An Eating Guide for UNSW (COFA) Students

 

I won’t even start on why there has been silence on here for three months. Too much and not enough space to regale you with details – let’s leave it at that.

I have just completed my first year at UNSW and am a little bit wiser and lot happier now that summer vacation (yes, summer, we’re the land down under, remember?) has begun. Let me tell you though, I still don’t know exactly how to feel about a Christmas in shorts. More on that later. So what follows is a modified version of a draft I made three months (!!) ago and did not finish.

Without further ado, my picks for The Top 10 Meals Under $10 for fellow UNSW A&D peeps.

  1. Indian Home Diner, Oxford St – Though the food here is far from authentic, and not Indian in my book, it is cheap as! Special offer for COFA (previous name for UNSW A&D) students gets you a naan wrap that’s mildly satisfying taste wise, but calms an aggressively growling stomach for $5. (I’d stay away from the overly bright gravies though, they look radioactive to me.)
  2. Art House Kitchen, Cnr of Oxford St and Greens Rd– For mild hunger, try the $4 banana bread which comes with salted butter, for a delicious mingling of sweet and salty flavours in your mouth. Sandwiches and panini options abound too. Also, awesome and huge plate of fries for $6 and a plate of crispy potato wedges for $8 – these are huge enough to be meals, people.
  3. Origami Cafe, Flinders St. – a hole in the wall cafe that I walked past several times without noticing! Well, it was my loss because the food here is delicious, portions BIG and the prices perfectly suited for a student budget. It’s small but I have never had an issue finding a seat or a tummy pleaser.
  4. North Indian Cuisine, Oxford St – Yes, the name is uninspired but the food is authentic. This is comfort food, North Indian style. My favourites are the Channa Dal, Goat Curry and Palak Paneer which you can choose to devour with naan or very flavourful and rich rice.
  5. Don Don, Oxford St – On the opposite side of the road to the above, one block down Oxford Street is another Japanese hole in the wall. Good food, large servings again and pretty popular for lunch and dinner.
  6. About Life, Crown St – For your organic fix at an affordable price is About Place’s salad bar. Fear not, it isn’t just greens and beans, there’s substantial goodness too – both the vegetarian and meat variety. Pretty good selection too, with a variety of hot and cold drinks.
  7. Coco Cubano, Taylor Square – They’ve undergone a paint job and gone from black paint to cheery white and yellow but the food and drink remain as delicious as ever. The chicken burger wins every time! If you have morning class, go here for an early (or late) lunch and people watch from this great vantage point.
  8. South Dowling Sandwiches, South Dowling St – Not a place I can honestly say I’ve frequented but I did eat here once. Why it makes it on the list is because of all the people who rave about it, and the queues I have witnessed every time I’ve passed the place. Apparently the Chilli Chicken is the crowd pleaser here.
  9. Satang Thai, Quay St – Going a bit further afield, there’s this establishment in Haymarket. The lunch menu is considerable cheaper than the dinner and comes in pleasingly large servings. Pretty busy during lunch but they do have a lot of seating and you can never go wrong with the Pad Thai.
  10. Podomoro, Ultimo Rd – I am a firm believer of sharing so here is a place I had to dig around to find as most people are intently fixed on the opposite side of the road, namely, Market City. I go here for the Ayam Bakar and sambal as I have to stay away from coconut but the menu looks delectable.

I definitely need to put this out there that none of these places are the definition of luxury. Some are literally just a place to eat and leave, at others you can lounge about over your food. But there are two things that are universal – good food and student friendly prices. Go forth and enjoy, fellow students. 🙂

Eat It All – A Culinary Viewpoint

 

As the primal way of living starts to seem more appealing to increasing numbers, it begs the question, why not be conscious of something beyond the way we eat? Let’s look at what we miss out on eating. Our ancestors did it right, they generated very little waste, and this little was biodegradable as well.

The amount of food thrown away now, before it even gets cooked, is atrocious, not to mention what happens to leftovers.

