Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dinner By Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne

A visit to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was the very first thing Sheena and I booked when we were planning our trip to Melbourne. Food was going to be the highlight of our trip, and this dinner was going to be the very pinnacle of of our culinary experience.

Like its two Michelin starred sister restaurant in London, the menu features dishes that are inspired by the gastronomic history of British Royalty, going as far back as the 13th century. The Melbourne restaurant incorporates bits of Aussie flair and showcases the great produce the country has to offer.

We arrived a little early and had some drinks at the bar. 

Peter Piper's Pickled Lemon Lemonade (c.1830), Sarsaparilla Soda (c.1750) - $14 each
I was quite thankful that the drinks menu was not overly complicated and settled quickly on Peter Piper's Pickled Lemon Lemonade (try saying that five times fast!). The pickling process meant that the lemonade was not overly sour and there was a good balance of sweetness in the drink without being overpowering.

I had warned Sheena against the Sarsaparilla Soda as previous experience told me that it would have an overpowering licorice taste. Fortunately, this was not the case. The drink had a faint hint of sweetness and light medicinal quality to it.

While we waited for our food to arrive, our very obliging waitstaff let us wander around the restaurant with our cameras. We were, of course, immediately drawn to the automated spit roast mechanism with slowly roasting golden pineapples. 

Roast Marrowbone (c.1720) - $36
The Roast Marrowbone, combined with herbs and panko crumb, came topped with snails and served with pickled vegetables on the side. The snails provided a bit of bite to the otherwise smooth dish while the vegetables helped to cut through the buttery taste of the bone marrow. 

Hay smoked Ocean Trout (c.1730) - $36
The smoked trout was served underneath a bed of pickled lemon salad, smoked roe, and gentleman's relish (a sauce of anchovies, butter, herbs and spices). Each slice was incredibly delicate but packed a real punch -  the gentleman's relish provided a great savoury base for the trout while the blobs of citrus gel made each bite dance on the tongue.

Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) - $58
The Powdered Duck Breast arrived with smoked beetroot, grilled red cabbage, umbles and pickled cherries. The five hour salting process the duck went through resulted in a very succulent piece of breast meat while the additional touches provided the sweetness to balance out the dish. 

Slow cooked Pork Belly (c.1820) - $58
My favourite main was the Slow cooked Pork Belly which came with grains wrapped in a thin spelt blanket, lardo, roast onions, baby turnip, and Robert Sauce. I was surprised that I wasn't offered a bigger knife with my dish, and was even more surprised that my regular table knife was able to slice through the pork with ease! 

Everything about this dish was delightful - the crunchy turnip was a great contrast to the tender pork, while the Robert Sauce tied everything together in its earthy flavour. The only thing that would make this dish more enjoyable for me would be to have a proper crispy pork crackling.

Tipsy Cake (c.1810) - $32
The Tipsy Cake had to be ordered along with our entrees and mains to allow time for the gradual basting process. Traditionally made using old bread soaked in brandy, the modern version involves light pillowy brioche filled with cream, and soaked in rum. The roast pineapple, with its golden sweet outer, was the perfect accompaniment. 

As one of Dinner's signature dishes, this cannot be missed.

Post Dessert of Nitro Ice Cream - $15 each
Post dessert involved an ice cream trolley and a fantastic display involving liquid nitrogen. Need I say more?

Nitro Ice Cream Toppings 
Our ice-creams were served in a very thin cone with our choice of inspired toppings - popping candy, fennel and chocolate, white chocolate and raspberry, something I can't quite recall. 

Post Post Dessert Chocolate Pot
And when we thought we couldn't possibly eat any more food, a post post desert was brought to our table. The little chocolate pot was very rich and crispy fennel biscuit was a lovely and light.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is located at Crown Melbourne, Level 3, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne. Be sure to book quite early as spots fill up super fast!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lucy's Tomato Passata

One thing I have really enjoyed over the past few months is having a vegetable garden of my very own. Our own little patch of land meant that I went a little overboard at the garden store and ended up with more tomato plants than our household could handle.

