Oriental Teahouse, Melbourne Central – a Review

Every time I am catching a train at the Melbourne Central or shopping there, my eyes would drift towards the Oriental teahouse. The beautiful array of teas and teapots constantly beckon me inside and so one fine day, after watching a movie at the Central, we decided to put this place to the test.

Oriental Teahouse is one of the many restaurants owned by David Zhou, who also personally handcrafts all the signature tea blends served at the teahouses. There are several branches across Melbourne and this review is specific to the branch at Melbourne Central.

There is a distinct Chinese or Oriental feel to the ambience but it’s the huge display of teas, teapots, cups and accessories that makes it so inviting. Though I didn’t buy any this time, I am definitely going back to get a rather ‘pricey’ tea set and some copper tea tins that I have laid my eyes on. They stock plenty of affordable options too.

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The service was warm and friendly right from the beginning and once we were seated, the waiter bought out the menus. We first decided to order some tea. There are other beverage options too including a well stocked bar but what’s the point of visiting a tea house if you aren’t sampling the tea!

While one of my friends went for the chamomile tea, I requested the help of the waiter who guided me to take the lemongrass tea with honey which he explained suited the time of day (we were having dinner) as it had great digestive properties and also went with the food. Since there are plenty of options, it would be a good idea to take advice and match the tea to your food and preferences.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea

Lemongrass tea with honey

Lemongrass tea with honey

The menu had a good number of options but we decided to go for their combo package or the Group Grub for 4 people. Priced at $120, this was a good deal with fairly good portions for four people, unless you are big eaters or really hungry. It also allows you to sample 9 dishes, which if you ordered individually, would end up costing much, much more. A good sharing platter for those who have like minded food choices.

There was calamari in the combo, which one of us didn’t eat, so we requested for something else in its place. The waiter tried to understand our taste preferences and suggested the roast pork belly in its place. And instead of steamed rice, we opted for the fried rice bowls. Appreciate this service by the waiter; most often, restaurants are very rigid when it comes to combos like this without accommodating the customer’s needs.

It did take a while for the tea to arrive as well as the food but we weren’t complaining. While the rest of the group was chatting, I continued to explore the teapots and accessories on display.

The teas finally arrived at the perfect temperature. I am more of a coffee gal, but I loved the lemongrass tea with honey. Just the right hint of lemongrass and some good quality honey to just sweeten it. Brilliant!

The food came out one after the other in rapid succession which was good; having to wait for each dish would have been a dampener especially when ordering a sharing platter like this one.

The first to arrive was the Peking duck; I was disappointed that it arrived rolled and ready to eat. I enjoy the process of making the rolls myself; it did taste good but not great flavours to write about.

Peking duck

Peking duck

The second dish was the Chilli Wagyu dumplings which is a star dish of the restaurant. Totally lived up to its name; delicious succulent dumplings with a flavourful beef filling and just the right amount of chilli oil soaking through. Totally recommend this one!

chilli wagyu dumplings

chilli wagyu dumplings

The Chicken dumpling quinoa salad was the next; very refreshing flavours and once again, delicious dumplings.

Chicken dumpling quinoa salad

Chicken dumpling quinoa salad

The fried rice was just average but it paired better with the whole meal than steamed rice.

Fried rice bowls

Fried rice bowls

Next was the Mixed Asian vegetables which was also delicious and flavoursome; the vegetables were steamed well yet crunchy and made the perfect accompaniment to the dumplings.

Mixed asian veggies

Mixed asian veggies

The next dish was the Sichuan pepper chicken. Again, a brilliant dish so full of flavour from the Sichuan peppercorns but without its numbing heat. Another delicious dish that I would recommend.

Sichuan pepper chicken

Sichuan pepper chicken

The last was the roast pork belly; the pork was just perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth and so full of flavour. Served with pickled veggies, this is another one you must try.

Roast pork belly

Roast pork belly

To summarize, a delicious and satisfying meal in a great ambience; I am definitely going back here.

My rating – 7.5/10

Oriental Teahouse

Ground floor, Shop 068/69
Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
Melbourne, VIC 3000

Phone: 03 9066 0207

Website: http://orientalteahouse.com.au/

Oriental Tea House on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post; all the food and drinks were paid for by me.

