Ippudo at Central Park, Chippendale

I'd like to confess that I'm no Ramen connoisseur. I'm not one to religiously scope out Ramen eateries and rave about their broth intensity or collagen factor. My palette is not accustomed to the pork-rich flavour of Tonkostsu, nor the full, complexity of Miso Ramen. But, nevertheless, I do love noodles of any sort and will willingly pursue any noodle restaurant to seek out some squiggly goodness. And when a Japanese restaurant by the name of Ippudo extends its branch out to the reasonably new Central Park Complex, you'll bet I'll be there in a heartbeat.

Westfield's Ippudo restaurant in its high-class food court is renowned for it's authentic, full-bodied Ramen. The restaurant in Central Park is located in the ground level Dining District, across the path from Ribs and Burgers, a chic cafe called Autolyse, and next door to the dessert-lover's paradise, Max Brenner. The interior space is not as big as the Westfield branch, but large enough for a comfy space that doesn't feel like you're one in a hundred hungry noodle-slurpers. And, unlike the Westfield flagship, there's little wait (if any at all), at least in the early months since its opening in early October.

Abhi's Indian Restaurant, North Strathfield

It's an old wives tale that spicy food is good for sickness - naturally 'hot' foods like horseradish, wasabi and chilli are good remedies for when you're feeling a bit off or fluey. Likewise, it's also well known (especially in warm, humid places like Malaysia) that eating spicy food can help cool you down on hot days. Eating food like curries when you're sweltering in 30 degree plus heat makes you sweat, which the body's cooling mechanism. Funny, isn't it?

Most of the time when we're sweltering and hot, we shy back into air-conditioned comfort or duck our head in the freezer for an ice cream. Indian food is one of those cuisines that utilises spice not just to counteract the warm weather, but to add layers of complexity to each and every dish. Nothing is without a little bit of spice, and it's not necessarily all hot spice either.

Cornerstone Cafe Bar, Crows Nest

Some foods are just not very graceful to be seen eating in public. A piece of cake, yes. A bowl of salad, sure. A coffee, or cup of tea, of course. But something on a stick like, say, a kebab, or juicy like watermelon...not so much. Spaghetti, hmm maybe. Pizza? Perhaps. But a burger? Uh uh. Not a chance. So it's lucky that most of the time I eat burgers I'm with my family, people I can happily eat anything in the company of. But on the occasions I do venture out with friends, sometimes it's not so smooth sailing. But if you can't eat naturally in front of your friends, then what are friends for, right? 

Stuffed Capsicums Recipe

What do you do when you have an abundance of capsicums in the fridge? Stuff them, of course!

Seasonal produce can lead to the creation of many an inventive meal. I wish I was the kind of cook who could conjure up a meal, with complementing textures and a balance of flavours, from whatever I have in my fridge. But I'm not. Instead, I'm happy to share with you that I have a confidant in Google and my reliable cookbooks.

Cookbook recipes are the inspiration for my cooking, as well as a form of entertainment. For me, reading a cookbook is like reading a magazine, except that one will be greeted with the extra bonus of being able to glimpse and drool at a collection of beautiful food photos along every page. The way I read a cookbook is the same way I read a magazine - front to back, reading every word on every page, starting with the ingredients and ending with the final step of the method. I'm methodical like that.

A journey to Shikoku with JENESYS 2.0: Kōchi, Japan

Earlier this year I went on a once in a lifetime trip to Japan on the JENESYS 2.0 programme (to read all about it on my first post click here). Part of this involved a trip to regional Japan to experience every day life outside of the bustling, tourist-strewn hub of Tokyo, to spend time with a host family in Japan suburbia. 

When you travel, you experience a city from a different perspective to the locals. Of course, this is in part because you are a tourist, and no matter how hard you dig you will always be a tourist. But this is also because more often than not, you will stay where it is most convenient, where you will be able to travel easily and where you can make the most of your holiday time - whether this be near a popular transport centre or in the middle of the city. You never really get to live like the locals. 

Our regional stay enabled us to do just that - spend our time with Japanese locals, take part in traditional cultural activities and eat authentic home-cooked Japanese food. You could be forgiven for thinking it's all about Tempura, Sushi and Ramen here. 

Pho Toan Thang, Flemington

People naturally gravitate towards queues. Perhaps it's curiosity. Or perhaps it's the intrinsic human need to be where the crowds are, to feel included and in the know. Either way, a queue outside a restaurant indicates more often than not that it is one that you should visit. If you have the time and stomach capacity to wait, that is.

