Monday, May 31, 2010

Bankstown - A foodies guide, Part One. Titanic Cafe

I thought I might do things a little differently this week. I’d like to know a bit more about you. No need to leave me your credit card details, blood type etc.. Just generic stuff really. What’s your favourite food? Do you prefer eating in or out? Would you rather local cheap thrills or expensive food porn experiences?



Bit shy, aye? Ok, well I’ll go first then. Let’s visit my local foodie haunts.

I grew up in the Bankstown area. South West Sydney. To quote Wikipedia directly ‘Bankstown has one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Australia’. Did you know that? I didn’t. But it is well known amongst Sydneysiders that Bankstown is home to a large Lebanese population, and it is also home for a large population of Vietnamese.

As a result Bankstown houses a diverse range of middle-eastern and Asian cuisines (much to my delight and enjoyment!). So please, indulge me while I show you some of my favourite places to eat in Bankstown during the next few posts – a foodie’s guide, KayB style. And I promise I will get back to the cakes very, very soon!

(Argila and cake display at Titanic Cafe, Bankstown) 

First stop on our tour of Bankstown is Titanic Cafe. I’ve been coming here for some time now, whenever I get a call from a very dear old friend, Max, who is a Bankstown local as well. Max also happens to personally know just about every single person that works in the place (not sure if that’s just because he is at Titanic so often?).

This particular night is very exciting because I’m finally going to meet his wonderful girlfriend, Lisa. Max has been looking for ‘the one’ his entire life and last time we caught up, shortly after he first met Lisa, he declared to us that he’d finally found ‘the one’.

So off we went to meet the new girl, but we were very much mistaken because Lisa was no longer his girlfriend, but his fiancĂ©! I think every person in the place turned and looked at us because I screamed so loudly when Lisa brought her gorgeous diamond ring out of hiding. Lucky I had my camera and notebook because I don’t think I would have been able to remember anything about the meal with all the excitement and joy and wedding talk that was to follow.

But yes, we did eventually eat. 

(Mixed grill shish $18.99 with tabouli, chips, hommous and garlic dip) 

Three of us share a mixed dip, mixed grill and bowl of tabouli. Plenty of food for three people. The mixed grill comes with char grilled lamb, chicken and kafta. The meat is lovely and tender and is perfect wrapped up in a bit of Lebanese bread with hommous and tabouli.

(Mixed dip plate $13.90) 

The hommous is amazing. And the babaganosh has that perfect smokey flavour, followed by a creamy avocado dip, all served with a basket of fresh Lebanese bread.

I think we probably should have just order the medium size bowl ($7.99), but the tabouli goes great with the dips, and is extremely fresh. 

(Tabouli large bowl $14.99) 

Titanic also has one of the most extensive selections of argila. The argila (which has many different spellings and is also known as Hookah, which has a straight-neck tube) is a water pipe used for smoking flavoured tobacco. There are smoking and non smoking areas at Titanic, and their argila menu ranges in price from $19.99 to $24.99.

 Flavours include banana, mint and apple, but tonight Max opts for a ‘Titanic special’ which is a combination. It produces a thick smoke, so thick in fact that you can almost chew it. And the intense flavours waft over the whole table. A little bit of housekeeping: Max has told me (on many occasions because I always seem to forget) that when sharing the argila, you never pass the hose on with the end/opening pointing at the person. You bend the hose back on itself so the end/opening is pointing to yourself.  Sort of like scissors.. I mean, when you pass on scissors you always pass on the handle, not the pointy end.. as not to stab them!

The only real problem with Titanic is the lack of falafel. They used to make a sensational falafel, but for some reason it no longer features on the menu? I always ask, just in case, but nope. It is yet to make a return to my belly!

The atmosphere is great, made much more authentic by the elderly Lebanese men sitting in huddles over their argilas sipping strong Lebanese coffee. A perfect way to end the night.

So, your turn now. You know at least one thing about me, I like Lebanese food. Do you?

Titanic Cafe
49 Raymond Street, 

(02)9708 3688

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gigantic almond & strawberry cake with caramel sauce.

Just a regular Saturday in my household. Cook books at the ready.. steady now.. aaaannnnddd.. BAKE!

Dad and I love a good ol' fashioned bake-off. Similar to your usual dance off or walk off, but with baking. It all started with a mini foods bake-off on NRL Grand Final day.. there were homemade party pies and sausage rolls everywhere!

