Monday, January 26, 2009

My first Chinese New Year in 15? Years

Well I will be wrapping up this blog with a few more shots which were taken in Australia but never posted due to the mammoth task of moving overseas. Be pre-warned it is not for the faint hearted or the light in pocket. But Richard and I have already moved and are here nicely cooking away in the humidity.

Today is the first day of the lunar new year, my first here in Singapore in about 15 years. Still haven't quite gotten back into the swing of things as I used to love it even way more than Christmas. Mostly due to the fact that I could see all my relatives and visit their homes. My cousins would show me what was new and cool with them and of course you get a much fatter piggy bank from all the traditional gifts of money in red packets. And not to forget the food!

Anyway, hope one and all have a wonderful Chinese New Year of the Ox with lots of yummy goodness. May your larders always be full and may you be blessed and successful in your every endeavour.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where in the world is Rachel?

Haven't posted in more than a month due to the fact that we are moving ... not just within the same town, or state or even country ... but back to the country of my birth. The house is shambles, we are sleeping on the floor and yet there is still heaps of packing and cleaning to be done.

Flying off on the 6th but due to work pressures, am working up until the 31st!! Country dentistry around christmas time is extremely busy. Have been taking a few pics so hopefully can do a Bathurst post of the town and food before I fly out but not sure how it will go.

One thing though is that the blog won't be right with the same URL so have been toying with a few other names such as islandfillings, seachangefillings, urbanfillings to name a few. Any other suggestions?

Anyway off to packing again. Hope to write again before the new year but if not, hope one and all have a wonderful New Year!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Trail Riding at Yarrabin

Even though our lives are getting more and more upside down (all will be revealed soon) and every weekend is full up until the start of January, we had to squeeze in a trail ride as Richard had gotten it for me for a present last anniversary and it was due to expire soon. So two weekends ago, we went to the sleepy village of O'Connell about 20 minutes drive from Bathurst and went for a trail ride. This was at a farmstay/ranch place called Yarrabin.

The people there were quite friendly and helpful but also laid back so you didn't feel hurried or rushed. I ticked a beginner level of riding as I have not done much at all, especially in the last 7 years so I got paired with an old horse, Cocoa. He was always much more interested in eating and drinking than trotting so I guess we were quite well matched.

You got a rock to stand on to help you get on your horse. Richard gets help adjusting his stirrups after getting on his horse, Dan.

The horses seemed to be a mixed type breed and all of them were pretty placid so we petted them before it was time to get on.
We went through some forests and I felt pretty challenged as the guides tried to encourage you to get to the next level. For me this was learning to trot. It was a tad bit scary and I kept having images of smashing into a low branch ala Hollywood movies. However, I got a bit more confident as the ride wore on. Our guides would watch and give us tips to help us get more comfortable. Richard even got to canter.

Some of the views were gorgeous and we got to see some kangaroos and of course cows on the property. Times like that make me feel really fortunate to be living out here and have all this fresh air and beautiful scenery so readily accessible. I wish I had taken more time to go out and engage in more activities like these when they are literally in my backyard. The other people on the ride were a bit more experienced but there were a few guides with us and they always made sure someone stayed with Richard and myself. While the trotting bits were pretty exciting, I sure was glad of the times it was just a walk!

Every muscle was aching in my body the next few days. No wonder most horse people are in shape. Trotting is good when you get in rhythm with your horse but when you're not ... you feel about as classy as a sack of potatoes bouncing along.

Speaking of which, these aren't the best photos but Richard got so excited about this dish that he made me take photos of it and write down what I did. It doesn't have a name but it is loosely a cross between a lagsane and a moussaka.

I made up a meat sauce with pasta sauce, mince and spinach. 225gms mince to a 375gm jar of sauce and small packet of frozen spinach. Then, I layered thin slices of eggplant (about half a large one) with cheese, the meat sauce and a small sweet potato sliced thin. I used a parmesan type cheese as well as cheddar for extra flavour.

