Hazelnut Dacquoise with chocolate hazelnut cream

A Dacquoise is a hazelnut meringue cake layered with fresh cream and sometimes fruit. For me it wins on all levels, it looks like a celebration cake should, it tastes amazing, it’s gluten-free AND it’s pretty easy to make.

I like the combination of chocolate and nuts, and in this recipe you will be making your own hazelnut and chocolate paste to fold through softly whipped cream, but feel free to be creative. You could layer with fresh cream and berries just as easily as you could use lemon curd between the meringue. This cake is best made a day ahead and chilled in the fridge overnight prior to serving. The meringue will soften and be utterly delectable to eat. If you are making this for Christmas feel free to add your preferred liquor to the cream to give it an extra christmassy punch. I made it as a birthday cake, hence the old school candles on top in the pictures.

Hazelnut Dacquoise


150gm ground hazelnuts

3 1/2 tablespoons cornflour

200gm castor sugar

5 egg whites


Preheat oven to 180C. Line 3 baking trays with baking paper and trace a 20cm circle on each using a dinner plate or round cake tin. I made the recipe twice in order to get 6 meringue’s, but feel free to make 3 it will be ample layers (I was just going for a bit of height.) Mix hazelnuts,  cornflour and 1/4 cup of the castor sugar and set aside. Using a stand mixer mix egg whites until stiff peaks form. With the motor running add the remaining castor sugar in 3 batches until you have a glossy meringue. Fold in hazelnut mixture lightly but thoroughly. Divide between baking trays and spread to cover marked circles, alternatively use a piping bag with your largest nozzle and pipe mixture in a circle onto baking paper. Bake for 20mins until meringues are biscuit coloured. Allow to cool on trays for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Make Chocolate Hazelnut Cream.

Place one meringue layer on a flat serving plate or cake stand (I like to use a cake stand that has a fitted glass cover) and spread with a third of the chocolate hazelnut cream. Top with a second meringue layer and spread with another third of the filling. Settle the final meringue layer (or continue until you get to the final meringue layer if you have made more than three) on top and spread with the remaining cream. Finish by sprinkling with chopped hazelnuts and grated dark chocolate.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cream


100gm hazelnuts

1/3 cup pure icing sugar

100gm 70% cocoa chocolate

1 cup cream softly whipped*

Extra hazelnuts and chocolate for topping

*if you are making more than 3 meringue layers you might like to make double the quantity.


Preheat oven to 180C. Dry-roast hazelnuts and remove skins, I do this by rubbing the nuts in a clean tea-towel. Process nuts and icing sugar to an oily paste in a food processor. It will take several minutes and you will need to keep scraping down the sides. Melt chocolate either in microwave or over a saucepan of just simmering water. Add chocolate to nut mixture and blend until smooth, transfer to a clean bowl and fold in cream thoroughly.

Posted in Recipe | Leave a comment

Lemon and Sour Cream Robot Cake

When it’s your 4th birthday you clearly require a celebratory cake shaped like a Robot that has a moist soft crumb interior made up of a tangy lemon and sour cream cake.

I won’t lie this cake was fiddly, to assemble you need quite a few different shaped cake pieces that then need to be skewered together to secure into place, which sort of makes the icing and decorating a bit tricky. I’m no expert cake decorator so maybe it’s super simple and I just don’t know all the tricks. Here’s my tips anyway:

  • make the cake at least a day ahead, for all these novelty cakes the cake needs to settle, have less crumb on the exterior making it easier to ice
  • use your smallest spatula for icing
  • when the cake has separate parts, like this, skewer them to ice and roll in hundreds and thousands. That way there’s no messy thumb prints

I got the cake design from the original Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. The Lemon Sour Cream Cake is a very moist and would be delicious served on it’s own or with some cream. 



250gm butter

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 cups castor sugar

6 eggs

2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup self-raising flour

200gm sour cream (just use a 200gm tub)


Preheat oven to 160C. Grease either a 27cm round cake tin or square/loaf tins if making a robot. Dust with flour.

Cream butter, rind and sugar in bowl of stand mixer until light and fluffy, beat in eggs one at a time, beat until combined. Stir in half the sifted flours with half the sour cream, then remaining flours and sour cream until batter is smooth.