Tomato harvest from the garden
The abundance of tomatoes provided the perfect opportunity to make some delicious passata for my Italian dishes.

Ready for the oven
Passata is traditionally made of uncooked tomatoes, pureed and strained of seed and skins. I usually buy these in big glass bottles from the supermarket but making my very own is so much better, wouldn't you agree?

My version of passata involves adding some capsicums and chilies for spice, herbs for flavour and some garlic for.. well.. some garlicky goodness! I also like to put it in the oven to mellow out the sharp tomato flavour. Cooking the tomatoes also means you can go ahead and puree the skins. The cooking fills the house with a fantastic aroma too!

Take advantage of the waning tomato season and make your very own passata. What kind of extras will you put in yours?

Lucy's Tomato Passata (makes 800mL)
A Lucyeats Original


2kg ripe tomatoes
2 capsicums
1 bulb garlic
2 green chili peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
Fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and basil
Salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2.  Cut tomatoes and capsicums into large pieces and place onto an oven tray. Break up the garlic bulb into unpeeled cloves and add to the tray.
3. Add remaining ingredients and toss gently.
4. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 1 hour or until tomatoes have become soft.
5. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Squeeze the flesh out of each garlic clove and discard the skins.
7. Place the tomatoes and garlic in a food processor and process to a puree.
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste if required.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fig and Frangipane Tart

One of my favourite things in my back yard is the fig tree my family planted when my parents first bought the house. I remember being amazed that one could grow a tree by just breaking a branch off another one and sticking it in the ground! 

First of the many figs this year
Thanks to the heavy rain over the past couple of weeks, we have had a bountiful harvest. We had so many that we couldn't eat them fast enough and gave many away. I used the ones that were almost too ripe for a fig and frangipane tart that I had been wanting to try for a while.

Made from a mixture of ground almonds, frangipane is a beautifully rich and nutty filling which goes so well in tarts - especially when roasted fruit is also involved. 

This fig and frangipane tart is a fairly easy dessert if you use store-bought pastry. If you can't get figs where you are, stone fruit make an equally tasty substitute.

Fig and Frangipane Tart


300g sweet short crust pastry 
8 ripe figs
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons runny honey
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
2 medium sized egg yolks


1. Roll out pastry to 0.5cm thick and line a 25cm shallow, loose bottomed tart tin. Make sure the pastry reaches above the sides as the pastry will shrink during baking. Place the lined tin in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 180C.
3. Mix together the orange juice and honey until combined in a wide shallow dish. 
4. Cut the figs in half (lengthways) and place them cut side down into the orange and honey mixture and leave them to marinate until the tart shell is ready. 
5. Prick holes in the base of the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with baking beads. Blind bake for 15 minutes. 
6. Remove the paper and beans and bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry is a light golden brown. Remove the pastry from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150C. Leave the tart shell on the bench to cool.
7. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until smooth. Mix in ground almonds, egg yolks and 1 Tablespoon of the orange and honey mixture.
8. Once the tart shell is cooled, fill with the almond mixture and spread evenly.
9. Press the figs, cut side up, into the filling and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the filling becomes lightly golden. Leave the tart in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
10. Serve with a nice cup of tea and a small dollop of cream.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fika With Me

Tucked in the heart of Birkenhead is the most delightful little place. What was once one half of Dutch Delight has now become one of my favourite cafes. Judging by the amount of regulars that visit, it is obvious that it has become the new favourite in the area.

The interior is simple and welcoming. The wooden tables and white stools are inviting. The big chalkboard explains their dining philosophy:

"'Fika' to us. It is a social phenomenon, a legitimate reason to set aside a moment for quality time. It is a window of opportunity to appreciate good things in life."

Below are a few of our favourite dishes.

Spicy Chai Latte - $4.50, Orange Juice - $5.00
The coffee here is always on point. The spicy chai here is the best I've had in Auckland - creamy and not too sweet. The juices and smoothies are also great picks - Green Power is my favourite.

