OSP @ Ungaro Raw, Rozelle

When it comes to the raw food movement, I have always been somewhat of a sceptic.  I suspect it has something to do with my ethnic background.  After all, us Indians are known for cooking things to within an inch of their lives.  So for me, going to a restaurant and paying for a meal that isn’t cooked seems preposterous to say the least.

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When a dear friend announced that she had quit her job and was going travelling indefinitely, I was insanely jealous but also keen to catch up with her before she left.  When she suggested we do lunch at Ungaro Raw, the sceptic in me was seduced by her description of their Mint & Coconut Chocolate Truffles.  She promised they would be an explosion of flavours in the mouth (her words, not mine) and I was sold.

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Ungaro Raw is nestled in the fun end of Darling Street in Rozelle, opposite the markets.  This place is so shiny and new that even tracking a phone number down for them is difficult and their website promises that it is the ‘future home of something cool’.  Don’t let that put you off from trying out their mouth-watering menu though.  Not everything on it is raw but it is all vegan, organic and made up of wonderful, fresh produce.

My friend and I were initially drawn to the display of desserts in the front glass cabinet, which I thought was an excellent tactic on their part.  We convinced each other we should really eat something sensible first and sat at one of the insanely cute vintage tables outside.  The rustic vintage decor stretched throughout the little restaurant, and sunshine streamed in the two huge doors, giving the place a gorgeous feel.  The sunshine must have been contagious as we found all the staff to be bubbly, very helpful and incredibly welcoming.

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A vege burger was ordered and devoured- fragrant crusty bread, scrumptious lentil pattie and all.  There was a plate of corn and millet fritters which my friend seemed to almost inhale, assuring me that it was delicious.  A berry smoothie was had; thick, filling and not over-sweet as so many other smoothies seem to be.

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And after what seemed like an eternity, it was time for dessert.  We decided to order two very different  dishes.  The lemon cheesecake had a cashew cream filling that meant it was not only gluten free, but lactose free as well.  The filling was unlike anything I’ve had before, leaving a satisfying, nutty flavour in my mouth that I wanted to savour every second of.

As for the Chocolate Mint slice, it’s beautifully textural layers were just what I was hoping for with just the right level of sweetness and refreshing mintiness to satisfy that sweet tooth.

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Don’t think I had forgotten about those Mint & Coconut Chocolate Truffles!  One of those babies as well as its’ neighbour, a Chocolate Orange ball came home with me in an innocent looking paper bag.  Both of them may or may not have reached home in a half-eaten state.  And as for these  after dessert desserts, I can think of no better way to describe it than the incredibly chocolaty taste explosion I was promised.

Ungaro Raw may make a convert out of me yet.  And you? Well, all I can say is, you’d better get in there before the rest of Sydney hears about the new kid in town.

Ungaro Raw is on the corner of Darling St. and National St. in Rozelle.  They do breakfast and lunch 7 days a week and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tel: (02) 8964 9223

ungaroraw.com (coming soon)

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Click the Month: July 2013

July has been all about clear blue skies and a sparkly sun while the chill remained in the Sydney air. We made sure to get out and about and soak in some Vitamin D, There has been a food truck epidemic in Sydney and we joined in, partaking in the offerings of the Masterchef food truck.

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We made our way to the Aroma Coffee Festival in Sydney Harbour. There we lunched while perched on a retaining wall looking out over a view of the Opera House.

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To make up for all the delicious fatty excess, I dabbled in kale by combining it with flaked coconut and a tahini based dressing, and toasting the whole thing in the oven. Topped with a poached egg it made a healthful lunch with a good hit of protein and fibre.  There was this healthy beetroot rice and my Dad’s pav bhaji. I explored sweet low-fructose possibilities with these full-of-goodness bonbons and coconut cake bars.  There are other fructose-free food projects in the works so watch this space.

How was your July? What were your memorable moments?

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OSP @ Mexico Food and Liquor, Sydney

Sunday afternoon lunch feels a little cheeky, doesn’t it?  Almost as if you should be doing something more responsible, like cleaning the house……or doing your internet banking…….or making sure you have clean underwear for the week.  It’s like a last little weekend hurrah before work clothes have to be ironed, milk and bread have to be bought and the general Monday morning chaos starts again.

But Sunday lunch with girlfriends and beers on a summery day in the middle of winter?

Yup…….I’m badass like that.

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So it looks like someone out there is making an effort to address the severe shortage of good Mexican eateries in Sydney.  Our favourite haunt has long been Flying Fajita Sisters in Glebe with its wall of pain and its homemade nachos.  I have also heard good things about Cafe Pacifico but have not yet had that pleasure.  When some friends and I heard that there was a new kid in town, we just had to try Mexico Food and Liquor in Surry Hills.

