Review: Relish India, Surry Hills

“We need to start making time for each other again,” I declared to K. We were so busy at the end of last year with preparing for the wedding and the holiday season, that our regular ‘date nights’ slowly fell by the wayside as they were given up for dinners at home so that we could get more planning and preparation done at home. Quality, one-on-one conversations in an environment where we could focus only on each other became sparse as our time was consumed with conversations about booking cars, cakes, and wedding logistics.

Our first attempt at rejuvenating some quality one-on-one time came with a dinner at Relish India on Cleveland St in Surry Hills, a vegetarian restaurant. I had managed to score a Daily Deal voucher that entitled us to two Indian thali platters with drinks, for a mere $19. What a bargain!

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We started off with some complimentary nibbles, which weren’t even originally included in our deal. Made up of a mix of chutney and crunchy fried chickpea crumbs on a pappadum, these morsels were very more-ish and it was hard to stop at just two.

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We got glasses of lassi to go with our meal as well. This lassi was quite a bit sweeter than I expected, especially as it hadn’t been flavoured with fruit at all. This sweeter flavour actually meant that it paired particularly well with the thali plate to come, as it helped to counteract some of the spicier curries included with the meal.

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Now this was the first time I had actually had a thali plate, and I was very impressed by the variety of the different components included on the platter. There was a healthy serve of soft naan bread, along with a large crispy just-fried pappadum and some fragrant steamed basmati rice. My two favourite elements on the platter were probably the small pieces of Indian style pickles – coated with a spice mix that goes right up your nose and really makes your eyes start watering with the intensity of the chilli – and the sweet gulab jaman for dessert, soaked in sweet sugar syrup.

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With three curries and one daal on the platter, there was plenty of different options to sample from. In my younger, more naive days, I always thought that there couldn’t be much variation in “vegetarian curries” – how wrong I was! I think my pick of the bunch here was probably the creamy mildly spiced paneer curry. The creaminess and richness of the curry was definitely the highlight feature – so often, I find that curries are a little bit thin, and really need the addition of a spoonful of creamy yoghurt or similar to thicken it up.

Overall, It was disappointing to see the restaurant so quiet on the night that we were there. Given, it was only a Wednesday night, but I would have hoped to see more than three tables and a handful of takeaway orders in the one and a half hours that we were there. I know Maya Da Dhaba is popular for Indian food in that area, but I highly suggest that you consider visiting Relish India the next time you’re after quality vegetarian thali plates in Surry Hills!

Relish India on Urbanspoon


Review: Gibe African Restaurant, Dandenong

As part of my commitment to helping my father expand his culinary experience, we visited Gibe African Restaurant in Dandenong on one of our last nights in Melbourne over the Christmas holidays. I’d been to Gibe a number of times before with friends when I was still living in Melbourne, and it was one of my stand-out “hidden gem” restaurants.

It doesn’t look like much from both the outside and inside too. But while the decor is sparse, service is friendly and comes with a smile, and food is plentiful, delicious and heart-warming. It’s a central meeting place for the local Ethiopian community as well, with many people coming in for a drink and a chat before moving on.

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I described injera bread to my father as being “kind of like a pancake but not sweet”. While it’s perhaps not the best descriptor (blame my small Cantonese vocabulary), it was enough to get my dad interested. I personally like the spongy texture of injera, as well as the slightly tangy sour taste to it as well.

I found this note on injera on their website interesting though:

“Injera”, our staple bread, is a flat bread made of “Teff”, a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. But due to the luck of teff in Australia we made injera from the mixture of different grains floor like wheat, sorgam and selfaris floors.

I wonder what proper teff-based injera tastes like, if our Australian versions aren’t authentic?

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With three of us dining (my father, K and I), we chose to order three dishes and a side salad – a meat combination (Beyayinetu Yefisge Watt), vegetarian combination (Yetsome Beyayinetu) and chicken dish (Yedorro Tibs). The meal comes with unlimited injera, and a side of rice for the chicken as well.

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My favourite out of the meat combination was probably the Ziginy/Yesiga Watt Key, an extremely rich and thick beef stew that came with chunks of meat on the bone. The stew had that kind of spicy more-ishness that made me want to continue soaking up the stew with my injera.

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I also really enjoyed the vegetable blend in that day’s Aticlt Watt – vegetables cooked in mild Ethiopian spices. The cabbage and carrot in that day’s blend was a fantastic mix of crisper cabbage texture that soaked up the spices, and sweeter bursts of soft carrots.

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Dad was a big fan of the Yedorro Tibs – chicken pan-fried with green capsicum, onions and tomatoes. While it sounds like a simple dish, the smokiness of the chicken belied the fact that it was pan-fried. I would have imagined it to be smoked over charcoal for hours in order to achieve that delectable smokiness of flavour.

