Archive for month: April, 2011

Tapas Train @ Sushi Choo

26 Apr
April 26, 2011

I love sushi and I love tapas.  So when I found out that Chef Alfie Spina from Ash Street Cellar was hijacking Sushi Choo’s kitchen with a tapas inspired menu, I booked in a heartbeat.

I really enjoy the March into Merrivale events, if you haven’t been to one look out for the month and a half foodie event next year.  Last year I attended the Nose to Tail degustation at Mad Cow as well as the Time out Sydney Taste Test held at the then Bistro CBD.

The tapas event at Sushi Choo was an all you can eat tapas train.  Basically sushi was swapped for all sorts of tapas goodies for you to pick and choose from.  I did experience an unexpected first, I have never eaten tapas with chop sticks before! Read more →


Italian Easter Pie – Torta Pasqualina

19 Apr
April 19, 2011

Squeezing in one more pre Easter recipe post before I head up to Coolangatta on Thursday morning. Business meeting and visiting with my Mum & Dad who moved up there last February. Is only a short trip and will be back in time for Easter Sunday with Mac’s family.

I was flicking through the April edition of MasterChef Magazine and came across a recipe for torta pasqualina. I have heard of this Italian Easter pie before, but have never attempted to make it. The recipe in MasterChef caught my attention as it uses a sweet Italian shortcrust pastry with lemon zest.

With a search on the internet I soon discovered that the recipe was far from traditional. The original recipe calls for 33 layers of pastry for the pie. The significance being that this represents Jesus’ age of 33 when he was crucified. Most modern day recipes call for 4-5 sheets of pastry. I even discovered one that uses 12 sheets of pastry to represent Jesus’ disciples. Read more →

Trip to Dunedin & the Cadbury Chocolate Factory

18 Apr
April 18, 2011

Cadbury trucks

Last January saw me waving Mum and Dad off on 14 day cruise around New Zealand on the Sun Princess.  Hugs, kisses and have a wonderful time been said, I made my promise to pick Mum up on her return as Dad was leaving the cruise in Dunedin to return to Australia for business.

So back home I went with thoughts of “one day it would be nice to go on a cruise” filling my head. I was plodding along with my day when Dad called me from the ship.  “Would you like to join your Mum on the cruise in Dunedin for the leg back to Sydney?”  Without hesitation an excited YES shot out of my mouth.  He had organised for me to take his place.

Fast forward and I am at Kingsford Smith boarding my Air New Zealand flight to Dunedin.  I normally am a QANTAS girl, not because they particularly impress me, more to the fact I am caught in that loyalty loop.  I do fly Air New Zealand regularly when I am in New Zealand, but this was my first trip in a long time leaving Sydney with them.

I was impressed.  Loved their pre flight safety video, it was to the point with humour.  Flight attendants smile, are pleasant and extremely helpful (QANTAS take note please as some of your staff are slipping in this area in economy).  I could start watching a movie before takeoff and if I had my own headphones keep watching while landing (QANTAS again take note please).  Actually the inflight entertainment on the Australia to New Zealand leg surpasses QANTAS which still only has the one main screen for all to view (no back of seat entertainment).   Sadly food was typical airline food.  There was a hot breakfast selection too, chicken sausage and scrambled eggs.

Inflight ordering

Breakfast of bircher muesli (combo of dry & soggy), orange segments & pineapple and a carrot muffin

Breakfast’s saving grace – the muffin

Arriving in Dunedin I was off the plane, through customs, picked up bag and was out in a cab within 10 minutes.  Felt more like 5 but had to be 10, seriously speedy.

I was staying in Dunedin overnight before meeting up with the Sun Princess the next morning in Port Chalmers.  I had half a day and evening to explore.  I was staying at the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross which isn’t too far from the Octagon, the main centre of town.  The hotel rooms are spacious and they say they have the most comfortable beds in New Zealand (I find out later that the beds are pretty comfy).  If you are in to gambling the Casino is located downstairs.

Front of the Southern Cross Hotel

Comfy queen size bed

Spacious corner room, light & airy

After quickly checking out the hotel and dumping my bags it was off to join my Cadbury tour which was booked before leaving Sydney.  A tour of Cadbury was a bit of a no brainer when I knew I would be in Dunedin.  If you know you are going to be there I strongly suggest you book on line before you go.  Tours are really in demand and everyone that visits Dunedin seems to go to Cadbury.

