Sunday, 23 September 2012

planning for NZ...

So.. sadly I have been unable to update my blog because the food scene has just been dismal...
after having tried all worthwhile food establishments in Shepparton, I have been left with nothing to blog about! It has been many sad days...

Thankfully I am off to NZ next week... I have been planning touristy things to do... Top of my list isn't the Lord of the Rings tour or checking out the volcanoes or even looking for Sheep!
All I want to do is delve into the delicacies that New Zealand has to offer, I want to indulge in fine Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, delve into fresh seafood and salivate over tender lamb...

This is what I am truly looking forward too...

Photos courtesy of FISH and Clooney...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bellbrae Harvest - a splendour of local produce

Looking for a restaurant the celebrated local harvest, we stumbled upon Bellbrae Harvest (thank goodness for the AGFG).

This restaurant is about 20 minutes inland from Torquay, off the main road where the darkness feels so heavy you can feel it cloaked over you. There are no lights along the dirt road and googlemaps seems to cut out at the critical point, where to turn next... But finally we made it! A little mudbrick house next to a pond, you are welcomed by fairy lights and the sounds of frogs "rib-biting" away.

Bellbrae Harvest opened 3 years ago and has won 2 Golden Plate awards, for their creative use of molecular cuisine intertwined with seasonal, fresh local produce.

The drinks menu encapsulates the local craft breweries and wineries and our host Dave is excellent at describing their flavours to us.

While we are perusing the menu we are served freshly baked bread with olive oil (grown down the road) and in-house dukkah. I am already salivating at the thought of what the rest of the meal will be like.

Ocean trout sashimi bathed in apple vodka with flying wasabi roe, picked ginger, yoghurt spheres and locally grown winter leaves. (I think there is also a modern prawn cracker there too)
The sashimi had fresh and clean texture in contrast to the crunchy prawn cracker.
The wasabi roe and yoghurt sphere had a gentle taste and didn't draw away from the trout.

Portarlington mussles steamed in champagne and cream with leeks and dried red pepper
Perfectly cooked mussels with slightly crunchy leek. 
A rich dish with strong, bitterness from the red pepper and paprika. A dish not for everyone, but still enjoyable.

12 hour cured duck breast, rhubarb and Drysdale fetta puddings
chorizo croquettes and zucchini ribbons

Seriously, FEAST your eyes on this!
The winning dish of the evening. It still makes me salivate and feel so warm and cozy just thinking of this. This dish is well balanced, flavoursome and a truly interesting experience to eat.

The duck breast is tender and juicy, lined with crispy, duck skin. The croquettes are the smoothest, mash potato cased in a crunchy exterior that I have ever had. It was like pure silk in your mouth.

To balance out the strong flavours of the duck and croquettes, they are accompanied by these cute little rhubarb cylinders that are soft and jelly like with the salty cheese inside.

Pan fried local snapper with pearl barley, potato and 
lemon myrtle 'risotto' cuttlefish and freeze dried garlic chips

Again, perfectly seared snapper with soft yet resilient barley. An interesting take on risotto.

Sourcream cheesecake with sous-vide strawberries, black olive sherbet, al dente tapioca
and Anglesea lavender praline

This is a dish that stimulates your senses - the beauty of the crystalline praline that sits above the bed of cheesecake, the gentle smell of lavender with each bite and chewy tapioca is contrasted with the soft cream cheese and sweet and pungent sous-vide strawberries.

Salted caramel creme brûlée, black sesame and cherry sponge and liquified popcorn bubbles

This photo and dish seems so plain and simple.
But in fact it was a winning dessert.
The salted creme brûlée was everything I expected, sweet, salty and creamy!!
But... the popcorn bubbles was light and frothy and truly tasted like hot popcorn
this is followed by the cherry sponge cake with plays with your mind... the texture is kind of like what i would imagine soft popcorn to be like...

Bellbrae Harvest has topped the list of best restaurants I have been too!
Worth the drive in the dark, worth travelling to Torquay and worth every cent!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Great Ocean Road (that takes you to a world full of indulgence)

Visiting the 4 Apostles (nee 12 Apostles) was a beautiful moment, reminding myself that this world still some some natural beauty left. It is incredible what nature can create.
Other incredible wonders of nature, is the celebrated produce of the Great Ocean Road.
The winding roads between Lorne to Apollo Bay to Princetown, I was lucky to take in the fresh air with scents of spring wattle and see a lot of what Australia is proud to produce.
Otway beef, Apostle whey cheese, Apollo Bay fishing co-cop, craft breweries and berry farms...
Places I wish that I had the time to see all, but only lucky to visit a few.

