Baba: presents Animal Farm

This post is all about offal. If offal makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this one!

Did anyone do any Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events? I only ended up doing one thing – Animal Farm at Baba. Details from the program:

“a seven course menu exploring the flavours of Turkey and the Middle East, matched with wines from Spain and Italy. Featuring bone marrow, heart, brains, tripe, liver and kidney mezze, claypots and kebabs, with Turkish delight, gelato and Turkish coffee to finish, this is a culinary feast not for the weak at heart – but for those who eat it.”

Only Bro and I went to this dinner – Alastair stayed home and had a “safe” dinner of curry. :)

A long table was set up in the middle of the restaurant, with tables for normal diners around the edges of the dining area. We were told that the food would be served communally, but as not every seat was filled there was space between groups and each group received their own dishes.

Baba: Animal Farm

The first course was a rich and smooth chicken liver parfait with middle eastern melbas and cornichons. A rather safe dish to start off with and good smeared on the crispy bread.

Baba: Animal Farm

Next was roast bone marrow with smoked lemon, caper and parsley salad and Turkish bread. Little dishes of pink salt from Tibet were placed on the table. To eat the bone marrow, we scraped it out of the bone, spread it on the toast, sprinkled with a bit of salt and then topped it with some of the parsley salad. Mhmmmm it was buttery and soft, plus mildly meaty with the salt and parsley helping to balance out the richness.


Baba: Animal Farm
Baba: Animal Farm

The third course was Libyan baked lambs brains in gadaffi pastry and harissa. GAK. The brains felt sooooo greasy and just seemed to coat my mouth in fat. It was the fattiest thing I’ve ever eaten (more than the bone marrow)! Looking around the table at other diners, many seemed to share my distaste. The brains weren’t a very popular course!

Baba: Animal Farm

Happily, the next course was tripe soup with cumin, currants and coriander. The soup was lovely – very strongly cuminy, and the tripe was cooked until very, very tender (I may be strange, but I thought it looked very pretty in the soup). Every now and again I would get little bits of currant and crunch down on cumin seed (one of my favourite spices).

The fifth course came out in three separate dishes. Oh boy, things were getting heavy!

Baba: Animal Farm

First we had sweetbreads with basil and tomato. I don’t think I’ve had sweetbreads before, but I really liked them. They had a kind of firm, bouncy texture and reminded me of chicken nuggets.

Baba: Animal Farm

Then there was a sumac seared ox liver with a glazed onion and chickpea salad. The ox liver was good too – rather rich, but the zingy sourness from the sumac and chickpea salad helped cut through the richness.

Baba: Animal Farm

And last for this course was a za’atar grilled lamb kidney kebab. It was bought out to the table last, and we were already eating the sweetbreads and liver by the time it arrived. As soon as it was set down, all I could smell was that awful kidney scent. I ate a kidney, and while it tasted fine I couldn’t get over that smell. Even if my stomach hadn’t been approaching full I wouldn’t have been able to eat the whole kebab.

Baba: Animal Farm
Baba: Animal Farm

The last savoury course was an East Brunswick bunny boil-up. In the boil up was rabbit kafta dumplings, chicken hearts, lamb sweetbreads and peas. We also received a small dish of pilaf. The pilaf was really good, lovely and buttery, but unfortunately after so much offal we could only eat a couple of bites. The dumplings, hearts and sweetbreads in the light broth were all fine and good, but even the most hardened offal lover would have been a bit weary by this stage (and we were a bit…. weary….).

Baba: Animal Farm

And finally, to finish, there was Turkish delight gelato, served in cones with a lump of Turkish delight on top. Thank goodness dessert didn’t follow the offal theme! The faintly rosewater flavoured gelato was a good way to end the meal and I loved the cones.