Cadbury Factory

Cute factory roller door

To kill time while waiting for your tour there is a walk through display showing the history of chocolate, chocolate making and of course the history of Cadbury in Dunedin.

Easter egg making display with animated purple dressed elves?

Mountain of Crunchies with animated people popping out of it

Cadbury packaging pre purple days

The tour of the factory starts with a safety brief and the handing out of plastic bags to hold the samples collected during the tour.  We have to wear hair nets and those with beards need to wear snoods.  No bags, cameras, phones, watches, hats or really anything that is not part of your clothing is allowed on the tour.  Therefore guys I don’t have any pictures of inside the factory, sorry.

I like our guide, her pockets are filled with chocolates, with which we are rewarded when we answer  questions correctly as we go along on the tour.  The highlight for me was visiting the now unused silo.  Once everyone is inside we are all instructed to yell “I love chocolate” to which a waterfall of 1 ton of chocolate comes streaming down from above us.  The sound is deafening and the whole silo shakes. The smell is intoxicating, chocolate overload.

Cadbury source their milk from the local Otago area and the sugar comes from Queensland as it is considered the best in the world.  Cocoa beans are roasted in Singapore, the cocoa mass is sent over in blocks and ground cocoa in bags.

The purple silo is where the chocolate waterfall takes place

After the tour it is to the shop where I spot some of my favourite Kiwi Cadbury products.  I notice a new one I haven’t seen before in my travels, the Scroggin, and buy some blocks to take home.  There is even chocolate soda which tastes a bit like creaming  soda.

Scroggin & other chocolate bars

Buzz bars & chocolate fish

Drinking chocolate

After the tour it is time to walk Dunedin.  My first stop is the Dunedin railway station, supposedly the most photographed building in New Zealand, and I understand why.

Dunedin Railway Station

I loved the street lamps that were all around Dunedin

One of many churches

I basically just walk, taking in the sights and sounds of Dunedin.  Checking out churches, I love churches, and basically having a good wander.

You will find these little fruit stands dotted around the main area of Dunedin

I decide on a very late lunch at the Craic Irish Tavern, a small, intimate, warm pub situated right on the Octagon.  It’s January and I am freezing, its 7?C outside, so much for summer in New Zealand.  I order a glass of Devil’s Staircase Pinot Gris and some beer battered fries which come with tomato sauce and garlic mustard mayonnaise.  I went for the fries as it was the smallest dish on the menu as I didn’t want to spoil dinner.  They were thick and crunchy but still light and fluffy on the inside, great fries.

Devil’s Staircase Pinot Gris from Central Otago

Beer battered fries

After the break at the Craic I head back out in to the cold and keep exploring.  Lots more walking and at about 7pm I stumble across a Japanese restaurant called Hanami, perfect timing for dinner.  There is a big sign out the front stating that they offer the largest range of sake in New Zealand.  I love sake, so in I went.

Hamami is not traditionally Japanese looking, actually it was a Mexican place before Hanami opened up. The restaurant is filled with large wooden tables and booths and it looks to me like it would be very popular with groups dining out. They also have free karaoke.  I decide to order the tuna tataki, grilled mussels and a cup of Hakushika Chokara sake.

I liked the artwork on the menus

Inside Hanami

The tuna is seared beautifully, but I find the dressing a little too heavy against the delicate tuna.  The sake is delightfully dry, just the way I like it.

Tuna tataki

Hakushika Chokara Sake

I was surprised when the mussels turned up, not what I expected at all.  They were grilled but covered in a thick layer of mayonnaise which had salmon roe mixed through it.  The salmon roe added a nice salty pop to the mayo but the mussels were over cooked and chewy, sadly a little disappointing.

Grilled mussels

Feeling pretty tired after an early morning and then afternoon of walking I head back to hotel to crash.  It’s an early start the next morning as I have to meet the ship at Port Chalmers at 8am to start my cruise.

Sara xxx


Hanami Restaurant & Yakitori Bar
4 Hanover Street


The Craic Irish Tavern
24 The Octagon


Scenic Hotel Southern Cross
Cnr Princess & High Streets


Hot Cross Buns – Fig, Apricot & Sultana

16 Apr
April 16, 2011

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny
Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny
Hot cross buns

I have fond memories of my mum singing and teaching me this old English rhyme when I was a child.  Always seemed to magically spring from her lips a couple of days before Good Friday.  So as tradition would have it a couple of days before Good Friday this rhyme seems to spring unconsciously from mine.  I wonder when/if Josh has children, if he too will be effected by this seemingly hereditary tic.

