The quick and the dirty – hummus!

There’s a million ways to spell it and a million ways to eat it. But there’s only one way to think about it, and that is that hummus is delicious. I was recently in a supermarket, looking at the dips section and was shocked to see all of these random ingredients in what should be such a simple food! Emulsifiers, stabilisers, preservatives… Making dip at home is a bloody easy, bloody delicious and bloody cheap way to get around all of this malarky!

Here’s a super quick recipe idea to use up that random can of chick peas you’ve had in the back of your cupboard for the past 5 years.

You will need:
– 1 can of chick peas, drained
– the juice of 1-1.5 lemons
– a few teaspoons of tahini
– olive oil (a couple of tablespoons)
– salt and pepper
– a little water

It may look like I’ve been a little vague on the quantities here, but that’s the point! Make it to suit your taste. I, for one, am a fan of lemony, tahini-y hummus but others might absolutely hate that sesame residue.

Step 1 – whirlwind tour: Get your best looking blender out on the bench. Tip in your can of chick peas, start with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lemon, along with 4 teaspoons of tahini. Add a generous couple of pinches of salt and pepper and whiz’er up. I found it helpful to add in a couple of tablespoons of water, just to get everything to blend to a nice, smooth paste. From here, it’s one of those add-a-little-bit-of-this, add-a-little-bit-of-that kind of things. I went for another half-lemon’s worth of juice and a couple more teaspoons of tahini. I also added a tiny bit more olive oil and water to smooth things out. Blend until it’s all smooth and creamy and then smear it on bread, have it with falafel, eat it with a spoon, have it with some salad or barbequed meat… whatevs! Will keep for around about a week. If separation occurs, just stir it back up 🙂

If this gets too boring for you, have a go with chucking into the blender some roasted capsicum, or some olives!

Spread me!

Spread me!

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Vargabar, Newtown

It is an obvious consequence of having recently moved to Newtown, that my goal was going to have to be slowly, but surely, working my way down each and every restaurant along King St. The effort so far has been gallant, but when the opportunity came up to have a leisurely brunch catchup, I eagerly took it with two hands and a drooling mouth.

Slightly off the main drag, our chosen spot was Vargabar Espresso, Newtown. Absolutely tiny spot, with coffees popping out of a busy takeaway window, and patrons spilling onto the street – can’t be a bad sign. We luckily nabbed one of the last tables towards the back of the cafe and started with a latte (I’m pretty sure it was a latte…though it did look more like a flat white. I hear they also roast their own beans) ($3.50) and a home-made chai latte ($3.80). I hear their coffee is organic and fair trade; I can only speak for my chai, but despite looking like one of those ordinary syrupy blundering messes, this was a delicious, spicy, not too rich, packed full of flavour winner of a chai.

But most importantly, the brunch. My dining friend and I both went for the corn fritters with bacon, two poached eggs, spinach and spoked chilli sauce ($16.50), although there were a great number of delicious-looking treats on the brunch menu (breakfast burrito, pesto scrambled eggs, braised pork breakfast bruschetta and baked eggs to name a few…). I was quite impressed. The fritters were packed full of corn and quite flavoursome. I did think they could have done with a little more cooking, both to add a little more colour and to overcome the ever so slightly doughy texture that remained. Nevertheless, pretty delicious. The bacon was plentiful, the spinach was…spinach. The eggs were poached perfectly and runny (with none of that gross vinegar taste), and the whole dish was topped off with a nice little chilli kick at the end. Whether it was actually “smoked” or not does remain open to debate.

I fritter this will be delicious (get it?)

I fritter this will be delicious (get it?)

I used the excuse of it being a warm start to the morning to indulge in a very tasty and very refreshing pineapple, mango and passionfruit frappe ($6). Served in a large mason jar, it was plentiful, had sporadic chunks of fruit and was just bloody good, really.

Like a snow party in my mouth

Like a snow party in my mouth

Vargabar has a great, friendly atmosphere and some pretty delicious-looking morsels on its menu. It doesn’t skimp on creativity in the drinks department either, which creations like maple lattes, cherry ripe hot chocolates and banana walnut chai milkshakes). And they claim that everything is home made. Although it was very busy, our food and drinks arrived fairly quickly and despite being a small spot, it can accommodate a surprising number of people. Definitely keen to head back on the guise of “catching up with friends” for more brunch!

Vargabar Espresso
10 Wilson St
Newtown NSW 2042

Food? 9/10
Drinks? 10/10
Atmosphere? 9/10

Vargabar Espresso on Urbanspoon

Cafe con Leche, Surry Hills

It’s a rare and special thing when an unpretentious, non-hip, non-ironic noshery comes up in Surry Hills. It’s been there for a while, I believe, and it was a welcome and delicious surprise one leisurely morning (a little while ago now!). I was fortunate enough to have a leisurely hour to spend in the tiny (but very popular) Cafe con Leche on Fitzroy Street in Surry Hills.

