Sticky Date Pudding

The wind outside is howling like it is still the depths of winter. It has rained all long weekend so I’m saying goodbye to this lousy Spring and returning to winter and its warm comforting soups and hearty desserts. That’s right – daylight saving just started and I’m making dreamy puddings.

Sticky Date Pudding

And who wouldn’t, right?

This sticky date pudding is light and spicy and sweet and covered with butterscotch sauce, it is almost impossible to resist (translation: F and I just ate 2 pieces standing in the kitchen, and F just jumped in saying ‘you made sticky date pudding for me!, lili, tell them that!’ too.much.sugar).

Sticky Date Pudding

This is the kind of dessert to make when friends unexpectedly drop by, simple and extravagant, cheap and tasty, with no fancy ingredients. Hell, its a cake even my oven won’t ruin. The kind of pudding to share, scraping the last morsels from the communal dish, spoons aloft, comforting.

Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky Date Pudding
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’

1cup shopped dates
1t bicarb soda
300ml boiling water
60g unsalted butter
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2t vanilla
1t ground cinnamon
1/2t powdered ginger
1/2t ground nutmeg

for sauce
200g brown sugar
120ml cream
125g unsalted butter

Preaheat over to 180.
Mix dates and bicarb and pour water over, let sit.
Cream butter and sugar then mix in spices. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour and date mixture. Pour into square/rectangular loaf pan, lined with baking paper.
Bake for 30 – 40 mins, or until set, brown and risen.

for sauce:
In a small pan bring all ingredients to the boil (I actually didn’t have any brown sugar left, so I cooked my caster sugar and butter until caramelised, then added the cream – it turned out magnificently).

When pudding is done, pour a little sauce over the top and return to oven for a few minutes to soak in. When removed and cooled a little, cut into squares and pour some more sauce over the top.
Reserve remaining sauce for serving.

Eat warm or cold with extra sauce or cream or icecream.

Posted in cake, Dessert | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Menya Noodle Bar, Chinatown

I’m quite opinionated, when it comes to food. Most of the time I know what I want to eat, and where, so F’s easy goingness is much appreciated. There are moments, however, when I am over-hungry and cannot make a decision. In fact there have been numerous times, mostly when overseas, when I’ve stomped from restaurant to restaurant, not finding the guts to try something new after my first choice was full/closed/empty, until grumpily on the verge of a low blood sugar tantrum (or occasionally, mid-tantrum), I hand the reins over. By that stage I’m just greatful to be sitting, safe in the knowledge that soon sustenance will arrive.

Luckily this hasn’t happened recently. Instead, on a recent shopping trip (praying to the gods of consumerism after an early morning visit to a observe a friends baby’s baptism, eep), when I said I felt like ramen, F happily obliged.

Tori Kara-Age Ramen (Chicken) – ‘Tonkotsu’ noodle soup topped with deep fried chicken (kara-age), boiled bean sprout, naruto and sesame. $9.90

Menya Noodle Bar, recommended to me by a Japanese friend is in the Prince Centre, next door to my favourite Chinese Noodle Restaurant. It is sleek and minimal inside, full of people slurping and happily chatting.

Chilly hot teriyaki beef Ramen $9.90

Our order arrives almost immediately, my spicy beef ramen being a generous jumble of tender beef perched atop ramen noodles and boiled bean sprouts in a comforting broth. I could barely finish all the meat, and left quite a number of noodles, though I thoroughly enjoyed this enormous dish. A little more chilly wouldn’t have gone astray, though.

F, likewise, enjoyed his deep fried chicken and ramen, finishing a little more than I managed.

Bustling and comfortable, I wish Menya noodle bar was near my work, I would be there frequently to enjoy the simple, huge and affordable dishes.

Menya Noodle Bar

Shop TG8, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket

Menya on Urbanspoon

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Hainanese chicken rice

Do you ever do anything totally delusional? Do you ever get stuck on an idea and feel the intense need to follow it through to completion, even though it’s delusional?

I do.

I did it when I decided, while sitting with the travel agent, that ‘sure! I could take 6 weeks off, my boss will be ok with it, book that holiday!’. It didn’t matter that I wouldn’t yet have been working there a year, or I only got 4 weeks holiday annually I just decided it would be alright, and it was.

Yesterday at work I stumbled upon a recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice and the idea stuck. Stuck fast in fact. I tried to reason with myself, this wasn’t a quick recipe to throw together after work, but before I realised it, I found myself explaining the F how to buy a whole chicken.

Of course I got caught up at work, I imagined this was going to be an experiment similar to the Julie/Julia Project, you know, eating something decadent at midnight. In reality though, an amended version of this recipe took just over an hour, we were eating before 8:30 with most of the washing up done, too!

