babble

Rich chocolate truffles + a fish tank story

Original tank

From this….

When we first arrived in Melbourne, we bought a fish that started off a small fish keeping obsession. Yogi was a beautiful, blue Siamese Fighter that came in a little plastic tank.

We soon realised that although Siamese Fighters can survive in small unheated tanks, they’re actually much happier with more space. So we bought him a slightly bigger tank with a water heater. And since we had a larger tank, it meant that we could add more fish. And with more fish… well, eventually we had to upgrade to an even larger tank. Were we satisfied with that? Hell no! Eventually we bought a 130 litre tank, along with an improved water pump and more fish.

For a while we were really into fish keeping, but then we got cats. With the arrival of the cats, the fish stopped being as interesting. Gradually the fish keeping obsession eased and we stopped at the tank shown above.

The tank and its fishy occupants moved with us three times. Sadly Yogi died a couple of years ago, but one fish that has been with us for about four years is Big Fella, a kissing gourami (the pink/white fish in the tank above). Big Fella was a bargain price of $2.50 and we think that he’s probably a fish that someone returned to the fish shop. They get quite large and can become aggressive with other fish, so unfortunately this is a very likely scenario. He is most likely at least five years old. Boy, is Big Fella a trooper. He’s survived several tanks, three house moves, as well as the addition of many fish, all of whom have died apart from another gourami (imaginatively named Little Big Fella).

Yesterday, we were sitting on the couch, when there was an almighty bang that sent the cats flying upstairs. The fish tank had cracked, sending water gushing on to our carpet.

Broken tank

To this!

Oh boy! It was fortunate that the tank burst while Alastair and I were at home. It sent us flying into action – I grabbed buckets, while Alastair prioritised and unplugged my Bro’s Xbox 360. Yup, never mind the litres of water pouring on to our floor, make sure the gadgets are okay! We managed to catch most of the water in buckets and although it still smells like wet carpet in the house, thankfully the damage was negligible.

New tank

A new home

The tank is obviously worthless, so Big Fella and his friend have a new, much smaller, tank to call home. If this one breaks at least it can’t cause much damage!

Yesterday I had been intending to finish off some posts when I got side tracked into catching and mopping up water. So how about just a recipe for chocolate truffles instead? These truffles were the only sweet item I made for our orphan’s Christmas. We left them out of the fridge and they became all soft and gooey. Not a bad way to eat them.

Rich chocolate truffles

Rating: 31

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: Makes about 30

Rich chocolate truffles

Ingredients

  • 185 ml (6 fl oz or 3/4 cup) thick (double/heavy) cream
  • 400g (14 oz) dark chocolate, grated
  • 70g (2 1/2 oz) unsalted btter, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau (I used cherry brandy)
  • dark unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling

Instructions

  1. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Rmove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the Cointreau. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for seveal hours or overnight, or until firm enough to roll.
  2. Quickly roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls, and refrigerate until firm. Roll the balls in the cocoa, shake off any excess and return to the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
  3. Note: The truffle mixture can be made and rolled up to 2 weeks ahead. You will need to roll the balls in cocoa again close to serving time.

Notes

From Kitchen Classics: Sweet and Savoury Bites

http://www.offthespork.com/2008/01/rich-chocolate-truffles-a-fish-tank-story/

What I’ve been eating

I’ve been trying to play catch up with things ever since we got back. It took me six weeks, but I have finally caught up with all my RSS feeds. I had 1000+ items when we returned, and finally they’re all gone! Gone!!

I have a few food images that don’t warrant a full post, so here’s a quick pictorial of things I’ve been eating in the past few weeks.

Piadina slow food

Piadina Slowfood
57 Lonsdale St
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Phone: (03) 9662 2277

I had a leisurely lunch at Piadina Slowfood. It was a warm day so I was able to snag a table outside. I had the pan seared yellowfin tuna with green bean salad.

Coffee

The tuna was covered in sesame seeds and just seared so it was pink and moist in the middle. The beans and salad had just the right amount of a soy and ginger dressing. I finished off my meal with a caramelly flat white. What a lunch!

