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The husband and I spent all of last week in Brisbane for our respective jobs. We co-ordinated our trips, blocked out the week, slapped on some sunscreen and headed off to ‘BrisVegas’. Having never been before, we were reliant on the advice of family that had been before (“It’s stinking hot”) and friends that live there (one of few times a Facebook post resulted in some constructive commenting) and of course the ever helpful – Google.

Now those of you who know me and have read my post on my Fiji holiday know the very first thing I like to Google about my intended destination is ‘Halal food in [insert location]’. This time was no different. My in depth Google searches across Halal Square and Visit Brisbane yielded some very promising results which resulted in a neat table of plans as my Brisbane Degustation Project (mixed in with sightseeing of course).

I was relieved to find Brisbane pleasantly cool on the Sunday evening we touched down. Relief turned to delight when we saw that our room on the 12th floor of the Traders hotel was very nice and delight turned to hungry anticipation as we walked down Roma st, through Queen st mall and ended up at our destination for the night’s meal – Turquoise kebabs.The Place is about as non descript as a Kebab shop gets, located on the unassuming street corner it was consistently full of at least one customer the whole time we were there. Having had our fill of a well topped pizza with a thin crunchy crust and a kebab to compete with the best we’d had till date (from Yarralumla Turkish Kebabs in Canberra. This one had just enough tabouli to cut through the grease and at no additional cost and it had corn. Corn!), we made our way to Eagle st pier and checked out the river side before walking back to the hotel. It was eerily quiet and people free for a Sunday night CBD but coming from Canberra – not a huge change.

The next day was Monday and we had a buffet breakfast at Traders hotel which included pancakes, cereal, eggs (made any way you order), toast, croissants, Danish, hot food of scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, baked beans and bacon and sausages. There was no halal meat but the juicer where you could make your own juice based on the array of cut fruit and veggies provided proved a great consolation as I made myself a personalised vegetable and fruit morning juice. Well worth the $20 we paid which included a $8 discounted simply by asking at reception. At lunchtime my work colleagues took me to Rush CBD bar which was right next to our building and I half heartedly asked the waitress if anything on the menu was halal fully expecting a no and mentally ticking off the seafood option as mine. Imagine my glee when she came back from a chat with the chef to say all the meat was halal except the bacon which they cooked separately! Suddenly a whole world opened up to me on the menu and I  had trouble choosing. I ended up choosing the chicken burger which when it came looked like a chicken sandwich but hey it was yummy. Grilled chicken on sourdough bread with yummy salad and sauce. I made a mental note of the eye fillet main meal and left with a full tummy. After work we walked over to Southbank – about 20 min from traders and walked past the museums and the eye of Brisbane ($17 adult tickets), through the purple flower walkway and onto grey st which housed row upon row of restaurants – all half full. I had no idea Brisbane was so busy and it seemed people loved to eat out. We chose Ahmet’s Turkish cuisine and had the calamari as a starter and the lamb shank and the lamb kofte as mains. He had a orange and ginger mocktail and I had a lime and pineapple. The service was fast the food was mouth-watering and I was satiated… till I walked past San Churros choclateria and saw a poster for the ‘macarova’. Pavlova and macaron biscuits sandwiched with milk chocolate and served with Ice cream. Who could resist? Yum. We walked (slowly!) back to the hotel and collapsed from overeating.

Tuesday we had breakfast at Java coast café. It was one that had received high ratings on the net and came well recommended. A short (7 min) walk from traders, we got the to the inconspicuous shop front only to see a little garden path that led to a cosy garden/park/patio with tables and chairs and eclectic furniture. While we wanted to sit inside the flies convinced us to take a seat indoors in the rustic if dimly lit décor and await my smoked salmon, cheese and tomato croissant, mocha frappe and his flat white and shortbread. Divine. After work we walked around the CBD, checked out shops as they closed (funnily in Brisbane all the malls seem to be in the same vicinity and kind of melt into each other. Brisbane arcade > wintergarden mall > queen st mall > myer centre). We walked past the huge shop fronts of designer brands on Edward st, skinny models selling Louis Vuitton and Chanel through to the bargain shop with enticing kangaroo and koala slippers. The whole time I was convincing the hubby of the merits of Rush and eventually we wound back to Queen st and made our way to Rush. We got there at 7. Ordered at 7:15 (service was slow) and the food came out at 7:45 after a few hiccups. Turns out the barramundi cakes were made of risotto that had alcohol and the eye fillet came with beetroot pickle stewed in red wine vinegar. Omitting those, we had the calamari and the chicken skewers as entrees and he had the angel hair pasta with tiger prawns while I had the eye fillet minus the beetroot. Delish! The portions were smaller than those at Ahmets but just as nice. Another day done we headed back to the hotel amidst a bustling city nightlife (but not before I checked into san churros on FB and got 3 free churros). It seemed that Brisbane liked to sleep on a Sunday night but was more than happy to party out on weeknights.