Their claim to fame is being Colombian. So, of course, despite offerings of lattes and flat whites and Sonoma muesli, fruit salad and eggs on toast, I had to go for the most South American items on the menu. I guess I was looking confused, as the nice chap behind the counter recommended the arepas. I bloody love arepas, having only recently discovered them on my visit to Fairfield a little while back. What is better than arepas con queso? It’s basically liquid cheese running through a thick corn pancake and it’s freakin’ fantastic. For about $11 or so, I had a plate of two arepas – one being con queso, and the other being with little chunks of corn running through, and all the trimmings. Super cute little plate-lets of guacamole, salsas, pulled pork and sour cream. Simple, but effective, sufficient in quantity, and altogether delicious. Could’ve done with a litttttle more spice in the salsas – but if that’s my only complaint, then that ain’t half bad.

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For drinks, I obviously couldn’t go past HOT CHOCOLATE WITH CHEESE. With. Cheese. I’d had this thought that it was obviously going to be some form of cream cheese / cottage cheese / something that looks vaguely soluble. But no, it was actual slices of cheese. It was weird…. The hot chocolate, itself, was great. It was rich and dark and not too sweet – just how I like my men. I mean…my hot chocolate. And it was served in a cool, funky looking little cup, with a stick in it. Now to the cheese. It didn’t really melt. I’m not sure if it was because the hot chocolate wasn’t burningly hot….or if that’s the point and the cheese isn’t meant to melt. Either way, it essentially resulted in me ending each sip of the delicious liquid with a small piece of cheese dribbling down my chin. Not my most attractive moment. It didn’t taste BAD…it was just weird.

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Despite my cheese debarcle, I had a great little relaxing brunch at Cafe con Leche. Luckily, being a week day, it wasn’t packed as it seems when I’ve walked past it a few times on Saturday mornings. There were many locals coming in for a takeaway coffee – so I assume their brew is pretty good! The staff were super nice and attentive (and didn’t look at me like I was a total idiot when I stared at the menu, bewildered). The menu isn’t lengthy, but it’s considered and from my experience, it tastes great and is reasonably priced. I hope I have another free weekday morning some time, some day, to head back there again.

Cafe con Leche
104 Fitzroy St, Surry Hills

Food? 9 out of 10
Drinks? 8 out of 10. A delicious hot chocolate and interesting with a Columbian twist. I hear the coffee is good, but other than that, pretty stock-standard
Atmosphere? 8 out of 10. Small and cute – could be cramped on a busy day – but with some cute little “Colombian-feeling” touches.

Cafe con Leche on Urbanspoon

Lemon meringue cupcakes: the blog returns

Life. It was life that got in the way of me, that old chestnut. Moving house…well, look that’s actually my only excuse and that was completed in a weekend. So where has the rest of the time gone? Who knows…

Anyway, I’m back! Back with a cheeky little afternoon tea treat I made a couple of weekends ago. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the gift of a blowtorch from my wonderful parents a while ago. I also had a frustrating amount of egg whites lying around from tales of creme brulee past. What better way to kill two birds with the one stone than to whack up a batch of lemon meringue cupcakes!

You will need:
for the cupcakes…
– 125g butter (make sure it’s a little bit soft)
– 140g caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– the zest of a lemon
– 1 tsp vanilla paste/essence/whatever you’ve got
– 200g self raising flour
– 100g almond meal
– 1/3 of a cup of milk

for the lemon curd
check this one out. It’s not too sweet and REALLY lemony: http://marmadukescarlet.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/lemon-and-lime-curd.html

for the meringue…
– 4 egg whites
– 200g caster sugar

Step 1 – cupcake kingdom: start by lining a muffin tray (it’ll make around 12 muffins). Also whack your oven up to about 180 degrees. Cream together your butter and sugar, along with the lemon zest. Then add your vanilla. When this is all pale and creamy, add in the eggs, one by one. Beat pretty thoroughly after each addition. Then, add a bit of the flour and almond meal and a bit of the milk – in alternate batches until it’s all combined. Bake these bad boys for around about 20 minutes, but check after 15 for a nice golden, springy finish. Get them out on a cooling rack for a while.

Step 2 – fill ‘er up: while the cupcakes are baking, make your lemon curd. Set it to cool – and even put it in the fridge for a little while to let it thicken. When your cupcakes have cooled a little, cut a little divot out of the top – maybe a 3/4 of an inch deep – and spoon in about a teaspoon of your curd. Proceed to eat the little bits of cupcake you have cut out as a “taste test”.

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Step 3 – is that a cumulus cloud: crack out those forearms that you’ve been working on for so long. Get your egg whites into a clean, dry, non-oily bowl. Did you know you can freeze egg whites? Well, you can. I did, for three weeks, in a little sandwich bag. Anyway, quit thinking and start whisking. Get them to stiff peaks and then add your sugar in three or four batches. You really want to make this as firm as you can, because it doesn’t get “cooked” per se. Once you’re happy and you’ve done the bowl-upside-down-over-the-head trick, either spoon or pipe on your meringue on top of the lemon curd-filled cupcakes.

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Now get that blow torch cranking. Gently torch the meringue so you get those nice little caramelise-y bits on top. Devour like a ravenous lion.