Grand BBQ

Grand BBQ
Target Centre Arcade
236 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Another lunch, not quite as leisurely, was yong tau foo from Grand BBQ. You can choose 6 pieces of yong tau foo, then make a choice between vermicelli, hor fun, hokkein or egg noodles. Finally there’s a decision on soup – clear, curry or tom yum. I choose eggplant, chilli, fish cake, fish ball, stuffed tofu and a dumpling. I didn’t realise that the chilli was a spicy one. What I actually wanted was a piece of capsicum but I had a moment of decision panic. Doh! I love chilli, but this was a bit much.

The only thing harder than deciding on the six items was finding a seat. They were busy!

Nasi lemak

Chillipadi
Shop OE7, Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central
211 La Trobe Street,, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9663-5688

We had a late dinner at Chillipadi, where I couldn’t go past the nasi lemak. I loved the way it was presented, but it wasn’t quite as good as other ones I’ve had. The pickles weren’t as tangy as I like but the rendang was tasty and fragrant.

The George

George Hotel
139 Cecil Street, South Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9686 5655

I had a massive pub burger from the George Hotel. The meat pattie could’ve used a bit more seasoning, but the chips were surprisingly good. I don’t usually like thin fries much, but these were crunchy and moreish. I couldn’t finish the burger because I was concentrating on the chips.

Fritters

For dinner one evening I used left over brown rice to make rice fritters. I combined the rice with some grated vegetables, egg, a bit of flour and soy sauce, before shaping them into patties and rolling them in breadcrumbs. They were very tasty.

Beef stir fry

Another dinner was a stir fry of beef and cabbage with szechuan pepper. There was a bit too much szechan pepper and it numbed my tongue. Gak!

Fruit

And finally, I’ve been really enjoying some summer fruits – cherries, lychees, and raspberries as well as blueberries and mangoes. Delicious!

Home sweet home

We’re home!

We had an amazing time – it felt like we were away FOR AGES but the time also passed by very quickly.

The food we ate was hardly amazing although better than I expected (we went overlanding, and most meals were cooked with supplies from the truck over a fire or portable gas stove). We ate a lot of stews and meat, mostly red meat, and hence it’s very nice to come home and have fresh vegies!

It will take me a little while to catch up with stuff – more interesting posts to come!

I bless the rains down in Africa

Zebra

Alastair and I are going on a belated honeymoon tomorrow. If we’re lucky we might catch a glimpse of some zebras, giraffes, elephants or maybe some lions!

No, we’re not going to Werribee Zoo… Tomorrow, we fly out to Capetown, and we’ll be spending 4 weeks in Southern Africa – Capetown, Namibia, Botswana, Victoria Falls (on the Zambia side), the Kruger and leaving from Johannesburg. On the way home we’ll be spending a couple of nights in Singapore.

Yes, I’m very excited. 🙂

Giraffes

I’m not sure if there’ll be many good meals eaten while we’re in Africa, but I fully intend to eat my weight in food while we’re in Singapore. Too bad we’re only there for two nights – there’s only so many meals I can eat in that time (but I will do my best).

Hope you all have some good eating in the meantime, and I’ll update when we return in 4 & 1/2 weeks!

Lemon Herb Squid

Lemon and herb squid

I got a small surprise when the latest issue of Delicious magazine arrived in my mailbox this week. In the whole month that had passed since the last issue, I had forgotten that I had a subscription! The slow slide into old age seems to have started. Soon I’ll be prefacing all my sentences with, “In MY day…”

I adore the heat so the warmer weather recently has been very welcome. Not only has it meant that exercise outside is possible and desirable again, but it has also meant eating lighter meals. This is good news to me, as winter has left me feeling a bit rotund!

The October issue of Delicious is chocka with recipes that are great for spring. For dinner on Wednesday, I picked up some squid from the market and made Lemon Herb Squid (on page 70 of the magazine). As the issue is currently being sold, I won’t post the recipe here, but it’s fairly straight forward. Marinate squid in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and oregano for a couple of hours. Then cook over high heat for a couple of minutes, and serve with a green salad.

I ended up having a fair amount of squid left over, and ending up dicing it up into a cous cous salad to take to work the next day. It was a pretty flash lunch, even if I do say so myself!

If you’re keen for the recipe and can’t/don’t want to get the magazine, send me an email: sporkette at gmail.com.

