Kate’s Bung In Chocolate Cake

Do you remember Kate Bracks from Masterchef? She was the shy-ish mother from Orange who could whip up some mean desserts, and went on to win the series back in 2011.  The other day I looked up what she was up to – she had a business, but ceased trading in October last year to have a break and focus on other things.  Whatever she does, I’m very glad she passed on this recipe, for her grandmother’s chocolate cake – so named because you put all the ingredients in and “bung” it in the oven.  It is marvellously simple, with the added bonus of being made up of pantry staples, and results in a crumbly and tasty chocolate cake that the children love.  Do use good quality Dutch processed cocoa.


300g self raising flour
330g caster sugar
35g cocoa
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
330ml milk
150g butter, melted

200g icing sugar
2tbsp cocoa powder
30g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

Making it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C fan forced. Grease a 23cm square tin and line the base with baking paper

2. Place dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre, add the wet ingredients and whisk until mixture is smooth.

3. Pour into tin and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

4. For the icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add butter and vanilla, and enough milk to get it to a paste consistency. Stir vigorously until smooth, then spread over cake.

Bannisters Pavilion, Mollymook

After several days of backbreaking work trying to get our new home into a habitable state before moving in, in early January we had a few days to relax and recover down at Mollymook.  It is a pleasant three hour or so drive from Sydney, and you can opt for a scenic coastal route or drive through some nice green towns with cosy looking coffee shops, bakeries and antiques.

Opening in December 2015, Bannisters Pavilion is the new little sister of Bannisters by the Sea.  The interiors are stylishly coastal and unfussy.

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The look continues in the bedrooms which are a pleasant size. We have two interconnecting rooms – ideal for a family – one with a bath, one without. I do wonder though how the blue carpet will fare after a few years of sand!

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The hotel staff are delightful, and arm me with necessary reading for the stay as well as some good local guides.

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On the roof is a small pool and plenty of deckchairs to relax.  There you’ll also find the Pavilion’s great casual dining space, The Rooftop, which is set to be a hit with locals and visitors alike.  It is a great airy space with a menu that will easily ensure return visits.

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Enticed by my recent Moscow Mule experience at J&M, I start with a refreshing North Molly Mule.

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We nibble on some eggplant chips, which is one of a handful of daily specials.

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Followed by a lovely Summery panzanella salad

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The soft shell crab tacos were delicious and had a bit of zing

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The calamari was also nicely done.

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A classic bistro style steak with chips was well executed.

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Breakfast is included in your room stay; there’s a selection of fruit, cereals, pastry and a couple of hot dishes.

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In between the breakfast area and grill were these fabulous oversized swinging chairs, which were a hit with young and old alike.  I’d love these for my verandah!

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The next night we feel like some local fish and chips, and everyone tells us we have to go to The Fish Shop at Burrill lake, which is a 10 or so minute drive.  There’s a good selection of fish on offer, and both the battered and the crumbed are very tasty, it is obvious how fresh the fish is.

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Of course on most people’s list when they head down to Mollymook is a meal at Rick Stein’s restaurant.  You’ll find it at Bannisters by the Sea a ten minute walk or very short drive away.

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There is, as you’d expect, plenty of fresh seafood on offer.  The pricing is punchy overall for the experience but the ingredient quality is high. Children are catered for and that evening there are plenty of  young families.

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The local oysters are excellent

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So too are the mussels, with a fragrant broth, delicious

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The prawns saganaki though are a disappointment and a little bland

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We also try the lobster salad topped with a little foie gras. The lobster is succulent but the salad overall is not a wow.

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But we both just love the fish pie, a tasty textured crumb covering the creamy veloute with a nice variety of seafood.  I tracked down the recipe in a UK newspaper and I’ll definitely be making this at home. Stay tuned.

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Milk Haus and St Isadore were also highly recommended restaurants, but unfortunately they were not open the days we were there.

