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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kingpin

At the third level of Melbourne Central is Kingpin, described as "most stylish and comprehensive entertainment complex". It has bowling lanes, snooker, air hockey, video games, karaoke, and all sorts of things that will entertain you!

You can arm yourself with the rechargeable VIP card which can be used in all of the games (including the pool tables, where you need to leave an ID for the cue ball and the rest of the balls get released after swiping the card). There is a $15 play-all-you-can-for-an-hour, which you'd be better off if you would like to stay there for a while. Otherwise, just pay whatever credit you want, and pay per game. The snooker table meters in for $4 per game, the arcade games are typically $2. So the $15 card appears to be the best option.

The card would not let you play simultaneous games though, for instance if you wanted to play linked games and just had one $15 card. It will lock you out after you've hit the start button for the first game. (although later on you will realize that there is a particular amount of time in between swipes that would let you do so!!!)

The venue offers quite a lot to do lives up to its name as an entertainment center, the interior decor is contemporary and a bottle of Boags Beer clocks in at $7.50. More info on their site.

Chocolate Coated Strawberries



Strawberries are in season and the produce in this country is just extremely excellent - sumptuous, juicy and plump! Since it is in season, it comes a bit cheaper than usual. I was thinking of making a strawberry tart, but having tasted the little bits of heaven in a berry I opted not to subject it to further cooking. At its current state it is best enjoyed fresh!

So what happened instead was :

Dark chocolate was melted in a bain marie, which can be as basic as a bowl on top of boiling water. I put in a little cream and Kahlua for a little kick, dipped the strawberries and just let it set in the fridge for a couple of minutes.

The challenge is how to stop yourself from disrupting the cooling of the chocolate - if in case you can't, well, it's still going to be great!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Home Made Breads

One of the best smells I could think of is the smell of fresh bread, and it's true! Everytime you'd pass by a bakery, or a little deli or cafe, there is this unmistakable smell of bread baking, and it is enough to make you feel hungry or crave for those treats in a loaf (or slice!)

Corn Bread

Browsing through some other food blogs I came across a corn bread recipe (check it out here). Although the jalapeno peppers were not used for this one (just because none were at hand at the moment!) but my little experiment with leaving the initial mixture of flour, water and yeast overnight proved to have good results.


corn bread

the yellow bits

Yeast thrives in warm temperature, hence the current weather retards the proliferation of our little friends in the pre-ferment, or that dynamic mixture of flour, water and yeast. It provides a nicer texture to the bread (those little holes, if you may, and the softness of the bread).

Focaccia

Focaccia is an Italian flat bread, served either plain or herbed or with other good stuff in it. Due to an abundance of rosemary (the bush at the backyard is still growing!), this one is made with this wonderful herb.

From research there appears to be a lot of ways on making this bread, I have rarely seen two recipes alike in terms of the approach, even of the ingredients are the same.

One of the many variations of this recipe call for :
Bread Flour: 1+3/4 cups
Water: 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp, warm
Active Dry Yeast: 1 tsp
Salt: 3/4 tsp
Olive Oil: 3 tbsp


The yeast is mixed with the warm water and 1 tbsp of the oil, then added to the flour and then the dough is formed and kneaded until elastic. After a lot of kneading (like 10 minutes!), the dough is left to rise. The 'first rising' is kneaded again, and then flattened, about half an inch thick round dough, and left to proof on the baking sheet. Then the rest of the oil is brushed on top, sea salt and the finely chopped rosemary are sprinkled after poking the 'ceremonial' focaccia holes (some use forks, some use well-oiled fingers!).

you know what these holes are made of!


if the dough was made to rise for longer, the crust would also look different

Found another recipe here, with steps better articulated!

White Soda Bread

Unlike the two previous breads, this one does not call for yeast. Although it does need some kneading unlike some of the quick bread recipes that I know of, and is of the sweet kind with currants in it.


sultanas and currants are raisins (dried grapes), the question is the variety of grapes!

This particular bread is best eaten the day after it is baked, as it allows the flavors of the currants to seep further. This is actually a permutation of the original soda bread, created with flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt - and that's it!

The soda bread is actually an Irish trademark, and was widely consumed since it was easy and faster to make - baking soda proved to be a faster way of leavening the bread. Most of the original recipes require wholemeal flour, but my current combination of wholemeal and plain flour proved to be as good as the real deal. Some use oat flour, but it is the wholemeal flour that gives it its distinct taste. The simplicity of its flavor make it best eaten with soups or stews, or toasted, even fried!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hotel Albion

Come to The Albion at any day of the week, especially around 7pm onwards, and you will always find the place bustling with activity. There are two fireplaces surrounded by comfy couches, and there would be a big group huddling about. The slightly more formal dining area would be teeming with people enjoying their dinner, and the rest of the pub observes streaks of laughter once in a while, above the murmurs and sound of quiet chats. There are many ways to enjoy this pub : You can treat yourself with a huge steak with wilted spinach and potato mash on a Half Price Mondays and Tuesdays, or confuse yourself with what Parma to eat based a wide selection during ParmaRama Night every Wednesday. Enjoy every pub grub with a cold pint of beer, and there is always variety in the tap. Cocktails and wine are available too, if you feel like it. After office drinks with colleagues appear to be quite called for in this area at Port Melbourne, perhaps its proximity to the tram stop is conducive to drinking and not driving home! The menu is not your typical pub grub though, despite the usual fish and chips there are sumptuous treats such as the giant slices of Corned Beef, and beautifully cooked fillet of salmon. Remember to come on a really empty stomach to make the most out of the meal, as the serving size is quite big. However, the curry can use more spice to make it live up to its name!
Enough said, but if you want more you can always visit their site

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crackers

Another easy, tasty enjoyable treat resulting from a quick baking escapade are water crackers. Flour, baking soda and cold butter are rubbed together until it resembles breadcrumbs (like when making pastry) then a little water is added until the dough comes together.