Spread mixture into pre-prepared tins and bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Stand 5mins before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted in Recipe | Leave a comment

Roar! – Dinosaur Devil’s Food Cake

So yesterday saw the first of 3 birthday’s in the next fortnight for my teeny tiny household. All 3 boys have their birthdays days apart over a 2 week period and that means 3 big birthday cakes for me to make, sure sure I’m hating  it – NOT! Women’s Weekly Birthday books have been perused, scrutinized and inspected all year and cakes chosen. As I always do, I changed at the last-minute and decided T would get a Dinosaur and N a robot, so here is the first of 3 big birthday cakes.

Instead of making butter cake, which is perfectly nice and in fact suits these kind of butter cream slathered birthday cakes because it has a harder crumb and is less likely to get into the butter cream as you are icing, I decided on Devil’s Food Cake. I used the stencil for the dinosaur from the Women’s Weekly Party Cake book and I’ve adapted a recipe for the Devil’s Food Cake from my new favourite cook book “Baked Explorations”. Party cakes aside, it’s a really great chocolate cake, moist, rich and chocolatey.



30gm dark 70% or higher chocolate

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten brand)

2/3 cup hot coffee (I used 2 shots from my coffee machine, where you can use real coffee as opposed to instant)

1/3 full fat milk

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

265gm butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs (preferably at room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*NB: I made 4 cakes, so 2 batches, in standard 19cm square cake tins in order to make the cake and achieve a layer. The cake doesn’t rise very much. I think this cake would be just as nice layered with cream and served with fresh berries. You could also use a 19cm standard round tin.


Preheat oven to 160C. Butter two 19cm square tins, dust with flour and knock out excess.

Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot coffee directly over them and whisk until combined. Add the milk and whisk until smooth.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with paddle attachment, beat the butter until light, about 2 mins. Add the sugars and continue to cream until light and fluffy, about 3mins. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for about 30seconds.

Add the flour mixture in 3 pats, alternating with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter, you can weigh it out to ensure it’s even if you like, into prepared tins and smooth the tops. Bake for 35mins, rotating pans halfway through baking, until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and allow to cool for 45mins, turn the cakes out and allow to cool completely before icing.


I just played around with measurements, so these are a total guess-timate. I would suggest starting with the amount of butter I recommend and then adding icing sugar  and peppermint essence to your taste.


125gm butter

about 3 cups sifted icing sugar

3 tablespoons cream

peppermint essense to taste


Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 mins. Slowly add sifted icing sugar, scraping down sides. When you have achieved desired texture and taste add cream and peppermint essence.


I used just a standard butter cream to ice the outside of the cake, I added a combination of green and blue food colouring to achieve the desired dinosaur green.


250gm butter

500gm icing sugar

food colouring


Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and soft, about 3-4mins.

Twice sift icing sugar and slowly add to butter.

Add food colouring until you achieve desired result – go easy though you can always add but not subtract.

NB: Excess butter cream and mint cream filling can be frozen

Posted in Recipe, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Biscuits – Choc Mint Thumbprints

Biscuits are my favourite thing to bake ever. If you have any killer biscuits recipes, send them my way. I have some citrus buttery ones to try courtesy of the Palace’s own Kara Barclay (The Palace Hotel just off Notting Hill Gate as opposed to the Royal Palace). If you are into the whole chocolate and mint combination, these are for you.

I’ve made these a few times and this last time I think I’ve perfected the recipe. I’ve adapted it from the superb baking book “Baked Explorations” which I reviewed on this blog. I highly recommend American baking books, they have a unique take on treats that is quite different from the British baking I grew up with (and still love don’t get me wrong.)



30gm chocolate (I use 70% cocoa dark chocolate)

30gm mint chocolate (I used lindt mint intense)

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

3/4 teaspoon of salt

250gm buttered, soft

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use vanilla bean paste)

1 cup of sugar for rolling


90gm white chocolate

3 tablespoons cream

peppermint essence, to taste


In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa and salt, whisk thoroughly and set aside.

In microwave or oven just simmering water melt chocolate, set aside.

In stand mixer with paddle attachment mix butter for about 2 mins, scraping down sides. Add sugars and cream until light and fluffy, about 3mins, scraping sides occasionally.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat again until combined. Scrape the chocolate into the mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the four mixture all at once. Beat on low speed, scraping the sides occasionally, until the dough is smooth (it may not come together in a ball but still needs to be sufficiently mixed.)

Transfer dough to clingfilm and shape into a disk, chill until firm, about 30mins.

Preheat oven to 160C, line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Pour the sugar into a bowl or onto a tray.