Wednesday saw a break in the foodfest as I had leftover churros for breakfast and walked off all I ate with a long walk at Roma parklands (replete with fountains and waterfalls) on my way to work. For Lunch I had Bing Boys Salmon Wrap and I was mesmerised by their production line as were the 15 other people waiting with me. for 9.80 you get a substantial lunch but be prepared for a min 15 min wait. After work I went to the George st end of Queen st mall and caught the tail end of the street market that runs from 10am-6pm. People were packing up fresh fruit and veggies, breads, arts and crafts. It was amazing. I loved that it was so city central and weekly. If I lived in Brisbane I would definitely shop there and eat organic. That night I had a yoghurt for dinner and a long walk at Southbank again. The hubby had mixed seafood noodles at Viet de Lites and I had the prawn rice paper rolls he ordered but couldn’t finish. This time we walked back to traders through Queen st and came across Juice oasis. A small stall with a long line selling fresh juice. At 6.50 for a large juice it wasn’t cheap but the spinach, kale, mint and apple juice I got for breakfast the next morning was amazing. Again – I was surprised by just how many people were in the city on a weeknight and how much light was available. I felt very safe and the people were very nice. Most (all) kebab places had halal signs, most indian stores had halal signs, the gelatissimo place and a nice dessert place called Passion tree both whipped out ingredient lists for me to inspect and general I was having a food-gasm.

Thursday was a busy day at work which meant Indian take away from the post office square food court (halal and cheap. $11 for a 2 meat and rice combo). The husband had a seafood basket from room Service for dinner and I was surprised at the amount of food for 20$. We went off to Southbank again and sat with our feet in the water at Streets beach and watched people walk past, listened to the jazz music coming from the beer garden nearby and caught glimpses of the mass yoga session that was taking place at the Griffith uni conservatorium. All in all it was a busy night on Southbank and we enjoyed the cool weather and the bright lights. Streets beach comes highly recommended from me. I like how clean it is. People don’t abuse the privilege.  On our way back we wandered into Forever 21 (I think it was opening night) and I bought some jewellery for the sisters and self which were surprisingly cheap (update: my necklace has since broken without me ever getting to wear it – cheap has its downsides).

Friday was our last day at Traders and we finished with an early dinner at ‘Oriental corner’ a small unassuming place I had spied on my way back to the hotel from work the last couple of days. For $9.60 we had AMAZING mixed seafood noodles/rice. Just proves that one should not be fooled by dodgy looking exteriors (who remember the weird fake grape bunches adorning the ceiling at silk road near UTS and how AMAZING their dumplings were?). We then carted ourselves off to Kangaroo point to our new hotel – The point Hotel. We took a taxi because lugging luggage across the higgledy piggledy foothpaths of the CBD and on a ferry did not seem appealing and it cost $15 in peak hour traffic which was pretty good. (ferry would have been free if city hopper or $6.10pp on city cat).

