Friday, September 30, 2011

Batch #15 - Passionfruit and Milk Chocolate, Lychee and Rose, & Passionfruit Butter Cream Macarons

Blogger tells me that this is my 100th post already!  Woohoo!  I talk a lot.  And pretty quickly (deep breath in) it seems!

Since the last batch, 2 significant things have happened in my world of macaron making.  Firstly is the acquisition of my new kitchen helper, the Thermomix!  This has made the preparation of the TPT an absolute breeze.

Next is the publication of Pierre Herme's book Macarons, in English.  I am so inspired by the wonderful variations and combinations of flavours Monsieur Herme uses in his celebrated macarons.  So for this lot of macarons, we decided to experiement with the flavours, based on passionfruit, and also lychee and rose.

For the lychee and rose macarons, I made neutral colored shells, and for the first time, embellished the shells.  I sprinkled edible ruby rose glitter on the shells before I rested them prior to baking.  I loved the simple and pretty shells this produced! 

The filling itself was a bit more difficult.  I followed the instructions for the lychee and rose filling according to the book, but probably due to the fact that my white chocolate and cream were not as nice as Monsieur Herme's, the filling was too runny.  I made about 10 macarons with this filling, but due to the moisture they were a tad too mushy and had to be eaten within the first 24 hours of assembly.  Hubby then boiled down another lot of lychee puree into a thick syrup and I made another lot of ganache with some Nestle white chocolate buttons (it was late at night, pouring with rain and my local supermarket had nothing else to offer).  This worked better and the macarons looked lovely.  The rose flavour comes from the addition of rose essence to the ganache. 

The taste of the lychee and rose is subtle, much like other fillings made with less acidic fruits and flowers.  It doesn't hit you like the tangy Tahitian Lime, nor does it give you the bite and texture of the Salted Caramel, but is nonetheless a pleasant flavour alternative, ideal with a cup of Earl Grey.  In the book Monsieur Herme actually makes a raspberry jelly which he cubes and puts into the middle of the filling.  I am too lazy to make the jelly just wanted to try the lychee and rose flavour this time so omitted that step.  In compensation I tried sneaking in a tiny piece of lychee in some of the macaron fillings.  I am still undecided whether it adds or takes away from this flavour combination.  I'll have to eat another one..... *cheeky grin*

Lychee and Rose Macaron, shells embellished with edible ruby rose glitter.

In fear of another lot of too-watery filling, we started by boiling down the passionfruit juice to a thick syrup prior to adding it to the milk chocolate for the next ganache.  This produced a really sour syrup and gave the ganache a lovely passionfruit note, and in comparison the milk chocolate is less prominent in the ganache.  Still not as nice as the one I had at Monsieur Truffe in my opinion, but not bad for a first attempt.

Passionfruit + Milk Chocolate Macaron, shells embellished with cocoa powder.

I had some more passionfruit syrup left over and decided to try making a butter cream to see what the flavour would be like.  I liked the texture of this the best, the butter cream giving the macaron that lovely bite after maturation, and the the tart passionfruit giving it the tangy taste.  Those who like the Tahitian Lime macarons would like this one!

Passionfruit Butter Cream Macarons, harlequin shells.

Lessons Learned -
  • When using fruit puree, it is sometimes necessary to reduce it to a thicker syrup prior to using it in a ganache or butter cream, so that a less runny mixture can be achieved for piping.
  • Now a firm believer that better quality ingredients will give you a better tasting product!

Happy 100th Post, Eat.Play.Shop!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eat. @ Laksa King

6-12 Pin Oak  Crescent, Flemington ph : (03) 9372 6383

We had dinner at Laksa King on the way home from our day at the Show.  We were quite excited as it was a last minute decision, and when you have kids, I have to try and plan everything ahead of time to ensure things go as smoothly as it can!  It looked very kid friendly, with open dining spaces, highchairs, change tables and of course, noodles!  But unfortunately the service was a definite let down and it did not turn out as pleasant as I had hoped.

Firstly we ordered a trio of drinks - ice lemon tea ($3.80), ice red bean drink ($4.50) and an OJ ($5.50) - as we were parched. 

We shared a Chargrilled Chicken Satay ($7.80) for an entree.  The sauce was lovely, nutty and sweet and went well with the chicken skewers, which were tasty and moist, as opposed to many other chicken skewers we've had before which end up way too dry.

The Combination Curry Laksa was very reasonably priced at $9.20.  Pleasant and fairly standard, but not a standout amongst the many excellent laksas in Melbourne.

The Ipoh Fried Noodles was easy to eat dish for kids, and a good-sized serve at $10.20.  It had a decent amount of seafood, and again the dish was pleasant without being a must-try.

