Monthly Archives: December 2012

Today’s cake – Coffee Hazelnut Frangelico Cake

How best to end one year and begin another than with an extravagant three layer cake?


Full credit to this one from Katie Quinn, recipe link here

A few notes on my experience with the recipe if you want to have a go at it
– It takes a fair bit of time so be prepared. Get all the hazelnuts done the night before to make it more efficient
– the cakes were well cooked in 35-40 minutes, rather than the 40-50 suggested, so keep an eye on them. Of course it depends on your oven. I have a Miele and I find cakes almost always cook quicker than the suggested time.
– I bashed the sand about a bit with a hand whisk to make it ‘sandier’
– the ganache proportions were out – it was way too runny, you need more chocolate. Usually ganache is 2:1 chocolate:cream. I had to do it again with different proportions.

Some shots from assembly


Happy 2013!


Today’s cake – zucchini and walnut cake

A lovely, moist and easy to make cake



250g walnuts
3 eggs
3 medium zucchini
2 ½ cups self raising flour
250ml canola oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Prep Work
1. Roughly chop about 190g of the walnuts
2. Grate the zucchini

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees
2. Whisk oil, sugar, and eggs
3. Add zucchini and all but a handful of walnuts and mix well
4. Stir in flour, cinnamon and nutmeg
5. Pour mixture into a greased tin (loaf pan or square) and arrange remaining walnuts on top
6. Bake for an hour or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean
7. Leave in tin for 20 minutes before turning out

The Woods at Four Seasons, Sydney

“Stray away from the city streets and into The Woods” proclaims the website. They do know they are on George Street, right? I half expected to step into a quiet haven, a mass of tree trunks and forest style foliage. But actually its just an open space in the foyer of the Four Seasons with a lot of wood. The Wooden rather than The Woods, perhaps. And a massive woodfire oven.

The Woods is the next venture of Hamish Ingham, who was once the chef at Billy Kwong and then moved onto his own digs, Bar H, at Surry Hills. Thank goodness he didn’t bring any of those uncomfortable stools with him. I booked online and it was smooth and oh so easy (Momofuku – please take note). I did expect an Asian influence here given his pedigree but its your ‘mod Oz’ with a small selection of woodfire (there’s that word wood again) pizzas for the lunchtime crowd. Word gets out quickly in Sydney town, the place had been open 5 minutes and was already packed.

Having eaten way too much in the lead up to Christmas, I opted for some of the lighter choices and to begin my friend and I both started with the chilled green tomato soup. Its always interesting when a plate arrives on your table and its not what you expect. Sometimes its a really good surprise. And sometimes its baaaaaaad. This time, it was a winner – a light, refreshing soup with sweet tomatoes and chunks of bread that had been – no prizes for guessing here – cooked in the woodfired oven. I would have liked a bit more of the actual soup though, there wasn’t quite enough.


We then moved onto the wood grilled calamari, pork cheek bacon and pickled muntries (never eaten muntries before, but apparently they are the Australian native version of cranberries for the uninitiated). The aroma was wonderful. But it didn’t mention in the menu description that there were hazelnuts – and there were a lot of them – a few too many in my view, as much as I love hazelnuts, and they could have been cut slightly smaller. But overall a great dish.


We were told before we ordered that Berkshire pork sausage had already sold out. The gentleman on the table to my left must have got the last one; the gentlemen on my right was having the O’Connor Scotch. I have to say, the meat dishes smelled fantastic on both sides. However the waitress had told us the meat dishes don’t come with anything, so by the time you order a couple of side dishes it really does end up being a very expensive main course. By the way at these prices I think its cheeky charging for bread.

As I’d had a relatively light couple of courses, I figured a little dessert wouldn’t go astray. I opted for the Rose geranium ice cream, toasted brioche & white peach caramel. The caramel was intense, and combined with the rose flavour of the ice cream and the simple and relatively unsugared brioche it really was a lovely combination.


If you go the ‘whole hog’ with an entrée, a woodfired meat main, the requisite sides, and a dessert, this is a fairly pricey meal. But at least the standard is there and I’m sure the place will bag a hat or two in the next round of awards. Tweak your choices a little and you can make it fit within a certain budget and experience the “woodiness”. The service was also smooth which is a good start, as there are often a few kinks in places not long opened.

