Date Archives July 2011

The Wheels on the bus go round and round…


It’s that time of the year again. Sean’s birthday is coming up, and I usually start trying out possible cake ideas in the June/July region. This year’s idea was inspired by Sean’s obsession with the large, individually-packed Wagon Wheels that he gets from work.

The result? A Wagon Wheel cake!

Very much an assembly cake, the elements of this cake can be made the day before – in fact, I recommend it – and assembled on the day.

Wagon Wheel Cake

Butter cake:
250g softened butter
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1.5 cups sifted plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 160 (fan forced). Cream the butter and sugar till the sugar has dissolved, and add the eggs, one and a time, until all the eggs have been incorporated. Fold in the flour, baking soda and baking powder until all the flour has been mixed into the batter, but do not over mix. Split the mixture amongst two circular cake tins and bake till the tops are golden brown and springy to the touch (about 20-25 min). Leave to cool in tins.

Marshmallow filling:

3 tbsp powdered gelatin
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 reliable thermometer

Add the gelatin to the bottom of your mixing bowl and let soak with 3 tbsp water. In a pot, add the sugar and 1 cup of water and bring to the boil. You want to bring this to the ‘soft-ball’ stage, which is about 118C/235F. Be careful, sugar syrups can get VERY HOT and you can injure yourself.

Once the sugar gets to the correct temperature, turn on your electric beaters on the gelatin and slowly, SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup onto the gelatin.


The marshmallow mixture will start to froth, and it will begin to resemble a meringue. Add the vanilla. As the mixture cools, it will start to thicken, and the idea is to whip it till you get hard peaks.

Lightly oil and dust (with icing mixture – pure icing sugar isn’t dry enough, you do need some of the cornflour in icing mixture) the same cake tins that you baked your cake in.


Add just enough marshmallow mixture to fill about half the tin. Leave to set for a couple of hours (depending on the humidity of where you’re at) or overnight.

You will almost certainly have more than enough mixture, and you can go ahead and experiment and add different flavours and colours to the remainder of the mixture and set it in different tins!


You can use any good jam that you like, or you can make your own. For this project, I used some lovely Anathoth Jam.


First, grab a layer of cooled cake.


Then, top with the set marshmallow and a generous dollop of jam.


Then top with the second layer of cake.


100g thickened cream
175g dark chocolate buttons

Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Take the cream off the heat, and pour in the chocolate buttons. Stir well.


Keep stirring as the ganache cools. When it reaches spreadable consistency, cover the cake in ganache!


And voila! A wagon wheel cake that is both yummy and appeals to large and small kids alike. I cut some ‘bite marks’ out of the cake with a spoon because otherwise it just looks like a chocolate cake. =)

Oh, and a note about working with chocolate.


It gets absolutely everywhere. =)

From Spiders to Water Lilies


Ooh look what I got in the mail!! =)

I was very excited to get send a copy of From Spiders to Water Lilies, a collection of Cambodian recipes of food that’s featured in Romdeng, a restaurant that is a project of Friends International, and that is run by children who were picked up off the street.

First of all, let me say that I would have bought this beautifully printed book even if I wasn’t sent it because I believe in the cause. I believe that food is not just nourishment for the body, but also nourishment for the soul, and when children are placed in unfortunate circumstances, food can definitely be used as a tool to help them reach for whatever future they would like to reach for.

Secondly, I can’t believe just how yummy the food is!!!! I’ve never been to Cambodia, and I knew that because of the geographical proximity, there will be certain elements that are similar to many South East Asian food. But what I didn’t realise was that – even though in some recipes there are elements of sour, salty, sweet – the combination is just so new and absolutely delicious!

And so, I’m very happy to share with you…


Spicy Mushroom Dip:
Recipe taken from From Spiders to Water Lilies: Creative Cambodian Cooking with Friends, Pg 28.

1 tsp Fish Sauce
2 tbsp Sunflower Oil
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp *Chilli Paste
80g Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
1.5 tsp Palm Sugar
1 tbsp **Tamarind Paste
3 tbsp stock
Salt to taste
Thai basil leaves, thinly slices, for garnish

Wash the mushrooms under cold water then soak for 20 min in hot water. Discard stems then finely chop the remainder. Heat oil and stir fry garlic till fragrant. Add chilli paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, mushrooms and tamarind paste. Fry for 5 min and season with salt. Place in a bowl, top with basil leaves and serve with vegetables and bread.

*There is a recipe for chilli paste in the book, but if you don’t have the time (or are afraid that your clothes and house is going to smell like chilli for a while) then I think that sambal (the fried kind, not the fresh kind) is a good and convenient substitute.

**I used a mixture of bottled Tamarind paste and lime juice.


I found the recipe relatively easy to do. I made my own chilli paste, but ran into a few issues – I forgot to deseed the chillies, and for some reason, my chillies simply refused to rehydrate to the level that I needed. As a result, the dip didn’t seem as fiery red as was shown in the picture in the book, but it was still delish!

I toasted some multi-grain wholemeal bread and Sean practically scoffed the whole lot. And that is coming from a person who does not like mushrooms. At all. I very happily had it for lunch the next day, and the guys at the office seemed to like it too.

