22 August 2015

back to my roots

Another year has flown by and again I have not made the time to blog.  However I will now look forward not backwards and I have given my beloved blog a lot of thought.  I have so many ideas and things that I would love to share therefore a new and improved blog will be coming soon as I move over to Wordpress.  Watch this space!!!

While that is in the works, I am bringing my blog back and to kick things off, I’ll be sharing a recipe originating from my roots.  I was born in Cambodia and growing up our family meals were very much traditional Cambodian cooking. This recipe is for ‘Fish Amok’ a well-known dish in Cambodia and arguably Cambodia’s national dish.  This is an old favourite which I remember only having on special occasions, most likely due to the effort involved.  I tried googling the recipe multiple times and I have had a few unsuccessful attempts as they never compared to the way my mum made it.

So when my mum was recently in Melbourne I was lucky to have her dictate the recipe to me while I eagerly wrote down as much detail as I could allowing me to recreate the dish.  I have made it twice so far and although it is still not quite the same as I remember, each time it improves so I am happy with that.  So here it is, please enjoy.

fish amok 
(serves 4 with 1 -2 other dishes because you never only have one dish when sitting down to a Cambodian meal!)

Equipment needed:
  • -       Mortar and pestle
  • -       Blender/grinder (optional)
  • -       Bowl for marinating the fish
  • -       Steamer
  • -       Bowl for steaming


  • -       500g firm white fish fillets cut into 1 inch pieces
  • -       150g button mushrooms quartered (optional)
  • -       One bunch of spinach leaves (or other leafy green such as silverbeet)
  • -       Banana leaves made into a bowl (this is optional however is a traditional option)
  • -       The creamy part of one tin of coconut cream
  • -       2 eggs
  • -       1 tsp salt
  • -       2 tsps sugar
  • -       1Tbspn fish sauce
  • -       2 Tbspns khroeung (3-4 stalks of lemongrass, 3 garlic cloves, 1tspn tumeric)
  • -       5 shallots
  • -       1 inch galangal
  • -       5 kaffir lime leaves (thinly sliced)
  • -       2 red chillis (more if you prefer spicy)
  • -       ½ tsp paprika
  • -       ½ red capsicum thinly sliced to garnish

  1. Make the khroeung (a common base for many Cambodian dishes) by thinly slicing the lemongrass and then blending into a paste with the garlic cloves and tumeric.  This can also be done in a mortar and pestle, however for best results blend in batches followed by pounding in the mortar and pestle, remove the khroeung for the next step.
  2. Pound the shallots, galangal and 4 of the kaffir lime leaves until it forms a paste.  Add the chillis, khroeung, salt and pound together until well combined. This takes around 10 minutes. 
  3. In a bowl, combine the khroeung, sugar, fish sauce, paprika, eggs and creamy part of the coconut cream until well mixed.
  4. Add the fish and mushrooms and stir altogether for approximately 15 minutes to ensure that it is well combined.
  5. In the steaming bowl place banana leaves if using to cover the bottom.  This is for decorative and fragrant purposes only.  Then place the leafy greens in the base of the bowl.  Spoon the fish mixture into the bowl.
  6. Once the water has boiled in the steamer, steam for approximately 15 minutes taking care not to overcook the fish.
  7. Garnish with a few tablespoons of coconut cream, red capsicum and kaffir lime leaves.
  8. Serve with rice and enjoy!!!

28 June 2014

it rolled in like a wave

Third Wave on UrbanspoonMy blog that I am oh so fond of has been dormant for nearly a year. It’s funny how life can get frantic and busy and you forget about the things that you are passionate about and enjoy. Finally, here it is - a post that has allowed me to rediscover my passion and hopefully will be the start of more posts to come.

Third Wave http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/prahran/index.php
- 30 Cato Street, Prahran 3181
- Dining at dinner time
- Party of two

A café by day with a very extensive breakfast menu, but by night Third Wave has American BBQ offerings available. Tucked away around the corner from the busy Chapel Street, this would be a choice that does not disappoint. One thing’s for certain, you must bring your appetite as the servings are generous and there are many mouth watering choices on offer. The staff provided impeccable service and are on hand to offer advice or help with the menu. The restaurant was busy, as you would expect on a Friday night in Melbourne, however patrons did have to be turned away so booking is recommended. One thing to be careful of - there are two ‘Third Wave’ cafes in Melbourne (the other in Port Melbourne), so make sure you go to the right one as we did see one unlucky patron turn up at the wrong one. So here goes, the long list of dishes we ordered- yes only for two!

