Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mixed Berries & Pineapple Pavlova

So its Australia Day today, an absolutely awesome day spent with family and friends doing really Australian things, BBQing, sports, fireworks, trips to the beach and naturally the most important thing of all: Food! And when you mention Australian desserts one would immediately think of the all important and loved Meringue Pavlova (although there is some debate over its origin, typical NZ/AU rivalry). 

Since it is such a classic I've decided to challenge must myself and make this iconic dessert for this special day, oh how fitting. I've always been told by others that Pavlova is particular difficult to get right but when looking at the recipes it looked simply enough. It was like making a meringue but with cornflour for a crunchy, crusty outside and I mean, I've successfully made meringues before, how hard can this be?   

After making this I can honestly tell you its simple enough! So don't fear and try it yourself. Make the all Australian classic and enjoy, its fun, its easy and its super duper yummy. And the best thing of all, you can customise it however you like, with fresh sweet fruits from pineapple to kiwi to passion fruit, whatever floats your boat or if you're out of fresh fruits than canned fruits will work just as well (as a little cheat) ;)

Meringue Pavlova
(makes 6 mini shells)


Ingredients
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoon cornflour
4 egg whites
pinch of salt

Method
Preheat the oven to 160C degrees (about 5-10minutes before baking)
Ensure all ingredients are at room temperate and well sifted

  1. In a glass or metal bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks, gradually add in the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time, beat until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are stiff peak and glossy
  2. Beat in the cornflour and lemon juice until just combined
  3. Pipe or spoon the meringues onto a baking paper lined tray, place the baking tray into the oven and reduced the heat to 140C degrees and bake for 30 minutes, followed by an additional hour at 120C degrees
  4. Once the Pavlovas are cooked, turn off the heat and allow them to cool off completely in the oven before taking them out, either by having the oven door slightly ajar or completely closed
Notes
  • There should be extra care given to the whipping in of the sugar, ensure that it is done very gradually and that all the sugar has dissolved before adding in more. If the sugar is not incorporated properly the Pavlova will collapse under the weight of the sugar
  • The acid (lemon juice, vinegar etc) helps stabilise the egg whites and stops it from being overwhipped, lumpy and watery
  • The cornflour gives the Pavlova a crunch on the outside whilst sustaining a soft inside
  • If the Pavlova is removed from the oven before it completely cools, the sudden exposure to coolness will cause the Pavlova to collapse or sink


Whipped Cream
Ingredients
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 cup thickened cream

Method

  1. Beat the thickened cream, vanilla and icing sugar until soft peak
  2. Dollop a spoon of whipped cream onto the Pavlova shells and decorate with an assortment of fruits

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mr Wong & Princess Coco Chocolaterie

Mr Wong

Hello! First time doing a proper restaurant review and I've already noticed my first mistake - I didn't keep the receipts from our dinner, which lead to a scramble around the Internet looking for the dish's names and prices. I can't believe how hard it is to figure out what a dish is called by simply look at them. Its even harder when the menus are unavailable online. Anyways here I go - be nice please and enjoy or at least enjoy the pictures! 

Oh rightie! The reason I'm doing this restaurant reviews is because I'm moving interstate for work in February and I'm planning to stay at a boarding house with a shared kitchen, so I'm not 100% sure how its all going to work, first getting all my equipment, tools, ingredients and all that down to Canberra, then theres the issue of sharing a kitchen, I don't think the others will be too happy with me using the kitchen for hours on end, hogging the oven, stoves, pots and pans. And I'm enjoying this blog so much I don't really want to go on a hiatus so soon. So if I can't work anything out on the baking side, I will be blogging about my eating adventures in a whole new town. Yeah I know Canberra is a little boring but I'll try my best and well Sydneys only 3hours alway. My plan is to come back every couple of weeks anyways. 



Bar area at the beginning of dinner
We made reservations for Mr Wong last Wednesday @ 5.30PM. Apparently according to my friend who made the bookings, a group smaller than 6 and reservations were unavailable, more than 8 and there would be a 10% surcharge. By some sort of luck we had exactly 7 people. 
When I first entered I was impressed, the decor was modern and quirky yet it had a Chinese twist to it. The service was as expected and superb. 
The stands out of this restaurant for me were, the rows and rows of fresh and cooked ducks near the cooking area, seriously if you need to go to the bathroom - Just follow the ducks, you can't go wrong.  

There was also a very interesting cocktail menu, all the drinks were named after China's different provinces and each drink featured a province's specialty. Each drink was about $16 - $18, unfortunately we didn't have any, reason why: I have no idea. Actually I think there were just too many choices for drinks that I felt a little overwhelmed and went with water.

