Valentines Day Heart Shaped Marshmallow Slice (makes 25-30)

This heart shaped slice is the perfect Valentine’s Day treat and with only 4 ingredients, it is so quick and easy to make.

I’d love to hear what your favourite Valentine’s Day treats are so please post below with what you would love to give or receive!

20140213_104709

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups rice bubbles or rice puffs
  • 3 cups pink and white marshmallows (generous cups)
  • 1 cup white chocolate melts
  • 3 Tbs butter

Method:

1. Measure out rice bubbles into a large mixing bowl.  Also grease a large flat and rectangular baking tray with butter.

20140213_101036

2. Melt butter, marshmallows and white chocolate over a medium heat until they begin to dissolve, stirring frequently to stop the mixture sticking to the pan.

20140213_101029

3. When marshmallows start to dissolve, add a couple of drops of pink food colouring. You can add as little or as much as you like to get the desired colour.  You could also use red, or, if you use only white marshmallows you can use blue, green, yellow or whatever colours you like!

20140213_101217

4. Stir in food colouring and mix (still on medium heat) until mixture is smooth.

20140213_101329

5.Pour mixture over rice bubbles and stir until they are fully covered then pour into the pre-greased baking tray.

20140213_102020

 

6. Press down until flat.  Leave to cool for about 10-15 minutes then turn over onto a greased board or flat surface.

20140213_103319

 

7. Use cookie cutters to cut the rice bubbles into shapes, pressing the mixture into the cutters before pushing them out.

20140213_104649

20140213_104715

8. Allow to cool further then enjoy! Slice will be sticky yet soft and chewy!

You can put a sheet of baking paper in a box and wrap them up, ready to give to your Valentine (or enjoy them yourself for a super sweet treat)!

Advertisements

Criniti’s Darling Harbour, ($$)

Criniti’s, Darling Harbour

Address: Shop 461, 2-10 Darling Drive, Harbourside Shopping Centre,  Darling Harbour NSW 2000

Phone: 1300274 648

Website: http://www.crinitis.com.au/

* * *

A half day at work meant the colleagues and I headed over to Darling Harbour (via monorail) for a day of food, drinks and bonding!

The monorail ride over was something different and as I hadn’t been on a monorail in a while. I thought that it was a great way to get another view of Sydney and although windows and building facades blocked the view some of the way, there was a fantastic view of QVB and Darling Harbour from the monorail.

If only the windows were cleaner and didn’t have pictures on them, we could actually see out of them better to take photos!

I can see why they are planning to take the monorail down this year- there weren’t many people on, the tickets are a little pricey considering you could walk the distance in the same time (it is quite slow), and it is hard to take photos out the window when there are stickers and pictures on them blocking the view.

That said, I wish they would have added it on to a hop on hop off bus price and use it as a bigger tourist attraction as it is definitely a unique part of Sydney.

Atmosphere

After our monorail trip, we walked over the Pyrmont Bridge to Harbourside shopping Centre.

As always, Criniti’s restaurants are very well presented. The decor is fabulous, taking you to Italy with the large woodfired pizza ovens, exposed brickwork and football jerseys.

1

The gorgeous view of Darling Harbour

On this occasion we visited during the day and sat outside. I had only ever been to Criniti’s at night so it was interesting to see what the place looked like by day.

There was plenty of bright light coming in from the balcony and while the restaurant wasn’t anywhere near as busy as it is at night, there were still quite a few tables of people around us.

Service

Service wasn’t as good as during the night. We had 2 waiters look after our table during our meal and, as we all ordered drinks and food at different times, some taking longer to peruse the menu than others (guilty!), there was some confusion over who had ordered and who had not.

Overall however, they were pleasant and professional.

Food

We all ordered a variety of things.

I went for the Chicken Skewers with Lemon & Herb seasoning. They were served with three delicious sauces which tasted like aioli, chilli and prego. They also came with a fresh half a lemon (I love lemon and the fact that they weren’t stingy with it!), and a large basket of chips which was more than enough for me.

The chicken was juicy and well-seasoned; the meat had really absorbed all the flavour of the marinade. The charred capsicum and onions added some smokiness and the crispy chips definitely hit the spot!

Despite the fact that this dish cost $36.90, which is a fair bit for a casual lunch, there was plenty of chicken in the dish, it was well-cooked, the chips were perfectly crunchy and well salted, and the sauces and dish were presented nicely on the plate. Definitely work the money!

