Poppy’s Chocolate Cake

When I was at primary school I had an after school carer who was, for the time, apparently was quite ‘alternative’ – in that she liked lentils and wholemeal ingredients. None of that would be too out of the ordinary nowadays.

Anyway she had this really simple recipe for a chocolate cake that just required putting everything into the one bowl in one go and mixing. It tastes great and is a very easy one for little kids.

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup self raising wholemeal flour
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
6ozs melted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease a tin.
Then simply mix all together, bake at 180C for 40-50 minutes.

Ice with melted dark chocolate, serve with double cream and fresh raspberries or strawberries.


Never fail New Zealand pavlova recipe

A photo posted by Seb Chan (@sebsnarl) on

Here’s a never fail and very tasty NZ pavlova recipe. Easy enough for children to make but super yum for adults too. Unlike the Aussie variety which ends up being basically a big merengue, the Kiwi version is hard on the outside and soft and fluffy inside.

6 egg whites
12 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons of brown vinegar
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven (see below for gas vs electric) and grease a baking tray.

Mix egg whites in a bowl until fluffy. You will need an electric beater for this! Add pinch of salt and then sugar two tablespoons at a time, mixing thoroughgly between each addition. The mixture should be firm and should have ‘peaks’ when removing the beaters – if it doesn’t form stable peaks then its not mixed enough.

Finally, add the vinegar and give one last mix.

Heap mixture onto baking tray. Don’t flatten it out or spread it thinly. It will naturally form into the right shape.

Gas oven: heat oven to 230C. Once heated, place pavlova in the oven. Close door and turn the oven immediately to lowest heat. Leave for 90 minutes. Whatever you do, do not open the door.

Electric oven: heat oven to 180C. Once heated, place pavlova in oven. Close door and keep at 180C for 45 minutes. Turn off oven after 45 minutes but do not open the door! Leave for 45 minutes more.

Let cool.

Garnish with whipped cream, and fruit. Recommended combination being passionfruit, kiwifruit, and raspberries. Under no circumstances go for the bogan pineapple and mango.

If you want to make a larger one just upscale the ingredients. I’ve managed to get a 10 egg one to work, but past that it just gets too ‘eggy’.


Best choo chee in Sydney

image1422343401.jpgI have been going to Tum Thai in Randwick for nearly 15 years. Their Choo Chee Tofu is the best in Sydney.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Fine dining in Taipei – a visit to Priceless Big Mountain, Da Shan Wu Jia

It was serendipity.

Here I was in Taiwan for my final night and Kerrii emails me a restaurant review from that morning’s Sydney Morning Herald. It described a Japanese/Taiwanese restaurant high up in the mountains an hour out of central Taipei where the food reached the high standard of Tetsuya Wakuda yet cost a fraction of the price.

Armed with the address and phone number I quickly found my Taiwanese friend and host, Ilya, and gathered a group of the digital heritage folks who I was conferencing with. Ilya had never heard of the place but called the number and booked two tables, then rang the hotel and booked a minibus to take us there.

We drove through peak hour traffic singing along to what must have been the worst karaoke machine ever – an in-car karaoke running Linux and twisting a very small subset of the ‘international karaoke canon’ into squeaky MIDI files accompanied by soft-porn videos.

Situated in a wonderful Japanese-style house, the meal opened with an exquisite red wine jelly followed by handmade tofu with wasabi, pinenuts, lime and strawberry. The presentation was stunning and the taste combinations sublime. We moved on to a scallop and miso broth and an delicious sashimi salad. This was followed by another palate cleanser – and possibly the most unique taste of the night – date vinegar. tasting a little like umeshu (Japanese plum wine) it had a subtle smokey aftertaste. After a short pause a chicken broth with a separate sweetcorn broth appeared – possibly the most familiar of tastes. Then it was on to a green watercress chowder in which floated ‘fried soup’ – a cube with the texture of tofu which was in fact a cube of a thicker soup wrapped in a light batter. A tempura-style vegetable and prawn platter appeared with the some particularly delicious tempura-style purple eggplant then on to a mulberry wine palette cleanser. By this time we were expecting desserts but out came a ‘fried rice with fish roe’ dish infused with tiny shiitake mushrooms, and the ‘main course finale’ – a chicken and vegetable soup on top of which a lotus flower opened and blossomed with the rising heat. Desert finally came in the form of a light fruit platter and a sweet potato in ginger and brown sugar dish.

The tastes were delightful and the experience would rate in my top 5 restaurants. We were shocked to get the bill – AU$35 per head!


We talked to the chef and showed him the review from the Herald. He was delighted and modest – Da Shan Wu Jia is one of Taipei’s best kept secrets.

Sights Tastes

Scientific bacon

Finally I’m putting this online.

I took this photo at the Tsukiji Fish Markets in Tokyo when I was there in 2005 with HC11 and friends.

We didn’t buy a packet. Not even for “scientific research purposes”.


Japanese lunch in Sydney

It has always been a never ending journey to find good (and well priced) lunchtime ramen in Sydney. Each time you find a place it seems to get over-popular or over-priced – usually both.

Many years ago the (ever changing) crew from work started doing Japanese meals at lunch. First there was a tiny hole in the wall place on the corner of Thomas and Hay St which looked like a salmonella death trap but actually made some lovely bento boxes. Then we got addicted to Michitaro in the Capitol Centre until it changed hands and the prices went up. Dan still goes there hoping in vain that it will have improved – but it hasn’t and the ‘special sauce’ just gets weirder and weirder. We tried Ramen Kan but it was too expensive. Then to Musashi which is fantastic but is in that ‘special parties only’ price range. Then there were long treks into the CBD to Ichi Ban Boshi which now is just too expensive and requires a 2 hour long lunch break to deal with the queues.

For a while Japanese has been off the lunch agenda – the paucity of options just making it not worthwhile. The ramen was well priced and the best I’ve had in Sydney – so rich and tasty, no water rubbish, and melt-in-the-mouth pork. The northern Chinese place next door had a huge queue but fortunately we managed to get in within 20 minutes – and that was a Friday night. But last night after the designers market a group of us went to Menya which is just up the road. Wow . . . what a find.

I think we have found a new lunch joint . . .