Grilled Sardines with Recheado/Reshad Paste

Yes, it’s coming! The much dreaded ‘writer’s block’ which rears its ugly head occasionally is slowly creeping in.

I can identify it these days. Starts with the physical self, a slow drain of energy which eventually creeps into my mind and pfffff…..I go blank.

Unlike earlier, I don’t fight this phase anymore; neither do I get upset or frustrated. I understand that it is my inner self asking me to slow down, take it easy and give it the rest it deserves. And this phase is an experience which bounces me back stronger and surer of who I am and the work I want to do.

So if you find me not my usual self or see a bit of irregularity here, I am just waiting for my mojo to be back.

And I also know that there’s been a lot of seafood happening here recently (and its going to continue for a bit!). Like I mentioned earlier, the project with the Supreme seafood company is a massive one. Initially I thought I will not include those posts here but then those recipes are some of the best that I cook or like to eat. So I thought it wouldn’t be fair if it’s not part of my space. But I do promise that I will try and include a bit more variety to avoid a fishy monotony.

Today’s dish uses sardines, the large oily sardines. These are larger than the regular sardines; contain more oil content which makes it much healthier as these contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The only catch is that these types of oily fish also contain a higher level of mercury or dioxin. So while extremely nutritious, these have to be taken in moderation.

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I have always enjoyed the flavour of oily sardines especially when grilled. The higher oil content keeps the fish moist and with a bit of spice rub on it, these sardines are a delicious feast.

This time, I used the famous Goan spice marinade known as the Recheado paste or Reshad paste or sometimes, also as the Goan red masala. Don’t get thrown off by the word ‘red’; it has less heat and more colour due to the use of dry red chillies.

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The Recheado or Reshad paste is an excellent marinade for seafood, especially fish that are fleshy in nature. The spices are blended with tamarind and vinegar with a hint of sugar to balance out the flavours. If you do not have a grill, then pan fry the fish. But the best option would be a coal fired barbecue to grill this fish; add a couple of beers and enjoy!

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Ingredients:

1. 6 oily sardines; gutted and cleaned
2. Salt, to season
3. 2 cloves
4. ½ tsp cumin/jeera seeds
5. ½ tsp black peppercorns
6. ½ inch cinnamon bark
7. 3-4 long dry red chillies (this gives medium heat, so adjust quantity to suit preferences)
8. ½ inch ginger
9. 3 medium garlic cloves
10. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
11. Sugar, a pinch
12. 1 tsp tamarind paste
13. ½ tsp white vinegar
14. Fresh garden salad, to serve
15. lemon wedges, to serve

Method:

• Clean and wash the sardines; pat dry. Score the fish to allow deeper penetration of the marinade.

• Soak the dry chillies in warm water for 15 minutes and then use for blending.

• Blend cloves, cumin, peppercorns, cinnamon, dry red chilli, ginger, garlic, turmeric, sugar, salt, tamarind and vinegar into a paste.

• Rub the sardines with this paste and keep aside for 2 hours. Overnight marination is a great idea if you have the time.

• Grill on a pan till done or shallow fry in oil.

• Serve hot with lemon wedges and a side of fresh garden salad.

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Pan Fried Prawns with Curry Leaf Spice Blend

School holidays are over and that means it’s time to get back to the daily grind!

Though this was a small two week break, it was a whirlwind one packed with activities, short trips, church, Easter egg hunts, loads of chocolate (and there’s plenty left) and food.

Work has been lax over these two weeks and its time I honoured my commitments and finish off the pending projects; starting with this recipe developed for Supreme Seafood Company.

I have an on-going love affair with curry leaves. Blame it on my Indian roots, especially my South Indian roots, I absolutely love the flavour, aroma and pungency of curry leaves. I have always felt it is such an underestimated herb, often relegated to just the tempering stage when it can be used in so many different ways.