Lamb Shoulder
This dish is described on as “tender and full of flavour”. It is beautifully presented accompanied with two dipping sauces. It was tender. It did have flavour. However it disappointed as it was just that little bit too dry.

Pork Ribs
The star of the night has to go the pork ribs. Described as “melt-in-your-mouth”, these did not disappoint one bit. They were juicy and flavoursome served with two different BBQ sauces. This dish is a must-order if dining at Third Wave.

The Reuben Sandwich
I did not want to leave without trying their slow smoked beef brisket, so what better way to try it than in the Third Wave Reuben Sandwich. The beef had the same danger as the lamb as being a bit too dry however nestled in between Swiss cheese, coleslaw, house made zesty BBQ sauce, layers of pickle and toasted Rye, this decadent sandwich brought the goods. It was delicious and went perfectly with they crispy beer battered chips.

On The Side
There were nine side dishes to choose from on the continued theme of an extensive menu. After some deliberation, we chose three.

The Smoked Mac and Cheese. Mac and Cheese seems to be appearing on many menus around Melbourne. This one had a twist, it was smoked. Perhaps I am a traditionalist but if I had the choice, I’d choose the original ‘mac n cheese’. The Pancetta Peas was our second option, I was sold when it stated on the menu that it is great with all meats especially the lamb. The peas are sautéed in butter with onions and pancetta and complimented with fresh mint. A delicious side for those wanting some green on their plate. And for some more greenery, we chose the Georgian salad which was a mixture of five herbs (coriander, dill, mint, basil and parsley), tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions. It is dressed simply in red wine vinegar and olive oil. This salad is a stunner. Light, fresh and perfect with the rest of our oh so indulgent meal.

To complete our evening we further indulged in dessert. With a variety of options, we decided on the Pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and espresso cream. Served warm, the pie was delicious however the star of the plate was the espresso cream. Super rich and creamy, it truly complimented the pie. Secondly, the caramelized bananas served with a nut crumble and ice cream. The bananas were silky smooth along with the creamy ice cream and the crunchy nut crumble, this dessert is a winner.

After leaving with a very full and satisfied belly, I realised I didn’t choose anything from Thrid Wave’s extensive Paleo menu. That just means I will be back soon to try, and I may just have to order those pork ribs again too.

18 July 2013

battle of da brunches

Brunch is one of my favourite meals of the day – considering there are only generally three meals, the others come in as a close second and third!  I mentioned to a colleague that my next post is about brunch and they asked me “what exactly is brunch? “  So I thought about it and defined it as what the word brunch means to me.  It is quite simply a meal that is eaten at that tender time between breakfast and lunch that replaces both these meals.  I think the reason why I am so fond of brunch is that it is typically enjoyed on a weekend or day off work, when you have had a lazy lay in and not having had the mad morning rush for breakfast on a work day or a lunch squeezed into a break at work.  It’s a leisurely social meal that is often enjoyed with great company although I am not opposed to “brunching it” on my own too.

This post takes a look at just some of my favourite places to brunch in Melbourne.  I also have a few fond favourites in Wellington too and admittedly it took me a while to get used to the cafés here that allowed me to let go of the favourites back home.  Having said this I have brunched at many places in Melbourne because of course its my favourite meal  - there are too many to name.  This shortlist is the ones I have frequented multiple times.  I figure, in a city with so much food on offer, if you visit a place more than once, it has got to be good.

1. The Hardware Societe
The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon
 I first discovered this inner city café nearly two years ago by stumbling across another blog and sure enough once I had looked it up on Urbanspoon it had an impressive rating and of course mouth-watering dishes.  After trying it many times, it has never once disappointed and has been a firm regular in my brunch venues.   This is certainly my favourite place in the city for brunch and is the perfect inner city place to take that out of town guest.  In Melbourne, you know a place is good if it is bustling with patrons and if you have to painstakingly wait in a queue.  I think each and every time I have been here (even after they extended the café), I have had to queue, but yes, it has always been worth it. 
As well as the food, the coffee is also great and if they have not run out, is accompanied with a delicious mini donut.   It has one of those menus where you want to keep coming back to make your way through it!  Here are some of the most delicious meals I have had within the French inspired décor of this bustling café.
'Croque Madam' Smoked Salmon, gruyere, horseradish creme fraiche and fried duck egg - consistently good.
'Scrambled eggs' with persian feta and a baguette with ham and beetroot - satisfyingly good.