In all, I adore the book. I love that it’s for a good cause – the proceeds of the book goes back into Friends-International projects – and it is beautifully photographed and printed. The recipes are nicely broken down, and most of them are relatively quick. Yes, there are quite a few ingredients that are foreign or hard to find, but the book has a great section both in the front and the back of the book that tell you about substitutions that you can use.

Definitely a book that makes me want to go to Cambodia and try the food first hand.

Tammi of Insatiable Munchies was given this book by the lovely people at Beyond the Square Communication.

Comfort Eating 2


As some of you may know, I’ve been a little bit under the weather recently. And in those moments where I think the flu is going to get the better of me, I turn to some comfort eating!

For me, anyway, the best foods to have when I’m sick are semi-solids. I get the works in terms of the flu – burning lungs, solidly stuffed nose, pounding headaches – and eating (although always a priority) is not the most attractive thing.

So here is how I make my congee – a simple recipe that even the partner (who may not be the best in the kitchen!) can make.

Congee recipe

Cooking time: 30 min (roughly)
1/2 Cup Raw Rice (long or short grain is fine. If you have broken rice, it’s better!)
Water (1L minimum)
1 tsp Sesame seed oil (optional)

Warm the sesame seed oil in a saucepan over medium heat (make sure that it’s big enough to accommodate the porridge!) and add the rice in. Once it’s fragrant and the rice starts to fry a little, start adding about 2 cups of the water.

Once the water starts boiling, stir the rice occasionally. For the rice to get to rice porridge stage, it first has to go through cooked-rice stage.

Once the rice grains have puffed up, add more water and reduce the heat to low. Simmer and stir occasionally till the porridge has become the consistency of oats.

You can have it a little more watery or a little thicker if you’d like, and it’s easy to add water to thin it out or cook it a little longer to thicken it.

And as with any sort of plain porridge, condiments are usually in order!

The first jar that I reach for is usually Olive Vegetables (橄榄菜).


These salty black strands are a source of addiction for me. It has the common savoury taste of olives, and is quite oily. Use sparingly, as this is – as most rice porridge condiments are – incredibly salty. I would suggest, if you were going to get a bottle to try, trying a small amount on a teaspoon before you unload a whole lot into your bowl.

I also like Mushroom and Meat Sauce 香菇肉酱


Thick pieces of fatty-ish pork and mushroom sit in a slightly gelatinous chilli sauce. More people who haven’t grown up with congee tend to take to this particular condiment more easily than the Olive Vegetables. It is still on the salty side, and you can warm it before eating, if you’d like.

The two that I’ve mentioned are of course not the only condiments out there for congee, but it’s definitely the two that I always have around in the house. Some others include Salted Duck Egg with its luminescent yolk, and Fish with Salted Black Beans. These condiments are served like the Korean Banchan – many small plates dotting the table – and the more variety the better!

I hope that this helps widen the types of comfort food you can have when you’re sick (or not! I’d have congee any day, but more so when I’m sick)- I know that this often provides me with warmth and something really easy to eat.

Mappen, Sydney


“Heaven…I’m in Heaven…And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…”
Berlin, I. (1935) Cheek to Cheek

I do believe that I have found noodle heaven for foodies on a budget! I know I’m a little (or a lot!) late to the scene, but Mappen is an absolute dream come true in its simplicity.

The concept is simple. Decide what main you’d like to have, order, add sides (or not!) and pay. It’s so simple it’s almost poetic in my book.


The place is always busy, and gives a feel of a cramped, bustling noodle bar, but I assure you that efficiency beats so strongly at the heart of it that you won’t be put out. They feed you with such conveyor belt-type flow that it feels like the perfect place for a eat-and-run lunch.

Signs on every table encourage you not to grab tables without food, but that almost-counter-intuitive move – for what if I should have a tray full of food and no seat? – near-guarantees you a seat when you do have your food.


Since people only sit when their order is ready, their time with the table starts immediately, eradicating the “dawdle while deciding” crowds that seem to happen otherwise. The result, you get your food, you get fed, you leave.


And the food? Amazing. Laura and I had an early lunch there earlier this week.


I had a hot Ontama Bukkake – don’t snigger! I know you people 😉 – with Udon, and Laura had the Soba version.


It’s basically noodles in soup. It’s that simple. We had a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the top, and a creamy, dreamy soft boiled egg.


Look at all that eggy goodness. /drools

The savoury noodles had the citrusy zing of lemon threaded through the strands, and oozy yolk giving them a bright orange coating.


And those sides?

Well I got a Prawn Tempura.


No surprises, no fireworks, just what you would expect – crispy batter, and prawn that isn’t overcooked. It’s lunch that makes you feel good after – not weighed down, not still wanting – and for me anyway, brightens my day.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the price have I? My Ontama Bukkake was a regular size and was $4.90! Friggin’ $4.90 lunch IN THE CITY! That’s partially what gets me so excited about the place. Are the portions overflowing? No. But they are good value – I chose the Prawn Tempura ($2.50) cause I was greedy, but I could very well do without. Sean’s favourite – Sweet Potato Tempura – is only $0.80, and while I’ve considered making it at home, I think it’s well worth the price if you are in the city and need some hot food.

