Sunday, June 28, 2009

THE GALLEY - Bobbin Head

Another rainy winter's day..what to do? Go to lunch of course! As it was a week day, local was better. My son and I like the natural beauty of our surrounds, and enjoy often the Kuringai Chase National Park (Turramurra or Mt Colah entrances). There are many activities within the National Park, but more recently there has been another attraction, the GALLEY FOODS cafe overlooking the beautiful river at Bobbin Head's award winning Empire Marina. This space has been given a new lease on life with the new owners revamping the space about 6 months ago. The Marina has been slowly revamped over the last couple of years and this eatery has certainly added another element by providing an open, casual atmosphere with interesting menus based on local seafood making it attractive to all ages. On a sunny day, this is a glorious location. On a rainy day, it is equally attractive. The open eatery provides a temporary haven for maverick ducks wandering past, the staff are welcoming and if it is a little brisk, you are welcome to fling one of the warm "throws" over your shoulders provided by the restaurant. The seating allows for inside and covered outdoor seating. If outdoors, you are directly above the water, and nestled amonst the million dollar boats, moored at the marina. Fish swim around the waters edge, and the ducks also entertain with their antics. That atmosphere is peaceful, surrounded by calm, glassy water, high rocky outcrops covered in native bushland. It is a beautiful atmosphere and certainly conducive to good digestion! Now, the perfectly compliment the surrounds, there is the usual staples of burgers and fish and chips, with coffees from Toby's Estate. Sounds like good "basics" but believe me, even the basics have a little twist, there is nothing ordinary about the food choices. If you would like something a little more differnt try the scallop cerviche with salsa. A beaufifully prepared dish of fresh ingredients, and tangy flavours. The perfect "in between" meal. Not too small to be unsatisfying, and not to heavy for a lunch. It was a delight. My son had the usual bacon role which was served in the hugest damper role I had seen for a long time. It almost matched the size of his head! Not too big to tackle though. With lashings of bbq sauce, it was demolished quicker than you could say "Bobbin Head". Desserts were another delight. Bread and Butter puddings, creme brulee just to name a few regulars. A milk shake and latte later, and we were on our way to pick up the firstborn from school. However, we have solid plans to return to try the seafood linguini, the Mahi Mahi, and other delights on the menu. Apart from the food and the atmosphere, it really needs to be mentioned that the SERVICE has always been easygoing, helpful and genuinely nice. On many occasions we have pulled up on the scooters, kids in tow, for ice creams, and coffees, only to be met with smiles, nice chat, and welcoming attitudes. Equally, for lunch, my 4 year old was given as much attention and time as I was when choosing his bacon roll. None of the "nice" is put on, it is genuine and welcome. Sometimes kids can be a little rattling (and unwelcome) in restaurants, not here. Thus, we will visit many times over the summer and beyond. While the adults sit gazing at the view, the kids can walk around spotting ducks from the marina. One mention should be made, that as it is located in the national park, there is an entry fee of $11 per car to visit. However, yearly passes to all national parks can be purchased for $65 (great for the return visits!). Also, I believe at the moment they don't have a liquor licence, but BYO is allowed, and hopefully they can provide the service in the future. On googling the Galley, it seems the owners have had many a successful venture in the past. Morgan Forbes and Luci Bell. Keep it on your radar and keep it local!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feijoada Blog

Okay, so I was in a Brazilian restaurant and my tastebuds exploded over my first taste of the national dish of Brazil - feijoada which is pork and beans as far as I can tell from the recipe but what a combination! Use ham bones and white beans and tomatoes and molasses and you get something quite different - Boston Baked Beans. Use black beans and lots of smoked meats and garlic and bay leaves and you get a national dish! I knew I had to try making this myself and it was the long weekend so I assembled all the ingredients:
Smoked ribs, beef jerky, smoked hock, chorizo sausages and some pork bones.
I had soaked and boiled a kilo of organic black beans the night before and drained them a couple of times so the black colour from the beans wasn't too strong, my dish turned out more brown than the thick purple/black of the restaurant's version.
I stirfried the raw pork bones in oil with garlic and the bay leaves and then added the smoked meats, chopping them up so the flavour would come out really quickly. Once I got the soupy mix rapidly boiling, I added the cooked beans into the mix and turned down the heat, simmering the stuff until the meat started falling off the bones.
I tasted the feijoada and decided it was salty enough so I fished out the bones which still had a lot of meat on them so I put them in a separate saucepan and added more water to make some stock.
The stew I let boil until most of the beans had broken down but still leaving enough for some whole beans to still be in the mix. I then served it up over some plain white rice.