This weekend is totally devoted to deserts, because it's my Grandpa's birthday and he looooovvveeess sweets. Feels like only yesterday I was making my Grandpa a Fondant Horse cake for his last birthday.

I was in charge of the birthday cake, while Dad made a batch of his killer oatmeal cookies and caramel slice (just a few of Grandpa's favourites!). 

(Jersey caramels + cream = caramel sauce! Winner!)

I had no idea what kind of cake to make. So I hit-up the ever trusty, did a quick search and found this - Almond cake with strawberries and caramel sauce. The first line of the description says "If you've got a special occasion to celebrate, then we've got the cake for you." Umm.. yeah I do have a special occasion to celebrate.. so clearly this cake really IS for ME!

This cake lived up to all the expectations. It actually went above and beyond.. but that's due mainly to my own ingenuity. The first cake didn't seem to rise very well. And, without ruining the ending for those who haven't read on, you need to slice this cake in half as to stuff in full of cream, strawberries and gooey caramel sauce. "Well, this just isn't going to make a satisfying celebratory cake", I thought to myself. "Never mind, I'll just bake another one". 

Well, turns on the first cake was big enough. And so, when I glued my two cakes together with cream and caramel, I ended with with a gigantic, humongous cake!
 Check it out, the cake is actually bigger than my Grandpa's head! WHOAAAH!
OK, nobody move or the cake will come tumbling down!

If you are game enough to take on the MONSTER CAKE you can find the recipe here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pork, veal and fennel rolls: A fairy tale.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, there was a fair maiden. She spent her weeks days (mostly 9am -5pm) in the Land of Ultimo. Everything in her life was wonderful. She had a handsome Prince who loved her, lovely friends and most notably, a Bourke Street Bakery. “A bakery?” you might gasp in shock. But this is no ordinary bakery, it is the greatest bakery in all the land. Each day at approximately 12.30pm the fair maiden would jump onto her horse and ride the few short blocks to the bakery for lunch. One day it was a poached chicken sandwich, the next a lamb and harissa sausage roll. On very special occasions she would return with a ginger brulee tart.
But little did the fair maiden know that an evil sorcerer was out to destroy her happiness. This evil sorcerer, known as Notre Dame, wanted the Bourke Street Bakery all for himself.  But this was never going to be, and so the evil sorcerer kicked Bourke Street Bakery out of their home, banished them from the Land of Ultimo forever!
I thought I’d just interject here kidlets and let you know that there IS a happy ending to this story. Just in case any of you were getting a bit scared of the evil sorcerer..

 Just when the evil sorcerer though he had stamped out all deliciousness from the land of Ultimo, Bourke Street Bakery rose from the ashes! With a book! A gospel! A bible, if you will. This book contained all of their magical recipes, ensuring that deliciousness was to continue, not only in the land of Ultimo but in the homes of all the Ultimo folk. 

And the fair maiden? Well, she went on to cook the most amazing pork sausage rolls she had ever come across. And they all lived happily ever after. The End.

Pork, veal and fennel rolls
(adapted from the Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam & David McGuiness)

500 g pork mince
500 g veal mince
2 carrots, grated
Half bunch of celery, trimmed and grated
1 large brown onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic (depending on your personal taste)
60 g fennel seeds (this is a lot of fennel based on personal taste, reduce to you own taste if need be)
6 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
Fresh thyme, 2-3 sprigs leaves picked
Egg wash
Grab your mortal and pestle and crush fennel seeds, thyme and crushed garlic together (or just roughly chop all ingredients together).  Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a fry pan. Fry off fennel mix for a minute or until aromatic. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook mixture for another 15 minutes or until veggies are cooked through. Set aside and leave to cool.
In a large bowl mix mince and veggies together. Season with salt and pepper.
Slice piece of thawed puff pastry in half. Take a hand full of the mix and shape in the middle of the puff pastry. Egg wash the edge of the puff pastry and roll. Cut roll in half or to desired size. Egg wash the top of the roll (and sprinkle with extra fennel seeds if desired).
Cook in 200 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until perfectly browned on top.
Tip: They will keep for several months in your freezer, wrap each roll in a sheet of baking paper and store in a freezer bag. 

And for those of you playing along at home, this is based on a true story.. and I am the fair maiden *wink wink*.

Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills
633 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010‎ 
(02) 9699 1011

Bourke Street Bakery, Marrickville
2 Mitchell St, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 9569 3225

Bourke Street Bakery, Alexandria
474 Gardeners Rd, Alexandria NSW 2015‎ 
(02) 8339 100

Monday, May 10, 2010

Basic Boiled Bagel - the best way to re-enter the wonderful world of carbs!

