Off the Radar and On Again

16 Nov

This blog has lain lifeless under dust and dew for days, weeks, months, short of 2 years to be exact. Much hasn’t been said about the writer apart from her love affair with the food industry. Well, dim the lights and pull up your seats – it’s time for a little storytelling.  

Hi Readers.

Talkingwithyourmouthfull has been sitting idle for a painfully long time..And I’ve got some explaining to do. Thus, I’ve decided to share a little of the adventures/misadventures of the past 2 years or so – and explain why this blog grinded to a halt rather abruptly. It’s quite a story, I must admit.

A brief background: I’m a pastry chef by trade and shortly after starting this blog, was launched into the grit of full-time, pre-dawn shifts at a local production kitchen. Things went pretty swell amidst the hectic flurry of work, eating sprees, activities etc.

Until one fine day, I called in sick to work.

I never get ill, I’m pretty fit & strong; so when I went down with a high fever for 2 solid weeks – there was reason for concern and was admitted into hospo. Diagnosed with a funny-sounding autoimmune thingamajig, things unpredictably spun out of control when I caught a lethal secondary infection. I was moved to the ICU.

Things got pretty serious pretty fast, but it was in this time that God came to the rescue. As friends and family joined hearts in intense prayer – quite remarkably, very unexpectedly, I took a turn for the better. Miracle? Absolutely.

*~Lord be praised~*

I recovered rather quickly from then on and after 2 months of living within the blue walls of the hospital, I walked out happy, alive and free.

Upon recovery I started baking again at home and this garnered some interest from friends. Orders started rolling in and positive feedback followed. And so, with a little pluck and a truckload of fondant – I launched SugarSugar Cakes, an online business specializing in novelty & wedding cakes. Check it out HERE (*and drop in a ‘Like’ on the way!). 

There was also the added joy of getting married early this Spring. A simple, blessed union amid blooms and bunting.

And yes – I made the cake.

Thence dear readers, now that the ebbs & rises of life have seemingly settled, I say – let’s start blogging again shall we?

xo Amanda

P/S: My sincere apologies for not responding to emails/invites etc. during my lengthy hiatus. I’ll do my best not to disappear again!

Kefi – A Greek Wonderthing

6 Aug

I might anger a few. I might even cause a minor riot. But one simply struggles to sleep at night without  hooting the horn on the sensation that is Kefi. No doubt Kefi’s loyal following would be a tad miffed that with more people in the know, snagging a table at the already “packed-to-the-brim-busting-at-the-seams” mecca of deliciousness would be that much harder.

Oh, turmoil.

Truly, the tables in this buzzing eatery are so close together that one can literally reach over and swipe at a neighbor’s juicy saganaki (and indeed, I want to). The back of our chairs were constantly bumped by waiters bearing towering platters, and there were plenty of laughter and happy chatter in the air – a hub of jolly mayhem. My kind of dining.

Old black and white pictures dot the shady walls, a prologue of the meal to come.  And what a meal it was. Kefi is the sort of place where one craves to order everything on the menu. Ah, the annoyance of practicality.

Dips and pitas were quickly ordered – fluffy flatbread with the bubbly aeration resembled in good focaccia, sourced from a specialist producer in Melbourne – great to have on the table for a large party. Char-y octopus tentacles were tender yet meaty to the bite and served atop a fresh tomato and cucumber salsa-like salad. The Mixed Skaras included juicy Greek sausages, smoky lamb cutlets, grilled pork cutlets, and lamb and chicken skewers with potatoes, tzatziki, salad and more of those pillow-y pitas thrown into the works. The fulfillment of every individual’s meat fantasy.

Other dishes that had us salivating at the edge of our tables were the saucy meatballs, salmon spanakopitas and Herculean platters of hot, golden crisp calamari and prawns. Be warned that the gargantuan sizes of Kefi’s dishes stretch to obscenity – no doubt you will receive your fill and roll away a very satisfied (and albeit garlicky) blimp.

