Monday, April 29, 2013

#FairfieldFeast food tour, Fairfield

Miss Piggy was chosen as one of 6 food bloggers to attend the #Fairfiield Feast food tour hosted by Thang Ngo of Noodlies and Fairfield City Council.

Fairfield, in Sydney’s South West, must be one of the most culturally diverse suburbs in Sydney.  Two our of every three residents speak a language other than English at home (Klingon not included) and Fairfield has the largest Iraqi population outside of Iraq. With 133 nationalities amongst its 190,000 residents it's the very definition of multiculturalism. And where there is multiculturalism there is amazing food to be found.

Fairfiled is just a 20 minute drive from Parramatta yet the invitation to the #FairfieldFeast tour for food bloggers is my first visit to the suburb. We don't get to sample 133 different cuisines on this Saturday - our tour takes us to 8 different local businesses where we get to experience the flavours of no less than 7 different countries...all in the space of about 5 hours.

Paula Continental Cakes

Our first stop is Paula Continental Cakes which has been operating in Fairfield for around 30 years. Paula's is a Chilean bakery specialising in traditional desserts - a majority of which feature Dulce De Leche, a delectable sweet thick caramel.

As is often the way the bakery was established as the Chilean owners were missing some of the food from their homeland. Paula has proven to be a hit with not only Sydney’s Chilean community but other sweet tooth's who travel from far and wide to get their sugar fix.  They also do savoury goods such as empanades - so there's something for everyone.

The cakes at Paula’s are amazing and it's rare that I start my day with sweets, but I could certainly get used to it. For our “breakfast” we were able to sample a huge range of Chilean desserts – including churros with dulce de leche, torta de tres leches, torta de milhoja chilento an, alfajor de maizena.

Find them at Shop 2/9 Barbara Street, Fairfield or phone them on (02) 9726 2369.

La Paula Continental Cakes on Urbanspoon

Afghan and Arab Bakery

Next up we stop at the Afghan and Arab Bakery. If you’re a fan of Food Safari on SBS you may have seen this place on a recent episode about Afghani food.

Each day head baker Habib and his team churn out 4,000 – yes FOUR THOUSAND – loaves of soft, fluffy Persian, Afghan, Turkish and Iraqi flatbreads. Considering the heat that the traditional clay oven creates it’s an amazing feat...and all the while Habib has a smile on his face. As well as tasty savoury breads the bakery also produces a really wonderful sweet bread that has ground cardamom + fennel seeds – it has an amazing flavour.

Find them at 2/13 Nelson Street, Fairfield, phone them on 9728 1832 or visit the website.

Afghan & Arab Bakery on Urbanspoon

Mykababayan (Sans Rival Food Service)

I have been wanting to try Filipino food for the l-o-n-g-e-s-t time and I was thrilled to learn that we’d be visiting a Filo eatery on our Fairfield travels. The feast that we had at this restaurant (whose name is either Mykababayan or Sans Rival Food Service – even the owner was not sure) was enormous. 

The tiny kitchen of this part grocery store, part restaurant, churns out traditional home-style Filo cooking that proves popular with the local Filo community who also come here to buy popular Filo items. 

I was thrilled to finally try one of the Philippines most popular dishes, Adobo Chicken. Adobo is a popular way of marinading and cooking meat (most often chicken or pork I believe) in a mix of vinegar and soy. It’s so moist and flavoursome – I can see why it’s their unofficial national dish.

Another favourite of mine was the jackfruit + seafood cooked in coconut milk (that’s it in the top row of this photo – second from the right).  It's like nothing I’ve ever had before  - sweet, yet salty from the seafood and the jackfruit itself has quite a firm bite to it, sort of like bamboo shoot.  The spicy little pork sausages also go down a treat. Our Filo feast then finishes with some amazingly sweet desserts – I’ve heard it said that Filipino people love sweet sweet desserts and I’d agree with this. The sweets were SWEET!

Find them at 13/52 - 68 The Crescent, Fairfield or phone them on 9727 3146.