Sweet and Spicy Prawns

The past week started off hectic, but very exciting. A new project came into fruition (spoiler alert!); of course you would soon get to hear about it. And this meant a lot of planning, cooking and shooting amidst other writing assignments.

But I loved this hectic pace; I was in my best creative space which made me happy, truly happy. Everything was going great guns and then Thursday struck. I woke up feeling the laziest that I have felt in a long time. Mindlessly moving from room to room, not focusing on anything and feeling guilty every time I took a look at my planner; desperately trying to get back into my working element.

But a few hours into the day, I gave it up and let the laziness engulf me. I reveled in doing nothing, took the time out to do the small things that I usually do not have time for. Put on my favourite songs from yesteryears, spoke to my plants in the balcony, cuddled my son longer than usual and dreamt!

It made me happy; this slowing down actually helped me recharge and rejuvenate myself.

We talk a lot about slowing down; and in the recent times, there has been a lot of conscious effort to get people to slow down in their lives. Yet, this has become one of the most difficult things to do. The word ‘stress’ looms large above us….we talk and fret a lot about it but yet, we actually do not want to do anything about it.

Slowing down spells failure for many of us. We are scared that if we slow down, the world will rush by past and we would have lost our time. The competitiveness, the rivalry, the rat race…….

Just as I promised myself yesterday, I encourage all of you to pledge moments of silence in your day, your week, your month…..moments where you are truly in harmony with your inner self. Do not think, just be….in the moment!

And for me, these silent moments are intertwined always with thoughts of food. I crave savoury deep flavours, fingerlickin deliciousness that somehow comforts my soul like none other….

Sweet and spicy prawns is just that….fingerlickin deliciousness!

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It’s easy and simple; just a handful of ingredients working its magic together inside a wok. And make sure you get the juiciest, plump prawns you can lay your hands on.

A dash of heat, a pinch of sweet, a handful of crunch all deliciously coating the succulent prawns!

Ingredients:

1. 1kg Australian raw prawns; peeled and deveined, leaving shells intact
2. 1 semi-ripe tomato, deseeded and sliced
3. 1 medium zucchini, sliced
4. 1 bell pepper, sliced
5. ½ lime; rind grated and juiced
6. 1 tsp five spice powder
7. 2 tbsp sriracha
8. 1 tbsp ginger, grated
9. 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10. 1 tbsp palm sugar, grated
11. 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
12. 2 tbsp fish sauce
13. ¼ cup pine nuts
14. Salt, to season
15. 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

1. In a bowl, mix the lime zest, five spice blend and 1 tbsp vegetable oil; marinate the prawns in this for at least 1 hour.
2. Combine the sweet chilli sauce, sriracha, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar in a bowl; taste and adjust to preferences.
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok to just smoking, add the prawns and cook on high for 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep aside.
4. Heat the remaining oil; sauté ginger and garlic on high and add the prawns back. Add the zucchini and bell peppers.
5. Add the mixed sauces to the prawns and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
6. Then add the tomatoes, taste and add salt if necessary.
7. Continue cooking till the sauce has coated the prawns well.
8. Add the pine nuts, mix and remove from heat.
9. Serve hot with steamed white rice.

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Vons Restaurant and Bar – a Review

Located in Hardware Lane, one of Melbourne CBD’s hotspots, Vons Restaurant and Bar serves a fusion or medley of modern Australian and Meditteranean cuisine.

Shopping in the vicinity, we stepped into the very busy Hardware lane at about 7.00pm in search of a good dinner. There are plenty of little cafes, restaurants and bars along this lane and we snaked our way through hoping some place would catch our attention.

We were suddenly stopped in front of Vons by a middle aged man (presumably, one of the owners?) who promised us the most delicious bowl of pasta. He even offered special kid-sized meals, noticing the kiddos with us. And that’s how we came to eat at Vons!

Vons shares the same ambience that you find in most of the city restaurants located in such busy lanes. There is a hub of activity, conversations, glasses clinking, laughter and merriment. Not the place for a silent, romantic dinner! But I love this bustling energy and Vons appealed to me.