At Pho Toan Thang in the inner west Asian hub of Flemington, you will find a queue snaking outside the restaurant, tucked inside an arcade, every day. Some times, if you arrive early enough, you may be rewarded with a short queue, perhaps only two or three groups long. Or if you're really lucky there may be no queue at all. This Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant is well known among the local community for its cheap, consistently delicious food and fast turnover. So don't let the line deter you, it simply indicates a level of popularity and cult-like following signals a good feed. It's not the kind of place you would take someone for a good chat or catch-up, but rather the eatery you would turn to for a quick, low-cost but extremely filling, satisfying meal.

Strawberries & Cream Sponge Cake

I must confess that prior to beginning the journey of this recipe, I had a slight aversion to (or rather, fear of) sponge cakes, for two main reasons.

Reason number 1: The recipe requires the whipping of egg whites. Not that I am scared of this, but rather the lack of a stand-mixer in my kitchen requires a labour of love and 10 minutes of semi-vigorous physical activity to achieve glossy, stiff-peaked whites.

Reason number 2: It's hard to predict how successfully the cake will turn out, as there are a number of variables that could cause it to go downhill. For example, overbeating the egg, beating too much air out of the mixture or having a cake that disappointingly deflates upon taking out of the oven. I say this because the latter happened to me the last time I attempted a sponge to make lamingtons. I later realised I hadn't left it in the oven long enough to rise and become stable.

Zeus Street Greek, Drummoyne

Street food is my kind of food. Sure, give me a beautiful, three course fine dining  meal any day, but take me out for a bowl of fresh, herby, zingy noodle soup or smoky, spiced satay and I'm a happy girl. I've developed a kind of aversion to kebabs, though, because I often find them too oily, big and altogether overwhelming for my stomach.

Zeus Greek Street Food takes street food to a whole new level. Gyros, the much loved Greek relative of the kebab, is tended to lovingly and given a gourmet twist, with the addition of Aegean slaw, preserved lemon mayo and sides that stretch far beyond the typical kebab shop menu.

Birthday Feast at Sake, the Rocks

Apologies for the unusually long hiatus between this post and my last, I've been extremely busy these past few weeks with exams the oh-so-close-but-so-far end of the school term. It's funny how time passes by so quickly when you're busy.

Last Friday it was my birthday, YAY! And because it was my birthday I was was granted the powerful gift of being able choose wherever I wanted to go for my birthday meal. Now usually I'd be scrambling the wide world of food blogs for somewhere a bit special to go, but it being the beginning of exam block I didn't exactly have much free time to spend oogling over drool-worthy deliciousness. Last year we went to Sokyo for my birthday, and given our family's penchant for anything Japanese Mum piped up one day that we should visit Sake Restaurant in The Rocks.

Maranello's, Concord

There are a lot of choices to make when you eat out at an Italian restaurant. Should you order pizza, or pasta? A salad to cut through the carbs, or perhaps some entrees to start? Do you like your pizza with a thin or thick crust? Pineapple on top?

I'd say Italian it always best eaten with a crowd. Not necessarily a big crowd, but enough for you to share lots of different dishes, to get a taste of both the pizza and pasta, with enough room for Gelato afterwards. 

Maranello's sits on the main shopping strip of Majors Bay Road in Concord, a restaurant that seems to be busy at night and is also open for lunch during the day. As well as the outdoor alfresco dining, protected by heat-insulating, clear plastic blinds and flanked by standing gas heaters, the interior of the restaurant spans the floor space of two shopfronts. The interior is themed with deep red and dark mahogany furnishings; the bar on one side concealing a wood-fired pizza oven that dishes out blistered, puffed pizzas.

Never-fail Crumble Recipe

You know those recipes that manage to be fool-proof, fail-safe and crowd-pleasers all at once? The kind that you can whip up with your eyes closed on demand, with whatever ingredients you can manage to find in your fridge? Those recipes fall into two categories, savoury or sweet. While the savoury recipes tend to be a little bit easier to master because they rely largely on taste and less on exact measurements, there are few sweet recipes that are just as easy and simple. Crumble is one of those recipes I turn to when in need of a dessert fix but can't be bothered to grease and line a cake tin and break out those handheld electric beaters. It's easy to adapt to any kind of fruit, and requires little preparation or washing up.