Al Jamil Market

We make an quick pit stop at the Al Jamil Market – an Iraqi/Afghani grocery store whose owner, Jamil (an Iraqi refugee who moved to Sydney and set up shop 17 years ago) has got to be one of THE friendliest guys I’ve ever met. Each curious glance towards the amazing produce and delicacies in his store was met with a cheerful offer to have a try. So much so that Jamil was stuffing lollies and pumpkin seeds into my bad as I left the shop – reverse shoplifting?

I love the big open bins of seeds, nuts and grains that greets you as you walk into the store; and the vat of green olives is almost too much to resist. The shelves are lined with produce from across the world including China, Croatia, Iran, Afghanistan and name it he probably has it! This store is really a multicultural wonderland.

Find them at 25 The Crescent, Fairfield or phone them on 9745 9980.

Al Dhiaffah Al Iraqi Restaurant

For our second lunch we pay a visit to Al Dhiaffah Al Iraqi Restaurant – just a few doors up from the Al Jamil Market. The restaurant walls are adorned with pictures of Iraqi scenery and people and it adds an interesting visual touch to the space.

Within minutes our table is groaning with a wonderful Iraqi feast. The Iraqi diet is quiet meat heavy given their arid landscape is not the best for growing vegetables – but the vegetarian in our group seems to find herself a hearty feast amongst the meat. Behold chicken + lamb kebabs, lamb kibbeh, lamb shanks with noodles, pickled carrots and something mysterious we think is a cucumber of sorts, soups, salads, stew, luscious thick hummus and Iraqi bread still warm from the oven.

Find them at 13 The Crescent, Fairfield, phone them on 9755 0870 or visit the website.

Al-Dhiaffah Al-Iraqi on Urbanspoon

Frank's Lebanese Restaurant

Rubbing our bellies we slowly waddle down the road to Frank’s Lebanese Restaurant where we are greeted by a mound of garlic tuom (dip) bigger than our bulging stomachs.

If you’re a fan of Lebanese chicken then it’s impossible not to compare this place to Granville’s El Jannah.  I’m happy to report El Jannah fans won’t be disappointed with what Frank has to offer – which is firstly a proper restaurant with comfortable tables and chairs and a HUGE menu filled with more than just Lebanese chicken and toum. This place is the real deal offering everything Lebanese you can think of.

The Lebanese chicken is smoky, tender and moist with a great crispy skin - it's really very very good. The garlic tuom has just enough punch in it to make sure you won’t be canoodling with any strangers on the way home - I like that it has a good garlic flavour but it's not overwhelming.  The vine leaves, crispy fluffy falafel and fried cauliflower are all 100% vegetarian friendly.

We also get to sample a full array of dips from a great nutty, zesty hommos (Frank tells us the mark of any restaurant is the quality of its hommos - bad hommos = bad restaurant {FYI, Frank's is epic hommos}), a smoky baba gannouj that is up there with the best I’ve had, a house made labne (which is WAY better than my attempts at making this at home) and Chanclish – a hardened fermented cheese that is grated and served with diced tomatoes and parsley. I was really excited to try chanclish – it’s something I’ve never seen served elsewhere, and in fact before this #FairfieldFeast I’d never even heard of it.

Visit them at 6 Smart Street, Fairfield or phone them on 9724 3000. 

Frank's Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Green Peppercorn

Our final stop on our #FairfieldFeast tour is Green Peppercorn, which has recently been awarded best new restaurant in the SMH under $30 food guide.  That said I give it two thumbs up which is really all you need to know.  Oh, and that owner Tona Inthavong recently spent time working at his brothers popular Canley Heights Laotian restaurant, Holy Basil -- so you know the food is going to be GOOD!

Our lunch at Green Peppercorn starts off with a cooking demonstration from Tona and his sister/head chef Sarah.  In case you're wondering YES this is a lot of food to have consumed in one day -- even for a greedy food blogger like me so I'm glad of a bit of respite to let my 27 lunches digest. Sarah shows us how to whip up sticky rice and one of my favourite south-east Asian dishes, green papaya salad. We learn that Loation food is less sweet than its close cousin Thai food and that there's more of a sourness to Lao dishes and you'll find much less coconut milk based meals.  Lao cuisine also tends to focus less on fresh seafood than Thai - makes sense given they are a landlocked country.

