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  • Best Hummus

    I am enchanted with the hummus you get in good Middle Eastern restaurants. It is impossibly smooth and creamy, with an earthy flavour, brightened by the zing of lemon and the hum of garlic. So many times I have been let down by supermarket brands of hummus; being overly sour and horribly grainy and just the total opposite of the heavenly stuff, so like any determined woman, if I want something done right, I better well do it myself! I had attempted to make hummus from scratch in the past and unfortunately the result wasn't great. My hummus came out tasting quite similar to the supermarket stuff, grainy as hell, no matter how long I blitzed it for. Defeated, I resigned myself to the belief that there was some magic sorcery that us mere mortals were not privy to and I would only get to enjoy the good hummus at restaurants. But recently, my kids prompted me to give it another go when they annihilated the free hummus samples at the local supermarket one day #garbageguts. The poor lady handing them out didn't have the heart to tell them no when they kept asking for more! I was so embarrassed they ate so much (it seriously looked like I don't feed my kids!) that I had to buy the damn thing, and being supermarket hummus, it wasn't even good! With their new found love of hummus, I was set upon my journey to find out the trick in cooking it at home. “After doing some research online, the consensus seemed to be cooking the canned chickpeas first until mushy, which makes total sense and I'm kicking myself I didn't think of this before.” I mean, it would be impossible to make smooth mashed potatoes if the potato wasn't cooked all the way through first! Of course you have to cook the chickpeas! In my defense, I was under the impression that canned chickpeas were already cooked and therefore could be used straight from the can but boiling them is that little step which will take your hummus from average to wonderful. Luscious and smooth and creamy, the texture of this hummus is perfect to me and because you are making it, you can adjust the flavours to suit you. More salt, less lemon, more garlic, any toppings, it's really up to you. Best Hummus adapted from a Cookie and Kate recipe Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children as a snack with crackers or veggie sticks 400g Can of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1/4 Teaspoon of Bi-Carb Soda 1 Lemon, juiced 1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt, or to taste (I usually add more at the end) 1/4 Cup of Tahini (sesame seed paste, available from the supermarket) 1 Tablespoon of Ice Water 1/4 Teaspoon of Cumin 1/2 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Step 1- Place the chickpeas into a saucepan and sprinkle with the bi-carb soda. Top enough water to cover the chickpeas by about 1 cm. Bring to the boil, and continue to boil for about 10 minutes until mushy. Drain. Step 2- Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz the lemon juice, garlic and salt, then allow to sit and infuse while waiting for the chickpeas to cook. Step 3- Add the tahini to the food processor and blitz with the ice water to loosen it slightly. Step 4- Add the cooked and drained chickpeas to the food processor with the cumin and blitz until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil. Then taste and adjust salt/lemon as necessary. Step 5- Serve on a plate or a shallow bowl, making swishes with a spoon to catch any toppings. I like a drizzle of more olive oil, fresh parsley and a sprinkle of paprika but you could top with toasted nuts/seeds, toasted chickpeas, a sprinkle of sumac, a sprinkle of cumin or chopped chilli.

  • Pork Vindaloo with Crackling

    While it's not traditional to serve Pork Vindaloo with crackling, the pork shoulder I buy for this recipe always has the rind attached, so I figure why not use it?! I remove the rind to roast on its own while I cook the meat in the curry and use it as a salty, crunchy topping on this delicious dish. I must admit I rarely cook this curry with chilli on account of the kids, so I'm not sure you can still even call it a vindaloo which is a dish known for its fiery kick. But anyway I have included the chilli in my recipe for those of you who aren't blessed with children who dictate what you can and can't cook! #blessed #cookingforkids This recipe makes a double (or even triple, depending on your serving sizes) batch because pork shoulder tends to be sold in 2kg weights but don't worry, it's so good you'll be glad to have a bucket load. It freezes really well too, and a great option if you're batch cooking in preparation for a new baby or just stocking the freezer. The list of ingredients seems a bit long and daunting if you don't typically cook Indian food, but once you have stocked your pantry with these spices there are a whole heap of dishes that you can use them in like a gorgeous butter chicken. “By the way, I am amazed at how affordable pork shoulder is, at around $7.50 per kilo it's a really great option if you're willing to put the time and effort into slow cooking it to that fall apart, tender stage and with its full flavour, I just love it.” Pork Vindaloo with Crackling adapted from an SBS recipe Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 1.5 hours Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children with rice over 2 or 3 nights 2kg Pork Shoulder 15 Long Dried Red Chillis (leave out if serving for the kids) 1 Tablespoon of Cumin Seeds 1 Tablespoon of Mustard Seeds 1 Tablespoon of Fenugreek Seeds (from the Indian grocery) 10 Cardamom Pods, crushed 2 Tablespoons of Ground Ginger 1 Tablespoon for Tumeric 1/2 Cup of White Vinegar 2 Onions, sliced 3 Garlic Cloves, diced 1 Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger, grated 2 Bay Leaves 1 Litre of Chicken Stock Coriander for garnish Step 1- Using a sharp knife, remove the rind from the pork and set aside for roasting. Dice the pork meat into large bite-sized chunks. Step 2- Soak the dried chillis in boiling water for 10 minutes until soft, then grind in a motar and pestle with the cumin, mustard, fenugreek and cardamom seeds until fine. Step 3- Dry fry the ground spices together with the ground ginger, and tumeric for a couple of minutes until aromatic. Set aside with a bowl and mix with the white vinegar to make a paste. Step 4- In a large pot, brown the pork shoulder meat in some oil (I like rice bran oil) in batches and remove. Step 5- In the same pot and oil, saute the onion until soft, then stir through the garlic and ginger. Step 6- Add back the pork, spice paste, bay leaves and enough chicken stock to cover the meat. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1.5 hours or until fall apart tender. Step 7- Meanwhile, when you have about 30 minutes cooking time remaining on the curry, roast the pork rind, sprinkled with salt in a roasting tray with a rack in the oven at 220c. When entirely crackled, remove from the oven and cut into chunks. Step 7- Serve over rice (or cauliflower rice) with Greek yoghurt and mango chutney and top with crackling and coriander.

