Date Archives October 2013

Parramatta Lanes


I’ve finally popped my Parramatta Lanes cherry!!! After missing the previous years because, well, life got in the way, I finally managed to make some time to go! My mission was to stuff my face with good food, and I wasn’t disappointed!

There were 8 stops in total, hidden in Parramatta’s little laneways – hence the name. 

The first stop was The Piazza – Town Hall Lane. A fantastically whimsical tram greeted me the moment I entered the laneway, looking like it came straight out of Alice in Wonderland.


La’Toosh is an old tram converted into a food tram – with a decked out kitchen and all that – and travel around much like food trucks to festivals and food events. They serve a range of coffee, teas and drinks, as well as sweet and savoury crepes.

Smoked Salmon and Spinach Crepe $15

The crepes range from $10-$15, and because I went there so early, the kitchen wasn’t quite ready and there was a bit of a wait.  The staff were amazingly nice, and the coffee was excellent. The is great for a light meal, and it was hot and fresh.

But La’Toosh wasn’t the only one that was in the Town Hall Lane. There was also Grasshopper, which was a bar served built with milk crates. Super cute!


Stop #2 was the UNE Future campus, where Veggie Patch Van was conveniently parked.


Haloumi Burger, $10

The Haloumi Burger was tasty, with a generous amount of haloumi. The onion jam was a touch jarring for me, personally, but otherwise it was an enjoyable burger.

But the next sandwich for me, was the most memorable of the night.


Stop #3 was at the Craft and Cider Garden at Erby Place. Cantina Mobil made an appearance but after seeing people all atwitter about Smokey O’s BBQ I decided to go with that.

If you are a fan of slow cooked meats and go nuts over pulled pork, let me tell you that you ain’t tried nothin’ till you’ve had Smokey O”s pulled beef. There is almost all the dark flavour of beef jerky, but with the moistness of the slow cooked beef. IT WAS PHENOMENAL. I actually felt like getting a whole container of that beef and calling it a day. And accented with pickles and with the heft of the bun? It was transcendent. LOVED IT.

I also had it with some 69 Summer Ale from the Riverside Brewing company.  It was light and fruity, and a fantastic accompaniment to the pulled beef.

I then moved on to the aptly named Laksa Lounge, in the Roxy Carpark. With appearances by Temasek, Spice and Lan Lans Shanghai Dumpling, this was a stop I should have made earlier on in the evening. I was absolutely stuffed by the time I got there, and only ended up ordering a Pad Thai and a Thai Iced Tea from Spice.


The pad thai was nice, but at that point of fullness, the Thai Iced Tea really hit the spot for me. If you haven’t already had it, Thai Iced Teas has an extremely strong tea base that can be sweetened with condensed milk. It usually is extremely sweet to start out with, and on this particular evening, the lady at the stand actually offered to add more condensed milk to my drink. It was like Thai Iced Milk Tea concentrate and was definitely a more a dessert item than a drink for me.

With my appetite satiated and my tummy full, I wondered back to the Connection Arcade, where I saw a fantastic take on container gardening.


Rachel from Vintaged Garden upcycles everything from Wine Boxes to wine glasses. Everything can be a little garden, and they have very smartly used the wine corks for little signs for the plants!


I really loved the way Parramatta Lanes was really organized for us to explore the hidden alleyways of Parramatta. Overnight, Parramatta seemed to be transformed into our own little version of Diagon Alley, with magical hidden worlds spread throughout Parramatta CBD.

All we need now is the floo network!

Pineapple, Lime and Chilli Sorbet

Like any person with a new toy, I’m completely obsessed with different flavours of sorbets/ice creams/frozen treats right now. Anything becomes and inspiration, and everyone knows I love trying new things. Well, a long time ago I came across a recipe for Lime and Chilli Sorbet, and because limes can be expensive all by their lonesome, I thought to finish that tropical theme and use pineapple juice as well.

Read More

Night Noodle Markets


It’s that time of the year again! SMH’s Good Food Month has rolled around again, and the whole of October is filled with amazing food from all around the world. The Night Noodle Markets are a must-visit for me every year, which gives me my need-for-variety fix in one place.