With clean hands, form tablespoon size dough balls, taking care that they have no lumps or cracks. Roll into the sugar and place it on the baking tray. Use either your thumb or the end of your wooden spoon to make an indentation into the centre of the biscuit. Bake for about 10mins, remove from oven and using either your thumb or end of a wooden spoon make the indentation more visible. Return to the oven and bake for a further 4-5mins.

Cool on the tray for 5mins and the gently, using a spatula, place onto wire racks to cool completely.


Place the cream in a microwave safe jug (I use my pyrex jug for this) and heat on high, about 30secs, until it boils. Put the white chocolate into the hot cream and stir gently until smooth. Add peppermint essence to taste, go easy. Fill the thumbprint biscuits with the white chocolate ganache and refrigerate them until set, about 30mins.

They taste awesome at room temperature or chilled straight from the fridge. They can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Seriously you won;t be able to stop at just one.


Posted in Cookbooks, Recipe | Leave a comment

Book Review – “Blood, Bones & Butter” Gabrielle Hamilton

To coincide with the Crave Sydney Food Festival I thought I’d write a post about the wonderful biography “Blood, Bones & Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. Gabrielle is the Head Chef and owner of acclaimed restaurant Prune, in the East Village New York. I read this book a few months ago and found the author so pragmatic, down to earth and honest that I am a little bit envious of anyone attending the festival and getting to hear her speak. I have also marked Prune on my list of places to eat when I go to New York (I’ve been planning a trip to NYC for the past 4 years, I obsess about it as much as I do competitive cookery.)

This is an autobiography that describes a relationship with food and cooking through early family life, travel, work in huge commercial kitchens and then accidentally owning her own restaurant. The thing I found most interesting, having read male versions of chef biographies, is that as a woman there is an inherent requirement to nurture, so it’s no surprise that Gabrielle learned how to cook from her French mother. Gabrielle describes in lovely detail the grand BBQ’s her parent s would have every Summer, the preparation her and her siblings would partake in and the food that was served. Her descriptions of food and food preparation are worth the read alone and I think these are definitely the strongest chapters within the book.

After her parents divorced Gabrielle was left to drift and feeling a little lost and insecure dabbled in drugs whilst working as a drinks waiter in a Country & Western themed bar, a brief brush with the law sees Gabrielle attempt to “find herself” and in doing so travels overseas and eventually studies writing. Through each stage of her life Gabrielle is always cooking and has an innate respect for produce. It is clear that whilst somewhat a misfit in social situations she is obviously a natural in the kitchen.

The chapters about commercial cookery and cooking for large functions is particularly enlightening and I love that she is never attempting to hide, but rather, expose her background and what is done to food to prepare it for these mass catering exercises. By accident it seems, she decides to open Prune and at the same time gets married to an Italian, her life to date she had lived as a lesbian. As a couple they travel annually to stay with her partner’s family at both the city-house in Rome and then the country villa. Gabrielle certainly embraces Italian life and seasonal produce but at the same time gets frustrated with the inability to source things that are out of season.

The menu at Prune caused a minor sensation at the time it opened because the food was as down-to-earth and pared back as it’s owner, all the food Gabrielle had been fed and loved as a child and the meals that had nurtured her through her travels and relationships. Gabrielle comes across as a no-bullshit kind of person and seems to find the chef as celebrity thing a bit odd. I have heard she is a crowd favourite at food festival events and I’ll be looking forward to the reports that come out over and after the weekend when she has spoken. I’d recommend this book to any lover of food or industry professional. Her descriptions of produce, preparation and meals are wonderfully evocative. I just wanted to get on a plane and go eat at Prune.




Posted in Cookbooks | Leave a comment

Royal Melbourne Show & Competitive Cookery

This gallery contains 16 photos.

It’s a natural part of being human, enter a competition to prove that you are the best at something, right? Each year at Royal shows around the country the Country Women’s Association (CWA) hold cookery competitions covering various categories ranging … Continue reading

Gallery | 4 Comments

Queen Victoria Market & Market Lane Coffee



I’ve been enjoying the Queen Vic Market for most of my life. From visiting when I was a young girl with my parents, walking up and down the aisles looking at what was even then slightly dodgy clothing. To heading in weekly to do the share-house shopping. We used to buy boxes of whatever fruit or vegetable was cheap, I seem to remember boxes of oranges and we never left without getting a bag of hot jam donuts, using left-over money from the share-house kitty! The american donut van was still parked in the same place as it is today, but the jam back then was what I would consider “real” jam and yes it was hot and had potential to burn.