Service is prompt though a touch hectic, yet genuine and personable. Such a pleasure to find sincerity in the front-of-house, a dying trait in the service industry.

There is only one word to sum up Kefi, and that’s generous. In a world that’s rather cold and sometimes grey, it is lovely to find a small gem where fun, food and laughter runs abundant. So leave your troubles at the door, and be prepared for a true feast (in every sense of the word).

Kefi Greek Cuisine

61 Tapleys Hill Road, Glenelg North

Tel: 08 8350 9199

Kefi on Urbanspoon

Market Square Adelaide

26 Jun

The recent disappearance of the Rundle Street Markets has left a few Adelaide folk in a fuddle. Well, market-hunters – if the news has somehow escaped you, you’d be pleased to know that three months back, the bazaar on Rundle Street was reincarnated into what is now known as Market Square Adelaide.

Located a stone’s throw away from its original location (if you’re fairly optimistic about your athletic ability), the same vendors from Rundle Street have now settled themselves onto the calm green of Hindmarsh Square. A small handful of food fanatics have set up stall alongside vendors selling jewellery, clothes, body care products and other “market-y”  thingamabobs.

Laden with baskets and wooden urns of exotic spices, flavoured sea salt and condiments, is the fragrant Beach Organics stall. This pit-stop for all things certified organic sells a variety of hard-to-find ingredients such as White Muntok Pepper, cold-pressed coconut oil, raw cacao butter and traditionally ground coconut palm sugar, among all others – perfect for “Masterchefs-in-training” or for those having a crack at ethnic recipes. If you’re hard-pressed to find good quality vanilla, then look no further as Beach Organics carries sustainable vanilla pods and other vanilla-based products to settle your pastry woes (e.g. extract, paste, powder, vanilla palm sugar etc.). Boasting a four-hectare property in the Fleurieu Peninsula and farms in Indonesia, this SA-based charge is led by the very cordial Mr Barry Beach, and has a loyal following both locally and Australia-wide.

New to the markets is A Delicious Design, a perky, sugar-laced stand of pretty pastel treats such as cupcakes, macaron pops, marshmallow pops and the current American-craze: cake pops. I must say, it is queer how food becomes that much more enjoyable when jammed onto one end of a stick. Well, as satay has had its moment of glory, it’s now time for pastry to have its turn on the skewer, as this new stall is set to have kids (and a few adults I believe) bouncing off the walls in a sugar-high frenzy.

Reigning ‘pet favourite’ at the markets is Jonny’s Kettle Corn. Bright as sunshine, this yellow-red stand churns out schrummy yummy popcorn of three delish flavours – cheese, sweet n’ salty and caramel. Those of you who find salty popcorn at the movies too one-dimensional, get your paws on a pack of Jonny’s and you’ll be the envy of all your movie mates (you could share..but…). If you miss out on Sundays, they also supply to Carousel Nut Bar (Stall 76 at Central Markets), several Foodland outlets and a smattering of other retail joints around SA (refer to site if experiencing popcorn emergency). Led by the cheeriest couple in the popcorn-biz, Jonny’s Kettle Corn gets my personal “gold-star” at Market Square.

Some other food-spots at the bazaar include SA Nuts & Confectionery, The Cake Charmer (for a quickie cupcake fix), The Hot Dog Hut, Wild Fox Wines and the much-loved Poffertjes (dime-sized Dutch pancakes) stand.

Since its trip down the south end of Pulteney Street, the market has fallen slightly quiet, away from activity of Rundle Street. So good people, why not show our support and pay a visit to our friendly vendors over at Market Square? Pass the word, or simply pass by. On the flipside, the market is also a opportune launching pad for those toying with the idea of starting up their own venture. There’s plenty of room on the green.

So brave the cold this winter, and seize the day – head out and enjoy your local offerings. All in the name of good food.