  • Lazy Mum's Fish Tacos

    Usually I am a big advocate of making things from scratch but, just like everyone else (especially all the other mums out there), there are some nights where I just CAN'T BE F*CKED! You know those nights where you've been out all day, the washing piling up, the house a mess and kids yelling that they're starving, so here is a total #lazymum short cut recipe for some banging fish tacos that will keep everyone happy. Mum tip: serve them deconstructed and let your little special snowflakes DIY so they don't have a tantrum about the 1 speck of green herb touching their food. I recently had lunch at The Hideout Cafe in Old Toongabbie where they served the most delicious fish tacos, which totally inspired me to see if I could recreate a version of these at home but with the least amount of effort possible, because #life. Of course my fish tacos aren't nearly as good as the tacos at The Hideout Cafe, but they are pretty good for a throw together dinner! Beef Mince Tacos are usually a hit in my house because I let the kids load their own tortillas with the toppings that they like (one eats avocado, the other doesn't etc. *eye roll*) but even though I love to order fish tacos in restaurants, I have never attempted them at home because the battering and deep frying to then put them in a taco just seemed like it was all too hard to me. A trip to Coles changed all that (by the way this blog post isn't sponsored, I just happen to do my shopping at Coles) when I saw their frozen fish fillets that set a light bulb off in my head. “This recipe couldn't be easier, with everything done most of the way for you. The fish simply needs to be cooked in the oven, the coleslaw dressed and whatever toppings you happen to have in your fridge chopped. I've included avocado, tomato, red onion and coriander in this version but depending on what you like, what you have and what your kids will eat: pineapple, cheese, lettuce, sour cream would also all work.” Lazy Mum's Fish Tacos an original recipe by Kimberley Kells Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children with sides 6 Frozen Battered White Fish Fillets 200g Bagged Coleslaw (the one with the dressing included) 1 Avocado, mashed 1/2 Red Onion, finely diced 2 Tomatoes, finely diced 1 Lime 6 Tortilla Wraps Coriander for garnish Sriracha Mayo, for drizzling (substitute regular mayo for kids) Step 1- Unbox the frozen fish fillets and bake on a lined baking tray according to box instructions (usually around 15-20min) Step 2- Empty the bag of coleslaw into a large bowl and toss with the included dressing. Step 3- In another bowl, make the guacamole: combine the mashed avocado, red onion and tomatoes with a generous squeeze of lime and salt/pepper. Keep these items separate if it will upset the kids to have them touching. Step 4- Set the table with the cooked fish fillets, coleslaw, guacamole, tortillas, sriracha mayo and any other toppings you are using for family style, DIY eating.