I take my own kids now, but sadly we don’t go weekly like we used to. I end up spending more than I need to, I’m a sucker for lots of fresh produce. I make a point of getting most of the ingredients for special meals from the market, especially Christmas. I am slightly anal and keep a diary of each Christmas menu I feed  my family and as such prepare like I’m in a professional kitchen. It’s just what I do. If you decide to go to the market at Christmas time for some goodies, my advice prepare in advance. Go a few weeks earlier to your supplier and order (turkey, chicken, seafood, ham etc) and ensure they will have your preferred cheese, cream or breads in advance. Also, write a list and don’t get distracted, it’s chaotic. Get there early and get out fast, also a word or warning don’t take your kids to any market the day before Christmas, they’ll get pummelled.

Here is a list of my favourite stalls and produce, in no particular order:


This stall sells freshly churned butter from Warrnambool, a great selection of cheeses (my favourite is the Warrnambool cheddar), fresh creams as well as bacon, homemade pies and a range of condiments. The service is friendly and they give great advice, especially if you are putting together a cheese platter. I find that everything I buy from here is of the highest quality and is always really fresh.


This stall sells an excellent selection of free range and organic birds of every description, chicken, duck, turkey etc etc. They also sell a wide selection of eggs, not just those from a chicken. I get Milawa free range organic chicken from here and I know that they also sell free range organic Turkey’s for Christmas. If you want something for Christmas you MUST order in advance, it’s one of the most popular stalls in the market.


I’ve been buying seafood from Prossers for years. I find they always have an excellent selection, and are very helpful if you need advice or filleting etc. They now have a second stall to the left of the Elizabeth St entrance.


This stall sells a selection of breads from different bakeries, so you have the very best all in one place. They also sell sourdough by the kilo, if you would rather not buy  a whole loaf. There is ciabatta, brioche, bagels, rolls as well as a good selection of turkish loaves and pizza bases, you name it they have it. On the non bread side of this stall is a whole array of chocolate and sweets, go to town.


What more can be written about these now famous boreks. Crisp pastry on the outside and an interior of your choosing, spicy lamb, cheese and spinach and potato. They also sell an array of falafel and I noticed cabbage rolls too. Boreks are only $2.50 each and make a substantial snack as you peruse other stalls.


The best selection of small goods if not just at the Market but in Melbourne (Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Road comes a close second.) You name it they have it, the “Grandmothers” ham is my favourite and please get it with the fat attached, I mean c’mon! My eldest loves the kabana and there is also a large selection of different polish sausage (perfect for bigos) and other cured meats. They sell an array of traditional Polish condiments and my other favourite barrel pickled cucumbers with dill.


I wouldn’t bother going to any other stall at the market for meat, I think they are cheap for a reason, I’m happy to be proven wrong. I go here for grass and grain fed beef of excellent quality, get steaks of all description cut to your liking. It’s not cheap but the quality is incredible.


Only open for 7 weeks, this is fast becoming the must stop place at the market. Not in the market proper, it’s situated on Therry St, just opposite the flower stall next to the organic fruit aisle (up from McDonalds.) The one thing the market has been lacking, in my opinion, has been good coffee. This is coffee at it’s best. The space is minimal, white-painted brick walls and polish concrete floors. There is a small amount of seating behind the barista bench and a lovely window seat, but I happily got my coffee to go (in fact since discovering this place I’ve been back twice in a week.) The barista’s are extremely pleasant and accommodating and I am in love with the huge bowl of Rapadura sugar. You can buy a selection of beans and rapadura sugar also. A perfect way to end a day at the market.

Queen Victoria Market

Corner of Victoria & Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne


Tuesdays, 6am to 2pm
Thursdays, 6am to 2pm
Fridays, 6am to 5pm (General Merchandise to 4pm)
Saturdays, 6am to 3pm
Sundays, 9am to 4pm

The Market is closed Mondays, Wednesdays and the following public holidays:  Good Friday, Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Market Lane Coffee

109-111 Therry St, Melbourne (opposite the market)


Open on market days from 7am til 3pm.
Market Lane Coffee on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dining out, Ingredients | Leave a comment

Key Ingredients to quality pastry at home – Butter

Since starting on this journey, 9 months ago, I’ve learned a lot about making pastries (you would hope!) and a lot of that knowledge I’ve applied at home. Sure I’ve learned a lot of things about technique and handling equipment properly, but I’ve also learned not to underestimate the quality of the ingredients and how that can affect the end product.