Do note though that the Pavilion does not have beach or ocean views, it is on a residential street.  But don’t let that stop you – the beach is a very short stroll away.

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Bannisters Pavilion, Tallwood Avenue Mollymoook

Rick Stein at Bannisters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In My Kitchen, February 2016

As I mentioned in my last IMK post, we packed up and moved house. It was a more herculean task than I had thought sorting through thirteen years of stuff. Keep, charity, throw, was the sorting path I took. The keep pile resulted in waves of nostalgia. I found the elfin sized frilly pink swimming costume I wore in Italy the summer after I turned two. Then there was the treasured china tea set my Godmother gave me when I was five. In a drawer were the boys outfits when we were finally allowed to bring them home from hospital, so small they look like dolls clothes. Some of their favourite books from when they were toddlers emerged (I can still recite Owl Babies verbatim) and many of their treasured toys. Hours and hours later, it was done.

So here we are in our “new” home. It is quite a change going from a very sleek modern home to something that is over 120 years old. The paint is peeling, the floors are uneven, some of the windows don’t open, but we love it. One large expanse of lawn has already seen several soccer matches and some attempts at cricket; during the packing process I also found bocce balls I forgot we had which will also no doubt be used. The rest of the garden is a complete jungle, which the Marito and I are gradually working through and attempting to tame. It has been rather extraordinary what we have found in the garden – one day it was a buried cast iron bath – it took three men to lift it. Another day there was a very large toy plane, unfortunately too degenerated to be salvaged. There was a Roman style concrete pillar, an old kettle, a plaster foot. Who knows what else is lurking there.

But onto the kitchen. When we bought this place I said to the Marito there was no way we could live there. The old bathrooms were fine after a thorough scrub, but the kitchen, some sixty years old or more, was not something I could function in. Resourceful man that he is, he sourced an almost new kitchen that we have had installed as best we could in the currently small space. As a result my kitchen is a mishmash of old and new and of almost every imaginable kitchen material – concrete, tiles, wood, laminate, wallpaper. But it will do just fine until we can properly renovate some day.

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In my kitchen is this very old, but very solid, shelf with copper backing. It is coming in handy with the current limited storage space.

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In my kitchen are these gorgeous hydrangeas from the garden, aren’t they pretty?

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My starter, La Figlia, survived the move and last week I made my first loaves of bread in our new abode.

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In my kitchen are these beautiful home grown tomatoes and cucumbers – though not grown in my home, we were too late to plant anything, maybe next year.

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And some green beans. You’re unlikely to find this variety in your local supermarket, but you’ll find them everywhere in Italian gardens around Sydney. Some grocers stock them and call them “continental beans”. So flavoursome.

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A local catering business was closing after almost forty years as the couple are retiring, and they were selling all their kitchenware and cookware. I got there late in the day so a lot was gone, but I picked up three pizza trays, a couple of bowls, and a large serving platter for the princely sum of $6 for the lot!

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Adjacent to the kitchen is this old bell system, it was to alert the servants which this house had many many decades ago.

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These little floral buttons are scattered around the house which would ring so that the servants would know where they were needed.  I love the bits of history we are discovering here.

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What’s happening in your kitchen?

Thanks to Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef who’s taken over from Celia to host the IMK series.







George’s Cabbage Salad

After a recent great evening with George Calombaris, I received a copy of his new cook book, Greek.  It is a truly stunning book visually, with some great recipes. I love the line in the introduction: “if you’re not in the mood to cook, if you’re just not feeling it, don’t do it.  Just read the book and enjoy the pictures, then come back when you’re ready.”

