I met some of my best friends in the world at uni. We bonded over ridiculous deadlines, early-morning typography classes, soporific avant-garde film lectures, a mutual love of marsupial tennis, and of course a mutual love of FOOD!
These days it’s harder to gather everyone together to share a meal. But after I told them about the crab special at Tingha Chinese Restaurant at the Sydney Markets, it wasn’t too hard to rally the troops. All 14 of us!
There’s apparently another Tingha Chinese Restaurant in Parramatta, but we went to the one adjacent to the Sydney Markets in Homebush. It’s inside the Tiger’s Club there, and as such looks quite unassuming from the outside. But walk past the pokie rooms and you’ll find a bustling Chinese restaurant – filled to the brim with families eating platters of crab.
Crab definitely seems to be the thing to order here. And no wonder! The special is communicated to us through a laminated piece of paper placed on our table – all of the text is in Chinese (which I can’t read) except for the giant $8.80 written in big letters. That’s right! Tingha somehow manages to sell mudcrab at $8.80 per half kilo (that’s $17.60 per kilo for those like me who are mathematically uninclined) – which is apparently under market price (or so the waiter tells me). For that reason, the restaurant accepts cash-only for the special (don’t worry, there are ATMs available in the Leagues Club).
With 14 people at the table, I order us 6kg of crab. Each crab weighs a little bit over 1kg (though of course a lot of that is the shell). You can choose from a few different ways for it to be cooked – XO Sauce, Ginger & Shallots or Salt & Chilli Pepper. We go with Ginger & Shallots.
It’s awesome. Perfectly cooked and the sauce is deliciously savoury. Our noisy table descends into utter silence – except for the occasional cracking of shells and the squeaking of the Lazy Susan.
We’re definitely here for the mudcrab, but I decide to order us an assortment of other dishes too:
Pippis cooked in XO sauce with crispy noodles ($43.80). The waiter recommended we purchase 2 servings for our table of 14, but we decide to go with just one. I’m glad we did because it’s ginormous! Everyone likes pippis, but I really love the crispy vermicelli noodles underneath! It goes great with the XO sauce.
Shantang Chicken ($17.50 for a half chicken) - twice cooked crispy skin chicken in a sweet soy and vinegar sauce is definitely moreish. The chopped garlic, shallots and chilli give it a bit of a kick, and the chicken is nice and tender, with crispy skin.
Salt & Chilli Pepper Pork Ribs ($16.50) - Super succulent pork covered in a crunchy spiced batter. My absolute favourite favourite dish of the night (besides the crab) are these deep fried pork ribs! So much so that I ordered 2 plates, just to make sure everyone could have some (and that I could have 2 pieces haha). I don’t know why these are so good, but they are (If I were to guess it’d probably the liberal amount of 5-spice and MSG… mm-mmm!)
Salt & Pepper Whitebait – crispy little morsels of fish in a light batter. Our resident spearfisher & seafood expert pronounced these to be “wicked”.
Salt & Pepper Tofu ($14.80) – … are you sensing a theme yet? This time it’s big pillows of soft tofu in the same light salt & pepper batter. A nice change from the seafood & meat heavy dishes.
Mongolian Beef ($15.80) – I didn’t try this as I was quickly reaching extreme fullness, but a sizzling plate is always very impressive…!
Special Fried Rice ($12.80) – arrives a bit late in the game when everyone was a bit full. But seeing the giant prawns perched on top tempted me into eating at least a little bit! Seriously… I haven’t seen such big prawns in a fried rice anywhere else I can think of! There were the normal little prawns mixed in there too, along with ham, chicken and egg.
We also ordered a platter of Stir Fried Chinese Vegies ($13.80) and a plate of Salt & Pepper Calamari ($18.80) which I didn’t manage to take a photos of.
