Category Archives: Modern Australian

Salt Tapas & Bar

Dukkah crusted Tasmanian trout with Israeli couscous in a cucumber, tomato and dill broth

Salt Tapas & Bar at Raffles City is a place to sit back and relax and enjoy lots of little (or larger) plates of tapas with a modern Australian influence. They have a lunch menu on weekdays – where you have a selection of entrees, larger plates and sides.

I started with slow-cooked octopus with celeriac, apple, saffron rouille and dried black olive. The octopus was sweet and tender with no hint of toughness that can sometimes come with octopus (I watched a Greek cooking show where they tenderise the octopus first by bashing it repeatedly on a rock until its “soapiness” is released on the rock. Apparently in commercial kitchens they do this in a cement mixer !). The celeriac and apple were finely julienned and provided a crisp freshness to the rich saffron rouille.

Slow-cooked octopus with celeriac, apple, saffron rouille and dried black olive

For my main I had dukkah crusted Tasmanian trout, Israeli couscous, cucumber, tomato and dill broth. This is the first time I’ve had Israeli couscous and it’s delicious. It has a very satisfying springy, chewy texture that I equated to the tapioca balls in the Taiwanese “bubble teas”.

The trout was perfectly cooked so it was still pink in the centre and that broth it came swimming in – absolutely divine. It really brought that entire dish together with the acidity from the tomatoes and was so fragrant from the dill. And the dukkah crust on the trout gave the dish a lovely nutty flavour and texture.

You can also order a la carte during lunch but I was in a “can’t decide” mood and the only thing I ordered off the lunch menu was a side order of Jamon Iberico. Not because I felt I needed it because the portion sizes are pretty generous here. Just because I could.

Salt Tapas and Bar
#01-22A, Raffles City Shopping Centre
No 252, North Bridge Road

Tel: +65 6837 0995


Happy Mother’s Day !

My mum’s tomato salad with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat’s feta and mint

I was fortunate to be in Sydney with my Mum on Mother’s Day over the weekend. Sydney put on the most spectacular weather for us and we decided on such a glorious day we would have fresh oysters and prawns from the Sydney Fish Markets, and enjoy them on the balcony with a bottle of champagne.

While dad and I were out buying the seafood, Mum made us the best tomato salad for lunch. Simple and delicious, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Cherry tomatoes in red, yellow, green and brown, each with a slightly different taste, kalamata olives, goat’s feta, olive oil and mint.

It looked so good on the plate you began eating it with your eyes. Thanks Mum – so glad to have been able to spend the afternoon with you (and of course Dad too !).

I hope everyone else had as wonderful a Mother’s Day with their families and wish all Mother’s a Happy Mother’s Day !


Brussel Sprouts

I have never had the misfortune of eating boiled brussel sprouts and I think that being served this way at many a school dinner has given the humble brussel a bad rap. It would be a shame to boil the life out of any vegetable.

I spotted some at my supermarket the other day and decided that they would accompany our steak dinner.

Simply cut in half if they are large (mine were) or cut a cross in the base so that it helps them to cook through more evenly. If you really don’t like vegetables with crunch to them you can steam them for 3-5 minutes before flash frying them.

Melt some butter and olive oil in a pan, and once the butter is bubbling, pop the brussels in for 5 minutes, tossing a few times, until there are nice brown crispy bits on the edges.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a good squeeze of lemon for that extra zing.


Salt Grill at Level 55 Ion

Passionfruit and banana soufflé with a marscapone sorbet

I love this place for more than the food. They’ve done such a superb job of making you feel like you’re somewhere special, from the strange entrance through an art gallery to a starfilled private lift area and lift that takes you to only one floor – 55. And from that darkness you enter a spacious room that is flooded with natural light.

The food though, is the real reason to go to Salt Grill. Previous visits gave me enough incentive to try new dishes. This time, a roasted gnocchi with pork and fennel sausage, and his signature dessert, a liquorice parfait with lime.