Market Square Adelaide
Hindmarsh Square
Adelaide City
5000

Sundays 9am-4pm
www.marketsquareadelaide.com.au

The Great ‘Xiao Long Bao’ Experiment

30 May

The year was 2011, a grey blustery day – experiencing a sudden craving for soup dumplings, five unknowing madcaps decided to take on the challenge of making the famed ‘xiao long bao’, thinking – “how hard could it possibly be?”.

Go the crazees..

The engineering of these dainty, pleated pillows consists of fine dough-skins encased around juicy nuggets of pork and scalding, aromatic broth. A gustatory gala for the senses.

Inspired by a recipe from Steamy Kitchen, we plowed straight into the mammoth task with much ignorant gusto. At first glance, we were a touch daunted by the sheer amount of ingredients needed for this recipe; but it worked out to be a fairly economical meal, with some ingredients used repeatedly throughout the recipe.

In all honesty, making these yummy gems is a time-consuming job (with many pockets of waiting time in between), but undoubtedly gratifying. I highly recommend making an occasion out of it. Think “pizza-making party”, but…Asian.

So, round-up a couple of mates, pull out the Pictionary from the garage and pass round a few beers – and let the dumpling delirium begin!

RECIPE (makes approximately 40 dumplings)

Jellied Soup:

2 litres water

1 kg chicken bones (hacked into big chunks)

Smoked pork hoc (1 small bone) OR 100g ham offcuts

300g pork skin and/or fat

3 cloves garlic, peeled & bruised with the back of a knife

1 inch piece ginger, roughly chopped

2 stalks spring onions (roughly chopped)

2 tbsp Shao Tsing Chinese cooking wine

*1 tbsp agar-agar powder or unflavoured gelatin powder

Meat Filling

500g pork mince

120g prawn meat (shelled and minced finely)

3 stalks spring onions, finely chopped

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

1 tsp Shao Tsing Chinese cooking wine

1/2 tsp sesame oil

Dough

400g all-purpose flour

3/4 cups hot boiling water

1/4 cup cold water

1 tsp cooking oil

Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup black vinegar

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp shaved ginger

1 tbsp sambal/chilli sauce

To steam

1/2 head Chinese Cabbage

METHOD 

(stock)

1. Place all of the ‘Jellied Soup’ ingredients in a large stock pot, but HOLD OFF the gelatine/agar-agar (we’ll use this later).

2. Bring this up to a boil – at which, reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 2 hours  *(alternatively – cook the stock for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker)

3. Skim the surface periodically

Whilst that is simmering away, get your dough going.

(dough)

4. Place the flour in a mixing bowl with the hot water. Mix with a fork till a rough dough forms.

5. Add in the cold water and cooking oil and mix till combined.

6. Tip out the dough onto a clean countertop and knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and resembles a baby’s bottom (wink*). Cover and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour.

If the stock hasn’t finished its 2 hour simmer – you can start on the ‘meat filling’.

(meat filling)

7. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients for the ‘Meat Filling” together in a large bowl. Store covered in the fridge.

(dipping sauce)

8. Mix together all the ingredients for the ‘Dipping Sauce’ and store covered in the fridge. Feel free to alter the spiciness to your liking.

(jellied soup)

8. After its 2 hour simmer, skim the fat and scum off the surface of the stock. Strain the stock into a heatproof bowl (discard bones & aromats).

9. Measure out 4 cups of broth and pour this back into the pot (you can do as you wish with the excess).

10. Just as it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and whisk in the agar-agar/gelatin powder. When all of the powder has dissolved, pour the mix into a baking dish/wide container (it doesn’t matter what dish you use, as long as the soup comes up to about 1.5cm high).

11. Chill in the fridge till set (or speed-up the setting process up by placing in the freezer). Be sure to place on a level surface.

12. When the jellied stock has set, run a knife through it length ways and width ways to create 1.5 x 1.5 cm squares. Run your fingers through the jelly to separate from the base of the dish.

