Brunetti is an iconic Melbourne destination for European cakes and coffee. But it’s a particular favourite of mine for a little something-something after dinner; for those times when you really “shouldn’t”, but nevertheless have a craving for something sweet. Whether you’re counting calories or just have a small ladies stomach, Brunetti has the perfect solution for you: mini cakes.
These cakes are about the quarter of the size of Brunetti’s regular slices of cake and are available in the same, if not similar, range of flavours. Options include: chocolate, orange, chocolate mousse, New York baked cheesecake, and berry cheesecake.
Gone in a few bites, these mini cakes are the perfect fix for a sweet craving – with minimal damage to your diet halo.
214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Also in Carlton, Camberwell, Myer, Dubai, and Singapore.
Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?
So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.
To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:
- I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
- To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
- To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
- My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.
In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*
‘Healthy’ Date Loaf
1 cup chopped dried dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice
Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)
1 T melted butter or oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
- Combine the flours and baking powder.
- Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
- Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.
- Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
- Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
- Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
- Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
- Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
- Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.
Finding a good almond croissant is always a happy occasion. Recently, I discovered Noisette’s clutch at their Prahran Market stand. Never one to do things by halves, I opted for a chocolate almond croissant and was satisfied by my choice: a fresh, light croissant, enveloping a generous portion of chocolate almond filling, crowned with crispy almond flakes.
Needless to say, I’ll be back. Chez Dre is my regular source, however it’s good to have options – South Melbourne isn’t always within reach when an almond croissant craving strikes!
Prahran market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, VIC 3141
84 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207
As the name suggests, Longrain is an Asian fusion restaurant. Thai, and Southern Chinese, specifically.
Following tradition, the restaurant features a long communual table, intended for ‘banquet-style’ eating (ie. large dishes shared amongst large groups). However, we arrived for dinner as an intimate party of two and were content to share amongst ourselves!
The menu features a mouth-watering range of tempting options. These include ingredients such as: smoked trout, banana blossom, Ora king salmon, green papaya, caramelised coconut, slow cooked duck, eggnet, caramelised pork hock … the list goes on.
Here’s what we settled on:
Caramelised pork, prawn, peanuts, and sour pineapple (entrée)
Duck, banana blossom, roasted eschalot relish, and Changmai sausage
Slow cooked yellow curry of Bultarra saltbush lamb with kipfler potatoes
I particularly enjoyed the sticky-preserved texture of the pork entrée and I’d definitely order the lamb again, just for the buttery, creamy kipfler potatoes. An array of exotic ‘fusion’ cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are also available to accompany your meal. And if you can’t wait until dinner, these can be ordered as pre-dinner drinks in the lounge as you wait to be seated. Longrain has venues in both Sydney and Melbourne and I was as happy with my experience, if not more so than my visits to other popular Asian-fusion establishments. Price and quality is comparable, the only difference being Longrain provides a formal setting, appropriate for a special night out. Reservations are taken only for Friday lunches and group bookings for dinner are generally limited. (We chose to arrive promptly at 6pm to avoid the evening queue).
44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
85 Commonwealth Street,
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
They say cats eat grass when they’re ill. Some believe cats eat grass to relieve sore throats. And I’ve also heard it’s a natural laxative … As for me, grass probably isn’t going to do it, but I know green’s what I’ve yearned for while feeling under the weather.
So, broccolini has been it. This broccoli-kai-lan hybrid has been around for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve really come to love it. Light cooking produces a bright spring green colour and it has an easy-to-eat appeal, particularly when you’re feeling like baby-bites of food – it’s so tender that you can eat the entire stalk. It’s also high in vitamin C, A, and B6; calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium.
When fresh, broccolini needs little attention. On this occasion, I stir-fried it with a few crushed garlic cloves; then added some tinned straw mushrooms, as well as some pre-marinated honey-soy tofu for protein. Keeping things clean and simple, I paired the stir-fry with rice (sushi rice, my favourite) and finished it off with a sprinkling of cashews.
Voilà. Clean, simple, healthy food for humans.
I’ve never been able to walk past this Latin café without a sense of FOMO. Its brightly decorated walls always seem to beckon “Come party!”.