But back to the dish, what could be better than perfectly rice cooked in stock (i cheated, and used store bought, but now I have a lovely pot of asian flavoured stock resting in my fridge), tender chicken with a spicy ginger sauce? This was the idea that I couldn’t get out of my head, but I’ve realised, sometimes being delusional is a good thing.

Sometimes being delusional gets you a 6 week long holiday, or comforting Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Adapted from SBS food safari

For the Chicken
1 very chicken
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
6 slices fresh ginger
3 clove garlic, slightly bruised
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp sea salt

For the Rice
3 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp chicken or pork fat (I just used grapeseed oil)
2-3cm ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped very finely or grated
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
3 ½ cups chicken stock according to rice instructions (I used store bought stock, to speed things up)

For the Chilli Ginger
2cm piece ginger
3 garlic cloves
1/2 hot green chilli
4 green schallots
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp sesame oil.
2 tbsp chicken stock (from the boiled chicken)

Bring a large pot 3/4 full of water to the boil (pot must be large enough for chicken to be immersed in water). Meanwhile, wash and dry chicken and rub with rice wine and soy sauce. In a mortar and pestle, pound half the ginger and garlic with salt until almost smooth. Put this mixture in the cavity of the bird.
When the water boils, add the chook and remaining ginger, turn off the heat and cover.
After 30 mins, turn the heat back on and bring the liquid up to just before boiling point, and then turn the heat off, again.
After an hour, remove the chicken, cut into bite sized pieces and dress with sesame oil and soy sauce.

While the chicken is cooking you can cook the rice. Heat the fat or oil in a pan and add chopped ginger and garlic, fry until fragrant and add the rice and fry well. Transfer the rice to an electric rice cooker and add enough stock to cook. Cook.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. I know the recipe called for 2 sauces, a ginger and a chilli sauce, I made a conglomeration.
Pound the ginger, garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle with the salt until smooth. Slice the schallots. In a pan, heat a little oil and cook the schallots lightly, white part first. After a minute, add the pounded mixture, green parts of the schallots and the chicken stock. Cook until the shallots have just collapsed. Reserve and mix sesame oil through.

When everything is ready, serve with lightly cooked green vegetables, bok choy or similar.

Posted in Dinner | Tagged , | 1 Comment

That restaurant across from Chinese Noodle Restaurant.

I have to admit it. I am a terrible restaurant reviewer, see, I’ve eaten here many times, I know exactly where it is and what my favourite dish is, yet I can’t remember its name. It is just across from the Chinese Noodle Restaurant in Chinatown, and I think that some of the dishes on the menu are actually cooked over there.

Pan fried pork dumplings (from the Chinese Noodle Restaurant)

That favourite dish are the knife sliced noodles.

The texture of these noodles is unique, and totally different to the hand pulled noodles which are also available. They are sliced from a ball of dough, thick and chewy in the centre and thiny and silky at the edge, with an uncanny ability to hold the flavour of the sauce. I remember them from China and have been searching all over Chinatown for this dish.

This version, served with bok choy and braised pork is wonderful. The restaurant is full of Chinese people, slurping and happily chewing and chatting over plates of northern chinese food.


Cumin Lamb ‘hamburger’

Next time, I promise I will remember the name of this place.


***EDIT***

This restaurant is named Chinese Noodle House, as opposed to Chinese Noodle Restaurant which is just across the way.

Posted in Australia, review | 1 Comment

Panna Cotta with rhubarb compote.

Sometimes the most rewarding and enjoyable meals are those that are the simplest. Often I will spend hours cooking a meal and the finished product has lost all allure for me. After tasting and nibbling I’m not hungry and however fresh and delicious the meal is, it feels tired and boring to me.

So when I was looking for a quick and easy dessert recently, I wasn’t joking about the quick or the easy requirement. But I also wanted something subtle, something grown up.
Panna cotta. It doesn’t get much simpler or sophisticated than this. Serve with some fresh rhubarb compote (oh yes, I’m getting through that produce) and fresh strawberries and this light, quivering, vanilla-ey mess turns into a delightful warm weather dessert.

Panna cotta with rhubarb compote and strawberries
Serves 8.
3C full cream milk
1C cream
1t vanilla extract (I couldn’t buy any beans, so this had to suffice).
1T gelatine (I couldn’t buy any leaves, so I used Ward’s gelatine powder, and I found it didn’t taste nearly as much as other brands I have tried).
1/3 C caster sugar.

Heat milk and cream until hot but not boiling. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. In a separate container blend the gelatine with a small amount of hot milk, gradually adding more, then stirring into hot milk. Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour into moulds. I used small metal dariole moulds, which don’t require greasing, just a dip in hot water to unmould.
Set in fridge – will take a few hours or overnight.
Serve with rhubarb compote – cook fresh rhubarb with a little sugar and some lemon zest until softened.

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