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The seating space inside is decent and there is an al-fresco area which is likely to be crowded always. If you are aiming for the al-fresco space, then a wait might be necessary though you are likely to find an empty table or two inside at most times.

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The first thing that struck me on entering is the beautifully stocked and done up bar. Loved the bottles of preserves lining the shelves along with the wines and alcohol. The hostess was prompt, cheerful and with a smile at all times. Lovely service….

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So far, so good…and with the promise of a good meal ahead, we began browsing the menus.

For drinks, my husband ordered the classic margarita and I ordered Zeppelin Riesling (Eden Valley, SA) which the waitress recommended would go with the seafood main that I had in mind. And true to the promise, the wine paired beautifully with the meal. The margarita was not enjoyed much; he felt that it lacked the classic refreshing flavour and punch of a real margarita.

Margarita (the classic)

Margarita (the classic)

Zeppelin Riesling, Eden Valley, SA

Zeppelin Riesling, Eden Valley, SA

For starters, we chose the Chermoula chicken kebabs. Disappointing…the kebabs were under seasoned and there was no real chermoula flavour. Totally lackluster!

chermoula chicken kebabs

chermoula chicken kebabs

For my son, I ordered a Penne with chorizo and Napoli sauce. The flavours were just average; the pasta was cooked perfectly but the sauce lacked punch. It was just an average Napoli sauce and not the best bowl of pasta I was promised!

Penne chorizo

Penne chorizo

I ordered a pan seared snapper fillet with risotto porcini and creamy orange sauce for mains. The best dish of the day, in comparison to others. The snapper was cooked perfectly, just flaking over the delicious orange sauce. The risotto had a good porcini flavour and was enjoyable but I would have preferred it to be slightly creamier.

Pan seared snapper fillet, risotto porcini and creamy orange sauce

Pan seared snapper fillet, risotto porcini and creamy orange sauce

The next main we ordered was the Osso Bucco; one that we all eagerly awaited. But this one turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the day. The meat was not cooked enough, under seasoned and the sauce that accompanied was so plain and bland. There was absolutely no flavour in the dish, thoroughly dissatisfied.

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco

The next dish was the risotto porcini with smoked duck. The same risotto served with the snapper and a few pieces of smoked duck on top. While the risotto was enjoyable, the smoked duck lacked seasoning and did nothing to add to the dish.

Risotto porcini and smoked duck

Risotto porcini and smoked duck

The final dish for the evening was the smoky lamb ribs. The ribs were soft, falling off the bone and seasoned well. The sauce was good but definitely lacked the smoky flavour or deep richness that you would normally expect from a dish like this.

Smoky lamb ribs

Smoky lamb ribs

Didn’t bother with desserts as we were all pretty much disappointed by the end of the meal. The service was really good but the food as such, quite disappointing. Though prices were affordable, considering the quality, I would say on the higher side especially for a family. Don’t think I will be going back, unless by chance.

My rating: 6/10

Address:
Vons Restaurant and Bar
78 Hardware Lane
Melbourne 3000
Phone: 96001042
Website: http://www.vonsrestaurant.com.au/index2.html

Timings:

Monday to Friday – 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 11pm
Saturday, Sunday – 5pm to 11pm

Vons Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored review; all the food and drinks were paid for by me.

Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala (Milagu Masala Kozhi)

The cookbook industry is growing at an exponential rate but truth be told, there are very few cookbooks that excite me, let alone make it a part of my collection.

But the minute I heard of the book, ‘The Bangala Table – Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad’, I knew I had to own this one. Two reasons; the first one being that Chettinad cuisine is one I admire and enjoy tremendously and the second, this one is real with a definitive glimpse and understanding into the food, culture and traditions of the region.

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For those who aren’t aware, Chettinad cuisine refers to the food of the Chettiars, residents of a small region in Tamil Nadu (a 600 square mile area which lies east of Madurai), southernmost state of India.

I love cookbooks that take me beyond food; it must transport me to the region, get beneath the superficialities and provide a glimpse of the life and culture of the people who eat this food. The Bangala Table is just that; I live and breathe the Chettinad air while I am reading and cooking from this book. A detailed book review will soon follow, so more about the book there.