'The Special' Fried brioche topped with strawberries and marscapone - overly indulgent!

2. Miss Marmalade
Miss Marmalade on Urbanspoon

There is nothing like finding a local café that ticks all the boxes.  Miss Marmalade certainly does that, with a cosy atmosphere, friendly service and seriously good food, this café does not only tick the brunch box but has the added bonus of being local.  With a menu that has many choices, Miss Marmalade will have something to satisfy many appetites.  The only downside for me is the coffee.  Perhaps I am just not of fan of 5 Senses coffee but unfortunately the coffee here does not fulfil my coffee taste buds.
Here are some of the meals I have tried.

'Farmers Market'


'Ricotta hot cakes'
3. Kitschen Pantry
Kitschen Pantry on Urbanspoon
In the northern suburb of Thornbury, Kitschen Pantry is a hidden treasure.  This is where Urbanspoon comes in and beauty of this app is that you can search for nearby food places.  So one weekend when we were traipsing through Thornbury, Urbanspoon pointed me in the direction of the Kitschen Pantry.  The cutest little suburban café you’d find. It also sells a few things and grows its own herbs and vegetables.  And the food, it never disappoints. It is deliciously satisfying.
The special I had there once was certainly special - first picture below.  It was ‘Beetroot Soaked Salmon with Danish potato salad, watercress, wild roquette & Salmon Roe’.  For $19 it was worth every cent.  The drinks available are also great.  The milkshakes are made with natural flavours.

That special!
'Big Breakfast'

'Smoked Salmon open sandwich'

4. Mixed Business
Mixed Business on Urbanspoon
Further south in Northcote/Fitzroy North, Mixed Business is a bustling café with both indoor and outdoor seating available.  The food here is again amazing.  The only fault with this place is I had to ask the waiter what it was called.  I could not see any signs of the name and it didn’t seem to be on the menu either!  Anyhow the dishes below is what I have tried in this busy cafe:

'Gingerbread waffles with poached apples and ice cream' - unusual for the first meal of the day but certainly delicious!

'Avocado on toast with a side of feta' - simple but satisfying.

'Poached eggs on toast with homemade backed beans and gruyere - added pork belly' 
5. Le Miel et le Lune
LE MIEL et la lune on Urbanspoon
My former local café in Carlton is Le Miel et Le Lune.  The only fault about this café is it does not open on Sundays, in my opinion - the prime brunching day.  Perhaps this is due to it being located in student suburb however of course the food here is fabulous.  The coffee is also fabulous and they also offer fresh juice.  Both sweet and savoury options for brunch are great.
'Brioche French Toast with butterscotch banana, bacon and maple syrup' - a very kiwi combination.

'Crushed Avocado with Meredith feta, snow pea sprouts and semi-dried tomato salad with tabasco dressing on Zeally Bay Toast'

'Sweet Corn Fritter served with bacon, crushed avocado, red onion, coriander, chilli, sour cream and tomato relish.'

6. Batch
Batch Espresso on Urbanspoon

A personal favourite is a touch of kiwiana in Melbourne.  This café in the southeastern suburb of Balacalva is a Kiwi initiative, providing wonderful brunch options and great NZ coffee.  The first time we went the corn fritters had sold out so I knew we would be revisiting so I could try this delicious dish.
Here are some of the dishes I have tried:

'Crispy potato rosti with homemade harissa, rocket and a fried egg + surmac creme fraiche'

'Batches' avocado and feta mash on sourdough'

'Potato and Spinach hash with cornichons and a poached egg'

The famours 'Corn Fritters' with cherry tomato, avocado, feta and coriander salad

7. Green Refectory
Green Refectory on Urbanspoon

Last but by no means least, to finish this post is the latest find, merely around the corner on bustling Sydney Road in Brunswick, Green Refectory has an awesome brunch menu, hearty cabinet food and if you feel like something sweet, the cakes cannot be ignored.  Pictured here is the breakfast stack with a potato hash type base, grilled halumi, wilted spinach and herbs, crispy bacon and topped off with a poached egg is an amazing meal to satisfy any brunch hunger.

So there you have it, a few of my favourite places to brunch in Melbourne.  There are so many more places to try as we all are absolutely spoilt for choice.  Urbanspoon always helps with the decision, as the high ratings have never failed me.  It is a great to be able to use Urbanspoon - a reliable source for providing food advice.  After all, in a city with so much choice, it is best to not be disappointed when eating out is always a luxury.