Nice touch – that evening I received an “Appreciation Email” thanking me for visiting the restaurant and looking forward to welcoming me back.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood………

The Woods, 199 George St Sydney, Ph (02) 9250 3160


The Woods (at Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon

Today’s biscuits – hazelnut kisses

Gorgeous little treats for any time of day.



100g hazelnuts

1 cup pure icing sugar

125g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup plain flour

120g dark or milk chocolate

Making them

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Place hazelnuts on an oven tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and rub off skins. Allow to cool.

2. Process hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add icing sugar and pulse till combined. Add butter and process until creamy.

3. Remove from processor and gently stir in flour until combined. Use a teaspoon to scoop up a small amount of mix and roll into a ball. Press down very slightly.

4. Place on lined oven trays and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

5. Melt chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of boiled water and stir until smooth. Spread a small amount of chocolate on one side of a biscuit, then sandwich with another biscuit. Repeat with the remainder.

Marque Surry Hills, menu Prix Fixe

I have to say it was with some trepidation that I entered the doors of Marque. Some of you reading this will remember a dinner a few years ago where we were presented with a deep fried pigeon’s head, beak, eyes, and all, with some rocket leaves on a plate.  It was quite affronting and I think I never quite recovered. I found the food to be tricked-up-try-too-hard food. But hey, every one deserves a second chance. On Fridays they have the three course Prix Fixe menu for $45 which sounded like good value. As I discovered you also get an Amuse Bouche and a ‘post dessert’, which makes it even better.

I was somewhat surprised to see the former sparky Mark Best there himself rustling up the meals with his team. These days the big names behind all the hatted restaurants often aren’t, too busy on Masterchef and doing soup commercials and what have you.

With the image of that pigeon’s head still in my mind, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.To start, an Amuse Bouche of a tomato gazpacho with a tomato paper.  Light and refreshing and a great way to start on a summer’s day.


Next, chicken, oyster and cress. The chicken really was delicious, as was the paper thin crispy skin. But underneath was a green sauce that you can’t see in the photo, think made from cress, it really didn’t add anything to the dish and the flavour was unremarkable.


Then grilled swordfish with beetroot, blackcurrent and juniper. It was such a pretty dish and I loved the beetroot foam. However the sliced vegetables where a little too crunchy for me, and overall I was neutral on this one.


Then hazelnut mousse with poached apricot, olive and thyme, beautifully presented. The mousse was rich and decadent, offsetting nicely with crunch of the chopped nuts and the fresh sweetness of the apricot. Dish of the day. Skip the olive and thyme though, didn’t like it. It needed some other texture, like a firm champagne jelly or something.


And finally a little extra, a custard with sauterne syrup on top. Yum, I adore a good custard, and this one was among the best.  Also very rich and the small serve was just right.


The food is all pretty as a picture, but if the aim of the Marquevalue Menu is to entice you into coming back for the whole shebang Big Night Out $160 degustation, it doesn’t quite get there. For now, this place stays on my Overrated List. But if you really want to try a Three Hat awarded restaurant and not sting your wallet, the Fix Prixe is the way to do it.


Marque Restaurante, 5/355 Crown Street  Surry Hills ph (02) 9332 2225


Marque on Urbanspoon

Today’s cake – hazelnut torte

A decadent and devine cake.


Torte layers

6 egg whites                                    pinch of salt

1 ½ cups caster sugar                      250g pitted dates

250g hazelnuts                                  100g milk chocolate

100g dark chocolate

Cream Filling

300ml thickened cream                 250g mascarpone

2tbps sifted icing sugar                  1 tbps Cointreau

Chocolate Glaze

50g dark chocolate                          50g milk chocolate

50ml thickened cream                   20g butter

Prep Work

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Roast hazelnuts for 10 minutes on a baking tray. Remove and peel off skin.  Chop coarsely
  2. Chop pitted dates
  3. Finely chop the chocolate for the torte
  4. On three pieces of baking paper, draw a circle using a 19cm plate (entrée size) and place each sheet on a baking tray

Making it

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees
  2. For the torte, place the eggwhites in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until it becomes foamy. Gradually add the sugar. Then beat on high for 5 minutes or until white and glossy.
  3. Fold in the dates, hazelnuts and chocolate
  4. Spread the mixture evenly using the three different circles, creating 3 layers
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and firm. Cool on the trays
  6. Meanwhile, for the cream filling, beat the cream and mascarpone until soft peaks form.  Add Cointreau and icing sugar and beat until smooth.
  7. For the glaze, place ingredients in a bowl and place bowl over pan of simmering water. Stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
  8. To assemble, place one torte layer on the bottom, cover with half the cream, then the next layer, then the other half of the cream, then decorate with chocolate glaze.

Red Lantern on Riley, East Sydney

Good news for CBDophiles, Luke Nguyen has opened a second Red Lantern on Riley Street. While I love the original one, if you’re in a hurry its great to have one just that little bit closer. The fit out is beautiful, warm chocolate wooden overtones, with that hint of the French colonial going on that you read about, if like me you haven’t yet had the chance to see for yourself in Saigon.  I read an interview Luke did just before he was about to open.  He fit out the original Crown Street venue for $40,000 odd.  This one almost hit seven figures. Its no wonder that some Sydney restaurants find survival tough.  You need a pretty serious steady stream of rear ends on seats to generate the cash flow required to keep creditors off your back (the banker within can’t help but think about this).

There’s also a cosy little bar out the back with a great list of cocktails, I’ll check that out next time.

So, on the menu that day:

Diep Chien voi Xa Ot, scallops pan seared  with a tamari, citrus, lemongrass and chilli oil dressing. Beautiful, plump, scallops with a perfectly matched tangy dressing.

Banh Tom, Aunty 5’s rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelised pork, pork floss and shallot oil. The caramelised pork was a standout, and loved the texture of the floss.  The rice cakes though really need some kind of sauce underneath. The waitress suggested we use the sauce from the scallops, but took the plate away before we could! It would have been perfect.

Banh Xeo, Crisp rice flour crepes filled with prawn, pork belly and mung beans served with fresh herbs and lettuce to wrap.  Loved the mixture of the crisp lettuce and the crepe, great dish.

Banh Hap Nhan Rau Cu, deep fried sweet potato and sesame seed dumplings, filled with Asian mushrooms and water spinach, finished with snow peas and asparagus.  This was not what I had envisaged, and I found them a little bland. Give it a miss.

Hu Tieu Xao Tom, King Prawns with tomato galangal sauce, wok tossed with zucchini flowers and cherry tomatoes. A bit too tomato sauce tasting for me.

Vit Quay Chao, Roasted Burrawong Duck with Asparagus and watercress salad and preserved beancurd and lime dipping sauce. Beautifully tender and flavoursome. They breed them well in Burrawong, wherever that is.

Ca Chien Xu, Whole snapper with a ginger and lime fish sauce. Crispy-outside-tender-inside whole fried fish, with a tangy contrasting salad.

The waitress very kindly offered us a doggy bag for anything we couldn’t finish (non seafood items only due to health regulations), which was a big tick.  I wish more restaurants would do this – apparently Australia is one of the worst per capita food wasters in the world!

Its probably a little on the pricey side for Asian, easy to get to $70 plus a head without thinking about it too much; but overall this is a welcome addition to the fabulous rainbow of Modern Asian we have in Australia. They also have a group banquet which is probably better value.

Red Lantern on Riley, 60 Riley Street East Sydney  Ph 02 9698 4355

Red Lantern on Riley on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Mango Tiramisu

A lovely summer dessert. Very easy and quick to prepare and will serve a decent crowd.


IMG_3321 - CopyIngredients

500g mascarpone
300ml thickened cream
50g pure icing sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 500g packet savoiardi biscuits
2 oranges, juiced
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
4 mangos, sliced
Flaked almonds, to garnish

Making it

1. whip together mascarpone, cream, icing sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until thick and smooth

2. combine the orange juice and Grand Marnier in a bowl big enough to dip the biscuits

3. place a 23cm springform cake tin on a serving plate (without the base). Spray the sides with olive oil spray or canola spray and line with baking paper.

4. take a biscuit, dip one side into the liquid for a few seconds, then place this side face up in the cake tin. Repeat until you have a layer of biscuits. You can cut a biscuit into smaller pieces to fill any gaps

5. cover the biscuit layer with 1/3 cream mixture, then layer with slices of mangoes

6. repeat until you have 3 layers. Garnish with flaked almonds.

7. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (you could make the day before serving if desired, but don’t add the top layer of mango until ready to serve). Remove the springform tin and then the baking paper and smooth the sides with a knife if needed.