A trip to Japan: JENESYS 2.0

Earlier this year in March I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to travel to Japan as participant in the Japanese Government's JENESYS 2.0 Programme. The acronym JENESYS stands for Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths, with JENESYS 2.0 being the second stage of the project. The project is a youth exchange programme promoting 'Cool Japan' to 'revitalise the Japanese economy' through the introduction of Japan's attractions to foreign tourists to promote 'international understanding'. 

The programme I was invited on consisted of a group of around 250 youths from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, East Timor and New Zealand. We embarked on a whirlwind 10 day trip to Japan, taking part in sightseeing trips for a few days before dividing into international subgroups of around 40 to travel to an allocated area of regional Japan - Kagoshima, Yamagata, Chiba, Shizuoka, Kochi, Fukushima, Shimane, Nagano and Ibaraki. In these regional areas we got the chance to experience authentic cultural experience and interact with the locals, and some of us were lucky enough to go on home or farm stays for a night with a host family. 

Among all the beautiful sights of Japan and its lesser known regional cities, the trip was not only a culturally gratifying and unforgettable experience but we also got to open our mouths and tummies to the traditional, famous and some of the lesser known delicacies of Japan.

Let's start with dessert first. Specifically, ice cream. Available from a vending machine. Yes, if you've been to Japan before you would have seen these special vending machines nestled on the side of the footpath, in parks or near temples, dedicated solely to ice cream. It's a wonder how they stay so cold when it might be 30 degrees plus outside, but they do thanks to advanced Japanese technology. The flavours are much different to those in Australia - think  strawberry and matcha flavoured cornetto-style cones, psychedelic swirls in bright playful colours and ice cream sandwiched inside crunchy kiddy-style rectangular cones. Most sell different varieties of ice creams, so each time you might be surprised.

There were two vending machines in the lobby of our hotel, the Hotel New Otani Makuhari on the outskirts of Tokyo. One sold snack and meals (cup noodles or packet waffles, anyone?) and the other was for dessert! The first night, exhausted from the 9 hour flight from Sydney at an hour I'm sure was far too late for dessert, I went down to treat myself to dessert. As well as this Lady Borden ice cream, it also sold cute Haagen Dazs ice cream cups and ice cream sandwiches and cute chocolate coated ice cream drops. This particular ice cream was vanilla flavoured, coated in chocolate and almonds much like an almond Magnum. The ice cream inside was much more yellow than normal vanilla ice cream, probably due to the different variety of milk used, but it tasted so good.

Buffet breakfasts were the way we began every day at the hotel, with dishes that included scrambled eggs, omelets, bacon, vegetables, various breads and pastries, a DIY Japanese salad bar, fruit and yoghurt and even corn flakes! From day to day there were a few swaps here and there, but I have to admit that by the end I was quite sick of buffets.

 The salad bar included the mandatory salad leaves and additions such as cucumber, onion and corn, but other interesting additions included seaweed (wakame), radish and this colourful and chewy squiggly food that was labelled 'seaweed'. How interesting!

The bread section tickled my fancy. As well as toast (sadly not the thick-cut kind that I love in Japan), croissants and danishes there were milk buns, red bean buns and the ubiquitous melon pan - a green marbled, real melon flavoured sweet bread. I'm not kidding, it tasted so much like melon!!

One morning I was overjoyed to find ratatouille among the offerings as well as tater tots! 

What would a visit to Japan be without an obento? This obento was what we received on our first full day of the programme during orientation. It came packed in a beautiful engraved plastic box that opened to reveal a sight that made the mouth drool. One side was packed with perfectly cooked short grain rice sprinkled with sesame and golden crunchy flakes. The other had an artful array of bits and pieces (clockwise from top left): chicken katsu with sauce in a separate bottle, tomato flavoured dried scallops, tamago (egg omelet), a piece of salted fish, pork balls, fish cake, steamed taro and an unami mix of little white dots and seaweed. Oishii (delicious)!!! This is why I live for Japanese food. 

Ningyo-yaki is a traditional Japanese street-side sweet snack made from a batter cooked in specially moulded casts filled with red bean (anko) paste. In Japanese, the name Ningyo-yaki literally translates to 'fried dolls' , which seems fitting for such a cute food. Upon visitng Senso-ji in Asakusa, walking along Nakamise-dori, we were given time to wander around the souvenir shops and I stumbled upon this stall and was mesmerised by the men cooking these over hot coals. They were so cute, with one of the shapes replicating the huge lantern that hangs inside the temple (Asakusa Kaminarimon) and another of the temples gates (chochin). I love red bean, and these tiny, mini waffle-like cakes were the perfect traditional Japanese treat.


