Sunday 26 December 2010

Vina Vegetarian Restaurant, Newtown

Mr Ladybird and I headed to Vina Vegetarian Restaurant on Wednesday last week. Things can be quite busy at this time of year, so we were keen to have the night off from kitchen duties mid-week. Newtown was absolutely bustling for a Wednesday night! The ambience at Vina is not the drawcard at this family run business however the the food is.

I was keen to go to Vina for dinner in part because I had a hankering for some vegetarian sweet & sour 'pork'and I was sure that Vina would offer something similar on their menu. I'm not normally one for fake meat, but the veg version of sweet and sour pork makes me go weak at the knees! What can I say...? It's a guilty pleasure...

Once seated we peruse the extensive Vietnamese menu over some Jasmine tea. Vegetarians and vegans are certainly spoilt for choice here, so it takes us a little while to decide on what we want!

We order, and a short while later our entrees arrive. we hungrily tuck into the lightly fried tofu and vegan spring rolls. Both are delicious, particularly the crunchy spring rolls. Neither is too heavy so we still have a healthy appetite for our main dishes.

For our mains we order a mock chicken curry and mock pork in a sweet and sour sauce. The curry is delicious, but the mock pork dish is a bit disappointing - not quite the crunchy, deep-fried balls with sticky sauce that I had envisioned... Despite this, it is great to get a good serve of fresh vegetables in each dish.

All in all, a good meal from Vina. The staff did incredibly well to manage the restaurant when it so busy, and they are always so nice that it's ok if you have to wait a little bit. Vina is also a little better value than Green Palace Thai Vegetarian further up King St in Newtown, so do give Vina a go if you're looking for vegan/vegetarian options in Newtown.

Vina Vietnamese Vegetarian Restaurant
395 King St, Newtown NSW
(02) 9557 0456

Ladybird x

Vina Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas Morning Crown

I love Christmas morning... I remember the excitement of Christmas mornings as a child, when you would wake up with a jolt and run to the tree ready to tear open your gifts. As an adult I still wake looking forward to the day, but make more of a sleepy, leary-eyed stumble into the living room to join family in opening gifts. The opening of gifts is pretty efficient in my family.. I know that in other families it is all very civilised and you have to wait until after breakfast... but not in mine! It can be a bit choatic, but I love it all the same :)

Christmas day breakfast is usually a pretty relaxed affair for us, and my Mum spoils the boys with a big fry up breakfast while I usually stick with my staple muesli/cereal so as not to fill up to much for the ensuing feast later in the day.

I think this recipe is also a good idea for Christmas morning as it can be prepared in advance and then baked on Christmas day. It not only looks great on a plate, but it's very easy to serve - simply pull apart! This adapted Christmas recipe comes courtesy of none other than the December/January issue of Delicious magazine - my Cookbook of the Month for December.

Christmas Morning Crown
makes 9 scrolls

1 1/2 c (225g) strong (bread flour)
7g sachet dried instant yeast
125g unsalted butter, chopped (plus extra to grease)
1/2c 9125 ml) warm milk
1 egg, beaten
50g brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
1 tsp mixed spice
1/3 c (55g) chopped mixed peel
1/3 c (55g) sultanas
1/4c (50g) glace cherries, chopped
1/2 c icing sugar, sifted
lemon juice

1. Grease a large baking tray and dust with flour. I used a heavy pizza tray, but any large baking tray will do.

2. Sift flour into a large bowl, add yeast and 1/2 tsp salt. Rub in 40g of the butter to form coarse breadcrumbs. Form a well in the centre and mix in the milk and egg to form a dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for 1 hour in a warm place until doubled in size.

3. Meanwhile, beat remaining butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until combined. Add nuts, spice, peel, sultanas and cherries and stir to combine.

4. Punch down dough to expel air, knead briefly then roll out on a floured surface to form a 30cm x 23 cm rectangle. Spread the fruit mixture over the dough with a spatula, leaving a 2cm border along the sides. Roll up along the long side to form a log, then cut into 9 equal size pieces.

5. Place slices, cut side up, on the floured tray so it forms a circle with the slices just touching. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until slightly risen. (Once risen, you can cover the crown and chill overnight, then bring back to room temperature before baking).

6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius and bake the crown for 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to form an icing thin enough for drizzling, then drizzle over the slightly cooled crown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tell me, dear readers, what's your Christmas morning tradition? Do you have breakfast before or after opening up your presents?

Ladybird x

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Mace Restaurant, St Leonards

I'm always up for Indian food because it's one of my favourite cuisines, but it can be a bit tiresome encountering the same menu wherever you go... but now and then you hear about something a little different that makes you sit up an take notice. So, when I had the opprtunity to try out Indian style tapas at Mace Restaurant (formerly known as Qmin) in Sydney's north shore area, I jumped at the chance.

Mr Ladybird and I selected a tasting menu to sample 6 different dishes ($75 per person, excluding breads and accompaniments). To start off with, we enjoyed Badal Jaam - Eggplant Slices, pan fried with tomato and yoghurt relish and Bhutte Ke Pakode - Sweet Corn Fritters, with fresh chillies and chickpea batter with a side of mint sauce. In both of these dishes, I can definitely see the tapas concept - small portions of finger food perfect over drinks.

