I believe there may end up being many posts with a similar title, but for my friends who requested the recipe for the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake enjoyed on a Friday night a few weeks ago, here it is. Thought we should also take a pic before it is all demolished.
This is a really easy recipe, similar in method to making brownies and the buttermilk adds such a lovely flavour to the cake that makes it moist and moreish and not at all sickly.
Just type in Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, at the Australian Women’s Weekly Website:
1. I used my grandma’s old springform tin which is 23cm (so a little bigger than the recommended 22cm)  and I checked the cake along the way but didn’t put a skewer in until 7 minutes before the end of the cooking time and it was definitely cooked by then. It was still moist, but I like my cakes on the cooked but gooey side. So next time I will pull it out after 1 hour, instead of the recommended 1 hour 15. My new oven is a strong beast and I am still getting used to it!
2. As you are using so much chocolate in the recipe it has a tendency to go black on top if you are not careful. Burnt chocolate is not nice. A few tips: one is when you line the base and sides of the tin with baking paper make the baking paper wider so it sits an inch or two above the pan so that it provides a little extra protection from over browning, or you can also keep an eye on it and towards the last 20-30 minutes put a piece of foil or baking paper on top to stop the browning process. This is easier if you are not using fan-forced as it will blow around a bit!
The Chocolate Ganache icing was made based on a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s Cooks Companion and I used Lindt Intense Orange chocolate  (a pantry staple, well there is always some chocolate, it just happened to be this one yesterday) which gave the icing a Jaffa flavour, yum.
Link below for those wanting a bit more info on buttermilk. It is also nice in muffins or pancakes.

Sorry for the delay in posts, now that I am back in the real world (I.e. working) it has taken me a week or two to get used to getting up early again!
Anyway, thought I’d share a photo of a non-food related project I completed over the holidays after hearing of a family member becoming pregnant. Such a good excuse to make something so cute. It is a baby beanie from a Debbie Bliss pattern book and is made with two balls of cotton, in off-white and teal.
I normally wouldn’t dream of knitting in summer, especially one as sweltering as this one, but I have been sitting in front of the air conditioner on most of the really hot days, so it felt quite appropriate!
Granny T is what Paul likes to call me when I pull out the knitting in the Blue Mountains, and it has become a bit of long standing joke. Oh well, here is the damning evidence!

On Saturday morning I visited Parramatta markets in Church Street Mall for the first time, after meaning to head down there for ages. It was small but worth going for the wonderful vegetable stall and is infinitely more relaxing than some larger markets where the hustle can get tiresome.
Beautiful zucchini flowers, carrots, snake beans and purple sweet potatoes
Variety of pumpkins, with Pink Fur Apple Potatoes in background. The potatoes got washed, thickly sliced and chucked into the bottom of the roasting tray which had free range chooks, sage, lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and a bit of rosemary/lemon salt. Absolutely delicious. Please try them. Should be great in potato salad too, like kipflers.
Chilli being bundled into bags
Beautiful unusual varieties of tomatoes.  I bought the dark cherry tomatoes, yum.
There were plenty of other great stalls too to check out next time.
I bought some good looking basil from the herb stall which is now replanted in a larger pot and happily lapping up the sunshine on our balcony.
Jamaican BBQ
A vast range of Jams and preserves. If you like the less common varieties you are sure to find something here along with the usual favourites.