Of course, as is customary at many Chinese restaurants, our giant feast was finished with a platter of orange wedges and bowls of red bean soup (I ate a lot of the former, and not so much of the latter)
Completely satisfying meal – and best of all, the price came to less than $24 each per person, including our mountain of crab at the beginning. At that price we’ll have to organise some group meals more often
Tingha Chinese Restaurant Sydney Markets
Shop 16 Markets Plaza,
Markets, 250 Parramatta Road
Homebush West NSW 2140
ph: 8789 3636 (I recommend booking on weekends as it gets quite packed. And the waiter recommended calling up before you go just to make sure the crab special is still available)
Just another update this month, to follow my first post about baking sourdough. I’ve been baking once almost every week for the past few months now and I think I’m starting to see some improvement! Still feel like I’m very much a beginner, but at the same time feeling a bit more confident with the process.
That being said, every time a loaf goes into the oven I still mutter a quiet prayer to Ceiling Cat. A treacherous part of my brain will always remain convinced my bread might fail!
This was actually my first time making 2 loaves at once. Actually found it a bit tiring hand mixing over a kilo of dough at a time (I’m a real weakling). But quite fun to experiment with different scoring and seeing how they effect the final result.
I think these loaves had the best crumb so far! Big big bubbles. I think I actually squealed with glee when I cut this one open.
Still, sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. I have no idea why this dough turned out so liquidy – eventually I gave up and put it in a loaf tin and hoped for the best. I sprinkled the top with some linseed and poppyseed (my go-to combination it seems. At least until I invest in more seed packets!)
Here you can see the dough before and after final proof. Before baking I lightly scored the top with a straight line down the middle.
The finished loaf! So relieved that it turned out. Though actually prying it out of the tin was a bit of a struggle. Note to self: non-stick pan is not very non-stick.
Quite a bubbly crumb in the end! Lots of small holes rather than big ones.
Linseed and poppyseed white sourdough:
With this loaf, I mixed in some linseed and poppyseeds right before my bulk ferment.
Light wholemeal sourdough loaf:
With this bread I followed my usual recipe from Brasserie Bread for a white sourdough batard, but substituted a cup of white flour for wholemeal (just regular wholemeal flour from the supermarket. I found that even the Coles brand had a quite high protein level that was sufficient for baking).
Formed the batard with some pointy tips this time…. getting proper fannnncy!
Was so pleased with the look of this one! Definitely the tallest bread I’d made so far. While shaping this batard I tried to pay more attention to the way I rolled the dough – trying to keep it tight and even, and sealing the ends into points. Watching this video on youtube on shaping was really useful on different techniques of shaping dough (and how good is his accent!! “this-a-way!”):
Half wholemeal Sourdough Loaf:
This past weekend, I baked two loaves – as I gifted one to my friend Charles (you should totally check out his amazing art blog here: Minitreehouse – I guarantee you will be blown away!). This time the recipe was half wholemeal.
What follows is a very basic recipe for what I baked on the weekend, and assumes that you already have access to a sourdough starter. As I didn’t create my sourdough starter from scratch I don’t feel quite qualified to give any instruction on creating your own, but the Bourke St Bakery book which I’ve recommended in my blog before has a very detailed section on creating a starter.
This recipe also assumes basic bread-making knowledge. I go into further detail about beginner bread-making in this post: Schiacciata Con L’Uva, and have some musings about beginner sourdough baking in this post here: Sourdough – A work in progress update in case it’s useful to you.
And of course if you’re serious about learning how to bake sourdough bread, I can’t recommend the Brasserie Bread classes more highly enough. You can read about my experience at the class I attended here: Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough Class.
For a makeshift banneton (the bowl that holds the bread dough as it proves so that it keeps its shape), I’ve been using large bright red Décor tupperware containers with a teatowel knotted tightly at both ends. It creates a kind of sling for my baby dough to rest in:
Simple yet effective!