We also enjoy a serve of Ragda Petis - a delicious chaat recipe with potato croquettes topped with with chickpeas and chutneys.

We then move onto mains - a beautiful smorgasbord of dishes to be enjoyed with basmati rice and naan. For our three main dishes we choose Kadhai Subzi - mixed Vegetables in tomato sauce, crushed coriander seeds and the Palak Paneer - curd cheese with pureed spinach and spices.

For both of us though, the standout main is the Bhindi Amchur - okra stir fried with onions and dried mango. Dishes like this make me think what an underused okra is - cooked right it is absolutely delectable!

No Indian feast is complete without good accompaniments, and we both like the onion & tomato raita. The sourdough naan is something special.. a first for both of us and we were impressed by the light texture and flavour - a nice contrast to the rich food.

Mace Restaurant (formerly known as 'Qmin')
Shop 5, 207 Pacific Highway
St Leonards, NSW
(02) 9966 5557

*** Mr & Mrs Ladybird dined as guests of Mace Restaurant ***

Qmin Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Mushroom & Pumpkin Wellington

When I picked up the December/January issue of Delicious magazine, I admit I was instantly drawn to the pages of incredible sweet creations offered by the publication. What I didn't expect, however, was a section dedicated to vegetarian Christmas dishes. Could it really be?! I was excited to say the least... it really isn't that often that vegetarian dishes get much of a look-in at this time of year, so a special feature by Jamie Oliver was a special surprise :)

No tofurkey here (yes - tofu if the shape of a turkey.. something I've never been able to get my head around...), but rather an interesting take on a classic - the Beef Wellington.When I turned to Jamie's Mushroom & Pumpkin Wellington I knew it would be a contender for a place at the Christmas table on the 25th, so I did a trial run today for dinner. There is quite a lot of work in this dish, but like a lot of Christmas dishes, the preparation is almost therapeutic and the result is rewarding. This beef-free wellington is packed with Christmassy flavours.. I especially love the sage and chestnuts in this dish, really delicious along with the flaky pastry.

Mushroom & Pumpkin Wellington
Adapted Jamie Oliver recipe from Delicious magazine (December 2010/January 2011 issue)


1 small butternut pumpkin (halved lengthways, seeds scooped out, peeled and cut into thick wedges)
olive oil
1 small dired chilli, crumbled
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 rosemary sprig, leaves chopped
2 red onions, sliced
75g chestnuts, roughly chopped
small bunch sage leaves (around 8-10 leaves picked)
2 slices sourdough bread
3 garlic cloves
1 lemon
50g unsalted butter
250g swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
large bunch English spinach, trimmed
1/3 c pine nuts
2 tbsp sultanas
4 squares ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Toss the pumpkin wedges into a large baking pan with a splash of oil, the chilli and cinnamon - rub the pumpkin well to coat. Bash coriander seeds along with a little coarse salt in a pestle and mortar until fine, then add the rosemary and bash again for a minute or two until aromatic. Scatter this evenly over the pumpkin then cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until soft. Cool, then tear into bite size chunks.

2. Meanwhile, place a pan on medium heat and add a splash of oil and cook the onion. Season well and  cook gently for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned. Add the chestnuts and sage to the pan for the last few minutes of cooking.

3. While that's happening, toast the sourdough and rub with the cut sides of one of the garlic cloves. Tear the toast into small chunks, and once the onion is done, add the toast to the pan and mix everything together. Switch the heat off and season a little more and add the lemon zest. Set mixture aside.

4. Melt butter in a clean pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms and one clove of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook the mushrooms to 4-6 minutes until soft and quite dry. Squeeze in a little lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper, then tip into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Set puree aside.

5. Bring a large pan of salted water to boil and blanch the spinach briefly (around 30 seconds). Drain in a colander and press lightly to get rid of excess fluid, then place to one side.

6. Place a small dry pan over medium heat and toast the pine nuts for 1 minute until light brown. Tip onto a plate. Thinly slice remaining garlic clove. Return the pan to the heat and add a splash of oil, then the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes before adding the pine nuts, sultanas and spinach. Fry everything together until warmed through and smelling delicious. Season well and turn off the heat.

7. Once almost fully defrosted. lay the squares of pastry on top of each other, leaving a 1 cm overlap between each. Roll out between baking paper to an even 2mm thickness, and the approximate dimensions of an A3 piece of paper. Spread the mushroom mixture all over, leaving a 1cm gap on the edges of all 4 sides of the pastry (I forgot to do this, but it's fairly important once you're sealing up the wellington).

8. In a large bowl, combined the pumpkin, onions and spinach mixtures.

Spoon in a thick line down the middle of the pastry. Hold one side of the paper and lift it with the pastry, towards the centre of the wellington so it starts to cover the filling.

Peel the paper back, leaving the pastry in place. Brush some eggwash along the centre edge and pull the other side of pastry over it so that it overlaps, containing the filling in a log shape. Brush the ends with eggwash and fold in the pastry to seal it. Carefully roll onto a lined baking tray, with the sealed side down. Brush all over with egg wash and score lightly in a criss-cross fashion.

