Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Torba Restaurant Review

Reviews are somewhat varied, but my husband and I think we stumbled across an Eastern European gem of a restaurant in Brisbane city. If you're tired of eating the same old cuisines (we personally have got into an Indian rut), you'll be delighted at the menu options at Torba on Southbank. Authentic cuisine from all over eastern Europe star at this little restaurant-we were able to enjoy food from Russia, Moldova and Hungary while remaining seated in the one place, in the comfiest chairs. The food was hearty and full of flavour-rustic, traditional and decidedly scrumptious. The food is a sharp contrast from the opulent  and trendy decor and yet somehow the restaurant lounge pulls it off beautifully. We will definitely be returning! (Monday to Wednesday it's 2 for the price of 1 cocktails too...how can you go wrong there?)


Shades of purple opulence and such comfy armchairs. We found it hard to pull ourselves out of those velvet chairs when we were ready to pay the bill.


 Extensive bar and more private curtained seating booths beyond.


 Divine strawberry mocktail for the fat pregnant lady (that'd be me!)


 Romantic ambiance.


 Cinnamon and Apple Pie cocktail (absinthe, cinnamon, Zubrowka, butterscotch liqueur, vanilla sugar syrup and apple juice)




 Russian Pelmini for starters- boiled dumplings filled with pork and beef and served with garlic and herb butter and fried onions.


 Moldavian Lamb Pilaf with pomegranate molasses, grilled eggplant, feta, lemon...so good!


 Hungarian Beef Goulash with tender slow braised beef cooked in red wine and served with mash. Hearty and melt in your mouth goodness.


 My husband got shat upon by an overhead gecko-couldn't help laughing raucously! (they are everywhere in Queensland, probably not Eastern Europe though!)


Dessert to share because we were so full of our yummy filling mains. Russian Blini filled with vanilla ricotta cheese.


Torba Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ultimate Potato Soup

Recently I touched on a topic I am sure we have all experienced at some stage in life before-food ruts. You buy the same ingredients repeatedly and use the same recipes. You cycle through and through until you no longer enjoy eating and cooking what you're serving. Or worse still, you have no idea what you're having for dinner, and end up spending a fortune on take away or some last minute ingredients that are quick and easy solutions. So how do you get out of food ruts? Here are a few ideas on how to move away from living the same food day in day out. Any step is a step forward!

1. Buy something you've never tried-a vegetable you've never tasted, that quinoa that everyone has been raving about, or that weird gooey stuff you have been curious about in the foreign food isle at your supermarket. Ensure it gets used within your grocery period. It might just become a new favourite.

2. Menu plan, making sure that you schedule to try one new recipe. Menu planning not only ensures you're only buying what you need for the week/fortnight, but you have everything ready to go without any last minute grocery store dashes (and lets face it, you always end up buying more than you intended!) Menu planning has been the best way in cutting down costs for me personally. Our shopping bills have been heavily reduced. There is great peace of mind in knowing what you're cooking at the beginning of the day.

3. Use pinterest for inspiration-sometimes all it takes is a little tweaking of the same ingredients to make it a whole new meal. Do you always buy chicken breast? There are a million and one ideas on how to change up chicken breast on that damned addictive site.

4. Challenge yourself to use what is in the pantry before stepping out to grocery shop. Had a can of  cream of chicken soup in the pantry for a few months? Got chicken and pasta and broccoli? Type these ingredients into a recipe finder such as Recipe Matcher to generate dozens of new recipes using those ingredients.

5. Buy a food magazine every so often. Woolworths and Coles often has publications they give out for free. Have them in a central area like the coffee table and you will probably have other family members looking at them and making requests. These mags are also great reminders that you are in a food rut and should or can do something about it.

Good luck getting out of the rut and finding new favourites to cycle through! Here's one to kick start you off. It's the best potato soup I have ever tasted. It's the ultimate comfort meal- hot and hearty, thick, cheesey, bacony, potatoey goodness just packed with flavour. You will have people groaning with delight as they spoon this down-it's a real keeper! I have served this at the end of a party once, serving it in mugs as everyone huddled around the fire outside. My guests just couldn't get enough! I have also served it as a dip in a cob loaf, which worked well, as it gets quite thick as it cools. It's one of my most requested recipes. I know you will cherish it too.
Got any other tips? I'd love to hear them! 


