Baking: Chocolate Cupcakes

Awaking all of a sudden at 4am this morning, I decided to bake a batch of choccy cupcakes for the mum’s class. 

Today’s assembly day and the assembly is themed as part of NAIDOC celebrations at the school. I did cupcakes in red, yellow, green, and blue cupcake liners to reflect the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.

The cupcakes are iced with a choccy buttercream. Really happy with how they have turned out and I hope the students like them!

Recipe

Cupcakes
250g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups SR flour
2/3 cups cocoa
1 1/3 cups milk (tepid)

Cream butter and sugar well, until light and almost white. Add eggs. Cream very well. Add sifted flour and cocoa, and the milk. Fold through. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes in small lined cupcake tins at 150°C.

Buttercream
100g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tbsp milk – adjust

Mix butter, sugar, and cocoa. Cream thoroughly. Add milk. Less is best, adjust accordingly. Pipe.

This recipe makes great chocolate cupcakes and the ingredients won’t break the bank.

Trio of Cheeses at Toastface Grillah, Wellington St

To be honest before I ended up making a visit to this place for lunch, it was a ‘skip over’ place in my head. 

**

Hear me out. Toastface is in an alleyway. With bins—skip bins at that and from that I take that they should be skipped​ over, if you’ll pardon the pun. With graffiti on the walls. 

Thoughts of the most pleasant things aren’t exactly what come to mind. 

As a twenty-something female living in a first world country, in one of the safest cities, who’s fortunate to never have met with the nefarious or had an encounter with the untoward, I can’t explain it. Feelings are irrational. Logic and reasoning often don’t factor in—and when they do, no amount of explaining makes it better.

Alleyways are a subset of the fear basket the subconscious flags as ‘avoid’. Alleys together with unlit passageways, confronting-looking faces, creepy things, and things that emanate a vibe that something’s off, get thrown into this pile. 

Because the possibility of a threat is something to  avoid. Heck, people devote their lives to becoming experts on risk avoidance and risk management. It is pretty much the work of unoptimistic psychics: they predict what could happen in the future and then they put life plans in place to avoid possible unfavorable darkness.

There are plenty of examples. Release of convicted criminals into the community may depend on the outcomes of an assessment of risk, recidivism, and their ability to meet tightly controlled conditions of release. Scissors are banned from being carried in hand luggage. The content of scary movies is ninety percent foreshadowing, suspense-building, and false alarms, and avoidance of the threat—and ten percent actual interactions with the threat, if that. It’s a win for movie-goers and -makers. The idea that a blue steak might have unkilled bacteria has a great deal of people avoiding anything under a medium. Perceived and possible threats can be as impactful as actual threats.

My point is that alleyways are an example of how the feeling of safety can be impinged upon by things that aren’t obvious. It is like a rug: one that doesn’t have the weight of furniture to stop it slipping, a rug that can be pulled out from under at any moment. Everything can be fine then something—a thought, a thing that becomes noticed—can threaten the sense of safety in a space. It need not be of the severity of a bomb threat. It may just be in a need-to-be-extra-vigilant kind of way. Both are impacts; both somewhere on the spectrum.

Safety and fear I would suggest are highly individual feelings. We live in a world that is analogous to a great, big videogame. Although perhaps that’s too self-referential to work as an analogy, more like the other way around—videogamesmitate life. We are each brought to life endowed with certain attibutes—strength, dexterity, health, wisdom, personality, conscientiousness, and so forth. The list of pre-determined characteristics and  predispositions goes on.

We each experience life as ‘player one’ in the game. Uniqueness of the individual journey is true in every sense: no two lives are exactly the same, and we react and respond to our immediate environment. And in my case, that includes sometimes bypassing places like this for no other reason than because they’re sorted into some basket, as autonomously as the whites, and the greys and blues, go into different laundry baskets. 

I guess all that came to mind when I had this toasty. Huh.

**

Anyhoo, on to Toastface. 

Like any good joint the venue is greasy; the type of greasiness that comes with the greasy smell that gets absorbed into clothing. Beware sitting for extended periods right outside the grill window.

The toasties clearly keep it simple and the one I had was great. 

I watched the dude go about the making of the toasty. I will now reveal the secrets of achieving the toasty: 

  1. Generously butter both sides of normal, supermarket white bread. By generously, I mean go crazy with the butter. No wonder it tasted so good.
  2. From the relevant box of Tupperware, grab a big dollop of whatever filling is ordered. 
  3. Spread on insides of the bread.
  4. Put together the slices and whack it on the grill. 
  5. Grill until it’s a proper brown.

