Monthly Archives: April 2010

Yum Cha in Chinatown is a Sydney tradition

The signage of Emperors Garden restuarant at the crn of Dixon and Hay Streets, Chinatown, Sydney

The Emperor's Garden is our favouite haunt when it comes to Yum Cha

Any excuse to have Yum Cha at our favourite place in Chinatown, Emporer’s Garden, and we’re there. So when our friend from Broome, Western Australia, arrived for the weekend, there was nothing else to do but head for Chinatown. Besides, it’s become a tradition to have Yum Cha when Gaysie comes to town.

Yum Cha table at Emperors Garden Chinatown Sydney

Chili sauce is mandatory when eating yum cha

Sydneysiders have their favourite Yum Cha place and there are plenty to choose from. We’ve been to others in Chinatown and elsewhere in Sydney but we keep coming back to our favourite, Emperor’s Garden at the corner of Hay Street and Dixon Street in Chinatown. It’s quintessential Chinese, or Australian Chinese I guess, and quite marvellous. My favourite dish is chicken feet but the dumplings are heaven too.

What is Yum Cha?

Yum cha is a way of eating that involves drinking Chinese tea as you eat dumplings and other dim sum style dishes often served in small bamboo baskets. Yum cha literally means ‘drink tea’ but the term has come to mean the whole experience of eating a range of small servings of dim sum, dumplings and other Chinese dishes while drinking tea with friends.

Greek Coconut Cake

Greek Coconut Cake is easy to make and tastes sensational

Greek Coconut Cake is a taste sensation

I’m into cooking at the moment and enjoying making things that are nutritious but also things that are simply scrumptious. Friends might know this cake as The Orgasmic Cake because, when I first tasted it, I thought it was so very delicious – an orgasmic taste sensation (I guess you had to be there). So here it is.

Cake ingredients

125 gms butter
1 cup castor sugar
4 eggs
2 cups coconut
1 cup self raising flour
Pinch of salt

Lemon syrup ingredients

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
6 strips lemon rind (or lots of grated lemon rind – I use one to two lemons)

To make cake

Grease a 20 cm ring pan. Line base with grease paper. (I don’t but it was in the original recipe.)

Combine butter and sugar in a small bowl until light and fluffy. (You can use an electric blender but I prefer the wooden spoon method of beating by hand until the right consistency. I have a special wooden spoon for all things sweet so it doesn’t end up with garlic and onion flavours coming through.)

Beat in eggs, one at a time until combined (still using blender or wooden spoon – if doing this by hand, I whisk the egg mixture before adding each egg).

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in coconut then sift in flour. (I now revert to a metal spoon for folding in the flour. It’s what I was taught and I think it keeps the mixture light whereas a wooden spoon doesn’t.)

Spread mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake in moderately slow oven (150 to 160 Celsius) for 45 minutes.

Pour hot syrup over cake. Cool in pan before turning out on to a cake plate.

Decorate with toasted, flaked coconut or sift icing sugar over the cake just before serving.

To make the lemon syrup

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered without stirring for three minutes.

Strain syrup (if using strips) but I always leave the grated rind in – it adds texture and fibre.

Serving tip

Serve the cake with mixed berries and some good Greek yoghurt or cream for a simply delicious dessert.

From an admirer

‘This is divine – definitely a cake of orgasmic proportions.’

The perfect boiled egg

How to cook the perfect boiled egg

The perfect boiled egg with toast soldiers for dipping

Boiled egg  – such a simple thing but so not. The perfect boiled egg is, well, subjective. Do you like very runny, quite runny, only runny yoke or firm egg white and yoke? What size egg is it: small, large or extra large.

When I was a kid, I remember being told that the time it takes to make a perfect boiled egg with a runny yoke was three minutes – the three-minute egg. However, I have found that three minutes is too long regardless of the size of egg.

So, here’s what I do for a runny yoke but firmish egg white. Put eggs into a small saucepan of cold water. Eggs should preferably be at room temperature to prevent the shell from cracking. Turn to full heat and when the water starts to boil, cook for two minutes. If the eggs are particularly large, perhaps two and a half minutes.

I’m interested in other methods of making a perfect boiled egg so, please, do tell.

Slow living

Gum tree on the banks of a lake somewhere near Forster New South Wales Australia

Ahh, the serenity

Inspired by the slow food movement and other counter cultures to the fast pace of life in the 21st century, I decided that we need to go further than slow food as the antithesis to buying and eating fast foods. But how to slow down the fast pace of modern lives? Is it possible to find more hours in a day or to slow time itself?

The answer is yes, but you have to want to slow down. Simple things like walking more slowly, allowing yourself time to sit and read or just sit. Reduce noise – turn off the television and radio. Do the slow food thing by buying raw foods rather than manufactured varieties in tins. Cook and eat slowly and enjoy the experience.

Work – most of us have to do it but it doesn’t have to mean early to the office, last to leave, work through lunch, take work home. Whatever happened to the concept of work–life balance? For most businesses, it’s like ‘sustainability’, just another word or phrase to add to their marketing campaign slogans. And why not life–work balance? Work is something we should do to live, not the other way around. I’d like to see more businesses really embrace the life–work balance principles and introduce changes that embrace this – negotiated flexibility that suits individual workers, that helps sustain the environment (work from home?) and actually improves profits because everyone is happy and healthy.