As I’m quickly realising, sourdough baking is as much (if not more) to do with technique than any particular recipe – so do feel free to adapt the recipe to fit your usual baking process. This recipe works well with my 100% hydration starter (if you like reading way too much information on the topic like I do, this is a good page: Maintaining a 100% Hydration Starter)
Of course if you have any other questions, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!
Half Wholemeal Sourdough Batard
(Based on a Brasserie Bread white sourdough batard recipe. Makes 2 loaves)
380g unbleached white baking flour (I’m using Kialla organic unbleached plain flour)
380g wholemeal flour (I’m using Coles homebrand)
410g chilled water
Linseed/Poppyseed for topping (optional)
Add the two flours into a large bowl and stir to mix them up. Add the water and the starter.
Mix by hand for a few minutes. Turn out onto an unfloured board.
Once the dough has come together, incorporate the salt. Knead using your preferred method until your gluten is developed (check this by making a gluten window).
Place your dough into an oiled bowl and cover with clingwrap. Let it rest for 20 mins.
Fold into 3rds. Stretch the dough slightly, and fold into 3rds again. Place your dough back into your bowl, cover with clingwrap and let it bulk prove for another 2 hours.
Divide your dough into two using a knife or a dough scraper (use your kitchen scale to make sure the two loaves are the same weight). Preshape and leave to recover for 15 mins.
Final shape your doughs. Place into generously floured bannetons if using, or onto a tray lined with a floured tea-towel. Seam side up. Cover loosely with clingwrap or a teatowel to stop them drying out.
Place into the fridge and let them prove in the fridge overnight (12-24 hrs)
The next morning – take your dough out of the fridge. Final proof until your dough roughly doubles in size. Check this using the “poke test” – poke the dough with your finger. If the indentation fills back immediately it’s underproofed, not at all then it’s overproofed, if it slowly fills up in a few seconds then it’s perfect!
Meanwhile, place a deep tray into your oven and preheat to 200˚C. Boil a kettle of water. Once your oven is hot, pour the boiling water into the hot tray. This will create a lot of steam and will help your dough rise in the oven and form a crispy crust!
Dust loaves with flour (and seeds if using – sometimes I mist my loaves with a bit of water from a spray bottle to make the toppings stick!). Slash and bake!
Bake for approx 45-50mins until the crust is golden brown.
Remove from oven and let them cool before eating the heck out of your freshly made bread!
There’s no doubt that this is a tough time for restaurateurs: tighter purse strings, high rents, an incessant parade of new eateries and a flighty dining public only interested in flocking around the latest shiny new thing. Every week we’re hearing of new closures – and it seems like the trend is unlikely to end soon.
So how are restaurants luring in customers in such a difficult climate? Well… coupons and deep discounting are certainly one way to lure in potential new diners. But from my own experience as a greedy diner, I know my loyalty is only as good as whatever coupon website will give me the next best discount. And though I love a good half-price coupon as much as anyone, it hasn’t escaped my notice that four restaurants I’ve purchased coupons from in the past have since closed for business…
So if massive discounts miss the mark, what then? An alternative to chasing the high-volume injection of coupon customers might be found in the somewhat old fashioned method of drawing in locals and courting repeat business. Now I’m definitely no business expert, but I think a great example of this is what’s happening up at The Carrington in Surry Hills!
Thanks to the strong social media presence of both @carringtonhotel and @jamiecarrington – you may already be familiar with some of the many daily specials The Carrington dishes up each week. From Monday $10 Meatball night to Sunday Spanglish Roast Dinner, these daily specials are a fun way to offer novelty, variety and also the cheeky feeling of getting a good deal. It’s also a formula that seems to be working well at other venues backed by publicans, Jaime Wirth and James Miller: The Forresters, The Norfolk and The Abercrombie (try get a seat next Tuesday at The Norfolk’s $3 taco night and you’ll see what I mean.)