Saturday morning was a buffet breakfast at the hotel (again no halal meat and no juicer) which had hash browns overcooked till crispy with no potato taste but nice pancakes and loads of fruits and fresh yoghurt. We decided to catch the bus to the city and then change in the city for another bus to Mt Cootha. After waiting an hour for a bus that never came and getting severely sunburnt on my feet we managed to catch the next bus into the city and then again waited 30 min for a bus that never came. The hubby called the bus service to find out where the bus was only to be told the glaringly obvious, ‘you either just missed it or it hasn’t come yet. This was when I spied a small store called ‘Noosa Chocolate factory’ opposite the road (on Adelaide st) and went in to buy a drink. Wow. Amazing array of chocolates. Anyway We gave up and went to Myer and I got scored a very pretty Piper dress for $56 down from $130. Seeing the dangerous potential of me at the myer mid season sale, the hubby quickly rushed me back to the bus stop to catch the next bus to Mount Cootha. 30 min and several stops later we were at the summit with a breathtaking view. The hubby had salmon for lunch which I had a bite of and we watched kookaburras and magpies swoop peoples food till the city hopper bus came along. For $35 (adult) and $22 (interstate concession accepted as its a private bus but not on state transport) we got on only to get off at the Botanic Gardens and the planetarium and that was a good call. A good few hours later we got back on the bus for a 2 hour tour of all the major sight seeing points in Brisbane. We got lucky with a old driver in a great chatty mood who gave a non stop running commentary of historical sights mixed with personal stories, Brisbane gossip and politics interludes which made the whole trip so much more enjoyable. I highly recommend this. We finally got off at Southbank and walked through the collective markets to admire the amazing handicrafts and I had an arancini ball from Prestos halal pizza and pasta that was not very good while the hubby had a calzone that didn’t sit well with him either. We took a break at streets beach again before the hubby decided he wanted some Bengali food. With 7% on my phone and his totally dead, we looked up a place called ‘Bengal restaurant’ called them up and got directions (short walk10 min) and ended up walking the 20 min to find this small place tucked into a main road.

By this time my phone was dead and never ever had a regretted this more. This restaurant was amazing. From the eclectic décor to the quirky dress sense of the head chef to the fact that the restaurant was in fact a Bangladeshi restaurant with Bengali owner and staff AND cuisine and not ‘indian’ – this was an experience rife with Kodak moments. But alas all I could do was stare in wonder while we waited for the chef to bring out his recommended dish goat curry, makha dal and salad. And boy – for the first time ever I felt like I was eating my mums home cooked meal outside. No one cooks as good as my mum but this guy… wow. After licking our fingers, lamenting our dead phones and staring in wonder we got vague directions back to our hotel and walked the good 40 min to it – stopping every so often to as a very nice stranger for directions – every single one of whom looked on their phones. Oh technology.

Sunday – our last day in Brisbane started with a good breakfast and then a ride on the free city hopper ferry (the red one) which did a loop of Sydney st, kangaroo point, southbank and north quay). From Sydney st we walked to new farm (saving $12 for one stop ferry ride on the city cat from syd st to new farm) and then walked through new farm park and its rose gardens (turn around and look up for a gorgeous view of the city skyline through the jacaranda trees) and ended up at powerhouse. Its a old weird building with equally weird art inside that we couldn’t make head or tail of so we went to the ferry dock and took a ferry back to Kangaroo point and then headed back to the airport.

All in all Brisbane is a cute, quirky, fun city with AMAZING food. There is a lot to see and do and the people are very nice. It’s hot and humid and you will have to walk ALOT but it was a great experience. I hope to go again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

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I saw a picture on instagram and I fell in love. It was of a chocolate cake with chocolate icing topped with m&ms and fenced with kit kats. I wanted it and I wanted it badly. So I made it myself for Eid. It’s impractical and fattening but easy to make and oh so yummy. If the latter trumps the former for you like it did for me, here’s what you do:

Ingredients:

  1. Chocolate cake mix (you can make it from scratch but why reinvent the wheel?)
  2. Chocolate icing (1 cup icicng sugar, 1 tsp cocoa, 1tbsp butter or margarine and 1 tbsp milk
  3. 1 pack of 350g m&ms
  4. 1 pack of 12 kit kats

Method:

  1. Make your cake as per the instructions on the pack
  2. Leave to cool on a wire rack
  3. Transfer to a serving dish and ice the top and sides evenly
  4. Before the icing sets quickly but evenly dress the top with m&ms starting from the outside with each circle in a different colour
  5. Work your way to the middle in concentric circles of m&ms in different colours
  6. Fence the sides with kit kats
  7. Leave to set and then serve

Serves 12 (don’t hold me to that because you will be tempted to eat the whole thing!)

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Can you Cannellini?