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Use of curry leaves is practically unheard of in other cuisines. Given its native nature, it can be difficult to grow in most other countries. My Western world friends are quite jealous seeing the ease with which we can buy curry leaves in Australia and even grow it. I bought my first plant last week!

Today’s dish is a South Indian style prawn fry which showcases the flavour of curry leaves to its utmost. Experimented a bit to get the balance of flavours right, but finally nailed it.

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An extremely simple one to prepare, the star ingredient here is of course the gorgeous curry leaves which are pounded along with spices and aromatics to create a strong yet flavourful marinade (a little of this goes a long way). Allow the prawns to absorb these flavours and then finish off by frying in a splash of coconut oil. Delicious!

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This marinade/spice blend can be prepared in bulk and refrigerated or frozen for later use. Use it to stir fry chicken and serve with rice and dal or use it as a sandwich filling or in tacos. For a vegetarian option, I am thinking of potatoes, mushrooms, cottage cheese……

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And for the recipe, you need to click here.

Capital Kitchen, Chadstone – a Review

I spend a lot of time in the Chadstone shopping centre, simply because it happens to be my favourite shopping destination in Melbourne. With the perfect mix of low, average and high end shops, I love browsing, window shopping and actually shopping here!

I have always noticed the Capital Kitchen for two reasons. One, it sits with the fancy, high end fashionable boutiques – an area entirely reserved for drooling and window shopping. And second, the interiors looked inviting with a friendly vibe around it.

And so I decided to put this place to the test when out shopping with fellow mummies and kids in tow. I had checked the reviews on Urbanspoon which showed a very average rating, but I still decided to test out the place for myself before reaching any conclusions.

Walking in, I immediately fell in love with the ambience. It was vibrant, colourful with a lot of interesting and quirky additions to the countertops and walls. Being a breakfast and lunch only place (dinner only on Thursday and Friday), there was a constant buzz from the shoppers walking in and out of the place. While some are in for a quick coffee or meal, the others are for a lazy afternoon lunch, catching up with friends.

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We walked in around 12.30pm and it was a busy time, so had a bit of trouble finding a spot. Orders have to be given at the counter which proved to be a bother. Do we find a seat first or do we order first? Since we had children with us, one of us found a place to deposit the bags and get ourselves seated while the other scurried off to stand in the queue which was again a long one. Table service would be much appreciated guys.

For drinks, the children ordered the chocolate milkshake which arrived in a large steel tumbler. Not as thick as a regular milkshake but the flavours were good with just the right amount of chocolate. Travelling with children, the adults chose bottled fruit drinks though there was a basic wine list on the menu.

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The children ordered a mini cheeseburger with mini fries and crumbed chicken goujons with mini fries. Both were really good, the right portion for the little ones and devoured in no time at all. The burger was juicy and succulent, soft and fresh buns, perfectly fried chips served with tomato sauce. The goujons were also perfectly crumbed and juicy inside.

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My friend chose the chicken meatball risoni with peas, prosciutto crumble, thyme and truffle oil. A very average dish, a bit bland to my liking (yes, I do taste all the dishes that arrive at the table; perks of being a blogger). The risoni was cooked well but overall, did nothing to the tastebuds.

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And I opted for the handmade Turkish lamb dumplings with a roasted capsicum sauce, garlic yoghurt, sumac and dried mint. I was looking forward to this as the flavour combination sounded amazing on the menu. But the real dish was far from that. The lamb dumplings were delicious and so was the sauce and garlic yoghurt. But there was simply too much sumac and dried mint on the plate that it overpowered every other flavour on the plate. Such a big letdown.

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I am not too sure if I will re-visit the place; I will definitely not walk in for lunch but I might try out the coffee, cakes and desserts.

But for this visit and overall experience, my rating would be a 5/10.

