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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Superb Coffee, industrial/vintage decor and fabulous food..definitely worth travelling for!

I have recently discovered a new and fabulous cafe …it is so,o,o,o,o good that I seem to now invent reasons to visit that I ‘need’ to travel to the Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, so that I can somehow excuse the 30min journey from my home to frequent The Grounds.

Although, I have needed to do a few a pick-ups/drop-offs of interstate family members from the airport recently and given that this is reasonably close to Alexandria I have revisited The Grounds a few times!

…hmmmm,  I don’t really feel that the previous 6 visits in the past month are toooooo many food miles to be travelling for the fabulous coffee, charming service and the well presented and tasty food!

I first heard about the fabulous location through the very talented photos of Katie Quinn Davies at her blog What Katie Ate, The Grounds cafe hadn’t yet opened their doors… and I was already dying to visit!

Needless to say I will be frequenting them a lot more over the next few months!

For some great pics and recipes head to:

A note to remember though, the weekends are chaotic with a wait of 35mins or more for a table , so relax by ordering a takeaway coffee and stroll through the plentiful raised garden beds and check out the chook-run [yes, they have chickens too!] …or sit at the many outdoor tables until your breakfast/lunch table becomes available. The food is certainly worth the wait!

Address: Building 7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria; Phone (02) 9699 2225
Food: Contemporary
Drink: BYO (Licensed pending)
Hours: Daily Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
Price guide: Dishes $7-$19


Banana bread

  • 1 cup (150g) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
 Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease and line the base and side of an 11 x 21cm x 6cm deep loaf tin
Combine flours, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Whisk butter and eggs together. Stir in banana.
Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth the surface.
Bake for 45-50 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Set aside in the pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Serve warm with lashings of butter 😉

Peanut-butter icecream

Every now and again I get a craving for peanut butter and chocolate…..I blame it on being introduced to the fabulous imported treats Reese’s peanut-butter cups!

I found an amazingly recipe for peanut butter icecream and I love the richness of this simple recipe….it tastes even better served with a warm chocolate fudge sauce, just to push it over the edge into pure decadence!


Peanut Butter Icecream

50g sugar

3 eggs

235ml milk

195g peanut butter

180ml sweetened condensed milk

120ml cream

10ml vanilla extract

  • In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  • Pour milk into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Gradually drizzle the hot milk into the eggs whilst whisking vigorously. Then pour the whole mixture into the saucepan. Over low heat stir constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Do not allow mixture to boil.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in peanut butter. Allow to cool slightly, then add the sweetened condensed milk, cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Transfer to a container, and freeze until required.

Try your best to not eat tooooo much at once! 🙂

Looks can be deceiving…

Ritual Restaurant has served me one of the best meals that I have ever eaten, twice….a big call I know!

Jewels of the sea, Ritual Restaurant

The location and decor of this unassuming restaurant really had me a tad concerned the very first time that I visited, it is tucked away in a very ordinary and somewhat dated suburban shopping strip some distance away from Nelson Bay’s marina. …this may have also been because I had invited a group of friends from Sydney and given that it is over 3 hours away we all were staying in Nelson’s Bay for the night at a new modern apartment with a seaview…..No pressure whatsoever for the weekend to live up to my rambling, glowing renditions of the chef Kenzler’s take on molecular gastronomy techniques!! 🙂

Be aware that this is no ordinary food, so come with an open mind, prepared for textures, flavours and delivery you could never have anticipated. The ten-plus course ‘tasting journey’ will take your tastebuds where they have never before ventured. …A menu inspired by Dorothea McKellar’s poem “My Country” was the most memorable of the meals that I’ve enjoyed at Ritual…especially Carl’s interpretation of ‘ a land of sweeping pains’ portrayed as a dessert!

‘My Country’ – Ritual Restaurant Menu

I have also been surprised by dishes as varied as crocodile in white chocolate sauce, emu with passionfruit and lavender, warmed tom yum ‘ravioli’, wasabi ice-cream… the list is endless!

Relying on matching mainly organic and biodynamic (and often local) produce according to its chemical composition – often employing unusual combinations – without exception the result is mind-blowing but delightful dining experience.