A lot of things that go wrong in cake/pastry making do come down to technique and experience, but you also need to think about the ingredients, think quality, temperature, handling etc what you are putting into your cakes and biscuits at home.

I’ve come up with a list of some of the key ingredients that go into pastry making (I use the terms pastry making to define all things sweet made at home) and how the product and handling of that product can affect your end product.

I’ve broken it down into: Butter (which I’ll cover in this post), Flour & Eggs (which I’ll cover in subsequent posts.)


Just in case you didn’t know:

“Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying. Butter consists of butterfat, water and milk proteins.”

Real butter is made from pure cream with a fat content of at least 80 per cent milk fat. The cream, separated from milk, is agitated (traditionally in a butter churn) until the solids combine and the liquid buttermilk drains off. Salt content is one of the factors that affect the butter we choose to use, but more importantly is it’s source. Dairy products are seasonal and depend on cow lactation. In Australia, our cattle are lucky that they generally get to feed on green grass all year round which means our butter is more yellow than the white butter imported from countries such as France.

I think butter is one, if not the most important item, when it comes to patisserie. Butters differ in their water content, so if you are thinking about making a short-crust pastry think really carefully about buying a fresh butter high in fat content rather than a supermarket packaged butter with a higher water content i.e. less fat. Think what using a butter with a higher water content is going to do to the final product i.e. it won’t be as crispy or flaky

Most of Australia’s packaged butter has been frozen (or some of the milk partially frozen) and then re-worked prior to packaging. This is why I would recommend buying butter fresh and keeping it in small quantities, at room temperature if it’s going to be used for spreading on toast or in the fridge if being used to make pastries.

When  you make a short-crust pastry it’s best to use chilled butter cut into small cubes that you then rub into the flour. The action of “rubbing” coats the flour in butter and shortens the gluten naturally contained within the flour. This is also the reason why it’s vitally important to rest pastry between each process, rubbing, rolling etc, each time the pastry is “rested” the gluten settles and you’ll get a nice crisp flaky pastry. When you make a short-crust, as mentioned a fresh butter with no salt and little water content is preferable.

When you make a puff, rough puff or even croissant pastry you are laminating the layers of dough with butter. The more times you fold puff pastries, the more layers you are creating between the dough and butter. When the pastry is put into the oven the butter melts and creates air-pockets, hence the beautiful flaky layering of a perfect croissant. Butter melts at blood temperature, which makes the eating of a croissant so enjoyable, it literally melts in your mouth. It is also why when you are “lamination” stage you need to ensure your pastry and butter are at the same temperature. Ever had a croissant and had that waxy after mouth taste? That’s a sure sign an imposter has been used and not the real deal, faux butter (gasp.)

Butter when melted can also be used as a thickening agent in many savoury sauces, it forms an emulsion. But that’s for someone else, this is about the sweet stuff.

There is argument that the packaged butters like Western Star are actually rancid and the milk used to make this butter is not always fresh. As mentioned previously, cows lactate seasonally, to overcome this, some butter manufacturers like Western Star freeze milk to ensure there is ample supply. Ever bought a piece of Western Star or the like and see it get that dark yellow outer layer, that means your butter is rancid.

In terms of restaurant quality butter, most notable Australian restaurants still use imported, mostly French butter, as there is not considered an equivalent product in Australia, yet. This is changing, Shannon Bennett of Vue De Monde uses Echire a French butter, it’s 14% water where most Australian butters are 16%.

Ok, so what is available:


Myrtleford Butter

Made by hand using European style cultures this butter has about 84% fat. It is available at  various Farmers Markets (Abbottsford Convent and I got some on the weekend at Debney Park.) You an also buy buttermilk, excellent for cake making, it will give a nice soft crumb – um “yum crumb” I’d call it. It comes in 250gm bars, there are salted and unsalted varieties.  I’m using this butter for my competitive baking this year, wish me luck. Also, the packaging is really cute.

Warrnambool Butter

Available fresh from Curds & Whey at the Queen Victoria Market. You can select salted, mildly salted or unsalted and select your desired weight. This fresh butter has about 84% fat. I’ve baked with this butter a lot in the past with happy results.