13. Take out 2 cups of jelly and add it to the ‘meat filling’. Smoosh it into the mince till evenly combined.

(assembly)

14. Shape your dough into small balls (roughly the size of a gumball). *Ensure you dough is always covered with cling wrap or a dishcloth.

15. With a dusting of flour, roll out the balls of dough with a small rolling pin. Remember to turn the dough as you’re rolling in order to get a circle instead of an oval. Roll to a 2mm thickness. (remember to keep dusting the countertop with flour to prevent dough from sticking)

16. To form a dumpling, smoosh a cube of ‘jellied soup’ on a rolled out dough circle. Place a ball of meat filling on top of that. Now with your fairy-fingers, start at one edge of the dough and work your way around, gradually gathering the edges together in small folds (nip-nip-nip as you go along). Squeeze & twist the tip gently at the top. Place on a heavily dusted tray.

(steaming)

17. Line you steamer with a layer of cabbage leaves and place dumplings on top, leaving sufficient gaps between each dumpling.

18. Using a toothpick, gently prod the centre of each dumpling tip (this will allow the steam to escape whilst cooking – preventing the dumplings from bursting mid-way in the steamer).

19. Steam (covered) over hot boiling water for precisely 12 minutes. Eat immediately.

Preparation time: 6 hours (with a whole-lotta Monopoly in between)
Life span of cooked dumplings: Nil
End result: A raving success (with a few dumpling casualties).

Defrost yourselves: ‘Go-in Hotpot Train’

15 May

So the days have been incredibly wet, mighty cold, and rather “ick”. Noses have run amuck (this writer’s included), with many feeling quite literally “under the weather”.Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is officially hotpot season.

It is during such  times that places like Go-in Hotpot Train receive resounding praise. This dime-sized eatery is best defined as a mash-up between a sushi bar and a hotpot restaurant because it is, essentially,  just that. Picking up where ‘Sushi Train’ left off, the ingenious entrepreneurs of Go-in Hotpot decided to preserve the restaurant’s abandoned conveyor belt  and create a novel hotpot sensation, where diners select their own hotpot ingredients as they travel up and around on a moving belt. Ah, the resourcefulness of the human mind.

Saddled up to the counter, spying morsels of passing ingredients like a predator eyeing its prey – is a visual treat in itself. The meal kicks off with each diner ordering their preferred soup base, each with his/her own individual pot. Meats and seafood are denied the trip down the runway (for health/hygiene reasons, understandably) and are ordered off the menu. But with everything else, it was open season!

Various tofu, fungi, meats and veggies quickly found their way into our bubbling laksa broths. Of particular fancy were the homemade “balls” (i.e. fish, pork etc.). On the contrary, the round knobs of what appeared to be deep-fried buns were rather difficult to down. These factory-dehydrated buns received their ceremonial boiling (as instructed by the wait staff), after which they resembled hot-sloppy socks with a plasticky taint. We quickly moved on to more favourable commodities, like the sheafs of stiff glass noodles that softened to a translucent goodness upon immersion in piping hot soup.

All in all, it made for a simple, cheery evening. Warmed, satiated, and filled with our year’s worth of MSG, we left fairly satisfied with our $15pp  meal.

The restaurant brims with a hungry host on most evenings, and as they don’t take reservations, try to get there early to avoid being left out in the cold. Perfect for that mid-week catchup whilst all is wet, windy and wild; heed the call of this restaurant’s name and simply.. Go-in.

Go-in Hotpot Train
38 HINDLEY ST, ADELAIDE
Ph: 8212 1858

Treasured Relic – The Apothecary 1878

2 May

Whilst this kinky European-inspired wine bar did not originate out of the 1800’s (contrary to what its name may imply), the Apothecary 1878 has undisputedly stood the test of time, drawing a legion of faithful patrons to its shadowed corners since its opening in the year 2002.

The restaurant is the namesake of the 133-year old pharmacy cabinets that line the darkened walls of the Apothecary’s front bar. These aged, mahogany cabinets bear and boast rows of decorative antique wine bottles with many dating back to yonkers of an age. The setting bursts with character, quirky without being too kitsch; chandeliers drooping lazily overhead whilst bums rest on velvet sofas and dark Thonet chairs.

