A seasonal affair: Rhubarb, Strawberry and Thyme tarts

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Rhubarb, strawberry and thyme tarts

We’re now well into winter. Now having passed the winter solstice, it means the days will get longer and eventually, warmer days will be here. I keep dreaming of the gorgeous berries and stone fruits that are in season during the warmer months. But right now, I keep seeing a lot of rhubarb.

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Lemon and Rosemary cake

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When I started making this cake I thought I would be coming out with a delicious recipe. But despite recipe testing, due to the various trials and errors I faced, I ended up mostly writing about what not to do when baking a cake.

As my chef friend Fathun said ‘Cheffing or being a cook is about fixing disasters too, as you have learnt from Masterchef’. I had Fathun’s help throughout this cake-making process. I can say Fathun is one of the people who is most enthusiastic and supportive of my cooking adventures. She’s always excited about new ideas I have and we both have so much fun planning dinners together. We both tend to go over-board when planning these said dinners, and a simple catching up meal will almost end up with a main, sides and dessert.

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Doughnut Time

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Galaxy Doughnuts

I love doughnuts, but I hate frying things. So when I saw that I could make baked doughnuts with a doughnut tray I went on a hunt for one. It was actually quite hard to find it and stumbled on it completely by accident. I was shopping with a little friend E that day and the 6 year old was almost excited at the prospect of me buying it. Since E wanted to make it with me (she didn’t even want me to just make it for her, she wanted to help) I made sure to invite her to come help me decorate the doughnuts.

We decided to try and do galaxy doughnuts and they were so cool! E was very excited to help and she came up with different colour combinations. We had a lot of fun mixing colours, dunking the doughnuts into the glaze and licking the glaze off our fingers.

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Doughnut glaze
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Galaxy doughnuts mixed colours

It was an interesting experience giving E free reign to decorate. I had certain ideas about what I wanted, but E too, had ideas about what she wanted. I think she was more eager to just try new things. I had set colours I wanted to use, but E wanted to try a little bit of everything and the colours turned out great! To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about putting the chocolate sprinkles on the galaxy doughnuts. I thought E would put them on a plain white one or a single coloured one. My mind was fixed on the Instagram pictures I had seen, but E was too happy to play with the chocolate sprinkles in new ways. A learning experience from E; letting myself have fun and experiment, rather than stick to what I know.

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I made 7 doughnuts using this recipe.

Ingredients:
Doughnuts:
– 1 cup flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 egg
– 65 grams brown sugar
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
– 30 gram butter
– 100 gram dark chocolate

Vanilla glaze:
– 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2-3 tablespoon milk
– Food colouring and sprinkles to decorate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (150 degrees in fan-forced oven). Grease a doughnut pan.
  2. Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with butter. Sit over a saucepan of barely simmering water, until the mixture is melted and smooth (stirring occasionally). Keep a close eye on the mixture, you don’t want the chocolate to burn!
  3. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and leave it to cool.
  4. Mix the flour, baking soda, bicarb, salt and sugar in a seperate bowl.
  5. Mix the egg into the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. The mixture will seize up, but don’t worry, it’ll become nice and smooth when you keep whisking. Add the milk and yoghurt and whisk until smooth.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the chocolate mixture. Stir it until it’s just mixed. Don’t worry if the batter is thick, we want the doughnuts to be a bit doughy.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Alternatively, what I did was to put the batter in the piping bag (a makeshift one with a ziplock bag and cutting the corner) and piped it into the doughnut holes.
  8. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack. You can store these in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
  9. Make the glaze. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Add more milk if you think the mixture is too thick. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze and top with sprinkles.

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Happy eating!

 

Market Vibes

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Even if the temperature is not quite summer, nothing announces the arrival of Melbourne summer to me more than the Queen Victoria Night Markets. As usual, we got there early to sip on a cold drink as we browsed the food stalls and direct people as to where we got our drinks. 

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My favourite was definitely the paella at El Rincon. There was a long queue, which is always a good sign. Standing in line was quite entertaining; I had lots of time to take photos of the huge paella pans and watch them being cooked. It was clear everyone was having a good time. The chefs were singing and dancing as they stirred, chopped and mixed.

As I went up to order my All-Seafood Paella, I was momentarily transported to Spain (my version of Spain, I’ve never been to Spain). All the Spanish I had learnt by watching a couple of Spanish TV shows popped into my head, and the conversation with the girl taking the order, should have gone a bit like this:

Me: Hola! One All-Seafood Paella Por favor
Girl: Si, anything else?  (In a Spanish-accent)
Me: Nada. Gracias!

It was just too busy for this skit to actually take place, so this didn’t really happen.

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The Paella was absolutely delicious! I shared half with a friend as I wanted to eat other food, but I could’ve easily eaten the whole thing!

As much as I wanted to try new food, I had to go again to WonderBao for their new bao burgers. I had a mushroom burger with a tasty salad and sauce. I absolutely loved the soft, steamed bun. And washed it all down with some cool lemonade.

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We had to check out the Takis Balls for dessert. We got a half-and-half of Nutella and salted caramel. We had fun sharing one whole plate between the 5 of us. I couldn’t bite these in half, so had to pop the balls whole into my mouth. Nothing graceful about this, but oh so delicious!

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I usually only get to the Queen Victoria Night Markets just once a year, but there are so many new food delights to be discovered and a second visit will be well worth it. The markets are not only about the food and shopping, but also happy vibes.