22 April 2013

red hill unearthed

Last month’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival was jam packed with a vast variety of events throughout Melbourne and the wider area – which is only to be expected!  Therefore, there was some deliberation as there were so many choices.  But this year I decided to go for something outside of the city in a region that I have fallen in love with – the Mornington Peninsular.   This is a must visit region for any foodie wannabe, at only an approximately sixty minute drive from Melbourne city, the beauty and of course the food makes it most definitely worthwhile.
The Long Table on Urbanspoon
The setting for this event was Red Hill and what better place with great local producers of wine and produce available.  The restaurant was The Long Table www.thelongtable.com.au which has One Chef’s Hat by The Age Good Food Guide and not to mention wonderful hosts Samantha and Andrew.  The event was named “Red Hill Unearthed” giving us foodies the chance to “scratch below the surface and discover the essence of Red Hill through a visit to Endeavour Fern Gulley, with dishes and wines inspired by the philosophy of this terra firma.”  

Needless to say I was quietly excited about this event.  Personally, I find there is something warm and satisfying about enjoying, sampling and discovering food from local producers and that is what attracted me most to selecting this event out of the many available.  It was a rainy day last month on Saturday March 16th when this took place.  The rain however did not appear to dampen the mood even for the morning walk, as it was a great relief from the heatwave that Victoria had just experienced.  As a group of around twenty to thirty people, we met at Endeavour Fern Gully to “experience a walk through one of Victoria’s unsung treasures of the National Trust.”  It was beautiful and peaceful and great to be out of the hustle and bustle of Melbourne city.  The walk was then followed by a multi-course lunch with matching wines and we were certainly in for a treat by Samantha and Andrew. 

We arrived at the Long Table and were offered refreshments that included sparkling wine and locally produced sparkling apple juice.  Samantha looked after the front of house and Andrew took care of the chef duties in the kitchen.  During the introduction, it was clear that this couple were passionate about food, wine and about the local produce of the region they live in.  It was also obvious that a lot of thought and energy has been put into the lunch menu in a way to showcase the amazing produce and variety available in the area. 

A taster being a fennel macaron with tomato was served to kick the palate off.  It was my first time trying a savoury macaron, the fennel certainly provided an interesting flavour and was complimented by the tomato.  The macaron itself had a perfectly crispy shell and was fluffy on the inside. 

The first course was Mussels, yabbies, celeriac, oak & earth.  A clear oak & earth broth was poured over the mussels, yabbies and celeriac and was warming and complex in flavour.  It brought out the flavour of the perfectly cooked mussels and yabbies.  The accompanying wine of 2010 Eldridge Estate Chardonnay also enhanced the oak flavours of the dish.

The main course of lamb shoulder slow roasted in pine, wild mint yoghurt, salt-baked vegetables & wattle seed followed and it was matched with a 2009 Avani Syrah.  There is always something special about slow-cooking meat.  The length of time and care gives it the opportunity for wonderful flavours to develop and for the meat to become beautifully tender while maintaining the natural juices.  And this lamb had all the wonderful qualities of slow-cooked meat.  From memory, it was slow-roasted overnight in local pine.  It was deliciously moist and tender bursting of flavour.  The mint yoghurt complimented it perfectly and the vegetables were also a great side to this lamb that simply shined.

Next up was the cheese course.  Main Ridge Dairy goat’s curd, smoked bark, olives & sorrel.  The goat’s curd was light and beautifully creamy.  It left me wanting more but this was just the right serving for what was already a larger than usual lunchtime meal.   The 2011 Allies ‘Merricks’ Pinot Noir was served with this course and there was also an option of sampling wine made by the host Andrew that I also indulged in. 

The dessert to finish was buckwheat ice cream, orchard apples & pinot juice.  Another eye-opening dish, unique to anything I have ever tried.  The buckwheat ice cream was not overly sweet, it was smooth, creamy and the buckwheat offered a mild flavour.  The apples were cooked perfectly offering tartness to the dish.  It was indeed a lovely way to complete the meal.

From the introduction right though to the tea and coffee to finish, it was inspiring to see Samantha and Andrew’s passion in the service, food and wine allowing all of us that attended to have a glimpse of unearthing Red Hill.  In the comfortable, tasteful décor of their restaurant, while the rain fell on the Mornington Peninsular, this experience of delicious food with matching wines was complete with the welcoming and informative service. This event will always be a wonderful memory and I hope to visit The Long Table again for more of their delicious local cuisine.