7

8

Others in the group ordered a variety of things including:

Beetroot, pumpkin, goats cheese and walnut salad with grilled chicken $19.90 + $9.90 for the chicken

6

Pizzas from $26.50

5

The Prego Burger, $21.90

4

Chicken Schnitzel with chips and salad $33.90

3

Grilled chicken with side salad, $29.90

2

The consensus was that Criniti’s had fantastic portions, delicious food, and great presentation. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we left there very full!

Cost

All of our meals + soft drinks came to about $310.

Rating

Overall I would rate my dining experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6.5
  • Food- 8.5
  • Ambience- 6
  • Value – 7.5

Criniti’s Darling Harbour on Urbanspoon

Red & White Meringues (makes 16-17)

Looking for a different take on the usual summer pav? Or do you want a quick and easy dessert option which looks unique and Christmassy?

Well look no further, TCFB has your back!

This recipe was made using left over eggs from my mum’s annual Sri Lankan Christmas Cake. It is best to make it on a day that isn’t too humid as moisture could affect how they turn out.

I thought I would add some red food colouring to mix it up a little and also added almond flavouring for something different, but you can add whatever flavour you like (peppermint is popular too).

Try it out yourself and let me know how you go!

20131216_071057

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg whites, kept at room temperature
  • 3 cups caster sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • Red food colouring (or you could use green)
  • Almond essence (you could use any flavour you like)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 120C (fan forced).

2. Spray trays with olive oil.

3. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Add salt and beat with an electric mixer until “soft peaks” form (about 4-5 minutes).

4. Add half a cup of caster sugar then beat incorporate it into the egg white mixture.

5. Repeat step 4 until all the caster sugar is mixed in and “stiff peaks” form.

6. Add a bit of red food colouring and gently swirl it into the mixture (do not mix).

7. Dollop onto trays in large mounds.

20131215_203841

8. Bake in oven for about 50-60 minutes.

20131215_204036

9. Open oven door but leave the trays in there while the meringues cool.

20131216_071042

Barrafina, Wynyard ($$)

Address: Ground Floor, 2 Bligh Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9231 2551

Website: http://www.barrafina.com.au/barrafina-tapas-bar-location/

* * *

Barrafina tapas invited me and three guests to review the restaurant and try out their new menu.

I had been to Barrafina previously and while the food was tasty, service was quite disjointed and the portion sizes were not fantastic given the price.

This time around I was pleasantly surprised as our experience was much much better and we were impressed by how much things had changed.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere on this particular Wednesday was pretty good.

When we arrived around 6pm it was pretty quiet inside (outside was roaring with the sound of happy post-work diners). By the end of the evening however, the inside was packed out too and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. ??????????????????????????????? The decor is quite cute, and hadn’t changed much since I last visited.

There is a lot of yellow, grey and white furniture, which gives the place a very modern and funky atmosphere. The cute illustrations on the wall add some character and remind you that you are in a Spanish restaurant as it features wines, seafood and guitars. ??????????????????????????????? My Mum and I really liked the quaint little plants on the windowsill, which added a little colour and life to the place. ??????????????????????????????? Overall it is a very nice restaurant with lovely modern decor and a busy atmosphere.

Service

Service was great despite the fact that they were pretty busy, it being a Thursday night.

Our lovely waitresses Camilla and Paloma gave us each a menu and brought out some drinks.

Paloma suggested about 8 plates for 4 people, but we ended up ordering a bit more than that as there were so many new dishes to try. ??????????????????????????????? For drinks I had just a diet coke, as they did not have lemon lime bitters.

Mum and Nos, who dined with MC and I, wanted fresh juices but they only had bottled ones, so they settled for bottled apple and orange juices. ??????????????????????????????? MC ordered Estrella Dam, a Spanish lager which was recommended by Camilla. ??????????????????????????????? Estrella Dam, $8.50

Food

Food at Barrafina had improved a lot since I last visited with MDS.

Last time, MDS and I thought the food was tasty but not very well presented.

This time around, presentation was excellent. Every dish was plated up with flair and attention to detail.

The food was cooked well and was colourful and appealing to the eye.

We were served portions of four items per dish as there were four of us dining that evening.  However, Paloma informed me that most dishes usually have about three items each- something to remember if you decide to dine there- 3 or 6 people would be ideal.

We started off with a light and refreshing dish, the Yellow Fin Tuna.  This was a seared piece of tuna, which was glossy and beautiful in the middle and just cooked on the outside.  The outside had a coating of spices which made it crunchy and salty. There was also a delicious white peach dressing and chilli vinaigrette, and an olive tapenade on top. We all loved this dish and it was a lovely light way to start off the meal.