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I think one of my favourite things about this place was the ambiance.  The place had the feel of a trendy little taqueria, or what I imagine one would be like.  Decorated in a traditional, homely and slightly whimsical way, it managed to be funky without being pretentious.  Little touches like the mismatched jars of flowers on every table and the assortment of Mexico inspired wall decor made us feel a little like we were in someone’s home.  A really cosy home with friendly hosts and good food on order.

Not big beer drinkers, my friend and I asked the waiter to recommend a ‘girly beer’ (our words, not his) and he swore by the Pacifico, which turned out to be just what we wanted.  The others opted for mocktails which looked stunning and apparently did not disappoint.

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The menu offered a respectable spread of quesadillas, dips salads and soft-shell tacos, with the surprising absence of crunchy tacos and burritos.  We opted for a fully vegetarian menu and ordered the, patatas bravas, cauliflower salad, pumpkin and toasted coconut quesadillas as well as the three cheese quesadillas on the specials board.

The patatas bravas were the spiced, fried potato goodness we had expected and the quesadillas and their sauces were quite delicious, although the general consensus was that the three cheese won the quesadilla-off.

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The star of the spread was that cauliflower salad with cucumber, black beans, avocado, olives and feta which totally blew my mind.  That was the dish that I continued to eye throughout the rest of the meal, not wanting to be greedy and succumb to my urge of just shovelling the whole thing into my mouth with a fork, my hand or any other vaguely effective instrument.  Happily I think the others cottoned on to my deep love for this salad and I was finally offered the last little bit while the others polished off the quesadillas et al.

Dessert was satisfactory but my no means earth-shattering.  We were recommended the Bunuelos de xocolate with pine-nut crema, which turned out to be pillowy little donuts in a custard.  They somewhat did their job for a lunchtime dessert after a very filling meal but would have been a little disappointing  if we had actually saved room for and anticipated a good, sweet ending.

Mexico Food and Liquor is one step closer to filling the good Mexican food void in this city.  I certainly will go back to but purely based on our experience, my suggestion would be to focus on the main meal and head elsewhere if your sweet tooth is tingling afterwards.

Mexico Food and Liquor is at 15 Randle St, (02) 9211 7798.  

We paid $6-$8 for starters and soft shell tacos, $12-$16 for salads and quesadillas.

We paid for our own meal and this post was not commissioned.

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Click the Month: April 2013

There weren’t many opportunities for clickage this month…..until the trip to the zoo.

Just in case it’s not enough that I annoy small animals during the week, I thought I should annoy larger, wilder and far less compliant animals with my lens on the weekend as well.

Tomorrow is the first of May…..May, can you believe it?! How on Earth did that happen??

Enjoy and see you in May!

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Well helloooo there.....do you come here often?
Well helloooo there…..do you come here often?

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Funny looking tree but it sure does taste good!!
Funny looking tree but it sure does taste good!!
I yawn in the face of danger.
I yawn in the face of danger.
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They call this the ‘Zebra Enclosure’ but we all know who the real star is.

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Falling out of the sky and Chocolate Fudge

There are so many things in this world that we just trust, unquestioningly.  Whether it is based on knowledge, conditioning, or an element of religious faith, we rely on the predictability of certain events and functions that will keep us safe and get us through life.

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We trust that when we stop at a red light, the programming of the lights is such that they will never all turn green at once as that is the way the traffic functions, allowing everyone to get around safely.  Never once do we worry that one day something may go wrong with that computer that holds all the programming, leading to chaos on the road.

We are taught to cross the road when the little green man makes an appearance and we trust that when we do cross, the cars will stop as they should because, well, them’s the rules!

And my day job……well, that is a whole exercise in trust in itself.  On a day to day basis, I perform procedures on sometimes aggressive animals held by nurses who are thankfully highly capable and have our interests at heart.  I rely on this as well as the fact that they pride themselves in not letting us get hurt, an assurance that allows me to do my job to the best of my ability.

Two weeks ago, I took the ultimate leap of faith, trusting in many things that were well beyond my control.  I willingly jumped out of a plane at about 14,000 ft above the water and I did so with (mostly) unwavering faith that the professional skydiver strapped to my back knew exactly how to keep me alive.  That when he did pull the cord, the parachute would release and inflate as it should, allowing me to enjoy the view (oh that dazzling coastline!) while we floated gently down to land ungracefully on my butt on soft grass.
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All those things did happen as they should.  But what I wasn’t quite prepared for was the incredible rush.  Those 45 seconds or so when we were plummeting towards the earth, cold wind whipping my face, freezing my eyeballs and the inside of my mouth which was grinning and screaming all at once.  Then the parachute went up and in the video, I can pinpoint the moment when I looked up to see that beautiful, billowing, colourful thing that would float me down safely.

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The sensation over the next few minutes can best be described as hovering.  That feeling of weightlessness is something I could never have imagined.  Suspended above the land and water on a stunningly clear day while slowly feasting my eyes on that impossibly blue water, the line of froth and the voluptuous coastline where it met the sand, is an experience that surpasses any I’ve ever had.  And when we landed, it felt like it was over all too soon, that it would’ve been lovely to hover just for a little longer if it weren’t for the party pooper that is the pull of gravity.