There are plenty of restaurants serving Chettinad cuisine in India and abroad but very, very few get it right. Just as Indian cuisine is shrouded in the myth that it is spicy and fiery at all times, Chettinad cuisine enjoys its fair share of myths too, especially the ‘spice’ myth. But the truth cannot be far from that.

A delicacy that is famous from the region and that is religiously placed on every Chettinad themed restaurant’s menu is the ‘Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala’ or ‘Milagu Masala Kozhi’ in the native tongue.

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And after relishing the original, I can safely say that most of them get it wrong!

Like its name, this chicken dish is all about the peppercorns; the flavourful little dance that it plays on your taste buds yet imparting only subtle heat aptly balanced by the fennel, cumin, dry chilli and coriander, all infused into the succulent meat of the chicken.

The balance of flavours is the essence of this Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala. It is an easy dish to prepare but give it time to slow cook, which helps to draw out the flavours from the spices and aromatics and infuses into the chicken.

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Ingredients:

1. 600 gms chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2. 2 medium ripe, red tomatoes, pureed
3. ¼ cup oil
4. 2 inch cinnamon bark
5. 2 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
6. 1 ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
7. Salt, to season
8. Wet spice paste:

• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 2 tsp black peppercorns
• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• 4 dry red chilli (round variety/Gundu Milagu preferred)
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• ½ tsp turmeric powder
• 4 garlic cloves
• 1 inch ginger

Method:

1. Dry roast the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, dry red chillies and coriander seeds till fragrant; take care not to burn. Remove and cool.
2. Grind to a paste with turmeric powder, garlic and ginger; add a little water, just enough to make the wet paste. Keep aside.
3. Heat oil on high in a large kadai or wok; when the oil is hot enough but not smoking, add the cinnamon, cardamom and chopped onions. On medium heat, sauté the onions till light brown.
4. Add the tomato puree and sauté for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the prepared wet paste and mix well to combine, breaking up the lumps, if any. Saute on low heat for about 12 to 15 minutes till the masala comes together and you notice the oil separating at the sides of the pan. The masala would have considerably darkened by this stage.
6. Add the chicken pieces, season with salt and mix well to combine. Cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes; then add 1 cup of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze and mix well so that the masala coats the chicken completely.
7. Bring to boil and then cook on low heat for about 20 minutes covered. Stir occasionally. Add more water only if necessary as chicken releases water of its own.
8. Uncover and continue to cook till the sauce has thickened well and coats the chicken pieces.
9. Serve hot.

Note – Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala pairs well with Indian flat breads but I recommend it with steamed rice, sambar (South Indian lentil stew) and a side of vegetables.

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Adzuki Beans and Potatoes in Charmagaz Curry

‘Charmagaz’ refers to an assortment of four different seeds – watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber and pumpkin (all members of the Cucurbitaceous plants).

These seeds are quite popular as delicious and healthy snacks but are extensively used for cooking in the Rajasthani cuisine of India. Just as nuts are used to add texture and creaminess to a gravy or curry, a paste of these seeds are used to lend creaminess to the dish and at one-fourth of the cost.

One of my favourite snacks from my childhood was these seeds; I would also add sunflower seeds to the list. Snacking on seeds is extremely popular in the Middle East and that’s how I picked it up. But quite recently, I tumbled upon the use of these seeds in rich, flavourful Indian curries.

And this piece of wisdom came from this amazing blog; Sanjeeta is a well known food blogger, photographer and stylist. She had posted a recipe for mushroom charmagaz and that’s how I learnt how to use these seeds.

The charmagaz remains the same, but the recipes are highly varied so you actually get two ideas on how to incorporate these healthy seeds into your diet. And these are easily available at all Indian stores or you could buy a mix from any shop selling seeds and nuts, especially the Middle Eastern ones.

Adzuki beans and potatoes in charmagaz curry; this dish is high on nutrition. There’s protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, essential fats and a whole lot of other nutrients from the seeds. Paired with wholewheat rotis and a fresh, garden salad on the side; this one is a delicious, flavourful vegetarian delight!