Growing up we only had hot cross buns on Good Friday.  Until just this year my household was the same, hot cross buns were only eaten on Good Friday.  No nibbling on them in February when they first hit the shelves or the weeks leading up to Easter.  Due to the meaning behind the bun I always found it strange that people would eat them on any other day than Good Friday – yes I am strange.  It is only due to “research” that I have eaten them leading up to Easter this year.

My favourite part of a hot cross bun has not changed from when I was a child.  Nor has the way I eat them.  I judge a hot cross bun by its cross.  Yes the cross is a very important part, not only due to its religious significance.  A cross has to be hard and crisp.

So how do I eat them?  The bun needs to be warm and the cross is the first thing I devour.  I need to be able to pull it away from the soft spicy bun and munch on it.  Like most people I cut the bun in half and I then lavishly spread it with butter, has to be butter.  I then eat the top half first leaving the crustier bottom till the end.

I attempted to make hot cross buns for the first time last year.  Let’s just say it was an epic fail.  Have you seen the Charlies Angels movie (I think the first one) where Alex Munday (played by Lucy Liu) makes muffins?  You may remember they refer to them as Chinese fighting muffins, where one is promptly thrown at a door and makes one mighty hole.  My hot cross buns basically fell in to that category .  They were rock hard and dangerous if thrown.

The Chinese fighting hot cross buns I made last year (hangs head in shame)

This year putting the pathetic effort of my last attempt behind me,  I had another go.  The result was much more successful, but not perfect.  I tweaked a recipe from Gourmet Traveller.  I am not a fan of peel and I had some glace figs and apricots in my fridge which I wanted to use.  Sadly I made one big mistake, for some reason dumbo here didn’t add the correct amount of yeast.  Instead of the 14g stated in the recipe I only added 7g.

Apricot goodness smushed through the bun

Hot Cross Buns - Fig, Apricot & Sultana
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Delicious Hot Cross Buns for Easter with the twist of glace fig, glace apricot and sultanas.
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 12
  • 700g plain flour
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 14g yeast
  • 1t allspice
  • t cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • 1t salt
  • 150g sultanas
  • 100g glace figs
  • 100g glace apricots
  • zest of one orange
  • 300ml milk
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • Cross: 50g flour + ¼ water
  • Glaze: 55g caster sugar + ¼t mixed spice + ¼c water
  1. In a large bowl place flour, caster sugar, yeast, spices, salt, fruit and zest. Mix. I find it best to get your hands in to the ingredients and make sure that all your fruit has separated and has been covered with the flour. This ensures and even distribution of fruit through your buns.
  2. Place milk and butter in a saucepan and over a low heat warm until the butter has melted. Your mixture should be of a tepid temperature. Whisk in the egg.
  3. Stir the milk mixture in to the flour mixture. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth.
  4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let the dough stand for about 40 minutes in a warm spot or until it has doubled in size.
  5. Once doubled in size knock the dough back and separate in to 12 pieces. Knead in to balls and place in a lightly greased 24cm x 30cm slice tin (or cake tin which you have available of similar dimensions). Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubles in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 220C. Combine remaining flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. I suggest you add a small amount of water at a time to ensure you get a nice thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle or if you are like me and use disposable plastic ones, snip off the end for the cross size you desire. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped.
  8. To make the glaze, combine sugar and mixed spice with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over hot buns. Place buns on to a wire rack to cool.


The fig and apricot combination worked really well.  As the apricots were glace, when kneading they smushed through creating sweet ribbons of apricot in the buns.

Considering my mistake and the good result, if you are attempting hot cross buns for the first time this recipe is worth a go.  Please feel free to substitute my choice of fruit for what you desire.

Wishing you all a lovely Easter next week with family and friends.  I am curious, am I the only one that is quirky in the way they eat their hot cross buns?

Sara xxx

Show me the Piggie! (A class in pork butchery)

11 Apr
April 11, 2011

Victor Churchill is unlike any other butcher shop I have ever visited. Upon entering you are greated with rich timber wall panelling, timber beamed ceilings and Italian Calacatta marble slab floor. This feels how a butcher shop should feel. Warm and old worldly, butchers working away behind floor to ceiling glass for customers to observe and interact with. Goods are sliced to order, you will not find a black plastic pre-packed and wrapped tray here. Read more →