This year there was an appearance of the Ramen Burger (pictured above) from On Ramen. The Ramen Burger – brainchild of Keizo Shimamoto – features a patty (beef, pork rib or tofu) sandwiched between two “buns” of crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside Ramen.

At about $12.50 a pop, the Ramen Burger seems to be coasting more on its reputation than what you get for it. It’s tasty and all, but TINY, and therefore, overpriced. Worth a try though, just so you can see what everyone is on about.

I then moved on to Jackie M’s stall, where you can get all the Southeast Asian delights for your Asian food fix.


The Otak Otak, $4.50, is soft and moreish, and I guarantee that you’ll want more than one. Flavoured fish paste is barbecued in banana leaves, imparting an earthy fragrance that you can’t get any other way.


Jackie M herself was on the front lines of her stall, braving the blazing heat and smoking woks to bring us our food. And if you don’t have the highest respect for her already after knowing that, then you should read this
Infuzions was another stall that stood out to me – amongst the sea if dumplings and pad thai (some good, some bad), it was nice to see someone with a menu that wanted to try something different. I had the Apple Somtum with squid, and it was actually a really cool dish. 
Somtum is one of my favourite salads – involving green papaya, chillies, garlic and all those fabulous Thai flavours – and this apple version carried all of the sweetness with none of the heat. Which is good if you’re not a chilli sadist like I am. The calamari was hot and fresh, which I give them props for, and was otherwise a nice salad to finish the day off with. 


Pop down to the Night Noodle Markets while you still can – it’s running every evening at Hyde Park till Saturday night. 

SPAM, aka shoulder pork and ham


Okay. I admit it. I really like SPAM. Short for Shoulder Pork and Ham, SPAM was introduced to me as ‘luncheon meat’. I fondly remember having fried, sliced luncheon meat on rice, with stir fried vegetables and sambal chilli on the side. It was a typical weekday after-school lunch that was amazingly comforting.

So when my challenge theme for this month was “Guilty Pleasures: Recipes Inspired By Cheez Whiz, Spam, Twinkies and Their Delicious Cousins”, I knew that I wanted to make another comforting meal, that’s maybe just a tad less guilty than my fond memories of SPAM.

Let’s have a look at their two components: Shoulder pork, and then ham. At about $5/kg, shoulder pork is one of the cheaper cuts of meat, with plenty of connective tissue running through it. Now usually, connective tissue means that this is a tougher cut of meat – hence the lower price. But when cooked low and slow, that connective tissue  (collagen) breaks down, and moistens every fibre of meat, making it juicy, tender, and absolutely heavenly.

What about the ham bit? Well, rather than using two cuts of meat, I was more inspired by my favourite ham glazes, which usually have maple and honey through it. Maybe a barbecue sauce with maple and honey?


Pulled Pork Shoulder with Crackling Chips, Maple and Honey Barbecue Sauce, and Slaw

Pulled Pork with Crackling

2kg whole shoulder of pork, skin on (bone in, if possible. My butcher only had deboned cuts)
1L Apple juice
50ml Apple cider
Fennel Seeds
Cumin Seeds
Dried Chilli
Ground Ginger
Whole head of garlic cloves, roughly crushed but unpeeled

Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the spices – I just included what I used, feel free to use whatever you want – in a mortar and pestle with salt and pepper and grind to a powder. Score the rind of the pork with a sharp knife, careful not to cut through to the meat. Rub the rind generously with salt, rubbing into the scores. Turn the shoulder over and pat the ground spices into the meat.

Place the meat into a roasting tray – try not to use one that’s too big or you’ll waste apple juice later on – and put into the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until you see the crackling start to happen. Then take the tray out, and spoon out most of the fat. Place the roughly crushed garlic cloves into the bottom of the tray and fill it up halfway with apple juice. Cover it with foil, leaving a tiny corner open for steam to release, and place back into the oven. Turn the oven down to 160C, and roast for about 4 hours, checking every 2 hours or so to make sure that there’s enough liquid.