???????????????????????????????
Yellow Fin Tuna, $16.00
Next we enjoyed the Crisp Zucchini Flowers with Salted Cod Mayo.
Definitely the BEST zucchini flowers I have ever tasted, they were large, golden, crunchy and beautifully presented. The mayo was slightly fishy, but tasted a bit like aioli.
The zucchini stem was small and firm, yet cooked through, and the flowers were delicate and tasty.

??????????????????????????????? Zucchini flowers, $11.00

We asked for the Yamba King Prawns with lemon, confit garlic, chilli and micro herbs ($22.00), which sounded delicious. Unfortunately, they were out of prawns so we had to order something else.

Paloma brought out the Octopus, but after seeing the large tentacles, none of us were keen to try it.  It was nothing to do with the dish, but I just couldn’t fathom putting those little suckers anywhere near my face! ??????????????????????????????? Octopus

We decided to swap it for the Queensland Scallops with Chorizo and Sweetcorn Puree. This was a much better option, which we all enjoyed.

The scallops were slightly tough, just slightly, but the crispy chorizo and sweet, chunky corn puree were great with it.

Nos, who doesn’t eat pork, simply ate the scallops with the corn puree, and commented that she loved the texture and taste of the puree.  ??????????????????????????????? Queensland Scallops, $24.00

Next up were the Crispy Moroccan Cigars with, sheep’s feta, and charred eggplant puree.

The cigars were very crunchy and had a creamy taste from the sheep feta and a smoky taste from the eggplant puree, which tasted like baba ghanouj.

This is a delicious and tasty dish that I think everyone would enjoy. IMG_5651 Crispy Moroccan Cigars, $9.00

We then enjoyed the soft shell crab sliders. MDS and I had tried this previously but I liked them much much more this time.

The bread was sourdough and was soft and fresh. The crab wasn’t as crunchy as it could have been but was still delicious and salty, and I liked the addition of avocado. The harissa mayonnaise was tangy and sweet and the presentation was very cute. ??????????????????????????????? IMG_5655 Soft Shell Crab Slider, $9.00 

We enjoyed the Jamon Serrano and Manchego Cheese Croquetas with Tomato Salsa. Jamon Serrano is a Spanish cured and salted ham, similar to prosciutto, but made from a different breed of pig.

The croquettes were crispy and golden, almost perfectly round, and very nicely presented.

We enjoyed the creamy taste of the manchego and the little pork bits inside the croquettes. ??????????????????????????????? Croquettas, $10

On the recommendation of Paloma we tried the Beetroot Salad, a salad of gold beetroots, Spanish goats cheese, hazelnuts, sherry vinaigrette and baby beetroot puree.

The salad was vibrant and rich in flavour. The golden beetroot was a sweet and pumpkin-like vegetable which was lovely with the light and fluffy puree and tangy vinaigrette. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sheep’s cheese but there wasn’t too much of it in the dish. IMG_5664 IMG_5662 Beetroot Salad, $13.00

We moved on to the Wagyu Hanger Steak, a 5+ marble score piece of juicy meat, served with seasoned salt and herbs.

The steak was cooked medium-well (my preference) and came out perfectly cooked, juicy and succulent. The meat was already salted and didn’t need any of the salt on the plate. ??????????????????????????????? Wagyu steak, $22.00

After this feast, we shared two desserts between the four of us.

First up was the White Chocolate Parfait with Pistachio and Berries.

The ice cream element of the parfait was delicious and creamy but didn’t taste strongly of white chocolate. The crunchy tuile on top was lovely and added a beautiful texture.

We enjoyed the (very fresh and in season) blueberries and the lovely berry sauce. ??????????????????????????????? White Chocolate Parfait, $9.00

Next up was the Lime and Mango Crema Catalana with Summer Fruit.

The dish was well presented and my Mum loved the little glass jars.

The lime and mango curd at the bottom was delicious and tangy, almost like passionfruit. The crema catalana, is basically creme brulee. It was creamy and rich, super decadent and perfect with fresh fruits. A lovely way to end the meal. IMG_5677 Crema Catalan, $9.00

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7
  • Food- 8.75
  • Ambience- 8
  • Value –6.5

TCFB and guests dined as guests of Barrafina tapas, complimentary. Barrafina Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Service Review: Rhys Barrington Private Master Class

What is it: a private cooking class by a trained Chef

For more information: http://rhysbarrington.com/

* * *

About the Chef

Rhys Barrington is a Chef from New Zealand.

He started off as an apprentice at the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch before winning the New Zealand Toque D’or 2010 (a national competition for Junior Chefs) and becoming a finalist in the 2010 Fonterra “Proud to be a Chef” competition.