Roasted gnocchi with pork and fennel sausage

I don’t normally choose gnocchi – I find it a bit too doughy and heavy for my liking, but I loved the sound of it with the sausage and was delighted to find that the dish was lightened with the addition of brocolli tips/flowers and pangritata.

Pangritata is a Southern Italian stroke of genius. Modest ingredients – stale bread, herbs, garlic and anchovies or olives, fried until crisp and golden. It gave the dish a completely different texture normally associated with gnocchi and was delicious with a cold glass of pinot grigio.

Luke’s liquorice parfait with lime

Then to desserts. I couldn’t help but share a photo of my friend’s dessert above – a banana and passionfruit soufflé with a marscapone sorbet just because it looked so damn good. For my dessert, I again ordered something unusual – liquorice parfait served with a sweet tuille and lime syrup. It’s one of the strangest combinations that I could think of for a dessert. And yet somehow, the creamy, slightly anise flavoured parfait worked wonderfully with the sweetness of the lime syrup and the sharp tangy bits of fresh lime. Still not sure I would order it again, but it sure is unique.

I think I really should try this place out for dinner just to experience what would be a completely different ambiance and menu.

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan
Level 55 on ION Orchard. Lift entry is on Level 4
Tel: 6592 5118


Sticky honey and soy chicken wings

My sticky honey and soy marinated chicken wings

Marinade the wings the night before and then it will take just 30 minutes to get these wonderfully sticky chicken wings on the table. Just enough time to make the accompanying coleslaw.

Ingredients (for two hungry people)

  1. 8 chicken wings
  2. 1/2 cup light soya sauce
  3. 3tbl dark soya sauce (if you don’t have this just add a splash more light soya sauce)
  4. 3 tbl honey
  5. 1 tsp sesame oil
  6. 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  7. 1tsp liquid smoke (if you are lucky enough to have a bbq, then you can obviously skip this)

Method

  1. Discard the wing tip if you can be bothered
  2. Mix marinade ingredients well
  3. Put the chicken wings into a large ziplock plastic bag
  4. Pour the marinade in to the bag
  5. Zip lock and mix well
  6. Pop into a bowl and into the fridge to marinade at least four hours but preferably overnight – once or twice jiggle the bag around a bit to spread the marinade evenly
  7. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 200C/390F
  8. Double line a shallow baking tray with foil and tip the entire contents of the bag (wings and marinade) in
  9. Pop into the oven for 30 minutes, turning once – the marinade would have reduced to a nice sticky consistency
  10. Serve hot with fresh, cold, zingy coleslaw or they’re even good cold for picnics

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan

Foie gras parfait with toasted brioche, fig and pickled onion

Another bright sunny day in Singapore, and D and I decided to visit Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill on level 55 at ION Orchard. I love clear blue skies, sans the horrific heat and humidity of Singapore – I still miss Sydney weather dearly, especially during winter where you get almost unreal azure blue skies married with a cool, crisp air. Salt Grill is all glass that lets in tons and tons of filtered light that makes the panoramic view of Singapore all that more breathtaking. Reminded me a lot of Kong in Paris (which has the slightly more historic view of Pont Neuf).

Charcuterie plate with bresaola, jamon iberico, saucison and cornichons

The meal started off wonderfully. The charcuterie plate had just four things on it – bresaola, Jamon Iberico, saucison and cornichons, each one of them full of their unique, strong flavours, and the foie gras parfait was light and airy but had the strong punchy flavour of the foie gras – and the pickled onion was delicious. Absolutely genius start to the meal, such clean and simple flavours served in clean and simple “Luke” plateware. Absolute perfection in Modern Australian fare.

Barramundi fillet with wasabi mayonnaise

A shame the mains were disappointing. To be fair, the Barramundi was actually good – very very crispy batter, served with shoestring rosemary fries, but the wasabi mayonnaise was too rich and the tomato sauce I asked for was served with the explanation “our tomato sauce is homemade, so you will find it tastes more like barbeque sauce than tomato”, which I thought really odd.  Homemade tomato sauce is great, but shouldn’t it taste of tomato sauce and not barbeque?