Not far from the Apostles we found Apostle Whey Cheese. A "cheesery" (?) owned and run by a couple and a friend who hand make all of their cheeses. There are dairy cows behind the cheese factory, and I'm guessing they might have a hand in these cheeses! 
We are greeted by a lovely, friendly woman who loves her cheese. We try about 10 different types of cheese from brie to havarti to fetta... all designed by owners and learn it takes upto 15 hours on "Cheese making day" to develop these fine, full bodied beauties. 

We went with the chill and garlic fetta and made it into spaghetti al olio! Beautiful!


Further down the road, we stopped in Colac to find a light bite. We found the Trocadeo cafe.
Not much is open on a Sunday afternoon and we definitely weren't expecting... 
BACLAVA HEAVEN!! There was an entire glass cabinet filled with Balaclava and other arab sweets... maaannn... how can you resist this?

 3 for $5 (bargain!) Pistacchio baclava
Regular baclava

Not sure, but looks good!

Other sweets that filled the glass cabinets... seriously, this is where you score a quality sugar hit!

Oh... and this is what I ordered after snapping out of baclava heaven...

~$8 Cheese and Spinach triangle - served with rice, potato, salad and beans with a mouth watering, olive and vinegar dressing. 
Perfectly seasoned so it literally makes your mouth water as it hits your tongue!

I was expecting it to be processed and oily. But far from my expectations. It was fresh and was made from unprocessed ingredients. Not bad Colac...

stay tuned for part 2...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Strawberries and Cream

What a splendid treat for afternoon tea!

This is a super easy recipe and takes no time at all to make!
The icing isn't too sweet and has a silky texture.
Thanks Tasty Pursuits for your delicious recipe!

Makes ~12 cupcakes.
2 cups (218 grams) cake flour
1 cup (220 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg*, room temperature
Cream Frosting8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
5 strawberries, rinsed dried and quartered
Preheat the oven to 180*C. Place 12 cupcake liners in muffin tins.
In a large bowl, whisk together by hand the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined.
Whisk in the heavy cream, canola oil and vanilla until just combined. Do not overmix the batter; otherwise, the cake will be tough.
Whisk in the egg until just combined.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tins so that they are 2/3 full. Bake for 12 – 13 minutes (7 – 9 minutes for mini cupcakes) until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs (not wet batter) attached to it. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cupcakes from the oven immediately. Overbaking cupcakes makes them dry and tough.
Cool the cupcakes for 30 minutes – 1 hour before frosting.
To make the frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with a paddle attachment on medium until it is fluffy. Beat in the jam, vanilla and sugar until just combined.
Switch to a whisk attachment and reduce the speed to medium-low. Add the heavy cream in a slow steady stream.
Increase the speed to high and whip until the frosting is fluffy and slightly stiff. Do not over whip, otherwise it will look curdled.
Frost the cupcakes and top each one with a quarter of a strawberry.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

yum cha @ home

Living in a country town, the concept of yum cha is quite foreign and if it isn't foreign it will cost you double what you would get in the city.

So I thought.. why not give it a crack at home.

After this experience... well dumpling making is certainly something to do on a rainy day. It does take some time to make, but certainly rewarding. Please note - my recipe is definitely a lot of taste and adjust if need be.

Chicken + prawn dumplings
With my made-up soy/oyster sauce

Chicken and prawn dumplings (makes ~30)

6-8 prawns - shelled and deveined
~300g chicken mince
~20 x sliced water chestnuts - diced
1.5 tblspoon grated ginger
1/2 bunch chopped chives
1 tsp rock sugar - may need to break up with meat hammer
~1 tspoon cornflour
1/2 tspoon White pepper 
1 tsp Salt
2 tbspoon sesame oil
wonton wrappers


  1. Food process the prawns until just blended. Change the blade to the dough mixing blade. 
  2. Add the chicken mince, diced water chestnuts, ginger, chives, sugar and cornflour to the prawns and mix. 
  3. Add salt, pepper, and sesame oil to the mixture. Mix again.This should look like a gloopy, mixture that you could mould into shape. Now you are ready to put the filling in! See Baking powders for details how to fold 
  4. Lightly brush the wonton wrappers each side with corn flour. Cut out a circle using a egg ring/cookie cutter ~10cm in diameter.
  5. Using a teaspoon, scoop a teaspoon of mixture into the centre of the wonton wrapper.
  6. Brush a little water around half the diameter of the wonton wrapper, fold across and pleat each side. 
  7. Bring water to boil and place steaming basket on top.
  8. Once water boiled, lower heat to simmer and place dumplings inside
  9. This will take about 8-10minutes to cook. You will be able to tell when the dumpling skins become translucent.