This recipe is the cabbage salad he serves at Jimmy Grants. If you can’t find the Greek cheese, pecorino (which is more readily available) is a possible substitute. It is a lovely fresh crisp salad, though next time I will use my mandolin rather than a knife to get the cabbage finer.

cabbage salad

1/4 red cabbage, very finely shredded
1/4 drumhead cabbage, very finely shredded
2 tablespoons dill springs
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 French eschallots, finely sliced
100g kefalograviera cheese

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
185ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

To make the dressing, whisk the balsamic and honey until the honey has dissolved, then whisk in the mustard and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Toss together the cabbage, eschallots, herbs and dressing. Season and transfer to a serving dish. Grate the cheese over the top and serve

Long Chim, Perth

Michelin Starred David Thomson – whose Bangkok restaurant Nahm has featured in the world’s top 50 list – marked his long awaited return to Australia with the opening of street food inspired Long Chim in Perth in December 2015. Perth? Yes, perhaps he is trying to help them get over the death of the mining boom, though plans for a Sydney arm are apparently underway (hopefully this is what he was working on that night, as he was frequently checking his laptop in between walking around the restaurant and the kitchen).

Long Chim can be found in the new Cathedral Square precinct; the state buildings, after years of being abandoned, have been bought to life with stunning effect – the hotel features some beautiful rooms – currently with mining boom prices, these may need adjustment – and a few restaurants and bars including Petition, Wildflower and Post. As you walk down the corridor you can see these venues in action, all bustling and busy with Christmas cheer. Head to the basement and you’ll find Long Chim, with its street art walls and shelves of Asian groceries. It has only been open a few days when we try it and already service is quite smooth and the staff attentive.

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We opt for a banquet which is a great way to try lots of dishes. We start with dried prawns with ginger, toasted coconut in betel leaves. These have flavour and texture and are a hit at the table.

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The beef skewers (with cumin coriander and turmeric) are absolutely delicious and you can imagine eating them on the street in Bangkok

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But I find the next dish, crunchy prawn with herbs, shallots & chillies a bit on the bland side, for me its missing something.

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The Chiang Mai chicken larp more than delivers on the promised kick and I’m a fan, but find that cabbage leaves are too thick for it and it gets lost inside


The glass noodle salad with minced pork, prawns and squid is beautifully done, fresh and light.

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The banquet curry that night is the red curry of roast duck with coconut, thai basil, and kaffir lime leaves. It is fragrant and flavoursome, but I almost wonder if they forgot to put the duck in, so small is the amount of meat.

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Tasty sun dried king fish follows, and I love the accompanying lemongrass fish sauce

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One of the cheesiest sayings of all time has got to be “the simplest things in life are often the best”, but I have to rip it out for the next dish. It’s a simple Siamese stir fried watercress and turns out to be one of the best plates of the night

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The prawn and pork soup is pungent and full bodied.

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We finish with a generous individual dessert, some delicious coffee ice cream with crispy sesame seed wafers. I’m a sucker for good ice cream.

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Five days in and overall it’s a pretty impressive line up, I’m sure a few tweaks and improvements will happen along the way. David, Sydney CBD awaits.

Long Chim Perth, Basement, Barrack St & St Georges Terrace, Perth Ph (08) 6168 7780

Long Chim Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Neverfail pizza dough

I don’t have Mamma Rosa’s knack for making pizza dough. She does it by look and feel, and it always results in light, tasty dough. Me, I’ve had to resort to recipe books, and I’ve tried several over the years.  But this recipe from The Italian Baker by Carol Field consistently produces a great result. This wonderful book (thanks to Francesca from Almost Italian who put me onto it) first published in 1985 and since updated, is meticulous in its detail, the result of years of travel and research in Italy. For pretty much every recipe, she gives you the method whether you are making it by hand, with a stand mixer, or with a food processor. Below is the pizza dough method for a stand mixer (I love the dough hook of my KitchenAid, use it all the time), and I have doubled the original quantities in the book. This will give you 4-5 family sized pizzas, depending on how thick you like your base to be.