Here is a picture of a slice. It was really flavoursome and the sweet potato really leant an extra dimension to the tomato sauce and all the cheesey and tomato flavours were absorbed by the eggplant. So this was a creation I was pretty happy about :) Any suggestion on a name?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Tea @ Home

We had a high tea catch up with my orthodontist employer on the weekend. We had to squeeze it in as the weeks are flying by and he and his wife are also terribly busy. This is a photo of the set up in our living room before they arrived. One of the charms of living in a 104 year old house is that it has fireplaces. The dining room was the first room we finished doing up and it simply needed some curtains put in. The buffet on the left of the fireplace was from ikea.
Cheese platter with grana padano cheese and a King Island Dairy Stormy washed rind cheese, a pork and pine nut terrine from a local french patisserie, Legall. Also, home made finger sandwiches with smoked salmon, philly cream cheese and cucumber alternated with mango, avocado sweetchilli salsa, smoked chicken and snow pea sprouts. The padano was nice and rich and nutty, the stormy is one of our favourites for a soft cheese having a lot of depth to the orangey outside but a sweet and buttery inside.
We also had little sweet treats for Legall sold at average $2.50 each chocolate choux, japonaise (merengue type biscuit sandwiched with hazelnut cream), fruit tart and lemon tarts. All of them were outstanding, the chocolate choux had a really nice and rich chocolate filling. The lemon tart was a bit bitey and sour for my husband but I found it perfect and the pastry was light as air and biscuity.

They brought champagne and so we had a champagne high tea! It was the first time his wife and seen our place and she really liked the high decorated pressed metal ceilings so I guess that might be a post for another day.

Legall Patisserie can be found at 56 Keppel St Bathurst (02) 6331 5800

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Anniversary dinner @ 9inety 2wo

5 years ago on the 27th of September, Richard and I got married. For better or for worse it has been a quick journey. We have discovered alot about ourselves and each other. I am always grateful that he moved out to the country and we could date not long distance and later after we got married also found a job in the country.

We spent alot of our anniversary day working. I worked in the morning and then in the afternoon we went to hire a floor sander and sanded the floors of our deck - I guess we might be getting more like country folk than we think! I recall watching a show on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation - the documentary channel) when they interviewed women who worked on a property ( thats the local name for farms or ranches) about relationships and romance. The lady replied, " Well we work on fencing posts together... I guess thats pretty romantic."

Well the city part of us got all dressed up after a hard days work and went to another modern Australian restaurant in town. Our favourite, The Treehouse seems to have lost its chef. We have learnt this is quite common in country restaurants ... the food business has quite a high turnover in staffing and chefs and owners.

Anyhow, this to us is a second favourite and we come here for their lunches when Richard is on school holidays as I work across the road on Wednesdays. It has a creative name 9inety 2wo as its address is Ninety Two Bentinck St.

As you can see it has quite an extensive menu to suit most tastes. We started off with some appetizers.
The cumin roast olive salad - we thought it was an actual salad but the olives were quite tasty and although a generous amount, went quickly. The semi dried tomato and rocket pesto dip with flat bread. This was freshly made, the dips full of flavour and again a generous serve for the price.
Here is a shot of the room which shows it has nice ambience. It wasn't too crowded so it was quite romantic. In the winter, the double sided fireplace is always going.

My main, the braised lamb shoulder in tomatoes with buttered kipfler potatoes, green beans and lemon gremolata. I began to understand why this restaurant is not as popular as it could be. In the past we must have ordered all the hits. For the first time, I got a miss. This was quite an oily mess in the pot. Whilst the lamb was quite tender, it tasted like the stews my mum used to throw in the crockpot before work. There was no hint of lemon gremolata. The best part of the dish was the beans and potatoes and I couldn't finish any of it because the stew was that dense. The potatoes were really well baked with crispy skins and tender flesh, the beans were firm and tasty. It was a pity that for the first time, I had to leave half a main. We ordered a side of steamed vegetables. The portion seems to have shrunk since the last time, however, they were well done and still firm and crunchy yet not underdone.