Soy sauce

1/4cup soy sauce
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tsp rock sugar
2 chillies
1 spring onion
2 tbs canola oil

Heat up oil to medium heat. Add chillies and spring onions.
Lower heat to simmer. Add sugar, soy sauce and oyster sauce and let simmer until caramelises. This will take a few minutes. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012


It's a beautiful, sunny day in Shepparton and today I am going to try out one of the only restaurants, I am yet to try... The Olivehouse

A federation style house, converted into a restaurant that sits on a fifty acres of olive trees.
This place is just outside of Shepparton, so it stands alone, looking majestic and inviting.

I walk into a open dining area that looks out into an olive grove, to my left there is olive-related wares, olive oil infused with a variety of flavours, soaps and local wines. 
For lunch dining, we are seated outside in a separate, smaller area that has french doors that open out onto the balcony. Chinese style lanterns hang from the ceiling and give the room a cozy feel.

Crusty bread, olive oil + balsamic vinegar and olives ~$7pp
This olive oil is gentle in flavour, but the olives pack bighty punch.

 Seared calamari with orange dressing on a bed of rocket $17.50
Perfectly cooked calamari accompanied with zingy and sweet dressing. As this was a main, I would have liked a carb with this just for filling and crunch...  I was watching the other dishes come out tho, they all looked delicious! Might have the crab meat risotto next time!!

Frangelico gateau $9.50
A chocolatey-hazelnut dessert for those who still have lots of room in their tummy!

I suppose this would be considered a modern take on a gateau, there are layers of chocolate-hazelnut cake with almond sponge that is quite bouncy! This dessert involves lots of chewing and crunching, even a little tongue manipulation with the sponge.
The flavours are good, but this dessert is filling and I would have preferred the sponge to a little softer to balance out the hard nuts.

Overall, I was happy with the experience of the Olivehouse and might choose something different next time!! 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Feeding mum

Since moving away from home, my palate has certainly matured from the young girl who thought my Uncle's Chinese restaurant was as interesting as it got! This Sydney trip, I wanted to show mum around, by taking her to some delicious places to eat and showing off my sister's (the true chef in the family) skills in Jamie's kitchen.

The Fox Hole - Erskine Street, Sydney
Wandering around the city streets, like usual my stomach is telling me it's breakfast time, we pop into one of the first places we see. A quaint, little cafe/pub that holds a couple of tables and chairs and looks like this place would be great for after work drinks.
Probably not the best place for breaking the fast, but my stomach wasn't listening to me at that point.

Stove cooked porridge $7
Warm, thick wholesome goodness to start the day with some caramelised brown sugar
Sadly lacking in liquid to solid ratio, that left me wishing I had asked for much more milk!
This was ok, but think I might come back for their dumpling lunch!


Back to Jamie's Italian
The hype for this place remains massive, the line is long and feels like you are lining up to get into a club, or I imagine this is what it could be like in some fine, New York restaurants.

There is a buzz when you walk in, people fill tables everywhere, you can hear the kitchen staff bashing away at pots and pans... the place is just alive.
We are seated by our friendly waitress, who serves us some bread and olive oil. 
I'm sure the mamma's of the village in Italy would be happy with this, the bread has a thin, crunchy crust and soft fluffy inside which slightly softens when you dip into the amazing olive oil. 
Meat plank $13.50 pp
Pecorino and chilli jam, crunchy beetroot + carrot salad, (mouthwatering) buffalo cheese and cured meats (includes WAGYU) with caper berries!

Osso bucco Milanese $26 
Lamb that falls off the bone (like music to our tastebuds), that has been cooked overnight with tomato, saffron and other herbs. Served on a bed of white silky polenta.
This is a beautiful comfort dish, however I feel it lacks a texture dimension.

Tuscan Wild Boar Sausages $22.50 
An interestingly flavoured meat, not quite gamey like venison but more meaty than meat? Sausages were a little on the dry side, but was saved by the moist minty lentils and tomato salsa.