  • Review of Sydney Madang Korean BBQ Restaurant, Sydney

    I have been dining at Sydney Madang (and loving it!) for about 10 years now, so when I was invited to their recent Media Night I couldn't have been more excited. On one hand, I knew exactly what was to lay before me: beautiful, friendly service, a central CBD location, and, in my opinion, the best Korean BBQ in Sydney. But on the other hand, what I didn't know of was the the vast range of other absolutely delicious dishes on order. It seems I am a creature of habit and order the same thing every time without trying anything new! Well here was my chance, and boy, have I been missing out all this time! The very first time I came to Sydney Madang was at the end of a booze-filled night, when we quite literally stumbled across a lane way and I spied a big line up of people waiting to get in somewhere. Even in my drunken stupor, I was able to spot a good thing and joined the queue, thus starting the beginning of a beautiful friendship between myself and this restaurant. Since then its been my venue for a post-races recovery meal, girls night out, family get together, date night and lazy lunches. As they say, the rest is history. Sydney Madang is hidden away down a lane way off Pitt St in the Sydney CBD so it can be tricky to find, but those in the know recognise the yellow sign and the treasurers that await. I usually order all the KBBQ (that's what the kids are calling Korean BBQ these days) greatest hits, the Bul Go Gi, the beef short rib, the chilli pork, the starch noodles, the dumplings, the pancakes and enjoy the informal, communal feel of cooking your own meal on the grill at the table. Tonight, we have all that stuff, and as usual it is completely delicious but what I am really interested in is trying the other dishes on offer which are not merely side dishes to the KBBQ, they are a main event in their own right. Take the Frozen Raw Beef Salad for instance, to be honest, not something I would usually order, but after tossing all the super fresh ingredients together and trying it, I am blown away, in a good way, by the heady fragrance of sesame that is permeating through this dish. Texturally the crisp matchsticks of nashi pear and cucumber contrast the soft and tender meat (its not frozen once you mix everything through). An absolute delight of a dish to eat and all my dining mates agree wholeheartedly. Other dishes like the Boiled Pork Belly with Shredded Radish and Oyster Kimchi offer a change up on the sweet/smokey flavours usually found at KBBQ. The clean flavours of the pork with an indulgent, yet awakening kimchi are a pair well-matched. Next up, the Deep Fried Chicken in Sweet Sauce with its almost flourescent colour are a new favourite of mine. I am amazed and perplexed at how the batter can retain its incredible crisp shell while being dredged in a sweet glaze. Even after the meal is done, I find myself parked in front of the remaining bowl of these morsels, so full, but still picking away #cantstopwontstop, in disbelief that the batter is still crisp after being smothered in sauce and sitting around for more than an hour! Witchcraft is my only explanation. I would kill to learn how they do that. “The Extra Hot Spicy Chicken with Pineapple, Rice Cake and Cheese on Top is a hard one for me. I should hate it. I mean, it does sound kind of revolting. I am even hesitant to try it. But in the name of research I give it a go and I like it, kind of... I would probably place it in the yum/yuk category for me. The same place that I file dishes like oyster mornay and surf and turf. Are you with me on this one? Dishes that are so over the top and unnecessary and sound kind of wrong, but once to just tuck in and eat, you enjoy it, but guiltily.'' Yes the cheese is stretchy and delicious as all hell, yes the chicken is tender, yes the chilli sauce is offset by the sweetness of the pineapple, yes the rice cake is adding a strangely addictive chewy texture, but somehow, something inside me just screams WRONG! I would eat it and enjoy it if someone else ordered it, but I wouldn't order it again myself. You have to admit, it does take a kick-ass picture though! How about that cheese pull!? #cheesepull #instafood I've always been a fan of eel (strangely not in the yum/yuk category for me, but I can see how it would be for other people) and the Grilled and Marinated Eel dish here is wonderful! Salty, sweet, tender eel sitting atop caramalised onions and mixed mushrooms is another winner and I'm still kicking myself that I have been coming here for 10 years and only tried these dishes tonight! The traditional KBBQ options are classics for a reason: because they are so utterly delicious and everyone seems to love them. I maintain that Sydney Madang does it the best in Sydney, but my eyes have certainly been opened tonight to the large format dishes on offer here which play no second fiddle to the KBBQ, but are stars on their own. The ability to produce both at such a high level is admirable and has certainly impressed me. I, for one, am so intrigued and excited to come back (hey- I was going to anyway!) and try their other large specialty dishes. As if I didn't sing their praises enough already, this event has proven why they remain so popular on the Sydney dining scene after 15 years of being in business and if you haven't been here already, or if you have only tried the KBBQ here, you have to go! You might even see me sitting at the next table over! Sydney Madang Korean BBQ Restaurant 371A Pitt St, Sydney *I dined here as a guest of Sydney Madang Korean BBQ Restaurant and Hungry Diner but all opinions remain my own.

  • My Mum's Gai Tod (Thai Fried Chicken)

    This is my mum's recipe for Thailand's answer to Fried Chicken, or 'Gai Tod' in Thai. It is best served with sweet chilli sauce and rice and wonderful as part of a BBQ or banquet. Everyone loves this dish and once you try it, you'll see why! There are so many styles of fried chicken out there: Japanese, Southern, Korean, Nashville Hot, Malay the list goes one and people can get quite territorial when it comes to choosing their favourite. I personally love Korean Fried Chicken for its crispiness while being smothered in sauce, but Thai Fried Chicken holds a special place in my heart because its what I grew up with and it's what my mum makes when she hosts lunch at her house so I thought I would share her recipe with you. She of course gets full credit and I'm sure if I claimed this recipe as my own, she would be all over my socials trolling me! #toughlove #creditwherecreditsdue #Igotitfrommymumma The process of marinating in the strong flavours of garlic, coriander and fish sauce impart the most beautiful perfume into the meat of the chicken, while the mixture of the 2 flours give crispiness and body to the fried skin. “Deep frying can seem scary if you haven't done it before, and of course you can use a deep fryer if you have one. But my best tip is to use a large heavy based pot such as a cast iron pot and fill the oil about 1/2 way up. That way you have a bit of protection between you and the oil. Extra long tongs and being very vigilant in temperature management will have you deep frying like a pro in no-time!” Gai Tod (Thai Fried Chicken) an original recipe by Mrs. White Preparation time: 5 minutes + marinating Cooking time: 20 minutes Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children with sides 1kg Chicken Wings, cut at the joint (you can buy this already done, called "Chicken Nibbles", or do it yourself) 3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled 3 Coriander Roots 1 Tablespoon of Palm Sugar 1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce 1/2 Teaspoon of White Pepper 1 Cup of Plain Flour 1 Cup of Rice Flour Vegetable Oil to deep fry Step 1- Make the marinade: Using a motar and pestle (or food processor if you don't have one), pound the garlic, coriander roots and palm sugar to a fine paste. Step 2- Switching to a spoon, stir in the fish sauce and white pepper. Taste for balance of salty and sweet. Pour into a large zip loc bag with the chicken wings and massage so everything is evenly coated. Leave to marinate in the bag preferably overnight or at least 20 minutes. Step 3- In a large pot, heat 8cm of oil over medium heat. The oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds). Step 4- Meanwhile, in a large, shallow bowl, combine the 2 flours with a pinch of salt. Toss each piece of marinated chicken in the flour, dusting off excess. Step 5- Working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot, fry the chicken for about 4 minutes, turning to ensure even colour. Drain on paper towel and serve with sweet chilli sauce.