Chili Scrambled Eggs - $17.00
Your usual scrambled eggs gets a makeover with the addition of chili peppers. The chili adds a touch of freshness to the creamy eggs but does not add an excessive amount of heat. The eggs are well complimented by the gourmet pork sausage and crunchy ciabatta. I must admit that I didn't touch the tomato relish very much as I thought the dish didn't need it.

Good 'V'agel - $14.00
The second page of the menu has a great selection of toppings for Best Ugly Bagels. The option of halloumi, vine tomatoes, basil pesto and cream cheese is one of the better vegetarian options I've seen around Auckland. The pesto and tomatoes are full of flavour and the ciabatta is perfect to soak up the delicious juices.

Fika Bene - $17.00
The Fika Bene is Jason's favourite dish. The eggs are perfectly poached and the creamy hollandaise goes well with the streaky bacon. Despite all of these wonderful tasting components, the homemade hash brown is the hero of the dish. The incredibly crunchy outer shell is thicker than normal and covers a roughly mashed potato with varied texture. Mmmm...

Hot Chicken Bagel - $15.00
Lastly, my favourite dish - the Hot Chicken Bagel. No matter how much I want to branch out, I mostly always end up ordering this dish. The seasoning on the crispy chicken is better than the Colonel's secret spices and is accompanied by a fresh mango salsa. This is what I would recommend to anyone who visits for the first time - whether you are there for breakfast or brunch.

Fika With Me is definitely worth a visit. The food is fantastic, the coffee is great and the staff are super friendly.
Come and say hi to the friendly owner and barista :)

 Fika With Me can be found at 5 Birkenhead Ave, Birkenhead, Auckland.
Fika With Me Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Monday, February 8, 2016

One Hour Spicy Pickled Cucumber

Happy Chinese New Year, my friends!

If you have someone Chinese in your family, you will no doubt have been overfed at some sort of New Year celebration. This is our version of Christmas.

For Chinese New Year meals, I usually play the part of mum's sous chef and get to contribute a few small dishes to the main meal. This year, my contribution was a spicy pickled cucumber. 

I learned this recipe from a new friend last year and it has been part of my menu whenever we have braised pork, dumplings, BBQs and any dish that requires a nice fresh component. 

What I love about this recipe is that it is so quick to make and impressive to look at. In fact, I love this recipe so much that it has replaced my very own.

Laoganma Spicy Chili Sauce and Chinkiang Vinegar

The secret to this great tasting pickle is some Laoganma Spicy Chili Sauce and Chinkian Vinegar.  The Vinegar is a type of black rice vinegar from Jiangsu Province in China and tastes like a more earthy version of balsamic vinegar. 

Laoganma is probably one of the most well known spicy chili sauces in China and is my favourite addition to dumpling sauces, noodles and stirfry dishes. It is a fragrant blend of chilis, soy beans and other goodies ready made for your meals (note: I am not being sponsored by them or anything, I am just a major fan girl).

Step 3: adding all the ingredients
If you're having a meal involving many rich dishes, why not give this recipe a go? 

One Hour Spicy Pickled Cucumber
(Adapted from a family recipe)


1 telegraph cucumber
2 Tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
3 Tablespoons light soy sauce (I prefer Pearl River Bridge brand)
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon Laoganma spicy chili sauce


1. Thinly slice the cucumber on the diagonal, 2/3 way through.
2. Turn the cucumber over and thinly slice 1/2 way through.
3. Place the cucumber into a seal-able tupperware container and add the remaining ingredients.
4. Close the lid and shake vigorously.
5. Place container in the fridge for 1 hour, removing halfway through to shake again.
6. Prior to serving, cut the cucumber right through with a pair of food scissors to separate it into bite size pieces.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grateful for Sundays 14

The start back at work has been brutal.

At least I have been making the most of my Sundays...

Long Bay Regional Park
The beautiful sunshine has made it too hard to resist the outdoors. Along with two other friends, Jason and I have been slowly exploring some of the regional parks around Auckland each fortnight. Long Bay Regional Park has bookable camp sites, walking sites and a beautiful beach for a quick dip after your walk. Word of warning - nudists frequent certain areas of the park, so don't wander too far from the main track if you're not into that...