With chefs bringing back the nose to tail approach when it comes to meat, the food revolution has been brewing for a while. This too, isn’t something new, as humans have been doing it for years before things like prime cuts and the coveted hanger steak became ways to mint money. With just a possible maximum of 1.5 lbs of hanger steak per steer possible, it makes no sense to base entire menus on it. The same is true when it comes to many fruits and vegetables; the possibilities of utilising the scraps that end up in the landfill nearest you are like the landfills themselves – endless!

If the idea of eating waste seems unappealing, let’s start with taking that word off the table. Much of what we throw away is, in fact, not waste at all. All it takes is a bit of awareness, an open mind and passion in the kitchen. Even things not classified as food can be delectable if treated right, take dandelions for example, every part of this plant is edible – root to flowers, raw or cooked. From making wine, salads, and frying the entire flowers, this weed is legal. And delicious. With a slightly bitter flavour reminiscent of radicchio or endive, it is low in calories and so good for you. Most likely, a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire lurks in your garden right now!

There is probably already a world of possibility in your refrigerator, especially if you shop at the farmer’s market where they retain the leaves, stalks and roots of the produce. Go have a look in your fridge, have broccoli in there? Next time, save what you usually throw,  peel the outer layer of the stalk, slice it up and take a bite. What you’ll find is a nutritious crunchy snack without the need for a dip even. Alternately you can add the sliced stalk, along with the leaves to your stir fry. The leaves can be treated the same way as kale, crisp them up in the oven, and you have a snack from what would have ended up of no use to anyone.

Most root vegetables, such as carrots, beets and radishes have green tops beckoning you from their roost at the market, yet they’re promptly snapped off and thrown into the compost heap once you get home. These greens are delicious additions to salads and pastas, and can even be used to make pesto. The thing to keep in mind is flavour, for example, turnip greens are probably best cooked, while you can munch on raw beet greens in a salad as you do some deep thinking.

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Quinoa, fish and greens.

With so many cooks and chefs embracing vegetables and fruits in their entirety, inspiration is just a click away. Onion skins can be used for colour and flavour in stocks. Speaking of stock, it is the best way to get the maximum out of your meat and veggies in one go. Bung in the bones collected from a few sunday roasts (they can be frozen until you have enough), add in peels from vegetables, add roots of herbs, basically almost everything you’d have swept off the kitchen counter. Then just add water, as they say. What you have is a massive punch of flavour, any day of the week. A top tip is to freeze stock in ice cube trays to allow a meal for one to be as easy and accessible as it should be. Cook your quinoa in it, add a cube to a quick stir fry, be creative.

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Chicken soup in a jiffy.

There are even options which may seem outrageous at the outset, such as egg shells. With a good scrub, crushed and baked in the oven, they can be your next source of calcium. Don’t worry though if it sounds unpalatable at this point, as with everything, it’s best to start somewhere. Try the broccoli stalks. The choices are astoundingly vast, all it takes is a healthy bit of research and you could be well on the way to eating much better for half the price!

 

Bangalore in June

I’ve been stretching myself a little thin these last few days. So much to do, and so little time kind of thing. But then I learned, rather late (last night) that having 20 tabs open is detrimental to getting anything done and does not increase my efficiency. The truth is, soon all the 20 tabs stop making sense collectively and I wonder what life means, what I’m doing in front of the computer screen and whether aliens exist. So, in conclusion, not productive. Now I know the problem, I’ve just got to wean myself off that habit.

Ok, now to the Bangalore trip. As you know, I didn’t go there for the pure pleasure of travel, I was there on a mission – to attend a seminar. But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t treat herself to some good food, drinks and friends! So, that’s exactly what this girl did.

I was staying at a friend’s and I hadn’t given the newlyweds a wedding present until then, actually hadn’t met him after he got married!! They’re lovers of tea and collects teas and teapots from all over the world so this is what I did: I got them a cute teal teapot, and bought two plain white ceramic mugs and personalized them! As you do.

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You know, ’cause penguins pair for life….hehe. (Another bad photo! Sorry, will work on that!)