The pork is done when you can pull apart the meat easily with a fork.


At this time I remove the pork to rest, remove the rind, and place it back into a 180C oven over a rack on a flat tray to finish doing its thang.

And the juices from the bottom of the tray? Well I save about a cup of it for the sauce, and reserve the rest to keep the meat sitting moist after I’ve pulled the shoulder apart.

Maple and Honey Barbecue Sauce

500ml passata
250ml juices reserved from pulled pork
Roasted garlic from the pork shoulder
1 heaped tbsp of tomato paste
1 heaped tbsp of dijon mustard
3 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
100ml maple syrup
50g honey. I used a hot habenero honey that I was very generously given from Honeycomb Valley

Squeeze out the roasted garlic into the bottom of the saucepan, and add the rest of the ingredients. I like my barbecue sauce on the sweet side, but if you don’t, simply add less maple syrup. Cook down the sauce till the desired thickness, and take it off the stove.

Cabbage Slaw

Apple Cider Vinegar
Wholegrain mustard
Olive oil

Shred the cabbage, and finely chop the parsley. Season and mix in with the other ingredients to dress.


To finish, tear apart the shoulder by pulling at it with two forks, then place into a bowl and pour over the juices from the pan to keep it moist. Serve with buns, sauce, slaw, and break up the crackling into ‘chips’ – I simply cracked it along the score lines. 
I know it’s not exactly the SPAM of my childhood, but it’s my take on the comforts of days gone by. How about you? What’s your guilty pleasure? 

Ginger and Shallot, Eastwood


Sometimes you want a change. Sometimes you want something new. And sometimes, you want familiar, comforting food in a new environment.

And that’s how we ended up at Ginger & Shallots. Every time I passed by this bustling, always-busy restaurant, I see fresh hot food getting brought out to tables of happy families and friends. Safe choice right?

More than safe, it turns out. The food was indeed hot, fresh, and incredibly tasty.

Salt and Pepper Squid, $17.90

After reading a few reviews, I ordered the salt and pepper squid as a base comparison. It was fresh and crispy, but just very slightly under salted when you compare it to places like golden century.

What was really nice though, was the Soft Shell Crab Vermicelli with X.O. Sauce.


Soft shell crab, $24.90

When I first saw this dish, I thought that it would be overpriced and not as satisfying. Boy, was I wrong. The portion is massive, and would have been more than enough for the both of us for lunch, without the salt and pepper squid. It was flavourful, crispy and well seasoned. I love the springy texture of the stir fried vermicelli, and it brought back old food memories in all the best ways.


Service-wise, the staff can get bowled over by the sheer amount of customers, but they are quite efficient once you get their attention, and there’s a very no-nonsense attitude to it. It was a really enjoyable lunch, and their specials look worth trying out the next time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We ate at:
Ginger and Shallots Chinese Cuisine
02 9874 8066
Shop 25/1 Lakeside Rd Eastwood, NSW

Ginger&Shallots Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

View Larger Map

Will you waste food to prove a point?

I am an absolute advocate of reducing food waste. Not only is it bad for the wallet – you wouldn’t throw money into the bin would you? – I also find it incredibly disrespectful of people’s hard work in producing the food for you to buy.

But what happens when you don’t believe in the food producer?

I went to SMH’s Pyrmont Growers Markets and bought tickets to the breakfast talk by Matthew Evans.

As part of the admission, I got given a bag of goodies from the sponsors of the event. As you know, I absolutely getting new things to try, but then I saw Barilla products in the bag.

The CEO of Barilla, Guido Barilla, recently made some comments on Italian radio about how he didn’t support gay couples adopting, and how he wouldn’t use gay families in Barilla marketing because they aren’t a “sacred family”.


This then led to huge international furore and a boycott fuelled by outrage. I stopped buying Barilla, but the reactions of others were more extreme, and I saw many posted pictures of Barilla products in the bin.