If you feel the urge to jump out of the sky from a moving plane, this is where I did it and I found the company and the staff to be very friendly, highly professional and most importantly, very capable of deploying a parachute at just the right time.

This fudge is something else you can completely trust in.  It is the simplest fudge recipe I’ve ever seen and it works, every time.  It is my go-to recipe if I’m time poor and required to bring a plate to a function.  I always take home an empty plate and many compliments.

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Okay, so technically it’s not proper fudge in that it doesn’t involve sweating over a bubbling vat of sugar and cream, vigorously stirring with one hand whilst trying to hold both the pan and the candy thermometer in the other hand.

But somehow I don’t think the fudge Gods will mind!

I can’t remember exactly where it came from but I’m pretty sure the original is a Nigella Lawson Recipe.

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Simple Chocolate Fudge

Get:

300g decent to good quality dark chocolate (or a combination of dark and milk)
30g butter
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Add ins (optional):

Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/3-1/2 cup nuts, preferably roasted
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Anything else you think may work!

Make:

Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

In the top bowl of a double boiler, place chocolate, butter, condensed milk and any aromatics that you are using.  Stir over medium heat until chocolate and butter melt and the whole thing combines to a smooth mixture.

Take top bowl off the heat and stir in any other add-ins (nuts, chocolate chips, etc).

Pour mixture into paper-lined tray and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When set, cut into squares or diamonds with a sharp knife.

Serve to thunderous applause.

Notes:

To create a double boiler, you need a saucepan half full of water and another dry saucepan/pot that sits on top of the first one without actually touching the water.  You put the chocolate etc in the top pan to melt it gently without burning it.

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Sunshine and Cake

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Sydney has put on quite the show lately.  Stunningly beautiful days have been in abundance.  Those sorts of days when you wake up to sunshine pouring in through the gaps between the blinds and the window frames.  An impatient sort of sunshine that wants to wake you up so that it can show off its brilliance to you.

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Then you look outside and the sky is a seemingly impossible shade of blue, clear and unbroken.

Or better yet, the expanse of azzure is occasionally interrupted by the perfectly pillowy cloud.  Sweet little puffs of white that have no intention of doing anything silly like raining down on the perfect earth.

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Why then, did I feel the urge to bake what would possibly be considered a wintery cake?  Was it that I saw it in Sunday Life Magazine and couldn’t take my mind off it?  Or maybe because when I was sorting out the paper for recycling, I stumbled across that very same issue and just so happened to open it right to that very page?  Or perhaps because I thought of a way to involve oranges, which surely are the closest thing there is to liquid sunshine?

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This is no delicate creation, this cake.  It has a moist, dense crumb that says I am cake, hear me roar!  It holds its own, almost unapologetically and would be able to support a nice, thick layer of icing if you felt that way inclined.

I went for an orange and cardamom syrup instead.  Orange and cardamom, they are old buddies.  Tiny little fragrant cardamom makes an impact on big bumbling orange like no other.

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So enjoy the sunshine, and for those of you who don’t have any, perhaps this cake will help?

Oh, and Happy Easter!

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Orange and Almond Yoghurt Cake with Orange and Cardamom Syrup

Cake modified slightly from Bill Granger’s recipe in Sunday Life, March 10 2013

Syrup modified from The Patterned Plate

Get:

4 eggs
1 1/2- 2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 cups full-fat greek yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 oranges, finely grated
2 cups plain flour
1 cup almond meal
3 tsp baking powder

For the syrup & topping:
Juice of 2 oranges
1 cup icing sugar
The insides of 6 cardamom pods, ground to a coarse powder
1/3 cup flaked almonds, lightly toasted

Make:

Preheat the oven to 170 C.  Grease and flour a 20cm square baking tin.

Whisk the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl with an electric beater until thick and well blended (or if you are lucky enough to have a stand mixer, you can use that and know that I’m incredibly jealous).

In a seperate bowl, combine the yoghurt, vanilla and orange zest.  Fold gently into the egg mixture.  In another bowl, sift the flour, almond meal and baking powder and combine.  Add bit by bit to the wet ingredients and fold through gently.  Try to add the dry ingredients around the sides of the mixture rather than right into the middle to preserve the lightness of the batter.

Pour into the cake tin and place in the middle shelf of the oven.  Bake for 35-40 mins or until a knife or skewer passed into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the sugar, orange juice and cardamom in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, then allow to boil on low heat for 3 or 4 mins.

When the cake is baked, pierce it all over the top with a fork.  When the cake is still hot and in the tin, pour the syrup evenly over the top and sides of it.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin and absorb the syrup.  Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top.

Serve alongside tea or warmed with a dollop of cream or ice-cream (or both).

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