THE ULTIMATE POTATO SOUP

500g diced bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, finely grated
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (optional)

Fry the diced bacon until golden and crispy. Drain any bacon at that may be in the saucepan. Add the onion, potato and carrot, along with the stock, parsley, salt and pepper. Place a lid on the saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the potato is quite tender (this time will depend on the size of your potato chunks.) Meanwhile, place the flour in a bowl, and adding a little of the milk at a time, whisk until a smooth paste forms. Add the remainder of the milk, and mix until well incorporated. Add this milk mixture to the pot of stock and potato. Let it reach the boil, then stir continuously for a further two minutes, until it thickens. Add the cheese and stir through. Serve sprinkled with chopped green onion if desired.

Serves 6-8




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pink Ricebubble Marshmallow Squares (Like ICMs)

I've just read a whole stack of blog posts from different authors about how hateful their Mother's Day gifts have been in the past. I sit here gobsmacked. I'm serious, mums are knocking their husbands for organising the likes of massage vouchers, lingerie, wine and chocolate and flowers bought from the service station (seriously who cares where they are purchased?) While people piped up that the articles were satire, I couldn't help but cringe. I'm getting slippers for Mother's day and I'm pretty damn pleased about it. Every time I slip my feet into those warm fuzzy pink things I will remember that hubby and my three little darlings all trotted off and picked them out for me, and that my 5 year old was so excited that he couldn't contain himself and told me what my present was as soon as they got home.
My swollen pregnant feet get so cold in the mornings that I just can't wait to slide into those babies. I've even secretly checked them out while putting away hubby's shirts. Shhh!
So shrinking husbands who don't know what to do get your wives, and who happened to read those blog posts, just remember your wife is not your mother, so anything you buy her in my books, is a win. You don't even have to spend money to make sure Mum gets a memorable Mother's Day. Sometimes I think the best gifts are the ones which are hand made and home made by the kids-the paintings, the weird cutout cardboard thingies and the not so perfect baking.
But here's a foolproof and fail-proof recipe for some yummy treats to spoil mum with that will definitely be appreciated. They're a hit with the young and the old and only have three ingredients. They're quickly put together, are no cook, and are a great recipe for the kids to get involved in.
They're chewy and sweet and look so pretty wrapped up in cellophane and given as a gift. How could you go wrong?
I sprinkled mine with tiny edible pearls. You can leave them plain, trust me they taste just as good!





PINK RICEBUBBLE MARSHMALLOW SQUARES

4 cups marshmallows (I used 2x 180g bags)
1 tbsp butter
5 cups of ricebubbles
tiny edible pearls (optional)

Grease and line a 20x20cm dish with a little oil and baking paper. Ensure the sides of the paper come up higher than the sides of the dish for easy removal.
Place the marshmallows and the butter in a large saucepan. Stirring continuously over medium heat, melt the two ingredients until smooth. Pour in the ricebubbles and stir until well combined. Quickly pour the mixture into the lined dish. Wet your hands with cold water and press the mixture down evenly into the dish until the top is flat. Sprinkle with edible pearls if desired. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more before cutting into squares.







Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato with Honey and Cinnamon Glaze

How does one get out of a dinner rut? You know, how you end up always cycling through the same meals and the same sort of ingredients, and it just gets a little monotonous?
Sometimes you just have to mix it up a little at the dinner table. I always think it's a good idea to buy one new thing a fortnight and force yourself to cook with it. It's a good way to spice up meals a bit and adds to your cooking repertoire, making it more diverse and less boring.
It's a little challenging with small kids, because often you have go-to meals because you know meal time will be easier to bear. Yep, that's right! My kids would rather eat dry cat food than some of the things I serve. It's humbling. I try to reassure myself that their taste-buds haven't sufficiently developed yet, while I force feed them.
I was reading an article written by a dietician the other day about the "shared responsibility eating" theory. Basically you place the dinner on the table buffet style, and your children get to serve themselves, deciding what they want to eat and how much they will eat. There is no obligation to finish or taste anything. Well I think that's crazy. My kids would starve themselves. Or eat crackers for the rest of their childhoods. (trust me, I have been there in my own childhood, resulting in one never-hungry and malnourished girl. That's right-I never felt hungry enough to eat.)
My kids get served a portion of what we are eating and have to finish it. They at least have to have a taste of the things they're not used to, for example, if I add a new veggie or make something they've never tried before, they will have to at least experience it once.
We usually have our sweet potato boiled and mashed, but for Christmas lunch I decided to roast the sweet potato in wedges, drizzled in a honey cinnamon glaze. This was served alongside Gordon Ramsey's Beef Wellington (Oh my. This is a must-make!) The roasted glazed sweet potato  was so divine that I could probably have eaten the lot of it in one sitting. I have since brought it to the dinner table as a side, and it's always been a much-savored hit.