  • Review of The Hideout Cafe and Pizza, Old Toongabbie

    Nestled in Western Sydney suburbia, The Hideout Cafe and Pizza is a local gem serving up vibrant and delicious dishes so insta-worthy is hurts! With food this good and service so warm, The Hideout Cafe will be a hideout no longer, the secret is out! "I will travel anywhere for good food!" I announce as I arrive at today's lunch. It's true as well. It started when I was a kid. Although I grew up in Summer Hill, we would make regular trips to Cabramatta for my mum to buy Thai groceries and for us to eat authentic Thai and Vietnamese food. This was not the Cabramatta of today, this was Cabramatta in the early 90's when the heroin epidemic was at its peak and I clearly remember being told to be careful not to step on the syringes lying in the gutter as I exited the family car! #carefulparenting It didn't worry me though because Cabramatta held some of the most amazing grocery stores that were a rabbit warren full of exotic delights even for a child. These days, Cabramatta is very much a changed place and I just love piling my own kids into the car, driving an hour or more for lunch either to Cabramatta, Bankstown, Canley Vale or Parramatta all to eat some of the best food in Sydney. Today I am excited to be travelling somewhere new (to me), Old Toongabbie for lunch at The Hideout Cafe and Pizza. It's a stinking hot day and so I am very relieved to enter their covered patio seating area which is fit out with a green wall to remind you of dining outdoors while protecting you from the elements. Natalie, the owner, and serving us for today couldn't be more friendly and helpful and is more than happy to indulge our foodie habits of taking approximately 4,000 photos in 4,000 different set ups of each dish before tucking in #foodbloggers #annoying #butwedoitanyway On our table is an array of popular cafe items such as smashed avo, eggs benedict, coffees and smoothies. In a sharing situation, proper etiquette dictates that one should be courteous and allow others to serve themselves first before serving oneself but I have been eyeing off this Oreo Thickshake for a while now and all manners go out the window like a contestant on the Bachelor. I dive on that gorgeous thing and claim the first taste for myself. I love all things cookies and cream #itsmyjam so this is right up my alley. It's not as thick as I usually expect a thickshake to be, perhaps it has melted somewhat in the heat, but I am not mad at all at this. I actually prefer a looser, more milkshake consistency, so this is perfect for me. The smashed avo is lovely with the creaminess of the avocado set against the sweet acidity of the cherry tomatoes, salty fetta and sweet/sour balsamic drizzle. This dish has great balance and is a delight to eat. The eggs benedict is served with smoked salmon #fancy and just as it should be. Perfectly cooked eggs, buttery hollandaise, crispy english muffin and wilted spinach #tokengreens. The vegetarian stack is a combination of all the vego big hitters: eggs, haloumi, mushrooms, pesto and a hashbrown! These ingredients are so filling and tasty and (dare I say) 'meaty', even carnivores have to love this dish! I certainly don't miss the meat at all. Unfortunately I can't comment on the coffee because I don't drink coffee (I know!) but the other ladies tell me its very nice. The mixed berry smoothie tastes both healthy and indulgent at the same time #greatcombo and the lemon mint crush is heaven sent on a hot day. I know kids would love these drinks with their bright purple and green hues. “My favourite dish of the day is the fish tacos which are actually a special (please put these on the regular menu! They are too good not to be!) and I happily devour more than my fair share, much to the horror of my dining companions who also love this dish! #gottabequick It's so good in fact that the cooking cogs in my mind are turning, deconstructing the dish and figuring out how I can attempt a version at home.'' Everyone seems to be on the same wavelength with leaving the mango lychee smoothie bowl til last as a pseudo dessert and it turns out to be a good thing for me because I find it quite sweet, which is fine and welcome for a dessert but for a main dish I would be overwhelmed with sweetness. The smoothie itself is luxuriously thick and holds its texture even in the heat and the fresh fruit on top is just beautiful to look at and to eat. This has been a drive well worth it for me as I have thoroughly enjoyed every thing set out for us in this spread. The presentation is up there rubbing shoulders with the most popular cafes on instagram at the moment and I would say that the flavour even tops these. Fresh, honest flavours without throwing in the kitchen sink are just what I want out of a cafe experience and that is what The Hideout delivers. The Hideout Cafe and Pizza 58A Bogalara Road, Old Toongabbie *I dined here as a guest of The Hideout Cafe and Pizza and Food Blogs but all opinions remain my own.

