Apple Crumble

I don’t remember exactly when I started baking, but it might have all began around the end of primary school with those kids cookbooks. I have failed in my baking many times – the height of my baking fails would probably be failing even when making a packet cake mixture. Hopefully since then I have improved and now whenever I get a hankering for something sweet after dinner and I don’t have many ingredients, I whip up an apple crumble which is especially good on cold winter’s nights.

This is a crumble recipe with no oats (since Sir D doesn’t like oats) and it produces a crumbly and crunchy crumble at the top. I made this the other night for some friends (with the help of Sir D, debdebdeb and Spud) and it was the perfect end to a great bake night!

Apple Crumble (Serves 4)

4 (medium) apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cinnamon if desired

For the crumble:
60g unsalted butter, softened
90g brown sugar
90g flour

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place apples, brown sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until the apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Pour apples into baking tin and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and flour and crumble with fingers until desired consistency is reached. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can make sure the butter is very soft and then use a spoon to combine, using the back of the spoon to press the lumps of butter into the dry ingredients. For a crumble that has bigger chunks you can increase the ratio of butter to dry ingredients.

3. Sprinkle crumble evenly over apples. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Sicilian Restaurant, Parramatta for Michael’s 21st

Yesterday was my cousin Michael’s 21st birthday, so on Saturday night we all got invited to celebrate his birthday at the Sicilian in Parramatta.

Pesto pizza – $12.00

The food kicked off with some pizzas to start. I didn’t get a chance to photograph all of the different kinds of pizzas but there were garlic pizzas, herb pizzas, chilli crust pizzas and pesto crust pizzas, all cooked in the Sicilian’s woodfired oven. The crusts were thin and crunchy with a generous amount of cheese on the pizza.

Gnocchi alla Romana – $24.00

We all ordered our own mains and I selected the Gnocchi alla Romana which was gnocchi with scallops, prawns, bacon, chilli, garlic, shallots and pesto in a creamy napolitana and basil sauce. The servings were large and there were quite a lot of prawns and scallops in my pasta which I was pleased to see. The sauce was nice and creamy, but after a while it got quite salty causing copious amounts of water to be consumed with the pasta!

Zuppa di Cozze – $28.00

Mum ordered the Zuppa di Cozze – a kilogram pot of mussels with a white wine, garlic and basil sauce. The mussels were tender and juicy and the sauce was very flavoursome. Mum’s only complaint was that there weren’t enough of them!

Pollo Parmagiana – $27.00

Charm ordered the Pollo Parmagiana which was crumbed chicken breast served on a bed of herbed spaghetti with grilled eggplant, napolitana sauce and melted mozzarella. There was a large piece of chicken and quite a lot of spaghetti. The chicken was not too dry and although it was tasty, the sheer size of the dish meant that Charm couldn’t finish it.

Once again I forgot to take a picture of Dad and Sir D’s dinner but they both ordered the Prime Rib Eye which was served with king prawns and wedges. The steaks were cooked as requested and Sir D highly approved of the wedges. Both of them seemed to enjoy their meals.

The birthday cake was gigantic! It consisted of light chocolate sponge cake with layers of chocolate cream in between and was delicious. Happy 21st Birthday Michael!

Sicilian Restaurant
292 Church St
Parramatta NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 96332299
Open 7 days, 11am-midnight

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Japaz, Neutral Bay

Japaz is a restaurant which combines both the Japanese Izakaya style and Spanish tapas style of serving small plates, often accompanied by drinks. The idea of Japanese-Spanish fusion intrigues me, so we make a booking for 8pm and a bunch of us venture out to see what Japaz has to offer.

Sir D and I are fashionably 15 minutes late (since we got caught up in Masterchef!) but the others arrive on time. When we arrive, Queen Chu tells us that the waiter has asked about our order several times already so we quickly make some selections. Midway taking our order, the waiter excuses himself to serve another table which BLT in particular finds very rude. We end up ordering about 12 dishes between 7 of us, since none of us are big eaters, and the waiter insists that this will not be enough and recommends that we order fewer selections but double up on them. However, we decide that we prefer to sample more of the menu so we stick with our order – to which the waiter again insists on ordering more dishes. This overattentiveness continues throughout our meal, and whilst his concern for our appetites was genuine, many of us find it quite unpleasant (as though he was trying to milk more money out of us!). Apart from this, the service is otherwise impeccable with dishes being removed promptly after they are finished and water being topped up regularly.

Fried eggplant with honey and balsamic – $11.00

The first dish to arrive is the fried eggplant, which is crumbed on the outside with soft, juicy eggplant on the inside. The honey balsamic dressing tastes sweet at first, but then the flavour of the balsamic takes over. I’m not usually a big fan of eggplant but I actually quite like this dish.