So I have a friend. Well, actually I have a few friends, but this story is about one in particular. Her name is Steff. And she likes to drink rum. I like to call her SteffRum.

So SteffRum enjoys lighting a rocket up under my ass, pushing me into doing things that I wouldn’t normally do. Like donating blood. I hate needles, but 2010 is all about overcoming my fears. And SteffRum helps me with this. Ironically, she was the one who passed out after donating blood, not me, but that’s a whole other story and a whole other post.

Recently she convinced me to give up carbs. Seriously. You might now be contemplating leaving this blog forever, vowing never to return because how on earth can someone who writes about cakes actually give up carbs? And you raise a very valid point. We were allowed one free day a week. But needless to say, we didn't last as long as we first hoped.
Once it all came crashing down, throwing myself back into the world of carbs was fun, fun, fun! Something you may not know about me is I am a reformed vegetarian. Two years ago I was re-entering the world of meat, that was also fun, fun, fun. I still can’t step foot in a butcher, though.
Re-entering meat world, I started with spag and meatballs. Re-entering carb world, I started with bagels.

I love bagels. I love plain bagels. I love blueberry bagels. I love cream cheese on my bagels. I love smoked salmon on my bagel. I could go on and on. MummyB also loves bagels. Reckon that’s where I get it from.
For those who are interested, here is a tiny bit of history about the bagel. They originated in Poland in the 16th century. Any good American sit-com will emphasise the country’s love of bagels, which were first brought to the USA by immigrating Jews. Fascinating, huh.
In essence, bagels are boiled bread. ‘Sounds complex’ you might think. Well, you are wrong. The only time consuming part of the process is waiting for the dough to rise. And even then, you don’t have to do anything, you just leave it be. I think that’s the beauty of baking. With baking you don’t necessarily need to rush, you need to give it time. I couldn’t handle being in a commercial kitchen, people yelling at you to get an order cooked and served quick smart! No thanks, I’ll just stick to cakes.

Basic Boiled Bagels

3 ¼ Cups of bread flour
Pinch of salt
3 grams of yeast
270ml warm water
Tablespoon of sugar
Half tbs olive oil
Extra Olive oil and Sugar 
Bicarb soda
Egg wash

Mix flour, salt and yeast together in one bowl. Stir water, olive oil and sugar together until sugar dissolves.
Mix liquid mixture into flour mixture.

On a clean surface knead dough. Tip – do not over knead your dough. You will end up with tough, chewy bagels. Dough is ready for rising once it is silky smooth, and stretches. If your dough rips, keep kneading. You should also be able to make a thumb indent into the dough without it retracting.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and leave to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, divide into 10 smaller balls of dough, then shape into bagels.

Leave bagels to rise for another 15-20 minutes on some baking papaer.

While bagels are rising for the second time, boil water with a pinch of sugar and 1 ½  tablespoon of bicarb soda (I used a wok).

Place bagels two at a time in the water, and boil for a minute or so. They will almost double in size.

Place boiled bagels on a tray lined with baking paper. Egg wash bagels and then bake in a pre heated oven (180 fan forced) for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chocolate pasta - Reality or fantasy?