Slow living is not something that just happens, it’s a conscious thing. You have to say  ‘no’ to excessive consumerism, ‘no’ to rampant materialism and especially ‘no’ to the ‘it’s all about me’ culture. Slow living about living more simply.

The slow food movement is worldwide – and there is an Australian slow food organisation.

Here’s an interesting link to the e-book, The Art of Being Minimalist.

What is work–life balance?

And on the web, while writing this, I found a website called slow movement (I didn’t know this was out there!)

Images of things past

Beatles LP records and Beatles poster at a second hand shop in Vernon Canada

Beatlemania is alive and well in Vernon Canada

For those of us who actually remember the 60s, finding a shop full of memorabilia from that time is, well, nostalgic.

Vernon in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia Canada has its fair share of second-hand shops selling everything from Beatles LPs to suitcases that are incredible well travelled.

These days, travel luggage is so mass-produced and expensive too. This suitcase plastered with stickers from places far and wide has its own unique style.

Suitcase covered in stickers from around the world

But, don’t worry, some luggage manufacturer will get onto it and reproduce hundreds of thousands. But this is an original found at 30th Avenue Pawn, a second-hand shop in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.

Changed policy for refugees is a disgrace

This morning, my husband took one look at the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and said, ‘What a shameful headline’. He was referring to the words, ‘Labor slams door on refugees’ and Federal Labor’s changed policy for some refugees coming to Australia.

All boat people (as refugees arriving by leaky boats are referred to) from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will now be held in immigration limbo even though many have legitimate claims for refugee status.

Perhaps in an attempt to silence the outrage about ‘boat people’ arrivals from the opposition benches, the Federal Government has announced that new applications from Sri Lankan refugees will be suspended for three months, while those from Afghanistan will be suspended for six months. The Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans justified the policy change by claiming that conditions had changed in these two countries making it safe for people to stay put. It would be interesting to find out how they justify such conclusions.

Despite a non-committal response by the UNCHR’s representative, Richard Towle, who said that mandatory detention is to be avoided but that he couldn’t yet comment on the Federal Government’s change in policy, Amnesty asks whether the asylum suspension meets Australia’s international obligations. Does the new policy ignore Australia’s obligations to properly assess refugee claims at the time they are made, that is, on arrival? Some refugee lawyers have asked this question. If we are in breach, let’s find out and find out fast! And what about our moral and ethical obligations as human beings?

It’s too much to ask the Labor government rescind this appalling change that heralds a revival of mandatory detention that the Howard Government so gleefully supported – but I am appalled.

Lunch on the Hawkesbury River

After-lunch table on a houseboat on the Hawkesbury River

We all look forward to Easter and the four-day break  from busy daily schedules; it’s a time to take off to the beach or other destination, to catch up with friends or just take it easy. But travel over Easter in Australia – especially on the roads – can mean traffic jams, long delays and fractious nerves. Rather than taking the car, we opted for public transport for a trip to Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River to meet friends for lunch this past Easter Friday.

The train trip from Central Station takes an hour and is quite glorious, not to mention relaxing. Once there, we were spirited to the marina and onto the houseboat moored at the end of the pier. Champagne glass in hand, there was nothing more to do than enjoy the company as we watched the passing parade of boats chugging up and down the river. Divine!

It may be a cliche but the simple pleasures in life abound.

Paris masters at the NGA – worth the wait

Much has been said about the long queues at the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition currently showing at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. We waited for less than an hour but it was worth it to see some of the magnificent artworks from Cezanne, van Goph and gang. Impressionists, neo-impressionists, after impressionism – it was all very impressive. And let’s not forget the symbolism.

Pual Serusier's Still Life: The Artist's Studio – one of the masterpieces at the National Gallery of Australia exhibition 2009–10

Six rooms at the National Gallery were dedicated to the exhibition of works from the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. Some of the more well-known works such as Starry Night by van Goph were featured on prints for sale in the very large shopping space adjacent to the exhibition (the seventh room). The crowds jostled and fought to grab everything from mugs covered in art works to socks and, did I see correctly, underwear?

I am no expert on art – the closest I have come is to study photographic composition. Brush strokes and clever painting techniques are not my thing. Is the painting beautifully balanced? Does it evoke some emotion? Does it make a statement? These are the  things I think about when looking at art.

Toulouse-Lautrec's Rousse, La Toilette at the NGA for the Masterpieces of Paris Exhibition 2009–10

I found several I have not seen before that I loved. At the top of my list was Paul Serusier’s Still Life: the artist’s studio, then Toulouse Lautrec’s Rousse (La toilette).

What a great thing art is for the human spirit. The success of this exhibition shows that people of all walks of life and of all ages, will make the effort to see truly wonderful art. I loved it and hope to see these works and more, perhaps in Paris at the Musee D’Orsay!

If you miss the exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, you can see the paintings as arranged room by room at the NGA on Google Images.

The exhibition is on until 18 April 2010. Best option is to purchase tickets on line at the National Gallery of Australia website. It saves time in the queue.