The first day I got there, I went and got myself two new tattoos (I already have one from some 5 years ago) that I’ve been wanting to get for sooo long! The bird tat went from nape of neck to below wrist because I wasn’t happy with how it looked in the former position.

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Great photos, I know! *eye roll* Sorry about that, they’re just tricky places for one to photograph by oneself especially when one has a big phone and small hands. :/

The bird with the anchor/Saggitarius symbol composite depicts my love for travel and freedom. The “i am” one now reads “i am star” unfortunately. It was supposed to be profound, and now it seems like something out of Spongebob Square Pants! Grr! I don’t know what came over me to agree with the tattoo artist when he said, “No, don’t put a period after the ‘am’.” I am definitely going to have that little dot and a few more stars done to clear up the confusion. Sheesh. This is what happens when you get a tattoo after a night of no sleep (was in the train with the night light glaring in my face) and a long wait.

Anyhooo, moving on. I went that same night for dinner with my friend Krupa, for whom I had a special wedding gift as well that I forgot to carry along with me that nightRead: lack of sleep! But I gave it to her later:

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A personalized painting based on a paragraph in a letter he wrote to her back in ’09.

We met at Serafina in Koramangala and had the most heavenly rosemary and orange peel sangrias!! We ate too, don’t worry. Some great chicken wings and some average or below pasta and pizza.

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Officially new favourite drink! And believe you me, it takes a lot in my book to topple the long-reigning margarita!

On another day off, I went for solo lunch at this place called Phobidden Fruit (such an awesome name!) in Indiranagar which serves Vietnamese food, duh! Pho-bidden.

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Hoi An chicken salad with a ginger-lemon cooler. Gooood.

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Sweet and sticky pork belly with rice. Gooooood!

Another day, I went to meet my friend again at Boca Grande in Koramangala and had their authentic hot chocolate. My verdict – authentically good!! Loved it. To sustain my hot chocolate habit (only when I’m away from home) I went to Café Coffee Day another day and had their gourmet hot chocolate which was good too. No photo of either, sorry. You’ll just have to take my word for it!


On a more travel related note, guess what li’l old me just did? Go on, guess! Ok, I’ll tell you – I booked tickets for a week long birthday trip to Bali – solo. That’s right, I took the solo travel plunge!! Eep, am excited and just a little bit terrified! 😀

I have only booked flight tickets, I wanted to consult with you all on where I should stay. I’m thinking the first couple of nights I can treat myself to some luxury, it is my birthday after all, and then I don’t mind slumming it a little so I can eat all I want and go on a few snorkeling trips. I also have to learn how to ride a bicycle before then so I can master riding a scooter, and get a licence for a two-wheeler! Ach, bitten off more than I can chew methinks! Help!!

So please, please write me your suggestions on Bali, where I should stay, what I should see, eat and do! I’m so looking forward to reading all your inputs! And as always, Happy and Safe travels!!

 

Skinny Banana Muffins and Bread: Recipe

Hi! I’ve been a-baking! The weather has been inclement here for days and days. The temperature was soaring previously and the relief is palpable. And I get the urge to bake when there’s wet weather because let’s face it, is there anything better than fresh baked goods warm from the oven for tea as the rain roars outside? That’s right – no, there isn’t anything better.

Except maybe onion pakoras. Damn, now I want some. So, hey, guess what snack I’m going to make for tea tomorrow? 😜

I do not like the taste of bananas and if I eat them uncooked they make my mouth itch. But I do love me some banana bread, banana pancakes and that wonderful food of Kerala, the banana fritter (pazham pori in malayalam). Since banana fritters are deep fried and I am patently terrified of deep frying, I leave that to braver souls, i.e. mum.

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That beauty above is my banana bread recipe that I’ve skinnied up from this recipe I found on www.simplyrecipes.com. I prefer not to eat too much of white flour so I played around with the ratios of flour and also did not use all melted butter. I wanted to enjoy what I was eating instead of worrying too much about what was in it.