One of our other trips brought us to Anawhata, a quiet beach on the West Coast of Auckland. The beach can only be reached by foot (about a 20 minute walk) and, as such, is relatively quiet. We only saw 3 other people.

Pizza Toppings
My in-laws have recently bought a pizza oven so our visits have mostly involved pizza nights. This has been a great activity and a good way of feeding a large number of people. The endless topping combinations means that this will never get old!

Our garden
Lastly, our garden has flourished since Christmas. What was once a big pile of weeds behind the garage has now become a constant source of zucchini, tomatoes and beans. The chilies and the eggplant are still growing, and we are very excited.

We are still finding our feet when it comes to gardening, but being able to harvest vegetables everyday has been super rewarding.

As a bonus, our fig tree has also started fruiting. This is a tree my Grandparents planted when we first moved into this house as a family and now, 18 years later, we are still enjoying their efforts.

What are you grateful for this Sunday?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


I've always thought that the trick to a great meal is to drag others along so you can try more dishes. I have found that 4 is the magic number for a meal - this gives a nice variety without having to wait an age for your food to arrive. This is also the best number for great conversation without having to shout across to the other end of the table.

My recent outing confirmed this when I, along with three others, 
tried the set lunch menu at Cocoro. For $49, we could order an entree, main and a dessert from 4 options - so of course, we opted to order every single thing on the menu to share. Not only did this rule out any potential food envy, it vastly sped up ordering time!

Amuse Bouche - Tempura Fish
We started with an amuse bouche consisting of a soft fish (I didn't catch the name) in a very light tempura batter -a great way to start the meal.

Amuse Bouche - Teriyaki Tuna
The second amuse bouche was a grilled teriyaki tuna which was cooked just right. There was just enough teriyaki to give it flavour, but not overpower the tuna.

Entree - Chicken Nanban
The Chicken Nanban was crunchy on the outside while still being moist and tender on the inside. I found the tangy Nanban sauce was a great addition to the usual karaage dishes I love so much. The fresh salad was a nice side, adding a bit of colour to the plate.

Entree - Tempura Salad
The tempura salad at Cocoro has one of the lightest batters I've ever had. Each piece was super delicate, with a crunch that could be heard from many tables over. 

Entree - Traditional Sashimi
The traditional sashimi was very fresh, with generous slices of salmon, blue fin tuna and john dory. The highlight for me was the fresh wasabi on the side.

Entree - New Style Sashimi
The new style sashimi was sliced thinner than the previous dish and cured in a vinaigrette. The partially cooked flesh had an interesting texture while the radish and cucumber added a freshness to the dish. The small balls of light tempura batter provided a nice crunch to the soft fish, like having popping candy in your mouth.

Main - Tofu with Vegetables
The Agedashi Tofu was served under a pile of sauteed mushrooms so the batter had fully absorbed its earthy flavours. I loved how saucy and hearty this dish was - I could have had it all to myself!

Main - Angus Teriyaki
The Angus Teriyaki was flavoursome and tender. Although the serving size looked to be slightly smaller than the other mains, I assure you it was quite filling. The mushrooms and the bean sprouts also tasted amazing after they had soaked in the sauce.

Main - Nigiri
As expected, the nigiri was fresh and it was great to see such a variety of fish. I'm told that nigiri is supposed to be served at room temprature (to fully appreciate all the fishy flavours) but I have to say that I would have preferred it on a bed of ice like the sashimi. 

Dessert - Miso and Yuzu Brulee
I was incredibly excited when I saw the brulee on the menu. The miso flavours stopped the brulee from being overly sweet while the yuzu gave it a hint of freshness. The sesame sablĂ©  was the perfect pairing  -light, crumbly and melt in the mouth.

Dessert - Ume Granita
The granita was a very refreshing end to the meal. There was a good balance of sweet and sour and no flavour overpowered the others. The stewed plum and rhubarb were nice additions. 

We found that each dish was meticulously prepared and the serving sizes were generous. The wait staff were attentive and super polite. Cocoro has a very extensive menu and I felt that the set menu was a good introduction to their offerings. 

Cocoro can be found at 56A Brown Street, Ponsonby, Auckland