Richard's main of chicken breast kiev with Oberon black truffle and herb butter, kipfler potatoes,cabbage and green peppercorn cream. The chicken was really well done, not overcooked. I tasted a bit of it but it was very quickly finished so at least one of us had an enjoyable main!

Ahh the best part ... dessert. This was pure genius of layered chocolate cake with fudge and a shot of espresso poured over it topped with ice cream affogato style and served with pistachio biscotti. We were pretty full but shared this. It really made you want more but our tummies had no more real estate.
A trio of coffees. Our dessert, my irish coffee which is really well done here and Richard's cappuccino. I'm glad that Bathurst has pretty good dining options for a town of 35,000. Hopefully we can touch on a few more before the end of the year.

P/S That was a shot of one of our mini- wedding cakes saved from 5 years ago which lives in a tin at the back of our freezer. We contemplated eating it this year but thought we might save it for our 10th!

9inety 2wo

92 Bentinck St
Bathurst NSW 2795
+612 63321757

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Lebanese Sweets 2.0 !

On a roll after my last encounter with a lebanese dessert shop, I decided I had to visit another. The Good Living Guide had a brief review about a new lebanese sweet shop that had opened in Parramatta, Sydney. This is a branch of a chain in lebanon called Sea Sweet.

The cafe was modern and clean. We arrived just before 6 pm and thus was not a popular time for desserts or coffees but it was good as it meant we were served promptly. People wandered in to check out the lebanese sweets on offer in the glass showcases to the left. Like El Sweetie, Sea Sweet also catered for Aussie tastes with many different western cakes and pastries on offer as well.

However, I was there to quench my curiosity to try new things. We studied the middle eastern dessert menu for a while. (click on it for a bigger version)

The fruit cocktail is a signature dish of theirs, supposedly with a sweetened pureed avacado base, fresh fruits and topped with kashta and nuts. However, we decided to leave that for another time. Richard went for the Kashta Mix.

This was 5 pieces of assorted pastries made on kashta, a clotted cream sweet cheese. The kashta here was very different to the one we had at El Sweetie! It was more savoury and had a texture less like whipped marshmallow and more like cottage cheese. I really liked this version much better. It went so well with the assorted crispy and flaky pastry laced with rose syrup. There was a little dish of additional syrup to pour if neccessary, however I found them perfect the way they were. The kashta found in each pastry was slightly different too, laced with different nuts.

I went for Knefe -Cheese. The waitress asked if I wanted the bun filled or unfilled. I said that I had never tried it before and so I wasn't sure. She was surprised that I was trying this and commented on my bravery. She then suggested she put the bun on the side but when she served it she gave instructions to open the bun, scoop all the mixture in, pour over syrup and press down and enjoy.

I decided to try the Knefe au naturale first before trying it with their "signature bun".

Action shot of the stretchy cheese.

Wow! One bite of this stuff and I was in heaven. Because we arrived on 6 pm (if you read the menu, it is only available at certain times and in the evening only after 6 pm) The kenefe was freshly made. It was a stretchy mozarella type slightly sweet cheese sandwiched between layers of sweet buttery, crunchy semolina. The cheese was slightly chewy yet melted in the mouth. It did not have a chees-ey type flavour at all and neither was it oily. It was extremely tasty and I remember the pillowy texture more than anything else *sigh*.

I ate some of it on half the bun and finished all the knefe but left the other half a bun. Richard had 4 pieces of his and left the large triangular piece. The waitress congratulated us on our effort. We took the last piece away as well as bought some of the baklava and other assorted lebanese pastries. The take away container was really cool. It had the company logo embossed in it and was the quality of a tupperware type container!