  • Review of Oasis, Collaroy

    A picturesque setting: with views of the ocean across the road, the sound of waves crashing and spiced aromas coming from the kitchen, Oasis in Collaroy on Sydney's Northern Beaches is exactly that; an Oasis away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life where we are transported to an exotic locale of the Mediterranean and North Africa. As I make the drive from my house in Crows Nest to tonight's event at Oasis (hosted by Blacker Media), it's pretty obvious that the Northern Beaches would be a wonderful place to raise children and it's timely because I have recently been thinking about when to make the next housing move and what that looks like. While I love my house in Crows Nest and right now it suits all our needs, but as the boys grow, I would love to have a bigger yard and a pool for them. Being close to the beach would also be a major draw-card but something that has always bothered me about the northern beaches is restaurant situation. Growing up in the inner west and now on the lower north shore I've always been spoilt for the range of cuisines and quality of restaurants which, being a #foodie is really important to me. I'm keen to expand my horizons though and give Oasis a chance. I am greeted warmly by Mustafa the owner and already I let out a huge sigh of relief because it feels like he is welcoming me into his home for a meal and I can tell its going to be authentically cooked and cooked with love. We start with appetisers of Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Falafel, Haloumi, Marinated Olives. The falafel have a delightfully crisp outer coating encasing a fluffy middle and tempered with a tahini sauce. The dips are earthy with a creamy texture with a good hit of acid from the lemon and together with the bread, haloumi and marinated olives, this is a lovely way to start our meal. I'm a bit confused because this food seems very Middle Eastern but then I remember that Turkey is part of the Mediterranean and all these dishes appear in Turkish cuisine. The hummus isn't quite as smooth as the unbelievably smooth hummus served at El Jannah but it's still very enjoyable. Meatballs arrive next and once bitten, release a beautiful scent of spices, swathed in a rich tomato sauce. Rounding out our starters is the Kataifi Prawns which are prawns wrapped in essentially very thin strips of filo pastry then fried. I am quite taken with the walnut and capsicum sauce which I mop up with remaining bread. I told myself I wouldn't eat carbs tonight because I've gained a couple kilos since I've started food blogging and I'd like to get them off but when the food is this good it's hard to resist! I may just have to buy bigger jeans! #yolo #enjoylife #justgowithit. Kebabs are next and I adore them! We have a lamb kofta and a chicken kebab, both cooked over charcoal and perfumed with the intoxicating scent of smoke. The accompaniments of tabbouleh, toum (garlic sauce) and mint labneh provide the hits of freshness, acid and heat (from the very intense garlic sauce) I am looking for to balance the richness of the smokey meat. I'm very sorry to say that the Mushroom Mgarabi Risotto isn't really my cup of tea. While the flavour of the mushroom is lovely, I just can't seem to get my head around the use of chickpeas in place of a risotto rice. Perhaps if I didn't think of it as a risotto I may enjoy it for what it is but with so many other delicious dishes on the table to try, I chalk it up to me not being able to let go of the risotto concept and move onto the tagines. And oh the tagines! “There is an element of theatre to the tagines, in which the name actually refers to the conical shaped vessel the dish is cooked in and not so much the dish itself. These are placed on the table and the lids removed to reveal steam emitting from both a chicken and lamb shoulder version. Oohs and Aahs emit from the foodies around the table and we ask our very kind waitress to repeat the lid lift again and again so we can get the perfect video for instagram. #obnoxious'' The chicken tagine is a gorgeous and aromatic stew which tastes like a warm hug from mum and is only eclipsed by the version made with lamb shoulder. It is slow cooked in honey with medjool dates which takes the naturally occurring sweetness of the lamb and turns it up a notch to a heavenly elixir that I just can't get enough of. It is so delicious that I even forget to take a photo of it because I am totally preoccupied with devouring this tasty concoction. #sorrynotsorry They are both served with rice and couscous which are cooked perfectly and I marvel at how I can never get it quite right at home. Its always a touch too soggy or a touch too dry. Some things are best left to the professionals! The last savoury dish is the grilled salmon with crispy skin and seasonal vegetables. The stand out for me is the roasted fennel which is beautifully soft and sweet and only a hint of aniseed which I can sometimes find too overpowering. I think well cooked vegetables are just magic and in this dish I think they are the real star and I wouldn't even mind if the salmon (which was very nice) was left off all together. For dessert we are presented with a tasting plate of Turkish Delight, a warm Chocolate Brownie, and my favourite the Baklava. It is freshly made with the filo pastry shattering upon impact with my fork. I eat mine AND the serving from the diner next to me! So much for that diet hey... As if I haven't indulged enough, we are very lucky and grateful to receive a guest's gift of Rosewater and Pistachio Fairy Floss from Fluffy Crunch which I proceed to devour like the glutton I am! I love all fairy floss, even the basic carnival variety but this stuff is next level. They are a gourmet variety of award winning creations and have a plethora of flavours and toppings to choose from. Tonight's choice goes perfectly with the theme of our dinner and such a beautiful way to treat all the guests with a departing gift. With full bellies and a jovial attitude helped by their signature cocktails, we leave Oasis with a sense of satisfaction that we just experienced a great meal and a great time. I am happy to say that I was wrong about the northern beaches not having enough top quality restaurants as Oasis has just shown off all they have to offer and I am impressed. While I'm not quite ready to move just yet, I'm keen to put some time into exploring the area and seeing what other gems I can find. If they're as good as Oasis, I'm in for a treat! Oasis Shop 2/1073 Pittwater Rd, Collaroy *I dined here as a guest of Oasis and Blacker Media but all opinions remain my own.