Capital Kitchen

Shop G043

Chadstone Shopping Centre

1341 Dandenong Road

Chadstone, Victoria 3148

Phone no: 03 95634144

Timings:

Mon – Wed: 8am to 4.30pm

Thurs – 8am to 8pm

Fri – 8am to 8.30pm

Sat – 8am to 5pm

Sun – 9am to 4pm

Disclaimer – Ofcourse, not a sponsored post.

Capital Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Rigatoni Chilli Bolognese

The saga of one pot meals continue especially after the loooong weekend. Well, it was a quiet Easter for us this year; just the three of us catching up on….us!

We did everything we enjoyed (read lazing around). Which included this big pot of Bolognese made from scratch!

Well, making Bolognese is not rocket science; it’s become an everyday dish in almost all Australian households. But most people make the mistake of using bottled sauces for the same. I agree it’s convenient, we are all pressed for time but pause – have you ever thought how many chemicals you would have consumed in just one meal?

And speaking of flavour, the store bought sauce doesn’t stand a chance against a pot of deliciously bubbling, rich and vibrant homemade bolognese.

Now coming to today’s dish, the Rigatoni Chilli Bolognese is a twist to the classic we have all come to love.

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The reason for using rigatoni – I am not a big fan of spaghetti. I can’t be bothered to perfectly twirl the delicate strands of spaghetti around my fork for every single mouth. The rigatoni is robust and big, perfect to soak up my rich chilli bolognese, it’s all about comfort.

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This chilli bolognese is all about flavour, deep and rich. Slow-cooking is the best way to extract and get those robust flavours. And a hint of chilli to warm your insides on a cold, rainy day.

So picture this…..on my favourite spot on the couch with a bowl of hot steaming and delicious chilli bolognese in my hand, a glass of red by my side, and my favourite movie running.

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Are you drooling by now? Then you know what you ought to do!

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gm rigatoni
  2. 150 gm bacon, chopped
  3. 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  4. 1 dry bay leaf
  5. 1 cup red wine
  6. 1 beef stock, dissolved in 1 cup water
  7. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  8. 6 fresh basil leaves
  9. ¾ th cup chilli sauce (adjust to heat preferences)
  10. 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  11. 1 kg lean beef mince
  12. Sugar, a pinch
  13. Salt, to season
  14. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
  15. ½ cup olive oil
  16. Parmesan, as much as you wish

Method:

  1. In a large heavy bottom pan, heat the oil; brown the mince in batches and keep aside.
  2. In the same pan, add the bacon and fry for about a minute.
  3. Add the bay leaf and garlic; sauté till the garlic is just beginning to brown.
  4. Add the red wine and cook on low heat till the alcohol burns off completely; about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Then add the beef stock along with the rosemary and basil; bring to boil.
  6. Next, add the chilli sauce and crushed tomatoes along with 1 cup water. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Cook covered on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the mince and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes. Add water if the mixture looks dry.
  9. Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water till al dente or follow packet instructions.
  10. Drain the pasta reserving a cup of liquid.
  11. Add to the bolognese along with the reserved liquid. Mix well to combine.
  12. Serve warm with grated Parmesan.
  13. Tuck in!

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What’s your comfort food? Do share your story……

Goan Fish Biryani

 

Easter holidays are here and all of us are in the mood for some fun time with family and friends. And celebrations always mean great food!

Whether you are celebrating this Holy Festival or not, this weekend is a perfect time to gather around a table with your loved ones and relax over some good food. And today’s dish, the Goan style fish biryani is just the perfect one for that.

 

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The most unique thing about this fish biryani is the addition of grated coconut and black kokum. Though red kokum is used traditionally, I have used black kokum or kudampuli in this one. Medium sized fish like small seer fish or mackerel is best suited for this biryani preparation.

Unlike the meat biryanis which are usually heavy in spices and aromatics, this Goan fish biryani is light but with a bang of flavours from the whole spices, coconut and kokum. It has the distinct coastal flavour stamp which transports you the land of sun and surf – Goa!