Wander along the narrow stairs tucked away from the main bar area, and you’ll discover nooks and crannies for various activities of wining, dining, and celebrating. The uppermost chamber is a private function room, bold red walls and gold ornaments reminiscent of an old-Victorian cigar room, whilst the lowest level features a dining space for more intimate soirées.

The main draw of the venue is its wine selection, and with a list showcasing pages upon pages of local and international fare, the Apothecary’s wine offering is sure to please both “New” and “Old World” drinkers.

The food – quintessentially Adelaide (or so this writer labels it). Uncomplicated. Satisfying. Not too stuck up its arse to the point of pretension, yet managing to stave off the usual humdrum of standard-fare. Diners can have a pick of ‘starters’ or ‘shared’ dishes to nibble alongside their wines. We commenced our feasting with apple cured salmon served with crisp fennel sheafs and parmesan (excellent with a dry white), and baked chevre with eggplant and almond sauce, which was meltingly warm with the toasted almonds giving a rich nutty kick (those who dislike goat’s cheese however, might wrinkle their noses). The pork and veal meatballs cooked in a heavy tomato was, whilst tasty, not altogether ground-breaking.

Potter Prawn & Caperberries

On the flip side, our table demolished every speck of the potted prawn with caper berries and toast, the sweet pureed flesh driving one diner to wipe out the inner crevices of the pot with her pinkie (classy..).   Relishing in sheer umami-ness was the brined and chargrilled chicken thighs, smoky from its joust with flames and served atop smooth, garlicky skordalia. Two lip-smacking thumbs up.

Mains of roasted eye fillet with bordelaise sauce was cooked to a rare-ish rosy pink (as desired) and pleasing in all its meaty glory. Its side of blue cheese spinach gratin however, almost overshone it – its musky heartiness promising a joy to those fond of the curd. The crepe-like cannelloni of chicken liver and rabbit was indeed – very “livery” with a sustained meaty creaminess that though I believe a few may question, was something I personally enjoyed.

The Wine Breakdown – The 2010 Tscharke ‘Girl Talk” Savagnin from the Barossa carried like blooms on mineral rock, a clean, dry palate of apple and citrus, which worked excellently with most entrees. Red was a 2007 Antinori ‘Peppoli” Sangiovese Merlot Syrah from Tuscany, full of ripe cassis and spice, a paradox of complexity and easy drinkability – a reasonable pairing to our various mains.

Service is efficient and fair. Things do however, get fairly hectic over the weekends, so I’d suggest a weekday drop in. Also, on the side note: The Apothecary dishes up tapas/supper for those seeking a late night snack or a beverage to wine down the day (pun intended).

A rose amongst the thorns of Hindley, this is one place to take out-of-towners to. Eat, drink and be merry.

Apothecary 1878 on Urbanspoon

Apothecary 1878
(08) 8212 9099
City Centre
118 Hindley St
Adelaide, 5000

Mastering Meringue

17 Apr

Why all the fuss over poufy white fluff?

The skill of meringue-making is a common kitchen artistry that all aspiring cooks should have in their back pockets. The ability to whip up a perfect bowl of foamy egg whites forms the foundation for perfecting a multitude of desserts/confectionery , some of which include the prevalent Pavlova, mousse, nougat, marshmallows, buttercream, semifreddo, macarons, the list goes on.. The exact measurements in meringue recipes vary according to intended use, but the fundamental techniques are always the same.

However, before you flex those guns’ and crack out the trusty whisk, here are some meringue facts you need to know:

The two most common methods of making meringue:

Italian Meringue – A stable meringue that is made by slowly drizzling hot sugar (112°C to 116°C)  into egg whites as its being whipped.

French Meringue – A more basic meringue whereby sugar is gradually rained into the egg whites as it’s being whisked, with icing sugar folded through at the end.