I'm a fan of Hainanese Chicken Rice ($9.20), and this one distinguished itself by having a drier serve of rice, which is a nice change from some of the soggy, gluggy "balls" of rice I've had at other places.  The only let down was that it was a little uneven, and some of the rice seemed almost too crunchy, or undercooked. (I know, I'm hard to please!)  The boneless chicken wass easy for the kids to manage.

We arrived just before 6pm on a Monday night, and initially the service was great.  The staff went out of their way to accommodate the pram and was generally helpful.  I kid you not, but within 15 minutes of our arrival, the restaurant was packed wall to wall with diners, with about 20 people waiting for seats and take-aways in the little entrance area.  Our subsequent order for an extra drink and request for extra bowls were met with smileless stares which we could only interpret as annoyance.  Hubby fed Bubs while I ate and tended to the older two.  The moment I finished my meal and took over with Bubs so Hubby could eat, the waiter cleared the dishes, asked if we were going to order desserts (no), and gave us the bill and take-away boxes.  Hubby and the other 2 kids were still eating but it was clear we were being hurried to clear our spot.  The hovering waiter too eager to clean made me quite nervous.  I understand they are under pressure with all the waiting patrons (and no doubt more turnover means more money), but we are also paying customers who are still eating!   All up we were in and out of the place in little over 30 minutes.  I appreciate efficiency when eating out but this was a little over the top for me.

Eat.Play.Shop. says - A decent local spot for some hawker style food, but the service means I wouldn't cross town to have this again, especially when there are many other good quality restaurants serving similar foods right across Melbourne.  This place is very popular though, so I'm sure they won't miss our patronage.

Laksa King on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes, with change table in the disabled toilets.  (Mind the 5 brooms hanging on the inside of the door though)
Highchairs - Yes, Ikea type

Monday, September 26, 2011

Play @ The Royal Melbourne Show 2011

September 24 - October 3, 2011  Melbourne Showgrounds, Flemington

I always loved going to the show when I was little.  I know you're not supposed to crave visits to commercial places like Disneyland, but Theme Parks are pretty awesome places to little kids, and since we really have none of those to speak of in Melbourne, the Show was something I always looked forward to visiting, whether it be with my parents as a little kid, or with my friends when I was a teenager. 

The show is essentially like any of our rural agricultural shows, with competitions for animals, produce, crafts and skills like wood-chopping, coupled with rides, games, food, showbags, but on a much grander scale given its location.  Admission for a family (2 adults and 2 children) is $70 for a day, but for RACV members who pre-purchase tickets online there's a 30% discount, with a $1 transaction fee.  Children 4 and under are admitted for free.

Marilyn Monroe about to eat the children on the ride?!

Going to the show can get pretty expensive for a family.  Fortunately there are plenty of things to do even if you don't want to spend much.  Firstly the Grand Pavilion houses my favourite bit of the show, which is a lot of foodie goodies.  There are cooking demonstrations from the likes of Matt Wilkinson from Pope Joan, and talks on wine and other food related goodies.  Exhibitors of produce and services set up booths showing off their product, often offering samples and show discounts.  The kids had a ball trying things out, from the likes of Goulbourn Valley Flavoured Milks, Fruit Squeezies, chocolate mousse, macadamia nuts, breads and spreads, to vegetable chips, sausages, and we were even given a tub of Philadelphia.. cream?!  We also grabbed lunch here just prior to mad lunch hour, enjoying our corn on the cob, some fish and chips, and munching on $2 Coon Cheese toasties. (The $3.50 coffee was pretty awful though, sigh.... yet again we have been spoilt by all the great coffee in Melbourne!)

The animal nursery provided lots of entertainment, where the kids got to hold chickens, pat lambs and calves and other farm animals.  We also checked out less common farmed animals like the camels and alpacas outside. 

Then we saw a presentation on cats, and checked out the dogs, watching this beautiful one get prepped for his turn at being judged.

There are regular meet-and-greets by characters like Elmo, Fifi and the Cast of Rio.
We ran into the Big M Dude and Dudette giving out cups of milk from their backpacks.
Checking out the crafts and food for judging is always an enjoyable part of the Show for me.  We spotted some awesome entrants to the cake decorating section this year, with an iPhone cake and a Pineapple-Under-the-Sea (Go Spongebob!) cake capturing our attention.

Then of course there are plenty of things for kids and parents to spend their money on.  My kids could not go past the huge amount of freshly spung Fairy Floss on a stick for $4.50. 
The endless game parlours with all their impossibly hard to get prizes.  I admit I have never won one of those giant toys in my whole life!

And rides, rides, rides!  I loved taking photos of them, and the kids enjoyed a spin on a really fast Merry-Go-Round.

Then of course there are the stars of the show for the kidlets - the Showbags.  I'm not a point-and-you-will-get-it type of mummy, so they got their choice of one showbag each before we left.  All in all I think they had a pretty great time.  All off to sleep now so I can blog!