And what a delicious way to use kokum, especially the black variety. If you have red kokum, use it by all means but the black also provides that delicious tangy addition which pairs so beautifully with coconut. It’s the play of sweet n’ sour!

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This dish is part of the Supreme seafood project, so click here for the recipe. Thanks.

Wishing all of you and your loved ones a blessed Easter!

Season of Salt & Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe – a Review + a Giveaway

If there’s one hobby or passion of mine that has stayed constant over the years, it’s my love for books and reading.

I am happiest when curled up on my couch with a good book in hand. And no matter how tired or harried the day might have been, sleep would never come if I haven’t read a few pages. And ever since my love affair with food started, I have added cookbooks also to my list of must reads.

So very naturally, I got excited when Pan Macmillan Australia approached me to review ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

9781742612416

A novel of love, grief and antipasti; penned by a food blogger and writer…..do I need to say more??

Season of Salt & Honey is a heartwarming tale of young Francesca Caputo and her gut-wrenching yet beautiful journey through life, love and loss. After the death of the man she loved, Frankie feels an irresistible need to escape from her over bearing Italian American family. She takes refuge in an old wooden cabin set in the idyllic Washington forests, where she slowly begins to recover from her personal grief, where her past relationships take on new meanings and her path crosses with her forest neighbours, quirky and interesting fellow beings.

I connected with Francesca (Frankie) on so many levels (especially the relationship she has with her sister) which made the book even more delightful to read. Peppered throughout the book are Sicilian-American recipes which the foodie in me is just waiting to try out especially the ‘Roasted almond cookies’ and the ‘Spring risotto’. You ought to get this book just for these recipes.

Season of Salt & Honey is a light read but one that stays with you a long time after you have finished reading it. Hannah has a way with words that brings the characters alive as if you have known them all along.

I experienced a strange sense of sadness and joy at the same time after finishing this book. All of us have known grief at some point, especially the grief that comes with the passing away of a loved one. And no matter how difficult it might seem, we all move on too. And sometimes, it can be an eye-opener too as it was for Frankie when half buried truths came to life challenging her emotions once again. Does she give up or does she fight?

Season of Salt & Honey releases today (April 1st) and is available at all leading bookstores across Australia. Make sure to grab a copy!

This is Hannah’s second book, the first being ‘The Colour of Tea’. Love the titles of her books!

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Hannah and here’s what we spoke about;

Hannah Tunnicliffe_2_Copyright Jody Lidstone

1. A bit on the real Hannah Tunnicliffe…

She is a writer, a Mum, a wanderer, a foodie and a dreamer.

2. How did this writing journey start? Was it a conscious decision to become a writer or a random result of life?

Great question. I made a conscious decision to be and do something different but I was unsure what that something was. Previously I was the Director of Human Resources for a 4,000 employee business in Macau, China. After becoming dissatisfied and burnt out I finally decided to quit my job and actively follow my ‘natural curiosities’. I did a range of things including career coaching, fundraising for a local orphanage and eating a lot of macarons! At the same time I dedicated myself to writing 1,000 words a day. The sum of those efforts and days eventually became my first novel, The Colour of Tea (published by Pan Macmillan).

3. And food! When did you discover your love for all things food?

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t in love with food. I believe that food is our earliest memory of love and that ensures our ongoing fascination and affection for it. Nourishment and sensory pleasure – what’s not to adore?


4. Personally, I find the best kind of cookbooks are those which tell a story. So far, there has only been one that has fulfilled that promise. Now looking forward to yours…..where did the idea for this book come from? How excited are you with this project?

I am very excited! While food was always a strong feature in Season of Salt and Honey it wasn’t until recently it was suggested to me that I include recipes for some of the food mentioned in the story. So I got cracking on recipe testing! I have had requests for recipes from readers of my first book, The Colour of Tea so I am thrilled to include them in Season of Salt and Honey.