I was happy with the flavour although it wasn't as rich as the version I'd tried, but found it to be too mushy compared to the restaurant's version. I probably didn't need to cook the beans as much beforehand and next time I would leave the beef jerky out, it didn't really add anything to the dish and ended up being chewy and stringy on the plate. And I had a lovely smokey stock to make vegetable soup with the next day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hidden Treasure - HANAYA Japanese Restaurant

There aren't many things for which Hornsby is well known. There's the water clock fountain, which has been featured in a sum total of one TV series and one TV commercial; there's the shopping centre which is dominated by the big "W".

More often than not, Hornsby is a stopping point between the city and the Central Coast and most people who travel there insist on taking a packed lunch as though it were out bush somewhere (as it once was)!

Well recently, we found a place to dine which measures up to any City establishment.

Hanaya is located on the ground floor of an apartment complex alongside shops and offices which are set back from the frontage behind a series of pillars, so if you aren't looking for it, I'm pretty sure you'd miss it. I'm guessing that the majority of their customers are the building's tenants and that would be a pity as it offers some of the freshest and tastiest traditional Japanese cuisine this side of the North Shore.

It is located on the Pacific Highway between the turn-off towards Thornleigh and Hornsby Station. Parking is a little awkward as the road outside is a clearway however there are some sidestreets which are walking distance to the restaurant. (You'll appreciate the walk back to the car or station afterwards!)

What struck us immediately upon being seated was how clean and new the place is. The tables are well spaced out and unusually the service counter is the same height as the tables. There was one person serving and we saw only one other person emerge from the kitchen but the food came out quickly and efficiently. (Admittedly we were the only customers - apart from a take-away order - on a Sunday but hopefully this will change.)

w the exciting bit! As I mentioned earlier, the food is traditional. The menu doesn't try to be "moderne" or cutting edge or anything other than traditional Japanese cuisine as we know it and, if it also happens to be sublime, there's nothing wrong with that! As we were a large party, we ordered two of each entree - Edamame,

Agedashi (deep fried) Nasu (eggplant), Agedashi Tofu ,

Karaage Chicken...

Nasu Dengaku (fried eggplant with miso) ....

and Beef Tataki (beef carpaccio).

Then it was onto the mains and everyone chose what they wanted - which ended up being a combination of Donburi (rice bowl dishes), Udon (wheat noodles) and
Sashimi and Sushi.

Of the latter, we had to try the Soft Shell Crab Roll - it was everything that a good soft shell crab should be, crispy with
just enough creamy sauce.

The Tonkatsu Donburi - perfectly crispy deep fried pork fillet with sufficient sauce but not too much and on a bed of perfectly textured rice.
The Eel Donburi - I have to admit, I'm not a big fan but I didn't hear any complaints after the meal so I'm assuming this was fine too!

Salmon Sashimi - the fish was very fresh and delicate (no stringy bits so well prepared) and beautifully presented! My favourite, the Tempura Udon - perfectly crispy batter which softens into a sponge-y goodness, yummy stock and lots of seaweed (most restaurants never have enough) and very al dente (or the Japanese equivalent!) udon - all delivered piping hot to the table.

There weren't enough of us to try everything on the menu but this gives us an excuse to return in the near future!

Oh and our reason for coming to this fine establishment? It was a birthday celebration and a good excuse to try out the icecream cone cupcake recipe! Admittedly not beautifully decorated as there wasn't a lot of time but I just wanted to prove that baking ordinary cake mix in a cone (as seen on the internet!) would work and it does! Look out for some more variations soon!