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With the richness of flavour of some of the other dishes we ordered, a simple refreshing salad was a nice change in order to rest and cleanse our palates. You can’t go past a cucumber, tomato and iceberg lettuce salad with a simple tangy vinaigrette for simplicity’s sake.

At under $80 for the three of us, with a few drinks on the bill as well, Gibe African Restaurant offers amazing food, at amazing prices. The only reason I can come up with for why it isn’t more popular than it is, is simply based on location. Dandenong has a bit of a reputation, but if you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone and travel outside of the hip inner suburbs, there’s a wealth of delicious eating to be discovered!

Gibe African Restaurant on Urbanspoon


2014 Family Christmas Lunch and a Recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Turducken

Christmas. A time for overindulgence in food, family connection leading to family squabbles, and finally, vows to never see your family again.

…I kid! Since moving to Sydney a few years ago, I now find myself really cherishing the time I get to spend with my family. Every minute you spend back at the family home becomes increasingly precious, because no matter how many phone calls or FaceTime connections you make, it’s never quite the same.

While our original plans had been to spend Christmas Day in Sydney with K’s family before driving to Melbourne on Boxing Day, we changed our minds when my father was unexpectedly called back to Hong Kong just before Christmas when my uncle passed away. Not wanting my brother to have to spend the holidays alone, we drove down early and spent the holiday together as a family with my cousins.

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We hosted Christmas lunch, and decided to follow a sample Christmas menu offered on Taste.com.au. First up – Green Beans with Cherry Vinaigrette Dressing. This was a great hit with everyone, as the sweet cherries combined with the tart lemon vinaigrette really helped to enhance the fresh crunchy beans. Note – this dish doesn’t reheat that well for leftovers the next day, so it’s best to make a smaller amount and eat it all on the same day!

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Next – Charred Capsicum and Zucchini with Goat’s Cheese. This one doesn’t look quite as pretty as in the picture as we ended up using a serving bowl that was probably too small for its purpose, so the presentation wasn’t ideal. It also made it a bit harder for people to dig through to the base to get the goat’s cheese dressing. I recommend serving this dish in a larger, flat serving platter rather than in a bowl. Note – the goat’s cheese cream is delicious, and I would happily just have that on toast with a crack of black pepper!

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Crispy Parmesan Potatoes also made it onto the menu. We enhanced the recipe with some duck fat that we had rendered off our next dish, which really made the cheesy roast potatoes super rich and crispy. I’d definitely make this dish again!

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The piece de resistance – a Turducken! We didn’t follow a recipe for this and pretty much made it up. Taking the easy way out, we chose to only use the breast meat from each bird (chicken, duck, turkey), rather than the whole body which would have been too hard to manage. At the same time, because we were concerned about only using the leaner breast meat which might dry out in the oven, we decided to wrap the whole thing in fatty bacon, to help keep the meat moist.

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And it worked! The turducken was delightfully moist and tender, and the roulade-style shape that we opted for stayed together even after we cut the string that had been holding it together. The half jar of leftover pesto that we added to the centre of the roulade at the very last minute was a stroke of genius as well. Many thanks to my amazing husband K who took primary responsibility for this dish as I tend to get a bit squeamish about touching raw meat!

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My brother’s a keen amateur baker/dessert maker, and he took responsibility for making these Christmas Pudding Truffles. Without any glace cherries on hand as recommended by the recipe, he used some fresh cherries instead to top the truffles which I think worked really well! These are very rich though – one would be more than sufficient for most people….okay, maybe two!

It’s months ago now, but how was your Christmas? Did you spend it with your family?

Recipe: Bacon-wrapped Turducken Roulade

Ingredients

  • One chicken breast
  • One duck breast
  • One turkey breast
  • One small jar of pesto sauce
  • One packet of long middle bacon
  • Melted butter for basting
  • Kitchen string for wrapping

Method

  • Flatten and tenderise each piece of poultry breast. I do it by using the back of a meat cleaver.
  • Cut out lengths of string and lay it out across your chopping board.
  • Lay out strips of bacon length-wise along your chopping board, going the same way as your lengths of string.
  • Lay out the flattened turkey breast on top of the bacon strips. Baste with a thin layer of butter.
  • Lay out the flattened duck breast on top of the turkey breast. Baste with a thin layer of butter.
  • Lay out the flattened chicken breast on top of the duck breast. Spread the pesto over the chicken breast.
  • Wrap up everything carefully, ensuring that the turkey entirely covers the duck and chicken breast, and that the bacon is sufficiently wrapped around the turkey.
  • Tie up your lengths of string to ensure that everything is held together tightly. Baste with butter.
  • Cook for two hours at 200 degrees, or until cooked through. Check regularly.
  • Rest for at least half an hour before carving up the turducken for a delicious Christmas lunch.

Enjoy!