I made muffins with the first test recipe and then banana bread for the second test today. Each recipe used different ratios of flours but they’re both good so I will tell you both and you can choose which you want to use.

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Test Recipe  1 – ¾ cup plain flour, ⅜ cup oat flour and ⅜ cup whole wheat flour.

Test Recipe  2 – ¾ cup oat flour, ⅜ cup plain flour and ⅜ cup whole wheat flour.

Please don’t forget to read the notes at the end.

Ingredients:
• 1-2 ripe bananas (or 4 if using the small tropical ones)
• 1½ cups flour (for ratios, refer above)
• 1 heaping tsp baking powder
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1 pinch of salt
• 1/3 cup minus 1 tbsp flavourless vegetable oil
• 1 tbsp melted butter or ghee
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• A grating of cinnamon (optional)
• Small handful of oats (optional)

Method:
– Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease a loaf tin and dust with flour.
– In a large bowl mash the bananas with a whisk.
– Add the sugar to the bananas and whisk well. This will allow the bananas to break down further so you don’t have big lumps of banana in your bread, or muffins, as the case may be.
– Add the egg and oil+butter/ghee and vanilla essence, mix to incorporate.
– In a separate bowl, add in the flours in your preferred ratio, of course, if you want you can use only plain flour; I won’t judge.
– Add the baking powder and salt to the flour mix and fork through to distribute evenly. Grate in the cinnamon, if using, at this stage.
– Sift the flour mix into wet ingredients, mix well.
– Add in the whole oats, if using, now and incorporate.
– This is quite a thick batter, so use a spatula to get the whole thing into the prepared tin.
– Bake at 175°C for 12-15 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

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NOTES:
1) I have a very small oven so the time it might take for yours to bake fully might be different. Just keep an eye on the loaf once the delicious smells make you want to take a peek anyway.
2) I do not like overly sweet things so feel free to add in more sugar if you think you’d like that. Just remember to taste the bananas to check how sweet they are first before doubling the sugar and ending up with something inedible.
3) If you too have a small oven and are making muffins, it might take two goes to use up all the batter. In this case, divide the wet and dry ingredients in half and mix together in two separate batches so that both sets of muffins have the chance to rise to their full potential. Rise. Get it? Ha!
4) Feel free to make different flavour combinations, you could add in some walnuts or chocolate chips. You could make chocolate banana bread too, just remove 3 tbsps (or more depending on how chocolatey you want it) of flour and replace with the same amount of cocoa powder.

Let me know of you try the recipe(s) and if you enjoyed them, leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂 Cheers!

Pancakes: two recipes

I’ve advertised my love for pancakes a lot on my Instagram, if you follow me there’s no way you missed that. I love pancakes on Sundays, they’re the best indulgent breakfast for me, other than croissants. Just never ask me to choose between the two. Ever.

I started letting go of milk last year, I cannot say bu-bye to butter, ghee or cheese though. No way José. I also restrict how much processed white sugar and white flour I eat. They’re occasional guilty pleasures. As in, I know they’re bad for my body but not indulging once in a while is bad for my soul.

Now, the recipes. There are two as promised. The first is the full-fat, milk-laden, fluffy goodness of an American pancake and the second is a healthy gluten-free, still fluffy oat and banana pancake. Pick your poison, jot down recipe, make and devour.

Fluffy American Pancakes

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Don’t you just want to dive in?! Another interesting variation would be to add berries to the batter, or a compote to pour over the top. Unfortunately, I don’t get berries where I live, but please, share your berried-up pancake pics with me!

 

Ingredients:
• 1 cup plain white flour
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1 pinch of salt
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup shortening (you can be really devilish and go for the full 1/4 cup melted butter or ghee, or do what I do – fill the 1/4 cup – minus a tbsp – with oil and a add tbsp of melted butter or ghee; the taste is still there)
• 3/4 cup milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
– Add all the dry ingredients in a large bowl (you can sift them together if you feel up to it, it’ll make the end result fluffier).
– Crack egg into a separate bowl and whisk a bit. Then add the other wet ingredients.
– Add wet ingredients to dry, all in one go.
– Do not go to town with the whisk, just mix together a few times, lumps are fine. **Over-mixing will just kill the whole thing.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: If in the mood for banana pancakes at the last mo’, just add in some mashed banana at this stage and stir it in. Otherwise, if you wanted them to begin with, add the mashed bananas to the wet ingredients when assembling those.]