Steak!

Salted steak meal

I read a blog yesterday that had a tip on how to turn a cheap cut of steak into a more tender steak – see Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen here.

If you can’t be bothered going to the link, I’ll paraphrase. The idea is that you take a thick piece of steak, coat it very liberally with salt, and then leave it for 15 minutes to an 1 hour. After the time has passed, rinse off all the salt, pat the meat dry, and then grill/fry as per normal.

And the science behind it: initially the salt draws out moisture from the meat. But after sitting for a while, some of the salty water gets sucked back into the meat, and that salt does something to the proteins that makes it more tender. Hello, tender steak!

Sounds too good to be true? I think an experiment is in order!

Today at the market, I bought some pieces of cheap rump steak. I salted two pieces as per the instructions on Steamy Kitchen with some crushed garlic and peppercorns. I used about 4 teaspoons of sea salt crystals, and crushed them into smaller crystals with garlic and peppercorns. In the interests of science, I left one piece as a control: no salt, only covered with crushed garlic and peppercorns (yay science!).

Salted steak prep

The control steak. Who loves garlic!

Salted steak prep 2

The two pieces of salted steak. Have I mentioned that we love garlic?

After 30 minutes, I pulled the steaks out of the fridge to rinse them. There was an obvious difference between the control and salted steaks. The salted steaks were glistening with moisture, and the control was dry. I rinsed the salt off the salted steaks, and the garlic and pepper off the control and patted them very dry.

To cook them, I probably should’ve used a pan, but I was lazy and stuck them in the George (Foreman Grill). After pulling them out of George, and resting them for 10 minutes, I was ready to submit the steaks to the test!

I salted the control steak just before eating, then took alternative bites of the control and then the salted steak. The salted steak WAS salty, and the garlic had penetrated all through the meat. MHMMM. Was it more tender? Yes, it was! I didn’t think it was an astounding difference, but it WAS noticeably more tender. And on the plus side for the salted steak, the control didn’t have much garlic flavour.

But, like I said, the salted steak was salty. It was just the right amount, but leaving it covered in salt for more than 30 minutes (or using more salt) would probably have been too much.

So the results are in (yes, I know I should’ve done a double blind test to be truly scientific): salting your steaks does seem to make them more tender and flavourful. It’s worth a try if you like steak.

Braised pork with star anise and ginger

Braised pork with star aniseIt’s a good thing that there’s internets. Instead of having something interesting to say, I can tell you about something interesting I read! Look at this article on the Guardian that discusses food combinations, and check out the recipe for Braised Lamb Shoulder. Apparently star anise, when combined with onion, enhances the flavour of meat. I think some experiments are in order!

The recipe for the braised pork above was from taste.com.au here. The only changes I made was to substitute the dry sherry for some chinese rice wine, add another clove of garlic (we love garlic), and double the amount of soy sauce as I didn’t use stock – just water. It was a satisfying meal.

Rainy days

Soup

A big bowl of home made soup would be perfect on a rainy day like today.

No recipe, because no one needs a recipe for beef and vegetable soup. Throw whatever you have into a big pot and let it simmer.

Soup makes me feel good about being inside on a rainy evening. I know what I’m having for dinner!

Egg Tarts

Egg tarts

My dad was a baker for a while when I was young. He rarely baked at home, but sometimes he would go a bit crazy and one of the things that he would bake was egg tarts. Dozens and dozens of egg tarts. They would line the benches, glistening and warm, and the house would be filled with their aroma.

My Bro and I never appreciated them and would only eat a few. “Not MORE egg tarts,” we would proclaim, as if egg tarts just fell from the sky. Gosh it can be hard to impress young children.

Now that I think back, I want to smack my younger self. How could I have not appreciated them at the time? I LOVE egg tarts. I should have always loved egg tarts. No yum cha visit is complete without finishing off with their sweet eggy goodness.

I didn’t bake the tarts above – they’re from Maxim’s. But I did eat them (all of them…. ahem), and to make up for past sins I made sure that I appreciated every bite!

Yet another food blog

The calmness of green

I love thinking, reading, and talking about food. I love making and photograph it too, so now I’m going to have a shot at writing about it.

This could either further my obsession or bore me within a week.