We then sit down to our final feast of the day - and I have to say it looks good. The table is filled with plates heaving with fresh salads with zesty dips + dressings.  Everything is light and fresh and I feel really quite healthy tucking into this Loation banquet.  I especially loved the Nem Khao - a crunchy rice salad with cured pork, shallots, chilli, kaffir lime leaves and peanuts that you scoop into fresh iceberg lettuce leaves with mint

The Laos sausages and beef jerky are both made by Tona's father with noone in the kitchen being allowed near these precious family dishes. The beef jerky harks back to the family's time in a refugee camp before coming to Australia - it was a way for the family to have meat on hand when rations were limited.  So many of the places we visited today have a story like this.

Any feelings of health and virtue I had are totally undone when dessert arrives at our table.  The pandan creme brulee was amazing - so light and fluffy with a great coconut pandan flavour. An absolute winner.  The deep fried ice-cream was really usual coming wrapped in pastry and served with coconut muesli and caramel sauce. I loved it - no matter how much we chatted the ice-cream did not melt and the filo pastry stayed firm and crispy.  The black sesame creme brulee was another winning dessert - creamy but not too rich, and the more traditional black coconut black sticky rice with ice-cream was a great note to finish our #FairfieldFeast on.

Find them at 1 Hamilton Rd, Fairfield (Fairfield Hotel) or phone them on 9724 7842 (reservations only available from Mon to Thurs) or visit the website.

Green Peppercorn on Urbanspoon

I love that in all the places we visited today there is a story of culture and tradition.  And that whilst the Fairfield community is from the four corners of the globe the story is universal.  A family comes to a new country, a new home with new hopes and dreams.  They bring with them some of their food and traditions from the old country and a diverse, melting pot of a suburb like Fairfield is born.  We're very lucky to have places like Fairfield so close to us. Go and explore! You know you want to.

Friday, April 26, 2013

KittenPalooza #1

From reading this blog you’d not be wrong in thinking that there really is not much more to Miss Piggy’s “adventures” than eating out and a bit of balcony gardening. I suppose that is probably the bulk of my interests along with traveling, reading and watching TV and movies.

I have a day job as most of you know...working as an Admin Assistant in an office. It pays the bills and keeps me off the streets for most of the week but it’s by no means my “passion project”.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter than you’ll already know about the little volunteer gig that The Boy and I have going on – and it is something that I am passionate about. CATS!

Every few months we get a call from the Cat Protection Society in Enmore asking if we can foster a litter of kittens for them. Can we EVER!  We first started fostering about a year ago and have had about six lots of kittens so far. When I first moved back to Sydney I volunteered for Cat Protection in their Enmore shelter but it’s just a bit of a schlep for me now that I’m a fully-fledged Westie chick. Fostering suits me much better these days.

We generally get the kittens when they are about six weeks old. At this stage they weight about 600 – 700 grams and our job is to look after them in a safe environment and “fatten the up to 1kg” so that they can be returned to Cat Protection, desexed, and adopted out to their “fur-ever” homes.

Mostly it is a lot of fun, but it can also be really stressful as sometimes the kittens are not 100% well. Many of them have been turned into Cat Protection as strays (sometimes with their mum, and sometimes without).  They’ve had a rough and scary start to life. They mostly always get Cat Flu which can kill a poor little kitten in a flash, and they always have worms and poor upset tummies. Along with a visit to the vet we think cuddles are the best medicine (they don’t always agree with us).

I would love to have a “fur-ever” cat myself but at this stage in our lives The Boy and I have a lot of travel that we need to get out of our systems so fostering is perfect for us – we feel so blessed to be able to have these little guys in our home for a few weeks before they go off to their next loving home.

Maybe we when grown up well get a “fur-ever” cat, but not until we have the travel bug out of our systems. So many people embark on pet ownership without any forethought to their future lives. We see SO many cats surrendered to Cat Protection (or just simply dumped) as their owners decide they just “don’t want a pet anymore” for whatever reason. It’s very sad as these pets are domestic animals and they cannot fend for themselves. My big message to people is to think about where you want your life to be in 5, 10 or even 15 years. If there is even a slight change you want to up sticks and move overseas then this probably isn’t the right time for you to be adopting a pet.

The kittens in this post are our second last lot. I cannot actually remember their names. I called them collectively “The Duds” as they were so scared of us that we couldn’t pat them or pick them up for cuddles. Poor little ladies – you have to wonder what happened to them before CPS got them that would make them so scared of people. 