REVIEW BY SALLY HAMMOND “I am the scientist and Carl is the chef,” says Kelie Kenzler, from perhaps NSW’s most ground-breaking restaurant.These brave and talented people, who describe their cuisine as ‘avant-garde’, are pioneering culinary boundaries in the style of molecular gastronomy experts such as Spain’s Ferran Adrià and the UK’s Heston Blumenthal.Chef Kenzler’s experience on the Sunshine Coast and his wife’s science degree makes this a unique partnership.

Dine here soon as the space is limited and by dinner any night is by reservation only. As Winner of Best New Restaurant, 2008 (Newcastle & Surrounds) Ritual Restaurant is beginning to get a lot of attention!

Average cost of main course: $85 for a 10+ course Tasting Journey

$115 with matched wines (tasting glasses) ..highly recommended!!

Ritual Restaurant, Armidale Avenue, Nelson Bay, NSW  Tel.  02 4981 5514

The difference between powdered gelatine and leaf gelatine

Gelatine is a thickening agent made from either collagen (a protein found in animal connective tissue and bone) or algae (known as agar-agar). 

Also known by its Japanese name Kanten, Agar is derived from Gracilaria (Gelidium species) a bright red sea vegetable (Gleidium purpurascens)Agar agar has stronger setting properties and, unlike gelatin which requires refrigeration to set, it will set at room temperature after about an hour. The gelling ability of agar agar is affected by the acidity or alkalinity of the ingredients it is mixed with. More acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and strawberries, may require higher amounts of agar agar. Some ingredients will not set with it at all such as: kiwi fruit (too acidic), pineapple, fresh figs, paw paws, papaya, mango and peaches, which contain enzymes which break down the gelling ability.For a firm jelly you require approximately 2 teaspoons of powder or 2 Tablespoons of flakes (lower quality) per 1600ml of liquid.

We tend to use dried (powdered) gelatine in our recipes, simply because it’s readily available at all supermarkets.
Leaf gelatine can be interchanged with powdered gelatine — 3 teapsoons of powdered gelatine (8g/1 sachet) is roughly equivalent to four gelatine leaves.  
Professionals use leaf gelatine because it generally results in a smooth, clearer consistency.
Titanium leaf gelatine is stronger than Gold, and while most recipes will specify which strength you should use, the weight of the gelatine sheet (indicated on the packet) can be used to convert whichever you have on hand into the recipe. 
If a sheet of gold gelatine weighs 2 grams, you’ll need six leaves to set 600ml of water. Titanium weighs 3 grams, so you’ll only need four leaves for 600ml.
The only drawback of leaf gelatine is in sourcing it — it’s usually not available from supermarkets, but can be found in specialist cooking shops.


I have finally purchased my first tagine, given how much space it takes up in my kitchen cupboard I am hoping to use it often over the cooler months.

Tagine is the Moroccan word that refers to both the conical earthenware vessel and the food prepared in it. The tagine is used for both cooking and serving. The conical shaped lid helps preserve the moisture in the food. The steam condenses on the inside of the lid and drips back into the food and is self basting. This method of cooking is excellent for less expensive cuts of meat which require long slow cooking. The shape also creates circulation of flavours and spices within the food. The lid needs to fit the base correctly to form a complete seal.

There are two types of tagine:

  • One is just for serving. These are usually highly coloured and patterned and not suitable for cooking.
  • The other type is made from glazed terracotta and require seasoning before use. It can be used on stove top with a diffuser on low heat or in large ovens.

How to season your tagine before use:

  • Submerge tagine in water for at least one hour. Remove and dry.
  • Rub the inside of the base and lid with olive oil.
  • Put tagine in a cold oven and set temperature at 150°C and leave for 2 hours.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.
  • Your tagine is now ready to use!

To use your tagine on the stovetop, place it over a low heat with a diffuser over the flame. Layer ingredients in the base and stock or water over them. Cover with the lid and cook for 1-2 hours.

If you’re using it in an oven, preheat the oven to 160°C and position the oven shelf to its lowest position. Make sure you remove the top shelving. Layer ingredients into the base of the tagine, pour stock over the ingredients and cover. Cook in the oven for 1½-2 hours.