Ta da! There was one other thing. I’m not sure which step it comes under. It has to do with the rosemary-ness, herbiness of the outerside of the bread. They must either use a herby butter or roll the buttered bread in a herb mix. Either way, it gives the bread this unique flavour. Yum.

Taste verdict This was great tasting stuff. It is seriously artery-clogging material.

⭐⭐3/4

Salty Sweet Siesta: Ice-Cream Churro Bowl, San Churros, Victoria Park

Dessert was churros at San Churros Victoria Park.

Perusing the menu churro bowl ‘Salty Sweet Siesta’ $13.95 was decided. The best thing about this dessert was sliced banana. Churros, ice-cream, and banana do go well together. The churros were a little fiddly to eat with the one long-handled dessert spoon. Cutting into dessert required extra care: it was a challenge not to send the churro bowl flying.

Expectation vs Reality: 

Taste verdict It was a nice dessert. But salt, just detectable and ice-cream seeped-in Churros aren’t crunchy enough for me. Eh, original Churros win me over.

⭐⭐1/2

Afghani Chicken, Lamb Kebab, Butter Chicken, Royal Goat and Other Curries at Citrus Indian Restaurant, Leeming

Sunday night dinner was at a local Indian place I’d been wanting to try for a while: Citrus Indian Restaurant.

Complimentary papadums, $2, arrived. They came warm with a mild, onion chutney. 

It wasn’t a busy night. Out of the kitchen came food for the two tables before us and a few UberEats orders.

An hour later, the entrées, two sizzling plates, arrived in smoking hot style. 

The Afghani chicken, ‘chicken fillets marinated in mild spices of saffron, lemon juice, garlic, smoke roasted in a tandoor’, $16, was a highlight. Tender chicken thigh had been beautifully grilled, keeping the moisture. It came with a cool mint yoghurt dipping sauce. Fragrant with lemon and the smokiness of the tandoor, it was a dish that excited then left you wanting more. And by more I mean like a big bucket of it. The Afghani chicken I crown winner of the night.

The lamb Seekh kebab ‘succulent lean lamb mince with cumin, fresh coriander, ginger, garlic spices on a skewer grilled on charcoals’, $16 was like a skinless, lamb sausage. Tasty, but ordinary.

Twenty minutes later came the main courses: two vegetarian curries, two meat curries, and one seafood curry.

Aloo mutter, ‘a refreshing potato and pea curry cooked with tomato and onion sauce’ $14, was a thinner curry, not mushy at all, and the vegetables cooked so they retained their shape. The strongest notes were of tomato. The tomato is the flavour I’d mutter about, favourably so, if asked.

Palak paneer, ‘paneer cooked with spinach, ginger, tomato and spices’ $16 was cheese done in a very visibly spinachy curry. The paneer were bocconcini-like in taste, but cubed, soft and light. Highly pleasant and frankly perfect rubbed in the green curry. It was a pity the portion of paneer was as paltry as it was. That is to say that because of the pure and piquent flavours exemplified by this dish, it was my pick for the particularly pleasing dish of the day. 

Butter chicken, I had to order: it’s the litmus test of a good Indian restaurant. The butter chicken ‘tender pieces of tandoori chicken tikka engulfed in an aromatic tomato cream sauce’, $18, was a thicker orange curry that was nice but presented like a Pataks base with a few spices. The curry was exceedingly mild, it was as if toned down to be acceptable to some wildly mistaken idea of the Western palate. What I can only imagine was a misguided attempt to make Indian flavours more palatable, presented as overzealous innocuity​ on a plate. 

As we travelled further down Citrus lane, it seemed unexciting and bland was a running theme. Where were the popping flavours of spices, fried and aromatic? Where was the chilli, or hints of chilli? The strong, knockout kick of aromatic spices? Did I mention the spices? Where was the part where I’d be in tears at how good the food was—or if I cared to admit because I’d not been able to handle the heat? There was a lot right but also a lot missing.

Royal Goat Curry ‘goat meat on the bone cooked with tomato, onion and aromatic spices’, $20 was a royal display of how to cook meat so it is tender but doesn’t fall of the bone. As alluded to just prior, the meat was in fact of an appropriate level of tenderness and, for what it’s worth, the meat did not fall off the bone. As a dish, it was again very tomato-y and again lacking in aromatics. It was suffering from the same unfounded repression as the butter chicken. Why were they subduing the spices? This was a goat curry, but it was unfortunately far from a G.O.A.T (that’s greatest of all time) curry.