Western Star & Girgar Butter



Made by the New Zealand company Fonterra (it also makes Ski branded yoghurt & Mainland cheese), Western Star butter was a company that originated in Victoria’s Western District.  There is an individual website for Western Star awash with Masterchef logo’s (George Calombaris is a Western Star ambassador.) Western Star butter is made using about 80% butterfat and Girgar about 82%. Girgar butter is a European style cultured butter.

True Organic


The website tells me this butter is made from the milk of cows that graze on organic pastures. I can’t see a fat %. I have used this butter previously and found it too watery and it didn’t seem to have a long shelf life.

Harmione Organic & Lurpak


Both of these packaged products are made by Danish company Arla. At the time of writing I am waiting for a response from Arla on where the milk comes from that is used to make the butter for both the Lurpak and Harmonie brands that are sold in Australia. From the map on their website, they don’t have a production factory in Australia and the closest factory would be Thailand. I’m also unsure what % butterfat is used in this butter. I have used the Harmonie brand, and found it ok. It is the most expensive brand on the supermarket shelf.


Aldi, Woolworths Homebrand, Coles Australian Butter all have around the 80% fat mark, with Aldi leading at 81%. I have never tried any of these butters personally so cannot comment on taste etc.

What about the price?

This is what a $250gm block costs on average.

Devondale – $2.28

Girgar – $3.75

Harmonie – $6.36

Myrtleford fresh hand churned butter – $8 (direct at a farmers market, may be a little more at a deli)

Warrnambool – $4 – $5

Lurpak – $5.19

Woolworths Homebrand – $1.39

So I guess you can see that the cost of getting a superior product isn’t that much more. I suggest next time you are baking something special or even want to enjoy a nice piece of crusty bread seek out some fresh butter and see the difference for yourself.

Also, treat your butter well and you will be rewarded. At room temperature  for creaming and nicely chilled for making pastry.

If you have a favourite brand or recipe using butter as the hero I’d love to hear about it.

Posted in Ingredients | 3 Comments

The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2012

Last night The Age announced it’s Good Food Awards for 2012.

There will no doubt be rumination and opinion and already I see people commenting on the fact Vue De Monde was awarded 3 hats when in fact it was a construction site at the time of “awarding”. Ignore all that, it’s been an incredible year for Melbournian’s to eat out. If there is not a spot you’ve called your “own” or at least a few places on your list of “must go to eat” then you just aren’t living. Ok, maybe a bit harsh and sure lots of people still enjoy fast food  and class that as eating out, but for the rest of us with our taste buds still in tact it’s been an incredible year of openings to suit all tastes and budgets.

There appeared to be a lot more sponsor & Masterchef types at the actual awards than chef’s and actual industry people, but that seems to the beast. I agree with the sentiments of some, that there are so many hardworking apprentices and kitchen hands that could do with a little bit of glamour and one night off (even if generally most kitchens are closed Mondays), than some reality cooking show contestants, but there you have it.

I have to say though that last night I felt a small sense of personal pride. Town Hall Hotel in Fitzroy was awarded 1 hat. Some of you may know I worked there, albeit briefly, in “the pit” (for those not in the industry, the pit is the wet area of a kitchen where dishes are washed) and saw first hand how hard that kitchen worked, also how ordered, clean and smoothly they operated as a team. I’m really pleased for them, and a sneaky little bit pleased to say I worked for a minute in a 1 hatted restaurant.

So without further adieu:

Restaurant of the Year: Attica, Ripponlea

Chef of the Year: Dan Hunter (Royal Mail Hotel)

Regional Restaurant of the Year: Loam, Drysdale

Best New Regional Restaurant: Mr Carsisi, Kyneton

Best New Restaurant: Golden Fields, St Kilda

Young Chef of the Year: Josh Murphy (Cumulus Inc)

Sommelier of the Year: Bengt Baumgartner (European)

Service Excellence Award: Jason Lui (Flower Drum)

Professional Excellence: Neil Perry

Award for Innovation: TOYS Collective

Sustainability Award: Maurice Esposito (Esposito @ Toofey’s and Saint Peter’s)

Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award: Gerald’s Bar, Carlton North

BYO Restaurant of the Year: Osteria La Passione, Richmond

Diners’ Choice Award: Cutler & Co, Fitzroy

Legend Award: Philippe Mouchel (P M 24)

Best Short Wine List: Merricote, Northcote

Regional Wine List of the Year: Lake House, Daylesford

Wine List of the Year: Spice Temple, Southbank

Dish of the Year: Barbecue Spare Ribs (Dandelion) – MUST GO!