10g dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
640g tepid water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1kg plain flour
15g salt

Making it
1. In your stand mixer bowl, stir the yeast, sugar and water and let stand for 5 or so minutes until foamy. Add the oil and stir with the paddle attachment to combine
2. Mix the flour and the salt and then add to the yeast mixture. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until just combined
3. Change to dough hook and knead until soft and satiny for 3-5 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

4. Divide your dough according to how many pizza trays you are using, and grease the pizza trays with olive oil. You can use a rolling pin to shape your pizzas, but I find this dough very pliable, so I stretch it gently on the trays by hand. Leave in the trays to rise for 25-30 minutes. Then top as desired.
5. Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius and cook for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden (I always check if the base is cooked by lifting it slightly from the tray and looking at the colour underneath).

Neverfail tomato pizza sauce
A friend of mine is a pizzaiolo in Italy, and when he was in Australia some years back he told me you should never cook your tomato sauce for your pizza. I also went to a pizza class with a chef John Lanzafame who had won a prize at the world pizza titles one year, and he said the same thing. For several years now I have used this sauce for my pizzas – it takes 30 seconds to make and works beautifully.

1 can peeled tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes

Combine the above ingredients, blitz with a stick blender. That’s it. Spread over your pizza bases.  This makes plenty of sauce for the dough quantity above.  In Summer,  you could also use fresh very ripe tomatoes that have been peeled and had seeds removed.

Two favourite pizza toppings in our house – a very simple bocconcini & basil, and mushroom. Buon appetito!



Annata, Crows Nest

The original thinking behind recently opened Annata was that it would be a wine and cocktail bar that served a bit of food. But you could also look at it as a place with great food, that serves some good wine. With some heavily hatted experience behind the bar and in the kitchen – its a meeting of minds with skills gained from Rockpool, Bridge Room, and Café Paci – Annata lifts the bar on the lower north shore. The staff who looked after us that night were friendly, enthusiastic and knew their stuff – it seemed like they were really happy to be there.

The well thought out wine list is good fun, with sections like The Funky Bunch, The Big Boys, and CBA (Chardonnay Back Again). There are also some clever cocktails. I tried the Heather & Stone (Jasmine Jamieson, Pistachio, Suze, Lime, Whites) which had a delicious almost biscuit of pistachio in it (petit four in a cocktail, yeh!); and the Dipolmat (Havana 3, Apricot Jam, Orgeat, Cardamom, Bitters).

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There are four of us and the staff recommend we share, kindly suggesting which dishes we double up on. We start with some superbly fresh Sydney Rock oysters served with pickled black fungus

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We spot zucchini flowers on the menu – with broccolini, goats milk custard, black garlic and fennel salt – and know it’s a given they’ll be ordered. In our minds we’d pictured them in typical stuffed format, but it’s a ‘deconstructed’ version. The broccolini add texture and the custard is silky smooth.

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Next is a dish almost too pretty to eat – plums with heirloom tomatoes, smoked avocado (oh so good, smoked with beechwood), basil and roquette oil. The girls love it, but I find the plums a too sweet; a bowl of that avocado with some bread instead please!

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We all adore the scallops. The sliver of guanciale is delicious, and lurking underneath is like a hazelnut and mushroom paste (a hint of porcini methinks?) which we love.

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Our next dish is also seafood. This time some prawns with a devine miso corn butter, tasty chargrilled corn and curry oil. We all agree though, that the prawns are just a little underdone.

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The pork neck comes with a roasted apricot butter and pickled shitake. Its tender meat and here the fruit works well.

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The side of greens is fresh and crisp and comes with a smooth butter sauce.

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We finish with the flathead done wrapped in seaweed and kataifi pastry, served with peas, pomelo and oyster mayonnaise. I’ve had fish done like this before, but this one is not quite right and needs a little finessing.

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Annata is the kind of place you’ll linger either a little or a lot, and overall I’d happily do the latter again.

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Annata Menu

Annata, 69 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, Ph (02) 9437 3700

Annata Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato