Monthly Archives: June 2013

Today’s Cake – Almond Cake

This recipe is based on one from my cousin’s wife’s aunt, which is how the best recipes are often found. I purchased pure almond and lemon extract from Williams and Sonoma, which has now opened in Sydney (yay). If you’re ever in New York go to the flagship Williams and Sonoma store on Columbus Circle, the first time I went there I thought I’d found Cooking Heaven.

The fragrance of almond extract is devine. Whenever its available, always opt for pure extract over essence, as the latter is a chemically manufactured product.


125g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3 eggs
100g almond meal
1/2 cup self raising flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line the base with baking paper
2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the extracts, vanilla bean paste, and lemon rind and combine
4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs for 2-3 minutes. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and combine
5. Fold in the almond meal and flour. Pour mixture into prepared tin.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean
7. Remove from tin and place on a wire cake rack to cool. Once cool dust with icing sugar and serve

Thank you


I would like to sincerely thank the wonderful, kind, and generous people at Sydney Seaplanes, Gastro Park, Buon Ricordo, Longrain, A tavola, Three Blue Ducks, Pendolino, Billy Kwong, Salt Meats Cheese, Ormeggio, Sydney Seafood School, Sake, Sopra, Ghermez, and Pilu.

With their help, I was able to raise $11,200 for the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia.

The Leukaemia Foundation is the only national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the care and cure of patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders. They receive no ongoing government funding and rely solely on the generosity of the Australian community.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It will long be remembered.


Spice Temple, Sydney

I’ve always thought that Spice Temple would be a great place to go if you are having an affair. Dark, moody, plenty of hidden corners, it would be the ideal place to meet an illicit lover. If, of course, you are that way inclined. If you aren’t, and you can manage to find the door, duck in for some of Mr Perry’s upmarket regional-but-modern Chinese.

The menu is partially colour coded (so if you’re colour blind you may need help) with the red dishes those that fall into the ‘super hot’ category. I’ve had a few of these on previous visits, and I find that the amount of chilli is sometimes so much that its difficult to decipher the actual underlying ingredients and they all mesh into dishes that taste essentially the same – i.e. hot. So this time we (being a royal we, as I ordered for us all) went for the ‘plain dishes’ – but these are still packed full of flavour.  Spice Temple is some very clever, tasty, food.

The steamed eggplant with pork, always a great start, flavour and texture. They also use these beautifullly patterned bowls. Our other pork dish, the Guanxi roast pork belly with coriander and peanuts was unremarkable.

I generally find chicken rather dull – but bring in quail, duck and other birds and I’m in. The crisp fried quail marinated in fermented red bean curd and five spice was indeed beautifully crisp and flavoursome.

Shredded duck, dried chestnuts and black fungi with Pixian chilli paste and fried tofu. I haven’t had this before and I loved it, great textures going on and great flavour.
On the other hand tea smoked duck with mandarin pancakes was a little disappointing, and nothing special.

Whole steamed snapper with black bean and salted chilli was not a red highlighted dish but had plenty of heat, and the accompanying steamed Chinese broccoli with house made oyster sauce was a winner.

For five of us, and we were comfortably full, the food came in at just shy of $60 a head. They  have banquets that start at $75 which have a couple more courses than what we ordered and include desert. There’s also a hidden private room. Service on this particular day was a little absent minded rather than poor, with them slow to take drink and wine orders and the wine arriving after our food.

Spice Temple, 10 Bligh St  Sydney,  Ph (02) 8078 1888

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Mr Wong, Bridge Lane, Sydney

When I first heard the name of Justin Hemmes’ new restaurant, I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembered this…..

Female tourist: Mr Wong! Mr Wong!
Mr Wong: What is it?
Female tourist: I’ve lost all my traveller’s cheques!
Mr Wong: Ohhh. What kind were they?
Female tourist: American Express…

mrwongs nraThat ad was shot somewhere in Hong Kong (or at least it looked like it was, might well have been a back street in Sydney) and here in the old Tankstream site the Merivale crew have re-created the whole British-Colonial-post war-Hong Kong thing, with the tuxedoed waiters and a truly amazing fit out. This is actually my third visit, and the food has been solid both times but the service a little mixed.


It starts off well, we are welcomed by some eye candy and taken to our table. The menu is extensive but not overwhelming like it can be at some Chinese eateries. You’ll find plenty to order. We begin with the scallop and prawn shumai. There’s some clever maths at play here, there are only 3 per serve. I’d hazard a bet that most tables are two or four. Can they add another one to the serve for our party of four? No, they can’t, you’ll have to order two lots if everyone wants one, we are told. We don’t mind the extras as they are juicy and flavoursome.

We follow on with a cold dish, the drunken pork hock with the marinated jelly fish. If the thought of jelly fish alarms you, you’d never know if you weren’t told, and the lovely marinade with the tender pork make a great combination. The roasted duck, on the other hand, is a little average, good crispy skin but nothing special and I’m sure you’ll find better in Chinatown.

Then onto the dish which was the winner of the day – steamed scallops with ginger, shallots, XO sauce and silken tofu. These are scallops on steroids, fat, and delicious, with an excellent XO. We then have the twice cooked green beans with pork mince, which have a little more punch than the last time I was here, though I still think I prefer Din Tai Fung’s version. And then Mr Wong’s special fried rice, which is a staple order on each visit – its great fried rice. We order a large which is too much for four of us.

But like my last visit, they leave the empty plates on the table far too long though, and it can be hard to get waitstaff’s attention. But its a fairly minor negative in the great scheme of things.

I’ve heard people say this is overpriced Chinese. And sure, its more than a whole-in-the-wall you might find in Chinatown, but its not really any more expensive than say Golden Century. Our six dishes came to less than $40 a head, which I think is pretty good when you’re sitting in a place that looks like this one (there are also various banquets starting at $68). Its also the only decent Chinese at this end of the CBD. The no bookings policy for a 240 seater is annoying, but lunch bookings are usually not an issue, its evenings that often mean you’re in for a long wait. The wait in my view worth it – I’m sure my third visit won’t be my last.

Mr Wong, 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney Ph (02) 9240 3000

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Today’s cake – Apple and Pecan cake

This goes very well with the morning coffee! If you’d rather have something to dunk, try my morning coffee biscuits instead.


3 cups plain flour
2 cups caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Red Delicious or Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
150g pecans, roughly chopped

Making it
1. Grease a square cake pan, and line the base with baking paper. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt
3. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour into flour mixure and combine
4. Add apple and pecan an stir through
5. Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean

Fleur de Sel pecan caramels – The Food Dept

If you haven’t yet checked out The Food Dept, go take a look. It’s simply stunning food photography. I was a bit nervous about making this recipe, my track record with caramel isn’t that great, but it worked out and is delicious! I would probably up the quantity of pecans next time. You’ll need a candy thermometer and Fleur de Sel, a French sea salt. If you don’t have Fleur de Sel (and it is quite expensive), good old Maldon flakes will do. Makes approximately 36 pieces.


Olive oil spray, for greasing
¾ cup cream
30g butter
1 vanilla bean, split
½ teaspoon Fleur de Sel
1 cup sugar
¾ cup honey
Extra, 30g butter, diced
½ cup roasted pecans
Extra, ¼ teaspoon Fleur de Sel

Making it
1. Line a 15 x 25cm loaf pan with baking paper and spray lightly with olive oil spray.
2. Combine the cream, butter, vanilla bean and Fleur de Sel in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to the boil, remove from the heat and cover with the saucepan lid to keep warm.
3. To make the caramel, combine the sugar and honey in a medium, heavy based saucepan. Stir gently over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Be careful to not let the mixture come to the boil until the sugar has dissolved or the caramel will crystalize.
4. Once the sugar has dissolved, take a pastry brush dip it in a little water and clean around the edges of the saucepan to make sure there are no sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan.
5. Place in the candy thermometer and bring to a rapid simmer, cook until the syrup reaches 155ºC (310ºF) on the candy thermometer, 6. Remove from the heat. Carefully pour the cream mixture into the caramel, stir well and then remove the vanilla bean.
7. Return to a medium heat and cook the caramel until it reaches 127ºC (260ºF). Remove from the heat and stir through the diced butter and pecans. Mix until the butter has melted. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the extra Fleur de Sel and allow to set at room temperature.
8. Once cool remove from the pan and slice into bite size pieces.
9. Store in a cool dark place, individually wrap in wax paper to prevent sticking together.

Sokyo @ Star

Do you remember when Star City looked like a backwater RSL? These days its all fancy-pants, complete with a spate of GFG hatted restaurants, including Momofuku, Black by Ezard, Balla, as well as The Century (a spin off of Golden Century), and a ‘desert train’ (!) by Zumbo. And yes, I have been to all of them.

Sokyo = Sydney+Tokyo – is not in the dining precinct of Star City, but in The Darling, its adjoining hotel, which apparently, ladies, has a seriously awesome day spa (males please note). This is my third Sokyo visit and I’m really looking forward to it, hoping it was as good as I’d remembered. We are ushered down some stairs, a section of the restaurant I didn’t know about, but it’s quite nice and private down there, and a little quieter. You do feel like you’re not in the thick of it, but in the main restaurant area it does get very very noisy. They’ve got this strange countless-ropes-hanging-from-ceilings thing going on, and I’m wondering if there’s a Cirque du Soleil demo happening later in the meal.

There will be a lot that’s tempting, so I certainly recommend coming with a few friends so you get to try more. The wait staff are plentiful and we are well looked after. Tick.

We start Kingfish Miso Ceviche – devine. Wished I didn’t have to share.


Salmon and Prawn Sushi Roll


Tuna with crispy rice – love the texture of this.


Red Snapper Tempura & Cuttlefish Tempura. These guys are tempura kings, its some of the lightest, most delicate tempura I’ve had.


Duck with Witlof, nashi pear salad, warm orange soy – a generous serve, beautiful duck and a a refrehsing salad.


“Kobe Cuisine” Wagyu Tenderloin with Pumpkin, wasabi butter, shio konbu jus. Seriously tender. Seriously good.


Yamazaki Caramel Macchiato with Coffee ice cream, coco nibs, whisky foam. “By the way ma’am”, says our charming waiter, “that is your dessert, not your coffee”, he explains. Apparently they’ve had people pick it up and try to sip it. With the coffee ice cream, it’s a great alternative caffeine hit, and we scoop up every last bit.


We didn’t have it this time, but I also really recommend the lamb with eggplant puree.

The Napoli Household was divided as to whether this or Sake is better, but they both have some great dishes, and the pricing is similar.  Definitely one for the to do list.

Sokyo, Level G, The Darling, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont Ph (02) 9777 9000

Sokyo on Urbanspoon

Octopus Salad

Easy and delicious. Serves 6 as an entree or more as part of a buffet.


1 red onion, finely sliced
2 medium red capsicum, each cut into 8 lengths
1kg baby octopus, cleaned
200g rocket
1/3 cup flat leaf parsely, chopped

Dressing80ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsb red wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt

Making it1. Combine all dressing ingredients and stir until sugar dissolved
2. Separate hoods from octopus, chop legs into four. Place in a bowl, and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds then drain
3. Heat barbecue to hot (or grill plate if indoors), brush lightly wiht olive oil
4. Cook capsicum until tender (but not falling apart) and set aside
5. Cook octopus for 3-4 minutes
6. Toss capsicum and octopus with dressing and parsely, add cracked pepper if desired
7. Place rocket on a serving tray, then top with octopus