The Boy and I recently celebrated seven glorious years together. “But KayB, you are so young and virile to have had such a long relationship” you might be thinking. Well, yeah. I am young, still. Virile? I do like to think I wear the pants in my/our relationship! So, yes. You are correct. But basically, we are high school sweethearts. Cuteness, huh! And check out what he got me!
I frickin’ love Russian dolls, and these are super cute. Hehe, check out the doll on her head full of cheese. Wicked.
Not only did I score some super sweet culinary presents for our anniversary, but it was also a great excuse to have a mini break. Off to Narooma we voyaged! 
Narooma is about 5 hours south of Sydney, and if you’ve ever ventured down the gorgeous south coast of NSW, then you’ll know all about the quaint little country towns that you must stop at along your roadtrip. And the best part about these quaint little towns - the lolly shops! Whoooo! 
Browsing the shelves of the Old Time Lolly Shop Mogo, there is all the usuals that you’d expect. Boiled lollies, chocolate coated honeycomb, licorice bullets, toffee apples, HOLY S**T, IS THAT CHOCOLATE PASTA!!!?? Yup. It is. 
A month later, research for this article completed, and I have discovered that chocolate pasta isn't all that unusual. There are plenty of recipes online for chocolate pasta. Intriguing..
I’m back home and thinking there is a good chance I will have to spread the amazingness that is chocolate pasta. Dinner turned into dessert, equals amazing, right? I enlist the aid of by two besties, Moon and BecFace, to help me pass judgement over this dinner/dessert wonder.
After a quick hot chocolate and the unanimous decision that cold custard would be the best accompaniment, we’re boiling the water. BecFace and I nibble on a dry piece of pasta, far too eager to wait until it’s ready. BecFace is anxious with anticipation as the pasta boils, bouncing around in the kitchen. Moon, however is a little more apprehensive. Perhaps it’s because her wisdom teeth are causing her grief this particular day, or perhaps she somehow already knew what judgement we would be passing down upon the dessert pasta.
Out comes the pasta, on goes the custard and into our mouth’s it goes. 
Hmmm. Ok? Ahh well..
If you shut your eyes, clear everything from your mind and concentrate on dulling all your other senses so your sense of taste is heightened, then yes I guess you could argue that the taste of coco slightly comes through. Otherwise it just tastes like plain old, regular pasta. Perfectly al dente pasta, but just pasta none the less. 
I was disappointed, BecFace was shattered, Moon was.. well, actually she wasn’t too traumatised by the whole experience. 
Even Miss LuckyB spat it out. And hey, I love pasta, I ain’t one to be hating on the pasta. But this seriously just tasted like regular pasta with custard on it. Moon and I actually couldn’t even finish the bowl. On the plus side, I guess you could also argue that we’d just discovered a cheap dessert option for students/dole bludgers. Buy yourself a cheap bag of no frills pasta and whack some custard on it! But at $9.95 for a 250gram bag of chocolate pasta, it just isn't worth it!

Old Time Lolly Shop Mogo
Opposite Fire Station, 
1 Tomakin Rd, Mogo
NSW, 2563
(02) 4474 4121

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The luckiest girl and her delicious, sweet raspberry cheesecake brownie slice.

The luckiest. I’m not just referencing an amazing Ben Fold’s song. Possibly his best piece of music. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then get yourself onto iTunes and do yourself a favour. Better yet, hit me up for a mixed CD. I make rad mixed CDs.
When not making mixed CDs, I can be seen smacking myself around the head, just to make sure I’m not just dreaming. I have an amazing boyfriend, fantastic family and two of the bestest girlfriends you could ever ask for. Can one person be so lucky?
I also have an amazing job. I’ve been very lucky so far in my career - I’ve worked with some amazing people, doing things I’d never have dreamt of. Shockingly, some of these things even involve food!
Here are three of my most favourite career highlights over the last year.. 
Getting a one on one crash course with Sally Wise, author and regular on ABC Local Radio, on everything jams, preserves, chutneys and lemon cordial.

Enjoying a freshly cook lunch thanks to, and along side Poh, host of Poh’s Kitchen and runner up MasterChef Series One.

Briefly meeting Valli Little, Food Director for delicious. magazine, while munching on her breakfast frittata and tortes.
Pretty damn lucky, I reckon. But I don’t take any of it for granted. You never should.
Valli Little has to be one of my most significant influences in the kitchen. As Food Director of delicious. each month she edits/tests/develops/creates all of the recipes and food content in the magazine. And each month when the new edition of delicious. hits shelves I find myself pouring through it for at least a week, highlighting and marking recipes that I’m keen to try. 
But most recently, it was a copy of the brand new delicious ‘mook’ that hit my desk (a ‘mook’ is a hybrid of a magazine and a book), delicious. sweet

Ohhh wow. I’ve given several of Valli’s dessert recipes a good crack in recent times, most notably her raspberry swirl cheesecakes (I can't count the amount of times I’ve cooked these! So easy and so frickin’ tasty!!).

So I start flicking through my new found bible, but there really isn't any point marking which recipes I want to try, because I want to try them all! But its the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie Slice that catches my eye. 

Again, these are super easy to make. And ridiculously good. Seriously, you may never want to eat any other type of slice again because nothing will compare.  The recipe says it will make about 15 brownies, but I managed to get 24 out of mine. And all 24 got sucked down. They were absolutely delightful straight out of the oven, but just as good the next day while picnicking in the national park. MummyB even finished off the last one with a side of warm custard. Yum-frickin-oh!

You can find the recipe on (just one of my 'online' bibles). Check out the recipe here. I highly recommend!