Crumbed portobello mushroom – $9.00

The portobello mushrooms are also crumbed in the same way as the eggplant with the mushroom juices oozing out with each bite. I enjoy this dish but it could probably do with a bit of sauce to give it a bit more flavour.

Scallops with a sweet soy and onion butter – $5.50 each

BLT, Sir D and I order scallops and they are absolutely delicious – the buttery sauce pairs beautifully with the scallop which is cooked to perfection. This is a firm favourite of ours and is highly recommended.

Piquillo capsicum stuffed with crab meat, baby rocket and spinach – $4.50 each

BLT wants to try the stuffed piquillo capsicums so we order 3 of these to share between us. We are surprised to find that it is a cold dish, and the flavour of the capsicum is quite overpowering so the stuffing of crab meat, baby rocket and spinach is quite lost on all of us.

Pan-fried chorizo and French green lentils in romesco sauce – $14.00

The meat dishes start arriving and the first one is the pan fried chorizo. We all agree that the sauce and flavour of the chorizo is delicious, but BLT, Sir D and I find that the chorizo casing is a bit tough, making it quite chewy to eat.

Pan-fried pork belly with pear, herbal balsamic sauce – $16.00

The pork belly is one of my favourite parts of the pig and this dish definitely does it justice. The pork is very soft and there is a nice layer of fat on all of the pieces. The small cubes of pear are dotted all over the dish and the balsamic sauce compliments the pork and the pear well, giving it a nice full flavour.

Lamb meatballs in tomato salsa – $12.00

The lamb meatballs are swathed a delicious tomato salsa which is rich and moreish. I find the meatballs a touch dry, but this dish is one of Queen Chu and Captain Awesome’s favourites.

Braised Wagyu beef cheek and almond sauce – $17.00

The beef cheeks is a dish that we are mixed on – Nat, Sir D and I love the fall-apart softness of the beef but Queen Chu and Captain Awesome think that this makes the meat lack texture. It is a comforting, home-style dish, reminding us all of the oxtail braised in red wine which all of our mothers make. The almond sauce however is very subtle and none of us taste much almond flavour at all.

Grilled quail with crispy Savoy cabbage and thyme quail jus – $19.00

The last dish is the grilled quail which arrives on a bed of cooked savoy cabbage in a fiery red tomato-based sauce. It isn’t the star of the night when compared with some of the other dishes but is nonetheless very good.

Japaz offers some interesting and delicious tasting food in a casual atmosphere. It does come with a price tag but I would definitely return to sample more of their menu and also to revisit some of the fantastic dishes we had tonight. It was a shame that the pushiness and slightly unpleasant demeanour of the waiter tarnished an otherwise enjoyable night but hopefully this was just a small oversight on the night that we dined.

165 Wycombe Road
Neutral Bay, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 99040688
Lunch: Thursday and Friday, 12pm-3pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday, 6pm – late

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Gelato Messina, Darlinghurst

Despite the very cold weather recently, Sir D must have his gelato fix so after dinner at Rise we walk a couple of blocks in search of Gelato Messina on Victoria Street. We are very glad to see the gas heaters outside the shop front and we are surprised to be joining quite a number of others eating and ordering gelato on this chilly night.

The menu ranges from gelato in a cup or cone, take-home tubs of gelato, gelato cakes, tiramisu, coffee and Callebaut hot chocolate! However tonight, we only have eyes for gelato.

Sir D decides to maximise flavour tasting opportunities by ordering 3 scoops in a cup, but we have serious difficulties in selecting three flavours from the mounds of gelato in front of us. We later overhear someone saying ,”but I want to have all of them!”, which is exactly what we were thinking…

Some of the flavours that catch my eye include apple pie, pannacotta, blood orange and dulce de leche. I also notice that they have chocolate and hazelnut in both a sorbet and a gelato.

After much deliberation (and many questions from the people behind the counter as to whether we were ready to order), we finally decide on chocolate sorbet, apple pie and gianduia (hazelnut chocolate).

3 scoops of gelato: gianduia, apple pie and chocolate sorbet – $5.80

The flavour on the top is gianduia, with apple pie in the middle and the chocolate sorbet is hidden on the bottom of the pile. The gianduia is delicious and tastes almost exactly like Nutella – a good thing for people like me who enjoy guiltily consuming Nutella with a spoon straight from the jar. The apple pie contains small chunks of apple and is quite strong in cinnamon flavour. Sir D says it reminds him of Big Red chewing gum, although not quite as spicy. The chocolate sorbet has an interesting flavour, leaning more towards dark chocolate but still retaining some sweetness. It is less creamy than normal gelato and melts a bit quicker but apart from that tastes pretty much the same, although it would be interesting to compare the chocolate gelato and sorbet at the same time.

As we make our way back onto the chilly night, I look longingly at the gelato cakes in the freezer and make plans with Sir D to come back with more people so that we can try even more of the flavours. All in the name of research, of course.