These donuts were also bought just outside the temple, called Agemanju. They were 100-150 yen each, with flavours ranging from green tea to red bean to sweet potato. Sold individually and run by locals, these were worth coming specially to Asakusa for, deep fried balls of goodness (for more about them see my post here). These were green tea (left) and black sesame flavoured (right, with a red bean filling). Yummmm.

Agemanju stall on Nakamise-dori, Asakusa

Bubble tea is a must Japan, just to try the authentic Japanese bubble tea. This cup was 300 yen (approximately $3), bought from Aeon shopping mall in Makuhari hear our hotel, which was a mammoth of a shopping mall made up of 4 interconnecting mini-malls - 'grand' mall, 'pet' mall, 'family' mall and 'active' mall. We spent more than a couple of nights here just wandering around. The shops were very boutiquey and uniquely Japanese, with one of my favourites, UNIQLO. But more about that later. There are so many flavour available - from matcha, coconut, milk tea, to mixtures of flavours that included the Japanese drink, Calpis with an assortment of bubbles and jellies. A match made in heaven. 

Ohhhh and the bakeries!! As if I wasn't already mesmerised by Asian bakeries in Australia, the bakeries in Japan are another type of store altogether. There were so many different bread and confections I wanted to try, but from Azalee Bakery near Funabori Town Hall. This was a form a mochi rolled in sesame and filled with red bean. Like a healthy, non-fried, Japanese version of Jin Deui (my fave Asian sweet snack!). 

Dinners on the programme were absolute food heaven (well, most of them anyway). A lot of the time we were taken to restaurants that buffets because of the wide dietary requirements of such a large group, and the best one was at a place called Carne Station in Ginza. This was a buffet, BBQ meat restaurant where we were able to help ourselves to a spread of hot food and raw meats, which we took back to our tables to grill on a hot plate as we wanted to.

The raw meat and seafood were plentiful - marinated chicken, wafer-thin strips of fatty beef and pork, crab legs, mussels, fish, calamari and squid, octopus, as well as sliced sweet potato, cabbage, pumpkin and onion. Aside from the meat and hot buffet was a huge range of salad options - vermicelli, seaweed, potato and past salad, tofu, beansprouts, noodle salads.... AND a separate cake cabinet full of vanilla, strawberry and matcha cheesecake, an ice cream station and jelly and fruit.

And finally a more traditional Japanese dinner. This was on our first night, at a restaurant called Hana No Mai in Chiba, a traditional restaurant with screen walls and tatami mats with drop-down floors. We were all so overcome with joy and exhaustion that we dove in to this stunning meal - a cold shredded chicken-style main mixed with mayonnaise and wholegrain mustard, a scoop of potato salad, some green salad, rice, fresh tuna sashimi, a bamboo and bean side dish and nourishing clear soup. Clean and wholesome, the perfect example of Japanese food.

Aaaand so there are a lot more photos I'd like to share with you but I think I'll save them for another post. Food overload. In case you are still drooling and like to continue drooling, check out some more of my Japan posts here:
Ichiran Ramen, Tokyo
Bills, Yokohama
Japanese Sweets and Street Food


New Shanghai, Ashfield

Xiao long bao, those immaculately shaped pork dumplings bursting with steaming hot porky broth, are perhaps the most famous type of dumpling in Sydney. Din Tai Fung offers the holy grail of pork dumplings, with each crafted to a precise weight and diameter and filled with tasty pork marbled with gelatinous bits, have mouths drooling and queues forming at every joint. 

The lesser known relative to these dumplings are pan-fried pork dumplings, brimming with a similar filling and hot soup but with a fluffier bun wrapper and a bottom fried to golden crispy perfection. These are bigger, meater, more filling - call it the plump, loving auntie of xiao long bao.

Ryo's, Crows Nest

Of all the carbohydrates in the world - oats, rice, bread, noodles.... Can you guess what my favourite carb is? It starts with an N and ends with oodles. Yep, oodles of noodles!! Whether it be slippery translucent rice noodles, chewy wheaten egg noodles or thin squiggly vermicelli, nothing tickles my tastebuds more than a big bowl of noodles. Pure bliss for me is slurping away at a pile of noodles, never failing to get a little bit of sauce or soup on my shirt every time in the midst of all my enjoyment. They are my absolute favourite comfort food. Of all time. Full stop.