5. How different is this book from your first one, ‘The Colour of Tea?’

Season of Salt and Honey has a very different setting from The Colour of Tea – the cool and serene Washington State coastal rainforest vs. thriving, bustling Macau – but the themes in the books are similar and include love, grief, escape and hope. I also hope I have created characters that are as intriguing and endearing as my readers tell me they found those in The Colour of Tea.

6. In keeping with the characters and location, Season of Salt and Honey features Sicilian American recipes. Any particular reason behind choosing this cuisine?

Francesca (Frankie) Caputo, the protagonist in Season of Salt and Honey is Italian-American. Her father’s family are from Sicily and her mother’s family are from Calabria so the book contains Sicilian, Calabrian and American style recipes. All the recipes were created using food already mentioned in the story and many recipes are quite symbolic of the plot and the characters within it.

7. What is your favourite food/cuisine in the world? And your most memorable meal?

I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine (but will gladly eat almost anything fresh and delicious!) A memorable meal that immediately springs to mind was a dinner I had at The China Club in Hong Kong for my thirtieth birthday. Beautiful Chinese dishes served amongst 1920’s private club style décor while a jazz singer serenaded us and then wished me a very happy birthday. I was in heaven.

8. Currently settled in Auckland, NZ do you see the nomad in you packing bags soon again?

I am so happy to return to New Zealand after many travels abroad that I’m not looking to move anytime soon but…. you never know! These days my adventures are local – to food markets, galleries and museums, and taking road trips up and down the stunning NZ coastline.

9. Ria Voros and forkandfiction.com – how did this collaborative venture happen?

Ria Voros is a fellow author, Mum and food enthusiast. I met her during a writing course (she was the teacher!) and we became firm friends. When I suggested that we collaborate on a blog about our dearest topics – food and writing and books and family – she was keen as mustard. Ria writes wonderful children’s / YA fiction, you should check her out here: www.riavoros.com

10. Finally, what does the future look like?

I have no idea! I cross my fingers that it includes more books, more delicious food, a healthy and happy family.

Pan Macmillan has been generous enough to provide me with an extra copy of ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ to giveaway to one lucky reader. So while I am off to bake a batch of the almond cookies, you head over and take part in the competition. All the best!

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To be in the running for this giveaway, here’s what you must do;

1. Subscribe to my blog using your email id.
2. Leave a comment stating the name of your favourite book/novel. (Only entries with comments will be considered).
3. Cross your fingers!

Note – The competition is open for only Australian residents (sorry to my other readers). This giveaway will run from April 1st, 2015 to April 10th, 2015. The name of the winner will be notified on the blog and all my social media channels (if you aren’t following any, this would be a good time to). The winner will have 48 hours to get in touch with me; failure to do so will result in the drawing of another winner.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been chosen.

The Flame Bar N Grill – a Review

I turned 35 last week and very consciously decided to spend the entire day with my boys promising myself to keep my hands away from ‘my devices’ and social media accounts.

The day started out with a special movie preview organized by Nuffnang for ‘The Book of Life’ at the Village Cinemas in Jam Factory (Chapel Street, South Yarra). After a good start to the day, we decided to make a long due visit to the Eureka Skydeck, the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. But first lunch, which had to be en route…..

We hadn’t made a booking anywhere since we didn’t really have a set plan for the day. So after the movie, we decided to walk into any restaurant that caught our fancy on our way to the Sky deck. And that’s how we ended up in The Flame Bar N Grill on Chapel Street, Prahran.

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The Flame has both an al fresco area and an indoor dining space, which given the location is a great idea. If not for the sun beating down on us that day, we would have definitely opted for the al fresco space watching the shoppers and strollers going by. There was plenty of space indoors for a Saturday afternoon which didn’t seem like a good thing to me.

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We were seated and the menus bought out promptly; so far so good. The menu had a strong American steakhouse theme with all the regulars available; nothing surprising or exciting.