Attica, Jacques Reymond, Royal Mail Hotel, Vue De Monde


Cafe Di Stasio, Circa the Prince, Cutler & Co, Ezard, Flower Drum, Grossi Florentino, Lake House, Loam, Matteo’s, MoMo, Movida, Pearl, The Point Albert Park, The Press Club, Provenance, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Stefano’s, Stokehouse, Tea Rooms of Yarck, Verge


Abla’s, Annie Smithers Bistrot, The Atlantic, Bacash, Becco, Bella Verdere, Bistro Guilluame, Bistro Vue, Cecconi’s Cantina, Centonove, Chris’s Restaurant, Church St Enoteca, Cicciolina, Coda, Comme Kitchen, Cumulus Inc, Dandelion, David’s, Donovans, Eleonore’s, Embrasse, Esposito @ Toofey’s, Gills Diner, Golden Fields, The Grand, Il Bacaro, The Italian, Koots Salle a Manger, La Petanque, Livingroom, Longrain, The Long Table, Maha, Mercer’s, Montalto, MoVida Aqui & Terraza, Neilsons, Oscar W’s Wharfside, Paladarr, PM 24, Port Phillip Eastate, Sapore, Sarti, Scorched, Shoya, Simone’s Restaurant, Spice Temple, Sunnybrae, Tempura Hajime, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Town Hall Hotel, Vin Cellar, Villa Gusto, Wardens Restaurant, Whirrakee Resturant, Yu-u

Congratulations to all the chef’s, kitchen hands, dishwashers, apprentices and floor staff/FOH that work in all of the restaurants listed above, especially the dish washers.

Posted in Opinion Pieces, Uncategorized | Leave a comment



4-16 Hall St, Moonee Ponds

Owners: Sam and Rosalyn Manno

Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm; Sat, 9am-3pm

Well, I feel the need to explain why I’ve delayed in writing about somewhere in the area I live. Growing up in the hardcore Western suburbs, I was surrounded by the Australian dream, 70’s style. Isolated from culture physically and metaphorically it was an existance that centered around riding to the milkbar with 20cents to buy a Sunnyboy and “mixed lollies” and waiting endlessly for the bus, the only means of transport in and out of the place.
As soon as I finished school and started attending Prahran Tafe then VCA, I knew the West and I no longer saw eye to eye and I promptly moved into what was the first in a long line of share houses in the suburbs of Kensington & Brunswick.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I paint this picture is because I now live slightly North of the West, still close to the city but until now a wasteland of bad coffee and toasted cheese and tomato foccacia’s (my apologies, my husband still enjoys a toasted focaccia!). So it was with a bit of trepidation that I entered Nabiha. I had been reading about them in The Age and was not really sure somewhere in the heart of the “The Ponds” as us locals call it, would be as good as the hype. I needn’t have worried, this is most definitely the suburbs best coffee if not some of the best coffee in Melbourne. It is their own blend from 5 senses and to me it has a chocolatey after taste and is very smooth on the palate. Ok, I’m no coffee expert, I don’t go to cuppings and I don’t now much about single origin beans etc, what I do know is that I like this coffee very much and more than that it is consistent. Every time is has the same taste, amount of cafe crema and temperature.

I started with a flat white, as seen above and the boys each had a baby cino (I always squirm when using that title, but it is what it is) and they came in super cute animal cups.

I ordered the tomato pizza for the kids, which was devoured. It was simple, fresh tomato and basil and lots of cheese, and my eldest loved it. I had the spiced lamb, rocket and sumac pizza with labne on the side. It was a nice crunchy turkish bread like base and the lamb was really nicely seasoned and worked well with the peppery rocket. This would be a great little take-away number with a coffee if you worked near by. I love this simple kind of food full of flavour, and considering Nabiha has hardly even got a kitchen it was pretty impressive.

You could easily share one of the pizza’s between a couple of people, a little too much for just one, unless you are super hungry. The service is very friendly and attentive and the space is super slim but feels light inside. The only thing I would have liked is a biscuit or cupcake in the glass cabinet, there is a selection of pastries, but I can easily satisfy a young person with a gingerbread.

Nabiha is a stand out in the area and the coffee is bang on. Living in burbs ain’t so bad after all.

Nabiha on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dining out | 3 Comments