If the title exists, I am a noodlie. Among my favourites are beef brisket noodle soup (with tendon, of course), Pho, vermicelli salads and Tsukemen. Tsukemen is a type of dipping noodle, similar to ramen but served cold with a small bowl of soup of the side. This style of ramen is typically eaten in the warmer months in Japan as it is more refreshing and less heavy than traditional ramen, which is why I love it so much. To eat Tsukemen, you take a few strands of noodle, dip them into the soup and slurp them up. This way the noodles stay al dente and you can appreciate their wonderfully chewy texture, as well as control the amount of soup you get in each mouthful. All the deliciousness of ramen, but without feeling too hot or heavy afterwards!

Miss Chu, Darlinghurst

Living in the inner west, I don't really get a lot of opportunities to try all the wonderful eateries I often read about and drool over in the inner city and city. That's why I love weekends and the holidays, because that's when I really get to go out and eat. I recently had a course in Darlinghurst and got really really excited because over the three days I'd be there, I'd get to go out every day for lunch and try all the places I'd always wanted to go!

One of these places was Miss Chu, near busy William Street in Darlinghurst. This is the original Miss Chu tuckshop, which has since expanded to have numerous tuckshops in the Sydney CBD, Bondi, Manly, Melbourne and even London. Being labelled the 'Queen of Rice Paper Rolls', this small Vietnamese hawker-style eatery and takeaway shop offers both quick takeaway munchies - think rice paper and spring rolls, yum cha style dim sim and peking duck pancakes- as well as sit down noodles and salads, traditional Asian desserts and drool-worthy tropical beverages.

Excelsior Jones, Ashfield

I know this place has been open for a while now and showered with a whirlwind of praise ever since its opening at the beginning of 2013. It's risen to fame in little over a year, and has gained Sydney-wide support for its great food and bustling atmosphere, a surprise find in the typically Asian-food-dominated suburb of Ashfield in the Sydney's Inner West. You need to go a little out of the way to find this cafe, situated unpretentiously in a corner block in the residential area of the suburb, and from the outside it may look quiet and unassuming. But behind the large glass windows lies a clean, simplistic but at the same time homey and comfortingly pretty little cafe with beautiful food.

Why I love Asian Bakeries: Part 2, Emperor's Garden Cake & Bakery

So do you want to know another reason why I love Asian bakeries? I said in my first post here that it's because there is a myriad of weird and wonderful creations that you can find in them, sort of like a bakery museum!

One of the other things I love about Asian (Chinese) Bakeries is their cheep and cheerful fare and how you'll be hard pressed to find a bakery that is exactly the same as another. Each has their own 'feel' to their baked goods - no two Bo Lo Bao taste the same, no two Dan Tarts have the same texture. Each bakery has it's own take on the sweet and savoury classics.

Pear and Raspberry Cake

My love for cooking began when I started baking in the kitchen. I began by making simple things - chocolate chip cookies, lime and coconut loaf, cupcakes and muffins. Then I started becoming more adventurous with homemade pastry, tarts, pies, biscotti and this cheesecake.

Il Goloso Ristorante Pizzera at Haberfield Post

If you were to ask me what my favourite Italian food was, I wouldn't be able to answer you. I absolutely love Italian food, whether it be pasta, pizza, arancini, pane (bread) or any of the various antipasto delicacies. Actually, that's a lie.... I would probably say Gelato, but that is another type of food that deserves its very own category...

But of all Italian food, it would be extremely hard to me to choose just one that I adore. It's good eating out at Italian restaurants with a big family because you're always guaranteed to order a wide range of meals, which means that I hardly ever miss out on anything that I love. Must orders whenever we eat Italian are always a seafood dish of some sort, whether it be a Spaghetti Marinara or a Frutti di Mare pizza, most of the time accompanied by a lovely parmesan and rucola salad and crunchy, aromatic garlic bread.

Up, up and away..

Hi readers!

I hope you've been enjoying my blog. I'm off to Japan for two weeks so sadly you will notice a lack of new posts, but I promise there will be a plethora of wonderful Japanese culture and food posts when I get back! In the mean time, here are some miscellaneous foodie pictures I thought I'd post to keep you happy while I'm away...