There’s something to be said for efficient food. Not necessarily in the preparation, but in the eating and the service. Not exactly fast food, but not slow food either. There are times when on a whim the idea of watching a new film at the local cinema sounds pretty good, and after the drama of finding a parking spot close by, a restaurant near the cinema holds great appeal.
So we visited Hilltop Phoenix with hungry bellies and an hour and a half up our sleeves. It could go either way, an hour and a half is plenty of time to eat unless it is busy, so on a Saturday night this is a bit of an ask. Luckily it’s still early and we’ve just missed the young family rush and have arrived before the later-arriving leisurely diners arrive.
After much indecision we decide to splurge on the Peking duck, it’s about $50 for two courses. First course is the pancakes, then choose how the rest of the duck flesh is prepared, either in a stir-fry with noodles or sang choy bau. I needn’t have worried about finishing the pancakes, they were perfectly powdery and soft in contrast to the crisp and rich duck skin, sharpness of the shallots and sweetness of the thick hoisin sauce. I could eat this forever.
Peking Duck
When the lettuce leaves arrive I’m curious as to what’s in the filling apart from the duck which is finely chopped, along with mushroom, onion, sesame seeds, sliced shallots, deep fried vermicelli and something crisp but the flavour alludes me. It’s familiar, bamboo shoot? I wonder, as it seems to be more about texture than flavour. I ask the waitress, she only knows the Chinese name, which is sun (sounds like soon) but she goes away to find out the English translation, and I’m pleased to find out it was indeed bamboo shoot. We make our film with plenty of time and consider it a successful dinner, if a little rich.
Sang Choi Bau
Our normal visit to Hilltop Phoenix involves Yum Cha on a Sunday mid-morning, and it’s now routine to tell the host how many in our party, grab a raffle ticket and take our place in the hopeful and hungry crowd, beadily eyeing-off diners who look ready to vacate. Even when busy it’s only a ten or fifteen minute wait. If you are a small group of two or four your chances of getting a table quickly are even better.
The Phoenix Group of restaurant has four restaurants in Sydney which are run by sisters Anita Yuen and Alice Lee. Hilltop Phoenix in Castle Hill Towers; Rhodes Phoenix at the top of Rhodes shopping centre; Manly Phoenix on the East Esplanade and Sky Phoenix at the top of Skygarden on Castlereigh Street in the city.
Roast duck with choy sum in background
Crispy fried rolls filled with prawn and dim sims in background
Cha Siu Baau (BBQ pork buns)
Steamed prawn dumplings
At Hilltop Phoenix the usual Yum Cha favourites are available, with dishes such as roast pork and duck floating around regularly for my dining companion. I’m satisfied with the many varieties of steamed dumplings, and my only gripe would be that I have to ask for chilli sauce, but when I do it arrives promptly.
Sliced BBQ pork
My coveted dish of the moment is jin deui, red bean paste surrounded in a chewy pastry with a peanut on top then deep fried. It truly is heaven and I can always fit these in no matter how much I’ve eaten. I can’t find it on any trolleys so I order it from the kitchen. If there’s no more jin deui, as sometimes happens if you come too late, there is always dan tat, egg custard in flaky pastry, still warm if you are lucky; or mango pancakes, thin and moist and filled with chilled mango pieces and a fluffy sweet cream, perfectly soft and delicate so that one cannot help but make a bit of a mess. It’s all part of the experience. At around $45 for two greedy people it is an indulgent lunch but then again, we probably don’t need much for dinner now.
Mango pancakes
In competition with Hilltop’s Yum Cha offer is the Excellent Chinese Restaurant outside Carlingford Court which offers a smaller venue and equally delicious food, but perhaps less range of dishes. I surprise the waiter by ordering Bo Lei tea which has a deeper, darker colour and flavour that is refreshing and cuts through the oilier dishes. He rewards my enthusiasm by pouring the tea with such grace that I feel inspired to tap the table with my knuckles to say thank you. He smiles and I feel welcome here in a way that a bigger venue cannot achieve.
If it’s tasty, efficient food you are after in the north west of Sydney, you would do well at both Hilltop Phoenix and the Excellent Chinese Restaurant, but perhaps your budget should dictate your final decision. After dining at the Excellent Chinese Restaurant your wallet will be thankful. We left content after five dishes and only $25 out of pocket. They may not have had the deep fried dessert that I love, but this is something I could do most weekends and feel good about.

At the risk of opening Pandora’s Box, I am going to show you what I’ve been growing in my cupboard. Part laziness, part curiosity, one dark cupboard and a frisky sweet potato makes…
a lobster!
Dave was entertained by this, until he learned that the sweet potato lobster then became
Lobster Salad! Made in true vegetarian style, with no lobster, just roasted sweet potato, blanched green beans, red capsicum, with a macadamia oil, lime and chilli dressing.
All this was really a side for
Whole Barramundi, cooked in foil on the BBQ with sliced garlic, ginger and lemon in its belly and some extra lemon juice on top.
The extra randomness of this post is an homage to the geeks who make my life easier (great IT knowledge and obsession to make things work at optimum efficiency) and at the same time highly entertaining. They admit this grudgingly.
Edit: The barramundi made a guest appearance as the Bigger Fish in this Darths & Droids strip.
Edit 2: In response to some of the comments on this post, in no particular order:

  1. Is Barramundi ‘sushable’? How many times does a new word need to be used to become listed? Anyway, back to the Barramundi. Not to my knowledge. Tuna, salmon and kingfish are the most common and delicious sushi found at Japanese restaurants and sushi bars in Australia. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be attempted…
  2. Macadamia Nut Oil- this seems to only be available in Australia, but you can also use another nut oil such as walnut or even Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO- also a Naboo-sounding name) with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I often use this instead. If you come across caramelised balsamic vinegar this is also tasty.
  3. Red capsicum is indeed red pepper, also:
  • Eggplant is Aubergine
  • Zucchini is Courgette
  • Rocket is Arugula
  • Coriander is Cilantro

They are all the ones I can think of right now!
Also, there is no D&D convention planned here. Yet. I wonder how many Barramundi would fit on our BBQ? Mmm…
Edit 3: Ok, I will clarify my comment on Macadamias. Yes, we all know they are native to Australia. They are also native to New Caledonia and Indonesia, but in terms of being grown commercially, they are available in Hawaii though apparently the industry is declining there due to poor weather and pestilence (ref: Wikipedia).