I love pasta. I absolutely LOVE it. I know it’s eating a bowlful of carbs and its usual partner in crime is stringy soft yummy melted cheese which isn’t that great for you either but when it comes to Cannellini I can’t help myself! So here is a quick and easy recipe for you to try at home and enjoy all those carbs and cheese! (In moderation… )

Ingredients:

  • 500ml tomato paste or pasta sauce
  • 600g ricotta (low-fat, if desired)
  • 250g cooked mince
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt & cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated low fat mozzarella
  • San Remo ready made Cannellini
  • Green salad, to serve

 Method:

  • Preheat oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a 20cm x 28cm x 4cm-high ovenproof dish.
  • Pour in ¼ of the tomato paste, spreading evenly over base.
  • Place ricotta, mince, parsley, basil, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl, and mix to combine.
  • Stuff each tube with the ricotta mixture
  • Lay tubes side by side in the dish.
  • Spoon over extra tomato paste to coat (amount of paste is to suit your preference)
  • Sprinkle with mozzarella cheeses and bake for 25 minutes or until golden.
  • Serve with salad.

 Serves 6

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Rainbow Cake!

I made this cake for my sister’s birthday. I was inspired by this and wanted to make this… but due to time contraints (ok honestly.. due to me being lazy) I ended up making the first one and I was so very happywith the outcome that I want to share it with you! Below is the recipe and the step by step in pictures.

Ingredients:
1. Plain cake mix (I used lemon cake mix)
2. Eggs, milk and butter (as per cake mix)
3. Icing sugar and butter (as per any frosting recipe)
4. Round cake tin (lined with baking paper)

Method:
1. Make the cake batter according to instructions on the pack
2. Seperate the batter into six even parts
3. Mix food colouring into each part and mix thoroughly
4. Pour a dollop into the cake tin and follow with another colour (looks nicest if you go by the order in the Rainbow)
5. If you want you can give it a slight run with a toothpick
6. Bake as per instructions on pack
7. Cool, ice and eat!

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I invented this recipe based on leftovers and stuff I found in the pantry so measurements are off the top of my head (I know I should use a spoon but I end up tilting the jar and letting loose.. how daring am I?! lol) But it was easy to make and yummy to eat so here it is!

Ingredients:

  • 200g cooked diced chicken (I used charcoal chicken. You could use boiled, curried or mince)
  • thin Turkish bread (must be thin so it soaks up juices without being too obvious a taste)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can butter beans
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • Coriander to garnish (I would have liked to use oregano but didn’t have any)
  • 1 tsp. chaat masala
  • 2 tsp. chilli flakes (more or less as per your tastes)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Take out a flat baking dish and line with your thin bread making sure the bottom is evenly covered as are the sides.
  2. In a pan heat combine the diced tomatoes and beans and bring to the boil
  3. Add chaat masala, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and stir till combined
  4. Add the yoghurt and let it simmer till the sauce is thick and creamy with no lumps
  5. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a minute before pouring into the bread lined dish
  6. Smooth the surface with the back of your ladle and top with cheese and coriander or any herbs of your choosing
  7. Bake at 180C in a fan forced over for 15-20 minutes or till the cheese is a golden brown
  8. Take out of the oven and let it rest for five minutes before serving. This ensure the contents have time to solidify slightly and your presentation isn’t sloppy

Note: you could use cream instead of yoghurt and add more cheese and an egg or two to make this bake more rich and creamy. I liked how this turned out though. Nice and light but also filling!

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Sounds yummy right? And they were…. finished in the blink of an eye! Thank god they are quick and easy to make.
I started to follow this recipe but as usual deviated and ended up with my own recipe as below. Makes about 24 medium sized cookies.

Ingredients

  • 100g softened butter (It was all I had at home)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (recipe called for mix of 1/2 cup caster and 1/2 cup brown and I didn’t have caster)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cups plain flour (less butter = less flour)
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate bits (more of the white and none of the dark)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick paper.
2. Beat softened butter, brown sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract for 1-2 minutes or until smooth and well combined.
3.  Beat in 1 egg.
4. Stir in plain flour in two batches. Stir in milk choc bits until evenly distributed.
5. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the lined trays. Press down slightly.
6. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until light golden and cooked.
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. They will be soft to touch till they are completely cooled.
8. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (if they last!)

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