Zucchini Fritters

Have you heard about zucchini noodles, the new on-trend, healthy vegan alternative to carbohydrate-heavy spaghetti? Basically, it's thin strands of long, julienned zucchini, mixed like pasta into a sauce or enjoyed on their own. I've never tried them before, but they seem interesting and would love to give them a try some time soon.

These zucchini fritters are like healthy vegetable 'patties', with the slightly-shorter grated zucchini forming the base of a chunky, wholesome batter that is fried (like pancakes!) until crispy and cooked through. Mum bought home a huge pile of zucchinis the other day and they were beginning to look a bit lonely in the fridge, so we thought we'd give these babies a go. They feature heavily on some brunch menus, are healthy and a great way to boost your vegetable intake. Plus, they're tasty too!

Hot Chocolate Frenzy @ Kakawa Chocolates & Detour Espresso, Darlinghurst

I must make a confession. I will never stop loving hot chocolate. Whether it's the powdered mix stirred into a hot mug of freshly heated (ahem..microwaved) milk, or an $8 cup of pure, decadent, real hot chocolate, give me a hot cup flavoured with the milky, dreamy creaminess that is chocolate and I'm a happy girl. Extra kudos for an airy layer of froth on top.

Wikipedia defines a hot chocolate as a heated beverage typically consisting of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar, and essentially, that is exactly what it is. Aficionados claim the inferior version is made from powdered chocolate, better known as drinking chocolate, which is not as sweet nor as rich as pure melted chocolate. Some places serve it with marshmallows on the side, others with a generous slathering of chocolate syrup draped across the sides of the cup, and the drink is hardly restricted to consumption at just one meal. Hot chocolate may be drunk anywhere, anytime.

Why I love Asian Bakeries: Part 1

Step into an Asian bakery, it's walls lined with plastic display cases that showcase neatly lined rows of golden baked goods, and it becomes clear that this is not the average run-of-the-mill Australian bakery. No, not the kind where a shop assistant is the main connection between the customer and the product. This is a bakery where the customer is left to squander over and help themselves to whatever they desire. Think of it as a museum of sorts. A museum of bread (where, of course, you're able to buy the artefacts). 

Goshu Ramen Tei, Wynyard

Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) ! That's a phrase you've probably heard often when eating at a Japanese restaurant, shouted above the sounds of the kitchen and buzz of diners by single or multiple sushi chefs as new patrons enter through the door. It means 'welcome', but what you probably didn't know is that it's also common for shop employees in Japan to greet customers with the same phrase, which is what we experienced on holiday there last year. It isn't always expected and welcoming, though, - on many occasions we witnessed retailers saying (or sometimes even shouting) it spontaneously while patrolling the aisles of their shops, perhaps to remind customers that they are there to help. But only in Japan.

Enter Goshu Ramen Tei, a hole-in-the-wall Japanese ramen joint up near the Wynyard Park end of Wynyard Station (York St exit) in the heart of Sydney. You don't hear Irasshimase upon entering (most of the seating is outside), but it does have that authentic Japanese ramen stall-style feel. On this busy weekday, it's lunchtime and we notice that all the tables are occupied, full of both small and larger groups of predominantly office workers chowing into comforting bowls of homey Japanese food. Next door to this eatery is another aptly named noodle restaurant called Ramen Condor, and you may be forgiven for mistaking one for the other. Today, however, it seems that Goshu Ramen Tei is the more popular of the two.

The Grounds of Alexandria

Nestled in amongst the outlet and furniture shops in the homemaker/industrial hub of Alexandria sits The Grounds of Alexandria, famous for it's innovative 'ground roots' approach to food. You know you're near when you begin to hear the hustle and bustle of crowds and begin to find it hard to find parking - on the weekends the queue for a table may last up to an hour or more .

But if you do find yourself in this predicament, don't worry too much. Outside the main cafe you'll be left wonder The Grounds, an expansive, open outdoor area that includes a courtyard, herb beds, a pig and chicken pen and on the weekends is home to The Grounds Markets where you can buy homemade bread, pastries, coffee, flowers and other edible knick-knacks that are all made on site. Wandering past and gawking at all the beautiful stalls is sure to provide a fun and unique experience that will pass the time and distract you from the wait in no time.