For drinks, we decided to sample the cocktails. While Sam ordered the Mojito, I decided to try out the in-house special, The Flame Cocktail. No explanations were provided in the menu as to what went into the drink, so I asked the waitress. She gave a sheepish grin saying that she was new and had no clue either (not done!). But she promptly got it clarified from the bartender and informed me that it was a combination of raspberries, vodka, lemon and some other liqueur (which I can’t remember now).

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The drinks were very average and nothing much to write about…which is why probably they gave us a double offer of two drinks for the price of one.

We started with the slow cooked lamb ribs glazed with the Flame sauce. Thoroughly disappointed with this one as the meat was underseasoned, tough and chewy. The sauce was less than a glaze so there was hardly any flavour left on the meat. Served with a basket of mediocre chips, the dish was a complete let down.

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The next dish we tried out was the char grilled salmon with potato mash, green beans and glazed with the flame sauce. The salmon was cooked well, flaky and perfect but the rest of the dish was a disappointment. The flame sauce tasted of bad soy sauce; the mash was well, just mash and the steamed carrots and beans had no real flavour.

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For dessert, it was The Flame Sundae which again, just average. Three scoops of icecream with a handful of nuts and caramel sauce drizzled over it; I would do a better job at home. But ice cream being ice cream and definitely store bought, tasted just fine.

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Service was lackluster; the food was bought in before the drinks. Sigh! But the waitress was warm and friendly; she just needs more training.

Overall, average and a tad bit disappointed given the location and the prices. Not going back for sure.

My rating – 5/10

The Flame Bar N Grill

(Steakhouse, American)

254 Chapel St
Prahran
VIC 3181

Phone no: 03 9510 1510

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFlameBarNGrill/timeline

Timings:

Monday – Thursday – 8:00am-10:00pm
Friday – Saturday – 8:00am-11:00pm
Sunday – 8:00am-9:00pm

The Flame Bar N Grill on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post; all the food and drinks were paid for by me

Dhaba Style Kheema Masala

Any food enthusiast will tell you that the true way to enjoy the gastronomic flavours of a country is to eat their street food.

It’s the same with Indian food too. If you were to take a journey along the highways of India across the length and breadth of the country, then you will have a true glimpse into what Indian cuisine is all about. You will be able to understand how food changes from region to region depending on local produce, weather, environment, religion and habits of the people residing there.

Much like the food trucks of the West, India is home to innumerable street food stalls which are referred to by different names depending on the region. In the Northern parts of the country, these food stalls that mostly line the highways (but not exclusively!) are called dhabas. And it is a commonly acknowledged fact that the dhabas serve some of the best Indian food, which perhaps cannot be found anywhere else in the country.

Today’s dish is a delicious Punjabi dhaba style kheema masala that can be easily prepared at home. Resplendent with spices and aromatics, this is an extremely flavourful dish that you will want to make over and over again. Highly recommended to be tried with pav (a type of Indian bread) or with phulkas or rotis if pav is not available.

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Kheema or khaima (as known in many parts of India) actually means meat mince but the term has become synonymous with lamb mince. This is an ingredient that graces the kitchens across the globe and is such a versatile one.

The best way to buy mince is to choose the meat yourself and get it freshly minced from your butcher; this enables you to control the amount of meat to fat ratio, as required for the dish. There are commercial brands that sell good quality mince but most often, the cheap parts get thrown in which makes it sinewy and chewy instead of melt-in-the-mouth.

This dhaba style kheema masala is a rich dish with bold flavours that is just perfect on a cold evening. There is warmth from the spices and aromatics but not overly hot. The flavours are balanced out with the addition of tangy tomatoes; the milk and butter lend a rich creaminess which just makes you go ‘ooh la la’!

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Make it, eat it, enjoy it!

This dish is part of a project for Supreme Seafood Company; so you can find the recipe here.