The burger that D ordered was served on a brioche bun that had the sauce swirled onto, but which made the rest of the burger, which was a beef patty, a single leaf of lettuce and thinly sliced beetroot, very dry and quite plain.

Of course there are plenty of other dishes we could have ordered, but a steak for lunch seemed a little heavy, and there seems to be no lunch menu on weekends (there is a lunch set during the week).  I think the ambiance of the place will bring me back to try other dishes, and this would be another place that will be transformed during the night. Otherwise, this is the perfect place for a lunch with the girls. Just stick to the starters and appetisers and keep the wine coming!

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan
Level 55 on ION Orchard. Lift entry is on Level 4
Tel: 6592 5118


Pancakes at the Rocks

Buttermilk pancakes with vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup

Well, theoretically, we were at Harbourside, but it was one of the franchises of the famous pancake house from the Rocks.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Pancakes at the Rocks to eat – my family and I used to go when I was a little girl, and my sister and I would both order the kids pancakes – the Mad Hatter (a pastry-wrapped square beef patty on top of a pancake) and Alice in Wonderland, which was a pancake topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with hundreds and thousands. It was always such a fun experience.

The menu has changed a lot, the old restaurant is still there and they’ve clearly flourished because now they have three franchises (with more opening soon).

We decided to go to Harbourside just because it was closer than the Rocks, but the franchise lacked the old world charm of the wooden stairs and the actual location at the Rocks.  Which meant the pancakes had better be spectacular.  And which they sadly were not.  I stuck to their “famous buttermilk pancakes”.  So famous they now sell the pre-mix to the public.

I ordered the two stack, and two enormous pancakes turned up with a large scoop of ice-cream on top, dusted liberally with icing sugar, with maple syrup on the side. The pancakes tasted really heavy and doughy – the opposite of my idea of a good buttermilk pancake which is light and fluffy.

The service was good although the ambiance of the place is extremely loud – there are no soft furnishings at all so all the sound gets trapped in the room and bounces around the wood and glass which makes for a not too pleasant way to enjoy your food.

If you want to experience Pancakes at the Rocks, I’d recommend you actually go to the original at the Rocks.  Perhaps the surroundings make you a little more forgiving for what are pretty average pancakes.  I think I’ll just live with my memory of the fun I used to have as a little girl.

Pancakes at the Rocks – the original
4 Hickson Rd, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: 02 9247 6371
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week

Pancakes at the Rocks – Darling Harbour
229-230 Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour
Tel: 02 9280 3791
Open: Sunday – Thursday 7am till 1030pm | Friday and Sat 7am till 12midnight


Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

Picture perfect morning at Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

It’s really very difficult to beat a perfect day in Sydney in Autumn or Spring. The weather just makes everything look like it’s been colour enhanced with its azure blue skies and there’s a breeze that gives a hint of cool respite from the sun.

This morning was one of those perfect days and we decided to take advantage of it and grab breakfast down at the Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe at Balmoral Beach.

Mid-way through my breakfast fry-up – scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, sausage, portabello mushroom, roasted tomato and potato rosti

Bathers’ is a Sydney institution – one of those iconic restaurants that have been around for as long as I can remember, making indoor beachside dining even more sunny than outside.  In addition to the spectacular views this place has, the rest of the dining experience is just spot on, starting from the friendly and efficient staff who are ever attentive and seem to magically appear when you are ready to order, but you never noticed prior to that moment.  It’s also comforting to know that it’s also had the same chef for the last 12 years, with chef/owner Serge Dansereau still at the helm.

I stuck to my standard big breakfast – scrambled eggs on toast with roasted tomatoes, bacon, pork sausage, portabello mushroom and potato rosti.  It turned up shortly after I ordered, the eggs perfectly cooked juuust on the right side of runny, the bacon cooked to salty perfection – it all looked so appealing that I immediately tucked into the food before I remembered to take a photo.