  • Cheese and Spinach Triangles

    The cheese and spinach triangles aren't the prettiest beings, especially since I had Mr 2yrs helping me in the kitchen and things manage to come out 'imperfect' when he's around! But the look of these bad boys don't worry me so much. What's important to me is that my boys will devour these; chock full of iron-rich spinach, and I get to spend quality time with the kids doing something we both love, cooking! This picture is actually a pretty bad example of what these triangles are supposed to be. You see, Mr 2yrs had the job of buttering the filo pastry and he has quite a heavy hand. You'll notice in the recipe below I do specify to lightly brush and the reason for this is to avoid the pastry becoming soggy and breaking open like mine have above! As many times as I told him he was using too much butter, I just couldn't banish him from the kitchen as we were having so much fun having special one-on-one time. So here they are in all their imperfect glory! They are a product of cooking with love and joy and focusing on having fun rather than following strict rules. I make a batch of these from time to time just to keep in my freezer for those nights I don't feel like cooking, or those occasions when you have unexpected guests. They cook right from frozen, no need to defrost and are a hit with everyone. This recipe is for quite large triangles, but that is only because I like to take shortcuts and make less of them. You can of course make them smaller by cutting thinner pastry strips and making more. In their small size they would be lovely as a party food or lunchbox filler. “I freeze the triangles separated on lined baking trays, then once frozen, I throw them into a large zip bag for easier storage in the freezer. If you skip the tray step in the freezing process, they'll stick together and all that work will have been for a big sticky mess!” Cheese and Spinach Triangles an original recipe by Kimberley Kells Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Makes: 10 large triangles 750g Frozen Spinach (3 boxes), thawed and water squeezed out 4 Eggs, beaten 500g Ricotta 250g Fetta 1 Cup of Parmesan, grated Sprinkle of Nutmeg 1 Teaspoon of Dried Oregano 375g Filo Pastry 150g Butter, melted Step 1- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the filo and butter until mixed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Step 2- Take 3 sheets of filo pastry and lightly brush in between each layer with melted butter so all 3 are stuck together. Cut once lengthwise so you have 2 large strips. Step 3- Take 2-3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture and place in the bottom right corner of one of the pastry strips. Fold the corner containing the filling up to meet the vertical edge of the strip, forming a triangle. Continue folding in this manner until you reach the top of the strip. Brush the top corner with butter to stick the completed triangle. Step 4- Repeat until all the filling and pastry is used up. I usually have 1 or 2 sheets of pastry left at the end and I let the boys make some pastry sculptures (usually scrunch balls!) to be baked in the oven as well. Step 5- Bake on a lined tray at 180c for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

  • Review of Ragazzi Wine and Pasta, Sydney CBD

    In what is only their second week of opening, my visit to Ragazzi Wine and Pasta is one of great expectations and great impressions. The food, the wine, the service, the ambiance: all live up to the reputation garnered from their other Sydney venues, Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Saint Eloise. In other words, it is absolutely fantastic and I can't say enough good things about this restaurant! Last week was our 8 year wedding anniversary and like many other married couples with kids, the day came and went without too much fanfare, unlike when we were first married where we would exchange lavish gifts, proclaim our adoration for each other in Facebook posts and dine at a 3 hatted restaurant. Oh how times change! #marriedlife #oldmarriedcouple Determined not to let this occasion pass by without taking a moment to celebrate, I organise for one of my very gracious and generous friends to babysit the boys so hubby and I can go out and have a nice dinner. My mum is usually my go-to child minder but she is overseas on an extended girls trip for 2 months #retiredlife #livingthedream so I have been relying on my dad, sister and very kind friends who have really stepped up and helped out to give us some couple time away from the kids. So I get myself tarted up and head into the city for dinner at the new hot restaurant, Regazzi Wine and Pasta, located in Angel Place. Over the years, my dining preferences have changed from absolute fine dining, white table cloth style dinners to more casual, sharing type situations. Definitely still very nice and very high quality (and not cheap) but I just want to really relax into my dining experience and not worry about it being too stuffy or formal. The crop of new restaurants popping up all over Sydney seem to be on the same page with the likes of Bistecca, Babylon, Saint Peter and of course our destination tonight. The restaurant is fully packed and I am very grateful they have gone the way of taking bookings. I am so sick of restaurants who don't take bookings! On a date night we are on the clock; with either someone babysitting as a favour or paying for babysitting so we don't have time to "go away and come back in a couple hours"! Anyway that's my little bug-bear and it's the first tick of approval from me. The menu is small, which is usually a good sign and our very charismatic Italian waitress tells us about her favourite dishes. I am a firm believer that the staff know what the best dishes are, so I am happy to go with her recommendations on food and wine, including the night's special, but more on that later. First up is a Tuna Crudo, buckwheat, pasta fritta which is actually something I wouldn't usually order (I prefer big flavours over subtle) but it is a gorgeous way to start the meal. Little morsels of fresh tuna perched atop an unbelievably light fried dough base. We devour these and our appetites are wet for the next courses. We look at each other and can tell that this is going to be a wonderful meal. The Burrata is always a winner in my books and this one is done beautifully with prawn oil almost enveloping the dish and mixing with the cream of the burrata upon breaking it open. Underneath the burrata is a pea/bean puree with a strong scent of garlic, bringing so much flavour that we use the accompanying bread to mop up every last bit. We order 3 pastas between the 2 of us because I'm a greedy guts and I want to try as much as possible. I can see on the tables either side of us that the portions are not huge so I don't think we'll have a problem finishing them. Two are from the menu (which changes daily) and one is a special for the night. The goat ragu and cacio e pepe are simply stunning with the obvious quality of ingredients, cooking of the pasta and velvety sauces that coat every piece of pasta. Hubby's favourite is the ragu with the melt-in-mouth meat, rich yet light sauce and crispy fried rosemary and breadcrumb topping. I really love it too, but not as much as the night's special: tagliatelle with sea urchin and blue swimmer crab. “We are actually very lucky to get to taste this pasta special as they only have 9 portions for the night and once I taste, I thank the heavens that I am a nanna and booked a 6:30pm seating. Any later and we probably would have missed out! The pasta is made in house #ofcourse and bathing in a luxurious light bisque-like sauce that echoes the seafood pops from the creamy and salty sea urchin balanced with sweet crab dispersed throughout. Once we finish all the pasta, I ask for some more bread to collect all the remaining sauce and I wipe that plate clean! It was amazing. Nothing else to say. Riding on a high from the spectacular savoury courses, we are keenly anticipating dessert which is a choice between the Honey Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Granita, a selection of Gelati and a selection of cheeses. I love Panna Cotta and hubby loves icecream so it's an easy decision. As hubby takes his first taste of gelato he makes the face. You know the face?! When someone eats something really delicious, they kind of screw their faces up to side almost as if in pain, but the message is clear: OH EM GEE. According to him, and I agree with him, the gelati is so creamy with each flavour better than the last. My panna cotta arrives with the perfect jiggle and it seems like the entire restaurant rubber necks it to see this thing of beauty be placed down on our table. Strangely I feel quite proud that this dish is for me! I don't know why, it's not like I made it, but I find myself with a smile like the cheshire cat and chest puffed and proud. It is divine, the subtle hint of honey running through the only just-set cream is a lovely contrast to the zingy blood orange granita. A perfectly executed dessert to top off a perfectly executed dinner. A lot of moving parts need to come together to run a restaurant to this high standard and it is extremely impressive that Ragazzi have managed to do this after only just opening. From booking to dessert everything was exactly to my taste, so I can't sing their praises highly enough. A wonderful way to spend our anniversary, can't wait to go back! Ragazzi Wine and Pasta Shop 3, 2-12 Angel Place, Sydney *This meal was paid for independently