Chinese Roasted Duck H$34 W$60 Peking Style
Steamed Chinese Broccoli With Oyster Sauce and Garlic Oil $12 
Shortly after ordering we received our Peking Duck, personally I didn't have any as I am pescatarian however my friends seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, plus the duck smelt just devine. After receiving our Peking Duck, it took absolutely ages for the remaining food to come, I think we sat around talking for about 45 minutes before everything else came. They were very busy, by 7PM the restaurant was absolutely packed. I really wasn't expecting that as I thought the hype for Mr Wong had already died down, however my friends did say that they did attempt to go 2 weeks before this, they got their at about 6PM and were told that the wait time was about 2 hours! On a Wednesdays!!
  
Stir Fried Egg Noodles with Dark Soy, Garlic Chives and Beansprouts S$14 L$19
Stir Fried King Prawns with Black Pepper, Garlic and Butter $32
Most of the food (all that I could eat) in my opinion was very nicely done and seasoned as I expected them to be, the broccoli was crunchy, the prawns were delicious, the stir fry reminded me of home and the fried rice like the end of every Asian wedding (missing picture, sorry my friends dug into it before I managed to take a picture) nothing was overcooked or undercooked, nothing was overly salty or bland. It was perfect I guess, however my only complaint would be the prices, yes everything was yummy but I still can't find a way to justify the prices, most of these dishes I could get at Chinatown for half the prices and in Cabramatta for a fraction. So yes yummy food but nothing outstanding. I guess it was more about the service, atmosphere and reputation. I guess, if you ever go to a restaurant of our own background's cuisine and 90% of diners are of a completely different or opposite ethnicity its a sign, you could properly find better elsewhere.  
Roasted Five Spice Pork Belly $25
Black Pepper Beef with Asparagus, Snow Peas and Baby Corn $29
I'm guessing you're now asking: Why on earth did you guys go to a Chinese restaurant when you could get the majority of this food at home? Well the reason was, we have a friend who has a preference for Chinese food, and hence here I am writing this review. In the end of the day, I guess if your unfamiliar to Chinese cuisine than this is a great starting place, however I recommend you check out other places, plenty of options all around Sydney: Chinatown, Hurstville, Ashfield, Earlwood and Cabramatta just to name a few suburbs. 

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon












Princess Coco Chocolaterie 
After dinner we naturally needed desserts, but where? A little bored with the usual options we decided to go for something different, something new. And well look at this cafes name: Princess Coco - how could we (well actually I) say no?

This chocolate cafe is actually right behind the new Commonwealth building in Darling Harbour, I've probably walked pass this place a hundred times in the last couple of months, yet I've never noticed this place. Sad aye, I wish I found this place earlier. The whole cafe was so beautifully decorated, and the staff were so sweet and nice. We actually got there at 8PM on a Wednesday night, so unfortunately we couldn't try any of the waffles or fondue.  


So much effort seems to have been placed on making the atmosphere of this cafe perfect. From the seats to the decor to the art and features. I could seat in this place all day, those chairs are amazing. I kinda wish I found this place whilst I was stills studying. Could have waltz up to darling harbour sat here all day, studying and slipping on hot chocolate. 


The circular ball on the left is one of the cafes specialties, its a Tiramisu Sphere which you pour warm chocolate on and it melts the sphere away. Its priced at $17. Because we arrived relatively late unfortunately they had ran out, definitely trying that next time and maybe some of those petit fours as well, if I remember correctly they were $8 take away and $10 eat in. 



Jivara Chocolat Au Lai C$7.50
I had this chocolate cold drink, it was 35C that day so absolutely wasn't going to try it hot but maybe next time when its winter. This drink was malty and delicious, definitely sweet so you probably want to be a sweet tooth to try this. It also came with two adorable and yummy coconut marshmallow. A couple of other friends had some refreshing hot green tea (I have no idea what they were thinking, its was 8PM, twilight and still 35C and there they were sipping on boiling hot tea). Someone else had the coffee based cold drink and commented that it was a little darker than expected but nevertheless still delicious. 

I'm really sad that I didn't get to stay longer and try more than this one drink here, I will definitely be back again next time, maybe I'll have some fondue or some of those pretty looking pastries. Already planning my next visit. 

Princess Coco Chocolaterie on Urbanspoon

Oh and a bonus. Look humongous Rubber Duckie by Florentijn Hofman in Darling Harbour as a part of the Sydney Festival 2013 



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Honey Panna Cotta


I've always been a massive fan of panna cotta, its super easy to make, only requires a few basic ingredients, tasty and it looks magnificent! Hence its one of those desserts that you can whip up in a few minutes, leave it to set overnight and serve the next day.

However, I always find gelatin recipes a little hit and miss, gelatin has this odd smell and funny aftertaste which I absolutely can not stand! - I always end up throwing out perfectly good desserts because I can smell it or taste it :( (I'm not sure if its really there anymore or it has become a psychological thing now) hence whenever I make a recipe with gelatin in it, I completely minimise the amount of gelatin to an amount just enough to jellify the liquids. 