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Ingredients:

1. 1 cup adzuki beans; soaked overnight
2. 2 large potatoes, cut into cubes
3. 3 tbsp charmagaz; soaked in warm water
4. ½ tbsp poppy seeds; soaked in warm water
5. 3 dry red chilli; soaked in warm water
6. 3-4 tbsp milk
7. 1 large onion, finely chopped
8. Half of a ripe tomato, finely chopped
9. 3 garlic cloves
10. 1 inch ginger
11. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
12. 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
13. 1 tsp coriander powder
14. ¼ tsp cumin powder
15. 2 tbsp oil
16. 1 dry bay leaf
17. 3 cloves
18. 1 inch cinnamon bark
19. Salt, to season
20. 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

1. Soak the charmagaz, poppy seeds and dry red chilli in warm water or at least 30 minutes.
2. After 30 min, drain and grind to a paste with milk, garlic and ginger. Add water, if necessary. Keep aside.
3. Heat oil in a pan and add the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon bark. Cook for a few seconds on low heat till fragrant and then add the chopped onions.
4. Saute till light brown and then add the spice powders. Cook for a further minute and then add the tomatoes. Saute till all the ingredients come together and a mushy consistency is achieved.
5. Then add the ground paste and mix well to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, season with salt and add 2 cups of water. Bring to boil.
6. Then add the adzuki beans and cook till ¾ ths done. Add water to loosen up the gravy if too dry.
7. Add the potatoes and cook till done (at this stage, the beans will be soft but not mushy).
8. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
9. Serve warm.

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Chilli Chicken Bites

Yet again, food has opened my world to a whole new bunch of friends in Melbourne.

I have been part of a growing food group called ‘Chef at Large’ on Facebook for quite a while now. A couple of months ago, a bunch of us belonging to the group and residing in Melbourne decided to meet up for a coffee. And the only thing that we knew about each other – food makes our world go around!

And that friendship has blossomed over the months with regular meet-ups, coffees, pot lucks, family gatherings etc….

Our recent meet was a potluck party at a nearby farm where we had a whale of a time sampling each other’s dishes, rambling, laughing….all the good things of life. Apart from all the food and fun, we had also decided to swap an ingredient each and come up with a recipe featuring the same.

I was given the round, dry red chillies, which are hugely popular in the South Indian region. Also known as ‘Gundu Milagu; these chillies are small and round with bright, shiny, deeply red skin. It is extensively used in the Chettinadu style of cooking apart from being used for tempering traditional Indian dishes like dals, sambar and rasam.

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Chillies are always looked upon as a source of heat and very rarely, as a source of flavour. When used in the right manner and the right quantities, you can enjoy the flavour profile of each chilli without making the dish fiery or hot. Today’s recipe, chilli chicken bites, is an example….

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Chilli chicken is a classic Indian starter but I decided to give it my own twist to make it appealing to all taste buds, especially as a snack for children.

The marinade used is a medley of red chillies, cumin, fenugreek, cloves and coriander along with aromatics like ginger and garlic. The chicken pieces can be marinated and frozen for upto a month which makes this dish a handy one when you have parties or gatherings. You could also freeze this in small portions and use in lunch box recipes like I do. Sandwiches, wraps, snacks…..my son loves the chilli chicken bites in his lunch box.

So, here’s the recipe for chilli chicken bites – a classic example of why you should love chillies!

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Ingredients:

1. 1 kg, chicken thigh (boneless); cut into bite sized pieces
2. 5-6 dry red chilli, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes (it will not be spicy, trust me)
3. 5 garlic cloves
4. 1 inch ginger root, peeled
5. ½ tsp cumin seeds
6. ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
7. 5 cloves
8. 1 tsp coriander seeds
9. Salt, to taste
10. 3-4 cups Panko breadcrumbs, for coating (use ordinary breadcrumbs if you wish to)
11. Vegetable oil, for frying

Pssst….if you live in Australia, then these chillies are available in Indian stores which specifically sell South Indian or Srilankan ingredients.