Barilla has since apologised, but it almost seems like a case of too little too late. I still have an aversion to buying their products, and I’m sure it’s pretty obvious to them what a PR nightmare they’ve created. The only thing that would really redeem them in my eyes is the resignation of the CEO, but that’s another story for another day.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a quandary: do I throw away perfectly useable product that was given to me, just to prove a point? I very nearly did: I was quite blinded by the instant distaste the moment I saw their products in the bag. Then I stopped. I feel equally strongly about not wasting food, and I didn’t shell out my money buying their products, but I still refuse to have that in my kitchen.

So what to do?

I finally decided to donate them to Oz Harvest. They were there, and thankfully accepting food donations, so I dropped it off. I think that taking a stand is a luxury that thankfully I can afford, but if my kids hungry and I was given Barilla products, I’d be hard pressed to say no. So while I’ll not be using it, I’d rather help feed the hungry than to put it to waste.

What would you have done in this situation?

My Chocolate Shoppe, Kiama


I think high tea has somehow fallen out of popularity. I wonder why, because I’ve had fond memories of high tea from when I was a kid. My parents would bring me to high tea at a hotel, where everything was shiny and dainty and…mini! As a kid, I thought that high tea was about kids, because everything seemed to be kid sized – itty bitty cucumber sandwiches anyone? – but now I know better.

High tea – in my opinion – isn’t so much about the food, it’s about the experience. It’s about the dainty. It’s about the sipping tea and lunching with your friends.

My Chocolate Shoppe is one of the many shops along the main street of Terralong. It’s quaint exterior suggested a much more homely feel than the big chocolate shop boys like Max Brenner and San Churros, and the staff were warm and friendly. When I ordered the High Tea, $22, the staff seemed a little confused, so I guess it might not be often ordered, but it was brought out promptly, with minimal fuss, which restored my faith.


While I appreciated that it was a good selection of what this little cafe had to offer, somehow I expected a little bit more from it. The savoury selection was average at best – the sandwiches and tarts were a touch dry – and the chocolates were incredibly rich.


Which made them good chocolates, but also made them difficult to finish without something between to cleanse the palette.

But the piece the resistance…


This place has got some rockin’ scones. Soft and crumbly, and smothered in clotted cream and jam. Sometimes scones do leave you with a dry feeling rolling around in your mouth, but this had a fantastic bite and did not leave a chalky aftertaste at all!

If anything else, I would suggest just ordering the scones. From what I understand, the scones are made fresh daily, and at $3.50 a pop, I think it’s well worth the visit.

We ate at:

My Chocolate Shoppe
106 Terralong St
Kiama NSW 2533

View Larger Map

What kind of low life steals plants?

photo 1-1

Some people have pets, I have plants. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to be able to feed my family and friends not only a meal I’ve cooked from scratch, but a meal made with ingredients that I’ve nurtured from a little seed.

So imagine my shock and horror to wake up and discover that in the dead of the night, my plants have been stolen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Unlike my mother, I’m not the most natural gardener around. I tend to forget – often – to tend to them, sometimes finding them on the edge of peril before I remember to water them. I think it’s more to do with me spreading them at all available places of sun around the apartment, so much so that I forget where they actually are at home. But anyway.

So last year – near the end of summer – I received a basil growing kit as a present. It would be my first time germinating seeds, and I eagerly checked the little pot every day until I saw new sprouts poking shyly through the earth. Much like this.

photo 1

This gave me so much joy that I started planting chilli as well – from seed – in a soup mug. Tacky, I know, but I thought it was cute. Both the plants looked a bit malnourished to start off with – it was getting cold and they were going into hibernation.

But I persevered. They were lovingly kept alive through winter, and kept warm where I could. At one point I even kept a place for them on our heated clothes airer when we had it out. Then the heat hit and my plants restarted, with the basil clearly outgrowing the pot that I had it in. I had no balcony, so I had to find a way to move them outside to get some fresh air and sun. That, and my windowsill was getting really crowded with all the seedlings I managed to grow.

plants layout

A little research online turned me on to milk crate gardening, and a quick ask-around from shopkeepers near my apartment got me a couple of milk crates to grow my plants in. (By the way, shopkeepers tend to be quite happy to help out. Don’t just take milk crates, ask for them.) I was going to have my very own milk crate garden in my car space.