This week I accepted the call to enter and discovered Sonido! truly is festive through and through. From the entrance to the bathroom, the café is busy with colourful South American objects including traditional posters, record covers, bags, hats, and percussion instruments. As the quote goes: “I AM LATINO I CANNOT KEEP CALM” – a welcome sentiment on a winter’s day!
Although the menu is limited, the items are a treat. We ordered arepas – traditional maize cakes, available in ground yellow or white corn. I opted for arepas de queso, white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides. Simple, yet also comforting and novel. Other options come with sides of scrambled eggs, beef, black beans and feta, and chorizo. Empanadas, a range of sweets, and “Friday Night Specials” are also on offer.
Arepas de queso: white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides
From “¡Hola” to “Adiós” my experience was thoroughly cheery and unpretentious. I’ll definitely be back for more soul-warming treats this winter. Sonido! is also open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and offers an array of South American drinks.
As a rule, I try not to shop too far ahead – food-wise – in case plans fall through, or I change my mind. However, sometimes my desire for being prepared and organised overtakes! On this occasion, I’d bought ingredients for a cherry custard tart. Sure enough, plans fell through. A rich custard treat for one was out of the question, but I still had eggs that needed using …
My solution? A cherry clafoutis. A clafoutis is a French pudding, which has become one of my ’pantry’ recipes for quick and delicious; cheap and easy; low-fat and healthy. And the choice of fruit? Well, yes cherries are out of season, but I got some preserved ones for a steal at the supermarket!
Recipe-wise, there are a myriad of interpretations out there. Some that use two eggs, three eggs, six … varying amounts of milk, flour, and butter … and some recipes even call for ground nuts! Yum.
On this occasion I was looking for a recipe that used just a few eggs; ‘healthy’ enough to be enjoyed over several serves. But I also wanted a stodgy pudding to provide some winter comfort. This led me to Neil Perry’s recipe on goodfood, which sits in the middle of the road, clafoutis-wise. It uses three eggs and a cup of flour, perfect for my intent and purpose.
Here’s the result!
Recipe: Cherry clafoutis
Quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, and honey yoghurt
Captain Melville is the latest addition to my list of C&Cs and best-value restaurants.
My introduction to this establishment was the most chic ‘casual’ dining experience I’ve had. At accessible prices, the meals looked akin to those from Melbourne’s most popular dining establishments. I ordered the quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, honey yoghurt and the Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle.
Reviews claim the restaurant serves pub-style food, but the food is more pub-inspired – fancy meals with pub labels. (There was certainly no shame around my sister ordering a ‘chicken parma’ that night!). The menu also caters to a range of occasions /food envy complexes/ diets, offering single serve /tapas-style items, share plates, and large meals.
Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle
In addition, Captain Melville’s website claims food is sourced from “ethical and sustainable Victorian farms and producers of the region traversed by the rebel bushranger himself.” And with alcohol and coffee as after-dark options, what’s not to like?
Completely booked out on the Saturday we visited, Captain Melville is clearly a favourite for a fine casual night out.
Address: 34 Franklin St, VIC 3000
Preparing for a weekend away always involves baking treats to share. For this last trip, I decided on peanut butter cookies (with chocolate of course!). I used Curtis Stones’ recipe, which also includes honey (I used Manuka).
The result was a melt-in-your-mouth, moorish cookie – with a luxurious top note of honey. The hint of honey sets the recipe apart from your standard cookie recipe and really does finish the cookie off. I’ll be using this recipe again!
Recipe: Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chunks
I have been invited to join a cooking contest! The competition is amongst a few friends and will run approximately every second weekend. Four sets of pairs will host a dinner party (dinner, followed by dessert) over approximately eight weeks.
Last Saturday, we were hosted by Kara and Andy.
Here’s what they served up:
Beetroot, feta, and walnut tart – with a balsamic reduction
Courgette ‘pasta’ with bean ragout
‘Deconstructed cherry ripe’, consisting of homemade mango-passion sorbet, dark chocolate with popped wild rice, and berries
An impressive start, right?