ROASTED SWEET POTATO WITH HONEY & CINNAMON GLAZE (Adapted from Food Network)

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick fingers
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven at 190C.
Lay all the sweet potato fingers flat on a lined baking tray.
Combine the oil, honey and cinnamon in a small bowl until well incorporated. Drizzle this mixture over the top of the sweet potato. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until tender. If you prefer some more colour, you can finish off the roasting with a few minutes under the grill on a high setting.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired before serving.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chewy Choc Chip Biscuits

Mumma's got a bee in her bonnet, and it's got nothing to do with food.
Heading into the post office yesterday, the man behind the desk who was about to serve me stuck his nose further over the edge to peer down at three gorgeous little tykes in tow and one blossoming bump on the front of me. He counted the kids out loud, slowly and like a fool, as if there were just too many to number.
Then he looked at me with wide eyes and said, "Four? What are you doing? I mean, you obviously know what you're doing, but WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
I'm used to people commenting on the size of my little family with a wry smile, in semi joke form, and have found it easy to laugh off, with most people making no further comment. But this guy was unsmiling, obnoxious, and I knew he wasn't going to let it go.
"Have you got it worked out yet?" he asked. No, I'm just so uneducated, I don't now how babies are made.
My blood was steady boiling, but I had nothing to say. I just laughed, but inside I was punching in his irritating face. I wondered if I could get away with assault with the excuse of crazy pregnancy hormones raging around. A cat had totally got my tongue and I had no clever retaliation.
"Two is enough for me" grumbled the man, huffing. I turned around and there was a huge queue behind me.
"Well I admit, they're hard work, but so worth it" I smiled at him. "Four 500g satchels, please."
Inside I was saying "go screw yourself" but I am glad I didn't say that. My babies are my everything. Since when has it become okay for people to make rude comments on family size choices and pregnancy? It feels that as soon as you're showing a baby bump it gives every man and his dog the okay to go and judge and poke and make the rudest comments about fertility, family choices and the size of your body. "Don't you have a TV?" That's my favourite, along with "There are ways of not having more, you know."
As I left I turned back to him and said "I'm one of ten kids, you know. Four is nothing." I laughed at that jaw drop and out we all trotted.
Then I went home and stuffed my face with these biscuits. They're wonderful comfort food and packed full of happy-inducing chocolate chips. Bring on the questions as to whether I'm expecting twins, these thick, chewy delicious choc chip biscuits were well worth it.




CHEWY CHOC CHIP COOKIES (Adapted from All Recipes)

2 1/4 cups plain four
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
170g butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence/extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips (or more if desired)

Set the oven to 165C.
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla and egg as well as the yolk. Beat until incorporated. Add the sifted mixture and beat until just combined. ix through the chocolate chips by hand.
Place rounded tablespoon-worths of mixture onto greased and lined trays, about 6 cms apart to allow for spreading. Bake for 15-17 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool on trays for 5 minutes, before removing and placing on a wire rack.

Makes at least 20 (they started getting eaten before I had the opportunity to count them all!)








Monday, March 30, 2015

Tomato & Spinach Tortellini Soup

I was only 19 when I met my husband and started dating him, so I had only been on a handful of proper dates with other people up until then. So maybe I just don't know what's the norm, but I always thought I'd see swags of other young people out for dinner beside us, wining and dining. Do young people not do dinner dates in the 2000's? Where do they go, and what do they do? We always seemed like the youngest ones eating out in a restaurant, surrounded by couples aged 30+. Was dining out uncool? Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I think it's an amazing way and opportunity to get to know people better, and to me that's what dating is partially about. Those talks over dinner were priceless! I wouldn't have traded them for drinks with my boyfriend in a noisy bar. You know, the ones with such loud music that you have to yell, and then just end up giving up and dousing down another drink, with the hope to soothe your sore throat?
Okay, I realise I'm beginning to sound old now.
Moving on! What's your favourite cuisine? I have two in particular,  French and Italian, closely followed by Indian. Take me out for Italian, and I'll probably be hanging around you for life.
If you're looking for great spots to go out for dinner in Brisbane, try out the Ceylon Inn for Indian, Boucher for French and Mario Sarti for Italian. They're three of our favourite places to dine out. And they never disappoint.
Neither will this Italian recipe I'm about to share with you, inspired and adapted from a blog called Diethood. Now you know I don't believe in diets, and this soup is filled with delicious carbs (oh yeah!) It's also vegetarian, so it is perfect for those who are looking for meatless meals, which are great for Lent and Fridays. Or if you don't indulge in meat. If you'd like a meat addition, you can add any sort of tortellini, and many have a meat filling. I used spinach and ricotta filled agnelotti and it was just divine! The recipe feeds many mouths too, and is great with a dollop of sour cream and some nice, crispy garlic bread on the side.