 

Thoodles at the Night Noodle Market

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Getting into summer means market food time! Long days, sipping drinks in the sun and digging into delicious food with friends. If my summer social outings don’t involve some sort of food, it doesn’t feel right.

The Melbourne Night Noodle markets have been happening for a while but this was my first visit. Set right on the edge of the Yarra River, the area looks small at first, but once you get in there’s more to explore. We got in really early, just as they opened at 5pm, which meant no lines and plenty of seating. We quickly dug into the juicy Hoy Pinoy chicken skewers as we browsed around the food stalls.

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One thing I was clear on, I definitely wanted dessert. In fact, I was more excited about the dessert options rather than the baos and dumplings. Sydney’s Black Star pastry was here with their famous Strawberry Watermelon cake which I had never had when I lived in Sydney. And I also got to try the N2 Gelato. I’ve always approached the N2 Gelato with some scepticism, assuming it was mostly the hype of the Nitrogen ice cream rather than taste. But watching them make the ice cream with goggles on, dry ice flowing everywhere and working their KitchenAid mixers was something else. I was definitely proved wrong after digging into the Gold Mugger. It was filled with crunchy gold-speckled cookie dough and some delicious brownie/cake thing. I squeezed the Nutellla ganache out of a tiny dropper and it was delicious. My husband said he didn’t want to try it when I offered, and I said ‘Good, more for me’.
Next dessert in line was the Brûlée Cart. These guys, I visit religiously whenever I see their truck parked. Their creme brûlées are so creamy and smooth. I’ve had their Salted Caramel and Ginger brûlée which is just fabulous, topped with caramel popcorn (here it was peanut butter popcorn, I think). One can never go wrong with the Brûlée Cart. Delicious!

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For savoury, I could not walk past Wonderbao’s fried chicken baos. Their mushroom steamed buns were tasty as well. It was a wonderful afternoon, nibbling on everyone’s plates, tasting fried dumplings, nasi goreng and thai fish cakes. I felt like I didn’t have as much savoury food. The desserts seemed to be the highlight, particularly because I wanted to eat dessert before the day got cold.

The biggest challenge for me was the photography. I thought since we got in early, there would be plenty of light, but the light was not at all helpful. Taking even a decent photo of a bao was challenging in the afternoon sun. The direct sunlight did not help at all and everything was over-exposed. I had to then get my friend to act as a shade, trying to get out of the sun. I did feel like a bit of a douche, taking photos so seriously with my camera and directing my friends and family around. But I love taking photos of food and I especially enjoy taking photos of market food, so after a while I just got into stride. I couldn’t stop and worry about what others were thinking of me.

Next up is the Queen Victoria Night Market. I absolutely love that! So much market fun in summer. Now Melbourne weather just needs to get itself sorted and give us some more sun.

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This little Foodie went to the market

Massive, salted caramel, soft pretzels
Massive, salted caramel, soft pretzels

Change is inevitable. And I love it! I lived in Sydney for about 9 years and decided I have had enough of the city. So I moved to Melbourne. Just because I could. I have never regretted this decision. Whenever people asked me whether I missed Sydney, without skipping a beat, I say I don’t. Not at all. If anything, my most recent visit to Sydney made me realise just how much I love Melbourne.

Melbourne food was a major contributing factor to move. One of my favourite events is the Queen Vic Night Markets (I do prefer the summer night markets to the winter one). The whole experience is enjoying the madness of overwhelming food choices, battling crowds and enjoying the ambient lights during sunset.

Taki's Balls: tasty doughnut balls drizzled with nutella and salted caramel
Taki’s Balls: tasty doughnut balls drizzled with Nutella and salted caramel

From the soft baos to tasty salted caramel pretzels and to award winning margherita pizzas, one trip there never seems enough! I always feel I need to go back to eat the things I didn’t get to try. After we had decided one food, the real struggle is hawking down a seat! It’s all about keeping an eye out for people leaving and being able to immediately swoop down at a table before somebody else does. Or sometimes sharing a big table with strangers.

Wonder Bao
Wonder Bao

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It’s fun to eye the different dishes random strangers are eating. Last year total strangers came up to me to ask where I had gotten Sri Lankan hoppers. This year, this guy didn’t even bother to keep his voice down when he pointed to my Taki’s balls and say to his friend he wanted to get some too. It’s such a nice atmosphere when you can express your food envy openly and people appreciate you for it or point you in the right direction. I really don’t bother being discreet as I ogle at people’s plates.

The market stalls are great too. There are lots of friendly faces, selling products like hand poured candles, leather bound notebooks, succulent terrariums and jewellery. Just walking and admiring all the cool stalls is enough when you have good company and a tummy full of tasty food. The Queen Vic Night markets is one thing you definitely have to try if you’re visiting Melbourne.

Lemonade
Lemonade
Talking photos also means accidental photobombs
Talking photos also means accidental photobombs

Tips for visiting:
– Get in early. 5pm if you can.
– Grab a drink and explore every single food choice available. Yes, this will make decision making more difficult BUT better than the feeling of regret when you spot the Baos you’ve been craving for months when you’ve already scoffed down 5 pieces of fried chicken.
– Eat first, explore market stalls later. You might even get hungry for dessert after a stroll.
– Have fun!

The Queen Vic Night markets is on every Wednesday night, for a few more weeks only.