Blueberry pancakes

My sister ordered the blueberry pancakes.  I had buttermilk pancakes from Pancakes at the Rocks earlier this week, and found them very doughy and not at all what I remembered.  The ones at Bathers’, on the other hand, were amazingly light and fluffy, not too sweet, with fresh blueberries cooked into the pancake like little treats with each mouthful.

A stroll along the beach after makes for an absolutely perfect Sydney morning.

Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, Sydney
Tel: (612) 9969 5050


Salmon, corn and herb salad

This is a terrific salad that we used to make regularly in Sydney when we had a balcony – our flat in Singapore doesn’t have an outdoor area which means the flat smells of cooked fish afterwards – not such a bad thing, we just have to make sure the fish is as fresh as possible.

So when we find fresh salmon available in the supermarket, this firm favourite appears on our dinner table.  It could easily be served as a starter or even as lunch.

Simple, fresh ingredients all work completely harmoniously in this dish.  I would say go with the flow – use whatever herbs you have in your fridge, substitute lemons for the limes – but we’ve tried that (usually because we forgot to pick up one of the ingredients or the supermarket didn’t have it) and it just doesn’t seem to work as well.  I’m more than happy to stand corrected though, so send me your alternatives if you have tried and prefer it.

Ingredients for 2 servings

  • 200 – 250g fresh salmon fillets
  • 1 cup each of fresh coriander, mint and basil
  • 2 corn cobs
  • juice of 1 -2 large limes to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Lightly brush corn cobs with oil and place onto a hot  griddle/frying pan/BBQ.  Be careful the kernels may pop.  Turn them around periodically so that the entire cob is cooked.  Let cool a little to handle and cut the kernels off the corn.  Set aside.
  2. Brush salmon fillets with oil, season with salt and pepper and cook, depending on thickness a few minutes on each side.  You don’t want to overcook salmon and it should still be a bit pink inside.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes then flake.
  3. Add the corn kernels and the salmon to the herb mixture.  Dress with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat everything.
  4. Pile onto plates and serve with extra lime wedges.

’tis the season…to eat figs.

Fresh Israeli figs

I was thrilled when I popped across the road to the supermarket to find figs.  They are one of my favourite fruits but have such a short season, so I’ll buy them whenever I see them.  The ones I bought today were from Israel – so I’ll have to eat them within a day or two because they don’t keep for too long and they’ve travelled a long way.  Guess one of the downsides of living in a tiny island like Singapore is that you can’t get local produce.

If you buy figs, just keep in mind that they don’t ripen once they have been picked from the tree so make sure you select fruit that are a rich deep purple colour, plump and soft to the touch with unbroken skin.  And as with most fruit, smell them.  If they smell sweet – buy them !  If there is no smell, you can still buy them, just don’t plan on eating them fresh (you could halve them, drizzle them with honey and roast them, served with a good dollop of creme fraiche or marscapone) and if they smell sour, they’re past their due date.

When I lived in Sydney you could usually buy figs for a few weeks so I had the luxury of cooking many fig dishes – one of my favourites being a blue cheese and fig salad.  Simply sprinkle fresh quartered figs over a bed of spinach, crumble blue cheese on top (you could substitute goats cheese) with some toasted walnuts and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Today though, I am going to make one of my favourite fig salads – fig and tuna salad.


Fresh fig and seared tuna salad

Ingredients
Serves 4

  • 6-8 figs quartered
  • sashimi grade tuna – about 400g
  • 2 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbs coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 large handfuls of rocket
  • 2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tbs lemon juice
  • lemon wedges to serve

Method

  1. Combine the fennel seeds, black pepper and salt and place on a flat plate
  2. Cut the tuna into 5cm square strips
  3. Coat the tuna with the fennel seed/pepper/salt mix
  4. Heat olive oil in a pan.  Sear the tuna strips on all sides for 1 minute on each side – it should be rare inside.  Set aside to cool for 5 minutes
  5. Thinly slice the tuna and arrange with the figs on top of the rocket.  Dress with olive oil and lemon juice
  6. Serve immediately

A variation which is even more simple is to top a bed of rocket with quartered figs and layer some prosciutto on top.