Less common is Swiss Meringue, which is made by heating the sugar and whites over a bain marie to 110-120°C and then beating the mixture until stiff.

Types:

Hard and soft. Hard meringue is made with a higher sugar content and baked for a long time period at a low temperature. Soft meringue is often used to ice tarts (i.e.lemon meringue tart), cakes or in desserts (i.e. floating islands).

Today, we’re going to tackle the kinder beast, the French Meringue technique. The recipe is easy to remember as it simply calls for equal quantities of egg whites, caster sugar and  icing sugar.

BASIC FRENCH MERINGUE:

INGREDIENTS:

200g egg whites *NOTE: Ensure no residual egg yolk. Traces of yolk (even small ones) can prevent the whites from whisking up)

200g caster sugar

200g icing sugar (sifted)

EQUIPMENT:

A squeaky clean mixing bowl

Whisk (you can either do this by hand or electric mixer)

Spatula

METHOD:

Firstly, make sure that all of your equipment (especially the mixing bowl and whisk) are clean and grease-free. Fat (even in small amounts) will prevent the whites from foaming up. Preheat your oven to a low 120°C. If you’re using a fan forced oven set the temperature to 100°C/105°C.

Place the whites in the bowl (you can add in two drops of lemon juice OR a pinch of cream of tartar to help stabilise the mix, but it would still work without) and whisk on high till it becomes a soft foamy mass  (i.e.bubble bath). DO NOT add in any sugar before it reaches this stage.

At this point, add in the caster sugar a little at a time, whisking continually. You’ll notice the meringue getting denser (resembling whipped cream). Once you’ve finished adding in all the sugar, keep whisking until the meringue is stiff (test it out by turning the bowl upside down. If nothing slops out, you’re set).

Tip the icing sugar into the meringue and FOLD together, confidently but gently, from the outside in (in a figure-of-eight motion). Once the icing sugar is mixed in, STOP folding. Overworking the meringue will cause it to collapse and lose its air. What you’re left with is a pearly, glossy bowl of light meringue that is now ready to be used as your recipe directs *Pat on the back.

To make crispy meringue shells, you can choose to pipe you meringue onto a tray lined with baking paper; either in rosettes using a star nozzle, or in long lines to create logs. If you can’t be bothered, you can spoon them out onto the tray as big blobs (for those wanting a more “organic” look).

These go in the oven for one-and-a-half to two hours. Best thing to do is to turn off the oven after its done baking, and leave the shells in the oven overnight with the door slightly ajar. This allows them to dry out completely, producing crisp shells.

SHIRAZ STRAWBERRY ETON MESS:

You can put your meringue biscuits to good use by whipping up this simple dessert favourite. Traditional Eton Mess is usually made with fresh strawberries, cream and meringue biscuits (some add yoghurt in as well). This is a personal rendition of the dessert with the addition of red wine.

INGREDIENTS:

Meringue shells (about 80g worth)

300ml fresh cream

40g caster sugar

1/2 punnet Fresh strawberries (roughly chopped)

For strawberry compote:

Punnet of strawberries (whole, with leaves off)

1  1/2 cups red wine (use a cheap cleanskin; you can substitute with other grape variety though I’d stay away from pinot noir)

1 cup brown/white sugar

Rind of 1/2 an orange (grated)

A dribble of vanilla essence/extract/paste/pod

Put all ingredients for the compote into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook at a simmer until mixture resembles a chunky jam (make sure you stir from time to time to prevent from burning).

When it has reached a thick gloopy consistency, pour in a splash (about 1/2 cup) of ADDITIONAL red wine – mix and take off the heat. Store covered in the fridge to chill.

Whisk up the cream together with the 40g caster sugar until firm peaks.

To assemble, mix the cream, compote, fresh strawberries and CRUSHED meringue biscuits together in a bowl. Serve in a large dish or in individual glasses. Serve with additional chopped strawberries to garnish (makes about 6-8 serves).

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