and vegetarian side dishes to supplement all the meat and seafood mezes. An if you're up for it there'll be the very alcoholic and traditional Raki and of course Lamb Testicles which smell and taste a bit like liver and look and has the texture of a very soft chicken meat — actually quite nice if you don't think about what it is too much. It's worthy of introducing my new label, the SIMON TASTE CHALLENGE :-).

My absolute favourite of the mezes is the Kadayifli Karides (Kataifi pastry wrapped Hervy Bay prawns, walnut capscium muhammara). Decent sized prawns wrapped in a kataifi pastry usually used for desserts. The walnut capscium muhammara had a nice taste bud kick to it — a drizzle of lemon makes it a winner. The Fava (Broad bean puree, sill, extra virgin Ayvalik olive oil) is an interesting dish which has silky smooth consistency and impressively holds it's shape like a frittata. I love the look of the Hamsi Marine (Black Sea sardines with tomato ezme) which aren't too salty like anchovies and go well with the fresh mint. The Kofte was moist and juicy as it should be with the right amount of spice for me. It's hard to resist the crispy shell of the Pacanga Boregi with tasty pastirma and kashar cheese inside. The Kuzu Tandir has some lovely 7 hour brasied Bultarra Saltbush Lamb shoulder — I remember Bultarra had a stand at Taste of Sydney 2010.

Now there always seems to be room for dessert no matter how full you are and the Hand rolled walnut baklava is some of the best I've tried and apparently is made by the owner of Efendy with lots of Turkish love and dedication to following a traditional recipe — not to be missed. The interesting Milky gullach with rose water and pomegranate has pudding like consistency and is very flavoursome with the rose water which I adore. The last time I had Kazandibi (Burnt cinnamon and mastic pudding, marash ice cream) was at Mado Cafe in Auburn which I didn't really enjoy but I found this one much better and palatable. I think this one had firmer consistency and I could appreciate the smokey cinnamon taste better. The Apple tea with cinnamon bark is very sweet which seemed to go well with the desserts. A friend generously provided a bottle of Irongate Estate Sweet Shiraz 2008 to try. It had a lovely bouquet and was very drinkable with hardly any noticeable tannin. The flavour wasn't as robust as your usual Shiraz but it was nevertheless enjoyable to drink.

Other visits to Efendy:
4 April 2010 - 'Meze Journery to Istanbul' Food Bloggers Dinner Event
28 March 2010 - Turkish Meze, Apple tea, Baklava, Dana Sarma, Fava, Hamsi Marine, Kadayifli Karides, Kazandibi, Koc Yumurtasi, Kofte, Kuzu Tandir, Milky gullach
Pacanga Boregi, Patlican Salatasi, Pilic Sarma, Saksuka, Yeni Raki
6 March 2010 - Breakfast Meze, Incir Kaygana, Pacanga Boregi, Sucuk, Turkish delight
26 July 2009 - Kiymali, Sucuklu, Omlet, Kaygana

PROS: Authentic and tasty dishes, well presented, desserts are made onsite
CONS: So much food will fill the stomach
MUST TRY: Baklava, Kazandibi, Kadayifli Karides (prawns), Kofte, Pacanga Boreg and of course Koc Yumurtasi (lamb testicles) at least once.

Bread and olive oil and dukka

Patlican Salatasi: Smoked eggplant, capsicum and garlic

Saksuka: Traditional sauteed potato, zucchini, eggplant with mint yoghurt

Hamsi Marine: Black Sea sardines with tomato ezme

Fava: Broad bean puree, sill, extra virgin Ayvalik olive oil

Koc Yumurtasi: Pan-fried lamb testicles, roasted garlic and butter sauce

Kadayifli Karides: Kataifi pastry wrapped Hervy Bay prawns, walnut capscium muhammara

Pacanga Boregi: Pastirma, kashar cheese borek

Kofte: Village style lamb kofte, parsley, tomato piyaz

Pilic Sarma: Organic Thirlmere chicken rolled with aromatic rice, currant and pinenuts

Kuzu Tandir: 7 hour brasied Bultarra Saltbush Lamb shoulder, aromatic baldo rice, currant and pinenuts pilaf, pickled winter vegetables

Dana Sarma: Rock Valley veal filled with haloumi and asparagus, Dolma: Lamb mince and rice filled vine leaves

Kazandibi: Burnt cinnamon and mastic pudding, marash ice cream

Baklava: Hand rolled walnut baklava, Milky gullach, rose water, pomegranate, Traditional pistachio baklava

Traditional pistachio baklava

Hand rolled walnut baklava

Milky gullach, rose water, pomegranate

Apple tea

Yeni Raki

Yeni Raki goes milky when water is added

Irongate Estate Sweet Shiraz 2008 (received from a friend)

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