Method:

1. Wash and drain the chicken pieces well; keep aside.
2. Soak the chillies in warm water for at least 15 minutes.
3. Dry roast cumin, fenugreek, cloves and coriander seeds.
4. Grind the roasted spices and the softened chillies with a bit of water into a paste.
5. Add the paste to the chicken pieces, season with salt and mix well to combine.
6. Marinate for at least 3-4 hours, more if possible. If you want to freeze for later use, do it at this stage.
7. Heat oil in a deep pan to fry the chicken pieces.
8. Coat each chicken piece in the Panko crumbs and fry till golden brown. Drain on a kitchen paper.
9. Serve hot with dip of choice.

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Grilled Kangaroo Skewers with Red Chermoula

Kangaroo….yes, I finally did it.

And I can hear friends and family teasing my full fledged Aussie….ness now. But guys, not all Aussies eat kangaroo!

Well, it had been in my mind for the longest time to try out this meat ever since Masterchef happened to me. A lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ later….here I am with grilled kangaroo skewers marinated with red charmoula.

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Red Chermoula is an incredible Moroccan condiment with North African origins; it has a ton of flavour, very vibrant and can be used in so many different ways in the kitchen. There is the green variant too; the green chermoula – the basic difference being the presence of paprika in the red one.

As Mourad Lahlou puts it in his book, ‘New Moroccan’ (from where the recipe for this red charmoula is adapted), chermoula should be seen as a defining Moroccan flavour rather than just labeling it as a marinade, dip or condiment.

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Understanding the flavour profile of the chermoula will enable you to use it in multiple ways in your kitchen. Mourad has outlined plenty of ways in which you can put the red charmoula to use. But I decided to test it out with kangaroo.

Kangaroo meat is extremely low in fat and quite high in protein; so it has to be taken care, not to overcook the meat. This lean, red meat has many nutritional benefits like omega-3s, B group vitamins and also a good source of iron and zinc.

If you are buying kangaroo meat or for that matter any meat, make sure it comes from a sustainable and animal-friendly source. I bought mine from Gourmet Game; they also retail at most of the big supermarkets.

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Being an extremely lean meat, it’s important not to overcook the meat. I bought the fillets which were cut into medium-sized cubes for the skewers. A few minutes on each side are all that you need with this meat.

Now, I do understand that many of you might not get kangaroo meat easily in other countries or would hesitate to consume it for various reasons. But that does not mean that you cannot enjoy the flavours of the charmoula. This recipe can be adapted to any meat and even to vegetables. Get as creative as you want!

And staying with the Moroccan/Middle Eastern theme; the kangaroo skewers with red chermoula were paired with pita bread, hummus, jajik (Turkish cucumber yoghurt dip), salad with lemon and sumac on the side. If you need a good hummus recipe, then I have one right here.

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Ingredients:

For red chermoula:

1. 1 tbsp salt
2. 1 tbsp sweet paprika
3. 1 tsp smoked paprika
4. 1 tsp ground cumin
5. 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
6. 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
7. 2 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
8. 2 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
9. 1 tbsp chopped preserved lemon rind
10. 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
11. 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
12. ½ cup water
13. ½ cup tomato puree


For kangaroo skewers:

14. 500 gms kangaroo fillets, cut into medium-sized cubes
15. 1 red onion, cut into cubes
16. Red chermoula, for marination
17. Salt, to season
18. Vegetable oil, to grill the skewers


Method:


To prepare red chermoula:

1. Put all the spices and the salt in a bowl and whisk well.
2. Then add the garlic, parsley, coriander leaves, lemon rind and lemon juice; mix to combine.
3. Finally, whisk in the oil, water and tomato puree.
4. You can store the excess in an air tight container in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks.


To prepare the kangaroo skewers:

1. Marinate the kangaroo meat with red chermoula; season with salt if necessary (there is salt in the red charmoula). Keep for at least 4 hours or longer.
2. Soak the wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes to avoid burning.
3. Skewer the meat pieces neatly adding a cube of onion at each end.
4. Heat the grill pan to high, season with oil and place the skewers. Baste with red chermoula once in between.
5. 5 minutes on each side is enough to cook the meat to medium. Cover with foil for another 10 minutes before serving. (Check one piece of meat to ascertain that it has cooked enough to suit your taste preferences. If you like it medium rare, 3 minutes on each side would do).
6. Serve with accompaniments.