TOMATO AND SPINACH TORTELLINI SOUP (Adapted from Diethood)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 cans diced tomato with added herbs (basil, garlic and oregano)
4 cups passata/tomato sauce (pasta sauce)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 package tortellini (frozen or fresh is fine)
1 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place the oil and butter in a saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted. Ad the chopped onion and cook for two minutes or until somewhat softened. Add the garlic for a further two minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to the boil on a medium-high heat.
Add the stock and return to the boil. Then add the tortellini and spinach. Cook until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with optional dollop of sour cream and crusty garlic bread.

Serves 6-8






Monday, March 16, 2015

Chocolate Rum Hearts

Lovers-it's that time of the year again. I've crawled out from my hiding place to bring you a very quick, easy and yummy recipe that is perfect for Valentine's Day, especially if you don't buy gifts but just do something thoughtful for your significant other. The only problem is life caught up with me and I wasn't able to post it on time, but never the less, it's a good recipe for just surprising your lover, regardless what day it is. Who needs a particular day to express their love anyway?
Just in case you've been wondering what rock I've crawled out from under, I am pregnant! That's one big boulder on the front of me. I haven't been up to doing much cooking or baking, and would rather be laying down and catching as many zzz's as I can muster with three toddlers under my care. Just kidding- toddlers 1, mummy 0.
But that's okay, because over the weekend, hubby and I and the kids are heading off on holidays to the Sunshine Coast. I cannot wait to get my grubby mits on that little beach house and really relax! Anyway, these heart shaped rum bites are delicious and you don't need to use an oven. If you're in one of those hot climates like I am, you will not want to pass this up. It's too hot to have that thing on.
If you're curious as to what you'll be creating, I can tell you what will be passing your beloved's lips-dense, chocolatey hearts with a nice dash of rum, rolled in red coconut. You will need a silicone heart mold. I suspect mine is supposed to be used for ice making but it's always been more handy for other non liquid creations like this...yum!




 CHOCOLATE RUM HEARTS (A Lick the Spoon Original)

350g biscuits (I used a bunch of different ones like Marie bisuits, plain sweet ones)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup (300g) sweetened condensed milk
2-3 tbsp. rum
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 tbsp red food colouring

Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs in a food processor. Pour into a medium sized bowl.
Add the cocoa, sweetened condensed milk and rum. Mix until well combined.
In a zip lock bag, place the coconut and the food colouring. Mix around until the coconut begins to change colour. Sprinkle a little of this mixture into the bottom of each heart shaped silicone old.
Press the chocolate biscuit mixture into the silicone heart molds and firmly press the tops smooth. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes, then pop them out. Refrigerate in a airtight container until ready to serve.





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lemon Meltaways

Is it really Christmas without a good helping of home made shortbread on the scene? These delectable lemon meltaway shortbreads are adorable and festive looking, coated in a thick layer of icing sugar. The flavour has been amped up with the fresh addiction of lemon juice and lemon zest, taking this melt in your mouth biscuit to heightened levels. They are great for gift giving, especially for that last minute Christmas cooking, and are a pretty addiction to any Christmas entertaining table. Forget Christmas, these babies are to be made all year round, they're that good!




LEMON MELTAWAYS (Adapted from My Baking Addiction)

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, divided
1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest (2-3 lemons depending on size)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp corn flour
pinch salt

Preheat the oven at 180C.
Cream together the butter and 1/3 cup of the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice and vanilla, and beat until all the ingredients come together and are smooth.
Combine the flour, corn flour and salt in a small bowl. While beating the butter mixture, gradually add the flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time until well incorporated.
Divide the mixture in half, and roll each into 1 1/2 inch logs. wrap both in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1/2 an hour to harden.
Take the rolls from the freezer one at a time and slice with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch rounds. Place them on greased and lined biscuit trays. Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to turn golden. Leave to cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. When cool, use the remaining icing sugar in a bowl to coat the outside of each cookie.

NOTES: you can store these biscuits in an airtight container for up to one week.