Things are not well in the world of Belle’s blogging. Technology is on the blink, photos are falling short and clumsiness rules.
For a start, I had to change internet providers, and to cancel my account with the old provider was a real pain (is it ever anything else?). Luckily, the new provider is proving to be quite good.
Secondly, my lovely slim Casio Exilim camera started over-exposing all my photos, so that they turned out completely white. Apparently, it is a problem that happens sometimes with that model of camera. So I had to trawl the net looking at digital camera reviews, compare prices, visit camera stores, etc. I managed to find a new one – a Canon Ixus 980. Not as svelte as the old one, but very nice.
Finally, and most drastically, I spilt a full mug of green tea onto the desk where my laptop is, and some of the liquid seeped underneath and ruined the all number keys, as well as T, Y and Backspace. I mean, Backspace is my most used key! And it’s not until you lose them that you realise that numbers are critical to everyday life – in passwords, calculations – and the little ‘at’ sign above the number 2 is needed for all your email addresses! Again, I was fortunate to borrow an external keyboard from my brother. It now sits elegantly on a piece of felt on top of the laptop.
As these things only happen in threes, I have had my fill for now. The birds are singing again and all is right with the world.
To celebrate this small victory over technology, we had a ‘Yuzu no a nothing!’ from Adriano Zumbo. Looks like a pine lime Splice, tastes like a pine lime Splice. It was so tangy that I had to have a green tea chaser afterwards. Several metres away from the computer, though.
And the jar of Vegemite in the background is a reminder that just because something is salty doesn’t mean you need to tax the hell out of it (ooh, topical!).
I had such wonderful intentions of having a picnic on New Year’s Day. So much so that I spent most of NYE chopping, stirring and baking in preparation. The weather report was most encouraging for the three days before new year’s – sunny and 29 degrees. Perfect!
So imagine my annoyance when the temperature soared to 35 degrees – not so perfect. Needless to say, it was too hot to venture out, so the picnic lunch I’d prepared sat waiting in the fridge.
The recipes are from Gordon Ramsay, specifically for alfresco dining. We had the chilled soup that day anyway, as it was absolutely perfect for the hot weather, served straight from the fridge rather than a Thermos flask.
We had the chicken and couscous a day later, microwaved in the plastic containers I’d put them in, then transferred to a civilised plate for eating in front of the TV.
Here is the recipe for the soup – it is a real winner; give it a try on the next hot day!
Chilled cucumber and dill soup
Make this soup a day ahead, transport it to your picnic (ha!) in a flask and serve in small teacup-sized bowls or punch glasses.
1 litre (4 cups) good-quality chicken stock 2 baby leeks or 1 regular leek (white part only), finely chopped 2 eschalots, finely chopped 8 whole white peppercorns 2-3 parsley stalks 2 ¼ large telegraph cucumbers 2 tsp arrowroot (I used cornflour) 1 tbs finely chopped fresh dill 200ml crème fraiche ¼ small red onion 1 tsp lemon juice
Bring stock to boil in a saucepan. Add leeks, eschalots, peppercorns and parsley stalks, and simmer for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.
Peel 2 of the cucumbers. Halve them lengthways and remove seeds with a teaspoon. Cut flesh into 1 cm slices, then place in a colander and season with freshly ground salt. Stand for 10 minutes to draw out any excess water or bitterness from the cucumber.
Rinse in plenty of cold water and drain well. Add the cucumber to the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Transfer to a blender, process until smooth, then return soup to the pan.
Mix arrowroot with 1 tablespoon water and add to the soup. Heat gently over low heat, stirring until soup begins to thicken – do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add dill and crème fraiche, mixing well – you may wish to use a handheld blender.
Chill in fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.
For the salsa, finely dice remaining cucumber, place in a bowl with the onion and lemon juice, and season well. Cover and chill.
Pour the soup into a flask. At the picnic, serve soup topped with the salsa.
Ever since it opened mid-year, the Sydney branch of the Din Tai Fung dumpling chain has generated a positive buzz, from professional restaurant reviewers as well as foodbloggers. And let’s face it, it’s the latter we read and believe more now, isn’t it?
“Din Tai Fung began in 1958 as a small shop on Linyi Street [Taipei] run by Bingyi Yang and his wife Pengmei Lai” – from the brochure ‘About Dintaifung’. The chain now has around 50 restaurants in China, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia and the US.
We went there for lunch, arriving at 11.45am, but there was a 20 minute wait for a non-shared table (considering the place opens at 11.30am, there must have been people lining up pretty early). No probs, as it gave us time to peruse the menu and to mark the items we want on an order sheet.