Homemade Apple Pie

In America the homemade pie seems to be the standard dessert staple of every household. Americans love their pie - whether it be blueberry, key lime, chocolate cream, pecan, or even varieties like pumpkin that would seem a little unusual to us Australians. To add to this fascination there are even multiple varieties of pie crust that one can conjure: double or single crust, sour cream crust, graham cracker crust, flaky or a short, buttery crust....

But nothing says pie like the humble homemade Apple Pie. Though popularly baked in Autumn when the leaves turn golden and start falling off their branches, apple pie to me is what pie is all about. A golden, flaky, butter-laden crust, filled to the brim with sweet, soft chunks of disintegrated apple flavoured with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, eaten with scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream. The crunch and the sloppiness, the hot and the cold.... the ultra perfect homemade dessert.

That 's not to say making a pie at home is easy. In fact, it requires a small amount of skill if you choose to make your own pie crust from scratch. That's not to say you shouldn't make a pie using store-bought pastry - it's great for time-poor home cooks, and we use it often - but it just wouldn't be the same if you wanted a true, real deal homemade pie. And there's just so much satisfaction that comes with making your own pastry dough; you know exactly what goes into it and have the pleasure of rolling and lining the pie dish with a pie crust that you can feel proud of having made all by yourself!

I've been wanting to make my very own pie, crust and all, for a very long time. This is because part of me was always afraid the pastry wouldn't turn out right, and part of me just didn't really feel like going to all the effort to make a whole pie. Up until now.

Part of what persuaded me to attempt this feat was the simplicity of the pastry in this recipe from Curtis Stone, which I stumbled upon in an issue of delicious magazine. The pastry consisted of just plain flour, butter, iced water and a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar, whizzed together to form a loose dough and then rested in the fridge. I followed my own recipe for the filling, in which pieces of Granny Smith Apple were cooked on the stovetop with spices, sugar and water until just tender.

I have to admit that the longer the resting time for the dough, the the easier it was to work with and use to line the pie dish. After a second chilling, the slightly cooled filling was tumbled on top and sealed with another layer of pastry, then crimped and shaped around the edge and slit on top to allow steam to escape. A brushing of milk and sprinkling of raw sugar was all that was needed before popping in the oven to cook for just over an hour.

What came out of the oven was a completely transformed dessert, golden on top and with a crispy, flaky crust. It retained its heat for a long time after being taken out, and so didn't need reheating at the time of eating. Cutting into the buttery layered crust produced a satisfying *crunch* sound, although the dish wasn't greased well enough so the crust was quite resistant in coming out when we tried cutting it up into generous pieces. What resulted was a mess of a piece of pie, a somewhat rustic, deconstructed version that still tasted absolutely divine (albeit a little bit messy and crumbly).

Before and after shots

Pastry from What's for Dinner? by Curtis Stone; filling an original recipe.
Makes one large 24 cm pie.



  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 250g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup iced water
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, cored and cut into 1.5cm thick slices
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

To decorate:
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar

  1. Grease a 24cm wide pie dish with butter or cooking spray
  2. Place the flour, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor and process until sandy and coarse. Gradually add the water in a slow stream until moist clumps form (don't add too much, just until it comes together).
  3. Divide the dough into two halves, one slightly larger than the other, and enclose in glad wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins or overnight. 
  4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius (fan-forced). 
  5. For the filling, place all ingredients in a large saucepan and cook over a medium heat for around 8-10 mins or until just tender and still. Let cool.
  6. Once the pastry has rested, take the larger half out of the fridge and roll carefully between two sheets of baking paper until it is slightly larger than the bottom of your pie dish. Carefully transfer the rolled out pastry into the dish (find it easier if it is draped slightly over the rolling pin) and press into the bottom to line the dish. Leave any overhanging pastry as it is and chill the lined dish for a further 15 mins. 
  7. Fill the chilled dish with the apple filling mixture, leaving any juices from the cooking process behind so that the crust won't get soggy. Roll out the second piece of chilled pastry until it is wide enough to cover the top of the pie, then use to cover the filling. Trim the overhanging pastry to 1cm and press the edges together to seal, folding the excess underneath itself if necessary to form a neat edge. Decorate as you like (I crimped with the edge of a fork). 
  8. Brush the top of the pie with the milk and sprinkle over the raw sugar evenly. Cut 4 slits on the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape in the oven. 
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until golden on top and the filling is bubbling and hot. Take out to cool, then enjoy! Best eaten warm with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.