Monday, 2 July 2012


Kasoundi Eggs $14.50 - satisfying my hunger and healthiness cravings

Starrrvation to the maximum, I'm dying for some brekkie...

Another friend has come to visit me from Sydney, where else can I take her to show off some of Melbourne's delights?

Hardware lane is a nice change. This lane reminds me of Chinatown in Sydney, where the restaurants line the street and have spruikers standing out the front, trying to coax you in...
We took the approach of "lets go to the place with most people"... well i guess its not hard to look busy in these lane ways, there isn't very much room to start with.

Anywho, we ended up at Affogato!
A little cafe that seriously looks like you walked into Carol Brady's extended kitchen.
Above the 70's wallpaper, the shelves are decorated with little ornaments, bits and pieces salvaged from St Vinnies and give this place some character!!

Everything on the breakfast menu is delicious looking, you are filled with food envy everywhere you look. The menu services the health conscious (the mid 50's couple next to us were discussing how to lower their cholesterol levels...) and the manly, man looking for a good wholesome feed. Props to the menu for providing decent gluten free options too!

I ordered the Kasoundi eggs - corn and zucchini fritters topped with avocado, perfectly poached eggs and kasoundi relish (mmm mustardy, chilli sweet goodness)... it usually comes with bacon but i thought i would opt for tomato!! Mmm.. hit me with some lycopene (antioxidants!).

I think this place is great, but lacks quality customer service. Our first waitress was bubbly, friendly and helpful. The second waitress gave me a blank look of confusion when I asked for a juice we were waiting for (despite our meals having already come out). Our food then came out after about half an hr, despite others who were seated after us receiving their meals first.

Overall, the food outweighs the customer service so I am definitely going to give this place another go...

I'm interested what others think, maybe the waitress was just hungover and just having one of those saturday mornings...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

lovely treats

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream cheese icing <3
Moist, slightly bitter with that essential, hint of vinegar making a beautiful lovely sweet treat!

I have created their red velvet cupcakes.
I searched the internet for a recipe that was simple and didn't require too much effort. 
Where else than a place where they find baking, joyful?

  • 1 1/4 cups (125 grams) sifted cakeflour (from any Coles)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons (10 grams) regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (150 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream cheese frosting

  • 227 grams cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) icing sugar, sifted (I added probably 1 cup)
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) cold heavy whipping cream(double cream) (35-40% butterfat) (Low fat just won't cut it!!!)

  1. Preheat oven to 175*C and line 12 muffins tins with cupcake liners
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder
  3. In a separate bowl (for electric mixer or mix master) beat the butter until soft (~2mins)
  4. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes)
  5. Add the egg and beat until incorporated
  6. Add vanilla extract
  7. In a measuring jug - fill buttermilk to 1/2 a cup. Add red food colouring and mix through.
  8. In 3 additions, add the flour mixture (from the large bowl) and buttermilk mixture alternately. Start and finish with the flour mixture.
  9. In a small cup, combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter
To get really perfectly even cupcakes, you can use a ice-cream scoop and quickly scoop batter into the muffin tins.

Bake for approximately 18-23 minutes, or until when you poke a toothpick in and pull it out, its clean!!!

Let the cakes cool.

For the icing
Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. 
Add vanilla extract and icing sugar and beat till smooth.
Using a whist, gradually add the double creak and whip until frosting is thick enough to pipe (will hold its shape).
Add more sugar to get consistency and flavour! Place icing into piping bag, using the crown-like attachment nozzle thing (clearly i know my stuff.. pfft) and pipe away! Its the prettiest icing and makes an easy recipe look fancy!!!

Enjoy! <3 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Lemongrass beef stir fry

Thai style lemongrass beef stir fry - Serves 4
Fragrant and light, with hints of kaffir lime
Best served with Jasmine rice and crisp iceberg lettuce

Preparation time 15-20 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes

~10cm lemongrass, finely chopped
~2cm x 1 cm ginger - finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic crushed
2 birds eye chillies (Adjust to taste)
4-6 kaffir lime leaves - chopped roughly
1/2 juice from lime
Zest from 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce 
(If you think you were a little overzealous with the fish sauce, you can save it with a bit of water to dilute)
1/2 cube palm sugar, grated
~1-2 tablespoons canola oil to coat the beef and marinate
400g beef stir fry strips/scotch fillet 
Salt and pepper