Below are two recipes that I will be making in the next month with my new device…

Matt Moran’s Tagine of Lamb with Chick Peas

Serving size: 4


1 kg lamb neck

100 ml vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

2 onions, sliced

6 garlic cloves, whole

3 cinnamon sticks

100g raisins

3 blades mace

3 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 preserved lemon wedges

1 tablespoon harrisa [optional]

100g chick peas, soaked and drained

1 tin tomatoes


250ml chicken stock

250g cous cous

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped


60g yoghurt

1/2 Spanish onion, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

To prepare the lamb, cut the lamb necks into even 5cm cubes. Heat 50 ml vegetable oil in a frying pan on a high heat.

Season the lamb pieces with salt, pepper and add to the hot frying pan.

Cook for approximately 3 to 4 minutes until the lamb is brown on all sides.

To prepare the tagine, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a saucepan and when hot, add the onions and garlic.

Cook for approximately for 5 to 10 minutes until the onion just starts to caramelise.

Add in the cinnamon, raisins, mace, ground cumin, coriander, preserved lemon and harrisa. Cook for 1 minute then add in the lamb neck, chick peas and tinned tomatoes.

Stir until combined then transfer the tagine to the slow cooker.

Cook for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.

To prepare the cous cous, bring the chicken stock to boil then pour over the cous cous.

Cover with plastic wrap then leave for 5 minutes.

Stir with a fork to loosen the cous cous, add the chopped parsley and stir until combined then season to taste.

Serve the tagine on a bed of cous cous with yoghurt, sliced Spanish onion and coriander to garnish.

Chicken, preserved lemon, and olive tagine

This chicken tajine recipe is Morocco’s second most popular dish after couscous and considered to be the national dish. Hassan M’Souli’s recipe from Food Safari.

Chermoula Marinade

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 onions, chopped
½ birds eye chilli
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, stems and leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in a little water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves, torn in half

1 whole chicken, size 10 or 12
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 large potatoes, cut into wedges
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
150g pitted green olives
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 cup water
1 preserved lemon, cut into 6 segments.


Process all ingredients together in a food processor until finely chopped and thoroughly combined. Leave for 30 minutes before using. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

Wash and dry the chicken and remove backbone, wing tips and any excess fat. Cut into pieces. Rub all over with ½ of the chermoula marinade and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Combine the tomato and onion with a little more chermoula and spread into the base of the tajine (this will prevent the chicken from burning on the bottom).Arrange chicken pieces in the centre of the tajine on top of tomato mixture. Coat potato wedges with chermoula and arrange around chicken. Top with onion slices, then tomato slices and olives in between the potato wedges.

Mix chopped coriander with remaining chermoula and water. Pour over mixture. Decorate top with preserved lemon wedges.

Cover tajine with lid and cook on a very low gas heat for 45 minutes. Do not stir or lift the lid during the cooking process.

Serve the Tajine directly to the table and impress your guests with a waft of fragrant steam when it’s time to serve with couscous and harissa.

The difference between baking powder, baking soda and bicarbonate of soda and their different uses


Baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are different names for the same thing; in Australia, we mostly refer to it as bicarbonate of soda, but overseas, especially in America, it is referred to as baking soda. They aren’t interchangeable, but bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. When included in a batter, the leavening agent causes air bubbles (produced by stirring, whipping or beating) to expand when cooked – causing it to ‘rise’.

Bicarbonate of soda is a pure leavening agent. It needs to be mixed with moisture and an acidic ingredient for the necessary chemical reaction to take place to make food rise. Because it needs an acid to create the rising quality, it is often used in recipes where there is already an acidic ingredient present, such as lemon juice, chocolate, buttermilk or honey.

Baking powder, which contains bicarbonate of soda, comes pre-mixed with the acidic ingredient for you – so all you need to add is the moisture. The acidic ingredient most often used in baking powder is cream of tartar. You can make your own baking powder: simply mix two parts cream of tartar with one part bicarbonate of soda. Baking powder has a neutral taste and is often used in recipes that have other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk.

In Australia, we usually just cook with self-raising flour when a leavening agent is required, unless the specific qualities of bicarbonate of soda are required. Bicarbonate of soda imparts a slightly different quality to that of baking powder when used in cooking. It can have a slightly “tangy” taste and it makes a lovely golden colour. It also makes a very specific texture not achievable with baking powder. It is very important to sift bicarbonate of soda well as it gets lumpy and to use very exact measures as the “tangy” taste can quite easily become bitter or soapy if too much is used.