But this blog is about Tuesday $3 Pintxos night, so I better get on with it! Every Tuesday, Chef Jamie Thomas and his team at The Carrington hotel run $3 Pintxos night – crafting a specials menu of 5 different $3 pintxos which vary from week to week. I have to admit I still don’t know how to pronounce it without mumbling and looking off into the distance, but “Pintxos” is a Spanish/Basque term for a bar snack; often spiked with a toothpick. I especially love how Chef Jamie tweets out a twitpic of the night’s pintxos dishes.
It’s fun, it’s cheap (you can get a platter of one of each pintxos for a very unprincely sum of $15!), and best of all – it’s reliable. Just like Thursday-late-night-shopping and Tight-Arse-Tuesdays at the movies, Tuesday night at The Carrington is pintxos night (at least it is at the time I’m writing this haha – the future is uncertain after all)
The changing rotation of pintxos is fun too, and a good incentive to come back. I’ve been twice in the past month alone… and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon. On the particular week we visit, the menu includes:
Rare roast beef with beetroot and horseradish – I like the zingy horseradish sauce with the sweet beetroot spread. And the beef is melt in the mouth.
The Sweet Potato & Smoked Cheddar Tortilla is like your best ever creamy potato bake, and it’s great fun biting through all the layers.
Paella Ball with Crispy Squid is probably my favourite of the night. The outside is just so crisp, with a surprising black squid ink paella inside.
Smoked Eggplant and Pomegranate tostada is lovely and indeed smokey, with little bursts of sweetness from the pomegranate seeds. But would have been even nicer if the bread was still crispy.
Pork Belly Slider, Pickled Cabbage looks glorious! The pickled cabbage slaw cuts through the rich pork belly slice. I’ve got a little piece of extra crackling pinned on top of my bun, but a few others at my table are a bit disappointed to be missing their pieces. If you’re someone who likes volume for your dollar though, this is definitely the one to get. For $3 it’s an absolute bargain.
Of course we can’t let the opportunity pass by the grab some dessert and drinks too. We grab a jug of the Single Mother cocktail ($25 a jug) – red wine, southern comfort, nutmeg, sugar topped with ginger beer. If ever a sangria tasted like Christmas this would be it. And my friends get a deconstructed Banana Split with Fried Milk to share. The fried milk comes out looking like fried cube-like donuts, complete with brown crust topped with sugar and cinnamon. But inside is like a milk pudding! Don’t ask me how it’s done, but it’s delicious (googling Leche Frita recipes gives me a bit of a hint though!).
Another friend orders a Creme Catalana – which is like a citrus flavoured creme brulee – a bit less exciting than fried milk but still tasty:
It’s all a lot of fun. Beautifully crafted pintxos for a bargain (seriously… that’s a lot of pintxos to serve in one night), good drinks, friendly service, cosy atmosphere that’s neither too loud nor too fussy. And they take bookings! (huzzah!) What’s not to love.
565 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: 02 9360 4714
Bookings can be made through firstname.lastname@example.org
If you follow me at all on the Twitters or Instagram, you may have an inkling of my current bread baking obsession. Ever since attending the Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough baking class back in April, I’ve been baking sourdough bread pretty much every week! I’ve found that once you get the starter going, and maintain a feeding schedule – it almost seems like a waste not to bake – since so much flour and effort goes into keeping that thing alive!
Sourdough does take a long time to make from start to finish. It requires a much longer proofing time than yeasted doughs – yeasted doughs typically take 1-2 hours to prove, whereas sourdough needs to sleep overnight in the fridge for 8-24 hours! It does mean that if I want a fresh loaf of sourdough for Saturday brunch for instance, I have to start planning for it on Thursday! But with the super crackly crust, chewy crumb and awesome flavour, it is so worth it. And fresh hot bread out of the oven is just amazing (my friend Zay and I have dubbed the feeling of accomplishment as “home-baked smugness”)
Here’s a photo of my very first sourdough loaf baked from Mr Stay Puft! Even after the confidence boosting Brasserie Bread class, part of me was still so sceptical that my dinky little fermented mixture of flour and water could create bread.