He then began working at the exclusive Blanket Bay Lodge in southern New Zealand.

He eventually moved to Sydney, decided he loved it and made it his home.

He gained further experience working at The Four in Hand restaurant in Paddington and eventually found his calling as a private Chef, cooking for people in their homes.

Rhys’ One on One Classes

Rhys runs one on one group training sessions for people in their own homes – teaching them how to cook – usually over a twelve week period.

The price is $250 per 3 hour session (excluding cost of food) for one person and a friend and the content and recipes are tailored to what each pair wants to learn.

Rhys provides all recipes, tailored to each individual’s kitchen and interests, and classes are held at the person’s house. Alternatively, a kitchen can be hired to run the classes in.

Rhys also does private dining events for cocktail parties, sit down dinners and other events, which is great for a special occasion.

Rhys Private Master Class

Rhys also runs Master Classes which cost $95 per person.

IMG_5363

I was contacted by Rhys a few months ago but due to other commitments we never actually got to tee anything up to discuss his new projects.

A short while ago he contacted me again regarding attending a Private Master Class session with a few other bloggers and some customers.

Wicko and I attended the class, located in Bondi. There were tables of 4-6 people per table and we were seated with a lovely and friendly couple towards the front of the room.

IMG_5372

Each table had a worksheet with the recipes for each course inside, and a pen to write notes with.

IMG_5364

The class began with a glass of white wine, poured and served by Rhys’ lovely helper, also a former Four In Hand employee.

IMG_5365

IMG_5366

Rhys then spoke a little about himself and what we would be doing that day , before serving us the first course, Prawn Salad with Tomatoes and Asparagus.

IMG_5367

???????????????????????????????

I thought the salad was lovely. While it was quite small, it was simple and light, would be perfect for summer and seemed to contain fresh and high quality ingredients which were inexpensive and easily accessible.

Rhys gave us some tips about the dish and how to prepare vegetables and prawns.

IMG_5371

He also taught us how to make “tomato water”, a clear liquid of pure tomato flavour which is perfect for dressing a salad or dish.

IMG_5375

IMG_5377

Tomato water, looks clear doesn’t it?!

He then showed us how to actually present the dish on a plate, giving us tips such as working with the natural curves of the food and plating the dish in a straight line through the middle of the plate.

???????????????????????????????

Next up was the Braised Beef with Carrots, Fennel and Aioli.

IMG_5382

Some volunteers were chosen to come up and help Rhys with the dish.

IMG_5384

During the cooking process, we were served a glass of red wine, which Rhys said would perfectly complement this dish.

???????????????????????????????

Again Rhys showed us how to plate the dish. I liked the fact that each step was broken down and he really took the time to show us what was happening, coming around with plates and bowls of sauces and ingredients to show us what they should look like.

???????????????????????????????

We all gathered around to take photos and get a closer look.

IMG_5399

More volunteers came up to try their hand at plating and attempt to implement Rhys’ tips! ???????????????????????????????

The beef, carrots and salad, all plated up!

???????????????????????????????

The carrots had been cooked in orange juice, with a small sliver of ginger and then roasted in the oven until they were soft and tender.

The orange juice gave them a sweet yet tart flavour and they were probably the best carrots I have ever tasted!

???????????????????????????????

The fennel salad was light and fresh and went really well with the crisp radish and fresh leaves.

???????????????????????????????

The beef. The star of the show, it was tender, could be broken apart with the back of the fork, and was moist and full of flavour.

The delicious glossy gravy, a mixture of red wine, tomato juice, stock, tomato paste and herbs was shiny and flavoursome and just glided over the chunk of beef.

IMG_5405

Finally, we went over dessert, the Chocolate and Berry Summer Crumble.

Rhys explained that this dish was easy to make and cost-effective as well and explained that the texture of the chocolate part of the dish would be interesting and novel.

He began with the chocolate ganache mixture, going around the room to show us what it should look like.

IMG_5411

When the chocolate part was done, he showed us one he had prepared earlier, all cut into slices.

???????????????????????????????

He then went over how to prepare the berries. It was very simple: cut the strawberries, sprinkle with icing sugar and allow to macerate.

For the cherries, a simple syrup of sugar and water with vanilla was made and the cherries were infused in it for sweetness.

???????????????????????????????

When it was all ready he again showed us how to plate it up.

You can see Simon from Simon Food Favourites in the background getting the money shots! 🙂

IMG_5412

Finally, the dish was plated up, again with the help of volunteers.

The end result? Spectacular.???????????????????????????????