– Heat a skillet and brush on a teensy bit of oil or butter (not judging) or spray with cooking oil.
– Scoop pancake batter onto the skillet using ladle of choice (big or small).
– When bubbles start to form on top of the batter, flip over gently.
– Cook on the second side for a while. (You can touch the pancake and judge whether it’s raw or cooked or just scootch down to pan level and visually check whether it is cooked through, there should be no raw batter in the middle.)
– Lift off the skillet onto your plate and stack ’em up.
– Drizzle with maple syrup or chocolate syrup or even some trusty Nutella and float off to heaven.

Oat and Banana Pancake

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This stack of deliciousness has been topped with Nutella, peanut butter and some homemade granola! Mmmm mmm mm!

 

Ingredients:
• 1-2 small ripe bananas (I’m talking about the miniature tropical bananas here. If all you have are the large ones, half should do.)
• 1/2 cup oat flour
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tiny pinch salt
• 1 egg
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tbsp oil or melted butter or ghee
• Water as required
• Optional – grated cinnamon and nutmeg

Method:
– To make oat flour, just pop in 1/2 cup of oats into your blender and whizz until it turns to oat flour.
– Add in the baking powder, salt, and if using, the cinnamon and nutmeg to the blender jar and fork through until everything is mixed evenly.
– In a bowl, add in the banana(s) and mash with a whisk. I like the bananas to be finely mashed.
– Add the egg to this and whisk together for a bit. Now add in the honey and shortening of choice and mix.
– Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk together until incorporated. Add water as required if the mix is too thick and not pourable like pancake batter.
– Set aside for 10 minutes. This is the tough bit, the waiting!
– Ladle onto hot skillet and follow the same instructions as the American pancakes above.

I hope you try both these recipes. I still indulge myself once in a blue moon with the American pancakes but the oat ones I can have any day of the week. They’re filling and guilt-free, also gluten-free. They’ll last you through a hectic morning too.

Let me know if you make these and whether you liked them. Or if you have a favourite. In my opinion, for fluffy pancakes you will never need another recipe.

The List – Goa

Hi all! I know I said I had done with Goa posts for now but then I remembered (and found!) The List I had made for places to pig out at. I didn’t get to go to all, well, most of them. But I do have the list don’t I, for next time. I thought I’d share these items with you in case you’re headed there soon and could use it now. The information below for all these places, save La Plage, is all from my online searches. They’re all located in North Goa, if you’re heading south, use the power of the internet, there’s lots of information out there.

*rec – recommended

  1. Sakana, Anjuna (Japanese, and Pan-Asian I believe; rec: seared tuna)
  2. Fellini’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Arambol (Italian; rec: pepperoni pizza)
  3. Lila Café, Baga (rec: croissants)
  4. La Plage, Ashvem (French Fusion – and you’ve all read my rave review of this place! Rec: everything!)
  5. Sur La Mer, Morjim (French again; rec: chocolate fondant)
  6. Sharewood Treehouse Café, Vagator (rec: ham and cheese croque monsieur)
  7. Salt & Pepper, Vagator (rec: beef burgers)
  8. Zoori’s, Anjuna (rec: the amazing yet racist sounding White Nigger Chocolate Soufflé)
  9. Lloyd’s, Candolim (English; rec: barbeque and steaks)
  10. Bombra’s, Candolim (Burmese; rec: Burmese tea leaf salad)
  11. Republic of Noodles, Candolim (rec: Pad Thai with caramelised prawns)
  12. Café Chocolatti, Candolim (rec: the high tea, not to be missed apparently)
  13. Travel Bar, Calangute (rec: the burgers)

Happy and safe travels!