So heres my take on panna cotta, I spiced it up with some honey, a honey gelee and some raspberry jelly. Look how pretty that is, it didn't even require any complicated techniques - its pretty much a fail safe recipe!   

Panna Cotta
(makes 4 cups)

Ingredients
Honey Panna Cotta
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon gelatin
1 1/2 cups thickened cream
2 tablespoons cold water
6 tablespoons honey

Honey Gelée:
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
4 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoon cold water
a pinch of salt


Method
Honey Panna Cotta
  1. In a saucepan combine the honey, milk and thickened cream over medium heat, stir until the honey has combined with the cream and milk (do not let it boil), add in the vanilla extract
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and allow it to stand for 10 minutes
  3. Mix the gelatin into the warm cream mixture and stir until completely dissolved
  4. Pour the cream into glass cups and allow it to cool in the fridge for about 2 -3 hours
Honey Gelee
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and allow it to stand for 10 minutes
  2. In a saucepan combine the honey and gelatin mixture, stir until completely dissolved
  3. Remove off the heat and stir in salt
Note: I found the honey gelee very sweet, hence it would probably be best to do a much thinner layer then I did maybe 1/2 or 1/4 would be more suitable, just enough for that extra little bit of a honey taste without the sweetness of honey
Garish 
I used some jelly (1 packet) and berries to spice up the panna cotta and give it some colour


If you're just making this for yourself and not for show or whatnot, just completely skip the garnish - the absolute best part of this recipe is the panna cotta by itself - the berries, honey gelee and raspberry jelly sure does make it look pretty but taste wise its probably unnecessary  Trust me that panna cotta by itself is just heavenly and addictive! 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Lychee Mint Sorbet

The perfect super easy dessert for the upcoming 43C heat we are going to have on Tuesday! I decided to make this after trying the Lychee Mint Juice from Din Fung Tai just before Christmas this summer. At first when my sister ordered it, I thought eh what a weird combination but once I tried it - I was hooked, mint and lychee just works, I guess in the same way that lime and mint works :) 


Lychee Mint Sorbet
(makes 1Litre) 

Ingredients
1/4 cup sugar
1 can lychee
2 cup water
1 egg whites
10 medium mint leaves

Method
  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil, once boiling remove it from the heat and allow it to cool
  2. Meanwhile, blend the lychee and syrup until pureed 
  3. Once the sugar syrup has cooled combine with the pureed lychee
  4. Place the liquids in the freezer for 12 hours or overnight
  5. Once solidly frozen, remove from the freezer and break it into 5 to 6 medium size cubes
  6. Place the cubes into a blender and mix it up slightly, then add the egg white and mint leaves and blend until it is of slushy consistency
  7. Transfer the slushy back into the container and freeze for about 4 hours or so
Alternatively: Step 3 Churn in an ice cream machine until sorbet consistency

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Coconut Ice Cream


Currently I'm in my Dad's good books because I'm bribing him with my ice cream :) He hates my cupcakes and Western sweets but ice cream is a completely different story, especially my froyo. Recently he has been requesting coconut ice cream but I've been too busy trying to make Christmas recipes (and failing, I must add) - but today I finally got around to it since I have half a tub of thickened cream that I'm pretty sure is about to go off if I don't use it - my mum actually wants coconut froyo, which sounds quite interesting - so I must try it some day very soon

I must add, I really do enjoy making ice cream - they always require like 4 to 6 egg yolks which means I will always have a bunch of egg whites that I must somehow get rid off, which means! I get to be creative and think up of something awesome to make - like meringue or angel's food cake or egg white omelet (eww) or macarons or marshmallows or meringue frosting :) 

Yeah so pretty much the next recipe will probably be Angel's Food Cupcake since I have 5 egg whites just sitting in the fridge - hmm I might actually make it Christmasy and post it before I post this one. We shall see. OR! Maybe I'll just sprinkle some candy canes on this and pass it off as a Christmas recipe!? ^^

Coconut Ice Cream
(makes 1Litre)


Ingredients
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coconut extract
2 cups coconut cream
2 cups thickened cream
5 egg yolks

Method
  1. In a pot over low heat, combine the coconut milk and thickened cream until just boiling, remove from the heat and allow to stand and cool for 10 minutes
  2. In separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale and fluffy, slowly beat in the sugar until well creamed
  3. While beating the creamed eggs on low, pour in half a cup of the hot coconut milk from step one, continue doing this until all the hot milk has been combined with the eggs
  4. Continue beating the liquids for another minute before straining the liquids fine mesh
  5. Return the liquid to a pot over low heat, continue constantly stirring the liquids until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon
  6. Once ready, remove the custard from the heat and allow it to return to room temperature before transferring to the fridge for about 2 to 3 hours to cool
  7. Churn the custard in an ice cream machine for 20 to 25 minutes