The Cat Protection Society is at 103 Enmore Road, Enmore. You can phone them on 9519 7201 or 9557 4818. Their adoption centre is open at the following times but remember, really think about if getting a kitty is right for you FOREVER!

Sunday – Wednesday: 11am – 2.30pm
Thursday:  11am – 2:30pm and then again 4:30 – 6:30pm
Friday:  11am – 2:30pm and then again at 3:30 – 5pm
Saturday: 10am – 3.30pm

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sol.Cafe, Baulkam Hills

I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I've driven through Baulkham Hills (Baulkham where? Check your google maps people) wishing there was a cafe here for me to while away the weekend brunch hours.  With ample parking at nearby Stocklands Mall and a few good op shops ripe for the trawling a decent cafe is all that this Hills District suburbs is in need of. And finally my prayers have been answered with the opening of Sol.Cafe.

Sol.Cafe is run by husband and wife team, Soliel and Pavel whose diverse ethnic backgrounds make a welcome appearance on the menu. Soliel is from a Lebanese family and her husband Pavel hails from South America. The cafe is light and airy with a decent size courtyard for the littlies to run around in - and they are definitely kid friendly here, even having a dedicated kiddies menu that looks pretty damn fine!

I'm meeting fellow yokel VegeTARAian for a relaxed Sunday brunch and we immediately feel welcome by the bubbly Soliel.  Tara has visited the cafe once before and she's treated like a regular already.  The brunch menu looks wonderful - I immediately earmark about six things I want to try right off the bat.

I'm feeling a little under this weekend so Sol suggests I try a Sol Rise Juice ($8.00 large) - a zesty blend of fresh orange, ginger and mint. Whilst it doesn't cure my cold it does make me feel vaguely human for the rest of the morning. Ginger is amazing stuff. I wonder how hard it is to grow?

Despite the many temptations on the menu I'm swayed by the Middle Eastern Bruscetta ($13.00). Locally made Shepherd's Bakehouse artisan sourdough is schmeared generously with Sol's mum's homemade zaataar.  A tumble of fresh mint, tomatoes, baby spinach, onion and olives makes this a flavoursome, wholesome and delicious breakfast that I would happily order again.

Tara orders the Sweet Corn Fritters ($17.00) that come with spinach, semi-dried tomatoes and a balsamic reduction. The staff are more than happy to swap out the requisite side of bacon for a good serve of mushrooms.

We probably didn't need to order a side of fries ($8.00) liberally tossed with rosemary, salt and chilli but they sounded too good to resist...and they were. We demolished every last one of these crispy, yet fluffy chips.

We also probably didn't need to order dessert - but a little something sweet never goes astray with a good coffee ($3.50) at the end of a lazy brunch. Tara choose a chocolate ganache tart made in house by the resident chef and I was tempted by the petite date roll made by Sol's mum. I really need to get friendly with Sol's mum as I think she is quite the cook!

Sol.Cafe is a great addition to the area - the staff are friendly, the menu is really varied and interesting and best of all they are open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch. on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 22, 2013

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday #22

My tomatoes continue to slowly do their "thing" out on the balcony although things are coming to an end. The majority of the crop had been picked early on - within the space of a few weeks - but there are still a few tomatoes slowly developing and ripening..  There are even a few of the Roma Tomatoes that have actually gotten to full size before ripening rather than turning red at the itty bitty stage.

Looking at this "twin tomato" is somewhat painful to me - especially as it has split in exactly the spot that looks like a butt crack - ouch! Nature can be cruel!

Sadly, this was the second and last cucumber from the vine that started off so promisingly...I had to use it quickly before it turned bad (which is basically what happens with everything on the balcony - use it or loose it). It's amazing to me how such a heavy piece of fruit doesn't just drop straight off the vine.

I continue to just chop the top of these shallots and they quickly grow back. The base, near the roots, are getting fairly thick now - it might be time to rip them up and replant some new ones.