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Derby Thai (Caulfield) – a Review

I love walking into random restaurants and cafes, without any prior reviews or suggestions, and willing to get surprised. More often than not, it has been a disappointment but sometimes, I end up finding little gems (which I hear that Melbourne has a lot) along the way.

I wouldn’t call Derby Thai a gem but it didn’t disappoint either. Our visit here was totally random; we were on our way to the CBD by the Metro but due to technical issues, the trains were stopping at Caulfield. We were advised to proceed to the CBD by trams and that’s how we ended up outside Derby Thai. It was lunch time and we were ravenous, so instead of catching a tram to the city, we paid a visit to this Thai eatery.

It’s a small, unassuming restaurant but given its location right opposite the Caulfield railway station and a stone’s throw away from the Monash University campus, it enjoys quite a crowd following.

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Walking in, you notice that there are just 5-6 tables so takeaway is greatly encouraged which works well with the University students. There were free tables when we walked in but within 5 minutes, the place got filled up. So be prepared to wait for a table especially if you are visiting during the lunch hours.

We started with the fish cakes which are basically fish patties blended with curry and spices, served with a sweet chilli sauce. The fish cakes were good and flavourful but nothing to rave about. A decent starter to the meal.

Fish cakes (Spicy fish patties with blended curry and spices)

Fish cakes (Spicy fish patties with blended curry and spices)

Next, was the Tom Kha which is a spicy, hot and sour coconut milk soup (ordered the prawn version; chicken and seafood combo are the other alternatives). The Tom Kha was delicious, just as I prefer a coconut milk based soup. Fresh, spicy, hot yet with a balance of all flavours. Totally recommend this one. On a less hungry day, this could be a meal in itself for me as it came loaded with prawns and veggies.

Tom Kha (Prawns)

Tom Kha (Prawns)

For mains, we went with the Thai beef fried rice. Again a good dish but nothing spectacular. It was more of a fusion fried rice which appeals to the masses here rather than a traditional Thai rice. Again, the quantity was good and could be a meal in itself with a dash of chilli on the side.

Thai fried rice (Beef)

Thai fried rice (Beef)

To go with the rice, we also got a Thai green curry (chicken; alternatives are beef and pork) which like the Tom Kha ticked all the right boxes for me. The heat was perfect and there was a good balance of the flavours in a delicious coconut milk base. Again, came loaded with veggies and chicken.

Thai Green curry (Chicken)

Thai Green curry (Chicken)

The prices were good and service was fast and efficient.

In short, Derby Thai is a good place for a quick lunch if you are in the area or a student at the nearby Monash University. I would go back again for the Tom Kha, loved it.

My rating: 7/10

Derby Thai

4 Derby Road, Caulfield East 3145
(03) 9571 1306

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 12:00pm – 10:00pm
Delivery Available 7 days: 5.30pm-9.30pm

Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored review; all the food and drinks were paid for by me.

Derby Thai on Urbanspoon

Tomato Egg Chutney

Indian cuisine is perhaps, the most diverse in the world. The cuisine, produce, ingredients, techniques do not just differ from state to state but can be unbelievably diverse within the different parts of a state.

Having spent an entire childhood abroad, my vision of Indian cuisine was largely restricted to my home state, Kerala. Apart from the occasional mithais/sweets that our Gujarati neighbour gifted us for Diwali, I thought everyone ate the same kind of food in India.

That perception largely changed when I settled back in India for my college studies and decided to make the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu as my home. The stark difference in the cuisine surprised me and this coupled with my blossoming interest in culture, food and travel soon opened my eyes to the vibrant, layered and deeply rich Indian cuisine.

Again, the cuisine of Tamil Nadu varies from widely from region to region from the rich and vibrant Chettinad cuisine to the vegetarian fare of the Madras Brahmins. As my life unfolded in this state and post marriage into a Tamilian household, I learnt of the influences, styles and techniques that have given rise to the present day cuisine.

One of the first recipes and probably the simplest that I learnt from my mother-in-law is this tomato egg chutney which was a breakfast regular especially with piping, hot dosas. I did get a bit of a shocker when she told me about adding the egg to the chutney. I simply couldn’t comprehend the flavours inside my head.