The dish was something you would expect to be served in a hatted restaurant. It was well presented, tasted divine (especially that chocolate jelly/ganache), and was also the perfect combination of fruity and sweet.

???????????????????????????????

Overall

Our overall experience at Rhys’ Master Class was fantastic.

Rhys was welcoming, entertaining, funny and very skilled.

We learnt a lot of great tips about how to make simple vegetables taste delicious, and got some great recipe ideas.

It was a fun night out and I think Rhys’s class would be great for a Christmas or engagement present, a birthday party or pre-hens night dinner.

His private classes would be perfect for proposals or special occasions and a great gift for those who have always wanted to learn how to cook.

I would definitely suggest giving Rhys’ class a go.

If you are interested, more details can be found on his website (above).

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Persian Fairy Floss (serves 4-6)

This deliciously creamy and cool dessert is perfect for summer evenings or decadent dinner parties.

I got the recipe from the Taste website and customised it by adding some delicious Persian fairy floss (pashmak) on top.

It is simple to make and presents well on a plate and it can be customised using different flavours such as almond, rose water, lemon, raspberry etc.

Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes, I would love to see your photos!

20131020_161403

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups thickened cream
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (I used 4 capfuls of vanilla essence)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2.5 Tsp gelatine powder
  • Persian fairy floss (pashmak) to serve

Method:

1.  Put the cream and milk in a saucepan.

20131020_0934302. If using vanilla beans, use a small sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthways, then scrape the seeds from inside the bean. Add the seeds and bean to the saucepan.  If using vanilla essence, simply pour into the mixture.

3. Slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat.

4. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.

5. If using vanilla beans, remove bean from the mixture.

6. Add sugar and return to a low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves.

7. Place 2 tablespoons of boiling water in a small heatproof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water and stir rapidly until dissolved.  Sit the bowl of gelatine in some hot water to keep it from setting.

20131020_0939448. Cool gelatin slightly, then stir into the cream mixture.

20131020_0946389. Lightly oil 125mL moulds or ramekins. Place on a tray and pour in cream mixture.

20131020_10003010. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

11. To serve, place ramekins in a bowl of hot water (so that the water goes half way up the sides of the ramekins).  After a few seconds, loosen the panna cotta from the ramekins by running a small, thin knife around the edge. Turn onto a serving plate and shake to release.

20131020_16122612. Top with pashmak and enjoy.

20131020_161414

Lorraine’s Patisserie, Ivy, Sydney CBD ($)

Address: Shop 5, Palings Lane, 320 George St Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9254 8009

Website: http://merivale.com.au/lorraines-patisserie/

* * *

Atmosphere

Lorraine’s is a little Patisserie located in Palings Lane near the popular bar, the ivy.

It gets it’s name from Ms Lorraine Godsmark, formerly a Potts Point patissiere, who now delights Sydney CBD workers with her delicious treats, all from a small kitchen surrounded by glass windows.

The place itself is quite small with about a 2 metre by 1 metre area for customers to stand in. MDS and I found it quite cramped with all our winter baggage, maneuvering around eachother’s bags, umbrellas and coats to try to have a peek into the pastry cabinets and check out what was on the trays.

The kitchen area is much bigger and the glass windows on two sides make it quite open, allowing customers the chance to see how the sweet treats are made.

Service

There really isn’t much service involved as it is a patisserie with no seating. Everything is take-away so there was minimal involvement from the staff member who assisted us.

She was however quite patient considering our indecisiveness about which delicious treat to order (there are so many goodies!).

Food

As we walked in the store we were swamped with the smell of delicious chocolate, baking in the ovens at the back of the kitchen.

MDS and I immediately craved something chocolatey and I went for a cake, while MDS chose one of the delicious cookies.

We both ordered a passionfruit truffle to try, and I also got a marshmallow dipped in chocolate.

1

The chocolate cake was amazing. It had layers of ganache, mousse, nuts in a caramel sauce, and flaky pastry. So many textures and flavours in the one piece, it was exquisite and probably one of the best cakes I have ever had!

2

The passionfruit truffle was an odd combination of passionfruit tang and the sweet bitterness of dark chocolate. The shape was a little irregular but the flavour was great.

5

Finally, the marshmallow was gooey and soft, a perfect square with a Turkish delight base, which was hidden by a coating of chocolate. The Turkish delight was unexpected as I thought it was simply a marshmallow covered in chocolate! A nice touch!

4

Cost

The truffles and marshmallows were $2.50 each and the cake was $8.00.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5 (non-existent really)
  • Food- 5
  • Ambience- 5
  • Value – 6

Lorraine's Patisserie on Urbanspoon