What I really love about baking right now, is that every loaf turns out different!
Maybe proper bakers learn proper consistency, but at the moment it’s kind of exciting waiting by the oven, seeing what results will turn out!
There’s so many variables that can affect the end result – from hydration of the dough, final proofing time, oven temperature and the amount of steam in the oven. I’ve tried a few different methods to create steam… first with a spray bottle – a bit inefficient I thought. I’ve also tried a tray full of icecubes. But the best results I’ve gotten is filling a preheated tray on the lowest rack with boiling water just before I put the dough in (and then misting on top just for luck!).
I like documenting my funny little loaves so I can see what worked and what didn’t in terms of shaping and slashing. There are so many different ways to slash bread! And there’s no real right or wrong answers. At the moment I’m trying really angled cuts, so that I can get the cool “ears” on the bread.
Here’s some photos of the different loaves I’ve baked over the past few months, in chronological order:
You can see the first few ones I baked look a little anaemic and dry. The later loaves have much better colour and shine, plus the pretty blistering on the surface of the crust. I think this is because I’m better at leaving the loaves in the oven for a bit longer to brown (not as paranoid about burning them, like I was my first few loaves) – plus the added steam. I’ve found that steam in the oven not only improves the appearance of the crust, it helps make your dough surface more flexible… so that it can grow in the oven nice and uniformly (rather than cracking and busting out like my Frankenbread!).
Mr Potato Bread:
Trying out Bourke St Bakery’s sourdough variation, Mr Potato Bread – roast potato chunks with rosemary (with poppy seeds instead of the suggested nigella seeds because that’s all I had in the cupboard) – I added the extra ingredients after mixing my dough, just before the bulk prove.
Anyway, it’s a learning process, and I’m still beginning!! But it sure is fun (and delicious) learning!
Mel attended the “How To Treat Your Bird” masterclass as a guest of Chophouse and Pacific Restaurants
It’s definitely true that I cook more sweet things than savoury. I actually find cooking meat a bit intimidating, especially chicken. Such a fine line between salmonella and a totally dry and tasteless bird (in my unskilled hands anyway!!). So when Sarah from Pacific Restaurant Group asked if I’d be interested in participating in a poultry cooking masterclass at Chophouse with head chef Eric Tan, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
If the name isn’t self-evident enough, most people know Chophouse for their steaks. You may even have seen some posts on their famous 1.5-1.8kg Black Angus Tomahawk steaks! But according to Chef Eric, some of their most popular dishes are their chopped salads. In fact there’s a member of staff and a whole section of the kitchen dedicated to making the 6 different salads on offer! Not bad for a steakhouse right?
Whether by coincidence or design, all six of us bloggers in our class “How To Treat Your Bird” (a pun that all the chefs loved) happened to be female, and our 3 chefs male (though we were introduced to a female chef later in the day). The class focused on how to cook quail, duck and chicken – really giving the chefs at Chophouse an opportunity to show their skills outside of cooking a perfect cut of steak.
It was a huge privilege to be welcomed into Chophouse’s kitchen – our teachers Head Chef Eric and his two sous chefs Elliot and Matt were so generous with their time and knowledge, answering all of our novice questions. And let’s face it, I love a good stickybeak. It was really cool being on this side of the pass for the first time.
The first Saturday of May is International Free Comic Book Day. I can’t believe it’s already May! I feel like it really snuck up on me this year!
Every year, comic book stores all around the world get together on the first Saturday of May to offer a selection of limited edition comics for FREE to anyone who passes through their doors.
Gosh! I don’t know what happened since last year – but this year’s FCBD seems to have grown exponentially! Huge crowds, even LINES of people outside King’s Comics. I have never seen anything remotely close to a line at King’s Comics – let alone one that was over 100m long!
