Brunetti – Mini Cakes

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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.

http://www.brunetti.com.au

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Healthy Date Loaf – designed for human consumption

Date loaf served IMG_0974

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

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. 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.
  3. In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
  4. Combine the flours and baking powder.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.

Date loaf sliced IMG_0970

*Variations:

  • 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.

Noisette: Prahran Market

Noisette Almond croissant IMG_0863

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

http://www.noisette.com.au/

Longrain

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)

Longrain pine IMG_0876

Duck, banana blossom, roasted eschalot relish, and Changmai sausage

Longrain changmai 1 IMG_0877

Slow cooked yellow curry of Bultarra saltbush lamb with kipfler potatoes

ImageI 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

http://longrain.com

Broccolini Mushroom Stir-Fry: Clean and Simple

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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.

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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.

Sonido!

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!”.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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69 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065

http://sonido.com.au

Pantry treats: Clafoutis

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!

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Recipe: Cherry clafoutis