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Autumn Stew with Chickpeas, Potatoes and Kale

Autumn is officially here! Though we have experienced crazy weather the whole of March with rains, thunderstorms, winds, blazing sun and high temperatures. But then, that’s the beauty of Melbourne….four seasons in a day!

The idea of an autumn stew had been brewing in my mind for a while now though I had not decided if I should include meat or keep it vegetarian. Then a friend gifted me a bunch of Rocoto Manzano red chillies which I have never seen or used before in my life. The idea of the autumn stew slowly started to take shape in my head while fiddling with these chillies.

Rocoto Manzano chillies are native to Central and South America especially the regions of Chile and Peru. Being native to these regions, this chilli is used commonly in Mexican cooking. These chillies are medium hot (for me!) and the idea of an Indian inspired stew began to take form in my head.

Rocoto Manzano red chilli

This stew is healthy and nutritious….proteins from the chickpeas, carbs from the potatoes and a whole lot of nutrients from the red kale. I have also used a generous sprinkling of raw crushed almonds to add to the nutrition factor and texture.

I have used some spices to add a bit of oomph and flavour to the stew, mainly cumin, caraway, cloves and bay leaf. But the real flavour of this autumn stew comes from the chillies…just that right kick of heat to lift the flavours and keep you warm through the cold nights.

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Feel free to use any combination of vegetables that you enjoy to eat. Lamb would be a good choice if you want to make a non-vegetarian version; just make sure to adjust the spices accordingly.

So, let’s get cooking this delicious, comforting autumn stew with chickpeas, potatoes and kale with a generous dose of chillies and almonds.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 cup chickpeas; soaked overnight
2. 1 large potato, diced
3. 3-4 stalks red kale, shredded
4. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
5. ¼ tsp cumin seeds
6. ¼ tsp caraway seeds
7. 2 cloves
8. 1 dried bay leaf
9. 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10. 3 Rocoto Manzano chillies; remove pith and seeds, finely chopped
11. 2 medium red onion, finely chopped
12. 2 tomatoes, freshly pureed
13. Salt, to season
14. ¼ cup crushed skinless almonds

Note – If you do not have these chillies, use any other type or add some chilli flakes instead.

Method:

1. In a cast iron pot or deep bottom pan, heat the oil and crackle the whole spices.
2. Add the finely chopped chillies and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes on low heat to get the flavours into the oil.
3. Next, add the chopped onions and sauté till light brown.
4. Then add the pureed tomatoes and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for a further 5 minutes.
5. Add the soaked chickpeas, season with salt along with 2 cups of water; bring to boil and then reduce to low heat. Cook covered till the chickpeas are 75% done.
6. Open and add the potatoes; add more water if necessary. Continue to cook on low heat covered till the potatoes are just about done.
7. Finally, add the kale leaves and cook till done.
8. Add the crushed almonds just before serving.
9. Serve warm with bread. (I had it with freshly baked Afghan bread garnished with herbs and chilli flakes.)

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Shark Fin House (CBD, Melbourne) – a Review

The visit to Shark Fin House situated on Little Bourke Street in the Melbourne, CBD was a planned one. Our friends were giving us a treat and had invited us to this restaurant. There were 6 of us and 2 little ones, a happy (after a successful shopping spree) ravenously hungry bunch who particularly loved Chinese cuisine.

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It was a weekend and we walked in close to 7.00pm. We hadn’t made any reservations so was apprehensive about getting a table. But there were tables empty and we were guided to the first floor and seated within minutes.

From the time we were seated and handed over the menus, the pathetic customer service began.

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Only 2 of us ordered drinks; I chose a glass of The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014) and another friend got a glass of Glenfiddich Malt. We requested for plain water for the rest of the group.

The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014), Glenfiddich Malt

The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014), Glenfiddich Malt

The drinks arrived promptly and we proceeded to place the order. We had a few queries as to the portions for some of the starters which we tried to get clarified from the waitress. The lady had minimalistic English speaking skills which made the job really difficult and she seemed to be in constant state of hurry to actually listen out and help us with the ordering process.