Not for me, the current kitchen fad for the newest, shiniest, brightly coloured and expensive kitchen appliances. I have to admit, I'm a retro girl at heart and it totally goes against the grain! Ok, so I DO have a little coffee machine on the bench, but my pride and joy (and perhaps this is more to do with me being a dedicated tea lover) is my Goblin Teasmade circa 1972. How cool is this contraption? I had heard about these, my grandmother had one in England many years ago, so you can imagine how I squealed with delight when I found one at a local garage sale. $15 was all it took, to assume ownership of my new obsession. The idea behind this invention, which has been described as "a peculiar eccentricity of the British", is to set up the teasmade in the evening before you go to bed. It was traditionally placed on the bedside table before retiring for the evening, but from my experience it could be placed in the house next door as the hullaballoo when it goes off would wake the dead! You fill the jug with water and put it on the element, you put some tea-leaves (or bags) into the crockery jug. In the day, the english used to also leave a jug of milk and sugar out for convenience but with our climate, I wouldn't be game. Make sure the clock is on the correct time, set the alarm to when you would like to be woken, and set it on "auto". Then all you need to do is snuggle up and think of of England! A few minutes before the alarm time, the teasmade begins gurgling (this alone may wake you), the water is boiled, and is transferred automatically from the kettle to the jug through a little pipe. Once full, the cut-off switch trips the alarm. Now, as I mentioned this was QUITE LOUD, and to top it all off, that lightbulb also switches on and would illuminate the opera house at night if required! There is NO WAY you could miss your alarm and keep sleeping. Its hilarious! That's it..your tea is made. All you need to do from here is add milk and sugar, and sit in your bed enjoying a perfectly brewed cuppa. Now, the Goblin Teasmade was first made in 1936, but there was gas powered invention as early as 1891 along a similar vein. By the time mine was made (I have a model 844 made in 1972 check out the website for the chronology of the models) one million Teasmades had been sold. The company was taken over in 1973 and another 2 million were made and sold in the next few years. Although eccentric, and really quite a cumbersome appliance, its quaint qualities have been quite popular with many over the years. For me it is really more of a novelty than a day-to-day item, but my culinary life would not be the same without it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

(And I'm not sure that it's Pocky either!)

I found myself feeling peckish on a cold, wintery afternoon and not feeling like eating anything that I had to cook. I remembered that I had a box of what I thought was Pocky in the cupboard waiting for just such an occasion!

For those who've never had the pleasure, Pocky are a Japanese invention. They're basically a wheat baton - long, thin and crispy - a bit like a pretzel but much more delicate. The name comes from the Japanese word for the sound they make when you bite into them.

There's an entire website dedicated to them, - which is of course mostly in Japanese - and there are variations of them all around the world. (For a true treat, see the stunning home-made ones from Not Quite Nigella.) The commercial flavours range from sweet - green tea, strawberry and chocolate dipped (milk, white, dark - although why the dark variety is known as Men's Pocky is extremely unfair to us females who love and prefer our chocolate dark!) to savoury - tomato & pizza. But on the whole, the sweet varieties far outnumber the savoury. Some of the more extreme varieties include Decorer Pocky which features decorative icing and Mousse Pocky which features extra thick, mousse-like icing. I haven't seen the latter varieties in my local grocery but I'm sure a wider search might uncover them.

Back to my Pocky imposter however! There's not a word on the pack which says they're Pocky which makes me think that they're a darn good rip-off. Wikipedia mentions that the flavour featured on this pack, sweet potato, is also made by Pocky. So if someone can read the Japanese writing on this pack, please let me know!

The reason I was attracted to this pack, in my neverending search for the perfect savoury snack, is that I do happen to love the taste of sweet potato. The sweetness is not overpowering and it traditionally balances nicely with a little salt, so of course I had to try these.

The photo on the pack was enticing and being long and thin (an advantage they have over regular potato chips) I don't have to open my mouth really wide to eat it which means that I can snack on these in a very ladylike way in public!

A quick glance at the ingredients showed that there's quite a lot of sweet potato but not one bit of butter in it. Am I going to be disappointed I wonder?

Okay, enough stalling, let's open it!

After pulling off the zip-tab, the box flips open and reveals the two packs - one for me and one for a friend - or, one for now and one for later! That will depend on whether I like them!

The actual product looks like a standard Pocky although perhaps without the perfectly rounded end that I'm familiar with (or maybe it's because I've only really eaten the chocolate dipped variety!).

There is a slightly powdery substance which adheres pretty solidly to each stick, i.e., it didn't end up at the bottom of the pack. I bit into one stick and that was it!