EatPlayShop Says : A great day out for the family, if only to let Mummy relive her childhood and have an excuse to check out the showbags and indulge in fairy floss (all for the sake of the kids of course!).  Hubby's advice - bring a spare T-shirt in case one of the many Melbournian seagulls decide to poop on you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eat. @ Taste of Melbourne 2011

Royal Exhibition Building, 15-18 September 2011

So I'm pretty slow in getting this post up on the blog.  Unfortunately the Gang and I have all been hit by various illnesses this week so I haven't been up to blogging about food, but here it is - my take on the kid-friendly experience of The Taste of Melbourne Event 2011.

For those not familiar with the event, it is essentially an exhibition of food and wine by restaurants and providores in the industry to display, demonstrate, sell, and let you sample their wares.  As I explained it to Little One, it's kind of like the Royal Melbourne Show food Hall, but with fancier food.  The mainstay of the event involve well known restaurants in the Melbourne dining scene offering up to 3 dishes each (usually, but not always, an entree, main and a dessert), scattered amongst displays of goods as varied as wines, cooking equipment, chocolates, produce and cheeses.  There are also cooking demonstration, talks by renowned chefs, "classes" in cocktail and coffee making and more.  The currency of the event are "crowns", which are equivalent to the Australian dollar, and can be bought at the venue as well as prior to the event.  The entry fee is $30 per adult excluding food, although there are quite a lot of competitions for tickets and 2-for-1 offers around before the event.  The Taste of Melbourne is held at the Royal Exhibition Building over 4 days and attract many visitors, local and afar, for this unique taste experience.

We previously came to The Taste of Melbourne 2 years ago.  Last year we had to give it a miss, as giving birth to Bubs at the event might not have been very savoury for anyone involved, and this year we decided to take Little One along for the experience.  We never took notice that this is actually quite a kid friendly event!  Children aged 6-12 are charged $12  for admission and kids 5 and under for free.

First up we watched Alvin from Masterchef cook a Malaysian dish, while he "dished" goss on his Masterchef experience.  Little One was quite star-struck to have a photo taken with him.

The first thing we bought with our crowns was the KFC "Fried chicken" from St Katherine's.  This was highly recommended and indeed lived up to its reputation.  Very tasty, slightly spicy, Little One only had a small piece due to the spice but it was a great starter for us.

The Carpaccio of Farmed Barramundi with peas, mint and wasabi sorbet from Esposito and St Peter's was another winner.  Fresh, healthy and sustainable, Chef Maurice Esposito's entree dish was also a good size.  Delicious!  None for Little One who's not ready for raw fish yet.

Little One loved the Slow Cooked Suckling Lamb, Pearl Barley Salad and Truffled Pecorino from Sarti.  Delicious and very easy on the palate for the Little One.

The Botanical's Wagyu Burger was much anticipated by Hubby.  While it was pleasant it did not turn out to be spectacular.  He was disappointed to report that it was "nothing special".

The Pulled Pork Panini from The Kitchen Cat gave us mixed emotions.  The panini was way too tough and it was quite difficult to eat it with any decorum.   However the pulled pork was cooked perfectly.  In the end, eating it "deconstructed" was the way to go.

In contrast the Grilled Pork and Fennel Slider with Mustard Mayo from The Stokehouse was a surprise winner.  The slightly sweet brioche bun worked well with the flavours of the pork and the mayo.  The great texture and taste made us want to go back for another!

Being non drinkers with a child, we were pleased to find that Nudie Foods and Murray Valley Citrus both offered non alcoholic drinks, and were ultra-friendly with Little One.  After hearing the praise for Rekorderlig Cider from people we know I tried the Pear Flavour.  This was indeed very nice and easy to drink, even for a near-teetotaller like me!

Having done very well in trying nearly everything we got, Little One was eager for dessert.  We grabbed a couple of mini ice-creams from Gundowring Ice-Cream.  Kid-friendly?  Oh most definitely yes!

We would've liked to sample some of the awesome sounding desserts on offer from the restaurants but unfortunately had to leave as one of the kiddies at home was sick (and so began our week of illness!)  I used up our left over crowns on some little tubs of Gundowring Ice-Cream to go, and also some Ice-Cream Sandwiches from Pat and Stick's.

The Gorgeous REB beautifully lit up at night. 
Oh how I used to dread coming here for exams!

Eat.Play.Shop.Says : The Taste of Melbourne is a surprisingly great event to take kids, perhaps more enjoyable for the older ones.  I certainly had a great time showing and watching Little One try some different and interesting foods.  This is an annual event, so maybe you can plan ahead for next year - if the night sessions are too late there are also lunch time sessions on Thursday through to Sunday!