Anyway, we went ahead and completed placing the order. We started off with two soups; creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat and the hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices. The corn soup was just average and didn’t measure up to the expectations but the hot and sour soup was really flavourful, delicious and packed a punch. It is high on spices and would be enjoyed by only those who like the fiery hit and we did thoroughly.

creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat

creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat

hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices

hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices

For starters, we got the vegetarian spring rolls, chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce and sesame prawn toast. The spring rolls were disappointing; the filling was bland with no real flavour. The chicken skewers were good but didn’t enjoy it with the satay sauce; found it too sweet to my liking. Again, the sesame prawn toast was just average; this was a dish that we were really looking forward to but disappointed especially with a cost of $8.80 for just 2 pieces.

chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce ; sesame prawn toast

chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce ; sesame prawn toast

vegetarian spring rolls

vegetarian spring rolls

The mains began with traditional Schezuan spicy fish; I was looking forward to this dish so much hoping to experience the authentic Schezuan flavours but the dish was disappointing. While there was no dearth to the Schezuan peppercorns in the dish, there was no balance of flavours which left an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth.

traditional Schezuan spicy fish

traditional Schezuan spicy fish

The highlight dish of the evening was the diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce; succulent, melt in the mouth pieces of meat with delicious flavours. It was the crowd favourite hands down and totally recommended.

diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce

diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce

The next main we ordered was Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles. The dish was good but nothing to rave about. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the vegetables flavourful and crunchy served on a bed of fried noodles.

Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles

Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles

We also ordered combination fried rice, again an average dish and nothing spectacular.

combination fried rice

combination fried rice

The last dish was the braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots and served on a hot plate. While there was no sizzle on the hot plate when it arrived on the table, the venison more than made up for it. Braised and cooked perfectly with the aromatic ginger and shallots, this dish was much enjoyed. Totally recommend it.

braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots

braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots

Now let’s come to the customer service part. Never has a restaurant disappointed me so much in terms of its service. One of the first things I noticed on entering the Shark Fin House was the innumerable awards that the restaurant has won over the years.

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But the service was so disappointing. Like I already mentioned before, the waitress had a huge language issue which really made it difficult placing the order. This is supposed to be a high end restaurant where diners pay big bucks so isn’t it a mandatory thing that the staff must be able to converse well and also help out the diners in the best way possible.

There were only chopsticks placed on the table along with the rest of the dinnerware. Now this is totally fine by us but there were others in our group who were not adept with chopsticks and required cutlery. So when we requested one of the staff to provide us with cutlery, he laughed with a smirk and said that he knew we were going to ask for it. How rude!

In between the meal, we requested the waitress for a single portion of steamed rice but she bought over many bowls of rice; she also bought the wrong orders to the table on two counts which had to be returned. There was a sense of hurriedness and confusion throughout the meal.

And the final straw – a wrong bill! We were billed for dishes that we hadn’t ordered, the dishes that were wrongfully bought to our table. The numbers were wrong and if we hadn’t checked it thoroughly, would have ended up paying a huge amount. Then the hassle of having to explain, counter check etc…..by the end of all of it, we just wanted to get out of that place.

I don’t think I will ever be returning to the Shark fin house again; they can serve the most delicious food but if they are not willing to care for me as a customer, then it’s a big no for me.

My rating: Food – 7/10; Customer service – 3/10

Shark Fin House

131, Little Bourke Street
Melbourne CBD
Victoria 3000

Website – http://www.sharkfin.com.au/
Phone no. – (03) 9663 1555

Working hours:

Mon – Fri: 11.30am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm – 11.00pm
Sat – Sun: 11.00am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm – 11.00pm

Shark Fin House on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – You would have figured by now that this is not a sponsored review.

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