My long black (average) which came with one of their petit fours (nice and light).

While we were deciding which ones to get, the guy behind the counter gave us a few sample pieces to try! We were just about exploding at this point so I had to nibble on mine and put the rest away in the take away container. Our take away selection of sweets which we have started sampling.

The filo here is much more buttery and light than at El Sweetie, almost too? flaky for me. I also found the semolina in the Namoura not as crunchy and a bit too sweet. The nut ratio in the sweets is a bit higher though and the pistachios are chunkier within the pastries themselves.

Personally, the eat in desserts here win hands down. The service was much better with really friendly staff. However, I tend to like the pastries themselves at El Sweetie better. Price wise, both places are a great bargain. Our total including a Diet coke for Richard and the take away came to $33.50. We didn't even need to have dinner after that. Having a whole dessert for dinner was a first for me. I have to say I quite like the idea and would be open to doing it again!

Sea Sweet Australia
354-356 Church St Parramatta
1300 90 80 70

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Having a whale of a time

Pardon the pun ... this post is about 3 months old but it has been sitting at the back of my mind for a while now as it was quite a memorable event. It will be the last in the sequence of our weekend away to the south coast during the Queens Birthday long weekend in June. We made our way to the town of Huskisson which was about half an hours drive south of Gerringong. It turned out to be a really touristy type of town with your ubiquitous ice cream store, numerous take away shops touting the usual Aussie fast food such as fish and chips, hamburgers, roast chicken, tired salads etc. However, we were there just to check out some whale action! So after booking ourselves on a 3 hour cruise, we decided to get some lunch before the tour started. We knew we didn't feel like fast food so we decided on one of the two cafes. This one, names Supply was also moonlighting as a deli and corner store with some tired looking, expensive fruit and vegetables. Also some "gourmet" type cookies, condiments and candy. I had a pumpkin, goats cheese and baby spinach salad.

At $12.50 it was passable... tasty, a bit greasy but on the smaller side. It was a blessing in disguise. Richard's burger, also $12.50 This was pretty good! I think he got the better deal. It was on toasted Turkish bread, with char grilled veggies, onion jam, bacon, a thick burger patty and of course being Aussie ... beetroot! After lunch, we walked Magic at the off leash area before finding him some undercover parking to snooze in the car whilst we went off. Our vessel to bringeth us whaling whale watching A picture taken from the top tier of the boat of the shore opposite the departure point. Quite pretty ... We chanced upon the resident dolphins within the bay and the skipper gave us a bit of a commentary about them. They were really cute and swam alongside the boat for a bit.

This is called point perpendicular. It formed one of the sides of the "gateway" separating Jervis Bay from the big bad ocean.

However, in order to spot whales, one had to travel out to the ocean .. hence we became whale paparazzi. The boat was literally tailing these whales, getting as close as was legal to them so we could get a good glimpse of these beautiful creatures. We only spotted "teenage" type whales though and they were extremely hard to see against the gray sea. I guess camouflage is good. You only knew they were there from the occasional sea spray from their spouts.

The sea was mighty choppy out in the open ocean. The smiling staff handed out hospital type seasick bags efficiently as soon as we were past the headlands. They were pretty used to it and the rocking didn't seem to bother them. Unfortunately, it bothered about a quarter of us. Richard succumbed to it first, followed by myself. And as I mentioned before, I was glad My lunch was half the size of his because, with the hospital style sick bags (complete with twist lock) you could see exactly what volume of stomach contents had been expelled! FYI Richards was an impressive 1 L (4 quarts!) and mine was 500ml. We returned to shore after three hours feeling pretty weary. If it was any consolation, the skipper mentioned cheerily that we did much better than the morning tour group!

Shop 1 54 Owen St
Huskisson 2540 NSW
Phone: (02) 4441 5815

Jervis Bay Whales
50 Owen St
Huskisson 2540
Phone (02) 4441 6341

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