So we have tomatoes, cucumber and shallots...what to make? I saw this recipe for Nasi Goering on the blog Farmhouse Home and it seemed really simple, especially as Catherine uses a packet mix for the Nasi Goering sauce and I'm ALL about the packet mix as it makes things quick + simple. I didn't use chicken like Catherine did in her recipe, but just went with some frozen prawns we had hanging around in the freezer.

I really enjoyed this meal as it was simple to make and really tasty  plus it used up three things from my little garden.  Obviously, it wasn't as good as what we had in Bali last year...but it was a little trip back in time to a great, relaxing holiday in Seminyak.

You can view more Harvest Monday posts on Daphne's Dandelions blog.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Orto Trading, Surry Hills

I've had so many missed attempts at getting myself to Orto Trading in Surry Hills that I'm surprised I've finally made it here...only two years after putting it on my wishlist.

The latest two attempts were thwarted by the terrible rainy weather that Sydney had been having this autumn...and it was raining on the day I finally managed a visit.  Sometimes you've got to suffer wet feet for your brunch. Lucky for us brunch is on offer all day as the rain meant we arrived a bit later than planned.

I'm drawn to Orto Trading by its lovely courtyard complete with pot plants (that is too wet to enjoy during my visit) and its soft, pretty interior. Beautiful flowers adorn each table and hanging vases sit up against exposed brick walls.  I love the mix of hard and soft in the decor. Couple with this the menu is a mix of hearty cafe fare that would be the perfect start to anybody's weekend.

A couple of freshly squeezed juices are the perfect way to kick start the morning for LoveSwah + VegeTARAian.  They looked so good that I finally gave in and ordered one for myself too. I went with the pineapple, passionfruit, apple + lime ($6.50) that made me think it was still summer despite the torrential rain outside.

Despite the weather it'll always be iced-coffee time for me ($3.50). I've learned to ask for an Iced Latte these days to make sure I get a shot of espresso over ice with milk sans ice-cream.

Tara + I decide to order a vegetarian dish each and go halvies - which is great as it means we get to try a few dishes on the menu rather than just one. I order the "TOG" ($11.00) - tomato, olive tapenade + goats cheese on thick, hearty pieces of toast. I loved this! Goats cheese + olive tapenade is truly a match made in heaven...creamy, rich, salty. Swah also ordered this, but added a side of Berkshire smoked bacon to hers ($4.50).

Tara's choices was the "ATB" (they love their acronyms at Orto Trading) - avocado, tomato and fresh basil on sourdough ($9.00). A sturdy little pot of mushrooms were added as a side ($4.50) and it was nice to see a great mix of mushrooms rather than just your boring old button mushies.

We skip on over to the lunch menu and order a side of grilled corn with chilli-lime butter + grated cheddar. My only regret with this dish was that I had to share it as it was so moreish. What could be better than fresh, spicy corn topped with masses of grated cheese....nothing, other than three pieces of it all to yourself!

I'm back a few weeks later for a give-a-fork fundraising brunch with some blogging pals.  Give-a-fork aims to raise funds in order to feed children in developing countries by asking diners to donate "forkage" to their meal. Seems like as good a reason as any to brunch.

I'm loving Baked Eggs ($18.00) at the moment so it seems like a logical thing for me to order. I opt for the vegetarian version without sobrasada (spicy chorizo). The little pan is filled with roast capsicum, Fior De Latte (mozzarella  - thanks google!), topped roasted tomatoes and comes with a generous hunk of sourdough on the side. There is also a generous scattering of pinenuts over the top.  Overall this dish was hearty and filling, but the eggs were not runny and I was hoping for more of a tomato base within the pan to help keep things moist especially as the pumpkin and capsicum were quite heavy.

Orto’s House Waffles ($16.00) with fig, rhubarb, walnuts, sheep's milk yoghurt and wildflower honey was one of the definite brunch hits of the day.  This plate of food just looked picture perfect and the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather outside.  I'm told the corn fritters ($18.00) with market fish, avocado cerviche + vine cherry tomatoes were a little underdone on this occassion which is a shame. I've heard great things about the corn fritters here so I'm guessing this was just an anomaly - it happens.  By all reports the special of the day - slow cooked pork hash was AMAZING - it looked so good with the oozy poached egg yolk running seductively over the hash! Food envy!

Orto Trading is at 38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 0431 212 453.

Orto Trading Co. on Urbanspoon

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