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The important thing with this chutney is the texture. The egg is added at the very end and immediately taken off the heat to ensure it stays creamy and does not go scrambled. Reminded me of the shakshuka but the end result was very different.

So, here is the tomato egg chutney – the perfect accompaniment to dosas (I have it as a spread too, slathered on my favourite toast).

This tomato egg chutney is rich with bold flavours, creamy, colourful and of course finger-lickin good!

To this day, my hubby wants to believe that I cannot make this one ‘like his mom’…though I know I make it quite well indeed!

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Ingredients:

1. 4-5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
3. 2 sprigs Curry leaves
4. 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
5. ½ tsp Mustard seeds
6. 1/4th tsp turmeric powder
7. ½ tsp Red chilli powder
8. 2 green chilli, slit lengthwise
9. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
10. Salt – to taste
11. A pinch of sugar
12. 1 whole egg

Method:

• Heat oil in a pan and crackle mustard seeds.
• Then add chopped garlic and onion; sauté till light brown.
• Add the curry leaves, green chilli and then add the chopped tomatoes.
• Saute on high heat for about 3-4 minutes and then lower the heat.
• Add the spices along with salt.
• If necessary, add water. (Sometimes, the tomatoes are ripe and juicy in which case extra water may not be required).
• Cover the pan and simmer gently till the chutney consistency is reached.
• Crack in one egg, remove from flame and mix in thoroughly to get a creamy consistency. (If you continue to cook, you end up with scrambled eggs)
• Serve hot with idly, dosa…just about anything.

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PS – This recipe has appeared before on my blog, but I re-shot the pictures and hence the new post.

Bandhakopir Torkari (Bengali Cabbage, Potato and Peas Curry)

I have had many fleeting associations with Bengal, its people and cuisine over the years but never a deep-seated one, enough to understand the fundamentals of this region and its food.

My foray into the food blogging world introduced me to many fellow bloggers of Bengali origin and through their blogs and associations, I am beginning to learn more and more about the rich and varied cuisine of this region.

Bengal has always been a prominent part of India, especially in its role as the capital before Delhi took over the mantle. Rich in culture, traditions, history, cuisine, Bengal has much to offer to its residents and the many travellers to the region. I have always said that I hate being a ‘tourist’ anywhere; I like to absorb the region and go beyond the surface and this lady ‘here’ is the best person to follow if you are bitten by the travel bug.

I have been taking baby steps into the vibrant and colourful Bengali culinary fare…slow, but steady ones which has amazed and delighted me making me keep trying for more. Today’s recipe, Bandhakopir Torkari or loosely translated as Bengali cabbage, potato and peas curry is one such dish.

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I do not cook much with cabbage; tend to eat it in a raw manner or just stir fried most of the time. Cooked cabbage has always tasted bland and soggy till the Bandhakopir Torkari happened to me.

This dish is packed with flavour from the spices, especially cumin. No onion, no garlic….just a handful of spices that does its job beautifully.

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Bandhakopir Torkari pairs beautifully with rotis; a humble vegetarian dish that is so flavourful and delish that you will keep coming back for more. So go ahead..make it…enjoy it!

And I learnt this dish from a wonderful blogger.

Ingredients:

1. ½ kg cabbage; sliced
2. 2 medium potatoes, diced
3. ¾ th cup green peas
4. 1 large, ripe red tomato
5. 2 dry bay leaf
6. 2 green cardamom, crushed lightly
7. 2 cloves
8. ½ tsp cumin seeds
9. 2 dry red chilli
10. 1 tsp red chilli powder
11. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
12. ¼ th tsp sugar
13. 3 tbsp mustard oil
14. Salt, to season

Method:

1. Heat mustard oil in a pan; add the cumin seeds, crushed green cardamom, dry red chillies, bay leaf and cloves. Fry lightly till fragrant.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté on medium heat till the tomatoes are mashed well.
3. Add the turmeric and red chilli powder; sauté for another minute.
4. Add the potato pieces fry on medium heat till the potatoes are half-cooked.
5. Then add the peas and cabbage and cook till done.
6. Add a bit of water if the vegetables get too dry; cabbage releases enough water so wait for the cabbages to wilt before adding water. Add sugar and season with salt.
7. Serve hot with Indian flat breads.

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