9. Bake for 45 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius, until puffed and golden. Slice thickly to serve.

So, the verdict on Jamie Olier's vegetarian wellington recipe? It's tasty, it's certainly Christmassy, and it looks great... It is a time consuming dish to make, but something like this wellington would be ideal at Christmas in a cold climate because it is so warming and comforting. I don't think this is quite the 'it' dish I was after for the Christmas menu, but good thing the Delicious magazine has plenty more recipes for me to try... If only I had more time to sample them all!

So, to all the vegetarians/vegans out there, what's your ideal savoury Christmas dish?

Ladybird x

Monday 20 December 2010

Gingerbread Biscuits & Gluehwein (Mulled Wine)

Dear Santa,

Soon you will be making your way around the world delivering thousands and thousands of gifts to all the good boys and girls of the world. I do hope you visit my home on your deliveries... I have really tried to be good this year, I really have!

I'm sure you must get awfully hungry visiting so many houses in one night! Just to let you know, I'll be leaving you out a little snack for when you stop by. I know you get a lot of milk and cookies, but I thought you could probably do with something a little stronger by the time you reach Australia.

I hope you like gingerbread and mulled wine :)


Ladybird xoxo

PS - here is my Christmas tree :)

Gluehwein (Mulled Wine)
Adapted recipe from The Cook and The Chef, ABC Television

1L red wine (I used a clean skin merlot)
120ml orange juice
60g raw sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
1 bay leaf
peelings of half a lemon

1. Bring the sugar, spices and orange juice to a boil. Then let this mixture steep for 30 minutes.
2. Finally, pour in the wine and carefully reheat to just under the boiling point.
3. Strain if desired and serve.

Bourke Street Bakery Gingerbread Biscuits
Recipe from Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion (can be halved for a smaller quantity)

1.125kg plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
400g unsalted butter
400g soft brown sugar
320g golden syrup (or honey)
1 egg
4 egg yolks

For the royal icing
1 egg white
250g icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl and mix on medium speed until pale and creamy. Add the egg and egg yolks in a slow stream and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, in three batches, until thoroughly mixed through.

2. Divide the dough into four even-sized portions and flatten each disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or for up to 3 days.

3. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow the dough to soften slightly. Roll out each disc between two sheets of baking paper until about 3mm thick. Cut into the desired shaped using biscuit cutters or a knife. Re-roll to make use of all the dough.

4. Place the biscuits on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake, in batches, for 15-20 minutes until slightly puffed and golden. Allow to cool on the trays. (Tip - to ensure your cookies hold their shape well while baking you can refrigerate them for 30 minutes prior to baking).

5. Meanwhile, make the royal icing. Sift the icing sugar through a fine sieve. place the egg white in a bowl and add 1 tbsp of the icing sugar. Using a wooden spoon, beat to form a smooth paste, then keep adding the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice - you should be able to squeeze the mixture through a piping bag. Transfer to a piping bag and decorate the biscuits as desired. Once decorated and dry, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

I hope you are all well and truly enjoying the festive season and time with your loved ones over good food and drink!

Stay tuned for more Christmas posts!

Ladybird x

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Festive Portugese Tarts

I have wanted to make Portugese tarts for a very long time, ever since a friend introduced me to them.. so when I came across this recipe in the latest issue of Delicious, I knew it what simply meant to be! They are a good way of using fruit mince in a bit of a different way to fruit mince pies, and they're really easy to make. So what are you waiting for?!

Festive Portugese Tarts (makes 12)
Adapted recipe from Delicious magazine, Dec 2010/Jan 2011 issue

2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
3 egg yolks
1/3 c (75g) caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
1c (250ml) milk
200ml thickened cream
2 tsp vanilla extract / vanilla bean paste
1/2 c (130g) fruit mince
1/4 c (20g) flaked almonds
icing sugar, to dust

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius and grease a 12 hole muffin pan.

2. Half each puff pastry sheet, then place one half on top of the other to form 2 stacks in total. Roll up each pastry stack tightly to form a lo. Cut each pastry log into six even slices.

3. One at a time, place the pastry slices cut-side up, between 2 sheets of baking paper and, using a rolling pin, roll into 10cm rounds (this will give you extra flaky pastry). Use the rounds to line the muffin pan, then chill while you make the filling.

4. Gently whisk the yolks, caster sugar, flour and milk together in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly for 5-6 minutes until thick. Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the thickened cream and vanilla extract. Transfer the custard to a bowl, then closely cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming. Chill the custard until completely cooled.

5. Once cooled, divide the custard among the chilled pastry cases (you may not need it all, be careful not to over-fill), then top each with a heaped teaspoon of fruit mince (it will sink into the custard, so don't worry). Scatter with the flaked almonds and bake for around 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and custard is almost set.

6. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then place on a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve. These are best eaten the day of baking while the pastry is still crispy.

If there is one recipe you try this Christmas, you must try these festive portugese tarts.. They are simply sublime!

Ladybird x
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