We didn’t stay for coffee – we had been sitting there for about four hours and we were desperate to get out of the wooden seats. The seats would’ve been fine for a normal dinner but four hours called for a cushion! Food wise, it obviously wasn’t the most balanced dinner (did you notice the distinct lack of any green stuff?) but we knew what we were getting into. In the whole we thoroughly enjoyed it, with only the brains and kidneys kinda defeating us. It was definitely a meal for the brave….. or for the ones with cast iron stomachs!

Baba Levantine Trading Company
80 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Phone: 9380 8534

Wellington: Goody goody gum drops

Wedding buffet

As mentioned in previous posts, in February we spent a long weekend in Welly as our friends Ben and Lisa officially become Benisa.

Goody goody gum drops

Bro flew over earlier and alerted me via sms of the goody goody gum drops ice block. Squeal!!! Goody goody gum drops is a bubble gum flavoured ice cream with chewy gum drops. You used to only be able to get it as a scoop ice cream in dairies or in tubs at the supermarket, but recently some genius had the idea of covering the ice cream in chocolate and putting it on a stick. Seriously, genius.

Goody goody gum drops

Here I am at the train station with my good goody gum drops ice block. The ice block had a good ratio of gum drops versus ice cream – I had about 8 gum drops in that little block. There was always nothing worse than having a scoop of goody goody gum drops with only a couple of gum drops.

It’s small though and it started melting very quickly. I wish I had bought another one. Someone should start importing these into Australia – I would so be there.

The Commoner: Food bloggers meet up

At the Commoner

We spent several hours on Saturday afternoon at The Commoner hanging out with other food bloggers, thanks to the organisational efforts of Duncan, Sarah and Thanh.

It was great to see bloggers from previous meets as well as seeing some new faces. As to be expected with a large bunch of people who love food, everyone bought a lot of delicious stuff to eat. Somehow I didn’t end up taking many photos of it – perhaps I was too busy chatting/eating? So I’ll leave you with those who have covered it better than I can:

Claire
Jess
Sarah

At the Commoner

And a big thanks to the great staff at The Commoner, who not only let us use their court yard, but fired up the pizza oven, showed us how to use it, provided serving utensils and plates, and were extremely accommodating! What a fab place!

Wellington: Regal Chinese Restaurant

The day we flew out of Wellington, we had yum cha with my parents at Regal Chinese Restaurant. We’ve been to Regal a couple of times with mum and dad for yum cha – there’s always a good selection of food and my parents seem to like it.

There’s not much to say about yum cha that I haven’t said before so this post is light on words and heavy on photos.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

Fried taro dumpling (wu gok).

Regal Chinese Restaurant

Deep fried crescent dumplings (ham sui gok).

Regal Chinese Restaurant

Steamed BBQ pork buns. One day I’m going to try making these. From scratch (including the BBQ pork). I have made my own BBQ pork before, so I’m halfway there.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

Steamed pork dumplings (sui mai).

Regal Chinese Restaurant

I think these were pork and ginger dumplings.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

This looks like the more well known radish cake, but it’s actually taro cake. It’s made in a similar way to the radish cake but using taro. This was really good! I don’t see taro much in Australia, and eating this reminded me of how much I like it.

Speaking of radish cake, Mum used to make it when we were younger. We would eat it for breakfast with a chilli and garlic sauce. Radish cake is yet another thing I’m going to make one day.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

My favourite savoury dish – chicken and sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf (lou mai gai). Here’s a tip if you’re ever at yum cha: don’t let them cut the parcel open (they’ll want to, with their scissors). If it’s cut, you get leaf bits all in the rice. Unwrap it instead!

Regal Chinese Restaurant

One of these prawn dumplings (har gow) made a beautiful dive off my chopsticks and somersaulted its way under a chair.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

I think these were chive dumplings.

Regal Chinese Restaurant

Rice noodle rolls (cheong fun) – love ‘em!

Regal Chinese Restaurant

A basket of chicken feet (fung jiao).

Regal Chinese Restaurant

And, as always, I refuse to leave until I’ve eaten an egg tart.

Regal Chinese Restaurant
7-9 Courtenay Place
Wellington
New Zealand
Phone: +64 4 384 6656