Actually I do know what’s changed since last year – The Avengers movie has made superheroes cool again! Marvel and DC costumes definitely dominated the scene. I saw plenty of Thors (and baby Thors!), and quite a few Captain Americas.
Super cute Supergirl, Batgirl and Loki!
Even my friend Chewie decided that he’d gone through enough DC villains (what about Catwoman Chewie??) and decided to jump ship to Marvel’s Avengers this year
It was definitely more crowded this year – but I kind of loved it. I love seeing nerd culture being embraced and celebrated. And I don’t think I’m alone; the mood remained chilled and fun despite the crowds.
A lot more people brought their kids this year (dressed in super cute costumes!) – which I think bodes well for future generations of comic book fans. Speaking briefly with Chewie (one of the organisers of events at Kinokuniya), I got the sense of how gratifying it must be to see a community-based event like this grow year-upon-year. Not only is it a great vehicle for introducing people to the bookstore… thanks to Chewie, FCBD has also become a venue for local artists to showcase their skills and wares in the Artist’s Alley.
However, my favourite part of Free Comic Book Day (besides the free comics) has got to be taking photos of people dressed as fantastic superheroes and cartoon characters while doing ordinary things:
Heaps of fun! Can’t wait until next year
More photos from FCBD 2012 are in my Flickr set here: Free Comic Book Day
You can also check out my posts from FCBD in previous years:
Free Comic Book Day! 2010
Free Comic Book Day 2011 – Food Blogger Yumcha aka Epic Saturday
Free Comic Book Day is on the first Saturday of May every year
You can find out more about it here on their official website
For my birthday earlier this year, my super awesome friends bought me a Brasserie Bread baking class gift voucher!
Possibly because a) they are super awesome friends who know exactly what to buy me, b) I talk wayy too much about how much I love bread (I REALLY LOVE BREAD) or c) this way I would be forever in their debt and would have to repay them with unlimited supplies of home-baked bread
Possibly a little from column a) b) and c)
Without even looking at the schedule I knew exactly which class I wanted to take…. Art of Sourdough!
I don’t think I mentioned it here before, but for the past few months I’ve been tending to my very own sourdough starter (aka Mr Stay Puft).
Here it is in all its glory:
I got the starter from one of my highschool friends, whose dad is quite the proficient home baker. Mr Stay Puft originally started life as a rye starter, but as I fed him white flour he slowly became as white and puffy as his namesake. But despite feeding him for months, I still hadn’t worked up the courage to bake with him!
When I did the home baker class at Masterchef Live with Matt from Brasserie Bread, he joked that looking after a starter was like looking after another child. Not being a parent myself, I can’t completely vouch for the statement’s accuracy but GOSH if that’s what it’s like… the outlook for my future progeny is not favourable. I have to admit that Mr Stay Puft gave me a few death-scares here. Especially thanks to his tendency of getting lost in the back of the fridge. But I’m glad to report that he is still alive and bubbling.
So it was with great excitement that I and my friend Zay (who had quite enough listening to me rabbiting on about bread that she booked herself in as well!) took part in our Art of Sourdough Class earlier this month.
(Sorry I didn’t bring my DSLR to the class (too lazy!) – but I did have my phone. So iphone photos it is!)
Our class was on the Easter long weekend; even though it was a holiday for most people – a bakery never sleeps! According to our friendly instructor Matt, the only day the bakery is really closed is Christmas. In fact Easter is one of their busiest times of the year – with thousands and thousands of their delicious hot cross buns being ordered all over Sydney.
First Matt showed us how to mix a basic sourdough dough. Sourdough is different from regular yeasted bread because it uses a sour ferment called a starter to create rise, rather than yeast. The starter itself is made from just flour and water (with perhaps a simple sugar like figs or crushed grapes to help it along) – which means the ingredients for a basic sourdough loaf are simply flour, water and salt! It blows my mind that something so delicious and complex can come from so few ingredients.