We started with a very spicy hot and sour soup ($4.80 for small). I swallowed some the wrong way and had a minor coughing fit, not helped by the extreme pepper hit in the soup. It was tasty, but could have been hotter – temperature-wise, that is.
Next came cha jiang noodles ($11.80), with a saucy pork mince and tofu mixture on top of very silky handmade noodles. This was an excellent dish, with the meat being yielding and velvety; the noodles have a very fine texture and were the best I’ve had in ages. The wontons ($8.80 for 6) were okay, just ordinary wontons, although the wrapper was again very smooth and soft without being too delicate – no one likes wontons that break. The soup was gentle and a nice counterpoint to the wontons.
So how were the dumplings (xiao long bao)? These were the soup dumplings ($8.80 for 6) that have hot soup encased with meat inside the wrapper. Poke or bite a hole in the dumpling and slurp out the soup first, unless you want to burn your mouth by eating it whole!
I was fascinated by the beautiful pleats on the dumplings, and apparently each dumpling weighs the same. The dumpling makers work (and dress) like a medical team gathered around a patient in surgery, so the dumplings are obviously very good. The pork dumplings are nice, but the crab and pork ones were better (they should be, at nearly double the price, $15.80 for 6). Great crab texture. It was a pleasure biting into these mini (production line) works of art.
I’m glad we finally tried Din Tai Fung. Even despite the wait for a table, the food arrived promptly and the service is perfunctory though efficient. And the food was very filling, as only pork dumplings can be. I wouldn’t mind going there regularly, although bf said he prefers yum cha. We will have to rock paper scissors it out next time I need a dumpling fix.
Being good all year has its advantages, namely, Santa gets wind of your goodness and grants you three wishes – oh wait, that’s the Genie – you only get one wish from Santa…
My wish (apart from health for my family, and peace for all), was for a Weber Baby Q, and Santy Claus delivered! Here is the new baby, with Electronic Ignition, no less!
Naturally, we had to give it a test run. First up, some lamb and mint, beef, and tomato and onion sausages. They came up beautifully. The bbq flavour permeates the snags even though it is a gas model.
Next was the traditional steak, cut as thick as possible. It was perfectly cooked and moist, and will you look at those wonderful grill marks!
The baby eggplant was okay – I should have salted them to remove some of the bitterness. They were actually accompanied by marinated pork chops, which were delicious. Unfortunately, my camera has carked, hence no photos of the chops.
Now, hopefully, I will find that Genie in a magic lamp sometime soon – I really need a new camera. Any suggestions on which one?
And here is something for the ladies – I got these lovelies at the post-Christmas sales. Gold strappy heels, ON SALE – the best kind of shoes, evah!
This Charlotte has a lovely tang of passionfruit crème atop a chewy pink macaron base. I did find the olive oil mousse a bit cloying, however, with the olive oil flavour overwhelming the delicate passionfruit.
Here is a Grilled haloumi and fennel salad from Donna Hay’s ‘no time to cook’. It’s perfect when you don’t want to be weighed down by a heavy meal at night. Or it makes a perfect summer lunch as well.
I’d never used fennel before this recipe, and bought two fennel bulbs (weighing 480g). However, after I chopped off the tops and leaves and peeled off the outer layer, I was left with 2 rather small bulbs that were a bit less than the required 500g. Never mind, I just bulked it up with more haloumi. You can never have enough salty, squeaky haloumi…yum!
To feed two people: Place ¼ cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper in a bowl. Add 500g sliced fennel and 250g sliced haloumi and turn to coat. Cook fennel in a frypan over medium-high heat until lightly brown and tender (2-3 minutes). Add haloumi and cook 1-2 mins each side until browned. Layer fennel and haloumi with 1 sliced brown pear (I used a nashi pear) and rocket leaves.
Make a dressing from 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ½ cup chopped walnuts and 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives. Pour over the salad and serve.
How’s this for a flavour explosion – blue cheese, green apple and feullitine. Now imagine them not just together, but in macarons from Adriano Zumbo!
The green apple macaron filling is like apple sauce, with flecks of green apple skin in it. The feullitine is crunchy with bits of nutty caramelly flavour. And the blue cheese – you take a bite and think ‘that reminds me of something, what is it…?’. Then you get the unmistakeable hint of blue vein and go ‘Wowza!’. This was my favourite.
And the card in the background is the one I made for LM’s birthday. Because the colours match the macarons.