Mappen is somewhere that consistently gives me a good, cheap option (I’m not a fan of fast food) smack in the middle of the city. One downside though, it’s not exactly a great source of your 5-fruit-and-veg, since the veggie options are either small or battered and fried. I just bring fruit with me to munch on during the day, and have that while walking to my next destination.

We ate at:

11/537-551 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 5525

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Tale of Two Piggies…


…Four, actually, but somehow that didn’t sound as nice.

After the incident the last time we went for Laura’s birthday, Chef’s Gallery very kindly invited us back for dinner. There was much discussion about whether to accept the invitation back and whether to write about it, but in the end I thought that it was really great that they read blogs and that they were nice enough to try and work it out when something went wrong.

And for that, I commend them.

We tried some other food this time – we love variety – and there were some favourites that we had to order again.


The hot drinks came highly recommended, and given that it was a cold, wet, winter night, we tried some. Laura and Mel had the Chrysanthemum, Rose Bulbs and Goji Berry Tea, and I had the Coca-cola with Preserved Mandarin Peel. The Chrysanthemum tea was well-received, with absolutely no complaints. The Cola – and I know that many of you are thinking, “WARM COLA?! You’ve lost your mind!” – was actually not bad at all. Just imagine Orange flavoured cola (like vanilla cola or cherry cola, just citrus-y), but warm. It’s a little difficult to visualize in its entirety, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I quite liked it, but then again I’ve to warn you that I’m a fan of flat soft drinks, so be warned that I’m biased that way.

Clockwise from top left: Wok Fried Water Spinach with Chilli Prawn Paste, Fluffy Chinese Roti with Pork Floss, Barrel Squids with Glass Noodles, Wok fried Spinach Noodles with Seafood and Prawn Roe .

We had ordered heaps of food, so the Wok Fried Water Spinach with Chilli Prawn Paste was kinda the token veggie “healthy” dish. For me, anyway. It was not bad as far as veggie goes – it’s a version of the Sambal Kang Kong that we have in Singapore (a must try if you visit), except with less chilli.

The Fluffy Chinese Roti with Pork Floss was very much Prata, and I found the addition of Pork Floss quite interesting. For those of you haven’t tried Pork Floss, you need to. It looks like cotton wool, but I assure you that it’s much more tasty. It’s pork that has been seasoned and dried, and the sweet threads melt in the mouth. The closest way I can describe it is dehydrated pulled pork. Not the best description, but there you go. The Roti was nice but not the best I’ve had, but the Pork Floss was the “ooh, that sounds nice” twist to it.

We thought that since the poor noodle chefs were standing in the giant fish tank, their every move scruntinized by the hungry public, we should order a noodle dish. And so we had the Wok fried Spinach Noodles with Seafood and Prawn Roe. Unfortunately this dish didn’t do very much for us, the seafood was nicely cooked, but somehow it felt like there was something missing in the noodles. For me, the individual elements were quite nice, but when had together, felt like they didn’t quite gel. Perhaps we should have tried a different noodle dish?

The Barrel Squids with Glass Noodles fared much better, with the soft squid and savoury noodles with just enough bite. It was simple and tasty, and wasn’t devilishly naughty like some of the others that we had ordered.

From left: Fried Eggplant with Olive Vegetables, Fried Eggplant with Tangy Minced Pork Sauce

Like this! Both Fried Eggplant with Olive Vegetables and the Fried Eggplant with Tangy Minced Pork Sauce were divine. The eggplants were firm and not mushy (and not that greasy, for that matter), and were easily the favourites of the night. The dish with the olive vegetables was the lighter of the two (and a good vegetarian option), but I felt the one with the minced pork sauce was the tastier. There was a really addictive quality about it, and something I’d label a must-try if you went.


The Wok Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork was ordered again, but this time with pancakes! The green beans are much the same, but I preferred it with the pancakes, which came in a little steamer basket. I felt that by contrast, the soft pancakes brought out a lot more texture in the green beans, and carried the minced pork better.

And who can forget dessert?

From left: Green tea ice cream with Red Bean Paste and Lightly Fried Sweet Potato Balls, Mango Ice Cream served with Mango Puree and Lightly Fried Sweet Potato Balls

Although it was winter, we ordered two ice creams – Green tea ice cream with Red Bean Paste and Lightly Fried Sweet Potato Balls and Mango Ice Cream served with Mango Puree and Lightly Fried Sweet Potato Balls – and they were a nice end to the meal. The green tea ice cream was creamy and smooth, and the mango ice cream with light and refreshing. The Sweet Potato Balls were, well, interesting. I’m not quite sure why they were there, but I liked them on their own. I liked sweet potato in general, so it was nice.

Oh, and those piggies?


Absolutely exploded from all the food that was consumed! There were some witnesses, but all were too traumatized to come forward. We’ve got someone one the case though:



Note: Insatiable Munchies and other food bloggers mentioned in this post dined as guests of Chef’s Gallery.

We ate at:
Chef’s Gallery
12/501 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 8877

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