Gelato Messina
Shop 1/241 Victoria St
Darlinghurst, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 83541223

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Rise, Darlinghurst’s 4th Year Anniversary

Although this is my first post about Rise, it is actually my 4th visit which coincides with a special offer they have to celebrate the 4th anniversary of Hideki Okazaki becoming the owner-chef of Rise. For one week, Rise is offering a special 7-course omakase menu for $36pp, and having been completely enamoured by the food during my previous visits, it was simply an offer I couldn’t resist.

Rise is tucked away in a relatively residential area of Darlinghurst, away from the numerous restaurants and wine bars on nearby Victoria Street. My first visit to Rise saw me completely at a loss of how to enter the restaurant – I attempted to open the locked door facing the main street, but luckily another of my dining companions found the fire-engine red door marking the entrance to the restaurant. And it was unlocked.

Ocean trout marinated with gochujang miso and porched quail egg

Tonight I am dining with Sir D, and we are seated in the corridor area where the lighting is very poor so apologies for the poor-quality photos. Drinks are ordered and before long our first course of ocean trout arrives, marinated in a spicy gochujang miso sauce with a quail egg sitting atop the mound of sashimi. It is accompanied by some baby rocket leaves, a hoisin sauce and some crunchy radish which complements the soft trout nicely. A great start to the meal and it is my favourite dish of the night.

Potato cream soup with prawn tempura and tofu

The smooth potato cream soup has a cube of agedashi tofu and tempura prawn sitting in the middle of the bowl, topped with spring onions and seaweed. The prawn is battered and deep fried for a nice tempura crunch and the agedashi tofu is soft and yielding. It is a generous serving, but both of us have no problems eating it all up.

Assorted today’s market sashimi: (left to right) kingfish, ocean trout and oyster

The third course consists of kingfish sashimi with flying fish roe and wasabi mayonnaise, ocean trout sashimi with soy sauce and an oyster. The oyster was accompanied by a briney, salty sauce which was offset once you bit into the slightly sweet and creamy oyster. My favourite was the ocean trout which was simple but delicious. I normally love kingfish but am not a big fan of wasabi, but wasabi lovers out there would probably enjoy the tingly feeling lingering on the tongue from the wasabi mayonnaise.

(Left to right): Eggflan, mushroom & miso red curry sauce, Rice paper roll of miso chicken stick, Fish cake & green papaya salad

The next plate that arrives has some interesting looking morsels on it which leave us peering at the plate wondering which to eat first. Sir D makes the first choice and selects the egg flan in the shotglass. He eats takes a small spoonful from the top and makes a face at me. I try a bit and the red curry flavour is very, very strong. On the next spoonful I realise that the layer of sauce is on the top and when eaten with the steamed egg and the small pieces of mushrooms and baby corn, the strong flavour is subdued. The fish cake is strong in kaffir lime leaf and coriander, and the green papaya salad is refreshing. Compared to the fish cake and the egg flan, the rice paper roll has subtler flavours but has a nice mixture of textures from the crunchy salad, the soft chicken stick and the slightly chewy rice paper.

Steamed scallop, green tea noodle & soy ginger shallot sauce

The scallop and green tea noodles arrive in a small bowl and although there are fewer noodles than I expected, the scallop is fat (just the way I like it) and steamed to perfection. The sauce seems to be more of a sweet soy sauce than a ginger and shallot sauce, and even the grated ginger at the bottom of the shell tastes sweet.

Chicken confit, “shiitake” mushroom, bamboo shoot , potatoes & “Hoisin” sauce

The main course which comes with rice is a chicken confit with tender meat and a layer of crisp, crunchy skin. Underneath it there are some potato cubes, bamboo shoots and mushrooms and their signature snake bean circling the vegetables. I call it their signature snake bean because every time I have been to Rise there has always been a snake bean encircling something in one or more dishes.

Almond jelly, black cherry & amaretto jelly

Onto the last course: dessert! It is what appears to be more of an almond pannacotta (rather than a jelly) with cherries, blueberries and paw paw cubes topped with an amaretto jelly. The amaretto jelly reminds me of the almond flavour in a Chinese egg white and almond dessert, and is a flavour neither Sir D nor I am particularly fond of. However, the creamy almond pannacotta is delicious and the berries and paw paw are fresh.

Although the omakase selection had some dishes that didn’t quite appeal to my tastebuds, there were other dishes which were absolutely fantastic. It is very good value for the quality of food served up and hopefully Rise will continue to deliver great food at reasonable prices in the years to come. Congratulations to Hideki Okazaki on being the owner-chef of Rise for the past 4 years.

Rise Restaurant
23 Craigend Street
Darlinghurst, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 93571755
Dinner: Tuesday – Sunday, from 6pm

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