I LOVE them! They taste like a crunchy REALLY buttery sweet potato! After demolishing an entire foil pack (forget ladylike!), I did in fact wonder whether heating them in the microwave for a few seconds would help to enhance that butteryness. I'm sure it would and I will let you know when I open the second pack!

As for my reference to that butter substitute? Well, I still can't believe it's not butter!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Ahh..the Buddha Belly, a favourite of the Happy Blogger and family. Not only a restaurant it is more a lifestyle choice! Set between a beautifully serene Japanese Garden and Koi Pond, and an array of Nurseries (including Bonsai where you can even do classes), and beautifully presented Asian style retail stores, all located in a Balinese style village. Turning off the busy Mona Vale Road at Terry Hills, you arrive at the small carpark, lined with palms. If you look carefully, you will see the carved archway which is the entrance to the Buddha Belly Restaurant. This is an authentic Balinese style pavillion, open air style with no walls, simply lush plantings and stone or wood carved statues forming outdoor rooms amongst the palms. You would think this is a restaurant more suited to summer weather - not so! The outdoor aspect is exceptional, in Summer and Autumn but even though today was a chilly Winter day, with the plastic sheeting rolled down, and the heaters turned up, you could still enjoy the view and ambience without any bother. Now, as I mentioned, this is a favourite with my family as the staff are pleasant and more importantly, child friendly - a must for hassled parents trying to enjoy their meal without bored and naughty children to entertain! For the kids, the first things they are drawn to are the many statues - we make sure we rub the Buddha's belly on the way in for good luck. They also really get a kick out of the fact that most of the tables have you sitting overlooking a beautiful waterfall and Koi pond, and only a rope separates you from it. As you look around at the balinese style buildings, you are transported to another world and that is totally intriguing for them. For older kids, it is fine to let them wander over to the imperial garden to get a closer look at the fish and to explore as it is all within view (and shouting distance!) of you at your tables. Children love this place, they just need to make sure they don't throw any of the white pebbles into the pond, or feed the fish. Some of these Koi are 40 years old and as thick as your arm! They used to rake the beds of white pebbles into wave patterns, but I think it was too much to ask for the kids to keep we noticed they were more "free-form" today. Today, my son and I were having a quiet brunch. We started with a Chai Latte for me, and a Milkshake for him as we made our selections from the menu. I was sorely tempted by some of the other choices, especially a "Marraketta" which is a short black with caramelised chocolate and milk, or a "Honey Affogato", or even a "Little Darlin" which was a layered macchiato with vanilla syrup but decided on my old favourite for today. As we are regulars, there will be plenty of time to work my way through the coffee menu on each visit. My son decided to have the Buddha Belly bacon and egg roll with hollandaise, capsicum and chilli relish, with a side of chilli mushrooms. This arrived on turkish bread and went down a treat! This was an adult sized meal, but there were kids choices as well. I decided not to have my usual Pancakes with Berries and Ice Cream, or Eggs on Sourdough, instead I had a Nasi Goreng with fried Egg and Chilli Jam! was great! Filling! Warming on a cool day, but just a little too "hot" for my I had it all to myself! After that, we couldn't fit any more in, so decided to slip out for a walk around the garden. The Lunch and Dinner menus are really interesting Asian Fusion style meals with lots of seafood choices (Barramundi, Mussels, Salmon, King Prawns to name a few), and I can highly recommend the twice cooked Duck with Coconut Rice, Asian Greens and Citrus Chilli Marmalade as I've sampled this on a previous visit! Mains are around $26-$30. Also, the Green Tea Noodles with mixed herb salad is a winner (you can have this as an entree or a main size). Entrees are $15-$19. The wine list is also quite diverse, and they even sell the locally brewed "Lucky Buddha" beer which comes in a fantastic, Buddha shaped green bottle (again, sampled on a previous visit). On weekends it is necessary to book, even on week days, it is a popular lunch spot for local groups of women. As the location is suitable for wandering and shopping for homewares, jewellery and garden supplies, it is a drop in spot for families over the weekend, so keep this in mind when visiting. Today we were lucky, early brunch on a week day, we had the best seat in the house! The waitress told me before I left, that in the 8 years they had traded at the site, they had never advertised. All of their business was from "word of mouth" which says a lot. Great to see that it can sustain a good local business..visit and see for yourself. Happy eating!