Nara Japanese Restaurant  is just opposite Epping train station on the western side of the railway line. It is spacious and therefore often seems a little empty but I have always found the food to be fresh and delicious. I have been a few times and these photos are from June last year (yes still catching up).
Epping is not exactly buzzing with nightlife, but has a variety of Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants so there is obviously a market there.  I’m not sure if people prefer the sushi bar down the road at the top of the Epping Arcade or if it just seems busier as it is so tiny (gateway to lolly shop heaven- Lollyworld, 6 Epping Club Walkway, 49-52 Beecroft Rd, Epping). Tokyo Sushi Bar is certainly in a better location for passing customers who pass right by it after coming down the stairs from the station and the service is more intimate with a family feel.
All that said, if you have a big group then you will fit easily at Nara, and there is even a private room which looks fun. Anyway, here is the food for you to see for yourself:
Sushi plate, with yakiniku beef in the background
Tempura prawn, salmon and vegetables with a light dipping sauce

37 Beecroft Rd Epping NSW 2121

Phone (02) 9868 6815

These pictures are from a pre-Christmas lunch and we decided to have a Spanish theme.
As I said before, Nicole’s Spanish tortilla beats Encasa’a hands down. Soft potato and onion held together with just the right amount of egg.
Manchego cheese with quince paste
The baked ricotta morsels were delicious
Oh yes, we feasted. More sangria anyone?
Creme Caramel
Such a relaxing venue…
Beautiful Australian summer fruit

This was tasty!
This tortilla was ok, but a bit too eggy/omeletty for my taste. I’ll take Nicole’s version anyday!
423 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: 9211 4257

I just got a lovely book for Christmas called The Food of France, a journey for food lovers. Indeed it is. It has been a source of some serious inspiration over the holidays and I have found a new favourite recipe. This is one where you make your own pastry- and I think it makes all the difference as the tart has such a clean zingy flavour so texture is important in the crust.



Like burping being a sign of appreciation of a particularly satisfying meal, licking the bowl is one of life’s guilty pleasures usually kept for solitude or the closest of family or friends. How we behave when no-one is looking is a good indicator of our more primitive history, and how we eat involves more than just our taste buds.

From an early age we learn to play with our food, testing what is good. From soil to long lost strands of spaghetti bolognaise found in a crevasse under the couch, there is almost nothing a toddler won’t at least have a go at. How sad that we sometimes lose this risk taking behaviour as we get older, get stuck in our culinary ways and order Thai takeaway, yet again.

It is with this playfulness and glee at discovering a new texture, a new flavour, that I discover a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Harris Park. It was recommended by a friend’s father and I had almost forgotten about it when I found myself with a craving for curry and the usual place up the road, Chutney had closed down. So I forged ahead into the unknown depths of Wigram Street and stumbled into Taj. Bare tables, metal plates, families, lots of locals.


Dave orders the lunch special, two curries, rice and a freshly cooked naan for $7.50. The two curries were one with paneer (a soft mild cheese) and the other made with kidney beans, very tasty and ‘meaty’. If you were going to be vegetarian, this is the way to do it!

Memories of eating off banana leaves in Singapore lead me to order a masala dosa, a large crispy crepe made of lentil and rice flour rolled up into a newspaper shape filled with mildly spiced chunks of potato and onion. This used to be $7.50 but has gone up to $8.50. On the side are three small bowls. A mustardy vegetable soup called sambar, and two cooling dipping sauces or relishes: one coconut, one tomato/capsicum. Both are delicious in their own right, and complement the dosa perfectly, though the tomato/capsicum is my favourite.


As it is customary with traditional Indian food to eat with one’s right hand, and seems to be in practise at Taj, I break with my usual custom of cutlery and approach my meal with my eyes and fingers. This considerably slows the pace of my eating, making me savour each bite, and use the crisp dosa to scoop up the soft, warm filling, occasionally dipping a piece in the sambar to soften and melt in the mouth.


All too soon the crispy bits are all gone so more coordination is required to pick up the soft pieces of potato and onion. As I suck each finger clean, savouring the last remnants, I revel in the guilty pleasure. I feel a few curious glances as I am obviously enjoying my meal, but I pay little attention to this. I still have the sweets counter to think about.