The dough gets rolled into a sheet and using a cookie cutter, circles are made and punctured with the tines of a fork. The main flavoring could be anything as simple as sea salt, probably with a little cracked pepper if you like (such as this one).



A dash of dried herbs like basil or thyme could also make a lot of difference.

Best served with cheese I think! Areas of improvement for this batch, I would say, would be the thickness of the dough, but it's a personal option whether you'd want it extra thin or extra thick. Squares would be nice too! These ones turned out to be quite similar apparently (taste-wise) to Boland's Cream Crackers

(Cream Crackers photo from http://www.littleshamrocks.com/Irish-Appetizers.html)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sherlock Holmes Inn


Slowly creeping its way to becoming a pub favorite, Sherlock Homes Inn features a cozy, traditional style English pub down at the basement of a building in Collins St., Melbourne City proper. The beers are classic, pub grub is not bad and is ideal for after office beers (overlooking the fact that is along the trail home!)

The first visit from a while back actually revealed a surprisingly well-kept tap of Guinness. The succeeding visits though did not have that same smooth finish - probably the tap was cleaned, or the fresh batches have been kept in a different temperature, a number of possible reasons, really - it was just a bit disappointing that the maintenance was a bit inconsistent.

Might just have to keep trying until that perfect smooth pint of Irish stout is tasted again!

Muffins of the Savory Kind

It is nice to have alternatives for bread or sweet muffins, such as this one, Corn Muffins. It's very simple to make as well.

The 'corn' part is from Polenta, which is actually a ground cornmeal and is a staple food around Europe, especially Northern Italy.

To make a yield of 12 small muffins (or 6 large ones) you'd need:
1/2 cup plain flour
1.5 tspns baking soda
a good pinch of caster sugar
pinch of salt
60 g polenta
100ml milk
1 tspn corn oil
1 egg

For this I used sundried tomatoes in oil, black olives, cracked black pepper and dried chili. This is the optional part where the baker has flexibility on what to add!

Sift first 4 ingredients together, then add polenta. In a separate bowl/pitcher, mix wet ingredients. Pour over dry ingredients, mix until combined, then fold in the last remaining ingredients or the flavorings opted for.

Spoon into muffin trays and bake for 12-15 minutes on 220C.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fresh Pasta





Making fresh pasta is a wonderful undertaking. If you have time to spare, I highly recommend that you do. Just like cooking or baking, doing so creates a basic awareness of what goes into your food, particularly what goes ‘into your pasta!’.

The dough is very basic. It is composed of flour, eggs, oil and some water (as needed, if the dough tends to be too dry, which, depending on which hemisphere of the world you live in, would ofcourse vary due to humidity).

The question perhaps is what kind of flour, how big the egg, what oil, and what is the proportion!

Thus is the premise of knowing what goes into your pasta!

There are a lot of fresh pasta recipes out there but what was heeded in this one was from the book The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Bugialli. Some other recipes call for additional egg yolks, which probably makes the pasta 'thicker' or 'richer' in taste.

The flour used in this instance is the TIPO 00 (‘type double zero’), which is the Italian standard of the fineness of the flour (or the setting of the millstone). TIPO 00 is highly refined, TIPO 0 would be less refined, and so on, until TIPO 2, which is then dark and coarse.

The egg is supposed to be extra large. One egg goes to every cup of flour, and one teaspoon of (extra virgin) olive oil (or any other oil that would have no strong taste, unless you want that sort of flavored pasta).

Water is added depending on how much liquid the flour absorbs. The dough should not be sticky, and once kneaded and it has come together, may be cut into smaller parts (sometimes equal to the number of eggs used in the dough), before being rolled into the pasta machine.

After a first pass, fold the dough into three, before passing it again. The setting should be “1” as the thickest. After this there is no need to fold it again and again (unless the shape is completely irregular!) and continue passing on through the pasta machine moving the settings from “2”, onwards, until the desired thickness (or thinness!) is achieved.

Fresh pasta is also easier to cook, just around 2-3 minutes in rolling boiling water. But it does take some time to knead and roll and dry the cut pasta! However fresh pasta can be stored in the fridge, just ensure a healthy sprinkling of flour to make sure the strands don't stick together.

The pasta may be cut using the thicker cutter (with wider teeth( for a tagliatelle (otherwise known as fettuccine). For a taglierini the pasta may be cut using the narrower teeth of the machine.

The Sauce

Probably one of the best possible accompaniments for the fresh pasta is a homestyle version of tomato Sauce. Very basic ingredients – tinned tomatoes, finely chopped onions, garlic, chili, fresh basil, fresh oregano, red wine vinegar, pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Let simmer, and reduce for richer flavor. Top pasta with sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and a little sprig parsley



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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Welcome to TrailStops!

This trailstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

Taking a breather in this trailstop are intrepid wanderers, wanting to see the world in its entirety.

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

Cheers :)

Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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