Prawn malabar, ‘prawns cooked with fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds in a mild flavoured creamy sauce’ $24 was another adequate dish that  lacked the X Factor. Creamy coconut coated just-cooked prawns in a joyous combo of seafood and curry. It was another dish that could have stood on its own. Along with a bowl of steaming hot rice, this would have been a great dinner. The dish was good enough: had it been an act on the X Factor, it would made it through to the next round.

Steamed basmati rice and plain naan accompanied us on the Indian food safari. Both were like the sightseers who’d found no reason to leave the safari van: they stayed nice and comfortable and safe, but probably didn’t make the best use of the trip. The rice and naan were served almost at room temperature, and the room, because the sliding door kept sliding open and close, was not warm.

The Chai tea I ordered didn’t arrive. Upon settling the bill, I mentioned this to the cashier—who had also been our waiter for the night and who was also the manager of the place. He said ‘sorry about that’ then asked if I’d like it taken off the bill. ‘Yes, can you take that off the bill’ was my dumbfounded reply. It was very concerning that he had to ask. Service throughout the night had been okay—acceptable, not unfriendly but not friendly either; Citrus needs to get staff with customer-service know-how.

Overall, Citrus does good food. It is well worth a visit. One thing I neglected to mention is that the venue is wonderfully spick and span: I imagine that Citrus would be up there with the best clean local restaurants if there was such a list. The set tables speak of attention to detail, and care for cleanliness and presentation. In terms of quality, Citrus brings it: there’s no doubt that the food is delicious. My only major gripe is I wish they would showcase Indian flavours a bit more. I wish they didn’t ‘go light’ on spices that are a cornerstone of Indian cuisine. Citrus needs to hero the richness of aromatic sauces, fragrance underscored by heat that warms the entire palate, and the uniqueness of the Indian cuisine. It also needs some bubbly front of house staff. If that happens, this place will go from good to awesome.

Taste verdict More drama in the dishes needed. Delicious food that needs to start heroing Indian cuisine.

⭐⭐⭐

Compared to the last Indian place we went, I have to say Kauphy trumps Citrus. The Kauphy does not have as aesthetically polished a restaurant as Citrus, but what it lacks, it makes up for in flavour. They also have bubbly front of house staff at Kauphy, if that’s the swinging vote.

Summer Sunset Burger at Grill’d, Brookfield Place

I can’t be the only person to pronounce Grill’d as ‘Grill D’ can I? It’s the pronunciation that I thought of the first time I saw the name of the burger chain and every time since then. I’m not sure why. ‘Grill D’ just seems right. Earlier this week, my obviously strange pronunciation made for a very amusing discussion with a colleague. Humour and a sprinkling of embarrassment came part and parcel, naturally. 

I have since decided to go with it. Where opportune, I’ll include it in conversation with nonchalence. Will more people notice? Time will tell on this little social experiment. 

Grill’d, as it happens, is currently running a promo for the World Cup. Every time the Socceroos score a goal, that’s one free drink with a purchase banked if you’re signed up to the offer. Not bad at all. 

Lunch at Grill’d was decided. I ordered the Summer Sunset ‘Grass fed lean beef, avocado, crispy bacon, charred pineapple, salad, relish & herbed mayo’ for $14, and of course scored my free drink. The drink is any from their chiller. I grabbed a lime bitters.

There was hardly a wait once they’d managed to sort the troubled cash register. 

The first thing I noticed when the burger arrived was how solid it was. The bread bun and ingredients were compact and robust. I kid you not, this burger was assembled with a remarkable level of structural integrity. In all the burgers I’ve had this year, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing such an exhibition. You could say I was more than impressed.

Tastewise, I couldn’t really have asked for more for the price. The seeded bun was a good quality bread. There was an abundance of fresh avocado and salad in every bite. The pineapple was a juicy addition. The patty was well-salted and grilled. The sauces were adequate. The entire offering was a thoughtful construction. It was simplicity executed well.

The venue was hip enough for the office crowd, cool enough for the cool cats, and loud enough to make lunch lively. The noise was good, a change from the staleness of the quiet office.

Expectation vs Reality: It did look fairly similar to the advertised picture… 

This burger exceeded expectations by a long shot. Grill’d grills a great burger. I’ll be back.

Taste verdict A burger place that is kicking goals.

⭐⭐⭐⭐