  1. Chop up lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chillies and kaffir lime leaves - add to bowl. 
  2. Add beef and mix through with the lime juice, zest, oil, and fish sauce. If you think you were a little overzealous with the fish sauce, add some water to dilute. Grate some palm sugar over the top.
  3. Set aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature
  4. To achieve that chargrilled flavour - cook on non-stick fry pan with no oil. Line beef across pan, one layer and turn beef as cooks and achieves that crispy, dark colour. You may need to do batches, depending on the size of your pan.
To add some crunch - you can get some iceberg lettuce leaves and wrap the rice or rice vermicelli and beef in a roll - like a rice paper roll! :)

Alternatively you can chop up the lettuce and serve salad like - with rice vermicelli instead of rice.

Enjoy x

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Noble Monks

Homemade toasted granola with rhubarb compote and poached pears
Bargain $7! I think it was missing the greek style yoghurt which would have definitely hit the spot!
Coffee is amazing! But of course it would be, pretty sure its supplied by the best in town!!

In regional country towns you can be lucky to get just a good Thai restaurant.
Shepparton is lucky to to boast a few good cafes and restaurants, but sadly the variety is limited.
So when something new comes to town, we're on it like bees to honey.

Noble Monks is locally owned and brings a Melbourne-like vibe to town.
Within the last week I have had the luxury of being able to go for brunch, dinner and drinks.
The walls are bare, red brick with a bike, moose head and a couple of posters that line the walls.
The ceilings are high, and there is a tree in the centre of one of the tables. (yes thats right, a real, live tree, the concept is good, but can be impractical when trying to talk across the table).
Apart from the bar stools and benches, there are some comfy recliners to chill out for Friday night drinks and black leather couches to sit around and share finger food.
Service is pub style, order at the bar kinda thing. Meals are fairly cheap, around the $15-25 mark and a fairly good range of beer, wine and spirits.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the food. Finally portion sizes that are appropriate.
You don't feel overfull, just right.
Flavours are good and food is cooked just right.
I think this place is still finding its niche, "Am I a bar, Am I a tapas bar, Am I for brunch..."

Definitely worth the visit and worth waiting to find out what type of establishment this place finds itself.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Dead Man Espresso

Finally... the weekend has arrived and this girl needs to debrief, unwind and just forget the week just gone. What better way to start the day with the most important and favourite meal of the day!
Time to meet...
A little cafe in the back streets of South Melbourne (and i think potentially around the corner from an up class brothel? But that story is for another time).
This place is packed out, inside, outside and on the street. (So definitely book!)
The verandah has bar stools and a couple of little stainless steel tables, under scrumptiously warm heaters!
The coffee is a mixture of african blends and looks like it is changed regularly.

Potato rosti with poached egg, avocado and smoked salmon ~$17
A twist on your brekkie hash brown, this fried baby has got the goodness of potato and i think some chives too! The drizzle of pesto just ties it all together! 
It was the perfect size to fill me up and satisfied!

Pretty soy cap - so creamy and velvety. What I wish all cappuccino's should be...

Definitely worth coming back at lunch, for a beer and some more rustic food!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tea rooms to alley ways to Taiwanese...

Hopetoun Tea Room - Where ladies do tea in absolute pleasure and indulgence.
You can find this gem in the Block Arcade on Collins street.
I was just walking past and stopped, mesmerised in baked good beauty. 
The variety of baked foods felt like you were looking into Willy Wonka's cousin's baked good factory!
The line was too long, but I think I will definitely be looking to lunch here with the ladies!

Bourke Street laneway 
 In Sydney we would call this an 'alleyway' where you would find the homeless, drug dealers or those looking for some lovin'
Melbourne on the other hand actually utilise these spaces for the good of man kind!

Cute little pictures around the place - very japanese style
Some examples "Paul Frank... is not your friend"
"Make love, not babies"

Crispy chicken box!!! (ok you almost need to say this in a Japanese accent.. it's sooo good)
Rice is alright, your typical fried rice. But hello crispy chicken (hit me with the asian accent!)
This stuff is delicious! I taste chinese 5 spice, garlic, perhaps coriander with corn flour, pepper and deep fried!! Man the Colonel has got some competition.

The rest of the menu seems fairly average, a good mix of Chinese and Japanese style dishes, price is moderate $8-10 for a main meal.