  • Review of Fantastic Services, Sydney

    To say my life is hectic would be an understatement. With two young kids in my full time care, a brand new cavoodle puppy who requires lots of attention and house training, a busy hubby delegating life admin and a household to run, my time is precious. So when I discover Fantastic Services and the ways they can help take some of the load off, I am chomping at the bit to offload a big task that has been on my to-do list. My poor wool carpets have copped a beating over the past 3 years since I've had them installed. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I haven't had them steam cleaned in that time and they have fallen prey to the mess that children seem to generate without even trying. I'm talking: smears, spills, stains, the whole shebang! Add to that our new toy cavoodle puppy, Honey, from Sydney Cavoodles who is toilet training and leaving accidents everywhere and bringing in dirt from the constant trips outside. I'm sure you get the picture #facepalm. You see, Fantastic Services just doesn't offer your weekly or fortnightly house cleaning service, they have a wide range of professionals to help out with maintaining your home from professional cleaning, to gardening, to handyman work, to removalists, to pest control and more. It's those one-off jobs like cleaning the oven, clearing the gutters and yes, steaming the carpets that I hate doing! Lucky for me, Fantastic Services have sent a lovely, professional to do this for me so I can spend my time doing the things I really love like sharing a meal with my family and playing with Honey the cavoodle! Our fabulous steam cleaner for the day arrives 5 minutes early to allow me to show him the especially dirty spots and promptly unloads all the equipment that is going to turn my house into a sparkling beauty. I now have an hour up my sleeve to enjoy myself and I practically skip out of the house, knowing that things will be taken care of while I live my best life! Living one's best life means different things to different people. For some people, it means a massage, or maybe a movie, but for a family gal/food monster like me, it means taking the family to one of the many great cafes in Crows Nest for a bite to eat and to enjoy the spring sun. The boys enjoy some strawberry milkshakes topped with whipped cream, hundreds & thousands and gummy bears, while I have an Aperol Spritz #blessed #lifegoals #livingthedream “We return home after the hour is up, refreshed and relaxed in the knowledge that I can tick a job off my ever growing list. The results are fantastic (please excuse the pun)! The carpets have come up like brand new again and I didn't have to lift a finger. In fact, I've just spent that time laughing and stuffing my face with my nearest and dearest." Now like a mouse running on a wheel, my mind is racing, thinking what other jobs can I offload to Fantastic Services?! I'm sure most of you would agree that quality time with family and pets is so important and should be a priority, but with work and other commitments constantly pulling us in different directions, a service that can help make life easier is well worth it in my book. I am certainly a renewed woman and I know Mr 2yrs and Mr 4yrs have thoroughly enjoyed some undivided attention from Mummy (not to mention some way over-the-top strawberry milkshakes!) #thatsfantastic! If you're unsure, just give it a go and enjoy some time to yourself. You wont regret it! o get $20 off your first booking, simply enter the referral code: madelikemums when creating your account or sign up using this link. Fantastic Services Ph. 1300 233 268 *I received gifted services from Fantastic Services, but all opinions remain my own

  • Curry Lobster Noodles

    This Curry Lobster Noodle dish is a sure fire way to impress your guests (or just yourself if you're feeling luxurious) and actually takes next to no time to cook. I had been craving curry noodles and Mr 4yrs had apparently been craving lobster #whodoyouthinkyouare #kidfoodie #proud so I decided we should combine forces to satisfy us both. Mr 4yrs is a bit of a #foodie and often asks me for ham, cheese and truffle mayo sandwiches for his pre-school lunchbox, a medium-rare eye fillet steak, or an afternoon snack of longan and mangosteen (what about an apple, kid?!) so it comes as absolutely no surprise to me when he asks me for lobster for dinner, out of the blue. I actually love how adventurous he is with food so I am more than happy to encourage it, and I pack the family into the car and off to #sydneyfishmarket we go. The boys love a trip to the fish markets even more than they do they aquarium, and I don't blame them. The variety at the Sydney Fish Market is incredible and a feast for the eyes. While looking at the live lobster tank, I just don't have it in my to kill the beast myself as well as cook it, so I opt for the pre-boiled lobster and even ask the fishmonger to chop it in half for me #onelessjobtodo. You see, we have a new cavoodle puppy at home and it's like having a newborn again! I'm dealing with nighttime crying, wiping up poop, and establishing a new family routine. Her name is Honey and she is very cute but a whole lot of extra work for an already busy mum! These days, I am all for making things easy for myself, this way, all I have to do it very easily pull the tail meat out of the shell and roughly chop it. “Because the lobster is pre-cooked, I add it to the wok right at the end just for the purpose of warming it through, but I do not want to cook it any more than it already is. At over $90 per kilo, the last thing I want to do it ruin it! If you don't want to splash the cash for a lobster, this dish would also work really well with prawns, squid or even chicken.” Curry Lobster Noodles an original recipe by Kimberley Kells Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults + 2 kids 1 Onion, finely diced 2 Cloves of Garlic, finely diced 1 Tablespoon of Curry Power (I like the mild Madras curry powder from Herbies) 200mL Coconut Milk 200g Dried Egg Noodles 1kg Cooked Lobster, tail meat pulled out of the shell and diced chunky 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce 2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar Juice of 1 Lemon 1/2 Teaspoon White Pepper Step 1- Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Step 2- Meanwhile, in a large wok or fry pan, saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and saute for a further 30 seconds. Step 3- Stir through the curry power to cook out the spices and increase heat to medium/high to stir fry. Pour in the coconut milk to make a sauce. Step 4- By this time, the noodles should be cooked so pull them out of the boiling water and drop into the wok. Add about 1 cup of the noodle cooking water to loosen the sauce. Step 5- Stir through the lobster and quickly season with soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon and white pepper. Taste and adjust accordingly. Step 6- Present the noodles with the lobster shell if you're #extra and trying to impress.