I filled up a crate with soil, and thought to put my basil in one corner and my chilli in the other. What I didn’t realise was that the basil was so overgrown that I couldn’t plant the chilli too, but I could place the little soup mug on a corner, so it could get some sun.

A month or so passed and my birthday rolled around. On my way out to dinner, I stopped by to water the plants. Lo and behold, my chilli plant in its cute soup mug was gone. STOLEN. Needless to say I was upset enough to lose my appetite – and that takes a lot – but I thought that some kid might have thought it was cute and taken the plant.

So I put up a sign asking people not to steal my plants and tried to let it go.

Fast forward to today, and my plants are growing at a rate I’m incredibly proud of (as a non-gardener). I had expanded my little garden to 6 crates, with dill, lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes, thyme, chives, mint and the original basil. I water them daily, and harvest enough to send around jars of pesto to my friends and throw dinner parties.

Imagine then, my surprise when I got downstairs and found this:


photo 3

Gaping holes where my plants were, and the cable ties holding my crates together ruthlessly cut. Not content with stealing my little mug of chilli, they decided to uproot entire plants, and even tried to remove an entire milk crate, with the sign on. Now I won’t even get to taste the beetroot from my garden, and the one tomato plant that was left behind – they took the larger plant – is relegated to a tiny pot back on the windowsill, where it doesn’t have space to reach its full potential. The dill, chives and lettuce have just been hacked off for dinner, and I don’t think I’ll be expanding my garden any further.

This has been an incredibly heartbreaking experience, and I thought I’d share the pain of fellow growers out there who have had their plants unceremoniously nicked from their garden. This invasion of trust now makes me feel like the neighbourhood is no longer safe, and that people aren’t as gracious as they used to be.

I had even thought of throwing a dinner party for my neighbours out of my produce to share the love, but that won’t be an option anymore. I don’t know what kind of low life steals plants – I would have been happy to give away seedlings and produce – but these scumbags exist, and we can only try our best.

Jean’s Chilli Chicken, Eastwood


There has been a lot of brouhaha revolving around Korean Fried Chicken, but I think that there hasn’t been nearly enough recognition for it’s fiestier cousin – the chilli chicken.
I first had chilli chicken in Strathfield, after a night out at the bar with a few friends. The slow burn from the Korean Kochujang really hit the spot, and pieces of juicy chicken created an incredibly moreish and addictive mouthful, and left me loving that burn.

So I absolutely had to try the chilli chicken in Eastwood, after my Korean friend recommended it as being “very chilli, but very good”.

And it did not disappoint.

I ordered the chilli chicken with cheese, and it arrived in a sizzling hot plate with oozing, melted cheese draped over the top like a trophy wife. Fiery and decadent, the combination of punchy chilli sauce with chicken and cheese is surprisingly filling, even before you consider the sides.


It came with a lightly oiled rice that was dotted with various flavours like sesame seed, seaweed flakes and flakes of fish. The plastic gloves meant that you were meant to roll your own rice balls, which added to a sort of ‘hands-on’ element to the meal, though you could just as well eat it out of the bowl.

Creamy pasta salad and crunchy pickled radish both soothed and cleanse the palate from the relatively heavy – and heavenly – chicken. I wish there was more radish, but I’m really a pickle sort of girl.


In all, it was a very satisfying and filling dinner. The chilli chicken, which cost $38 at the time that we went, is really a meal for at least two people, but could easily feed 3-4. The staff are friendly and not in-your-face, which means that you’re left to enjoy your food in peace. There isn’t eftpos at the counter, but you can choose to pay at the bar of the hotel that the eatery is located in – which is where you’d have to order your drinks anyway.

Great for dinner, but better in a large group. Jean’s Chilli chicken is also open to the wee hours of the night, making it a perfect way to end a rousing evening out.

We at at:

Jeans Chilli Chicken
02 9874 1100
115 Rowe Street Eastwood, NSW

Jeans Chilli Chicken on Urbanspoon

View Larger Map