  • Review of Luho, Crows Nest

    As a Crows Nest local and a stay at home mum/food blogger, I am always having a sticky beak at the new openings in the hood. Luho has certainly made a splash with the Crowie folk and their vibrant, colourful dishes are all over Instagram so of course I am dying to try them out! They serve mod-Asian cuisine, taking inspiration from South East Asian classics, delivering some welcome excitement to the lower north shore. I've got Mr 4yrs with me when I meet up with my girlfriend for lunch who also happens to be a Crows Nest local. Its such a great place to live because absolutely everything is in walking distance, from cafes to restaurants, to hair dressers to gyms. She has just moved back to Crowie after a few years stint living in Melbourne and I am excitedly catching her up on all the changes and new additions to the area. So it is quite apt that we are having lunch at one of the most popular new additions, Luho by chef Dennis Tan (formerly of Mama's Boi, which occupied the space previously). Drinks are the first order of business and they are cocktails, because, why not? #yolo The quandong spritz is complex with native Australian touches yet light and refreshing and the Little Luho Maid is right up my alley with sour, zingy hits from the lime and green papaya that send me absolutely gaga. Love me a zingy cocktail! #zingy The dish that I have seen all over the #socials is their prawn wonton taco, served standing proud with a crispy fried wonton wrapper acting as the taco shell, tender prawn mixed through creamy mayo, sweet mango chilli and fresh coriander. I was nervous to try this because when a dish is so hyped up, I sometimes find myself being let down when I try the real thing- Bubble Tea, I'm looking at you! #yuck Not the case here, I can see why this is Luho's signature dish, its wonderful and well deserving of all the hype. It's creative, tasty, different and yet the flavours are familiar. Other highlights include the Turmeric Pork Skewers which are a flavoured and spiced pork mince, wrapped in a betel leaf and grilled. This eaten within a another wrap of fresh crunchy lettuce, picked carrot and daikon radish with a soy based sauce. It is divine! Such a mix, yet balance of flavours and textures. The only thing that I would have loved added on top is maybe some toasted peanuts? Gee I'm high maintenance! #diva We also love the Luho Open-Faced Crepe which is their take on a traditional Vietnamese Banh Xeo. This dish does have a 20 min wait time, because they are obviously cooked to order, and take some time, but the wait is so worth it! The pork and prawn combination is still there, but the pork component is jazzed up by using char siu pork and luscious dollops of coconut cream are dotted throughout. The Ginger Chicken Stir Fry and Vermicelli Salad Bowl and both perfectly nice but to us, nothing spectacular and we are happy to enjoy these at face value. Mr 4yrs is very happy with the vermicelli noodles though and almost finishes the entire bowl by himself! Speaking of spectacular, that is how I would describe my favourite dish of the day: the Cauliflower. Now if you follow my blog, you know I am a fan of the humble cauliflower (see recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup ). But this cauliflower is something else. It is braised in burnt butter for so long that while presented as an entire head, it simply collapses when touched. The florets are still intact though, with such a rich, luxurious feel not usually afforded to a vegetable. Underneath is a an umami filled eggplant jam peppered with almond crumbs, seeds and I'm detecting a slight hint of chilli. I ask our lovely waitress about this and she happily directs me onto the chef who very generously shows me the mix and poses for a quick snap. “This is my favourite part of this whole food blogger gig. Experiencing new ideas, tasting the work of amazing chefs and taking those newfound techniques and flavour combinations home to try for my family. You can really see that the chefs at Luho are very passionate about what they create and it is utterly infectious and a pleasure to be around." As usual we have ordered way more food than is humanly possible to eat, but this is no problem as I will be out in the evening and the leftovers will serve as dinner for hubby and the kids. The service has been fantastic during this meal from making sure Mr 4yrs was comfortable and providing a kids place setting, right down to wrapping up the leftovers in environmentally friendly packaging and giving me instructions on the best way to reheat each dish! Now THAT's service. It's easy to see why Luho is so popular with tasty, accessible food, creative cocktails and killer service and vibe. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal here and will definitely be back for girls dinners, date nights and lunches enjoying the breeze in the large outdoor dining area. Luho 77 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest *I dined here as a guest of Luho and Wasamedia, but all opinions remain my own

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